September 12, 2018
Customer relationship management, or CRM, is a big buzzword these days. But, it’s actually a very old and valued idea. In short, CRM software lets you manage and analyze customer data at scale. Used smartly, CRM software helps you to understand the needs and asks of your customers, and better serves those customers in a way that makes your business more effective. Good CRM software will make all of this feel effortless.
Powerful cloud-based CRM software can do all the tracking to let you monitor key customer data points. This can include purchase history, contact information, upcoming important dates, new sales opportunities, and even a client communication history. It’s a fantastic way for businesses to manage a current client’s requirements, track new client leads, and get your team focused on serving your customers.
CRM software is a very useful tool, but it’s trickier than investing in an email service or office productivity suite. Unlike those more standardized applications, there is no way that a generic piece of CRM software could fit every business’ needs. Each company has specific demands that won’t apply to others. But one thing is in common across all businesses, and that’s the simple fact that bad customer service can translate to a fortune in lost income.
What works for selling photocopiers in New York City is going to be different from what a caterer in Colorado needs to stay on top of their business. That’s why a solid piece of CRM software must be good at tracking data, but also flexible enough to be tailored to the requirements of a particular industry or business.
Before you buy, let’s take a look at what CRM software is, and what it can do to help you manage and grow your business.
In This Guide:
- What Does CRM Stand For?
- What Is Customer Relationship Management?
- CRM For Small Business
- Best CRM Software to Choose
- Should You Use Free CRM Software?
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|Data cap in basic plan||612 MB/user||5 documents||10GB + 5GB/20 users||Unlimited||1 GB base + 512 MB/user||3GB/User||200 MB/user|
|Social media integrations||✓||✓||✓||✓||✓||–||✓|
|Intuitive, easy to understand||✓||✓||–||✓||✓||–||✓|
|Live Chat Support||✓||–||✓||✓||–||✓||✓|
|Cheapest paid plan (user/month)||$25||$50||$80+||$89||$12||$8||$15|
|Most expensive plan (user/month)||$300||$1,200||$255||$149||$100||$20||$45|
|Verdict||A market leading CRM for good reason and a great all-rounder||A strong CRM system with an attractive free tier||A robust CRM platform that embeds brilliantly with Microsoft products||An inexpensive, simple CRM tool that can combine with other plug-ins and apps.||Flexible, friendly and effective, Zoho also starts at low price plans||Stripped-down but a solid CRM platform||Intuitive and simple, AmoCRM is a CRM suite that impresses|
Many people are familiar with Zoho for its online document-editing suite, but it also has a popular CRM software platform. Its most basic paid offering includes housing customer contact data, tasks, events, call logs, lead tracking, and sales forecasting. Higher priced tiers include added features such an interactive automated assistant, email integration, and greater levels of customization. There is also a free option.
Salesforce is undoubtedly the biggest name in CRM software. While it may not have been the first to enter the market, it certainly nudged the concept of customer relationship management into the mainstream. The company’s basic offering includes tasks, leads, accounts, contacts, notes, files, call-tracking, and more. Salesforce has a number of additional services beyond its CRM offering. These include managing individualized marketing campaigns and personalized shopping experiences. It’s a very full-featured offering and the current leader in CRM.
Salesforce is in fact such a big name that there’s a temptation to view it as the only game in town. That’s not the case, of course – there are lots of great Salesforce alternatives, and the important thing is choosing the best software for your own business needs.
Hubspot takes something of a freemium approach by offering its CRM for free, and then requiring paid subscriptions for supporting CRM-style services called hubs. These complementary services are similar to Salesforce and address other facets of your business including marketing, sales, and service. Even these premium services have free offerings on Hubspot, however, with the price escalating as you need premium features within each category. The sales hub, for example, offers the ability to create customized email templates in its paid tiers.
It wouldn’t be a proper business software platform if it didn’t get attention from Microsoft. The Windows publisher also offers a CRM solution called Microsoft Dynamics. The advantage with Microsoft’s offering is that it can integrate seamlessly with other Microsoft software you might already be using from email to the company’s “augmented reality” HoloLens headsets. It also uses an interface that will be familiar to users of other Microsoft software.
If you’ve ever had to deal with a customer service representative online it’s likely you’ve interacted with a company using Zendesk software for customer support. While Zendesk isn’t a CRM platform in the strictest sense, some companies will use it as such since it can house customer contact information, and support tickets can be used as tasks, and provide space for notes, and these can be assigned to employees. Zendesk can also integrate with a number of third-party CRM platforms such as Salesforce and Zoho. The company recently acquired Base CRM and the company behind, it suggesting Base will have deeper integration with Zendesk in the coming months.
Rounding out our top examples of CRM software is Apptivo. This company’s focus is as a CRM for small and medium businesses. It offers email lead generation, lead conversion, and a customizable interface. It also integrates with many popular services including Google’s G Suite for businesses, Microsoft Office 365, and Slack making it easy to get your data into and out of Apptivo’s CRM.
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