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
In this post I’ll share with you the best free CRMs to include on your CRM strategy shortlist. I will also explain how a CRM for startups can help you grow your budding business. Below you’ll also find that I have answer some FAQs about CRM systems, but you can always leave further questions you have in the comment section below and our community of PMs might be able to help you out.
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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:
1. monday.com – Manage your customer data, interactions and processes in order to automate parts of your sales pipeline, capture leads online, and more
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. Zoho CRM – A customer-centric, omnichannel CRM with tools to automate processes, manage customer information, and nurture customer relationships with Al-powered assistant.
Zoho CRM is an omnichannel business management platform that provides its users with complete visibility and control over their sales pipeline and processes. Zoho caters to businesses of all sizes. When it comes to small businesses, Zoho CRM hasn’t scaled its features down. They understand that small businesses need to keep their productivity streamlined to help them focus on delivering stellar customer experiences and building brand loyalty.
Zoho CRM’s lead management software ensures leads find their way into your sales pipeline with smart web forms, a business card scanner, website visitor tracking with live chat, social media integrations, lead scoring, and distribution rules. Zia, Zoho CRM’s AI-powered sales assistant, can predict the best time to contact customers, scans your emails for urgency, and can even pull up relevant statistics or documents when performing searches. You can automate sales processes by assigning rules and mapping modules within or across Zoho products.
Analytical widgets such as charts, KPIs, target meters, and funnels are part of Zoho CRM’s customizable dashboards. Match data across modules and create in-depth reports with filters based on specific criteria, such as the deal stage, name, or time. Export reports as Excel, CSV, or PDF files, and embed dashboards into your website or share them on your Slack channel.
Zoho CRM is one of the 40+ integrated business apps on offer from Zoho. CRM users can work seamlessly with the most popular business apps on the market such as G suite, WordPress, MailChimp, Evernote, and Unbounce, with over 300 integrations. Over 150,000 businesses worldwide trust Zoho CRM, and their software is available in 26 languages.
Zoho CRM starts at $12/user/month, with a free version available to organizations of up to 3 users. Sign up for the 15-day free trial to learn more. You can pay monthly or annually for features of your choice with no hidden costs. Their Free Edition has a maximum of 3 users, with 24/5 support.
3. HoneyBook – an easy-to-use software platform designed to help small business owners streamline their processes and manage clients from inquiry to payment.
If you’re looking for a simple CRM for small business, I’d point you toward HoneyBook. HoneyBook is a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) built specifically for small businesses. It’s an easy-to-use software designed to help small business owners streamline their business processes from inquiry to invoice. HoneyBook lets users manage projects, book clients, sign contracts online, send invoices and accept payments.
On HoneyBook users are able to view and track various stages of a project, as well as keep invoices, contracts and other documents in one place. Users can respond to clients quickly and professionally with automated follow-ups using personalized templates and notifications. In addition, automated payment reminders can be sent and task reminders can be created based on the projects.
HoneyBook is one of the best CRM tools for small businesses, enabling tasks like booking clients, staying organized, and streamlining your business processes. It’s great for creatives, entrepreneurs, freelance business owners, hospitality professionals, and health professionals.
HoneyBook is a fully functioning mobile app with a modern and easy-to-use interface design, so users can manage the business on the go.
This tool offers easy-to-use features, including lead capture, Project management, client management, templates, brochures, questionnaires, and bookkeeping.
HoneyBook integrates with tools such as QuickBooks, Calendly, Zapier, Gmail and Google Calendar.
HoneyBook offers a 7-day free trial. Pricing options are $40/month or $400/year. Only available in the US and Canada.
4. Salesforce – A sales, marketing, and customer relationship platform with marketing campaign tools and an app builder
Salesforce lets you automate your sales process, focus on customer satisfaction and retention, build your pipeline and drive customer engagement, create personalized and cross-channel marketing campaigns, and more.
Intuitive and customizable, Salesforce does well in the usability category of our evaluation criteria. That’s not to say that customizations should be done without help; employ an expert to get things set up to your liking and you’ll find the software quite amiable. That said, it’s designed to scale to the enterprise level, so this is a better CRM for small businesses that plan to grow.
Integrations listed include GSuite, Slack, Quickbooks, MailChimp, LinkedIn, Docusign, Jira, HelloSign, CodeScience, ActiveCampaign, Dropbox, and more.
One major con was that contact records require a lot of sorting and scrolling to make any usable sense of. Some better processing procedures here would be helpful.
Salesforce starts from $25/user/month and has a free 30-day trial.
5. HubSpot – Marketing, sales, and customer service software with popular features like contact insights, lead generation and email marketing
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 a free application with account upgrade options that start at $68/month.
6. Pipedrive – Automatic tracking of emails, calls, and progress and a streamlined view of your sales process
A single, streamlined view of your sales process awaits you every time you login. A deeper dive into the software will unveil a sturdy feature set that includes pipeline management tools, email integration, activity reminder emails, sales reporting and forecasting, syncing capabilities with Google Calendar, and more.
