Everyone wants to grow their small business. But getting more customers, scaling operations, and building your bottom line all require investment in just the right areas.
That’s why CRM is so important for small businesses. Having an all-in-one CRM system gives you visibility of the customer from every angle, so you can focus resources in the smartest way possible. When it comes to picking the right CRM for small businesses, the trick is to focus on a simplified platform with a low learning curve, no unnecessary features, and the capacity to scale with you.
The right CRM for your small business will help you identify where to concentrate work—organizing and streamlining of all your business processes to make them better.
Why your small business needs CRM
There are many kinds of customer relationship management platforms. In the past, CRM software was targeted at enterprise-level companies. That’s no longer the case.
Small businesses are now able to implement a CRM platform without breaking their brains or budgets. That’s great news because implementing a CRM solution can increase sales by double-digit percentage points.
The ability to streamline workflow within a single app makes everyday work lighter, freeing up resources for growth. CRM provides a clearly defined set of processes to close more deals, get tasks done on time, and reduce miscommunications.
Lead management and sales funnel features help you build a better sales process. Building a sales pipeline lets you streamline your workflow. Opportunity management tools identify possible future sales, while customer support tools make your customer experience better, helping you understand your public and reduce churn so your company can scale.
Benefits of Using CRM Software
Organize your contacts
Contact management helps you centralize information on customers, suppliers, and everyone else. CRMs allow you to aggregate multichannel contact information, from social media, emails, LinkedIn, business cards, and more.
Find out who your customers are
Harness customer data to do customer segmentation, identify customer profiles, find out where they live, and which demographic provides the greatest opportunities. Plus, personalize your customer experience.
With marketing, campaign, sales, and customer reporting, you can monitor information, identify problems, show behavioral patterns, and find out how your overall return on investment is really doing. Reports on sales activity and sales trends let you monitor all the information coming in, identify problems, and improve your sales processes.
CRM chops down the number of hours spent weekly on pesky admin tasks like manual data entry, letting you concentrate on relationship-building and fine-tuning your operations.
Make more money
Being able to closely track sales activities, manage sales teams, and improve customer support to reduce churn will allow you to sell more and increase your bottom line. It’s a fact.
Things to look for in small business CRM software
If you’re running a small business or lean startup, taking time out to learn a new, complex platform is not a thrilling idea. Ease of use and simplicity should be deciding factors—a platform that requires minimal training is best, something that feels intuitive; that offers easy access and interpretation of information.
As a small business, you’re probably doing things your own way, rather than following a guidebook. Keeping that in mind, we suggest looking for customization features so you can tailor CRM software to your specific business needs. Being able to modify contact and opportunity fields, among other elements, is especially helpful if you’re working in uncharted territory.
Automating repetitive tasks saves you a lot of time to focus on real, brain-engaging work. You should be looking for automation features for data entry, customer emails and follow-ups, and information field updating.
Vendor customer support
You probably don’t have your own IT department. That means you’ll want to make sure the CRM you choose is backed by a great customer support team, one who will be on hand to ease the product’s learning curve, answer any nagging questions, and resolve technical issues quickly
Price is an obvious make-or-break for SMBs and startups seeking CRM tools. When you don’t have a lot of hands-on-deck, you want to make sure every dollar spent counts. If you’re on a lean budget or on-the-fence about the usefulness of this kind of software, you may well want to start out with a free CRM.
Bonus: Social media tools
Being able to scan multiple social media channels gives you full visibility on what people are saying about your business, your competitors, and overall industry trends. Engage people one-on-one on the platforms they spend most of their time, and demonstrate transparency by resolving issues out in the open; all to broaden your brand awareness and win more customers.
12 Best CRM for small businesses (free and paid)
These days there’s a wide range of SaaS CRM options that deliver real value to small businesses. To get you started, here’s a run-down of the most popular CRM tools for small businesses.
Copper integrates with G Suite, which is great if you use Gmail all day every day. The platform installs in about five minutes. Once it’s up and running, you can look forward to features like automated data entry, smart identification, lead and customer tracking, plus optimization of sales contacts and opportunities.
The CRM offers an eye-pleasing sales pipeline for managing leads through the qualification process. Communications are improved with easy access to contacts via email, voice, and text, and the ability to use accurate voice transcription to log notes in-app.
You can improve management of teams and workflows with weekly pipeline progression reports using drag-and-drop functionality, custom filters, and alerts when deals might be going stale.
Copper is made out to be very user-friendly, and it is, but there is a bit of a learning curve. Be forewarned you’ll need to set aside some time to meaningfully implement it within your business.
Sometimes there’s issues with importing data from Excel, meaning you’ll be required to manually enter that information into Copper. Also, you currently can’t attach files to emails sent directly within Copper, requiring you to flip over to Gmail to send your message instead.
