July 25, 2013
Update and Editor's Note: As each year passes, or even month, technology is rapidly changing. We originally posted this piece in 2013 and it has been almost 3 years since. Because it has been 3 years and this remains to be a popular post on our blog, we have made some updates. Even though we've made some changes to this post, Brian Pesin originally wrote this post and can be found on Twitter.
If you're a small to medium-size business owner, the term CRM, or customer relationship management, may initially be a bit of a daunting or overwhelming concept. CRM platforms can have a negative reputation, as many well-known tools can be tough to implement and customize for your business's needs, making them even harder to use regularly and properly.
However, there's no doubt that CRM platforms can help your business grow tremendously once you've found the perfect fit, and fortunately many of the tools created recently were designed specifically for SMBs. The best small business CRM software collects and organizes a TON of valuable information about your customers, ranging from rich contact data, interactions over email and social media, sales tracking and much more. But most importantly, certain small business CRM's will encompass the particular needs of your company. For example those needs can include, a focus on personal relationships, pipeline management, and/of insightful and actionable data.
When used correctly, CRM software allows your SMB's team to work efficiently and productively while resonating more strongly with your client base.
With several great options from which to choose, how will you pick the right CRM tool for your small business's needs? We've profiled the five best CRM solutions for small businesses so to help you make an informed decision and grow your business before your eyes.
InfusionSoft is a CRM designed specifically for a small business's sales and marketing efforts. The platform combines CRM, ecommerce, social media and email marketing into a single system that converts your new leads into customers, finds opportunities for sales from your existing network and saves you a lot of time in the process.
One of the platform's most unique and beneficial features, visual campaign mapping, allows you to create drag-and-drop campaigns so that you can effectively message your clients based on their segments and behavior. Much of the behavior tracking and segmentation takes place automatically, so you won't need to spend time manually sorting your database into the appropriate categories and can ensure that you're properly messaging each group of customers.
InfusionSoft also offers activity monitoring with ROI scoring, web analytics, lead source tracking, pipeline reporting and integrations with other software tools like WordPress, Customer Hub and more. All in all, if you're a SMB owner looking for a very comprehensive system equipped with pipeline-specific functionality, InfusionSoft will be a great fit.
Cost: InfusionSoft has four pricing plans, and is one of the more expensive options evaluated in this article. Their base "Essentials" plan starts at $219/month for up to 2,500 contacts and 3 users, and their top "Complete" plan begins at $379/month for up to 10,000 contacts and 5 users. All new accounts are subject to a $1,999 "Kickstart Services fee," and you can add additional contacts and users to your account for an additional charge.
This is may be biased, but we've made huge strides over the last four years in our product. We may not be the best for you in this list, but if your business requires you to maintain strong professional relationships...Contactually may be the right choice.
Contactually will automatically organize and update your contact database and track all of your communications across email, social media and phone so that you and the platform both know exactly when and about what you last spoke. Then, Contactually will send you automatic follow-up reminders prompting you to reengage with the important people with whom you haven't spoken to recently to prevent that relationship -- and any money that may be associated with it -- from slipping through the cracks.
In addition to telling you with whom and when to follow up, Contactually helps you figure out what to say in your follow-up efforts to ensure relevancy and timeliness. Take a look in the Content Library for the right thing to say or the right template you need to organize your CRM. Share valuable content based on your contacts' interests to show that you're in tune with their likes and dislikes and think about them regularly. Use these features in tandem with the ScaleMail feature, allowing you to bulk message groups of your contacts meaningfully way.
With its incredibly simple set-up process and friendly user interface, Contactually can help your business grow by generating referrals and repeat business opportunities from your network in just a few days. Your network is your net worth. Keep your relationships warm, prevent important people from slipping through the cracks, and never leave money on the table again with Contactually.
Cost: Contactually has three pricing plans and you can find the breakdown here.
For those of you looking for a full-fledged, yet affordable, CRM tool, Zoho CRM could be the right fit for your growing business. The robust platform offers a wide breadth of solutions for managing customer support, tracking different stages of the sales pipeline, email campaigns and other marketing efforts with features like word processing, database functions, collaborating and project management.
It's also highly customizable, as you can purchase several plug-ins to meet your needs and integrate the tool with any other software programs you're already using. However, be warned: all of these features and plug-ins can complicate Zoho's setup and implementation processes, so you should be somewhat technically savvy or have previous experience with CRMs if you decide that this platform may be a good match for your needs.
Like Contactually, Zoho excels at automatically tracking your email communications. However, in order to use this feature, Zoho requires that you send all of your emails from within Zoho using their POP3 server.
In closing, if you're looking for a small business CRM with a ton of functionality and feature-specific support and have the bandwidth to tackle such an endeavor, take a look at Zoho. If you're a first-time CRM user looking for the basics to kick-start your CRM success and don't have a ton of technical knowledge, it might be better to look elsewhere.
Cost: Zoho has two pricing plans with a free version. You can find out more here.
If you're in need of an exceptional sales and deals pipeline managing tool for your SMB, Pipedrive should be one of your strongest contenders. This unique CRM allows you to manage your sales pipeline effortlessly by super-charging your organizational abilities and helping you focus on the right deals. It's incredibly easy to set up and use and is accessible both via desktop and mobile (yes, they have mobile apps!), so your small to medium sales teams will be up and running in no time, from wherever they may be.
Pipedrive's most impressive and critical feature is a customizable sales pipeline view, with which you can add custom fields and tailor sales or pipeline stages that are specific to your company. If you're a visual learner, this is a huge value add! The platform also offers useful reporting features so that you can see key statistics and measure the efficacy of your sales process, as well as track the progress of your company's longer-term goals.
Team managers can set up what the pipeline should look like and have a solid overview of where in the pipeline his team is winning or losing deals, which is crucial for the evolution of a sales team.
In closing, if you're in need of a unique and totally customizable tool to track your pipeline and deal progress, Pipedrive will fit your needs beautifully.
Cost: Pipedrive has one plan for per user at $12 a month. See the detailed breakdown.
Last but not least, 37signals' contact and customer manager, Highrise, lets you manage your company's contacts, tasks and business proposals.
Where Highrise truly shines is in its intuitive, simple cloud/web-based interface. A user with little or no previous CRM experience or technical savvy should be able to get Highrise up and running without a lengthy training manual, consuming administrative time and resources or the need for a dedicated support team. Highrise also breathes fresh life into the contact management experience. You'll also be able to customize it to meet your business's needs, including creating custom fields that allow you to save data unique to your needs to your contacts' profiles.
If you're already using other SaaS solutions for your business, there's a good chance you'll be able to integrate them with your Highrise account via their API. Integration partners include Contactually, MailChimp, Zendesk and many more.
Highrise provides all of its contact management features across all three editions of their platform. They also have a flexible policy which allows you to upgrade, downgrade or cancel your account at any time without penalty.
On the flipside, there are a few areas where Highrise falls short. The platform does offer a pipeline tracking system to help manage and close deals, but it's not as helpful as other CRMs when it comes to evaluating the current state of your pipeline. It also doesn't offer much in terms of reporting, so you'll need to look elsewhere in order to effectively slice and dice your database.
Overall, if you're an entrepreneur looking for an intuitive and customizable small business solution, Highrise could very well be the option for you.
Cost: Highrise has three pricing plans and you can find the options on their pricing page.
Which SMB CRM's do you love that we omitted from our list? Which of these platforms and features are your favorites? Let us know in the comments, or Tweet us @Contactually.