Pipedrive scores well in our usability evaluation category because they are so easy to set up and get things started. In fact, they have been rated the “easiest” sales tool to implement by software review site G2Crowd. If you’re looking for a “just log in and go” app, this is it.
Pipedrive works with Google Apps and Google Drive, including things like Google Calendar and Google Contacts. They also integrate with programs like Trello, Asana, Slack, Xero, and many more that you can find in their online Marketplace.
A minor gripe about the chat software service is the only con that comes to mind: The “chat” balances between email and chat, excelling at neither, and has minimal data-collection when it comes to funneling in a potential lead, leaving you with little to go on while trying to make your next move.
Pipedrive starts $12.50/user/month and has a free 14-day trial.
7. Agile CRM – Sales enablement and customer service systems with built-in, advanced marketing capabilities
Agile CRM is some of the best client management software for small businesses, and especially for small agile teams or early-stage teams on a nonexistent budget. It has features to help automate your sales, marketing, and customer service workflows with modern features and integrations. It’s one of the best CRMs if you’re looking for free client management software—as long as you have 10 users or less you can use the free plan, with limited features. The whole feature list includes contact list management, deal tracking and milestones, one-click calling and voicemail automation, appointment scheduling, project management functions, gamification of tasks, and more.
It’s hard to slot exactly which part of my evaluation criteria categories this belongs in but Agile CRM perfectly combines the “online” and “offline” world of CRM, from tracking online sales and other data-based customer service optimization to face-to-face communication instigation.
Integrations are listed in their Marketplace and sorted by function. Popular ones include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Apps, Quickbooks, Shopify, WooCommerce, and many more through Zapier.
It can be a bit tricky to pick up on right away, which dinged them a bit in both the UX and usability categories. Furthermore, their customer service isn’t as responsive or helpful as some of the other products’ teams that are listed here.
Agile CRM starts from $8.99/user/month and is free for up to 10 users.
8. Zendesk – Customer service and engagement products with interaction capabilities across phone, chat, email, social media, and more
Since their founding in 2007, Zendesk has been dedicated to building some of the best customer management software around. This tool is an omnichannel CRM app that unifies all of the places you might interact with your customers, from phone, email, social media, and more. Their analytics serve you with industry benchmark data, customer intelligence, and improved context for every client interaction. A major reason why I consider this to be a top CRM for small businesses is due to the level of support they offer, with training webinars, live training events, and custom training that help you learn the software.
Software should accommodate integrations with other popular apps, which is why this is always a consideration listed in our evaluation criteria. Zendesk has a vast marketplace of apps (some free, some paid) that you can integrate and they are regularly adding to the list.
Zendesk boasts a high number of available integrations for every product or service under the sun, and even more are available through Zapier. Some integrations include Slack, JIRA, Mailchimp Activity, Giphy, Shopify for Support, Zoho, Dropbox, and many more.
Some basic cons include the lackluster mobile app, which could definitely be smoother and more user-friendly. On top of that, adding certain support, integrations, and preferences will significantly drive up the cost of this software, making it not great for smaller units on a budget.
Zendesk starts at $5/user/month and has a free 30-day trial.
9. Ontraport – Marketing software that connects all promotional pieces from emails to webpages and pop-up forms
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).
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.
The usability of the software suffers a bit for the following reasons: the page building tool is sometimes clunky; it is not that intuitive to learn and feel out when first beginning; some marketing automation functions are too complex to employ easily.
Ontraport starts from $79/month and has a free 14-day trial.
10. Freshworks – Customer support, messaging, sales, and IT services with a cloud-based call center and onboarding tools
Freshworks is customer support software with a focus on engaging website visitors and product users, monitoring sales prospects, streamlining IT services, call center capabilities, recruitment and onboarding, and more. It’s one of the most widely used CRMs, and with its “free forever” plan with a limited feature set, it’s a good free customer database software for small businesses that don’t need a ton of extra capabilities. It’s a great small business CRM because it’s easy to navigate and understand, even if you’re not experienced in using a CRM.
The evaluation criteria section that Freshworks excels in the most is probably features and functionality. Customer service capabilities are highly customizable, the user interface is pleasing and easy to navigate, and the reporting features are robust and hand for all sorts of needs.
Integrations listed include Google Calendar, MailChimp, Segment, Office 365 Calendar, Hubspot, Quickbooks, Zero, and more, including 1500+ integration options with a paid plan through Zapier.
Some cons/critiques to consider: personalization options could be stronger in tabs throughout the stages of the sales pipelines; the software doesn’t integrate with social networks or platforms very easily; there is no good way to track expenses or commissions.
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
Before You Choose, Think Of 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.
CRM Systems Comparison Criteria
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.