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A customer relationship management (CRM) system is used to collect data about interactions between a company and its customers. This data comes from multiple channels, including a company's official website, related social media channels, customer support logs, and reviews, and is stored in a central database. The company can then analyze this data and use it to better its products, address concerns of customers, and ultimately drive growth.
CRMs are vital for small businesses in the early stages of growth. That's because the success of these businesses depends a lot on how many customers they can gain and retain. For example, a newly opened diner needs to know what customers think about its food, what kind of reviews they're posting online, thus influencing future customers, and whether are not they are likely to visit again. All this information can help the diner tweak its services, address any problems, and attain maximum customer satisfaction.
Depending upon your establishment's requirements, there are quite a few CRMs out there. To help you find the right one, read our picks for the best CRMs for small businesses.
Best Overall : Agile CRM
Agile CRM has robust features and extensive automation capabilities, securing it as our pick for the best customer relationship management (CRM) system for all kinds of small businesses.
Even Agile CRM's free plan has a lot of features, including 50,000 contacts and companies, email tracking, and two-way email integration.
Paid plans offer a number of services, priced per user with discounts available for longer contracts. Marketing teams will particularly benefit from builder tools for multiple services, including forms, e-mail templates, and website landing pages. You can also automate marketing tasks and monitor social media.
Here's a breakdown of Agile CRM's plans and pricing:
|Free||Free for up to 10 users||50,000 contacts and companies; custom data fields; lead scoring; unlimited deals, tasks, and documents; appointment scheduling; custom deal milestones; email tracking; two-way email integration; custom deal tracks; two-way telephony|
|Starter||$8.99/user/month for 2 years; $9.99/user/year; $14.99/user/month billed monthly||Email campaigns; web engagement; contract-level analytics (up to 10,000 free; $50 for next 50,000; $150 for next 500,000; $249 for next 1 million); form builder; email template builder; landing page builder; 5,000 branded emails; web-to-lead; marketing automation; social monitoring; mobile marketing|
|Regular||$29.99/user/month for 2 years; $39.99/user/year; $49.99/user/month billed monthly||Help desk; groups; labels; canned responses; views; activities; reports|
|Enterprise||$47.99/user/month for 2 years; $64.99/user/year; $79.99/user/month billed monthly||50+ plug-ins/integrations; email and phone support; sync with Google, Shopify, and Stripe; Chrome extension; basic and email reports|
Customer reviews for Agile CRM are mostly positive with many users praising the easy-to-use interface and ease of integration. But some users note that there is a lack of training for all but the most basic functions, and it can be difficult to navigate without help.
Robust features and automation capabilities
Free plan offers a wide range of helpful features
Builder tools for marketing teams
Lack of training for all but the most basic functions
Some features are costly, and add-ons can get pricey
Best Online/Cloud-Based : Zoho
When it comes to business management solutions, Zoho is a name that needs no introduction. The company's portfolio includes everything from accounting tools to collaborative apps to payroll solutions. If you don't want the hassles of a self-hosted CRM solution, Zoho CRM is just what you need.
A multichannel online CRM, Zoho aggregates customer data from a variety of sources, including email, live chat, calls, and social media. Its SalesSignals feature provides real-time analytics and notifications for every customer. You can assign individual targets to each of your team members, and monitor their progress from a central dashboard.
Zoho CRM offers features to build and automate sales processes, and it even lets you create distinct portals for your customers. The REST API and its libraries make it possible to develop custom solutions and integrations.
Then there's Zoho Marketplace, which includes hundreds of extensions that can be added to the CRM dashboard to further increase its functionality.
Although most customer reviews are positive and praise the platform's ease-of-use, some users express frustration about their encounters with support staff while some are unhappy with the cost of add-ons and other services.
|Standard||$14/user/month, billed annually||Scoring rules, workflows, multiple pipelines, mass email, custom dashboards, Canvas (1 view/organization)|
|Professional||$23/user/month, billed annually||Everything in the Standard plan plus SalesSignals, Blueprint, web-to-case forms, validation rules, inventory management, Canvas (3 views/organization)|
|Enterprise||$40/user/month, billed annually||Everything in the Professional plan plus Zia AI, CommandCenter, multi-user portals, advanced customization, mobile SDK and MDM, Canvas (5 views/organization)|
|Ultimate||$52/user/month, billed annually||Everything in the Enterprise plan plus advanced BI bundled with Zoho Analytics, enhanced feature limits, 30-day trial, Canvas (25 views/organization)|
Aggregates customer data from email, live chat, calls, social media, and more
Easy to use
Integrate other Zoho products
Problems with customer service and support staff
Add-ons and other services are expensive
Best for Scalability : HubSpot
Growth-oriented small businesses will want to check out HubSpot because it's scalable enough to easily manage an increased influx of customer interactions. That's why it is our pick for scalability.
