The Best CRM Software
Ultimate Buyers Guide

Best CRM Software for 2017

In today's world of evolving technology, even the smallest businesses are in pursuit of the best CRM software to help them operate more smoothly. For any business, it has become increasingly important to operate more efficiently through effective time management and streamlined processes. This is something that is often achieved by using the right tools and resources.

CRM software was originally designed to manage client information and data. However, over recent years these programs have become increasingly comprehensive, enabling companies to manage a range of aspects of running the business without the need to invest in a host of different systems. Sorting out the best solution for the needs of your business can be confusing, so I've compiled a set of CRM reviews covering the top 5 choices.

In order to make the most of CRM software for your business, you need to make sure you are using the right product and the most suitable provider, as these are things that can make a big difference to the overall efficiency and suitability of your investment. It's important to do research so that you can better determine which CRM software is going to benefit your business most. This will enable you to make a more informed decision and will ensure that you are able to make the most of this popular business technology.

According to Statista, 24% of users consider functionality to be the biggest factor in their choice of programs. I've found that CRM reviews can be one of the best ways to gather detailed information about that functionality.

CRM Definition

According to Investopedia "...(CRM) refers to the principles, practices and guidelines that an organization follows when interacting with its customers."

Of course, what this CRM definition means for each individual company in real-life application varies. For micro-enterprises, the concept may manifest as routine, friendly face-to-face contact with a few core clients. As a business grows, however, it becomes more difficult to track who's who, who's buying what, and when they last had a transaction with you.

This organizational nightmare becomes even more complicated once you start adding employees. Now you've got a team, and all of them have customers as well. The data - and the need for a way to access it all without pulling your hair out - multiplies very quickly. Enter CRM software.

Trouble organizing contact info, purchase history, and data on trends and behaviors is a good sign you need a better system.

What Is CRM Software?

The best CRM systems provide you with a suite of tools that make it easier to stay in touch with your clients, track customer trends and behaviors, pursue leads, and manage your team. You can also automate certain actions, support marketing, and manage employee and vendor relationships.

...some programs charge a monthly fee based on the number of users. So your rate may be higher depending on the size of your organization.

As is the case with most productivity software, you can choose from cloud-based or on-site solutions (see what Entrepreneur has to say about the cloud here). The differences between these two types of software are far reaching and include variations with security, mobility, space allocations, and customer support.

Best CRM for Small Business: What to Consider

When you are choosing CRM software there are a number of different factors that you need to take into consideration in order to boost the chances of making the right decision. Some of the areas you need to take into account when you do your research include:

  • The features that come as part of the software package, such as contact management, sales and marketing, and employee tracking
  • How easy the software is to use
  • The cost of the software and whether it fits within your budget
  • The reputation of the software and provider based on consumer reviews and other ratings
  • The level of support and assistance offered

Looking at these key points will make it far easier for you to determine whether a particular program is the right one for your business. It will also give you peace of mind and confidence when making your purchasing decision.

The Best CRM for Small Business

Insightly Review

  • Pros
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Great option for micro-business
  • Integration with other business programs
  • Microsoft BI integration
  • Cons
  • No automatic email forwarding
  • Limited integrated reporting
  • Mobile features somewhat limited

Insightly was released in 2009 as a cloud-based CRM solution specifically engineered for small business. The most important thing to know about the program is that it is excellent at exactly the job for which it was designed - as a user-friendly solution for those who don't need - or have the resources for - a complex, deeply featured product. In practical terms, this translates to sole proprietors and very small businesses which have straightforward client relationship management needs.

One of the most attractive traits of Insightly is the pricing structure. There is a free option, which offers the smallest of businesses capacity for up to two users and 2500 records, along with a few other core features like advanced reports and 200 MB storage space. The tiers go up from there, with four paid levels - Basic through Enterprise. Basic allows unlimited users at $12 per user per month and offers 25,000 records and a suite of additional features. Enterprise runs $99 per user monthly and includes all available features.

