Managing your contacts via a reliable Customer Relationship Management (CRM) service is vital to keeping your business organized and running smoothly. A long-view CRM strategy is key (and this guide can help), but when it comes down to choosing a software service, there are so many to choose from that it can be tough to know where to begin.
For starters, when shopping around for your CRM software, there are four major factors to consider:
- Mobility. Especially at a brand new startup, you will likely be on the move a lot, networking, visiting clients, etc. So your CRM should have a strong mobile app.
- Ease of Use. A CRM that's difficult to figure out won't just confound you at the early stages of your company; it will confound any employees you later bring on to interface with it. Find a CRM that's easy to use lest the problem compound itself.
- Price. Try to avoid annual contracts or upfront payments. Ideally, you'll be able to find services that offer a free trial.
- Growth. While that simple, minimalist service might look like a time-saver now, it won't be if you have to upgrade a year from now. Look for options with advanced features that you can take advantage of as you grow.
Beyond that, it's research, research, research! To help, we've laid out pros and cons for a few of the most popular small business CRMs below.
Pros: One of the most consistently well-rated services out there, Salesforce manages to provide both simplicity and depth. Its Chatter program allows real-time collaboration among co-workers, and each employee sets up a profile (useful as your company grows and your employees are less familiar with each other). It also provides real-time alerts, and any problems are handled quickly by their support line.
Cons: The CRM software is only available as a web-hosted service, and plans may be more expensive than competitors.
Pros: Nimble starts at just $15, but there's also a (feature-limited) free version. The social-focused software aggregates each of your contact's data from Gmail, Facebook, LinkedIn and any number of other sites, giving you an easily digestible, fuller view for any particular contact.
Cons: Mix-ups in contact management are frequent, potentially leading you to accounts of the wrong people. And the $15 price doesn't include features like Google Analytics Integration.
3. Capsule CRM
Pros: Available at the rock-bottom price of just $12/month, reviewers rave about Capsule’s simplicity and smooth integration with Google apps.
Cons: A note or email can only be added to the file of a "contact" or "opportunity," not both at the same time, meaning you must over-define and choose, potentially making record keeping problematic later on.
4. Highrise HQ
Pros: High on simplicity and low on customization options, Highrise is a solid service only for very small companies looking for basic sales management. Their low price point makes them worth looking at for those with a tight budget.
Cons: Unlike many of its competitors, Highrise doesn't directly integrate with email, instead using an “email dropbox” system that users find a bit clunky. There's also no phone support (though the subscription comes with unlimited email support).
Pros: Like Salesforce, Act! is a big name in the CRM space, and it's clear why. They check off all the standard functions and add on great extras like meeting notes and task reminders. The other benefit of using such a well-known service? Employees with biz dev experience are more likely to be familiar with it.
Cons: Some users complain that the new mobile features (cloud storage, in particular) have created basic functionality problems: endless loading, becoming locked out of databases, etc.