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5 CRMs that every small business owner should investigate

Which customer relationship management platform is right for you?

Small businesses always want to provide a personal touch, but maintaining that connection to clients and partners becomes less realistic as the business grows.

As a result, small businesses typically utilize a customer relationship management platform (CRM) to help track names, dates, sales activity, contact information and notes about their partners, customers, vendors and clients. CRM platforms are also instrumental in maintaining a strong social media presence, providing a consistent customer experience and developing a sales funnel.

Today there are countless CRM platforms for businesses to choose from. In fact, recent research from Gartner found that the industry became the largest software market back in 2017, at $39.5 billion, and would likley continue to be the fastest growing software marketing with a growth rate of 16 per cent.

Here are a few of the top CRM platforms for small businesses to help you decide which is the best fit for your business.

Insightly  

Insightly CRM - CRM small business

Cost: $12 – $99 USD per user per month

Pros: Video tutorials, simple integration with Gmail and Slack, fast performance, strong workflow automation

Cons: Reporting capabilities are limited and there is no channel for partners

What the experts say: “Insightly is an easy-to-use CRM software that helps you with organizing client interactions as well as tracking milestones, leads, projects and dialogue with prospects and clients,” writes Entrepreneur Magazine contributor Peter Daisyme. “The layout of this CRM software feels like a social media page, making you feel at home instantly and confident that you will be able to navigate through it quickly. The CRM solution works as a non-mobile and mobile application with apps for iPhone and Android.”

Nimble

Nimble CRM - CRM small business

Cost: $25 USD per user per month ($19 with annual subscription)

Pros: Great for freelancers and small business owners on a budget. Strong social media and third-party app integration

Cons: No Facebook message integration or email tracking

What the experts say: “If you’re not a heavy Facebook user, CRM service Nimble can greatly simplify your social media presence and customer and client communications,” writes PC Mag’s Sarah Kovac. 

Salesforce

Salesforce CRM - CRM small business

Cost: $25 USD per user per month for up to 5 users, $75 per user per month for more than 5 users

Pros: Cloud-based, plenty of third-party integrations, strong flexibility, customizable and mobile friendly

Cons: Not all features are available at the lower tier pricing model, while the higher tier pricing model can be expensive for small business owners.

What the experts say: “Although you might just think Salesforce is a CRM system for those large companies out there since it’s such a widely touted brand in the CRM industry, it’s also suited all the way down to the individual user like a freelancer or small business owner,” says Daisyme. “Its smartly designed interface is user-friendly and intuitive and includes a customizable dashboard, tasks, calendar and activity feeds. Even if you have no programming skills, you can still customize aspects of your Salesforce account, including the interface, fields and tabs as well as publish custom apps from its marketplace known as AppExchange.”

Zoho

ZoHo CRM - CRM small business

Cost: $12 USD per user per month for standard, $20 for professional, $35 for enterprise and $100 for “Ultimate” (Free version available)

Pros: Integrates sales, marketing and customer service functions. Dynamic reporting tools, strong social media integration

Cons: May require some customization and set up upfront to get the most out of it

What the experts say: “The Zoho CRM solution was created with the needs of small and medium-sized businesses in mind,” writes Inc. Magazine contributor Rebecca Baldridge. “Users enjoy all the core functionalities of pricier options, and the interface includes tools such as sales and marketing automation, product configuration, reporting and customer analytics. There’s also a gamification feature that adds a bit of fun to the sales process and rewards salespeople who achieve targets.” 

HubSpot

HubSpot CRM - CRM small business

Cost: Free or $50 USD per user per month for premium   

Pros: Email notifications and templates, document tracking, in-app calling

Cons: Some features are limited for non-paying users

What the experts say: “We chose Hubspot as the best CRM software for startups, but the real skinny is that so many users seem to love HubSpot in both its free and subscription-based incarnations,” writes Baldridge in a review of the platform for Inc. Magazine. “It’s a great tool for a startup that isn’t ready to invest in software yet. The premium version, however, is where HubSpot really distinguishes itself, since it functions as a combined sales and marketing tool.”

 

Up Next: What are some rising tech trends in small business for the coming year?

Jared Lindzon

Jared Lindzon is a freelance journalist based in Toronto, covering a variety of topics, including technology, careers, entrepreneurship, politics and music. His work regularly appears in major publications in Canada, the United States and around the world, including the Globe and Mail, Fast Company, Fortune Magazine, Rolling Stone, Politico, the Guardian and more.

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