If you are part of a startup or small business, chances are you are doing more than one role at the same time. It wouldn’t be surprising if you were head of Sales / project manager / head of Costco runs. Likewise, sometimes you have to double up on software solutions and learn how to thrive in all of them.
CRMs are customer relationship management solutions that help us improve customer retention by keeping all our customer interaction data in one place. If you work for a project-based organization, you are the person making hiring decisions for your team. Depending on the project, you might pull a resource or two from Marketing and Sales. Hence, your interaction with Sales resources might happen within a CRM.
The tools on this list are some of the best small business CRM solutions available, and most of them have free trials. Therefore, I suggest you try the one you are most curious about and start getting familiar with it.
After my research, I hand-picked these tools and analyzed them based on this 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. You should 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 complex tools, so I look for ones that are user-friendly and easier to learn. I look at whether it offers tutorials, training, and user support through multiple channels.
- Integrations: Is it easy to connect with other tools, and does it come with pre-built integrations with business tools for accounting, e-commerce, and project management, as well as other marketing tools? I look at the ways in which the tool expands its functionality.
- Pricing: I look at the different plans available, prices, and feature lists. Also, I dig deeper to try and find about free trials or free versions of the software you can use to test it out.
The following are some of the features to look for in a CRM.
- Contact or customer management: Create and edit contacts and contact information, 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, follow-up tasks, and other sales activities.
- 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, sales rep activities, and other metrics.
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Monday sales CRM is an all-in-one CRM platform that every small business owner should consider. It enables you to run all of your operations from one central, integrated place. This highly flexible tool excels at giving you high-level overviews of where every deal stands and managing everyday tasks across all teams (including marketing, client projects, and more). Because it's so easy to adapt to different use cases and easily grows with the business, I'd consider it one of the best customer relations tools for startups due to its flexibility, easy rollout, and scaling potential.
Using monday sales CRM, you can get a clear overview of your sales pipeline and prioritize leads according to status or deal value. Along with being a small business CRM tool, monday.com has robust workflow management capabilities that enable you to do everything from setting up automatic reminders, due date notifications, and automatically assigning teammates to new tasks. Use their reports and insights to dig into data for sales, processes, performance, and overall business opportunities other than customer service.
The user interface is colorful and easy to use, but what makes this CRM stand out is its capacity for deep customization. Impressively, most customizations can be set up without the need for a coding specialist – the out-of-the-box automation ‘recipes’ and apps make it a reasonably fast and easy process to tweak the platform for your specific needs without needing to deep-dive into lines of code. 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 sales CRM costs from $10/user/month and comes with a free 14-day trial. They offer a free plan for up to 2 users.
ClickUp is a CRM and project management suite for small businesses with features for visually managing customer relationships, account tracking, email, and more.
Users can see clients and orders at a glance with flexible views that include lists, boards, and more, as well as set up custom status workflows for account pipelines and use custom dashboards to analyze customer data and reduce bottlenecks.
Centralize all of your customer outreach by integrating your emails into ClickUp to fast-track organization and follow-up. Users can collaborate on accounts with the team, send project updates, and onboard new customers from one place. The tool also allows users to streamline account processes by setting up automations to trigger steps for each stage of the pipeline and collecting information with custom forms.
The tool also includes features for calculating costs and contract values with formulas, tracking orders with custom fields, and using comments and chat to work with team members and clients.
ClickUp offers native integrations with Slack, G Suite, Dropbox, and many more tools, as well as over 1,000+ integrations through Zapier.
ClickUp’s free plan is robust and includes all primary features. The unlimited plan starts at $5 a month per user and offers additional functionality.
HoneyBook is a comprehensive CRM platform for independent professionals. It provides the tools to manage inquiries, contracts, scheduling, and payments—everything it takes to serve clients as a service-based business. HoneyBook helps you move clients from inquiry to invoice by combining your workflow and client experience. You can add a contact form to your website or social media page and new inquiries get automatically added to your pipeline. You can even trigger proposals, invoices, contracts, and scheduling tools.
Beyond client management, HoneyBook gives you a birds-eye view of your overall business through reporting that tracks financial data, success rates, and lead sources.
HoneyBook has some free tools you can try, too, including invoice generators, email signature generators, and mission state generators. You can also access free invoice and contract templates.
