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CRM for small businesses

Customer relationship management software isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal. Choose the right CRM for your small business.

A guide to the best CRM for small businesses

Last updated January 22, 2024

Even business people are consumers too. This means, whether you know it or not, you’ll have already interacted with customer relationship management (CRM) software. Almost every large enterprise organisation uses a CRM to give a positive buying experience to millions of customers. But that doesn’t mean CRM software is exclusive to big businesses.

The truth is, you don’t need millions of customers to benefit from CRM software. Implementing a CRM process boosts business in a big way, no matter how many customers you currently serve. In this guide, we’ll answer some key questions about CRM software for small businesses and give information about:

What is a CRM for small businesses?

Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps businesses of any size grow and maintain profitable relationships with their customers. A simple internet search will reveal hundreds of CRM providers offering tons of useful features. But if you’re running a small business, you likely don’t need all those features, and you certainly don’t want to pay for them.

CRM software for small businesses is designed to meet your customer and sales management requirements without weighing you down with extra tools you don’t need and can’t afford. They are built for simplicity and are scaled to operate with the resources you have on hand — providing only those features you need and are equipped to use, while still giving you room to grow.

When it comes to handling customer relations, many small businesses tend to stick to what they know: spreadsheets, calendars, emails, and (if necessary) your human service agents. This may serve you in the beginning, but at some point, something is bound to fall through the cracks. CRM software lets you gather all your customer service tasks onto a single platform and helps eliminate the human error that can prevent your business from successfully connecting to customers.

With better access to data, improved organisation and a more complete view of their customer journey, from lead to conversion, small businesses can operate with big-business efficiency.

How can a CRM tool help your small business?

Whether you’re a small business, start-up or one-person operation, your CRM software can help you do the heavy lifting when it comes to customer service tasks. It should streamline everyday tasks without putting an extra burden on your team.

Here are some of the ways using small business CRMs can help your organisation on a day-to-day basis.

Get to know your customers better

Your customers are buying from you for a reason and you might think you understand why your product is popular, but it’s much better to base this on customer data.. Without the hard data to tell you why customers are buying from you, you’re missing out on valuable insight that can help you improve your retention and acquisition rate.

CRM software lets you gather information about your customers from across multiple channels, including websites, social media and phone or email interactions. With that data stored and accessible from one platform, everyone on your team is in a better position to serve and anticipate customers' needs. Knowing who your customers are enables you to give them a more positive buying experience.

Cut down on human error

Even if everyone on your team is a meticulous record-keeper, at some point something is going to get lost. Alternatively, if someone leaves the company or has an IT mishap, your business could suffer for it.

The best small business CRMs will reduce the repercussions of anyhuman fallibility by automatically keeping records of customer interactions and consolidating all of that data into one place. Plus, with a cloud-based CRM, that information is accessible no matter where your team is operating from.

Personalise your messaging

Word-of-mouth is great — but there are only so many customers it can help you reach. Having a website and social media presence lets you expand your access to potential prospects and CRM enables you to pinpoint your area of focus and ensure you’re reaching the right audience.

You don’t need an entire marketing department to get your business seen by the right people. With data-driven customer insights provided by your CRM, whoever handles your marketing can create personalised messaging that speaks directly to your customer base. Additionally, you’ll be able to see which campaigns are working (and which aren’t) so you can keep improving your marketing tactics.

Reduce costs

CRM software comes at a price — but choosing the right one for small businesses will end up saving you money in the long run.

Time wasted is money wasted, and most small businesses can’t afford to hire extra team members to keep up with tedious, day-to-day tasks. Small business CRMs let you automate repetitive tasks, freeing up your team’s time to generate more sales. On top of that, having all of your data stored in one place means team members can keep track of all the relevant information and interactions without having to constantly exchange emails and wait for responses: real-time data means real-time business.

Create room for growth

Everyone wants their company to grow, but it’s no good taking on new customers or adding new products to your line if you don’t have the time or manpower to handle the additional workload this involves. Without a CRM to handle your customer relations, your team can easily reach workload capacity which translates to burnout, mistakes and customer dissatisfaction.

Using a CRM streamlines everyday workflows so your team has the time and energy to pursue more leads, expand your services and add exciting new products or promotions to your offering.

