How to Choose the Best CRM Software for Small Businesses

For small businesses, customer relationship management is incredibly important. However, keeping up with hundreds or thousands of customers can be mind-boggling for a small business. Adding that personal touch to sales emails, updates, special offers, and a regular newsletter requires software that can represent the brand and voice.

Most small businesses have an email list with both customers and prospective customers. And if you have a lead magnet (a freebie to gather email addresses) then you likely have a large portion of people who are considered warm leads from downloading your freebie.

Each person on an email list plays a different role with different wants and needs to a small business owner. Nurturing each person individually is pretty much impossible, so instead, we use highly intuitive customer relationship management (CRM) software.

There are many different types of CRM software available that offer an array of different features and capabilities. Depending on how you want to nurture and engage your subscribers, there’s a CRM platform for that.

When you get an email in your inbox from a company you love, you’re excited to open it and see what they have going on. Similarly, when you receive an email from a company you rarely engage with, you may be intrigued to open it to see if they have any special offers or sales happening.

Keeping up with subscribers is one simple way to make them feel loved, supported, and seen. Every company, from the smallest start-up to the biggest corporations in the world need CRM software. And because this need is so universal, there are many different platforms available. IT can be overwhelming, and expensive, to choose a CRM platform to host your beloved customers on.

When choosing the right platform for your needs, size, forecasting, and volume, there are many things to consider. And before you even begin to shop around, let’s take a look at what exactly CRM software is, what you can use it for, how it can help your company grow, and what to look for from a platform.

What is CRM Software?

If you’re still wondering what exactly CRM software is, let’s take a deeper look. CRM software is a hosting platform for your email list that allows you to send segmented emails to past customers, potential customers, collect new email addresses, and create a unique customer experience that converts. All your contacts live in one place which allows for reporting, analytics, data capture, segmentation, funnels, customer journey/drip campaigns, and so much more.

This all-in-one tool for customer management and nurturing can be highly customized with customer data. Customization in the customer experience is highly effective and can not only help you connect on a deeper level with a customer, but can also help keep you out of the spam folder.

As a small business grows, managing customers manually can become incredibly difficult and risky. One wrong entry can bring an entire system down. That’s why companies of every size rely on CRMs to do the tedious work for them.

Additionally, as a company crossed the threshold of being a small business into a midsize or large business, a CRM platform can help bridge the gap between marketing, sales, and customer service teams. All the data that each team in the company needs can be stored in CRM software.

Benefits of CRM Software for Small Businesses

There are many benefits to using CRM software as a small business.

  • Better customer/client relationship
  • Nurturing of current customers
  • Engagement of prospective customers
  • Detailed data and reporting
  • Automation and funnels
  • Reduces manual efforts and increases sales

Drawbacks to not using CRM as a small business:

  • Manual data entry
  • Manual customer management
  • Manual email marketing
  • No drip campaigns or sales funnels
  • Stunted customer experience and customer journey
  • No easy access to customer data for all team members

Using CRM software is pretty much a must for any business. Manually managing customers leaves too much room for human error and doesn’t allow for the intelligent and intuitive customization of email marketing.

So, you know you need CRM software, but what should you look for?

What to Look for in CRM Software

With any CRM software, the customer will always come first. As a small business, many of the larger CRM software companies will have features and settings that you simply won’t need.

Getting clear on what you do need, and how you want to grow, is essential to choosing the right CRM software. The best CRM software does much more than just organize your contacts. It also helps with lead generation and email marketing, so you can actually grow and nurture your database.

Here are some of the basics that every small business will need in CRM software:

  • Contact organization and management
  • Email marketing
  • Sales
  • Reporting dashboard
  • Lead generation
  • Customizable forms
  • Landing page capability
  • Ads center
  • Branding elements (logo, font, colors)
  • Free or very affordable
  • Room to grow and customize features

With these basics in mind, you’re still looking at a huge pool of potential CRMs that can work for any small business. Weeding through the options doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Here’s what you want to drill down on further to make your choice for the best CRM for your small business:

