When you look at the scope of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Salesforce.com’s Lightning Platform, there’s no denying that such bigwigs of tech recognize the significance of cloud-based services to the 21st-century business model.
And yet, this isn’t just a competition among titans. SMBs, startups and solo entrepreneurs are all poised to make their business smoother, faster and more cost-effective by depending on the cloud. And in this regard, one SaaS stands out: CRM, or customer relationship management.
Cloud based CRMs should be a clear and preferred choice for both small businesses and huge enterprises. Why?
The cloud industry is booming, and only getting bigger. In terms of total market share it’s gone from $182.4 billion since 2018 to $249.8 billion this year and projected to hit $331.2 billion by 2022.
By 2018, just shortly after cloud-based services went mainstream, already 96% of organizations were using cloud-based services in one way or another, while a Gartner study shows 60% of businesses will be relying entirely on the cloud by 2022, double the figures from 2018.
Meanwhile, a McAfee report shows that 87% of businesses get an immediate boost to their bottom line once they’ve adopted cloud services.
What benefits do Cloud CRMs offer? Should you go free, open source or opt for a pricey premium package? And how do you pick the best CRM software? Check out our tips below.
Benefits of using cloud based CRM
We’ve been hearing the call for some time now: The modern business isn’t just selling stuff, it’s providing experiences. Customer experience is the name of the game, and any startup, SMB or enterprise needs to put their resources behind those departments that are upfront and center in delighting their customers.
This is why cloud-based CRM is such a boon to the modern business. Cloud CRM systems take a whole bunch of technical, administrative and organizational work off the hands of a workforce, allowing works to instead excel at CX.
CRMs alone already save companies a lot of time by automating simple tasks. Cloud CRMs save even more time and money by doing away with the need to own specialized gear on-premises, and employ highly-skilled technicians to run it.
In short, cloud CRM solutions are a great way to cut down on weighty business processes so your company can really take off.
Cloud CRM applications aren’t heavy systems you need to install and run on your own expensive on-premise CRM servers. This means you don’t have to employ IT specialists full-time, or pay to keep the system up-to-date and free of bugs. Those costs are built into the cloud subscription fees.
Easy & trouble-free installation
When you get a cloud CRM software, signing up is as fast as any typical online registration process. The CRM can help you migrate your customer information into their database in few simple steps. Often there are fun tutorials or even personalized training sessions to get your team up to speed in no time.
Ease of use & collaboration
Online CRM dashboards are designed to be visual, intuitive and customizable to your team’s needs and preferences. The added bonus of doing it all on the cloud is that any workforce, no matter how remote or dispersed over offices or locations, all have access to the same info, updated in real-time whenever anyone makes a change.
Some CRMs are all-encompassing, while others are industry-specific or carve out departmental niches for marketing, sales or customer service. The cloud advantage lets you pick the right platform, but change it up as your company pivots. Plus, cloud SaaS easily integrates with other third-party apps.
A heavy-duty on-premise CRM system needs to be designed to cater to a specific company’s needs and scope. However, cloud-based CRMs are light and nimbly scalable with little time or effort. You can start on a small package and constantly add modules, users, or data capacity in lockstep as your business needs change.
Key features of cloud based CRM
Access from anywhere
The cloud servers of CRM systems are built to deliver access to your data at top speeds, from wherever you’re trying to access it, and no matter how many different people are using it at the same time from various locations across the globe. All you need is an internet connection.
It’s not only about remote access from anywhere, but having the convenience of ready information while you’re on the go. Cloud CRMs either have great responsive mobile web versions or dedicated apps for mobile devices and tablets. Need some details while running to a meeting? You don’t even need to slow down to see them.
While the basic CRM package organizes your contacts, schedules, workflow and marketing automation and reporting, sometimes you need extra modules. Cloud-based CRM platforms are agile enough to integrate with all sorts of third party SaaS, like ERP, accounting tools, marketing campaigns, project management, social media accounts, and helpdesk software.
With new privacy laws springing up all the time, like the EU’s GDRP, it’s important to maintain top data encryption to protect your company and your clients. What would otherwise be costly to maintain on your own servers is thoroughly taken care of by CRMs hosted in the cloud.
Customers are a top valuable asset, and maintaining that customer data is how you keep that asset generating revenue. What’s more, you and your coworkers are always adding insightful notes to the histories of all your engagements. Cloud-based CRMs eliminate the risk of data loss with robust backup protocols.