What features do you need in a small business CRM?

CRM software can often come with a lot of features, but small business CRMs doesn’t need many to function effectively. The best CRM tools for small businesses are the ones that focus on streamlining the tasks you’re already doing. So when you’re shopping around for a CRM, keep your eye out for these key features.

Effective contact management

At its most basic, CRM software is there to help manage your contact lists more effectively. Think of it as the ultimate address book with all the customer data you could ask for. It not only stores phone numbers, emails, and addresses, but social media handles, notes from interactions, access to purchasing history and demographic data.

Using this information, you can easily segment your contact list into different groups and target them with relevant new promotions or products. With cloud-based storage, anyone from your team can drop contacts into the list no matter where they are, so you don’t have to worry about time-sensitive leads wasting away in unshared spreadsheets.

A clean and easy-to-use CRM dashboard

Your CRM dashboard is a visual representation of all your business activities. It easily tracks goals, contacts and performance metrics in the form of charts, reports, graphs, and maps. It’s a one-stop view of the most important and up-to-date CRM data, so you can always see how your business is performing.

CRM Dashboard Zendesk

Dashboards are also customizable and easily tailored to reflect your unique sales process. Plus, employees can pick and choose the most relevant data they want to be displayed on their personalised dashboard.

Email marketing

Email marketing is a key feature of small business CRMs; this tool allows you to send well-timed emails to leads and customers. Moreover, pre-made templates allow you to easily create marketing campaigns, while monitoring capabilities let you see which emails were successful and which fell flat. Lastly, third-party integrations sync with popular email apps like Google and Outlook, so no matter how your customers receive their email, you’ll know your messages are getting through.

Scheduling and reminders

When you write down a task and its due date in your planner, it doesn’t automatically remind you when that due date is approaching. Having easy-to-use scheduling and notification features is like gifting every member of your team with a personal assistant that tells them when important appointments are coming up, and exactly which tasks still need doing.

Data collection and management

Wherever you’re getting your data — from hand-written forms to landing pages — you should be compiling customer information from the moment they enter your funnel. Yet simply collecting data isn’t enough: it also needs to be managed.

Data management tools help you segment your contact lists, delete duplicates and update old data as it becomes obsolete. Most importantly, your CRM tools should do all of this with up-to-date security in place, so your customer information is safe from hackers and breaches.

Sales pipeline & sales funnel

A sales pipeline and a sales funnel are two sides of the same coin. The sales pipeline is a view of the customer experience from the sales rep’s point of view, while the sales funnel provides a view of the same cycle from the customer’s perspective. The best CRMs for small businesses should be able to give you a clear overview of both.

CRM Sales Pipeline

Being able to see how many customers are in the pipeline and funnel lets you know in real-time if you’re on track to meeting your goals. Additionally, any bottlenecking within the process tells you where you need to direct your focus and make changes to your sales cycle.

What are the benefits of CRM for small businesses?

A CRM platform is an investment, so you should know what you’re going to get out of it. Whether you’re a one-person operation or working in a team, integrating CRM into your daily workflow can massively boost productivity and bring your business to the next level.

Increased sales and profits

Understanding your customer base better means you can pre-empt and meet their needs, which helps you to increase your conversion rates.

CRMs boost sales by helping you maintain longer relationships with your customers, identify opportunities to upsell or cross-sell and gather referrals from satisfied customers in order to bring in new buyers.

Happier customers

Even in a world dominated by big corporations, many consumers still love the experience of shopping with independent small businesses. A CRM can help you to give every customer a personalised experience.

No matter how much a customer likes your product, a bad interaction with customer service can sour the relationship and drive them towards the competition. CRM software helps you build the kind of relationships that last over time, even as your company continues to grow and increase its customer base.

Improved team collaboration

Your team has one goal — to sell. But the big picture can be easy to overlook during day-to-day operations. Communication silos happen when people fail to share important information with each other, whether through disorganisation or oversight. This can have a seriously detrimental effect on business and internal relationships.

CRM reduces siloed working by letting everyone share their data easily. This increases opportunities for effective collaboration. When everyone can see the big picture and how they directly contribute to it, they’re more likely to work together and share useful insights.

