This article will help you quickly compare and evaluate the best customer relationship management software and, in particular, CRM software for small businesses and start-ups.
CRM stands for customer relationship management. Because we’re focused primarily on digital project management, you might be wondering why we’re here, talking about managing customers.
Here’s why: while project managers aren’t (usually) directly responsible for CRM strategy and software, it’s important to understand how it plays into your organization’s strategy and projects. PMs should know the types of tools their teams are using, who is using it, for what purpose, and how. The PM is the person who connects the dots between different people and activities, and knowing their toolkit helps in making better decisions and asking the right questions when planning projects.
Quickly Compare & Evaluate The 10 Best CRMs For Small Business in 2020
The 10 Best CRM Software For Small Business
It may feel impossible to narrow down the best CRM for small business. However, just take it step by step and investigate the many options available one at a time.
Here are the top CRMs project managers should know:
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1. monday.com – Best CRM for sales automation
This tool is a highly flexible tool—it’s easy to adapt to hundreds of use cases, and it scales quickly. I’d consider it one of the best CRMs for startups because of its flexibility, easy rollout, and scaling potential. Along with being a CRM tool, monday.com has robust workflow management capabilities that let you do everything from set up automatic reminders, due date notifications, and assign teammates to new tasks automatically. Use their reports and insights to dig into data for sales, processes, performance, and overall business opportunities.
Somewhere between the user interface and features/functions sections of our evaluation criteria is a deep desire for customization—and monday.com has many options for this, though some more complex adjustments may require a coding specialist. On top of that, they have some handy features like a single-click task update request and an automatic notification builder.
monday.com boasts integrations with the likes of Dropbox, Excel, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Integromat, Slack, Trello and even more through Zapier.
If scheduling meetings between many clients and many company representatives is part of your day-to-day, then monday.com might not be the best tool for you. Viewing appointments in different groups can be cumbersome; you may find you end up with an overwhelming number of boards, and recurring meetings require a third-party app.
monday.com starts at $17/month for 2 users and has a free 7-day trial.
2. Really Simple Systems – Best CRM for small B2B customer relationship management
Really Simple Systems is a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) system designed specifically for small businesses B2B. This easy-to-use software is designed to help small businesses streamline their sales and marketing processes from initial inquiry through to close.
The CRM includes a stand-alone sales module, plus options for marketing and/or service desk software – so all your data is stored in one place.
It also includes two integrated report writers for listing and forecasting reports, giving you easy access to essential management information and data analysis.
Really Simple Systems lives up to its name—it’s not just easy to use but also simple to set up, and you’ll be able to train your team in a matter of minutes. The software includes a wealth of support materials that can be accessed from a pull-out drawer on each screen. There are numerous short “how-to” videos, step-by-step guides, and regular live webinars. And, if you still need help, customer support is free of charge to all customers.
In keeping with the company ethos of making CRM simple, Really Simple Systems does not include some of the more advanced features you might find in CRM systems, making it ideal for small businesses and start-ups.
Really Simple Systems offers an integrated marketing module as well as an optional service desk module built-in. The system includes native integrations with Xero, Sage Business Cloud, KashFlow, OneLogin, Microsoft Azure, Google and Microsoft 365 contacts and calendars, plus over 1,500 apps through the third-party integration platform Zapier.
Really Simple Systems costs from $16/user/month. Freemium version and free 14-day trial available.
- 30 days free trial with unlimited users and 1 free hour of customization are offered to all new customers.
- From $25/user/month
3. Method CRM – The #1 rated QuickBooks CRM
Method:CRM offers the best two-way, real-time sync with QuickBooks for managing customers, invoices, estimates, payments, and more to eliminate double data entry and drive greater efficiency. This powerful QuickBooks sync and customizable platform are designed for small businesses that want to automate their workflows and grow their business.
Method:CRM makes it easier to nurture leads, automate workflows, manage your sales pipeline, and track sales activities — all while syncing everything sync back to QuickBooks. Method:CRM simplifies your sales process, strengthens your customer relationships, and makes payment collection a breeze through its online portals. With Method:CRM, you can finally focus on what matters — growing your business.
Along with QuickBooks, Method:CRM also integrates with a range of other tools, including Gmail, Outlook, Google Calendar, Mailchimp, Paypal, Intuit QuickBooks Payments, Authorize.NET, and thousands of others through Zapier.
Method:CRM starts at $25/user/month. Free 30-day trial available.
4. EngageBay – Best for CRM for startups and growing businesses
EngageBay is a marketing, sales, and service automation platform with CRM capabilities that is built to grow small businesses and startups.
The CRM has features such as simple contact management that integrate with and keeps track of emails and phone calls, automated tasks, custom reporting and analytics, and more. EngageBay also includes sales automation, deal tracking, and sales pipeline creation to grow your sales.
The tool is cloud-based and the learning curve for users is shallow. EngageBay is simple to set up and offers a suite of resources and guides, as well as “how-to” videos and free customer support.
