Best CRM for Small Business
Everything you need to know to choose the right
CRM system for your small business.
You’ve probably heard about all of the great benefits of having a customer relationship management (CRM) system and how it can help your business build and nurture customer relationships. Better yet, a good CRM automates and streamlines a lot of manual tasks so you can focus your time on delivering great customer experiences, increasing sales, and optimizing everyday operations.
But finding the right CRM software for startups and small businesses can be pretty overwhelming, especially with so many options on the market.
There are some CRM providers who provide a free CRM version, but how do you know if it will have all of the features you need? Chances are, a free plan won’t give you everything you need to manage your business over the long term, and the cost of additional features can add up quickly.
And, it can be tempting to skip the research and go with a popular, enterprise CRM, but you’ll want to ensure that your plan works for your business. Whether it’s a free version or a more robust enterprise plan, the goal is to ensure you have all of the features you need, without paying for those you don’t.
This article will guide you through the factors to consider when choosing a CRM provider.
Check out this brief video to learn more about CRM
Why do you need a CRM?
When you first launch a startup or small business, it can be easy to rely on email and spreadsheets to store contact information and track client interactions. However, as your customer base grows, it becomes much more challenging to stay on top of these relationships.
This is where CRM software can help. CRM offers far more than just contact management, it helps you organize all of your interactions with customers and prospects. The software stores all of your customer information, which you can then use to ensure people have an optimal experience whenever they interact with your brand.
The best CRM tool does much more than track existing customer accounts. It helps you attract and capture new leads and prospects for easy follow-up. CRM systems typically include sales process optimization features such as marketing automation, email marketing and email tracking, customizable landing pages, sales pipelines, and advanced reporting.
Want to find out more about CRM software? Check out this article.
Here are some ways CRM systems streamline real-world customer interactions:
Many businesses, both large and small use CRM software. Here are some situations you might recognize that are driven by a CRM system:
- Have you ever spoken to a rep at a business and then had a different person call you back about your problem? A CRM likely enabled this by allowing the first rep to note your problem and share it with the appropriate people.
- Have you ever had to cancel a service contract because it no longer fits your needs or circumstances? Was a customer service rep able to offer you a different product or service that was more in line with your needs? If so, CRM software likely enabled this interaction. CRM stores all of your interactions, including past purchases and support history, which any rep can instantly access to provide you a personalized experience based on your specific profile.
- Have you ever downloaded content from a business and then received helpful emails about the product or service that piqued your interest? If so, this process was likely driven by CRM marketing automation features, which enable companies to send automated yet personalized content to prospects.
Now that we’ve covered some typical CRM use cases, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of CRM software.
Still not sure if your small business needs a CRM system? Here are ten signs you might need one.
As you see in the above examples, businesses can use CRMs in many ways. In the next section, we’ll look at how small businesses can benefit from CRM software.
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How can a CRM system help you run your small business?
Optimize customer support and sales
If you aren’t properly storing customer interactions, it can be difficult for customer support and sales reps to deliver the best possible service to prospects and customers. By keeping all of this data organized within a CRM, you and your reps can quickly retrieve that information and use it to improve customer communication.
CRM solutions also help reduce time-consuming manual tasks. For example, with the help of a CRM platform, you can automatically create and update contact information when a new prospect fills in a form. You can also implement a lead scoring system that helps you follow up on the most promising leads.
Improve the customer experience
Many studies show that the customer experience is one of the most important drivers of long-term customer relationships. In fact, research has found that the customer experience is more important to customer loyalty than either price or brand.
Just as important, a single bad experience can drive away nearly one-third of your customers — even the most loyal ones. One study found that 89 percent of consumers are willing to switch to a competitor after a bad experience.
A CRM gives support and sales teams a 360-degree view of the customer and all prior communication with your business. Reps can make notes about customer issues so the customer doesn’t have to repeat the same story every time they talk to a different agent. You can also store customer email and chat histories within the CRM so any team member can access that information to offer customers personalized assistance.
