Growing a small business requires strategic investments in areas that will make your processes simpler and more productive. A CRM software application is one of the tools that will help you do that. In fact, 92% of respondents in Validity’s State of CRM Data Management Report said their CRM and the data it contained was important for achieving revenue goals. With a powerful CRM supporting all of your customer interactions, there is no limit to how much your business can grow.
Hubspot: Best CRM for built-in marketing tools
HubSpot’s free version includes all of the basic features a small business needs to manage customer relationships. You can monitor your contacts and their stage in your sales pipeline from the same platform you use to manage your email campaigns, calls, and interactions through your website. HubSpot’s paid versions and premium add-ons extend the functionality of the platform. Customers laud HubSpot’s intuitive interface, widespread integrations, powerful dashboards, and scalability.
On the other hand, the sheer volume of features HubSpot offers can be overwhelming to some. Also, the cost of the full CRM platform with CMS, marketing, service, and sales integrations and all of the add-ons accumulates quickly. For long-term planning, an alternative CRM solution might provide a more affordable runway.
- Free: $0
- Starter: starting at $45/month
- Professional: starting at $450/month
- Enterprise: starting at $1,200/month
One of the most unique features of Nimble’s platform is its integration with Google Workspace and Office 365. For existing users of these tools, Nimble makes it easier to import contacts and synchronize emails and scheduled meetings. Nimble’s Prospector browser extension also allows you to add information to a customer record from anywhere on the internet, including social media sites like Twitter and LinkedIn and third-party web apps like Mailchimp and Quickbooks.
Despite Nimble’s integrations and flexible contact management tools, it has relatively limited workflow automation capabilities. It does not support auto-responses or large scale email marketing campaigns, two features that are prominent with other CRM vendors. Similarly, Nimble’s capacity to handle customer inquiries is sufficient for small interactions, but you may need to integrate a separate platform for a larger scale help desk solution.
- Nimble Business: starting at $19/user per month
Less Annoying CRM: Best CRM for basic needs
Less Annoying CRM lives up to its name: it’s a straightforward, simple platform that was purpose-built with small businesses in mind. Its pricing structure is as simple as they come and the support offering is quick and free. LACRM requires minimal training to get up and running, so you can start managing contacts through the intuitive platform in no time. It also integrates with most personal email programs so you can see 1:1 email history with a specific contact and view your calendar from the same platform.
The less annoying approach also means LACRM is relatively bare bones compared to other vendors on the market. It doesn’t have any significant automation capabilities, so you’ll need to look elsewhere if you want a CRM that will help you manage automated workflows and email campaigns. The reporting and analytics capabilities will also be weak for larger organizations.
- $15/month per user
The biggest benefit of Apptivo is how many versatile tools are packaged under one platform. In addition to CRM, you can access modules for project management, online invoicing, help desk, expense reports, field service management, email marketing, supply chain management, and more. Apptivo is perhaps the most customizable all-in-one solution on the CRM market today, but it’s still very user-friendly and affordable for small businesses. Although most business processes can be handled natively through the Apptivo platform, it does integrate with some third-party applications like Slack, Google Workspace, Quickbooks, and Dropbox.
Some users report slow performance and occasional glitches or bugs. Additionally, businesses that have existing solutions in place for project management, email marketing, etc., may not be able to integrate those applications with Apptivo. The all-in-one solution in this case would also provide fewer benefits, so a basic CRM solution may be more suitable.
- Starter: $0 per user
- Lite: starting at $8/month per user
- Premium: starting at $12/month per user
- Ultimate: starting at $20/month per user
- Enterprise: Contact for pricing
Insightly: Best CRM for team management
Insightly’s CRM tool offers a simple interface for users to leverage powerful workflows and reporting capabilities. Its relationship linking feature makes it easy to understand how customers are connected to larger companies, teammates, and opportunities. Users also benefit from to-do lists, email reminders, and other project management features that can all be linked to contact records, opportunities, projects, and individual emails. Individual tasks and projects can also be assigned and monitored by other users, which is a valuable feature for sales managers. This helps ensure all prospects are contacted in a timely manner and receive follow up when necessary.
Some users have provided feedback that the Insightly user interface and browser extensions are a bit dated or underdeveloped. Another drawback is that Insightly’s customer support platform is based on a separate pricing structure. All paid plans include standard support, but users must pay an additional fee for formal training sessions, dedicated account representatives, and phone/email support. Users who pay more for support also receive priority response.