- Basic plan is $19 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Professional plan is $49 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Business plan is $119 per user/per month, billed annually.
Copper offers a 14-day free trial for all plans.
Insightly is available on web and mobile versions for both Android and iOS. It also integrates with G Suite and Microsoft Office 365.
The platform has a rep for its smooth pipeline integration between CRM features, like managing contacts and customer data, tracking opportunities (aka sales leads), and assigning tasks to team members with handy to-do lists.
Business intelligence (BI) features (powered by Microsoft Power BI) can be very useful to your small business. BI aggregates historical and real-time data within your CRM platform, allowing you to make more informed decisions from observable trends and metrics. Insightly builds it into its various dashboards in a visual, legible way—without the learning curve.
The Insightly Sidebar runs as a handy Chrome extension, letting you save Gmail messages directly to your CRM so you can easily cross-reference contact information.
Like Capsule, it’s free for up to two users.
It should be noted Insightly’s free version does not include a data backup system, contains daily caps for mass emailing, and limits the number of custom fields that can be added to each record.
Two-way sync for Google Calendar can be a bit wonky at times, with events not displaying for other team members on Insightly. There’s a cap on custom fields for contacts (25), which you may potentially find limiting. Although completely functional, some users feel the CRM’s UI is a bit dated as well, which can be an obstacle for full team adoption.
- Plus is $29 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Professional is $49 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Enterprise is $99 per user/per month, billed annually.
A 14-day free trial is available for the Plus and Professional plans.
Less Annoying CRM
Less Annoying CRM (aka LACRM) is designed specifically for small businesses. They offer an all-inclusive, single price package for task management, keeping tabs on contacts, tracking leads, making sure follow-ups are sent out.
LACRM’s lean but nimble toolkit has got you covered when it comes to managing all your customers and other contacts, tracking your leads through pipelines and staying on top of events and tasks (in easy-to-use calendar and agenda forms).
Emails written and received outside a CRM platform can be logged inside LACRM, which provides every user with a unique email logging address (for which you create a contact with whatever email provider you use).
There aren’t any app integrations, which might be a significant limitation, depending on your needs. The app sends out notifications by SMS or email, but not in-app.
LACRM offers a risk-free, 30-day free trial for its only pricing plan.
Nimble is a simple CRM tailored for social media, with smart social search and powerful tools for market segmentation. It integrates with Office 365 and G Suite, so you can quickly import and organize contacts from the platform you’re already using.
This CRM has all the classic features you’d expect from this type of software, with a distinctly contemporary user interface and agile, dare I say nimble, ease of use.
Useful for simplifying your operations across social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, Nimble aggregates posts in one place so you’ll have instant, real-time visibility on how people are interacting with your brand. Part and parcel to this is Nimble’s Contact Record feature, which has the ability to combine cross-channel contact and lead information into a single unified profile.
Social listening and engagement tools help you find and generate new leads. Data organization, sales pipeline, and reporting features keep your operations on the right track.
A lot of users have mentioned that Nimble’s Android app isn’t up to par with the iOS one. Another thing to note: Keeping track of closed deals can be a bit of a pain, as can deleting messages (which you have to do one page at a time).
- Contact edition is $12 per user/per month, billed monthly.
- Business edition is $25 per user/per month, billed monthly.
You can try a 14-day free trial without a credit card. There are discounts for annual rates.
Keap is a contact management and sales pipeline platform seriously geared towards helping small, self-employed, and even home-run businesses and e-commerce operations.
It all begins with populating a great leads database and keeping it organized. Gathering contact info is done by importing contact lists from other CRMs, scanning business cards, converting messy spreadsheets, simple manual entry, or setting up a custom form on your page. You can also add your own custom fields to the contact info.
For Keap, after getting the job done, and getting paid, it all stops—and restarts—with “staying connected.” This is their commitment to converting leads into satisfied customers who will not only come back, but spread the love through referrals.
There’s a lot of features, which can make Keap appear daunting at first (and you may not end up using a lot of them). Integrations are limited. The price-point can be a stumbling block for individuals on a small budget.
- Grow plan is $49 per user/per month, billed monthly.
- Pro plan is $149 per user/per month, billed monthly.
- Infusionsoft plan is $199 per user/per month, billed monthly.
A free trial is available for the Grow and Pro plans.
HubSpot is a big name app that offers a free CRM with basic features.
The free HubSpot CRM has full-fledged inbound marketing tools, helping you guide blog posts towards search engine hits and offers decent email marketing. It also does a good job of managing workflows for improved project management. You’ll be able to effectively assign and track leads, keep an eye on the sales process, and record customer interactions across channels.
