As their small businesses grow, most business owners reach a point where they consider investing in customer relationship management (CRM) software. At the most basic level, a CRM solution can help companies track names and contact information for sales and marketing purposes.
More advanced CRM solutions can monitor every interaction between a business and its customers, helping to build a 360-degree view of each individual customer and to provide personalized service. And today's most cutting-edge CRM solutions also include analytics capabilities that help businesses find new opportunities and increase their revenues and margins.
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Given the many benefits of CRM solutions, it should come as no surprise that this is a large and growing market. According to researchers at Gartner businesses spent $26.3 billion on customer relationship management software in 2015. That was a 12.4 percent increase from the previous year. Cloud computing solutions dominate this market, and you'll find most CRM solutions, including the ones featured below, available as online services.
With so much money to be made, a whole lot of CRM vendors have flooded the marketplace. In fact, there are so many different options that it can be difficult to figure out which one best meets your needs.
5 Small Business CRM Solutions
In this article, we'll take an in-depth look at five CRM solutions that enjoy good reputations among SMBs. Whether you are thinking about investing in a CRM solution for the first time, or you're looking to replace your current provider, any of these would be very good choices.
Read and compare to find the best CRM solution for your business. Click on any of the links below to go directly to that product or section.
Used by more than 4,000 companies around the world, PipelineDeals is a Web-based CRM solution specifically designed for small business. The company recently redesigned its user interface with a new Home tab that offers a quick one-stop overview of the information that is most critical to sales and marketing teams at small businesses. For example, it displays current leads' most recent interactions with company email, which lets sales people follow up quickly and increases the likelihood of closing the sale. It also highlights deals that are at risk of being lost, which it determines using its advanced analytics capabilities.
Key features in this CRM solution include sales pipeline management, trackable email, deal and activity monitoring, mobility, data import from Excel and other CRM solutions, sales goal tracking, and email integration.
PipelineDeals offers two different subscription options:
- The Standard version: costs $25 per person per month if billed annually and $29 per person per month if billed monthly.
- The Accelerator version: adds some automation and analytics capabilities, costs $49 per person per month if billed annually and $59 per person per month if billed monthly.
Both plans have a three-seat minimum and include a free 14-day trial period. For larger organizations that need additional or customized capabilities, the company also offers an Optimum plan with pricing available on request.
Zoho refers to itself as "the operating system for business." Like PipelineDeals, it's a Web-based tool, but it adds more functionality than just CRM. It also includes tools for communication and collaboration, such as an email client, a notetaking app, document management, project management, Web conferencing, presentations, password vault, and social business tools. And if the standard Zoho apps don't meet your needs, an app creator lets you add to its capabilities. All these tools integrate with the CRM solution, which helps make staff more productive.
Zoho CRM Plus includes unique features like the SalesInbox, an email tool that sorts messages based on whether they're from contacts and leads, colleagues, or people who aren't in the CRM system, making it easier for sales people to prioritize their communications. It also includes live chat software, Web surveys, social media management capabilities, and a sales-contest organizer.
Zoho CRM Plus costs $50 per person per month paid annually or $60 per person per month paid monthly. You can purchase add-ons that extend the suite's capabilities in the Zoho Marketplace.
Another Web-based option available by subscription, Insightly combines CRM with integrated project management capabilities specifically designed for small and growing businesses. It boasts more than 800,000 users in 100 countries, and it claims that 67 percent of its customers find that their investment in Insightly pays for itself within three months.
Key features of this CRM solution include configurable reports, analytics for finding and managing sales opportunities, social media integration, a mobile app for Android and iOS, and integration with popular office productivity tools like Google Apps, Office 365, and others. It also integrates with popular small business accounting software, like QuickBooks Online. Insightly updates its features all the time; so far this quarter, it added advanced security permissions, MailChimp auto-import, a recycle bin, lead assignment rules, SOC 2 compliance, and integration with Microsoft Power BI.
In addition to a free trial period, Insightly also offers a free subscription tier for up to two people. Other subscription tiers include Basic, Plus, Professional, and Enterprise with prices ranging from $12 per user per month to $129 per user per month. Higher-priced options add more features, and the company offers a reduced rate if you pay annually instead of monthly.
Salesforce.com is the undisputed leader in cloud-based CRM solutions, and it has an option specifically designed for small businesses. The company recently announced that it's adding an artificial intelligence platform called Einstein to its CRM solutions, which will bring greater analytics capabilities to the service. And it claims that its customers see an average 44 percent increase in sales leads, a 37 percent increase in sales revenue, and a 45 percent increase in customer retention.
One of Salesforce's most noteworthy features is its Lightning no-code application development platform, which lets business people with no programming experience create custom visualizations, reports, and apps based on their CRM data. The company also offers a lot of resources for small businesses, and its solution is accessible from mobile devices.
Salesforce's CRM solution may be popular, but it isn't cheap:
- The Starter program costs $25 per person per month, but it is only good for up to five users and has a limited set of functionality
- The Lightning Professional—it's most popular subscription tier—costs $75 per person per month
- The Lightning Enterprise version with all the bells and whistles costs $150 per person per month
Also, you should note that all of the Salesforce plans require you to sign up for an annual contract—no monthly billing. However, it does have a free trial.
Winner of multiple awards, Teamgate CRM boasts thousands of satisfied customers and a very full feature set. Its website includes a guide that shows how its capabilities compare to several other popular CRM solutions, including several of those featured here. Like the other CRM solutions listed here, it's sold as an online subscription service.
Several interesting features set Teamgate apart from competing solutions. Most recently, it added a tool that lets you import your LinkedIn contacts with just one click. It also offers a SmartDialer that makes phone calls directly from the software, a dashboard that provides a quick overview of sales, a sales pipeline manager with an easy drag-and-drop interface, and intelligent reporting capabilities.
This small startup offers one of the more affordable options for small business CRM. Its three pricing tiers include:
- The Starter plan: $9 per person per month (when billed annually) for up to 5 people
- The Professional plan: $22 per person per month (when billed annually)
- The Enterprise plan: $39 per user per month (when billed annually)
If you want to be billed on a monthly basis, it will cost 20 percent more.
If none of the CRM solutions featured here meet your small business's exact needs, you have plenty of other options to consider. You might want to check out:
All of these CRM solutions can help small businesses better serve their customers and convert more of their prospects into buyers.
[More CRM resources: CRM for Small Personal Service Companies]
Cynthia Harvey is a freelance writer and editor based in the metro Detroit area. She has been covering the technology industry for more than 15 years.
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