What is Customer Relationship Management?
Customer relationship management (CRM) is an approach to managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers. It often involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.
To find the best CRM software for small business, Business News daily asked small business owners what CRM software they used, what their likes and dislikes were, and what they think makes the “perfect” CRM software. Next, they looked at CRM software that appeared on review sites, business websites and other reputable online sources. . The last steps of their research involved them testing the top picks themselves. This process included signing up for business accounts, trying out software demos, downloading mobile apps, watching videos and contacting vendors with questions as business owners.
In total, they ended up with more than 50 CRM software products. Top picks were: Salesforce, Insightly and Zoho CRM. Those that made it to the short list included: Infusionsoft, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics, Nutshell, NetSuite, Act!, TeamWox and Highrise.
Criteria used to evaluate each software:
- Ease of use
- Contact-management features
- Lead-generation tools
- Sales and marketing tools
- Employee-tracking capabilities
- Customization options
- Automation capabilities
- Third-party integration
- Reporting and analytics
- Mobile access
- Service limitations
- Customer service
Here is a full list of CRM software and a summary of what each company claims to offer. This alphabetical list also includes our best picks.
Act! Cloud— Act! Cloud, by Swiftpage, marries contact management with e-marketing to help you get organized, convert new customers and get more from existing customers. The software takes the guesswork out of choosing where to focus time and resources by offering you intelligent, prioritized recommendations based on the level of engagement of customers and prospects. cloud.act.com
AllProWebTools— If you’re looking for a simpler way to acquire leads and maintain customer relationships, AllProWebTools’ CRM software is a unique integrated solution. This CRM tool is part of a business suite that also includes email, Web and e-commerce hosting, marketing, task management, and timecards. Having all these tools available from one dashboard keeps you organized and saves you time. AllProWebTools.com
Apptivo CRM — Apptivo CRM combines contact and lead management with project management and marketing software to help your business connect better with customers. Apptivo CRM is part of Apptivo’s suite of business solutions. apptivo.com/crm
Avidian/Prophet — Use Outlook as your CRM software with Avidian. The company’s own Prophet CRM turns your inbox into a full-featured, mobile-friendly CRM solution. From contacts to emails, tasks, notes, appointments and meetings, Avidian also syncs all your data in a familiar platform you likely already use every day. avidian.com
Base — Called an “intelligent productivity platform,” Base is all about using data to help your business make wiser, more informed sales decisions. It closely monitors your sales pipeline, sales rep activities, goals and quotas to make sure your team is productive and succeeding. getbase.com
Bluenose — Bluenose combines big data analytics with powerful technology for customer-success management. Known as a “Customer Success” platform, the software empowers software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses to proactively manage and engage their customers through its insight-driven toolkit, built-in playbooks and more. bluenose.com
BoomTown! — Do you own a real estate business? BoomTown’s predictive CRM software is designed specifically for agents, teams, brokerage firms and other real estate professionals. Services include lead generation, a website builder, success management and the ability to manage multiple offices. boomtownroi.com
bpm’online — Get end-to-end process management, from lead generation to ordering to customer service. More than your traditional CRM software, bmp’online combines sales, marketing and help desk functions so you can be there for customers every step of the sales journey. bpmonline.com/crm
Bullhorn — Own a service-oriented business? Bullhorn CRM is specifically built to help service providers strengthen relationships with customers while improving sales productivity and driving growth. There are also dedicated CRM software offerings for niche businesses, such as staffing and recruitment firms and PR agencies. bullhorn.com/products/crm/
CampaignerCRM — Campaigner offers two types of CRM software. One is for businesses that deal with shorter, simpler sales processes, and the other combines CRM with sales-process management to help companies with longer, more complex sales processes. The latter option offers more advanced functionalities, such as reporting, customization, a sales process API and more. campaignercrm.com
Capsule — Capsule aims to make CRM as simple as possible by offering six core capabilities to help you run your business: managing relationships, managing the sales pipeline, organizing emails, saving contact histories, performing task management and completing customization. capsulecrm.com
Commence — Specifically designed for small to midsize businesses, Commence is a Web-based CRM software that’s both powerful and affordable. It’s also designed for fast deployment, meaning it’s easy to implement and you can get started right away. commence.com
Contactually — Contactually is all about getting the most out of your CRM investment. It is built to help businesses convert existing leads into closed sales, build relationships for long sales cycles, stay on top of revenue opportunities and get more prospects down the sales funnel. contactually.com
GoldMine — Need a premise-based CRM software? Unlike cloud-based CRM software, GoldMine is installed on your own servers and infrastructure to give you more control over your software. In addition to its many CRM features, the company also offers one of the best customer support systems, so you can get help right when you need it. goldmine.com
GreenRope — GreenRope combines the best of CRM with robust marketing automation to help you save time and dedicate more resources to closing sales. Additional features include project management, collaboration tools, e-commerce, event management and more. greenrope.com
Hatchbuck — One of our runner-ups, Hatchbuck is all-in-one sales and marketing tool built with small businesses in mind. It focuses on simplicity, ease of use and affordability, while giving you all the tools you need to organize data and automate marketing processes. hatchbuck.com
Highrise — Also a top contender on our list of best CRM software, Highrise focuses on helping you manage three key areas of your business: contacts, tasks and communications. You can maintain and share contacts with your team, create tasks and set reminders, and keep track of emails, notes and other forms of correspondence. highrisehq.com
Hubspot CRM — A popular inbound marketing and sales platform, Hubspot’s CRM software streamlines your sales process across multiple channels in your organization. It works in the background to save you from wasting time manually performing repetitive sales and marketing tasks. The software also specializes in automatically logging and syncing data from different sources of communication, such as your website, phone calls, emails, social media and more. hubspot.com/products/crm
Infusionsoft — Infusionsoft is a favorite amongst small business owners we talked to, because of its ease of use and because it offers a comprehensive set of CRM tools at a small-business-friendly price. Users particularly liked its automation features, ability to nurture leads all the way to closing the sales and extras like email marketing, billing and project management. infusionsoft.com
*Insightly — Our pick for the best CRM software for very small businesses, Insightly is a simple, scalable solution that grows with your business. It offers both basic and advanced capabilities, so you can start with a free or super-affordable standard plan, then upgrade as your business expands. Read our full review here.