HubSpot offers an always-updated view of your company's sales funnel through a visual dashboard. Here, you can manage scheduled appointments, track performance against quotas, and more. The CRM automatically logs all customer interactions, including email, calls, and social media engagements, and the same can be easily synced to Gmail or Outlook.
Thanks to its timeline view, HubSpot makes it easy to follow up on all the interactions with any lead. You can schedule personalized email sets and get actionable insights about them. The marketing hub includes numerous tools that let you manage optimized landing pages, create email templates, and measure SEO-based return on investment.
As you'd expect, HubSpot works seamlessly with third-party services like G-Suite and Office 365.
Here's a breakdown of the plans and pricing available from HubSpot:
|Free||Free||Contact management, email scheduling, deal pipeline, meeting scheduling, live chat with HubSpot branding, one free shared inbox, limited basic bots, customizable quotes (excluding product library, eSignature, or payment integrations), up to 3 dashboards (each with 10 reports/dashboard), 1 deal pipeline, Facebook Messenger integration, 10 custom properties, more|
|Starter||$45/2 paid users/month, billed annually||Everything in the Free plan plus live chat without HubSpot branding, customizable quotes including payment and Stripe integration (excluding product library and eSignature), 10 dashboards and 10 reports/dashboard, unlimited email open and click notifications, up to 5,000 canned snippets, 1,000 personal and team meeting links, more|
|Professional||$450/5 paid users/month, billed annually||Everything in the Starter plan plus customizable quotes including product library, eSignature, payment, and Stripe integration; up to 100 shared inboxes; 25 dashboards and 30 reports/dashboard; up to 15 deal pipelines per account; more|
|Enterprise||$1,400/10 paid users/month, billed annually||Everything in the Professional plan plus unlimited email open and click notifications; 50 dashboards with 30 reports/dashboard; more|
As you can see, the free plan offers a robust number of features. But if you're looking for more substantial features, HubSpot's paid plans are quite pricey compared to competitors.
Scalable to manage an influx of customer interactions
Works seamlessly with G-Suite and Office 365 services
Paid plans are expensive compared to competitors
Best for Ease Of Use : Streak
Considering the many intertwined modules that make them work, the majority of CRM systems aren't exactly easy to get started with. However, there are exceptions, and Streak CRM is one of them.
So what exactly makes Streak perhaps the easiest to use CRM out there? It's built on an application that's regularly used by just about everyone who has an internet connection: Gmail.
Streak instantly transforms Gmail into a CRM powerhouse. Just install the extension, and you're good to go. Streak features easy collaboration and allows you to share everything from emails to notes with a single click. You can manage deals, support queues, and set up task reminders using Google Calendar. Features like Webhook API access, mail merge, tracking, and shared pipelines are also included in the mix.
Since it's based on Gmail, Streak works perfectly with the whole gamut of Google's other web-based apps. It can work with personal and school Gmail accounts, too. Streak has multiple templates tailored for specific usage environments like Sales and Product management.
|Free||Free||Unlimited free trial, 500 items moving through pipeline, 50 email merge per day, email tracking and snippets, unlimited contacts and organizations, G-Suite integrations, core CRM|
|Solo||$15/user/month||All free plan features plus 5,000 items moving through pipeline, 800 email merge per day, email link tracking, live chat support|
|Pro||$49/user/month||All Solo plan features plus unlimited items moving through pipeline, 1,500 email merge per day, standard API, core and advanced CRM, basic permissions, live chat support, onboarding and training|
|Enterprise||$129/user/month||All Pro plan features plus Webhook API, priority support, 1;1 session to set up automations and Zapier integrations, custom billing, and security questionnaires|
Even though customer reviews note that Streak is a solid CRM tool, some lament that there's no actual dashboard because it's a tab in Gmail.
Easy to use
Integrates easily with Gmail
Unlimited free version that provides a lot of features
No dashboard; you can only access the CRM through a Gmail tab
Best for Sales Management : PipeDrive
Not every organization requires all of its teams working on handling customer interactions and following up on leads. For many, it's just the sales department that's responsible for this. In such cases, going for a sales-oriented CRM system makes perfect sense, making Pipedrive perfect the best choice.
Pipedrive is a sales CRM built for minimum input and maximum output. Its primary interface is the pipeline, which allows you control complex sales processes. All the deals are categorized by sales stages. A statistics tool can be used to get a personalized analysis of sales, and the view has drag-and-drop support.
Pipedrive features email integration with full support for customized templates and detailed tracking. There's a preset activity type list, and you can create your own as well. You get reminders for overdue activities, as well as notifications for new tasks.
Thanks to its powerful open API, Pipedrive can be easily connected to other software and custom features developed for it. The Zapier add-on makes syncing data between multiple web apps a simple affair.
