When entrepreneurs launch a business, they think about business plans, products, funds, accounting, and much more. Still, a CRM system is almost the last thing that comes to their mind. Why is it so? Why do entrepreneurs need CRM software? What are the best CRMs for small businesses? We’ll address all these questions in this guide to CRMs.
What Is CRM Software for Small Businesses?
CRM is an abbreviation of customer relationship management. CRM software includes various functions that help entrepreneurs manage communication with customers and develop the customer experience.
Why You Should Use a CRM System
At the beginning of the article, we asked why many entrepreneurs ignore CRM software. It happens because a small business doesn’t deal with tons of information. When you start out, you don’t have many customers and contacts. That’s why it’s so easy to use one email address to communicate with customers and contractors, remember clients’ names and preferences, and keep all the information on one computer or even in a notebook.
Nevertheless, when a small business develops, the number of customers grows, and several employees turn into a big team - it then becomes necessary to find software that can store the information and give access for numerous employees.
Does CRM Software Have Pitfalls?
Everything has disadvantages, and the CRM system isn’t an exclusion. Firstly, CRM software can be expensive for a small business. And if you find an affordable option, you should be sure you can deal with hidden costs. Hidden costs can include expenses for maintenance and data backups, system administrators, and software developers.
CRM, like any other program, can fail. In this case, all the records will be lost, and it will hurt your business.
Additionally, CRM software for a small business should be user-friendly. Otherwise, you will spend lots of time training your employees.
CRM software combines many functions that ease a small business’s operations. Here is the list of the vital functions the best CRM for a small business should do:
- Organize communication. In CRM, small business employees can send and receive emails. It’s possible to send emails via mail and social media bots. The more communication options a client has, the more loyal and satisfied they are. Imagine a customer doesn’t use Gmail and prefers WhatsApp for communication. If you offer the WhatsApp option rather than making them use Gmail, you gain their loyalty.
- Systematize contact information. It’s vital to keep all the data about your customers in one place. First of all, when a client contacts you more than once, you should prevent them from repeating the basic information, including their name, phone number, email address, etc. Second, CRM software allows for keeping previous chats and seeing what the matter was and who spoke to the customer. In case of problems, this stored information helps to solve the issue faster. This function helps the most if you have a sales business. The stored information aligns the team, smoothing the sales process.
- Set tasks. This function is vital, especially for a freelance business. CRM software allows you to assign tasks to your employees and see their progress on every duty. It makes the working process much easier when your employees work from different parts of the world. This feature can also help with sales reports. You can track how many emails were sent, calls were made, meetings were organized, and deals are already closed.
- Arrange internal communication. It’s much easier to see how your teams communicate with each other using CRM software. It’s also possible to send emails within CRM to keep your customer chats and employee chats in one place.
- Organize employee reports. A CRM platform allows you to track employee tasks and make financial reports. Being in a common system, you can see how many tasks your worker has, how successful they are, and how much money they earn.
- Segment customers. This feature isn’t the most important, but it can help. You can segment the contacts by different parameters that can help in your small business.
- Send template emails. CRM should provide an opportunity to create templates and send scheduled emails. It’s also possible to get notifications when the email is delivered and read.
- Test customer strategies. CRM keeps all the customer data you need to define customer behavior. Through CRM, you can follow a customer’s activity and check their feedback. This information will allow you to determine strategies that will develop your business. It’s also possible to forecast sales.
- Raise the company’s profitability. Of course, CRM can’t increase the profitability of your company on its own. However, all the functions listed above contribute to the effectiveness of your small business. Also, CRM allows for doing financial reports and following your revenues.
What Determines the Best CRM for Small Businesses?
We have defined what functions good CRM software has. Let’s consider additional parameters that determine a good CRM system that will bring different departments together to deliver high customer service.
- User-friendly interface. If a CRM system is complicated and takes lots of time to explain to your employees how to use it, this system isn’t for you. CRM software will be used daily; that’s why it should be straightforward to use.
- Cloud-based system. In the world of freelance, it should be possible to have access to data from anywhere. That’s why your perfect CRM should be cloud-based, so your employees have real-time information from any device anywhere in the world.
- Fast implementation. If you have to spend hours adding customer details in a database, that CRM isn’t for you. It should be possible to add data from email with a single click or import lists.
- Automatic update. When your business is small, you don’t have many clients and partners; you can update their information manually. But what if your business is big? Will you update the data of thousands of people?
- Funnel management. It’s great if you can follow every step of your customer.
- Price. Now, you may think we will say that good CRM software should be expensive, but that’s not the case. Firstly, before buying CRM software, you should try a free version if available. A trial version will allow you to understand whether the CRM matches your requirements. Also, CRM systems differ in price significantly, as they provide various functions. You should find the one that suits you the most and buy it only if it helps develop your small business.
Choosing a CRM System
We’ve gathered vital points you should follow in choosing the right CRM system for your business.
- Budget. Before you buy CRM software, you should know how much you are ready to spend. As we mentioned above, there are free CRM versions. Still, some of them cost up to $200. If you know the price you expect, you can narrow down the wide range of CRM options.
- Features You Expect. Before choosing a CRM system, you should clearly understand what you expect from it. Make a list of features the CRM should have, and it will become much easier to choose the right option. When making a list, consider your requirements and gather feedback from the employees who will work with the CRM, as they may add or remove the features you thought about.
- Ask other businesses. It's worth asking companies from the same industry for referrals, as they know the business's needs.
