Maham S. Chappal
on October 6, 2020 (last modified on April 22, 2022) • 21 minute read
As a small business owner, chances are you’ve taken on too many responsibilities and are wearing way too many hats. One of them is managing your business relationship with customers, which involves customer acquisition, retaining customers and converting them into loyal advocates, managing customer data, and so on.
However, with 27% of sales professionals spending over an hour a day on data-entry work, the need to streamline this process and make it efficient is immense.
This is where CRMs come into play.
CRM, or Customer Relationships Management, is a system that helps a company analyze its business relationship with past, present, and future customers. Not only does it make the entire process much more efficient, but with the right processes in place, your business also becomes more profitable. According to Salesforce, companies that use CRM successfully have improved their sales by 29% and productivity by up to 34%.
So what are the best CRMs for small businesses, and how to choose one?
We asked 34 marketing professionals and business owners what their favorite CRM is and why. Take a look at the 10 best CRMs picked.
For small and medium-sized businesses, cost plays a big role in determining which CRM to go for.
Our survey showed that small business owners want user-friendly CRMs that don’t strain their budgets. HubSpot’s survey also indicated that for 54% of salespeople, the biggest obstacle to obtaining CRM software is its cost.
However, for some businesses cost isn’t the biggest deciding factor, features, and services offered by a CRM is.
As Roman Peysakhovich of Onedesk says, “The most important feature for a CRM is its features. If it can’t do what you need it to do for your business, it’s just an extra tool to help some small part of sales and marketing.
Next is the services. Then user-friendly, then ease of setup, support, and then cost. I put the cost at last because a good CRM is a good investment. You cannot cheap out on a CRM, and although the price of some is really high, you need to remember it’s ultimately the engine to your sales and marketing.”
So as a small business owner, you need to determine what your priorities are and what you’re looking to get out of a CRM system.
While choosing the right CRM for your business, you need to be crystal clear on what your business goals and objectives are, what’s your budget, and whether the CRM you’re looking at has all the features you need.
Some of the features may include integrations with the tools you’re already using, lead management, workflow automation, data analytics and forecasting, and so on.
Once you’ve zeroed in on your business goals, read impartial reviews online. There are several websites that share unbiased reviews of tools such as G2 and Capterra. You can also search on social media to see if anyone’s shared a review of a CRM you’re considering.
Alise Riedel of Denamico says, “As a small business, keeping your growth trajectory in mind is crucial when starting to build out your tech stack. The heart of your business should lie in your CRM, meaning you’ll need something that can grow with you.
You may not need all of the features and functionality right away, but if you’re able to find a software that can meet your current needs, support your implementation, and aid you as you grow, you’ve found a software that’s fit for you.”
Here are some significant benefits of investing in a CRM:
CRMs can increase revenue by up to 41% per sales representative.
CRMs streamline sales by allowing you to get more qualified leads via your online store and convert those leads into customers. It also gives you key customer data which you can leverage to improve sales and marketing.
The data you get via a CRM can also help you understand your customer better and create more targeted campaigns.
If you’re selling complicated products with a longer sales cycle, then this data in combination from insights from your small business dashboard software can be even more helpful in nurturing leads at every point of the cycle.
Did you know that 8% increase in productivity is associated with social CRM capabilities?
A CRM can easily remove bottlenecks and make your entire workflow a lot more efficient. From automating sales to customer service, it makes it easier for you to collaborate with team members and create workflows that everybody in the team can stick to with ease.
With hundreds of CRMs available in the digital world, it can get a little difficult choosing the right one for your business. To make it easier for you, we asked 34 marketing professionals and business owners what their favorite CRM is and why.
Here are the 10 best CRMs according to these experts.
Andrew Davison of Luhhu is a big fan of Airtable.
“Being somewhere between the ease of use of a spreadsheet and the power and flexibility of a database, I was able to build a fully customized CRM from Airtable. And, it integrates with Zapier, meaning I could automate and sync it with the other apps I use.” Explains Davison.
User-friendly and low cost, HubSpot CRM is a popular choice for small to medium organizations.
“In my opinion, HubSpot is the best CRM for small businesses and it is what we recommend to many of the seed-stage startups we invest in. It’s free, intuitive, easy to set up, integrates seamlessly with Gmail and your calendar, and has all the basics you need as a small business (tasks, pipeline management, contact database, reporting). It doesn’t have all the integrations out of the box like Salesforce.com, but you can get around this with a tool like Zapier.” Says Evan McElwain of Bowery Capital
Code Galaxy’s James Boatwright agrees and adds, “The email tracking and mobile apps are some of the features I use most often.”
“HubSpot is hands down the best CRM software for small businesses looking for a cost-effective CRM solution when they are starting.
