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?
Alex Bass: While I'm a HUGE proponent of Airtable for many things, Airtable is actually a pretty underwhelming and problematic CRM.
❌ Airtable can't be the central hub for communication
Part of the purpose of a CRM 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.
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, 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.
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 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.
❌ Airtable as a CRM can't automatically prioritize leads based on engagement
Tracking who opened or clicked your emails is helpful information that can help close a sale.
A CRM can roll up these actions into a score, so your team can easily identify engaged leads. A good CRM 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. 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.
❌ 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.
❌ Airtable's Flexibility Can Be Overwhelming
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.
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.
❌ Companies that use Airtable as a CRM often feel disorganized
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 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.
What CRM should I use instead of Airtable?
We wrote an entire article on this → Read here
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.
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. For instance, Airtable can serve as a fantastic database extension of your lead and customer info.
Check out our Airtable integrations here.
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.
Want to use a proper CRM and need help setting up it up from scratch the right way? Request a free audit with our team to get free advice specific to your business.
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