Case Studies: CRM

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By Seth Fineberg

CPA firms, for the most part, are still learning what customer relationship management and the products that help with that process are all about, yet they are finding that marketing, business development and lead generation are becoming more of a priority.

As such, there is an increase in curiosity about what CRM is and what the tools can do for even a small firm. Moreover, experimentation with CRM practices and products are on the rise and the firms that are doing so realize that what they need is far beyond what a contact management system can provide.

Below are four firms that are in the process of discovering how to use the right products correctly and -- in some cases -- making CRM a part of the firm's culture.

Warm calling

Firm: Global Tax Management / Radnor, Pa.

Size: 90 staff

Product: SugarCRM

Commencement date: July 2012

On record: Marketing manager Lance Wade

Challenge/objective: The firm needed better lead generation. In addition, since many of its professionals are widespread, they needed a good internal communication tool to provide insight on client status.

Amount spent: Basic pricing can range from $35-$100 per user, per month, billed on an annual basis.

Process: The firm does not have a sales department and only recently established a marketing department, consisting of two individuals. Since entering a "cold call" scenario for its professionals would be difficult, the firm wanted to create a "warm call" environment, according to Wade.

The firm had another CRM tool that was apparently not used to its fullest capacity, and there was no formalized process for using it. "We needed something that was not daunting for professionals to use and they could use it in the best way," said Wade. "I had personal experience with two CRM implementations with another tool in the 1,000-plus seat range, but when I looked into what we needed here, I found that SugarCRM was very responsive to our size and needs. With two people in a marketing department, the last thing you need is lack of support and technology issues."

Wade said that he has been aware of SugarCRM for several years, but it was never a fit for any of the companies he had worked at before. When it was decided the firm should switch to SugarCRM, Wade stressed that the firm needed licenses for all directors and managers and certain access for staff managers so they could better learn how to use it.

"People on the sidelines have no idea what can be accomplished [with a CRM product]; you have to get in and use it and find out what you can ask it and want it to do," said Wade. "One issue was that when we first started, it was compared to what we had before. We had a system for three years and never ran a report on it, so the first priority was to educate on the value of the tool - it's not just an information repository and it can assist in sales and client tracking, as well as lead generation."

Wade also noted that some of the data fields in the system needed to be automated and certain customizations were made by an outside vendor who also assisted with best practices, training and integration.

"I think in the end what pleased me the most was the support," he said. "We never got billed anything above and beyond what we were told and support has not wavered."

Results/lessons learned: The firm, at press time, had 40 users on SugarCRM and it took approximately three to five months for everyone to use it regularly. Wade noted that user acceptance was largely driven by fellow directors who had success on the product.

"We have had people step up and had successes, which has come largely from finding information we didn't know we had," said Wade. "People were going to meetings where the information we needed on those clients was in the system and that warmed the meeting to the point where a full 80 percent of the time when we sat down to talk with the potential client we got the engagement."

Next steps: Wade said that the firm is "60 percent of the way there," with his goals for using SugarCRM and education is ongoing.

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