Increase customer retention
When you can easily access historical data about your customer, you can increase retention by offering them personalized offers and promotions tailored to their relationship with your business.
For instance, a gym owner can track member attendance from the CRM database. She can easily view attendance histories and reach out to members who have not attended the gym within a certain time frame, such as three months. She can send those members reminders about classes or promotions, such as a free workout plan, designed to increase engagement and hopefully motivate members to renew their contracts.
Optimize lead generation and lead management
Using a CRM to track interactions with prospects can help sales and marketing teams take the right steps to drive sales.
For instance, you can segment leads within the CRM based on geographic location, product preferences, prior engagement history, or any other factor that suggests they are likely to buy. Once you have these segments, you can target them with the right promotions and sales collateral.
CRMs also have task management features that ensure your team takes the correct steps in the sales process. If a customer requests a call-back, the CRM will highlight this so someone on your team can promptly contact them. Once the rep has made contact, they mark that they have done so to ensure customers aren’t hassled by repetitive phone calls.
Streamline team collaboration
Having all your customer and prospect information in one place ensures that your team members can access the most current client data wherever they work. Cloud-based systems instantly reflect any updates made to the CRM across your entire business. This keeps your data clean, centrally managed, and accurate.
For example, if a customer contacts a software support team about an issue, the customer support rep can record information about the problem within the CRM. This note is then forwarded to the tech support team to review so they can fully understand the problem before contacting the customer. Although workflow automation is one of the lesser-known benefits of CRM, it offers huge time-saving and process optimization advantages to small business owners.
Enable seamless remote work
A cloud-based CRM is ideal for employees who travel or who primarily work from home or other remote locations. Remote workers have the same access to data as those in the office — so you never have to worry about your team’s ability to work together wherever they are based.
This opens up your organization to the possibility of hiring employees on an entirely remote basis, so you can choose new hires based exclusively on experience and talent. Or, you can give existing staff more flexibility over where and when they work, which leads to greater job satisfaction. In fact, one report found that 30% of remote workers feel more productive and engaged while working from home.
Grow revenue per customer
A CRM can help you increase revenue per customer by highlighting upsell opportunities. For example, eCommerce and other retail stores can email customers about offers relating to existing purchases. A hair salon can contact customers when their regular appointment is approaching and then use that opportunity to mention new products or services that might interest them.
A CRM system will typically include in-depth reporting features. Many have sales forecasting and sales pipeline management tools that can estimate revenue within a given period based on average conversion rates. You can also see where your prospects are in the sales funnel and take recommended steps to convert them faster.
Plus, a CRM’s marketing automation features can help you optimize your marketing strategy. You can identify potential bottlenecks or inefficiencies in your sales processes and sales activities, and take steps to remedy them. Related to this is A/B testing, which allows you to try two different versions of the same marketing element. For example, you can test different offers, calls-to-action (CTA), or subject lines to see which one generates a better response based on metrics.
Who uses CRM? 91% of businesses with 10 or more employees, and 50% of those with fewer than 10 employees now use CRM software1. Of these, 74% said that CRM software has improved their access to customer data.
How to choose the best CRM software for your small business or SMB
There are so many CRM solutions on the market, but not all of them may be the best fit for your SMB. Here are some questions to help you narrow down your choices:
How user-friendly is the CRM?
You want to make sure everyone on your team can effectively contribute to and benefit from your CRM. That’s why ease of use and a simple user interface are important factors to consider when vetting different CRM platforms. In addition to choosing a CRM that is easy to use, look for one with thorough yet easily searchable documentation, so anyone on your team can quickly find answers to their questions.
What type of customer support is available?
Even if the CRM software is easy to use, there will be times when you just want to pick up the phone (or keyboard) and speak to someone in real-time. Therefore, you should look for a CRM with a good track record of customer support. What kind of support options are available? Do they only provide a static knowledge base, or can you easily contact a real person via chat, phone, or email?