Top 15 cloud based CRM
- SugarCRM is another CX management system that combines the three-armed forces of marketing, sales, and service
- The marketing wing offers useful SEO and SEM suggestions when planning email marketing campaigns, landing pages and social media ads
- Combines insights from various social and business data resources to keep your sales team ahead top priority opportunities
- The service console helps keep track of SLAs and ticket progress and provides constantly up-to-date reports on how the support department is faring
- While they can boast simplicity of use, this does mean a shallow offering of features
- The file management module is not so intuitive
- Customer service has been known to take a little while to respond from time to time
- Creating reports seems to take up a lot of processing power, slowing down the software
- Sugar Market starts at $1,000 per month for 10,000 contacts billed annually
- Sugar Sell starts at $80 per user/month for 10 users minimum billed annually
- Sugar Serve starts at $80 per user/month for 10 users minimum billed annually
- Sugar Enterprise starts at $85 per user/month for 10 users minimum billed annually
Sugar Sell offers a 7-day free trial. For a free trial of SugarCRM contact the vendor.
- Zoho CRM has a very modular platform that lets you start with the CRM basics and can later add on all sorts of other features
- It’s AI tool ‘Zia’ has pre-programmed macros to automate repetitive tasks, and you can create your own custom macros
- Sends you real-time notifications around the clock to any device whenever your contacts engage with you across any channel
- Includes a range of data security systems as well as assignable roles so admins can decide who gets what kind of access
- The mobile CRM app is uncrowded and a breeze to use
- Importing leads directly from email or from a web browser could be easier
- Reporting bugs to the customer support department does not always get a speedy resolution
- A lot of the better features like workflow and marketing automation and Zia are reserved for the more expensive plans
- Free plan is good for three users
- Starter plan is $8 per user/month billed annually, $10 billed monthly
- Standard plan is $12 per user/month billed annually, $18 billed monthly
- Professional plan is $20 per user/month billed annually, $30 billed monthly
- Enterprise plan is $35 per user/month billed annually, $45 billed monthly
Zoho CRM offers a 15-day free trial.
- As a pioneer of inbound marketing, HubSpot puts an emphasis on tools to generate leads, close more deals, and keep customers returning
- Contact records are enriched with data that HubSpot collects from its connections to over 20 million worldwide businesses
- There’s a library builder where all team members can contribute useful sales material and monitor which works best for reuse
- Template generators which create business plans, invoices, blog suggestions, email signatures, and marketing plans
- The basic CRM is totally free for unlimited numbers of users and unlimited data
- The learning curve might be a bit steep, not only in terms of using the features, but the overall HubSpot language and terminology is unique
- Spotting repeated data and de-duplicating contacts does not always work so well
- The free version does have limits regarding things like bulk actions, notifications, templates, and document uploads
- HubSpot CRM is free
- Marketing Hub for 1,000 contacts, Sales Hub for 5 users, and Service Hub for 5 users all have starter plans starting at $30 per month billed annually
- Professional plans for Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Service Hub start at $800 for 1,000 contacts, $300 for 5 users, and $240 for 5 users (respectively) per month billed annually
- Enterprise plans for Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Service Hub start at $3,200 for 10,000 contacts, $1,200 for 10 users, and $1,200 for 10 users (respectively) per month billed annually
Freshsales CRM (by Freshworks)
- Freshsales leverages AI to rate and score your leads, showing you which ones are most poised to buy with the right attention
- Makes it easy to divvy up your sales teams based on different factors like location, product type, or the size of the deal
- Automatically gathers data on all your contacts from their public social media accounts or company profiles
- Has a dedicated mobile application for Apple or Google which highlights the most important customer information one needs while on the go
- Integrates with a suite of other Freshworks apps as well as other mainstream SaaS tools
- Some might get bogged down in excessive feature overload, especially in the beginning
- The larger your contact database gets, the more chances the app experiences drag while loading
- If migrating your CRM list from another platform, some data may get mixed up or lost in the process
- Blossom plan is $12 per user/per month billed annually
- Garden plan is $25 per user/per month billed annually
- Estate plan is $49 per user/per month billed annually
- Forest plan is $79 per user/per month billed annually
Freshsales CRM offers a 21-day free trial.