EngageBay costs $10/user/month.
5. Keap CRM – Best CRM for small businesses who want built-in sales and marketing tools
Keap is a clean, intuitive sales and marketing tool that allows business owners to automate processes around follow-up with leads and clients. Schedule pre-built reminders, automated emails, and texts to make keeping up with customers, or potential customers, automated and quick, which helps save you and your team time.
Another great feature is the ability to create a repeatable sales process for your team, making it easy to set-up appointments, track leads, and send quotes from the software. Keap also includes built-in landing pages and a campaign builder to get more leads and nurture them.
Keap combines email, phone calls, messages, and notes to create a seamless and complete customer relationship experience.
Keap integrates with PieSync, AdEspresso, BigCommerce, Bojoro, AppointmentCore, Automate.io, Zapier, Fix Your Funnel, Deadline Funnel, CustomerHub, Formlift, Gmail, Graphly, Imember360, Instapage, JotForm, LeadPages, My Fusion Helper, OptinMonster, Outlook, PlusThis, Privy, Quickboks, ScheduleOnce, WordPress, and others.
Keap starts at $79/month for 500 contacts and 1 user; they often have lower price deals for your first 2 months.
6. Streak CRM – Best CRM for G Suite users
Streak CRM automatically captures data from your contacts and emails, and can notify users as leads and contacts progress through the pipeline. Smaller, resource limited teams will appreciate the ability to set reminders for follow-ups.
This tool can automatically fill in data such as ‘Date created’ or ‘Date of Last Email’, which is a great automation feature. You can also automatically share emails, notes, and call logs with your team so you can pick up where they left off and increase collaboration among the team.
Streak CRM is built directly inside Gmail for both desktop and mobile, with G Suite integrations (Sheets, Chat, Drive, and more) to help you access and gather your data quickly. The tool’s open API integrates with Zapier to connect Streak to other apps and tools you use.
Streak CRM has a free basic plan. Paid plans cost from $15/user/month.
7. HubSpot – Best all-in-one CRM for small business
Hubspot organizes contact details, tasks, deals and more into a unified hub meant to streamline all the pieces of your CRM strategy. Features include the ability to run complete inbound marketing campaigns at scale, provide deeper insights into prospects, automate administrative tasks that are getting in your way, and more.
As a free application, it probably comes as no surprise that Hubspot ranks the highest in the “value for price” evaluation criteria section. After all, it doesn’t get much better than free. You will find the app doesn’t skimp on features either. A great CRM for small businesses and startups alike.
Integrations listed in the Hubspot Marketplace include Gmail, Outlook, Fusebill, Zoom, CallPage, LeadSpace, TrenDemon, Facebook, Design Wizard, and over 1500 more through a Zapier paid plan.
A minor con is that you may find that you need database marketers with some experience in order to make the best out of this software. Furthermore, while the free plan is robust and satisfying, you’ll find quite a steep price hike if you require any higher-level plan.
Hubspot is free CRM to start, with account upgrade options that start at $68/month.
8. Ontraport – Best marketing CRM for small businesses
Ontraport gives you a suite of CRM marketing tools to use at will, like email campaigns, SMS campaigns, landing page designs, forms that sync data directly to your contact database and eCommerce system, and storing/managing CRM data (like customer clicks, purchases, and actions).
Somewhere between the customer management and process automation expectations in our evaluation criteria is where Ontraport has a leg over the competition. The app has many functions, a high degree of automation for mundane but necessary processes (including the optimization of marketing campaigns at launch and data organization for performance enhancements).
The usability can be slightly cumbersome from time to time; the page building tool is sometimes clunky and to be honest, some marketing automation functions are too complex to employ easily if you’re a beginner. That said, these same features are really useful once you’re a little more advanced.
Integrations listed include Quickbooks, Xero, Apiant, WebMerge, Google Calendar, Time Trade, Convert Plus, MiloTree, Freshdesk, Helpscout, Zendesk, Leadpages, Megaphone, Avizr, Shopify, WooCommerce, plus additional app options, and over 1500 more with a paid Zapier plan.
Ontraport starts from $79/month and has a free 14-day trial.
9. Copper – Best CRM for real-time reports and analytics
Track deal progress with visual pipelines from lead to close and encourage friendly competition with sales leaderboards that show who the top performers are by revenue, meetings set, calls made, and emails sent. Copper also lets you organize contacts, track leads and deals, automate data entry, manage projects, build pipelines, access reports and insights, track emails and tasks, and more.
While Copper may not ace every subcategory in our features and functionality evaluation criteria section, they do reporting very well. Real-time reports are uber-valuable to the user, breaking down lost revenue, sales revenue, projected revenue based on opportunities, expected close rate, and more.
Copper integrates with Gmail, Slack, Zendesk, Hubspot, Quickbooks, Zero, Docusign, Asana, Trello, Smartsheet, Shopify, Magneto, Squarespace, WordPress, and more. Additional options available through a paid Zapier account or Tray.io.
