Few things are as important to a business as maintaining a relationship with its customers. Whether you cater to consumers or other businesses, it’s important to stay up to date on evolving conversations with existing customers while also effectively managing new leads.
Your customer satisfaction depends on your ability to offer attentive, personalized engagement with your clients, but your growth demands you continue seeking out new customers as well.
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools do just that, helping your sales team log communications, manage leads and even build marketing campaigns. In the past, CRMs were only available to large organizations, but the rise of cloud-based services has availed CRM platforms to businesses of all sizes.
Microsoft Dynamics offers a look and feel familiar to Office and Sharepoint users, with a user interface that’s easy to use. This makes the software a great option for Microsoft users and it’s optimized for performance with Microsoft products, meaning that it can be slightly clunky if you integrate with other products.
The solution can be deployed via the cloud, on-premises or via a hybrid combination, but the on-premises option is great for companies that have data security concerns.
The range of functionality is comprehensive, but it’s a sophisticated product that can be difficult to use. It’s a better choice for companies that have well-defined processes. It’s great for companies that need contract management capabilities, but can be expensive and difficult to use for smaller companies.
vTiger CRM is an all-in-one option designed for small businesses. It offers sales automation, email, project and inventory management, forecasting, workflow automation, case and lead management and a customer portal. There are also training, migration and email marketing packages available separately.
vTiger easy to learn and affordable, with a tech support desk that’s quick to respond. The biggest drawback is that it can be difficult to customize.
Nimble is a good choice for companies of any size that want to unify disparate data and improve their social media integration. Unfortunately, there’s no Facebook or LinkedIn message integration since these social media forums have removed API access, although Nimble CRM works well with Twitter.
The software automatically populates profiles and interaction histories from contact lists, email and social media. The interface gives a comprehensive view of to-dos, key deals, engagement opportunities and more. Best of all, Nimble has a rules engine that helps the software learn from user behavior and predict increasingly relevant contacts and activities.
Suite CRM is an open source CRM that is scalable for any business size. Designed to offer enterprise-level functionality, the software can be deployed in a private cloud, directly on private servers, or on a public cloud.
Suite is highly customizable and offers a free option for sophisticated enterprise users. However, it takes considerable skill to administer and is only suited to advanced organizations.
Act! manages contacts and leads while offering reporting and third party integration that includes basic accounting, client history and pipeline reports. Available in a cloud version that requires no IT support, as well as in a server-based version. The software offers built-in email marketing tools and integrates with phone systems.
However, some users reported that the interface is dated, the software can be confusing to use and social media integration could be better. This difficult-to-use CRM is not for the faint of heart and feels more like a jazzed-up contact manager than a fully functional CRM.
Salesforce is an all-in-one, cloud-based solution that has everything you need in a CRM software. Although this software is typically associated with larger businesses and enterprises, Salesforce’s small business edition lets you take advantage of the product’s robust set of Customer Relationship Management tools and resources at an affordable, small-business-friendly price.
Part of Salesforce Small Business Solutions, the platform is very easy to use and includes key features like lead generation, contact and opportunity management, sales forecasting, workflow automation, and much more.
While small businesses can take advantage of the lower-priced tiers, the plans and features of the Salesforce system are suited for larger businesses.
Freshsales, a customer relationship management software application by Freshworks, is designed for businesses of all sizes. With an easy-to-use user interface, Freshsales makes it simple for businesses to attract, manage, close and nurture their leads.
The software includes several valuable features, including built-in phone and email service, artificial intelligence-based lead scoring, intelligent workflow automation, customized visual reports and dashboard, and a visual deal pipeline.
In all, Freshsales provides businesses with a CRM that lets them manage all of their sales leads from one program.
Easy to implement, intuitive to use and inexpensive to adopt, Zoho CRM offers users lots of functionality at a competitive price point. While the customization options aren’t as extensive as some other CRMs we reviewed, there are still a lot of ways to tailor Zoho to meet your needs. Like Zoho’s other business apps, its Customer Relationship Management module feels modern, clean and immediately intuitive. Zoho also offers a bevy of click-to-install extensions through the Zoho Marketplace, and the easy adoption process make it possible for businesses to build out a customized CRM solution without a developer.
Zoho CRM is an extensive solution that’s ideal for just about every small business. It has a decent price point and provides good support to customers.
HubSpot offers independent contractors and owners of tiny businesses an easy entry into the world of CRM solutions. The free version of HubSpot may offer enough functionality to improve processes and organization at zero cost. It offers users a wealth of training resources in its online library, including learning guides, invoice template generators, email signature generators, and marketing plan template generators. Motivated users have a great DIY buffet of options – without the need to spend money on development and training.