Stronger marketing campaigns

Consumers today are flooded with ads from every angle, which means marketers are always trying to stay ahead of the competition. Implementing CRM tools for marketing lets your team create personalised campaigns that are more likely to stand out amid the noise. Additionally, CRM tools let your marketers monitor their campaigns so they can see what drew customers in and what got ignored — leading to stronger tactics and more effective campaigns over time.

Data-driven reporting and analytics

As a small business, you need to know what works and what doesn’t so you can quickly address operational issues. Having access to real-time sales pipeline data and smart analytics lets you know exactly where there’s room for improvement — ensuring any adjustments you make are based on hard data, not gut instinct.

How to choose the right small business CRM

There are many types of CRM software out there, but you’ll want to do some careful thinking before choosing one. First, talk with your team and consider what everyone’s needs are so you can build a CRM strategy. Here are some questions to consider to get a better understanding of what you need from your CRM software.

  • How many customers do you currently serve?

  • Who is your ideal customer?

  • How do you typically interact with customers? In-person, on social media, or over the phone?

  • How are you currently bringing in leads, and how would you like to expand your reach?

  • What repetitive tasks are dragging down productivity and gobbling up team members’ time?

  • What is everyone’s comfort level with using new software? Is one person comfortable taking the lead on training?

  • What other apps do you currently use to conduct business?

  • What are your plans for growth in the future?


Next, be prepared to ask CRM vendors the following to make sure they can serve your needs:

  • Is your platform cloud-based so my team can work from anywhere?

  • What security features come with the platform?

  • Can features be added in the future as my business grows?

  • What third-party app integrations do you offer?

  • How user-friendly is your software?

  • What kind of support do you offer if my team members have issues?

  • Do you offer training?

Always keep in mind what makes your business and your customers unique, and be prepared to do some research. There are a lot of CRMs out there, but not all of them will match your needs.

Top 10 CRM for small businesses

When you’re looking for the best CRM system for small businesses, make sure to check what features are included in the pricing tiers, as not all packages include every feature. If you don’t see the features you want to be included, some vendors will still offer add-on features so you can pick and choose.

Check out our list of the top CRM for small business options on the market today.

1. Sell: The Zendesk CRM for sales

Zendesk Sell CRM for small businesses

Zendesk is a powerful cloud-based platform offering a host of useful CRM tools for small businesses. Zendesk prioritizes usability and CRM best practices, ensuring that members know exactly how to use their features effectively.

Zendesk is designed for ease of use and flexibility, offering a host of third-party app integrations and powerful features. Zendesk can be customised to fit any workflow and provide useful tools that help acquire and retain happy customers. Designed with customer support agents in mind, Zendesk is easily among the top CRMs for small businesses on the market.

Features

Free trial/subscription: 14 day free trial



Lowest pricing tier: $19/month per user (billed annually)

2. Drip

Drip CRM

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Drip was designed specifically with eCommerce in mind. It has cloud-based capabilities and is known for its tagging system, which lets users organise their contacts using any custom field. Unlike CRMs that base their subscriptions on the number of users within a company, Drip models its pricing on how many subscribers are in your contact list.

Features

  • Automation workflows

  • Contact management

  • List segmentation

  • A/B testing

  • Analytics/ROI tracking

  • Email templates

  • Dashboard

  • Tagging

Free trial/subscription: 14 day free trial



Lowest pricing tier: $19/per month for 1-500 subscribers

3. Sendinblue

Sendinblue CRM

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Sendinblue is a cloud-based email marketing and automation tool that offers pre-designed templates and drag-and-drop email creation options. Sendinblue uses AI to determine the best time to send out emails and offers integrations with eCommerce platforms like Wordpress, Shopify and WooCommerce.

Rather than basing its price on the number of contacts, Sendinblue prices its packages according to how many emails businesses send out per month.

Features

  • Marketing automation

  • Landing pages/web forms

  • A/B testing

  • Analytics/ROI tracking

  • Contact database

  • Drip campaigns

  • Subscriber management

  • Segmentation

Free trial/subscription: free subscription for up to 9,000 emails a month



Lowest pricing tier: $25/month for up to 10,000 emails

4. Constant Contact

Constant Contact CRM

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Constant Contact is an email marketing provider that’s designed for eCommerce brands. Users can create e-magazines, email coupons and build social media campaigns to bring in leads from platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Constant Contact also includes an AI-powered website builder with a content delivery network (CDN) where users to create eCommerce websites. Pricing is based on the number of contacts on a user’s email list.