- Agile goes the standard-but-proven route of dividing up their CRM platform into the big three of marketing, sales, and service
- Hosted on the Google cloud, the platform prioritizes top speeds and good data encryption
- Huge collection of seamless integrations including social plugins for LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter; as well as support, email, telephony, SMS and billing apps
- Gives you an unlimited amount of deals, tasks, and documents even with the free version
- Difficulties have been noted with logging in to the mobile app
- Throughout its development history, a good number of bugs have been reported and there is often time-consuming updates
- Agile CRM has a free version for 10 users
- Starter plan is $9.99 per user/month billed annually, $14.99 billed monthly
- Regular plan is $39.99 per user/month billed annually, $49.99 billed monthly
- Enterprise plan is $64.99 per user/month billed annually, $79.99 billed monthly
- NetSuite CRM is a part of the Oracle empire, so you know it’s put tons of experience and resources into making it as pro as possible
- Includes powerful sales force automation (SFA) which constantly monitors activity in your sales pipeline with forecasting, opportunity suggestions and compensation calculations
- It’s got a cloud-hosted customer portal where your contacts can check order statuses, enter tickets, access a knowledge base and manage their profiles
- Dedicated mobile apps for iPhone (and Apple Watch integration) and Android devices that go beyond the standard tools to include KPI metrics, scorecards, and graphs
- Has ‘partner relationship management’ (PRM-CRM combo) modules that allow for collaboration beyond teammates and coworkers but with third parties like outside marketing and sales firms
- It’s one heavy-duty platform, and because of this it’s been known to drag, freeze or even crash from time to time
- Editing profile information on the mobile version is a bit restricted
- The amount of customizable features is a bit on the thin side
- Copper’s main angle is that it is a CRM system designed and built to work in total harmony inside G Suite, working with Gmail, Google Calendar, Docs, Slides and more
- Basic but easy to use CRM tools like contact management, deal tracking, workflow automation, and reports
- Does decent data enrichment for you by gathering info from social media profiles, company information and phone numbers to fill out contact details
- Integrates with a solid stack of necessary tools like Slack, Quickbooks, Zendesk and MailChimp
- Puts a ton of emphasis on data protection, including independent third-party audits of their systems and data security training to all their staff
- Sometimes requires refreshing your Gmail inbox in order to get the Copper panel up to date
- Setting it all up requires some time and patience
- Workflow automation is not as robust as those of some other competing CRMs
- Basic plan is $19 per month for up to 3 users billed annually, $24 billed monthly
- Professional plan is $49 per user/month, $60 billed monthly
- Business plan is $119 per user/month billed annually only
Copper offers a 14-day free trial
- EngageBay has a free CRM system for basic contact organization and sales pipeline management, as well as paid marketing and service modules, and all-in-one packages
- Logs every email with contacts directly into the CRM database, and also lets you write emails or make calls from within the system
- Lets you publish your calendar online for customers to easily pick dates for meetings or phone calls
- Seamless integration with Zapier, Mailgun, SendGrid and more to streamline everything from business workflows and transactional emails for invoicing and payment tracking
- Free migration of all your contact data from your previous CRM software
- The dashboard is aesthetically old-school, and not as intuitive as one has come to expect from modern CRM interfaces
- Some of the automation features like email notifications can be a bit on the wonky side
- More advanced searching might sometimes feel slow
- Users have mentioned the email templates aren’t great or numerous but supposedly the vendor is working on improving the issue
- CRM and Sales Bay has a free version
- Basic plan is $10.39 per user/month billed annually $12.99, billed monthly
- Growth plan is $19.99 per user/month billed annually, $24.99 billed monthly
- Pro plan is $39.99 per user/month billed annually, $49.99 billed monthly
- Other prices for separate marketing or service plans
- As far as free iterations go, Bitrix24 offers one of the most comprehensive ones on the market
- Has some useful finance tools like for tracking marketing costs and budgets, and estimating ROI
- Lets you plan and schedule outreach posts from one dashboard for email, SMS, Facebook Ads, Google retargeting, as well as voice broadcasting and telemarketing
- Single interface for all customer interactions with support teams via email, live chats, common messaging apps, social media sites and by phone
- Simple macros to set up rules and triggers to automatically ease your leads through sales pipelines
- The platform suffers slightly from feature overload
- The interface can feel counter-intuitive to use
- There have been reports of login issues using the mobile app
- There is a free version for 12 users
- Start+ plan is $19 per month for up to 2 users billed annually, $24 per month billed monthly
- CRM+ plan is $55.20 per month for up to 6 users billed annually, $69 per month billed monthly
- Project+ plan is $55.20 per month billed annually for up to 24 users, $69 per month billed monthly
- Standard plan is $79.20 per month billed annually for up to 50 users, $99 per month billed monthly
- Professional plan is $159.20 per user/month billed annually, $199 per month billed monthly
- Salesflare carves out their niche among small businesses specifically in the B2B world
- Data from your calendar, your phone, and other mobile apps get logged into their system automatically
- It’s got solid document uploading, organizing, quick search and retrieval functions
- Scans your data and tasks intelligently and sends mobile notifications about top priority tasks in real-time updates
- Team collaboration made easier by letting you work directly in your Gmail or Outlook email inbox
- While there is a mobile app, some of the features are a bit finicky compared to the web browser version
- Could use more shortcuts and simple buttons to mark things as favorites or important
- Lack of different pricing tiers makes this less agile for scaling up
Salesflare offers a 14-day free trial.
