A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is used for collecting data about interactions between a company and its customers. This data comes from multiple channels (e.g. company's official website, related social media channels, customer support logs and feedback reviews) and is stored in a central database. The company can then analyze this data and use it to better their products, address concerns of customers, and ultimately, drive its own growth.
Even though CRM is important for every company, it's especially vital for small businesses that are in early stages of their growth. That's because the success of these firms depends a lot on how many customers they can gain, as well as manage to retain. For example, a newly opened diner needs to know what customers think about its food, what kind of reviews they are posting about it online (thus influencing future customers), and whether are not they are likely to visit again. All this information can help the diner tweak its services, address concerns (if any) and attain maximum customer satisfaction.
Depending upon your establishment's requirements, there are quite a few CRM systems you can choose from. To help you find the right one, read our picks for the best CRMs for small businesses.
Best Overall: Agile
Featuring a robust feature set and extensive automation capabilities, Agile CRM is definitely the best Customer Relationship Management system for all kinds of small businesses.
The Starter plan of Agile is priced at a competitive $8.99/month for each user and offers numerous goodies for both sales and marketing teams. You can store details about 10,000 companies or contacts, and there's support for tracking e-mails (with two-way integration), lead scoring and custom deal milestones.
For marketing teams, Agile CRM offers builder tools for multiple services, including forms, e-mail templates and website landing pages. There is also the ability to automate marketing tasks and monitor social media.
The services offered include everything from canned responses to reports, and the functionality can be further enhanced via plugins.
Best Online/Cloud-Based: Zoho
When it comes to business management solutions, Zoho is a name that needs no introduction. The company's portfolio includes everything from accounting tools to collaborative apps. If you don't want the hassles of a self-hosted CRM solution, Zoho's Cloud CRM is just what you need.
A multichannel online CRM, Zoho aggregates customer data from a variety of sources, including e-mail, live chat, calls and social media. Its SalesSignals feature provides real-time analytics and notifications for every customer. You can assign individual targets to each of your team members, and monitor their progress from a central dashboard.
Zoho CRM offers features to build and automate sales processes, and it even lets you create distinct portals for your customers. The REST API and its libraries make it possible to develop custom solutions and integrations.
Then there's Zoho Marketplace, which includes hundreds of extensions that can be added to the CRM dashboard to further increase its functionality.
Best for Scalability: HubSpot
Just because your business can handle only a few customers right now, doesn't mean it's going to always stay that way. Growth is the ultimate goal of any business, so you need a CRM solution that is scalable enough to easily manage an increased influx of customer interactions. If that's what you're looking for, HubSpot is the answer.
HubSpot offers an always updated view of your company's sales funnel through a visual dashboard. Here, you can manage scheduled appointments, track performance against set quotas and more. The CRM automatically logs all customer interactions (e-mail, calls and social media), and the same can be synced to Gmail or Outlook easily.
Thanks to its timeline view, HubSpot makes it easy to follow up on all the interactions with any lead. You can send personalized e-mail sets on schedule and get actionable insights about them. The marketing hub includes numerous tools that let you manage optimized landing pages, create e-mail templates and measure SEO-based ROI.
As you'd expect, HubSpot works seamlessly with third-party services like G-Suite and Office 365.
Best for Ease Of Use: Streak
Considering the many intertwined modules that make them work, the majority of CRM systems aren't exactly easy to get started with. However, there are exceptions, and Streak CRM is one of them.
So what exactly makes Streak perhaps the easiest to use CRM out there? It's the fact that it's built on an application that's regularly used by just about everyone who has an Internet connection: Gmail.
Streak instantly transforms Gmail into a CRM powerhouse. Just install the extension, and you're good to go. Streak features easy collaboration and allows you to share everything from contacts to files with a single click. You can manage deals, support queues and set up task reminders using Google Calendar. Features like Webhook API access, mail merge, tracking and shared pipelines are also included in the mix.
Since it's based on Gmail, Streak works perfectly with the whole gamut of Google's other Web apps. It can work with personal and school Gmail accounts, too. Streak has multiple templates (or flavors) tailored for specific usage environments like Sales and Product development.