HubSpot is designed to work with both G Suite and Microsoft Office, so whichever platform your business favors, it runs without headaches. Zapier integration makes it easy to share information across apps (Google Sheets, Slack, Facebook Lead Ads, etc.) and streamline tasks.
On a more low-tech note, HubSpot also allows you to find out if clients ever opened your emails. An OCD fantasy finally realized.
The paid add-on packages for HubSpot pile on features like reporting, AI, and advanced automation.
Customization options are limited, which can be frustrating depending on your line of business. The free CRM’s features are many, but basic, and you may eventually need to buy Sales Hub or one of HubSpot’s other add-on packages to boost the CRM’s capabilities.
- HubSpot CRM is free, and the number of users is unlimited.
- Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Service Hub add-on packages are $50 each per user/per month, billed monthly.
- HubSpot CMS starts at $300 per month, billed monthly.
- All-inclusive Starter Growth Suite starts at $113 per user/per month, billed monthly.
Pipedrive, in keeping with its name, is highly focused on driving the sales process and tracking contacts. The CRM has a simple, highly visual and straightforward user interface, designed to help move the customer down the sales pipeline and clinch that almighty closed deal.
The platform is useful for picking up leads, pipeline management, managing contacts, and keeping you on top of deals. It helps you prioritize key sales activities, sync information across channels, and consolidate your workflow in one place. That chops down the amount of time spent on admin tasks, letting you concentrate on relationship-building and fine-tuning the sales process.
You can construct multiple sales pipelines with customizable, unique stages appropriate to a specific product/service’s context. Reminders, notifications, and follow-up alerts automatically keep your head at where it needs to be. A mobile app for both Android and iOS gives you further mileage.
Gmail integration, in the form of a handy sidebar app, lets you add contacts from your fave email platform, make notes, and schedule sales activities.
There’s no internal emailing platform, so you’ll have to use Mailchimp integration for that. Then there’s the Pipedrive Dealbot integration with Slack; it gives you a heads up in Slack when a deal is identified, won, or lost, but the notification can sometimes get lost in the flood of chat. If you want more attention-getting, explicit deal notifications you’ll have to use Pipedrive’s Zapier integration, which has been described by users as somewhat complicated to set up.
These quibbles aside, the main drawback users cite is that the platform is a little bit pricey.
Pipedrive is available at four feature levels.
- The Essential plan is $12.50 per user/per month billed annually, and $15 billed monthly.
- The Advanced plan is $24.90 per user/per month billed annually, and $29 billed monthly.
- The Professional plan is $49.90 per user/per month billed annually and $59 billed monthly.
- The Enterprise plan is $99 per user/per month, billed annually.
A 14-day free trial is available for the Essential, Advanced, and Professional plans.
Freshsales is the CRM component of the Freshworks 360 customer engagement suite. It’s relatively simple, effective, and certainly a few hundred times better than running the back end of your business with a bunch of Excel spreadsheets.
The platform is built to help you scale your business, monitor deals, chop down mundane tasks, run sales email campaigns, boost sales productivity, and create efficiencies through data centralization.
Lead capture lets you grab leads from emails automatically. You can also sort out your own lead scoring criteria to better keep track of who’s who and who’s most likely to convert. You can set custom organizational parameters as well. A built-in phone module offers autodialing, call recording, and call routing features.
Once you start to expand your use of Freshsales and access more complex features, there is a significant learning curve. The process of sorting and filtering tasks to focus on key contacts is less intuitive than it could be. Users report that Freshsales customer support occasionally takes a while to resolve issues.
Freshsales is available at 4 feature levels.
- Blossom plan for small teams is $12 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Garden plan for growing teams is $25 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Estate plan for large teams is $49 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Forest plan for enterprises is $79 per user/per month, billed annually.
A 21-day free trial is available for all Freshsales plans.
Capsule works to bump not just your customer relationships, but all your business relationships, to the next level. And this it does ever so simply, with a clean user interface and zero learning curve.
Rather than piling on extended features, Capsule quite simply hones in on being really good at managing daily work. You can instantly find out what’s going on with your sales pipeline (bids, lead generation, proposals, customer data, etc.) and what your team needs to do and when.
It also makes it easy to find key information—contact lists can be imported from Gmail, Outlook, and your CSV spreadsheet and database files.
If you run a business solo or with a partner, you can get by with Capsule’s free version (the cap is two users). The Professional version features Zapier, G Suite, Zendesk, Twitter, and Mailchimp integration, helping you collect information and capture leads from across your apps.
The free plan is capped at 250 contacts, so you may find yourself suddenly hitting a glass ceiling and having to commit to a paid plan. To keep using the product you’ve invested in for your day-to-day business, you may go from paying nothing to dishing out $18/month (or exponentially more).