HubSpot is easy to use and offers a wide range of CRM tools to manage the customer journey. It even offers free forever plans with limited features for its CRM, marketing, sales, and service centers.” Says Oliver Andrews of OA Design Services.
Spencer Smith of IRC Sales Solutions explains why they chose HubSpot over all other CRMs and says, “HubSpot is the best CRM for small businesses because it’s easy to use, intuitive and has great UI/UX. The CRM itself is free and as one of our clients recently said, “from the beginning, it just felt like a site I want to use.” CRM’s are worthless if your team doesn’t use them. And your team won’t use them if they’re clunky, ugly, or a pain to use. HubSpot makes organizational buy-in easier to achieve than any other CRM I’ve seen.”
And if you’re a small business with a constrained budget, then you’ll appreciate HubSpot’s CRM even more.
As Amanda Moore of Fovea Creative explains, “Typically, small businesses have a small budget, which means that they need to carefully select the tools they use for their marketing and sales efforts. HubSpot CRM provides small businesses with a free tool that seamlessly integrates with Gmail or Outlook. The platform helps businesses keep track of scheduled appointments, contracts sent, and track sales. It’s an optimal tool for small businesses that are getting their feet off the ground.”
Robert Donnell of P5 Marketing, Inc. is of the same mind and says, “HubSpot is free and packed with powerful tools. It is easy to use, and salespeople love its simple power.
Even more importantly, you are not likely to ever outgrow HubSpot. This avoids the pain of switching platforms.
The product is vibrant and growing, so the platform attracts integrations with other great tools. In today’s world, a best-in-class CRM must connect with the tools you use for email, chat, web meetings, and more.”
Nettly’s Thorstein Nordby also loves HubSpot’s pricing point and considers it the best CRM for small businesses. “HubSpot CRM is the best CRM for small business, not only because it provides all the necessary features a small company need from a CRM, but the pricing model is very SMB-friendly since it is always free. The HubSpot CRM grows with you, and you can use it as a one-man shop, then HubSpot scales with your company and headcount.” Says Nordby.
Related: 11 Ways to Use HubSpot CRM To Manage Your Sales Pipeline
For small businesses, HubSpot seems to be the best choice.
“There is no other CRM on the market that scales for small business as well as HubSpot. The Free tier includes an amazing amount of valuable tools for a small business, and there’s a clear path for a business to stay on HubSpot as they grow. HubSpot’s focus on being a platform now also helps your CRM consolidate your different data sources and tools without costly custom integrations.” Explains Refuel Creative’s Ryan Jones.
Their free trial is another great reason to try it out and see if it fulfills your business objectives. That’s exactly what New England Foundation Crack Repair’s Cassandra Leite did.
“When researching CRM’s for my newly developed business, I did several free trials with different companies. Finally, I decided to try HubSpot as they had a free plan and trial for more extensive plans.
I instantly fell in love with the features and ease of use. Not only can you easily organize and search your contacts, but additional options allow you to cover more aspects of your business such as sales pipelines and marketing.
Solely speaking about the CRM and contact managing, you can organize your customers by lists and create your own properties. The user interface, seemingly endless options, and freemium plans make HubSpot my number 1 and only choice.” Explains Leite.
Andre Oentoro of Breadnbeyond considers HubSpot the best CRM for small businesses and explains why. “This CRM is free and provides you with features you need to manage contacts and sales processes. If you have a lot of contacts, this platform is definitely a go-to.
The easy-to-navigate interface helps you to adapt to the software and features quickly. It allows you to manage workflows and track customer interactions across every channel in one place. What’s more, the platform works with G Suite and Microsoft Office, making your implementation and data syncing even more seamless.”
Related: 23 Tips for Tracking Sales Activity with HubSpot CRM
“The HubSpot CRM eliminates several common challenges many businesses face when using a CRM. One major hurdle is getting everyone on the team to adopt using the CRM.
A CRM can have all the features, buttons, and levers under the moon but if it is not being used, then it is simply another pointless tool and waste of money.
HubSpot eliminates this with an intuitive interface and a very logical approach to managing contact relationships. HubSpot’s CRM integrates great with Outlook and Gmail providing tools of the HubSpot platform right from your inbox. The initial setup and custom configuration is very easy. Finally, HubSpot offers their CRM tool for free so the cost is pretty sweet too.” Says Ken Franzen of Neon Goldfish.
Understanding your sales funnel can help you identify where sales prospecting, lead management, and sales processes might need some improvement. . Now you can take control and optimize your sales funnel, but first, you need to monitor the right KPIs:
Now you can benefit from the experience of our HubSpot CRM experts, who have put together a plug-and-play Databox template showing some of the most important metrics for monitoring and growing your sales funnel. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in sales reports, and best of all, it’s free!