Key features include invoicing, proposals, scheduling, contracts, workflow automation, digital payment processing, client communication, meeting/appointment bookings, tasks and to-do lists, file and document storage, and project management.
Integrations include Zoom, QuickBooks, Gmail, and Google Calendar. You can unlock more through a Zapier subscription (may incur additional costs).
After your 7-day free trial, you can use HoneyBook for $1/month for your first 6 months with code: ONLY1. From then on, HoneyBook starts at $39/month.
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 $14/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.
noCRM.io is a lead management software designed specifically for SMBs with sales teams. The tool enables sales teams to quickly create leads directly from emails, the mobile/desktop app, business cards, and LinkedIn, as well as manage them via an easily accessible interactive feed.
noCRM.io provides clear overviews of your sales funnel and a dashboard with key data, so users can view priorities and to-do lists at a glance. The tool is extremely easy to use, reducing time-consuming manual data entry, and can be set up in a few minutes.
Also included are features such as email integration, call tracking, built-in prospecting, a sales script generator, and visual pipeline management. The tool’s mobile app is available for iPhone and Android.
noCRM.io offers native integrations with G-Suite, RingCentral, Freshbooks, and you can use Zapier to connect noCRM.io with other apps in your sales and marketing stack.
noCRM.io pricing plans start from $12/user/month.
Salesflare is a CRM intended for small businesses that can fill out customer information automatically, reducing human error and ensuring more complete and accurate records. If you and your team don't manage to fully and perfectly fill out your CRM system, Salesflare is a great tool for getting your records in order.
Salesflare pulls info from your mailbox, calendar, phone, socials, company databases, email, and web tracking to keep track of customers automatically. This enables you to manage and close more deals, while spending less time on data input.
If you're using Gmail or Outlook, Salesflare neatly brings the CRM into your inbox as a sidebar, so you don't have to switch tabs. You can also use Salesflare to send personal email sequences at scale from your inbox. The tool also has a neat email template feature built in, and it tracks email opens and clicks.
Salesflare starts at $30/user/month and offers a free 30-day trial.
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.
Kintone is a customizable CRM tool for small businesses that is used by teams from McCormick Distillery (Missouri), A-B Emblem (North Carolina), Michael Callahan & Associates (Virginia), and over 23,000 organizations worldwide. Their unique approach to CRM lets you build a wide variety of customizable “apps” either from scratch, using templates or from your existing spreadsheets, for data management, business processes, and workflows. Kintone apps can be customized for project management, client databases, customer activity logs, expense reports, shared to-do lists, equipment management, product feedback, and much more.
Kintone lets you build a no-code, CRM system for your business by dragging and dropping elements that you want to see into “apps”: rich text fields, date fields, drop-down menus, number fields with built-in calculations, spaces for attachments, user or group selection menus, related data from other apps, tables, and more.
Once you’ve built the app you want, you can use it to more easily manage whatever data and tasks you and your team need to track. And with custom notifications and reminders as well as detailed permissions settings, your CRM solution can look and work however you want it to.
What makes Kintone a great CRM tool for small businesses is that users can tailor what information the CRM stores, update and change fields or entire workflows without relying on IT support, and create automated reminders to notify sales members of important deadlines. Kintone’s platform makes dealing with change easier. Users can quickly reassign work and add new customer information by adding new data fields to your CRM app with just a few clicks.
Kintone’s built-in communication features also allow your team to discuss customers or tasks directly in the apps and in topic or project-based threads. Dedicated “spaces” organize all of the information your team needs about your customers in one place, including your customer database, customer inquiries and interactions, and more.
There are so many ways to customize Kintone it can be hard to know where to start. Read the starter blog “What Can You Build with Kintone?” or watch Creating an App from Scratch for a quick look at how the drag-and-drop builder works.
Kintone lets you expand its capabilities with both free native plugins built by the Kintone team as well as integrations with other tools like Slack, Gmail, Google Calendar, Outlook, Tableau, Dropbox, Salesforce, HubSpot, Eventbrite, WordPress, QuickBooks, MailChimp, and many more through a paid plan with Zapier or via API integrations.
Kintone costs $24/user/month with a minimum requirement of 5 users. They offer a 30-day free trial (no credit card required) and discounted prices for nonprofits and educators. Kintone’s team also offers a free custom app build as part of the free trial process.
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 $29/user/month and has a free 14-day trial.