Apart from that, in order to track and auto-generate contacts from email, you’ll have to remember to BCC them to your Dropbox, which is quite easy to forget.
- Free, basic version of Capsule is available for up to 2 users.
- Professional version is priced at $18 per user/ per month, billed monthly.
- Teams version is priced at $36 per user/per month, billed monthly.
A 30-day free trial is available for Professional and Teams.
Zoho CRM targets small businesses with its simple user interface, customizable modules, automation, and social media features.
The platform lets you define workflows and rationalize your everyday tasks, manage leads, and do all that other good ‘ol fashioned CRM-y stuff. Integration with Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ allows you to reach out and engage with leads quick and snappy, at just the right time.
If you’re on the hunt for a free CRM, you may want to give their gratis offering a whirl. It’s available for up to three users, although it is (perhaps not surprisingly) somewhat limited features-wise. There’s no mass emailing feature and limited customizability.
The paid Standard version of Zoho pumps up the usability factor with robust sales forecasting and KPI tracking. The Enterprise version adds ever more sophisticated tools, such as stage-by-stage sales funnel tracking and customizable data comparisons across teams, users, regions, and more.
Zoho lacks individual email tracking and individual lead notifications, which can be limiting if you rely heavily on one-on-one engagement.
Meanwhile, the UI is fine, but can be a bit slow and clunky. And Zoho’s add-on modules are priced on top of the existing CRM product you purchase, so costs can add up when you want to expand your use of the platform.
- A free version is available for up to three users and is targeted at home businesses.
- Standard version is $12 per user/per month, billed annually
- Enterprise version is $35 per user/per month, billed annually.
Email is a big part of our working lives, and Streak is built around this essential fact; the app is essentially a collection of email power tools that graft CRM features onto your inbox.
Built directly into Gmail, Streak has desktop and mobile apps with all the G Suite (FKA Google Apps) integrations included, so you can access your work inbox and other tools you need at all times. Just download the Google Chrome extension and/or the mobile app and go. The platform’s email integration automatically captures data from your contacts and emails while receiving notifications during each stage of your pipeline’s progress.
Streak helps you make sure you respond to inquiries in a timely manner, update customers and contacts, track customer relationships, and create and save effective, aesthetically appealing email templates.
Streak runs as a Chrome Extension, so if you change devices you’ll have to download and install it again (this can be annoying if you use loaner computers at work). Paid versions are priced at a level equivalent to more full-featured CRMs, which might be a dealbreaker for some.
- The Personal version for individual use is free.
- Professional is $49 per user/per month, billed annually.
- Enterprise is $129 per user/per month, billed annually.
The Professional tier is available as a 14-day free trial.
A well-rounded, comprehensive CRM that handles sales management and marketing campaigns, and helps your team collaborate effectively.
Create unlimited work groups and user groups, set up an HR help desk, and make internal communication seamless with a private social intranet. Centralize the storage of documents and make phone calls to any landline or mobile in-app. Click on an email to turn it into a task, calendar event, or discussion topic.
You can also use Bitrix 24 to build free websites, landing pages, and online stores that are automatically integrated with its CRM features.
Bitrix 24 can run pretty slowly from time to time. The UI is also somewhat “maximalist,” which can hinder app navigation. The app’s learning curve and app customization/configurability limitations may be issues for some small businesses.
- Free starter business tool suite for up to 12 users.
- Start+ plan for up to 2 users is $19 per month billed annually, and $24 per month billed monthly.
- CRM+ plan for up to 6 users is $55.20 per month billed annually, and $69 per month billed monthly.
- Project+ plan for up to 24 users is $55.20 per month billed annually, and $69 per month billed monthly.
- Standard plan for up to 50 users is $79.20 per month billed annually, and $99 per month billed monthly.
- Professional plan for unlimited users is $159.20 per month billed annually, and $199 per month billed monthly.
The prices above are for the cloud-based version. On-premise solutions are also available.
Picking the right CRM for your small business
Finding the best CRM software may well require some comparison shopping. But regardless of which tool you start with, you’re sure to pick up a lot of knowledge about what this kind of software does, and can do, for your everyday working life.
And as they say, knowledge is power!
CRM software offers many true blue advantages for your startup or small business, from identifying pain points to widening the scope of your target audience.
They’re indispensably useful for getting a handle on that beast known as the sales process. Social media marketing and marketing automation will make your business more competitive and help you to stay on top of trends.
The list goes on and on, my friend.
Once you’ve seen the return on the time (and money) invested, we’ll wager you’ll want to keep on the road to harmonizing and humanizing your work with an all-in-one solution for outstanding customer relationships.