Although Insightly does offer this wide range of plans, in observing the general consensus among users I reached the conclusion that this cloud-based CRM program is ideal for the very small or mid-growth business. Due to email and reporting limitations, larger companies may outgrow Insightly too quickly for comfort.

That said, for the price (compared to other top CRM systems) Insightly is an excellent value. The interface is intuitive, making it simple for even the newest productivity software users to learn. There is seamless integration with a number of widely used productivity programs. These include Google Apps, Dropbox, QuickBooks and more. Of course all of the crucial tasks you expect the top CRM software to perform are also included - emails, opportunities, reports, leads, and project management.

One of the best things about Insightly is that the developers seem to be attentive to improvement in response to user feedback. Reports were a sore spot, so the company added integration with Microsoft BI. Mobile features were lacking - particularly the glaring inability to send emails from within the apps - so Insightly fixed it and is adding more. The company keeps users updated on what's been added and what's coming in the future, shunning the shroud of mystery which often surrounds updates in the software development industry.

Finally if you have an issue, customer service is friendly and knowledgeable. You can get help through email, submit a form through the website, or call the toll-free number. In addition, the website offers a host of support materials including videos and webinars.

Overall, as CRM software reviews go, Insightly gets my thumbs up for very small to small businesses. If you need affordable, frustration-free software that will make your client communication tasks easier on a day-to-day basis, this program is an outstanding choice.

Capsule CRM Software Review

  • Pros
  • Competitively priced
  • Google Apps integration
  • Easy to learn and use
  • Works with several third-party applications
  • Able to store many contacts
  • Cons
  • You need to blind copy a Dropbox account to store non-Gmail emails

Capsule offers several helpful CRM features including the ability to store and manage up to 50,000 contacts. You can track messages between colleagues and clients, manage sales leads and proposals, and organize tasks and to-do lists. Capsule also utilizes outside third-party services like MailChimp to offer additional features like emailing services and support desk features.

I found Capsule to be fairly simple when compared to other CRM software tools. Because of this, it is very user friendly. Its sleek interface simplifies everything down to five navigational buttons: a home button that brings you to an overview of your organized tasks, a contacts section to organize the contact information of people and organizations, a calendar section to manage dates and upcoming events, a sales icon that brings you to a section where you can manage business opportunities and finally a cases icon to manage ongoing projects.

If you, like many individuals and businesses, use Google Apps to manage things like contacts and emails Capsule allows seamless integration with all of your Google peripherals. This is very convenient if you enjoy the use of Gmail as your main email, as contacts added to Google Apps are automatically added to Capsule.

Capsule's ease of use and competitive pricing are what put it at the top spot. If you are looking to get started with an email service Capsule is definitely worth your consideration.

ACT CRM Software Review

  • Pros
  • The provider offers both onsite and cloud-based CRM solutions
  • Software comes with a range of valuable features for businesses
  • The software has particularly comprehensive reporting capabilities compared to many of its competitors
  • A split window design simplifies multitasking
  • Cons
  • Poor connection can make dialing out difficult with this software

Offering both onsite and cloud-based CRM solutions, ACT is becoming increasingly popular amongst business users thanks to its user-friendly format, its range of valuable features, and its reports generating capabilities. The CRM software enables you to open and manage all of your emails, and this can help with the management of customer contacts, complaints, marketing, and more.

While the software does offer dialing features, the connection can sometimes falter and create difficulties when it comes to dialing out. There is a group calendar function, tracking facilities, and a split window design that makes management of multiple tasks far easier.

A key feature that this software offers is excellent reporting, with the ability to generate a range of reports, which many businesses will find invaluable. While most CRM software offers report generating capabilities, this feature is far more comprehensive with this provider than with many of its competitors. ACT is part of the Platinum CRM Consulting group and has a rating of A+ with the Better Business Bureau.

All in all, ACT is a solid and user-friendly option for businesses that are looking for a CRM system that will make life easier and offers a variety of useful tools and features.