iSEEit — Focus on sales. iSEEit offers an intuitive way for sales people to manage all their daily sales activities. This iPad and Web-based CRM solution makes it easy to focus on the right steps to move deals through your pipeline by letting you better qualify leads, tasks, and opportunities; manage deals via milestones and qualifiers; and coordinate and collaborate with customers and colleagues, all from a single, consistent source. now.iseeit.com
LeadMaster — If you’re looking for a simple way to gather, manage and convert leads, LeadMaster can help. First, the software aims to save you hours spent looking for high-quality leads by automating your marketing system. Next, its sales lead-management tools helps you turn those leads into sales by making it easy to track, analyze and communicate with those prospects. leadmastercrm.com
Maximizer — Need more flexibility in your CRM software? Maximizer is an all-in-one CRM solution that is completely customizable to cater to your business’s unique needs. In addition to offering three robust CRM tools — sales management, marketing automation and customer service — the software also gives you a choice of using the cloud-based version of the software or an on-premise version hosted on your own servers. maximizer.com
Method:CRM — Do you use QuickBooks as your accounting software? Intuit-approved Method works with QuickBooks to integrate your customer data with your financial data. This software links and syncs everything from contact information to invoices, purchase histories and much more to give you a complete view of customers in one, easily accessible place. method.me
Microsoft Dynamics CRM — Microsoft Dynamics CRM takes a different approach to CRM. The software uses social insights, business intelligence and campaign management to help your business strengthen relationships with customers, improve marketing campaigns and, ultimately, boost sales. It is available in the cloud, on premise or a combination of both, and you can integrate the software with Office 365 for even more productivity. microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/crm.aspx
NetSuite CRM — NetSuite CRM lets you track leads through each step of the customer lifecycle, from lead generation to prospect nurturing, sales ordering, fulfilment and support. It also shows you opportunities for up- and cross-selling, as well as renewals to boost sales and maintain customer loyalty. Other features include order management, commission management, sales forecasting and e-commerce. netsuite.com/portal/products/netsuite/crm.shtml
Nimble — Does your business rely heavily on social media marketing? Known as an Intelligent Relationship Platform, Nimble automatically syncs all types of contact data across multiple channels, including social media. It uses “social listening” to filter contacts and prospects on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn to help you find and close high-value opportunities. The software also syncs emails, direct messages and @mentions, making them easily accessible straight from your dashboard. nimble.com
Nutshell — Specially built for small businesses, Nutshell helps you close sales fast. In addition to standard CRM features like contact and lead management, Nutshell also offers collaboration tools, custom reporting and third-party integrations. You’re also in luck if you use Google Apps; the software automatically imports Gmail messages and events and meetings into Google Calendar. It promises fast deployment, too, so you can get started in no time. nutshell.com
Odoo — Odoo is an open-source software that focuses on tracking leads, closing opportunities and generating accurate forecasts. And because it’s open source, it lets you customize the software to your exact needs and add on a wide range of apps. Supported apps include marketing, project management, e-commerce, Website building, billing, accounting and even human resources. Odoo is a little on the pricier side, however. It requires a monthly per-user fee in addition to a monthly per-app fee, though you get two free users to start. You can also use the software on multiple companies for an additional fee. odoo.com/page/crm
OnContact — OnContact combines CRM with marketing automation, giving you a complete sales and marketing solution in one. Unlike many CRM solutions, however, OnContact comes with powerful customer-service features, such as contact center capabilities and incident tracking, so you can be there for your customers whenever they need you. OnContact is available as a cloud-based or on-premise software. oncontact.com
Pipedrive — Small business owners like Pipedrive because it is simple and easy to use. It’s also a highly visual platform, making it easy to quickly navigate the dashboard and get the data you need at a glance. There is also no training required, and setup takes less than two minutes, so you and your team can get started right away. pipedrive.com
PipelineDeals — PipelineDeals doesn’t just help you boost sales; it also helps you and your staff be more productive. What makes it stand out from other CRM software is that it goes the extra mile. For instance, it can send snapshots of your pipeline to your inbox every morning so you know exactly how your business is doing before you even open the software. Plans also come with premium support, so you can reach a real, live PipelineDeals representative any time to help resolve any issues. pipelinedeals.com