Of all the companies we reviewed, Hubspot has the best free option. This is ideal for very small businesses or other companies that have limited experience using CRM systems. Further, Hubspot has one of the most extensive online training libraries to pull from.
Keap is on a mission to simplify growth for millions of small businesses.
For 18 years, Keap has helped small businesses get organized so they can deliver great service and close more business. Keap’s award-winning CRM solution serves more than 200,000 users globally.
We’re in the business of helping you grow yours.
Step up to all-in-one sales and marketing software designed for growing service-based businesses, ranging from entrepreneurs and startups to larger teams. Keap’s platform organizes your customer information and daily work in one place, freeing you up from repetitive tasks so you have more time to focus on growing your business and delivering great service.
Less Annoying CRM
With just one subscription plan costing $10 per user, per month, Less Annoying Customer Relationship Management takes the complexity and expense out of adopting a customer relationship management solution. Less Annoying CRM doesn’t have the features competing CRMs have, but it simplifies the implementation process: You can expect to have the system up and running in hours. Anyone interested in Less Annoying CRM can check out a software demo online and view screenshots, without filling out a form or submitting a request.
It’s an approachable small business tool that can handle all of your needs from a sales and CRM standpoint, plus it’s easy to implement, whether you have experience in using CRM solutions or not.
Organizations use CRM solutions for a variety of reasons. Initially, though, the CRM industry was geared primarily toward sales and PR professionals, offering a convenient way to store information and track communication with customers. Today, CRM solutions straddle several areas of business customer relationship management, marketing, analytics, communication and even lightweight project management.
Some CRM systems even have built-in chatbot and calling capabilities, so reps can communicate with clients directly from the system.
Even small businesses can afford powerful CRM software, thanks in large part to the proliferation of affordable SaaS solutions, which deliver a lot of functionality without the fuss (or headaches) that come with a major software implementation project. Tiered pricing structures and lots of competition mean SMBs have their pick of easy-to-use CRMs that optimize the customer relationship management process.
Of course, when you have several options available to you, the choices can be overwhelming. Luckily, we’ve done the hard work of comparing and testing CRM products for you.
Here is a roundup of our best picks for Customer Relationship Management software and how we chose them. To help you find the right CRM for your business, read Choosing a CRM Software: A Buyer’s Guide, which answers your common questions and outlines the best approach for choosing and implementing a solution.
What to Expect in 2021
As CRMs have improved, they have become more sophisticated and integrated with a wider range of business operations. Social media and email integration, for example, have been hallmarks of the Customer Relationship Management evolution. And, with the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, CRM functionality only continues to grow.
In fact, AI use cases in CRM are expected to increase by more than 250% over the next two years. The top expected use cases for AI include customer segmentation and data modeling, programmatic advertising, media buying and personalization for specific channel experience. Generally speaking, AI will continue to automate key CRM functions, reducing the need for manual reentry of data and the potential for human error that comes along with it.
In 2021, look for more automation and integration to streamline CRM usage, boost productivity and widen the scope of business operations that CRM tools impact. The developers that tap into these trends in a way that maintains or enhances user experience will be poised for success in the new decade.
Customer Relationship Management Pricing
For our review of CRM systems, we payed careful attention to pricing. Most customer relationship management software is priced on a per-person, per-month basis, but companies typically opt for annual billing to simplify the payment process. With that in mind, these are the general pricing tiers you can expect.
- $10 to $15: Inexpensive CRM products are a great option for tiny businesses with modest needs, and there are many services that charge $10 to $15 per user, per month. Affordable systems like these typically have very quick implementation times and don’t usually require much in-house tech support to get things up and running. If you want a fast solution with minimal hassle, this price range is a great place to start – just make sure the storage options are robust enough to meet your needs; low-cost CRMs usually cap the number of records they can store.
- $20 to $40: For additional features and a broader range of integrations with third-party systems, a CRM priced in the $20 to $40 range will likely meet your needs. The majority of CRM software we reviewed falls into this price range, because it’s designed to meet the needs of the SMB set. As you peruse options in this price range, check for limitations on the number of users supported and storage caps that could force you to upgrade to higher-priced plans.
- $50 to $75: CRM software that falls in the $50 to $75 range per user is typically intended primarily for enterprise use. Such systems often include options to integrate with legacy systems and allow for greater customization than other CRMs. As powerful as they are, systems like these are not necessary for most small businesses.
- $250 or more: The highest-end CRM systems often include extensive training, customization and implementation services with the software. An additional reason behind the steep cost of these solutions is that they are not cloud services; instead, they can be hosted locally, which is a boon for organizations with unique security needs.
Most CRM services offer free trial periods for new customers, so you can test-drive the system of your choice without the risk of sinking a lot of money into a product that ultimately doesn’t work for you.