Using Airtable As Your CRM
We love Airtable, but when talking to companies that are thinking of using it as their core CRM, we advise against it. Here's a candid answer to the FAQ, should I use Airtable as my CRM?
Using Airtable For Your Sales Process
You're overcome with what a lot of people feel when they use Airtable—the curiously to figure out how else it can help your business since it is such a powerful tool. Thinking about it hypothetically, using Airtable's sales CRM template sounds like a good place to start building process out for your sales team.
But, let me stop you there because while I'm a HUGE proponent of Airtable for many things, I'm here to tell you that Airtable is actually a pretty underwhelming and problematic CRM... Here's why.
Airtable as a CRM
- ❌ Central Communication Hub: Airtable Can't Track Communication Like a CRM
- ❌ Lead Prioritization: Airtable Can't Automatically Prioritize Leads Based on Engagement
- ❌ Business Value: Airtable Doesn't Build Business IP Like a CRM
- ✅ Overwhelming: Using Airtable as a CRM Means Building a CRM Versus Just Using One
- ✅ Disorganized: Companies Report Feeling Disconnected and Disorganized Using Airtable as a CRM
1. Airtable as a CRM Isn't a Central Communication Hub
Part of the purpose of a CRM software is not just storing contact records (that's the most bare-bones use-case of a CRM) but rather to be a central hub of communication across your company, after all CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management 🤔
Team Members Can't Collaborate Well
You email a customer, and someone else on your team emails that same customer. How do you know this happened? You don't when using Airtable as a CRM. So customers may get 2-3 emails from different team members and it's a mess.
Not to mention, if an employee leaves the company, all the emails they exchanged with your customers are just siloed in their individual inbox. This results in poor customer service, potential missed sales and a frustrating experience for team members taking over their role. With a proper CRM system, your team will be able to get full context on correspondence to date and pick up the communication where it was left off.
While you may not reference historical communication daily, having access to emails and being able to reference them in a time of need is priceless. Without a proper CRM, just think of all the things you are siloing in each employees inbox: pricing agreements, project updates, questions asked, file sharing, approvals, to mention a few.
Sales Reps More Likely To Miss Deals
For sales teams, a proper CRM is going to ingest emails automatically, count the number of interactions you've had with someone, and nudge you when you're not doing a good job at staying on top of leads. Your sales process is going to be much more seamless and professional when using a CRM. Your Airtable CRM on the other hand will not be able to handle this type of communication tracking which often results in sales reps forgetting to follow-up and missed deals.
2. Airtable as a CRM Can't Prioritize Leads
Sales Reps Can't Get Important CRM Data
Tracking who opened or clicked your emails is helpful information for your sales process.
A CRM can roll up these actions into a score, so your team can easily identify engaged leads. A good CRM system will also mention the last date of a specific interaction, or how long it's been between interactions so you know it's time to follow up. This CRM data is invaluable to sales teams. With Airtable, you'd be doing this manually, which will get old within a week - trust us! We have yet to see a team that sticks with this level of manual tracking in Airtable for more than a few days.
3. Airtable Doesn't Build Business IP
Tracking client communication and engagement in a proper CRM gives your business intellectual property and acts as a single source of truth for all your customer interactions. The information stored within your CRM can be used to pull reports to identify trends and patterns. For example, you can see how sales reps are performing, or how many deals they have in their pipeline. It can also help you identify patterns with your customers, like where the most valuable leads are coming from and this can help your marketing department.
Finally, in the case that you ever wanted to sell or hand off your business, this information will be super valuable.
4. Airtable Can Be Overwhelming
Don't Make Building a CRM Your Full Time Job
Airtable is super flexible, which makes it great, but that also leads to issues. It can technically be or do "anything" (within reason), so companies confuse that and start building out their own custom "CRM", making decisions that they think are sensible, essentially turning into the role of a product manager. But you're not a product manager.
The decisions and restrictions added to most CRMs on the market are made for a reason. SO much thought and discussion goes into adding another custom field or adding a feature. Adding too much to Airtable can hurt company adoption, and create future confusion among team members.
Less Custom Fields Types = Better For Sales Reps
A typical CRM will have native field types that are universal across all businesses. These field types include contact details (contacts name, email address, phone number, company name and title), lead source (where the lead came from), lead status (the status of the sales opportunity) and any sales information/notes.
While a CRM will allow you to add custom fields, we always recommend being super thoughtful when doing so as something we see often are CRM records that are half empty and the team barely uses most of the fields. Remember, sales teams typically want to move fast so the more details you require them to enter in any software, the less likely they are to use the tools 😬
It's very easy to get lost and confused within the details of trying to configure Airtable as a custom CRM. This is why so many Airtable CRM databases end up being abandoned and your team is left off at square one.
Airtable is better than nothing, but any CRM on the market, that was built specifically to be a CRM, is also going to be light-years better than building your own CRM database.
5. Airtable as a CRM Feels Chaotic
99% of companies that I've spoken to who have been using Airtable as their CRM after a year, feel like their data is messy and disorganized. Airtable starts to feel too disconnected from the company communication, as it wasn't built to be a CRM.
In fact, using it as a CRM is not much different than using Excel or Google Sheets as your CRM. It'll "work" as a contact book, but it'll never actually be what a business needs to scale.
Overall, while as tempting as it may be to use Airtable as your business CRM, it is actually a pretty lackluster CRM. If you truly care about what makes a tool good at customer relationship management and managing your business processes, look to using a proper CRM.
Instead, Airtable should be thought of as an extension of your CRM which can be achieved through integration.
How to Pick a CRM?
We wrote an entire article helping you how to pick and choose a CRM based on your team size and other tools you may be using in your business.
Looking for a CRM? Our team can give you an unbiased opinion and point you in the right direction based on your business needs. Request a free CRM Audit here.
What CRM Should I Use Instead of Airtable?
After vetting nearly every CRM on the market over the past decade, our top pick is Copper CRM if you're using Google Workspace. We've been using it for 8 years and think it's the best tool for managing leads, sales and customer relationships. Here is our complete Best CRM guide:
When Should I Use Airtable?
As much as we don't recommend using Airtable as your CRM, we do believe it serves a place in just about every business. It's one of the best no code tools and for instance, Airtable can serve as a fantastic database extension of your lead and customer info.
We also recommend it as a replacement for Google Sheets, Submittable, Google Forms, Typeform, Jotform, and other form-collection software.
We actually named Airtable as one of our 5 Best Copper App Integrations of 2023, so to learn more about how Airtable can be useful alongside your CRM, make sure to check out that article too.
Final Thoughts on Airtable CRM
Before you think about using the Airtable CRM template, consider the hours you'll still need to put into configuring it for your team to use, training them, with a very high likelihood of it becoming out of date very quickly and also getting poor adoption from your team.
Small businesses might think that using Airtable as a CRM for now is "good enough", but if you have intention to scale, using proper tools from the beginning is key.
Is there a better way you can spend 20-40+ hours in your business right now? What if that time went into setting up a proper CRM software that can be done once for the next decade? We'd recommend the latter and your team and business will thank you for it.
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(please note only eligible companies will be chosen for the audit.)