Perhaps this is a flawed comparison, but do you ever get overwhelmed with all the emails and all the WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook messages you receive from friends and family? Sometimes I think a good CRM software could be just what I need to organize my social life.
Thankfully, your working life doesn’t need to be quite so chaotic. There are tons of excellent tools to help small businesses out with lead management and deal tracking.
Depending on the size of your company, you could be managing anything from a handful of leads to thousands a month (though how many of these are qualified leads is another story). Managing these in a way that moves them through the sales pipeline towards conversion is a delicate process and many leads will fall through the cracks. However, a good CRM software will provide you with the means to lock in as many deals as possible through a detailed sales process and excellent contact management.
So let’s take a look at the best CRM for small business owners!
What is CRM Software?
CRM stands for customer relationship management software and it refers to the approach of managing potential and existing customers. It enables businesses to better organize and access customer data (no more flimsy post-its cluttering up your desk!), meaning that marketers and sales agents have access to real-time data to work with.
CRM software as we know it today is a fairly recent development. The first open-source CRM system was developed by SugarCRM in 2004, a time when CRM was swiftly moving to the cloud. This meant that CRM software products were no longer reserved for enterprises. Instead, they were now accessible to solo-preneurs and small teams who previously couldn’t afford such software. Small business CRMs were born.
CRM software has continued to evolve since then as standardized CRM solutions were replaced with industry-specific ones, making them customizable enough to meet the needs of every business. For example, those with online stores should check out Drip’s ecommerce CRM, which comes with advanced marketing automation features.
It’s clear that in order to compete in any industry that revolves around direct customer relations you need a decent CRM software. In fact, with a CRM system, most companies see a significant increase in leads, sales revenue, and customer retention.
What to Look for in the Best Small Business CRM
As I’ve mentioned, good CRM software will allow you to customize your dashboard and the data you collect, but there’s more you should look out for.
Price: As a small business, you don’t want to be spending half your monthly budget on CRM software, especially when there are a number of powerful free CRM options for those just starting out.
Ease of use: The last thing you need as a small business owner is the overwhelming task of learning new complex software. Luckily for you, CRM tools have been revolutionized in the last few years, meaning that even a complete beginner can easily get to grips with the CRM platform in a couple of sessions. It’s also good to look out for CRM systems that have good support and a detailed knowledge base and training videos.
Just the right amount of customization: Some tools can be slightly overwhelming due to the sheer number of customization options available, but you also don’t want to find yourself limited by the software.
Pipeline management: The real benefit of using CRM software is moving more leads through the pipeline to conversion. A good CRM platform will give you a holistic view of where your leads are in the funnel and help you to take profitable decisions.
Is it cloud-based?: You and your team will need the ability to access your CRM data from anywhere at any time, and on any device. You’ll find that not every CRM solution has its own app.
Integrations: A good CRM will be able to smoothly integrate with all your favorite social, productivity and email marketing tools.
Good support: Of course, you want your CRM software to be as easy to use as possible, but in case you come across any issues, you’re going to need responsive, helpful support you can count on.
Best Small Business CRM With Email Marketing
Most people who work in sales or marketing have heard of HubSpot. Its co-founder and CEO, Brian Halligan, even coined the now very well-known term ‘inbound marketing’, a philosophy that HubSpot is built on and seeks to educate its users on through courses and free resources.
Founded in 2006, HubSpot has come a long way since then, now employing over 3,000 people around the world. After all, it does have a plethora of products and excellent customer support to accompany them.
The great thing about the HubSpot CRM solution is that you can get started for free, and many businesses won’t need to upgrade from the free plan for years. In fact, it won’t charge you a cent if you have under 1M contacts. Pretty generous, right?
Freshsales CRM (From Freshworks)
Freshsales CRM is part of a multi-product suite from Freshworks. It also offers products related to customer service tickets (Freshdesk, which you have probably heard of), live chat, call centers, and more. It was launched in 2011 in India and Freshsales CRM came on the market 5 years later.