- Free: $0
- Plus: $29/month per user
- Professional: $49/month per user
- Enterprise: $99/month per user
Unlike other CRM vendors, Drip was not designed to be a one-stop-shop for customer relationship management. It picked one type of user — the online retailer — and designed a CRM platform that would help them grow their business. As such, Drip integrates with a number of ecommerce platforms including WooCommerce, Shopify, and Magento. It helps e-retailers create personalized content for email marketing, social media, display advertising, SMS, and other channels. From there, Drip uses automated workflows to track customer interactions and tag them accordingly. This helps deliver powerful analytics and reporting functionalities that make it easy to see which products and marketing efforts are the most profitable.
The most obvious drawback to Drip’s CRM platform is that it won’t be as successful for non-ecommerce businesses. It does not offer pipeline management or prospecting tools, or the kinds of features that sales agents use while working with individual contacts like quote/proposal generation, document storage, and task management.
- Starting at $19/month
Keap: Best CRM for large teams
Keap (formerly Infusionsoft) is a CRM platform that seeks to combine all marketing and sales efforts under one roof. The top tier of features include marketing tools like custom ecommerce pages, checkout forms, and subscription management, as well as sales tools like lead scoring, quote generation, pipeline management, and contact segmentation. The drag-and-drop campaign builder is very intuitive and goal-oriented, which takes a lot of confusion out of mapping complex workflows. The platform as a whole is also very easy to use, with templates that provide a good starting point and a customer community that can jump in if you need tips or inspiration.
The biggest downside of Keap is how expensive it is, especially considering it’s positioned to target SMBs. The starting price for each tier of Keap only includes one user and 500 contacts, and additional users or contacts will incur an additional charge. You may find the total cost of using Keap increases quickly as your business grows. Plus, the maximum number of contacts it can accommodate is 200,000 — this is a high number, but having any hard limit automatically makes other CRM vendors more appealing.
- Lite: starting at $79/month
- Pro: starting at $149/month
- Max: starting at $199/month90
Salesforce is one of the most well-known vendors in the CRM market. It’s extremely customizable and the core CRM offering (Sales Cloud) can be integrated with modules for marketing, customer service, commerce, analytics, and more. Additionally, the Einstein AI add-on helps automated workflows by applying artificial intelligence to lead scoring, forecasting, and customer interactions. This makes users more productive and moves leads through the sales funnel more efficiently. Salesforce is a gold-standard CRM product with a wide range of intuitive features for contact and lead management, pipeline management, reporting, and virtually anything else a sales team would need to close deals.
Although Salesforce offers a wide variety of powerful tools, it comes at the expense of cost and usability. Salesforce is one of the more expensive CRM tools available and many organizations have dedicated staff to manage workflows and reporting. It can take a long time to navigate the ins and outs of the platform, so there is a considerable learning curve that comes with Salesforce. This may not be possible for some small businesses, so a less expensive and more user-friendly alternative might be a better fit in these circumstances.
- Essentials: $25/user per month
- Sales Professional: $75/user per month
- Service Professional: $75/user per month
- Pardot Growth: $1,250/month
vTiger: Best value CRM
Although there are other CRM vendors that offer free or freemium packages, none have quite as many features or capabilities as Vtiger. The Vtiger Pilot package is free for up to 10 users and 3,000 contacts, so even moderately sized teams can scale their customer bases considerably before needing to pay a fee. It also includes integration for phone and email records, document management, lead scoring, auto-response emails, Kanban project management layouts, and SLA monitoring for customer service teams. Vtiger is one of the most affordable and versatile CRM tools available for SMBs today.
Some users have reported that the user interface can be a bit more intuitive in some areas, like navigation, project management, and third-party integrations. Other users have stated that the daily 20-minute cloud backup period can cause frustrating downtime.
- Pilot: $0
- One Professional: starting at $30/month per user
- One Enterprise: starting at $42/month per user
Zoho CRM helps sales teams manage the customer lifecycle with its conversational AI bot, called Zia. Zia can help predict the likelihood that a prospect will convert to a lead, so agents can prioritize the leads that are most valuable. This artificial intelligence feature also helps automate workflows based on user behavior and ensures all customer data is accurate and up-to-date. Zoho also has impressive performance management tools, including territory management and gamification for sales team members.
