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The best CRM for your small business

As more small businesses embrace the Internet and move, it is becoming essential to have the right Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software so you can keep track of customers. Having the right CRM also makes it easier for you to interact with your customers, providing help where needed and give them a good experience as they shop with you.

The CRM you choose, and how right it is for your business, depends to a large extent on the kind of business model you have. While there are many great CRMs to choose from, they don’t all have the same features. For instance, lawyers may need a document and file sharing feature and that would not be important for a retailer who would benefit more from a Live Chat feature.

Another consideration, especially for small businesses, would be budget. The cost of many CRMs is worked out by how many employees will be using them as well as what features they have. You may be surprised to find one – Zoho – is free and is packed with some handy features.

Zoho

The biggest advantage of Zoho is that up to 10 employees can use it for free making it ideal for small start-ups with a tight budget. Crucially, it also has a free mobile version. It is easy to use even for those with no previous experience and if you get stuck there is a help button and live chat.

Features include: client interaction tracking, files sharing (not real-time), web forms, purchasing reports and Google docs integration.

Like all freemium products many of the best features – like creating and sending invoices, data backups, multiple currencies, lead capture from social media, marketing campaigns, integration with Google AdWords, customer support, inventory management, analytics and greater security – are saved for paid versions. You can purchase software that will integrate seamlessly with Zoho to perform these tasks though.

SugarCRM

This is a trustworthy CRMs used by many businesses worldwide. A cloud-based service, its better features include: – sales force automation and forecasting, real-time sharing, email integration, mobile app, large storage plans, up to 24/7 support and support for MySQL, Oracle and SQL Server. The user interface, while uncluttered and easy to use, is considered a little too simple and overly-focused on commerce.

Workbooks.com

In spite of the downside of a 25 users limit, this CRM is has a powerful suite of sales and marketing tools that can support sales teams around the world. Features include real-time sharing and easy configuration and customisation. Some users recommend taking a staged approach to integration to avoid headache.

Maximizer

A popular CRM for over 20 years, Maximizer can automatically generate email campaign based on company input. The design, similar to several Microsoft Office applications, makes it very easy to use. With many features, it is available in the cloud or on the premises. Reviews suggest the cloud version is improving but still has many bugs.

MailChimp

Whilst not technically a CRM – and in fact MailChimp is mostly used as an integrated add-on to manage email marketing campaigns – many small businesses are using it as a form of Customer Relationship Management tool. If all you need is a simple way to bulk contact your customers and create email campaigns then MailChimp could be for you but be aware that you won’t be able to benefit from all the clever analytics, lead tracking and reports you get with a true CRM system.

Apptivo

Another affordable CRM, Apptivo offers customisable solutions and has 24-hour support. Considered one of the most flexible and affordable solutions it has many features for just $10 per month per user. This makes it ideal for small businesses or sole traders.

Batchbook

Its cheap cost makes it ideal for the tiny business or entrepreneur that only needs to monitor social media and streamline customer communications. It’s good at what little it does, but if you want automated features to take care of invoices or anything else, you won’t get it from this CRM without third party add-ons.

Salesforce

They say you get what you pay for and Salesforce CRM comes with a price worthy of its consideration as one of the best, if not the best, CRMs on the market. Salesforce is not only intuitive, uncluttered and easy to use; it also has a great many features that will help you reach your business goals quickly and efficiently. As a cloud-based system, Salesforce keeps your information from accidental deletion and boasts robust security to fend off unauthorised access.

Contact information from Outlook or Excel can be imported into this CRM and you can also dial clients, send out automatic mass or single emails or send only to specific groups. It also boasts one of the largest third-party marketplaces for add-ons and apps with seamless integration – and it has its own social networking platform.

One downside is that when it is necessary to add a new contact, a new company account with a designated account number must first be created. Then the new customer can be added to it. Some people find this extra step a little frustrating, especially when they are in a hurry. However, managers will find this software invaluable for keeping a check on customer/employee interaction to make sure that the customer gets what they need, as well as for many other jobs. Performance evaluations can easily be carried out by managers.

Having the right CRM for your business will ensure that things run much more smoothly and efficiently but don’t get wooed by functions you won’t use. Select a CRM based on what you need right now. It might cost you a little more in the long-run should you need to migrate to a different platform but it’s better than getting stuck with something you feel obligated to use because you paid a lot of money for features you never needed.