- Record useful info. It's recommended to record features of CRM software that you consider; this prevents the loss of important information and helps make the comparison more manageable.
- Check the current options. The market changes rapidly. As new technologies contribute to the development of CRM systems, it's worth checking reviews before buying CRM software. Check reviews on various websites that aren’t directly related to the software. Otherwise, there is a risk you will read an excellent review that doesn't reflect the real-life situation.
- Use a trial period. Most CRMs offer a trial period. Choose several options that suit your business the most according to their description and examine whether the CRM fulfills all your requirements.
Top CRMs for a Small Business
It's impossible to gather all available CRM platforms. However, we did our best to make a list of the top CRM systems for small businesses. By comparing their features, you can choose the best option for you.
Keap is CRM software for business owners who don't have much time to set up and maintain a CRM system. If you have already used another CRM, Keap allows you to migrate data for free. Keap's plan provides coaching and educational materials, so you can set up the system easily and quickly. If you or your employees have questions, 24/7 live chat support will solve all the issues.
Keap has different plans with varying features. Using an entry-level plan, you can access general CRM tools for small businesses, such as lead capture, client invoicing, and contact management tools. As your business grows, you can add more functions to make Keap CRM more suitable for your needs. It's possible to set automated email templates to message your clients at a certain time, view customizable dashboards, and access reporting tools that help evaluate team performance.
A significant disadvantage is that Keap doesn't provide a free plan for testing its capabilities.
2. Zoho CRM
This CRM software is perfect for emerging businesses with remote workers. It's possible to use the CRM on your phone without losing any desktop functions. The real-time data allow users to be up to date.
It's even possible to edit data in the application without an internet connection. Using the mobile app, you can set reminders, send emails, add a new client's information, attach audio files and comments, initiate calls, and change the deal's status.
Zoho CRM is not expensive but includes all the features a startup needs to provide high-quality services. At the same time, the free plan doesn't allow a user to test all CRM features. It's only possible to make predictions and use AI tools with top-tier plans.
3. HubSpot CRM
This CRM solution is used for sales, content management, and inbound marketing. One of the leading advantages is that its free plan includes an unlimited number of users. It's crucial, as this CRM solution won't limit the company's growth. The free plan allows users to apply for CRM, sales, email marketing, and service tools.
Moreover, the CRM has a unique plan, HubSpot for Startups. Under this plan, startups with up to $2 million in Series A funding can get a 90% discount in their first year, 50% in their second year, and 25% in their third year. If a small business has over $2 million in funding, discounts start at 50%.
Despite many pros, the CRM has disadvantages, such as the lack of support in the lower-tier plans.
This CRM solution can be called a comprehensive CRM for marketing and sales teams. It's possible to create an unlimited number of groups and centralized document storage. However, the free plan is limited to 12 users and 5 GB of storage. It's enough for small businesses, but you should consider either an advanced version or another CRM software when your company grows. The CRM has many plans, and it may be challenging to find the right one. The professional version isn't too expensive - $199, paying monthly. This plan allows the business to add an unlimited number of users.
SugarCRM is a comprehensive tool for sales, marketing, and customer service purposes. This software allows you to automate business processes and set client messaging. There is customer support and a user community where you can communicate with other small businesses.
Unlike other CRM systems that set limits on the maximum number of CRM users, this platform implies restrictions on the minimum number of users - there should be at least ten team members. The system may seem complicated, so it will take time to learn the CRM.
The CRM provides a wide range of plans, and each of them has a free trial to check whether the platform suits your needs.
Pipedrive is a suitable CRM platform for startups. It provides an opportunity to organize multiple sales pipelines with customizable parameters for products and services. It's also possible to customize data fields.
The software creates reminders and notifications to get rid your head of unnecessary information. The platform is relatively easy to use. Thus, it doesn't take lots of time to implement it in your business processes.
Among the disadvantages, we can list a lack of an internal emailing platform. It means you will have to apply the app's Mailchimp integration.
The CRM offers various plans, from Essential to Enterprise. The pitfall is that the trial period is limited to 14 days. The free version isn't available for the Enterprise plan.
According to the list of CRM solutions for small businesses and their features, we recommend migrating from one CRM to another when your business grows, as most of the CRMs for small businesses are too expensive for an upgrade. It's cheaper to purchase a new system that will fulfill the requirements of a bigger company.
CRM software is a vital part of any business. The platform should help team members solve internal working issues and set productive communication with the clients. As the CRMs vary regarding their features, problems they solve, and pricing, it's vital to define what your startup expects from the CRM. As soon as you determine its goals, you will be able to find the right platform for you.
CRM is not the only platform that should be chosen when opening a new business. It's worth automating the accounting process too. For this aim, you can use the Finom platform.
Finom provides a wide range of financial tools and services, such as a business account, invoicing, and accounting software integration. With this platform, novice entrepreneurs can easily manage their finances and keep them accurate and detailed. Try fintech technologies with Finom; bring them to your business management processes to focus on your business growth, limiting time and money spent.
Finom technologies are available for entrepreneurs in a single mobile-first platform. Small business owners and freelancers can try out Finom's free Solo plan, which includes additional features such as multi-banking and its own bank accounts with local IBAN. If you are located in Germany, you can open a Finom account while your company is in the process of registration. For accounting, Finom offers full or limited secure accountant access and integration with Lexoffice, DATEV Online, sevDesk, FastBill, Sorted, and others (integrations for German residents only).