  • Easy to Use
    Any software will have a learning curve while you figure out what each feature does. Navigating a CRM can feel overwhelming at first, but then it’s ideal that you fall into a groove and know exactly where to find what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, not all CRMs are intuitive with user experience at their forefront. With most platforms, you’ll either be able to take a tour or start a free trial to see how it feels. Just because a platform may be more complicated doesn’t mean that it’s worth the price tag.
  • Cloud-based Management
    With a cloud-based CRM, anyone on your team can gain access from anywhere. This is incredibly convenient in the world we live in currently, with so many people working remotely. You want to be able to access all your customer data, campaign stats, reporting dashboard, and more from anywhere with WiFi. With the direction that CRM software is moving in, just about everything is accessible remotely, but you still need to make sure. Plus, cloud-based software is more secure, faster, and makes it easier to integrate with the other apps you use to keep your business thriving.
  • Drip Campaigns and Funnels
    The holy grail of email marketing, drip campaigns and funnels are automated messages that get sent from a certain action being taken. This may be an additional fee with some CRMs, but it’ll surely be worth it. Being able to automatically communicate with customers and potential customers with the “set it and forget it” model is incredibly lucrative and saves a ton of time. Rather than sending an email manually at a certain timestamp, drip campaigns and funnels are automated and really ramp up the customer experience through a thorough journey. From the moment a contact subscribes, there needs to be a series of emails that are sent to keep them engaged and nurtured.
  • Third-Party Integrations
    Most small businesses have a website, social media, apps, SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) service, and lead generation software. Finding a CRM that integrates with these other platforms is essential. You want your CRM usage to be seamless and accessible from all platforms, and by all team members. By ensuring that these integrations are supported before you commit, you’ll be helping your business grow.
  • Automation
    Automation is a huge aspect of the benefits of CRM software. As business is just getting started and is growing, all the time spent on data entry, customer management, email marketing, etc is time wasted. Automation allows you to send drip campaigns, send automatic campaigns when a lead magnet is downloaded, organize sales funnels, and separate customers into different lists for segmentation based on purchase history. Software like Zapier is great, but if you can find a CRM with some of the same capabilities, you’ll save some money. Look for app integration, list management, and automation in the sales list. And try before you buy.
  • Robust Reporting
    Without data, marketing would just be a bunch of people throwing spaghetti at a wall to see if it sticks. With data, we are able to make decisions based on hard numbers that will help with open rates, click rates, lead generation, and list health. A robust reporting dashboard is essential to any CRM software. You want to know as much information as you can about your automation, segments, tags, separate lists, overall ranking, bounce rate, and more. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to customize your campaigns, landing pages, ads, forms, and subject lines. Even down to the words, you use on your buttons will be more clear with a robust reporting dashboard.
  • Growth Capacity
    The goal behind every small business is to grow. And as a business grows, needs change and adjustments must be made. With the right CRM software, there will be room to grow and upgrade to use features that will make it easier to communicate with and nurture your customers. These features might be more efficient reports, more data collected, larger list capacity, and the features that help you go from a small business to a large business. Look through the different pricing tiers to see what growth potential there is for your small business.
  • Pricing
    The most important aspect of CRM, the cost. There are many CRMs out there that are 100% free, but the features are also limited. You get what you pay for, or don’t pay for, so when it comes to making a decision, make sure you’re within budget but are also getting the essential features you need. Starting with a free trial or the free version of a platform is the best way to see if it’s a good fit. There are also restrictions of list size, so keep that in mind. For example, HubSpot is a 100% free CRM, but for more powerful features you’ll need to upgrade.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many different features available on different platforms that you can take advantage of. Starting with these points, however, will help you get clear on what you’re looking for in a CRM and how it can help streamline your processes and eventually help your business grow.

Popular CRM Software for Small Businesses

Some people are incredibly loyal to one service, but it’s worth shopping around before you pull the trigger.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are 20 of the most popular CRM software platforms:

  1. HubSpot
  2. Drip
  3. Ontraport
  4. Constant Contact
  5. Salesforce
  6. Agile CRM
  7. Streak CRM for Gmail
  8. Insightly
  9. Zoho
  10. Freshsales
  11. Apptivo
  12. Pipedrive
  13. Monday.com
  14. Oracle
  15. Microsoft Dynamics 365
  16. Nimble
  17. SugarCRM
  18. ZenDesk
  19. Creatio
  20. ConvertKit

Many of these platforms have been around a long time, so they’ve been able to amplify their features and lead the industry. Others are new, but just as powerful because they’ve watched what has worked and hasn’t worked with the older CRMs.

The Bottom Line

Get a CRM software that serves you and your needs. With so many options available in all price ranges, there’s truly something for every small and growing business. Email marketing and customer nurturing is the easiest and fastest way to establish customer loyalty and build a thriving business.

Whether you’re in sales, eCommerce, marketing, management, editorial, or any industry, there’s a CRM that is perfect for your needs. And with so many choices, you’re sure to find some features you didn’t even know you needed!

If email marketing is new to you or there just isn’t enough room on your plate to give it the attention it deserves, just get in touch with us at Pico Digital Marketing. We’ll create custom solutions to amplify your expertise while you do what you do best. Digital marketing is our specialty and we’ll treat your customers as if they were our own.

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