Salesforce CRM Software Review

  • Pros
  • Very user-friendly system that is simple yet efficient
  • Offers a wide range of features to assist in the smooth running of the business
  • Cloud-based system to reduce use of your own storage
  • Excellent IT support available
  • Advanced sales forecasting
  • Cons
  • Difficulty reaching a support representative to speak to person to person

If you choose Salesforce as your business CRM you can look forward to the benefits of a user-friendly system that enables you to streamline a wide range of processes without weighing you down with different applications. The system from Salesforce is very easy to use and manage, which makes life a lot easier for businesses that want to bring a wide range of information together into one place.

This is a cloud-based system that offers excellent IT support and enables you to avoid cluttering up your own computer space. There is no onsite option available with Salesforce, so if you want to use this system you will have to go for the cloud-based system.

This software offers a host of features designed to help with contact management, sales and marketing, employee tracking, and more. The sales and marketing features are very advanced compared to some competitors while the contact management capabilities allow you to enjoy far more flexibility than many other CRMs. For instance, when creating new contacts you can mark them as one of ten different customer types such as an investor, client, or competitor.

When it comes to support and assistance from Salesforce, you can look forward to a range of options. You can contact support representatives via email, phone, and live chat, although it can be difficult to connect to someone and talk to them in person. You will also find a host of tools and resources to help you to resolve issues or get answers to queries. This includes video tutorials and guides that are integrated into the CRM program. When it comes to consumer reviews, the software scored an impressive 8.3/10 on the G2 Crowd.

The ease of use and variety of features that come with this program make it a popular choice amongst businesses of all sizes. It also offers a range of advanced capabilities, which put it in my top 5 CRM systems.

Infusionsoft CRM Software Review

  • Pros
  • Automation marketing software with a wide range of features
  • An ideal choice of small businesses and freelancers
  • Supports a range of devices including Mac, web-based, and Windows
  • Supports a range of countries including the United States and UK
  • High quality customer service and training
  • Cons
  • Potentially intimidating range of features
  • Comparatively high cost, plus large mandatory Kickstart fee

The automation marketing software and CRM system from Infusionsoft has become a popular choice, particularly amongst small business owners and freelancers who are looking for a reliable, efficient, and simple program that will meet their diverse needs. This is a program that provides a solid platform to enable ease and convenience when it comes to integrated email marketing, eCommerce, and customer relationship management.

There are many different features that you will be able to benefit from when you use this system, which includes features and benefits such as marketing automation, CRM, web forms, social sharing, email marketing, simple publishing, multimedia marketing management, reporting tools, tracking, sales reports, payment processing, and much more. While this wide range of capabilities is certainly invaluable for businesses some may view it as making the system too complex.

Thousands of businesses have chosen to use this software as a result of the diverse array of capabilities that it offers. It supports a range of devices including Mac, web-based, and Windows, across multiple countries including the United States, the UK, Canada, Australia, and Europe.

One thing I found in my research is that it's important to understand what is meant by "small business CRM" when it comes to this program. In the corporate world, "small business" can mean any company generating up to $10M in revenue annually. So while its price tag is steep, if you need an extraordinarily robust CRM system and have the budget to match, you will find that the comprehensive capabilities of Infusionsoft will help your business run much more smoothly.

Key Features of the Best CRM for Small Business

Here are some key features that come with the best CRM software:

1. Outreach Tools

CRM programs are designed as a way to increase outreach to a business's customer base. The best CRM software will allow you to communicate with clients and track the interactions/connections made throughout the process. This isn't limited only to customers. You'll be able to send inter-office messages and track accounts between personnel. My analysis showed, however, that some programs charge a monthly fee based on the number of users. So your rate may be higher depending on the size of your organization. Determine this fee or user limit before signing up for a service.

2. Marketing and Sales Forecasting

Could your business benefit from a sales forecasting tool? With built-in applications you can generate sales leads, track marketing campaigns and compare them to your competition. It's one of the primary ways large organizations grow their client base and generate additional revenue.

3. Employee Monitoring

You can monitor the interactions employees have with customers as well as others within the organization. For example, if a customer calls in with a technical question, you could see the responses given and form an evaluation from that data. Newer CRM technologies also have social media implementations to track information available through these platforms.

