As the inspirational speaker Bob Hooey once said: if you don’t take care of your customer, your competitor will.
The challenge, however, is to understand what it means to take care of them.
And what better place to start than with contact management software? In a nutshell, it will help you understand who your customers are, what they need from you, and what kind of interactions they have with your business.
You’ve guessed it: it’s all about aggregating knowledge, keeping it organized, and using it to grow your business. In fact, it’s very close to a CRM, or customer relationship management tool, as most of the features overlap.
And speaking of features, let’s look at some of the ones you should absolutely have:
The Best Contact Management Software Features
While there are fewer moving parts in managing contacts than full customer relationships, make sure yours still performs well in the following areas:
- Custom fields: if you can’t go beyond a name, address, and phone number, you will miss out on key information. Make sure the custom fields are easy to add, edit, and move at will. Also: keep an eye on providers who make you pay a premium for that must-have feature.
- Groups, lists, and filters: what’s the point of having all that data about your contact if you can’t organise it how you want? Make sure your software lets you create lists and groups and that it comes with a powerful search function.
- Pipeline management: this is simply a dashboard that will help you visualise your work. Especially useful to understand progress when you move your contacts from prospects to leads and then to loyal customers. The dashboard should be intuitive and well-designed to understand what your next goals are at a glance.
- Email marketing: if you’ve already got all your customer info in one place, why not use it as a base to send off your marketing emails? You’re simplifying your workflow, and keeping things tidy, especially if the contact management software includes prebuilt email campaign templates and automation. Here, you should keep an eye on the email send caps, as many providers will move you to a more expensive tier if you go over your allocated limit.
- Ease of use / UX: user experience is tremendously important with any software, and this is even more true if you’re using it to replace multiple systems. A good contact management software, for instance, can work as your CRM, email marketing tool, and even for project management. Make sure it’s intuitive, and that training new marketing or sales members to use it won’t take weeks.
- Support: last but not least, when you’re going to be paying a company every month to use their product, you want to make sure they’ve got your back if things go wrong. Have a good look at reviews on the quality of the support team, and check out their online resources to see if they explain things clearly.
Salesforce Professionals and Essentials
If you’ve used a CRM or contact management tool in the past but need to join the big leagues, Salesforce is the name you’re going to hear a lot. Yes, it’s the most popular, with nearly 20% of the market share, but also one of the most daunting and complex solutions, so make sure you give sign up for the free trial before you jump the gun.
- Best for: a reputable software provider with years of experience. Expect regular updates and quality online support resources.
- Shortcomings: the custom fields are limited. Marketing automation and email marketing are paid add-ons, and support is a paid option with the Essentials plans — steep learning curve.
Zoho, an American / Indian company that’s been in the CRM game since 1996, offers plenty of software options. You have the CRM, of course, but also Zoho One, which is more of a set of business applications, including contact management software.
The software itself is easy to use, and comes with a handy integration with Google products, making it ideal for a tech novice or a freelancer.
- Best for: the Google integrations are convenient if you’re in the tech giant’s ecosystem. Flexible pricing is a plus.
- Shortcomings: support can be patchy and unreliable. Marketing automation is limited, as it doesn’t include follow up emails based on interaction.
HubSpot is known for one fantastic offer: their “free forever” plan. With that, you get great reporting and pipeline dashboards. As expected, there’s a catch, though: going over your contact limit quickly becomes expensive.
Still, you can’t complain about a free product, which makes it a good solution for very small businesses and freelancers who just need a little extra help managing contacts’ information.
- Best for: the free plan is a great incentive to get started with HubSpot. Good reporting functions.
- Shortcomings: prices quickly start stacking up when you add more contacts — tons of features, which can be daunting and overwhelming for beginners.
Microsoft Dynamics 365
Microsoft needs no introduction, and in fact, their Dynamics CRM is nearly as famous as Salesforce. Of course, the immediate advantage of using the tech giant’s own solution is that you get seamless integration with other Microsoft products.
However, it should be noted that Microsoft Dynamics 365 is more geared at enterprise clients with vast IT and training budgets. You’ll need a good 5 – 10 days to implement it, not counting the technical training required to get the most from the platform.
- Best for: large companies with dedicated IT and training departments.
- Shortcomings: Microsoft Dynamics 365 is at the pricier end of the spectrum, and extras like Microsoft Marketing only add to the baseline costs
Act! CRM: Best for Small Businesses
“We’ve been operating for 25 years, and Act! has been vital in helping us keep track of conversations with all of our customers. We have 35,000 contacts in our database and Act! helps make us more efficient.” – Carey Wilbur, Founder & Partner, Charter Capital
One of the pioneers of CRM, Act! has refined its software over the years to offer some of the best features for small businesses at an affordable price point. Out of the box, you get 30 custom fields (15 for sales and 15 for opportunities) on the entry plan, a beautifully designed Kaban board for managing your pipeline, and robust email marketing, including pre-built campaigns to get you started quicker.
And as for contact management, everything is included. You can keep emails, sales deals, websites, and addresses, including a neat Google Map plugin, to visualise their location.
Best of all, Act! CRM starts at a very competitive £15 per user per month, including digital support and very generous email send limits.
- Best for: the entry plan works great for small businesses, solopreneurs, and freelancers. SMBs can move to higher plans.
- Shortcomings: While Act! integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Office, Google and Outlook integrations are currently only available from the mid-tier plan onwards.
Click here to get started with your free trial of Act!.
Key Takeaways: Who Makes the Best Contact Management Software?
The good news is that there is no shortage of excellent contact management tools available these days. You’re sure to find the one that meets your business needs, whether you are:
- A small to medium business: Act! CRM has all the features you need at a very affordable price point.
- A freelancer looking for the cheapest option: you can’t go wrong with HubSpot’s free, albeit limited plan.
- A large organization: Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics 365 can meet your needs with their technical integrations.
And if you’ve got a bit of time to spare before committing to a solution, we’d recommend you try a few of them. Most providers offer a free trial, which will help you decide how best to simplify and streamline contact management for you and your team.
Click here to get started with your free trial of Act!.