This software caters best to one product pipeline at a time, so working multiple product lines may be difficult. Reporting, also, wasn’t as intuitive and user-friendly as it could have been. Incorporating niche or legacy software into Copper can be time-consuming and difficult. Furthermore, Copper could benefit from a more robust help/tutorial library.
Copper starts from $19/user/month and has a free 14-day trial.
10. Freshworks – Best sales CRM for beginners
Freshworks offers a whole suite of products to manage your business processes and operations, including a product called FreshSales—their sales CRM software. The company offers one of the most widely used CRMs, and it’s a great small business CRM because it’s easy to navigate and understand, even if you’re not experienced in using one yet.
The evaluation criteria section that Freshworks excels in the most is usability—all of the products from this company have clean interfaces and are designed to roll out quickly without needing a ton of training or customization.
Some cons/critiques to consider: personalization options could be stronger in tabs throughout the stages of the sales pipelines; there is no good way to track expenses or commissions. It’s great for tracking and automating followups in your sales pipeline and for chats and calls, but keep in mind that it’s not a marketing CRM—it’s specialized for sales.
Integrations listed include Google Calendar, MailChimp, Segment, Office 365 Calendar, Hubspot (another CRM to check out), Quickbooks, Zero, and more, including 1500+ integration options with a paid plan through Zapier.
Freshworks starts from $15/user/ month and has a free 21-day trial as well as a freemium version.
The Best CRMs For Small Businesses Summary
How To Choose A CRM: Consider Your CRM Strategy
A robust CRM strategy is essential for any business nowadays—but particularly so for small businesses who are still looking to build out a loyal and returning customer base, generate positive reviews, and spread their name by word-of-mouth advocacy.
There are several things that organizations consider when developing a basic CRM plan:
- How do you solve disputes before they become a problem?
- How do you make customers feel valued and heard?
- How do you attract new customers?
- How do you retain former customers?
- How do you encourage people to return frequently?
And Why Do You Need A CRM Plan?
Even if a customer has a positive interaction with your business, 60-80% of them do not necessarily return to you again. You have to think above and beyond simply giving people a good experience the first time around because even that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be back.
You should have a plan to keep them coming back, which might include marketing touchpoints like staying “in touch” through eNewsletters or a social media presence; engage in events or activities within your community; have your very best people in customer-facing roles so that each transaction is impeccable; listen to all feedback, positive and negative; make sure you are easy to contact by phone, email, and mail; and so on.
So how can you possible navigate all of this on your own? Small businesses often have tight budgets and limited manpower. That’s why you might be considering CRM softwares for small business.
Comparison Criteria For CRMs For Small Businesses
The best CRM systems are determined by the following list of criteria.
- User Interface (UI): Does it offer clear, well-designed displays and intuitive navigation? For CRMs, the ability to customize the interface is a top consideration—can you easily edit the fields, pipelines, and sales processes? Often the ability to customize the interface is only available in higher-level pricing plans.
- Usability: CRMs can be really complex tools, so I look for ones that are easier to learn. I look at whether each CRM offers tutorials, training, and user support through multiple channels.
- Features & Functionality: How many of the key CRM features and functions does it provide, and how powerful are they? Specifically, I looked for:
- Contact or customer management: Create and edit contacts, and easily find them in a searchable CRM database. At a minimum, this feature should integrate with email functions and phone calls.
- Deal management: Create pipelines to track outreach, negotiations, and deals. This feature should be easy to visualize and offer the ability to quickly update leads.
- Interaction tracking: Manage relationships by quickly understanding a contact’s history of interaction with your business. Interaction tracking keeps records of phone calls, meetings, chats, emails—you can log these manually, but many tools automatically generate records.
- Process automation: A small business CRM solution should be able to automate things like your sales workflows and follow-up tasks.
- Reporting tools: the best CRMs can track performance by looking at the data for activities logged in the system, such as data on sales, revenue, contacts, and rep activities.
- Integrations: Is it easy to connect with other tools, and does it come with pre-built integrations with business tools for accounting, e-commerce, project management, and marketing?
- Value for $: As a rough figure, on average a CRM for a small business costs around $25 – $60 per user per month, and very few would cost more than $80 per user. I look at the price of each CRM and gauge how appropriate it is considering its features and capabilities. I also give priority to tools with clear, transparent and flexible pricing.
Want Help Narrowing Down the Options?
This tool is pretty useful. We’ve partnered with Crozdesk to give you access to their “Software Finder”.
If you input some of the details about your project and the features you’re looking for in a project management tool, it will generate a list of tools that match your preferences. You provide your email, and they send over a nice PDF guide with a summary of your best matches.
What Do You Think About Our List Of The Best CRM Systems?
Do you have any experience with CRM software that really wowed you? We’d love to hear from small business teams what worked (or didn’t work) for you. Let us know in the comments.