It's also possible to import existing data to Pipedrive and export its own to other software programs. Visual reports give you deeper insights and lets you customize reports to ensure you see the data you need.
And even though you can access everything the CRM has to offer free for 14 days, there's no pricing transparency, nor is there any transparency about paid plan features that you might not be able to access with the free version.
Full access to the CRM for 14 days with no credit card required
Personalized sales analysis
No pricing transparency after 14-day free period
No paid plan feature transparency
Best Value : Insightly
Budget is always a concern for small businesses. Finding a CRM solution that offers great features without costing a fortune is a must, and this is why Insightly is our pick for best value.
With a base price of $29/user/month billed annually, Insightly is one of the best values for CRM service out there. You get 100,000 records, 10Gb of storage space, and the ability to import 25,000 records per session. There's also task management, API access, and custom reports thrown into the mix. Insightly offers detailed report charts and the ability to connect to Microsoft's Power BI business analytics service.
For email marketing, Insightly lets you send up to 2,500 mass emails per day, and email scheduling is available as well. Users also have access to pipelines and activity sets, Google Contacts and Calendar sync, and more, making project automation easy.
As far as third-party integration goes, Insightly's open API allows seamless connectivity with services like PieSync, Adobe Analytics, and BambooHR.
And although most of Insightly's customer reviews are positive, some users mention the app could use some work and that the user experience is not always strong.
Robust email marketing platform
Base plan provides 100,000 records and 10Gb of storage space
UX could use some work
Customers report the app could be better
Best Splurge : Salesforce
If you want the best CRM for your small business and money is not a constraint, look no further than Salesforce.
Undeniably the most popular name in the CRM industry, Salesforce has everything your business could ever need. Its Sales Cloud Professional edition offers features like rules-based lead scoring, campaign management, and unlimited custom applications. You also get account and contact management, as well as a customizable sales process.
Its mobile app allows you to keep track of customer interactions even on the go. The highly configurable dashboards and reports make it easy to get real-time insights.
For company-wide collaboration, Salesforce has full support for files and recommendations. Third-party integration is there, too, with both Google Apps and Einstein Activity Capture.
For company-wide collaboration, Salesforce has full support for files and recommendations. Third-party integration is there, too, with both Google Apps and Lightning Sync included.
|Essentials||$25/user/month, billed annually||Account, contact, lead, and opportunity management; Gmail and Outlook integration; workflow and approval automation;|
|Professional||$75/user/month, billed annually||All Essentials plan features plus pipeline and forecast management|
|Enterprise||$150/user/month, billed annually||All Professional plan features plus workflow and approval automation|
|Unlimited||$300/user/month, billed annually||All Enterprise plan features plus sales engagement and insights, sales insights, 24/7 support and configuration services|
As you can see, Salesforce has a lot to offer, but its prices are extraordinarily high for the industry. Even so, if your business can afford the luxury price tag, its services are worth it.
Rules-based lead scoring
Choosing the right customer relationship management (CRM) software can mean the difference between growing your small business and struggling to get and retain customers. We reviewed the top CRMs, and Agile made the cut as our best overall CRM. It's budget-friendly and has most of the features small businesses will need to be successful.
But your business may have different needs. One of the CRMs on our list is sure to be right for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a CRM?
A CRM is customer relationship management software. It’s an organizational sales tool used in many different industries that lets companies store contacts, manage and analyze their interactions, organize the sales process, and much more. It’s a way to stay organized, track progress, and store everything in one secure place. A CRM can also have features that automate responses, send follow-up emails, and even remind you of upcoming events.
Who Uses CRMs?
CRMs are typically used by:
- Real estate agents and brokers
- Marketing companies
- Sales-based companies
- Businesses that create quotes and invoices such as contractors
- Insurance companies
- Hotels and the hospitality industry
- Retail businesses
How Much Does a CRM Cost?
CRM pricing runs the gamut. The cost usually depends on the number of users, the product features, and the complexity of the software. Some CRMs only cost $8.99 per user month and others are more expensive at close to $30 per user per month. For larger businesses managing a huge volume of accounts, there are unlimited editions with more functions and automation that cost several hundred dollars per month per user.
Is a CRM Worth the Cost?
A CRM can help your business stay organized, increase efficiency, and grow. It can free up your time to do money-making tasks and help you remember important dates and follow-ups. If you work full-time in an industry in which a CRM can help, it’s generally worth the cost. If you’re just starting out or have a limited budget, you can always begin with a more affordable CRM option and work your way up.
How We Chose the Best CRMs
With so many CRMs on the market, we took a look at more than a dozen of the most popular services, all taking into account how these systems would work for small businesses in particular. We took a close look at cost and features, as well as third-party integrations, company reputation, customer reviews, mobile app compatibility, and more. Using these standards, we narrowed our list down to the 7 best options for small business owners.