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your HubSpot account with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
Editor’s Note: Looking for ways to visualize your sales forecast data from HubSpot CRM? In this episode, we’ll show you how to set up and track your HubSpot CRM data in order to more accurately forecast your sales this month, quarter, and beyond.
“For small businesses, it is always a risk to try out new things especially if they are costly and need learning to get maximum utility. But Insightly has solved all the issues, it does not cost too much, it’s user friendly, and comes with many useful features. I think it is a must-have for small businesses” Explains Majid Fareed of F Jackets.
“Monday.com is very flexible and we use it for almost everything. It works as a Sales CRM, Client CRM, and excels at project/task management. I like rolling multiple products into one as it flattens the learning curve, improves data flow, and reduces expenses.” Explains Eric Lituchy of HUNTER Digital.
Taylor Roberts of Movers Chicago loves Monday’s features and says, “Very flexible tool that scales very quickly. Great tool for startups because of its flexibility, easy set up, and the ability to scale quickly. Also features workflow management. You can set up automatic reminders, due dates, and assign teammates to tasks. Reporting and analytics features are also very powerful.”
What is Pipedrive and how can it help small businesses?
“Pipedrive is an ideal CRM alternative for any small-scale businesses to strengthen and sustain a centralized database across their sales. It is a well-integrated CRM that empowers the industry to rationalize its sales method and maintain marketing activities after cumulating leads with the Zapier addon.
The platform is developed using an activity-based selling procedure, Pipedrive streamlines every action entwined in transforming a potential deal into a successful sale. It is a swift, perfect easy-to-use, customizable CRM tool for any firm. As a cloud-based application, the solution can be acquired from anywhere, anytime using any web browser or assigned mobile apps.
You can seamlessly regulate responsibilities and review your business’ pipeline artistically to manage sales. The CRM solution also speculates future sales and inspects current sales with extensive analytics.” Explains Nidhi Joshi of iFour Technolab Pvt LTD.
For Colton De Vos of Resolute Technology Solutions, Pipedrive is his go-to CRM recommendation for small businesses.
“It is easy to use, highly customizable and integrates with a lot of business software you’re already likely using (calendar, email, scheduling, etc.). On top of that, it features a very visually appealing board for tracking deals and moving them through the sales pipeline. The Pipedrive support team goes the extra mile as well and will take concerns and feature suggestions into account when you bring them forward. Pipedrive works well for small and large sales teams. There are many areas you can customize the CRM to fit your specific needs including deal filtering, custom fields, deal probabilities, web forms, chatbots, and more.” Explains De Vos.
Alex Cascio of Vibrant Media Productions explains their experience with Pipedrive and says, “We’ve tried at least 5 CRM’s over the years (major players, small, etc.) – the most straightforward, easy to learn, easy to follow and intuitive platform we have come across is Pipedrive.
They’re constantly innovating on their platform with updates, sales processes, etc. It’s something that can either be very simple by shifting people through your sales funnel, setting follow-ups, lead tracking, and more. Or it can be more complex for long-term deals, tracking sales, and much more.”
Outfunnel’s Katheriin Liibert loves PipeDrive’s user-friendly interface and says, “It’s easy to get started with Pipedrive, because the base functionality is intuitive and simple to use. But it also packs a lot of functionality if you need it. Even more, there are awesome apps on the marketplace that you can use to integrate Pipedrive with other tools you use. Last, but not least — it’s quite affordable compared to the alternatives!”
Bruce Harpham recommends Pipedrive CRM for small companies for two reasons. “First, the product integrates seamlessly with Gmail which makes email outreach easier. Second, Pipedrive encourages you to focus on “the next activity” in sales, rather than passively waiting for the customer to respond to you.” Explains Harpham.
And if you’re looking for a CRM that offers easy customizations, then you definitely need to give Pipedrive a try.
As Helene Berkowitz of ReceetMe says, “Pipedrive is easily customizable, which is an especially important feature for small businesses who may feel overwhelmed by the huge Salesforce’s of the world. Small businesses need a CRM that grows with them and can adapt as their needs change.”
Related: The 11 Best Pipedrive CRM Features According to Sales Pros
“Podio is a highly effective and customizable CRM. The biggest benefit of Podio is that it is free! So, for small businesses on a budget, it’s the go-to CRM.
Podio also integrates with nearly every single system (most importantly Zapier). Podio also allows you to have team members without having to pay.
Over time, as your business scales, there are features that Podio offers that make it even more effective including batch automation and workflows.
However, these features are not free, but the cost is incredibly low ($11.20) compared to other well known CRMs. One of the downsides to Podio is that it requires a lot more customization to make it useful for your business as it is not tailored to a specific industry.
Each business will have to do a cost-benefit analysis as to whether the money saved will be worth the time invested into Podio’s setup.” Explains The House Guys’s Andrew Kolodgie.