Some of the drawbacks to Zoho include the concentration of features (Zia AI, workflow automation, sales funneling, and other core CRM features.) in the more expensive tiers. Some users have also reported complications with configuration and implementation, and others have had difficulty with the Zoho support team addressing inquiries in a timely and efficient manner.
- Free: $0
- Standard: starting at $12/month per user
- Professional: starting at $20/month per user
- Enterprise: starting at $35/month per user
- Ultimate: starting at $45/month per user
What is a CRM?
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is an application for managing all of your touchpoints with your customers. A CRM tool will help you manage the marketing campaigns and communication your team has with sales prospects and prioritize the ones who are most likely to convert to customers.
CRM software will also create a central location for you to store relevant information on individual customers. If you have multiple people on your team who might interact with one person, it will help ensure everyone is on the same page. Gaps in service are frustrating for your customers, and a CRM tool is a critical component of preventing that from happening.
Once you’ve collected customer data, you can use a CRM to segment it according to different criteria:
- Which customers have been with you the longest?
- Which communication channels are most effective?
- Are there opportunities to engage existing customers you may be missing?
This will help you make the most of your resources and use customer data to drive your business decisions.
Benefits of CRMs
In addition to centralized customer data, reduced service gaps, and more powerful customer segmentation, a CRM will simplify your customer engagement strategy and enhance your understanding of your customer lifecycle from acquisition to upselling. It streamlines efforts across marketing, sales, and customer service channels so your team can work more efficiently while also maximizing the impact you have on your customer base at every turn. This combats customer attrition by centralizing your customer experience above all else.
In addition, a CRM will help you identify what you do well and what could be improved from a customer perspective, so you can scale your business. This could be something as simple as the time of day you launch an email campaign, or it could be as complex as the characteristics that are the strongest indicators of customer conversions. It also creates a data-backed foundation for business forecasting, so you can increase your efficiency and use resources more strategically.
The CRM market is expected to reach $113.46 billion by 2027, according to Fortune Business Insights. With so many vendors vying for your business, it’s important to understand what fundamental features all CRMs should have as well as the optional ones that will be most beneficial to you.
Ease of use is perhaps the most important feature a CRM should have. After all, if a CRM — or any other business tool you’re considering — isn’t easy to use, it doesn’t have any real value. Of course, ease of use is difficult to measure and it’s fairly subjective, so the best way to find a CRM that’s easy for you to use is through free trials and live demos.
In addition to ease of use, a CRM tool should have four core features: lead management, sales funneling, customer support records, and integrations for marketing tools. Lead management will help you identify, score, and prioritize leads through the sales pipeline so you can maximize the chances of lead-to-customer conversion. From a higher vantage point, sales funneling gives you the ability to see which leads have stalled and prevent them from slipping through the cracks.
Customer support records make it possible to save detailed information about all interactions you have with an individual customer — including emails, phone calls, SMS messages, live chats, and face-to-face meetings — and share notes with your internal team. Last but not least, built-in marketing tools (or integrations for third-party platforms at a minimum) will help you be proactive about reaching new customers and fine-tune your messaging to meet their unique needs. All of the CRM tools listed in this article excel in all of these core feature areas.
Optional features that may help you find the right CRM tool include:
- Automation, which will take the thought and effort out of moving customers through your sales pipeline in bulk, so you can spend more time engaging with customers who require personalized interactions
- Cloud-based delivery, which adds flexibility and can scale alongside your business as it grows
- Support for mobile, which will help you manage your customer interactions from anywhere with an internet connection
These features, along with numerous others, will help you identify the right CRM platform to meet your unique needs.
How to choose the right CRM for your business
When shopping for a CRM solution, the sheer number of options can seem overwhelming. As a small business, it’s important to strike the right balance between features, usability, and affordability when implementing any new technology, but especially a CRM platform. The right software will set you up for long-term growth without breaking the bank on something that’s difficult to use.
Start by identifying your needs in terms of how many users and contacts you have, what integrations you require, and what unique features would make your life easier. Then narrow down your search by reading customer testimonials and test driving different platforms with live demos and free trials until you find a CRM platform that will meet your needs.