Pipeliner — If you’re a visual person, you’ll like Pipeliner. This CRM software presents all your data in an intuitive, visual way, so you don’t have to go through multiple steps to get the data you need. For instance, when you go to the Pipeline section of the software, you’ll be greeted with charts showing you who is in which stage of your pipeline. This way, you don’t have to open each stage or contact separately to get this information. Pipeliner also offers an all-inclusive pricing model, so you get all the features for just one monthly price. pipelinersales.com
Podio — Podio aims to cut through the noise of CRM and deliver a clutter-free CRM solution. It is a very lightweight software that lets you customize features, so you get all the capabilities you need without all the fuss. With this product’s simple interface, you can easily get where you need to go without getting lost in extra steps navigating the software. podio.com/site/use-cases/crm
Sage CRM — Sage CRM is an all-in-one solution that lets you do more with your CRM. In addition to contact and lead management, Sage CRM offers targeted marketing, email marketing, social CRM and more. It also comes with a built-in customer-service portal to help you deliver excellent customer support. And if you use Sage ERP, Sage CRM integrates seamlessly for even better sales acceleration. sagecrm.com
*Salesforce — Our top pick for the best CRM software for small business, Salesforce has everything you need in a cloud-based CRM software. It’s affordable and easy to use, and offers a ton of features at a small business price point. It also comes with top-notch customer support, so you can get help any time you need it. Read our full review here.
Salesnet — Salesnet takes CRM to the next level by pairing it with Microsoft Office. Besides Salesnet’s native CRM features, the software integrates with Outlook to automatically sync contacts, meetings and tasks; Excel to view and edit reports; and Word to merge data and attach files to the software. salesnet.com
SalesNexus — SalesNexus isn’t just another CRM software; it combines CRM with email marketing to help you better target leads, connect with them and convert them to loyal customers. You won’t even need a separate email-marketing solution to get the job done. SalesNexus’ lead-generation tool also lets you find leads using a wide range of specific categories, such as by industry, title, company revenue, location, social media profiles and more. Each plan comes with 500 leads and 25,000 emails per month. salesnexus.com
Snapforce — If you want a truly comprehensive CRM solution, check out Snapforce. This CRM software eliminates the need to use multiple tools to manage your business. In addition to core CRM features, Snapforce offers cloud-based file storage, calendars and event management, email syncing with your email client, and case management via a ticket system. It also comes with a complete call center software, so customers can reach you with a simple phone call. snapforce.com
SugarCRM — Another favorite amongst small business owners, SugarCRM is powerful CRM software that integrates sales, marketing and employee tracking. The base plan comes with a robust set of features, such as sales automation and forecasting, lead management, call-center automation, reporting, unlimited customizations and unlimited online support. SugarCRM is available as a cloud-based or on-premise software. sugarcrm.com
TeamWox — Need a more advanced CRM software? More of an enterprise management system, TeamWox brings big business tools to small businesses. In addition to CRM, it also helps you manage teams, tasks, service desks and other areas of your business. But if you’re looking for a ready-to-use, cloud-based solution, look elsewhere — you’ll need to download TeamWox, then install it in your own systems. TeamWox is also on the pricy side. It’s free for up to five users, but it will set you back several hundred dollars if you need more than that. teamwox.com
Vtiger — Vtiger is a one-stop shop for all your sales, marketing and customer-support needs. It features a bevy of built-in CRM solutions, including email marketing, project management, calendar and task management, reporting, document management, and more. It also has a customer portal where customers can access their accounts and submit help tickets. vtiger.com
Workbooks — Known for its high level of customer satisfaction, Workbooks is one of our runner-ups for the best CRM software for small business. It focus on four core areas of CRM: sales to boost your business’s growth, highly targeted marketing to help you get the most ROI, order fulfilment to streamline your sales processing and customer support to keep your customers happy. A free version is available for up to two users; it also comes with free online support. workbooks.com
*Zoho CRM — Our top pick for the best free CRM software, Zoho CRM is packed with features, despite its free price tag. Unlike other free CRM software, Zoho CRM offers a ton of premium capabilities and lets you add up to 10 users at no extra cost. Read our full review here.