Hubspot Sale Hub is a CRM software owned by Hubspot, who also offer popular tool suites for marketing, customer service, content management, and operations. This means that they are incredibly scalable and can be customized to meet your business needs as you grow. Currently, Hubspot is used by teams from companies like Reseller Ratings, Casio, Legal Zoom, Wistia, and Zapier.
Key CRM features include an email template builder, email tracking, document management, AI-powered conversation analysis, call tracking, sales automation, a meeting scheduler, live chat, and customizable quotes. Hubspot Sale Hub is a great CRM for small businesses because it offers some free tools to get you started and is incredibly easy to use.
Hubspot Sale Hub integrates with Wistia, Databox, Seventh Sense, Zerys, PandaDoc, Aircall, Eventbrite, and dozens of other apps. Plus, they are always expanding their options.
Hubspot Sale Hub offers some free tools, like chat, team emails, and customizable quotes. Paid plans start at $45/month (billed annually) for 2 users.
Need expert help selecting the right CRM Software?
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It only takes a minute to submit your requirements and they will give you a quick call at no cost or commitment. Based on your needs you’ll receive customized software shortlists listing the best-fitting solutions from their team of software advisors (via phone or email). They can even connect you with your selected vendor choices along with community negotiated discounts. To get started, please complete the form below:
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What does CRM stand for?
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management.
What is a CRM platform?
A CRM platform is a type of customer management software. Further, the best CRM platform will help your business navigate relationship-building (and maintenance) with both current and potential customers. It accomplishes it through tracking relationships over time, launching marketing touchpoints, assisting with customer service, and more.
Therefore, this type of software is crucial for small business owners. As your business grows, you’ll need one place to store your customer information, potential customers, leads, sales pipelines and data, and more. A spreadsheet might cut it for a little while, but not for long.
What are the types of CRMs?
There are three primary types of CRMs: Operational CRM (for sales, marketing, and service), Analytical CRM (for data entry, collection, and analysis), and Collaborative CRM (sharing information between different teams).
Operational CRM software and analytical CRM software are the most important for small businesses. With a small team, everyone needs access to sales, marketing, and service data, as well as data and analytics. So, as your team grows and you expand into different departments, you might consider investing in a collaborative CRM as well.
What is the difference between CRM and ERP?
CRMs are customer-focused, often looking outside the company for tools to grow, whereas enterprise resource planning (ERPs) work internally to optimize between corporate departments.
ERPs are generally not used by small businesses, depending on the structure of the business.
What are the benefits of CRM for a small business?
Top CRMs will be able to:
- track customer details
- collect feedback from customer-brand interactions
- trace the sales cycle from lead to sale
- assist with marketing campaign development
- assist with social media management
- act as a contact center
However, small businesses may not need all these capabilities to start, but as your business grows, you likely will. Therefore, a CRM solution should be scalable and able to adapt to your business needs over time.
What types of businesses use CRMs?
Large-scale businesses across all industries most likely have a CRM strategy in place. However, small to medium-sized businesses will also find CRM helpful for growing their customer base and building their relationships.
Not looking for CRM software? Check out our other lists of top software to manage projects and work processes:
- CRM is just one part of marketing that you will need to tackle as a startup or small business. You’ll also need a complete marketing strategy, which marketing project management software can help with.
- As you start to make progress, you might want to employ some business intelligence tools to help you collect and plot data in order to hone in on your strengths and weaknesses and push past any obstacles or plateaus.
- Helpdesk software is a great starting point for anyone looking to address their customer base’s needs, questions, and concerns.
- 10 Best Free Workflow Software For Small Teams
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.
Hence, there are several things that organizations need to figure out when developing a basic CRM plan. Specifically, how to:
- solve disputes before they become a problem
- make customers feel valued and heard
- attract new customers
- retain former customers
- 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. Therefore, 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 email marketing or a social media presence; engaging in events or activities within your community; having your very best people in customer-facing roles so that each transaction is impeccable; listening to all feedback, positive and negative; making sure you are easy to contact by phone, email, and mail; and so on.
So how can you possibly navigate all of this on your own? Small businesses often have tight budgets and limited manpower. That’s why you might be considering CRM software for small businesses.
What Do You Think?
Do you have any experience with CRM software that really wowed you? We’d love to hear your stories on what worked (or didn’t work) for you. Let us know in the comments.
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