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 these tools, for what purpose, and how. The PM is the person who connects the dots between different people and activities, and knowing their toolkit helps with making better decisions and asking the right questions when planning projects.
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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.
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.
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.
Bigin is an easy to use, pipeline-centric CRM from Zoho that is built specifically for small businesses. The tool comes with multiple pipelines for different business operations and allows users to customize pipeline stages.
Bigin provides customizable dashboards to track key business metrics in one place. It also has built-in telephony and email so you can reach out to your prospects without having to switch between applications. Bigin also provides features for automating workflows and routine tasks, and allows users to set reminders for tasks and follow-ups.
The pipeline view is clean and intuitive. Users can track deals by stage, as well as filter contacts and companies. Bigin also offers a fully-featured mobile app.
Bigin integrates with some of the top apps like Google Workspace, MS Office 365, Mailchimp, Zapier, and a host of other popular Zoho tools including Zoho Books (Accounting), Zoho Desk (Customer Service), and Zoho Campaigns (Email Marketing). Bigin also offers an open API to connect to external data sources.
Pricing for Bigin starts at $7/user/month.
Freshsales is a CRM solution intended for use by sales teams, which includes sales and marketing automation, chat, and telephony features. Freshsales also includes tools that assist with attracting leads and provide AI-powered insights.
Users can build and manage pipelines with the assistance of the artificial intelligence capabilities that the platform offers. The tool also records all customer interactions and displays them in one location, and users can also set up personalized welcome emails and journeys for leads and customers. Salespeople can communicate with leads and customers via phone, email, WhatsApp, or chat.
Artificial intelligence capabilities include reporting on historical data, insights into the best deals to pursue and actions to take, and predicting revenue with sales forecasting. Users can also automate repetitive tasks.
Freshsales integrates with Slack, Mailchimp, HubSpot, Office 365 Calendar, QuickBooks, Google Apps for Work, and more.
Freshsales costs from $15 per user and offers a 21-day free trial.
Zendesk Sell is an easy-to-love sales CRM designed to help sales teams boost productivity, make data-driven decisions, and deliver better customer experiences. It offers a modern interface structured around daily sales activities and conversations.
Zendesk Sell offers everything you need in one simple platform – including account management, activity tracking, and lead generation. Plus, you can set up triggers and automate tasks to keep sales reps on target. Tools like lead enrichment, sequencing, and task player are designed to make you work smarter, not harder. And an industry-leading mobile app with features like communication tracking, email notifications, and geolocation, make it easy to stay on top of deals.
Sales teams are able to sell faster by delivering better customer experiences. Whether email, text, or voice, Sell lets you engage across various channels, seamlessly in one unified platform. You are able to see all of your leads, contacts, and account information in one, centralized place. Zendesk Sell integrates with Zendesk Suite to give you a 360° view of your prospects and customers. And you’re able to leverage Zendesk Sell with tools you already use by connecting with third-party apps and using Zendesk’s open APIs.
Zendesk gives you full pipeline visibility so you can plan, track, manage, and analyze your sales process. Dive deeper into your sales data with pre-built dashboards or create your own reports by easily customizing with a point-and-click interface.
Zendesk Sell starts at $19/user/month and offers a 14-day free trial.
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.
Really Simple Systems is a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) system designed specifically for small B2B businesses. 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 $14/user/month. Freemium version and free 14-day trial available.
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.
RAYNET CRM is a tool for small businesses that makes sure you don’t get lost in the quantum of data. It works as your company social network, where you can discuss offers, fine-tune presentations or even set up Friday night drinks!
With this software you can see what is going on in your business in real time and study sales results in detail. RAYNET CRM also lets you inspect sales trends, compare individual sales reps or entire teams, and get a complete overview of your sales using their pipeline analysis.
Everything you enter in the RAYNET CRM will be available in the mobile app, including all documents, attachments, and meeting minutes. Share files, comment, organise, and most importantly: quickly find anything you need within the documents themselves.
Integrations include calendar, email, phone, Google services or your own e-commerce platform. Also, a wide range of accounting and billing systems, ecommerce, project tools, and more through integromat.
RAYNET CRM costs from $25/user/month and offers a 30-day free trial.
Need expert help selecting the right CRM Software?
We’ve joined up with the software comparison platform Crozdesk.com to assist you in finding the right software. Crozdesk’s CRM Software advisors can create a personalized shortlist of software solutions with unbiased recommendations to help you identify the solutions that best suit your business’s needs. Through our partnership you get free access to their bespoke software selection advice, removing both time and hassle from the research process.
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:
|Free forever with paid plans starting at $5/user/month||Check out ClickUp|
14 days free trial
|From $10/user/month||Check out monday sales CRM|
30 days free trial
|From $24/user/month||Check out Kintone|
14 days free trial
|From $7/user/month||Check out Bigin|
21 day free trial
|From 15/user/ month||Check out Freshsales|
14 days free trial, no credit card required
|From $19/user/month||Check out Zendesk Sell|
15 days free trial
|From $14/user/month billed annually. Also has a freemium version upto 3 users.||Check out Zoho CRM|
14 days free trial
|From $14/user/month||Check out Really Simple Systems|
15 days free trial
|From $12/user/month||Check out noCRM.io|
Free with no long-term commitments for up to 30 days.
|From $25/user/month||Check out RAYNET CRM|
Best CRM software for startups and growing businesses
- Salesmate CRM
Best CRM sales software for small businesses
Best CRM to manage all aspects of a small business
- Streak CRM
Best CRM software for G Suite users
Best CRM software for small businesses with a free basic plan
Best CRM software for customer management automations
Best CRM software with an easy-to-use user interface
Best CRM software for fast-growing small businesses
- Agile CRM
Best CRM for agile small businesses and early-stage teams
Still have some burning questions about CRM strategies and software? Look no further:
What is a CRM platform?
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and CRM software is a type of customer management software. The best CRM platform will help your business navigate relationship-building (and maintenance) with both current and potential customers through tracking relationships over time, launching marketing touchpoints, assisting with customer service, and more.
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), 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. 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, and so on.
Small business may not need all these capabilities to start, but as your business grows, you likely will. 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 reputation.
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. You may also be interested in internal support for your team, which helpdesk software can do as well.
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 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.
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 user-friendly and easier to learn. I look at the ease of use of each CRM and whether it 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 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.
- 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?
- Value for $: As a rough figure, on average a CRM for a small business costs around $25 – $60 per user per month (when delivered as a SaaS), 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.
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 about what worked (or didn’t work) for you. Let us know in the comments.
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