Freshworks’ package is a very complete one. It includes built-in phone software (which automatically logs calls), lead scoring, user behavior tracking and sales automations.
EngageBay is another great CRM software for small businesses due to its affordable prices and a myriad of features that will keep both the sales and marketing team happy.
The EngageBay team prides itself on building a CRM software that anyone can use and boasts a customer base of over 5,000 companies, which isn’t bad considering it was founded in 2017.
It gives you a 360 view of your customers, allowing you to see all the customer points (be it SMS, automations, phone call, emails) at a glance. You can automate repetitive tasks, analyze customer data and nurture existing customer relationships whilst building new ones.
ActiveCampaign is first and foremost an email marketing provider, and it does this very well! In fact, ActiveCampaign is our number one tool for sending email campaigns. Its automations and deliverability are excellent, but what about its CRM software?
ActiveCampaign was founded in Chicago in 2003 and launched its CRM software eleven years later to complement its main offering. The cheapest plan it’s available on is the Plus plan, which costs $70/month, though there are discounts if you pay yearly.
Pipedrive is a very affordable CRM for small businesses. The clean interface makes it very easy to navigate and get set up quickly.
You can sync Pipedrive with your email client (Gmail, Outlook, etc.), and you can sync emails from as far back as 6 months. These are then linked to your respective contact persons, organizations and deals.
Sharing contacts with other team members is super easy. It also has some email features that help you save time in your sales process, such as templates and group email to up to 100 contacts.
Zoho is an all-in-one marketing machine. Its services include email hosting, website creation, surveys, forms, and, of course, customer relationship management software.
The fact that you can have up to 3 users for free, makes this small business CRM solution pretty attractive.
Salesforce is a CRM powerhouse. In fact, it may well be the most widely used CRM tool on the market. Although this software is typically used by larger businesses and enterprises, Salesforce’s small business package lets you take advantage of the product’s robust set of CRM tools and resources at a discounted rate.
Whether it is for you or not totally depends on your business needs and tech experience. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use CRM software that you can set up fairly quickly then Salesforce probably isn’t for you. However, if you’re willing to invest a little more time and want to benefit from its advanced customization options and enterprise-level businesses capabilities then keep reading.
Agile CRM’s affordable prices won them a spot on this list of CRMs for small businesses, but low prices aren’t everything. On paper, it looks pretty good; it comes with all the right features and gives you decent allowances, but how easy is it to use, and how well does its system work?
Streak CRM is made for those who want to manage contacts and deals without having to leave Gmail. As someone who has an account with hundreds of tools, I have to say that Streak’s is a pretty appealing proposal. It sounds like a streamlined CRM solution, but do you miss out on functionality and features? Let’s find out!
Less Annoying CRM
Less Annoying CRM was started by two brothers in 2009 in San Francisco with the aim of making a CRM that was…well….less annoying. To me, this sounds kind of gimmicky, so I wanted to find out if this was actually the case.
Drip Ecommerce CRM
Drip came onto the scene in 2013 and has since attracted more than 6,500 ecommerce brands. It first grabbed our attention for its pretty decent marketing automation features and then, once we looked into it as a HubSpot alternative, as an excellent small business CRM software.
Keap, from Arizona, USA, was previously known as Infusionsoft, until 2019 when they changed the name. Its services include customer relationship management, marketing automation, lead capture, email marketing and e-commerce.
Like Drip, Sendinblue is another email marketing service that comes with CRM features. Having everything in one place like this is very handy and will no doubt help you to increase conversions and manage existing customers.
Set up lists to add your contacts to, add notes and relevant documents to individual customer profiles and create tasks and assign new contacts to different members of your team.
What’s the Best Free CRM for Small Businesses?
If you’re specifically looking for a free CRM software then you have a couple of options: HubSpot, Freshsales, Zoho CRM or Agile. However, when comparing the features available, HubSpot comes out as the best CRM software in this case.
You’ll get 1M contacts, unlimited users and 2,000 emails/month for absolutely nothing. Unlike Freshworks, HubSpot won’t keep your reports from you, in fact, it offers a number of pre-made reports in its Reports Library.