Like most other small businesses, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, Podio comes highly recommended.
Dustin Singer of Dustin Buys Houses explains, “We personally use Podio for all our CRM needs. We like it because the monthly cost is minimal ($30 a month), and we were able to hire someone from Fiverr to custom build it exactly to our needs.
The problem we find with most CRMs is the monthly cost can be very high (upwards of $100 a month), and they are a bundled package offering little customization. This doesn’t allow you to cater to the CRM specifically to the needs of your business.”
Patrick Tanner of Missouri House Buyers is of the same opinion and says, “Podio is super simple to use and is completely free for new users. We have been using Podio for a number of years now and have completely integrated it into our entire business front end and back end. We love it because of its customizability and ease of training new people to use it on our various teams. We always love coming up with new ways to use the system and always highly recommended this platform to all types of new and growing businesses.”
And if CRM customization is a deal-breaker for you, Podio is the CRM for you.
As Alex Capozzolo of Brotherly Love Real Estate says, “Podio is ideal for small businesses because it’s affordable and customizable. You pay per user, which is ideal if your company is just starting out. The platform is completely customizable to nearly any industry. If you’re like me, who doesn’t know how to code, you can download templates to use through the CRM that fits your business needs. They are easy to customize. If your business grows to the next level, you can hire someone to add the tech bells and whistles to the CRM. The auto text feature to my phone anytime has a task if my favorite features, and saves me constantly.”
Jack Choros of Iron Monk explains why he loves Salesforce.
“It’s good for small, medium, and large businesses and you can scale your business with that over time. You can add leads to it, call those leads, see how those leads react to certain initiatives you engage in as a company and you can do everything in one place and in the cloud, which means you don’t have to store the data.” Says Choros.
Paul Katzoff of WhiteCanyon Software explains quite succinctly why they prefer Salesforce over all other CRMs, “You can scale up or just have 1 user. Great tools and capabilities. Great integrations. Not a bad price point.”
So if you’re looking to scale your business and need an all-in-one solution, you can’t go wrong with Salesforce.
Malte Scholz of Airfocus says, “The majority of communication happens via email and Streak offers a lot of options for scheduling and sending mass emails. It works as a browser plugin which means that you need a couple of minutes to set it up. Streak is very intuitive and easy to use. My favorite functionality allows me to see when people open the emails I send. This way, I know who to focus on and what kind of feedback I can expect from people. Streak is particularly useful for businesses that frequently have mass outreach campaigns.”
“Streak might not have all of the bells and whistles of some of the other big names in the CRM world, but for our purposes, it was ideal.
In the early days, The Content Panel already relied heavily on GSuite when we decided to commit to a CRM. So naturally, as a Gmail based solution Streak was on our radar. It required less than a day to fully implement and set up for our whole team.
When we compared this to the time it would take to migrate and train people on a standalone CRM, we decided our time was better spent elsewhere in the early days of our business (when every hour counted).
We’ve started to outgrow Streak now our business has grown, and we currently are looking for more fully-featured solutions. But for small businesses that already use GSuite, Streak is seriously worthy of your consideration. Even if it is only temporary.” Explains Scott Stevens of The Content Panel.
Bruce Hogan of SoftwarePundit agrees with the two and adds, “Streak is an affordable, easy-to-use CRM that is built specifically for Gmail users. Its free plan includes all the features needed for basic CRM including mail-merge and reminders. In addition, you can use it to support nearly any type of process.”
Sharon van Donkelaar of Expandi explains why they love using Zendesk and recommends it over all other CRMs.
“For small businesses, I would have to go with Zendesk as my go-to customer service tool. When you integrate it with other apps such as Gmail, LiveChat, and RingCentral, Zendesk becomes a complete customer service suite. It also functions as a “light” CRM that should cover the daily needs of most small businesses that are service-based.” Says Donkelaar.
Rated the Best CRM of 2020 and with over 150,000 customers Zoho truly is the market leader in the CRM industry.
“Zoho offers a fully-featured free edition of its flagship CRM software. That’s right–robust features for sales and marketing, powerful integrations, and secure cloud storage, all for free.” This is one of the biggest reasons why a lot of people prefer Zoho over other costly CRMs.
As Akram Tariq Khan of YourLibaas explains, “It is free up to 10 users and offers seamless integration with other Zoho products like email.
Zoho CRM also has email marketing tools integrated and one can send bulk emails easily. Automation of routine tasks using the API and otherwise is also a plus. The availability of real-time chat support is the icing on the cake.”
So if you’re looking to increase your business’s efficiency and profit, a CRM can be a huge help. And with so many great free options, you don’t even need to fork out a lot of money at the start. Combine that with a small business dashboard and the sky is beyond the limit!
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