- Apptivo has a solid set of CRM solutions that fit into a much larger platform which includes applications for project management, accounting, and even some ERP tools
- There is extensive lead sourcing which uses web forms, emails and other APIs
- Your CRM data is amenable to highly advanced searching and various customizable viewing options
- Every contact is considered an ‘opportunity’ for which you can quickly create orders, estimates, invoices and project plans
- The contact management available on the mobile app runs very smoothly
- Some of the other features on the mobile version are somewhat buggy, like calendar features and email syncing
- At times the program experiences latency issues particularly when switching between modules
- The interface is very crowded but what’s more, it falls short of capturing more common youthful CRM aesthetics
- Starter plan is free
- Premium plan is $8 per user/month billed annually, $10 billed monthly
- Ultimate plan is $20 per user/month billed annually, $25 billed monthly
- For the price of the Enterprise plan, contact the vendor
- Thryv goes straight for the small businesses market, though it still packs an impressive stack of CRM tools and related features
- The CRM module makes good use of custom labeling, tagging and segmenting, for better and faster contact searching and data recovery
- Dedicated web portals are customizable for each individual client or group, where they can communicate with you, schedule appointments or send payments
- You can send, request and share documents with teammates and clients securely, with advanced privacy settings and lots of cloud storage
- Thryv has a dedicated mobile app that includes all the features of the web version
- It lacks formatting and rich media options when writing messages
- Some features, like the helpdesk and calendar tools, are sometimes on the sluggish side
- There have been issues in the past with wrongful in-app billing but the company seems to try to rectify them
Less Annoying CRM
- LACRM really makes an effort to help budding startups and other SMEs get all the benefits of a CRM platform with no high costs or added hassles
- While the basic interface is set up for maximal ease of use, there is also a great deal of customization options
- Makes the most out of being cloud-based, meaning: fast easy and reliable access on any device anywhere, with full auto backups and top data security
- Known for great reliablity and always-available customer support
- Some of the collaborative functions are lacking, like the inability to add notes to contacts that were entered by a team member rather than yourself
- While they’ve put a lot of effort into making their mobile web version as great as possible, some users still prefer a dedicated app which they do not have
- Once one gets used to the minimal features and their simplicity, some might crave added tools with more complex functions
Less Annoying CRM offers a 30-day free trial.
- amoCRM has a strong focus for sales people for outreach via messaging app management, handling: WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Skype, WeChat, Telegram, Viber, Twilio and more
- Everything is optimized as a simple mobile app that acts as a single omnichannel messaging dashboard
- There’s a digital pipeline which automates followups and reminders to move your leads through the sales process
- They’ve got a chatbot builder that’s intuitive to set up and use without any coding
- Good collaboration functions for team use
- Syncing with email platforms like Gmail doesn’t always go so smoothly
- It’s been said to function slowly from time to time, and also requires constant updates
- Integration with other CRM tools could be more versatile
- Not enough customization in the interface
- Base plan is $15 per user/month with a 6-month subscription or longer
- Advanced plan is $25 per user/month with a 6-month subscription or longer
- Enterprise plan is $45 per user/month with a 6-month subscription or longer
amoCRM offers a 14-day free trial
- Onpipeline’s main forté is getting prospects, managing leads through the pipeline, and converting them to customers
- Lead management and deals are controlled with a very simple visual dashboard that uses drag-n-drop functionality
- Generate web forms and host them on Onpipeline’s cloud (or on your website) to help gather new leads and data about where they come from
- Full two-way syncing with email platforms like Gmail, Microsoft Outlook and Amazon WorkMail, which auto links emails to a contact or deal in their CRM
- They boast some of the fastest set-up and onboarding
- While there is a mobile browser version, there is no dedicated mobile app for iOS or Android
- Aside from email integrations, other integrations are done with RESTful API, which require a minimum of coding
Onpipeline offers a 30-day free trial on either plan.
When it comes to maintaining the highest degree of customer satisfaction, there are definitely some elements of your business that your customers notice more than others. One thing the customer won’t have any clue or regard for is whether or not you take the pains to own and upkeep some massive expensive hardware infrastructure.
Customers care that your sales teams always have the latest personalized data to offer them amazing products. They notice when marketing is up-to-date with what’s relevant for them. And when there is a problem, they want to know that customer support has all the background information to help them through issues as speedily as possible. Finally, when customers trust your company with their sensitive and personal data, they expect it to be safe and secure to the highest standard.
A customer relationship management platform that is wholly hosted on the cloud guarantees that every department always has real-time information to meet all these client and customer expectations, along with regular backups and top encryption.
What’s more, it keeps whole teams across many departments, offices, and locations on the same page, even when accessing the database on a smartphone or tablet.
Once you accept that using a CRM to enhance the customer experience is a no-brainer, then getting started with a cloud-based CRM is a fast, cost-effective and infinitely adaptable genius move for your business.