4. Customer Support

Customer service and support are crucial to get the most out of a CRM program, especially if it's new to your business. Before purchasing a service, be sure it has adequate support in the event you run into problems. Telephone, email, and chat capabilities are preferable. If you decide on a cloud-based software, expect a more comprehensive customer support staff because your information is hosted on their server/network. If you choose on-premise CRM you may have to invest in additional IT support.

Overall, these four features should be the most significant deciding factors in your search for the best CRM system. Choose one that fits not only your immediate business needs but also your budget.

Do You Need the Best CRM for Your Small Business?

As I established at the beginning of my CRM software comparison, this acronym stands for Customer Relationship Management. The concept can be abstract, particularly if you're just starting out and don't know if you actually need a program to manage it. There are a few questions to ask yourself in order to determine if you could benefit from Customer Relationship Management software:

  1. Are you struggling with keeping track of customer contact information? Trouble organizing contact info, purchase history, and data on trends and behaviors is a good sign you need a better system.
  2. Could your customer service use some fine-tuning? Better support leads to more sales. CRM systems can organize and improve your customer service algorithm.
  3. Do you need an automated solution for increasing sales? Even the top cheap CRM programs can facilitate lead generation, email campaigns, and sales forecasting.

Best CRM Software Practices: Intention vs. Reality

Interestingly, my research showed that while 52% of small business owners wish to increase customer retention and improve customer experience, only 29% actually use CRM software. This data was released in a recent infographic compiled by SCORE, the non-profit formerly known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives. Now known as "Counselors to America's Small Business", the organization fosters success through mentoring and educational resources.

Best CRM for Small Business Recap

The importance of efficient CRM software has increased exponentially for businesses of all sizes in today's world. With this in mind, taking the time to find the right CRM system for your business needs will ensure that you are able to reap the benefits of this technology. Of course, in order to have customer relationships to manage, you need the best email marketing software. Finally, when it comes time to finance these tools for your company, check out the best small business loans.

CRM Software FAQs

Q What are examples of CRM?


Customer relationship management software enables businesses to track their customers and to provide better service to them. Well known examples of CRM software include Salesforce, Insightly, and freshdesk. The goal of all of these softwares is to make it easy to track your company's relationship with individual customers.

Q What is a CRM database?


A CRM database is where CRM software stores information about customers. This information typically includes, name, address, payment information, previous transactions, and other information that your business has on customers, such as demographic information, purchasing habits, or areas of interest. CRM databases make it easy to find similar groups of customers so you can target your marketing plans.

Q What is CRM in software testing?


CRM software testing is the process of making sure that your CRM software works as it should, meaning it tracks customer information and contacts correctly. Comprehensive testing is essential to getting the most out of your CRM as it will let you feel confident in the information that it provides to you.

Q What is the difference between SFA and CRM?


Sales Force Automation (SFA) differs from customer relationship management software (CRM) in its focus. SFA is almost exclusively related to sales-related objects, reporting and activities. These products are oriented towards lead and account management, contact management, and other forms of operation forecasting. CRM, on the other hand, incorporates the components of sales force automation (lead management, account management, contact management, activity management, sales forecasting) as well as marking automation, customer service, and sales order processing. Marketing automation consists of campaign management, email distributions, and marketing analytics. While sales order processing brings together quote management, invoicing, sales orders, and contract management.

Q What is CRM software?


CRM stands for customer relationship management. This software is designed to aid businesses and organizations manage their customer information, data, communications, sales, as well as manage employees and partner relationships. What's more, it can keep track of clients, contracts, contacts, and sales leads. The CRM software programs available on the market today are highly customizable and can be tailored to fit the needs of any one organization. Depending on which one you prefer, you can have a web-based "cloud" application or a local application in which it is located on the hardware or server itself. Social CRM is another type of CRM software and allows you to manage relationships via social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Q What is GoldMine software used for?


GoldMine is a Customer Relationship Management software from FrontRange Solutions. The program helps your track client contact information, as well as all of your interaction with your contacts, including phone calls, emails, and physical mail. The software can also help you forecast future sales to your customers.

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