Best for Sales Management: PipeDrive
Not every organization requires all of its teams working on handling customer interactions and following up on leads. For many, it's just the sales department that's responsible for this. In such cases, going for a sales-oriented CRM system makes perfect sense, making PipeDrive perfect the best choice.
By its own admission, PipeDrive is a sales CRM built for minimum input and maximum output. Its primary interface is the pipeline, that allows you to stay in control of complex sales processes. Here, all the deals are categorized by sales' stages. A statistics tool can be used to get a personalized analysis of sales, and the view has drag-and-drop support.
PipeDrive features e-mail integration, with full support for customized templates and detailed tracking. There's a preset activity type list, and you can create your own as well. You get reminders for overdue activities, as well as notifications for new tasks.
Thanks to its powerful open API, PipeDrive can be easily connected to other software and custom features developed for it. The Zapier add-on makes syncing data between multiple web apps a simple affair.
It's also possible to import existing data to PipeDrive and export its own to other software programs. Visual reports give you deeper insights, and you can even see key stats split by multiple products or services.
Best Value: Insightly
For a small business, budget is always going to be a concern. So, it's important to go for a CRM solution that offers great features without costing a fortune. Enter Insightly.
With a (base) price of $29/user/month (if billed annually), Insightly is undoubtedly the best value for money CRM service out there. You get a limit of 100,000 records, storage space of 10Gb and the ability to import 25,000 records per session. There's also task management, API access and unlimited custom reports thrown into the mix. Insightly further offers detailed report charts, and the ability to connect to Microsoft's Power BI business analytics service.
For e-mail marketing, Insightly lets you send up to 2,500 mass emails per day, and e-mail scheduling is there as well. Having features such as pipelines and activity sets, Google Contacts and Calendar Sync, and more, Insightly makes project automation a breeze.
As far as third party integration goes, Insightly's open API allows seamless connectivity with services like PieSync, Data2CRM and Boomerang.
Best Splurge: SalesForce
If you want the best CRM for your small business and money is not a constraint, look no further than SalesForce.
Undeniably the most popular name in the CRM industry, SalesForce has everything your business could ever need. Its Lightning Professional edition offers features like rules-based lead scoring, campaign management and B2B market automation. You also get account and contact management, as well as customizable sales process.
With its mobile app, Salesforce allows you to keep track of customer interactions even on the go. The highly configurable dashboards and reports make it easy to get real-time insights.
For company-wide collaboration, Salesforce has full support for files and recommendations. Third-party integration is there, too, with both Google Apps and Lightning Sync included.
What Is a CRM?
A CRM is customer relationship management software. It’s an organizational sales tool used in many different industries that lets companies store contacts, manage and analyze their interactions, organize the sales process, and much more. It’s a way to stay organized, track progress, and store everything in one secure place. A CRM can also have features that automate responses, send follow-up emails, and even remind you of upcoming events.
Who Uses CRMs?
CRMs are typically used by:
- Real estate agents and brokers
- Marketing companies
- Sales-based companies
- Businesses that create quotes and invoices such as contractors
- Insurance companies
- Hotels and the hospitality industry
- Retail businesses
How Much Does a CRM Cost?
CRM pricing runs the gamut. The cost usually depends on the number of users, the product features, and the complexity of the software. Some CRMs only cost $8.99 per user month and others are more expensive at close to $30 per user per month. For larger businesses managing a huge volume of accounts, there are unlimited editions with more functions and automation that cost several hundred dollars per month per user.
Is a CRM Worth the Cost?
A CRM can help your business stay organized, increase efficiency, and grow. It can free up your time to do money-making tasks and help you remember important dates and follow-ups. If you work full time in an industry in which a CRM can help, it’s generally worth the cost. If you’re just starting out or have a limited budget, you can always begin with a more affordable CRM option and work your way up.
How We Chose the Best CRMs
There are countless CRMs on the market. While some are generic, others are industry specific, and they vary greatly in cost and features. For our list, we researched the most popular CRMs and choose our top 7 based on company reputation, types of features, cost, third-party integrations, mobile app compatibility, and more.