Also, check the operating hours of the customer success team. If customer support is only available in local time, that option may not work if the support team is based in India but your business is located in the UK.
Is the CRM cloud-based or self-hosted?
Cloud-based CRMs are generally more economical and flexible for small businesses compared to on-premise solutions. These solutions are pay-as-you-go which typically means a far lower upfront investment. As they are provided by third parties, you don’t have to hire an IT team to manage the product and ensure it works. Instead, the company that provides the software will keep everything running and provide tech support.
How will the CRM complement your existing workflow?
CRM systems typically work with many different tools. Ensure the one you choose integrates with the software that is most important to your workflow. Common third-party integrations include Google Workspace, Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, social media platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, and eCommerce software. If you rely on apps such as Zoom, Docusign, Quickbooks, Calendly, and other productivity software, you should check to see if the CRM includes those as well.
What happens as you grow?
If you plan to grow your business, consider whether the CRM will grow with you and if it’s affordable to scale up. Some CRMs charge you depending on how many customers and contacts you have, so you’ll need to budget for expected growth. Also, find out how many of your employees can use the CRM. Some CRMs have limits on the number of people (users), or you may need to pay for a minimum number of users regardless of how many employees you have.
What extra features do you need (and will you have to pay for them)?
CRM software typically provides a ton of extra features. These include sales pipelines, marketing automation, email marketing, automated reminders and notifications, and more. Consider which ones you really need when choosing your CRM. Also, be aware that these features aren’t always free. Sometimes you will have to pay more on top of your basic subscription for these extras. Consider how much you want to pay for your software and choose a CRM that fits your budget. The last thing you want is to choose a basic CRM that’s affordable, but then becomes unaffordable when you need more advanced functionality.
Our free guide explains everything you should consider when choosing a CRM.
Act! is consistently ranked as one of the best CRM software solutions for small businesses. Here’s why Act! is a great choice for any small business, whether you’re completely new to CRM or you’ve been a pro for years.
Act! provides small businesses with an all-in-one CRM that makes managing relationships and focusing on opportunities easy. Features include customer management, activity tracking, and a powerful sales pipeline. Act! also integrates with the tools your business already uses, such as Quickbooks, Docusign, Zoom, Calendly, and Zapier.
The price you see on the website is the price you pay for our service. There are no added extras and the only way your costs will increase is when you add users or if you want to upgrade your CRM to the next level. Learn more about our pricing here.
Great customer support
Act! provides extensive online support resources along with a customer support team that is available via chat, telephone, and email. You can contact the team online or call us to get an answer to your question quickly.
Powerful marketing automation
Add powerful marketing automation features and useful marketing tools to nurture leads and build sales. Easily create landing pages and email templates, plan marketing campaigns, and send automated email sequences to prospects using Act!
Act! is available as a cloud-based CRM solution. For you, this means low setup costs, no need to manage a self-hosted solution, and you and your team can access your CRM data anywhere in the world.
Act! Companion is our fully integrated mobile app that enables business owners to stay connected to key contact information and customer data wherever they use their iOS or Android device for work. All CRM features are just one swipe away – you can send email campaigns on the go and stay on top of all your business processes, even if you’re not in the office.
Want to see Act! in action? Try it for free for 14 days. No credit card or download required.
Learn more about Cloud computing and SaaS solutions and download our free guide ‘Moving to a Cloud solution: 35 questions for you and your vendor’.
Act! has a track record of success
Act! has a proven 35+ year history of helping businesses grow and be successful in numerous industries. See what our customers are saying about Act! and read more here.
Act! is a feature-rich, customizable platform that’s perfect for small and midsize businesses looking to market better, sell more, and create customers for life. With unparalleled flexibility and freedom of choice, Act! accommodates all the unique ways you do business. Learn more about Act! here.