Features

  • A/B testing

  • Analytics/ROI tracking

  • Image library

  • Social marketing

  • Contact database

  • Segmentation

  • Landing pages/web forms

  • Dashboard

Free trial/subscription: free demo available



Lowest pricing tier: $20/month

5. Salesflare

Salesflare CRM

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Salesflare is a CRM system with a focus on small to medium-sized B2B businesses. Salesflare specialises in lead nurturing: gathering customer data from social media, email signatures and social media profiles.. It can also integrate with calendars and be used on mobile devices, making it possible to record customer interactions and schedule follow-ups from anywhere.

Features

  • Dashboards

  • Auto-responders

  • Contact management

  • Pipeline management

  • Drip campaigns

  • Lead nurturing

  • Project management

  • Internal chat integration

Free trial/subscription: 30 day free trial



Lowest pricing tier: $35/month (billed monthly) or $29/month (billed annually)

6. Zoho

Zoho CRM

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Zoho is a cloud-based CRM system for SMEs that can integrate with more than 500 business apps. Zoho’s key features include pipeline management, sales funnel optimisation, marketing campaign management and AI-powered conversation assistants. In addition to its CRM software, Zoho also hosts a suite of other business apps, including Workplace, Finance Plus, Creator Plus, and IT Management.

Features

  • Dashboard

  • Sales forecasting

  • Reporting & analytics

  • Segmentation

  • Drip campaigns

  • Performance metrics

  • Website visitor tracking

  • Lead nurturing

Free trial/subscription: Free Edition for up to 3 users, 15 day free trial



Lowest pricing tier: $14/month per user

7. Pipedrive

Pipedrive CRM

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Pipedrive is a web-based lead management platform that can be accessed from any browser or mobile device. Designed with activity-based sales in mind, Pipedrive offers CRM tools for small businesses that are focused on activity-based selling and includes features like pipeline management, scheduling and lead tracking. Pipeline’s LeadBooster tool, available to add to any plan for an additional charge, also comes with chatbox, live chat, web forms, and prospector functions.

Features

  • Calendar/reminder system

  • Churn management

  • Campaign management

  • Contact database

  • Dashboard

  • Prospecting tools

  • Lead nurturing

  • Interaction tracking

Free trial/subscription: 30 day free trial



Lowest pricing tier: $12.50/month per user (billed annually) or $18/month per user (billed monthly)

8. Freshworks

Zoho CRM

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Freshworks is a CRM application for small to large businesses. Freshworks offers AI-powered lead scoring and native integrations for third-party apps. The basic CRM package for small businesses includes basic features like contact management, web forms, website tracking and a visual sales pipeline. Users can also pick and choose add-on features such as conversion rate optimisation and marketing contacts.

Features

  • A/B testing

  • Analytics/ROI tracking

  • Campaign management

  • Segmentation

  • Website tracking

  • Auto-responders

  • Email marketing

  • Pipeline management

Free trial/subscription: 21 day free trial



Lowest pricing tier: $29/month per user (billed annually) or $35/month per user (billed monthly)

9. Keap

Keap CRM

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Keap is a sales and marketing CRM platform offering integrations with more 2,500 commonly used business apps, including Zapier, Wordpress, AdEspresso, and Instapage. Keap is designed for tech-wary users who prefer a simpler interface and easy-to-use customisation capabilities. Itincludes pre-written email templates and automation tools.

Features

  • Contact management

  • Segmentation

  • B2B management

  • Internal forms

  • Email marketing

  • Automations

  • Reminders

  • Email sync (Google & Outlook)

Free trial/subscription: 14 day free trial



Lowest pricing tier: $79/month per user, up to 500 contacts

10. ClickUp

ClickUp CRM

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Clickup is a task management CRM platform for small businesses. It offers native integrations with popular apps like Dropbox, Slack, and G Suite and includes a customisable dashboard. ClickUp has a free version that includes up to 100MB of storage and up to 100 automations a month.

Features

  • Billing & invoicing

  • Campaign management

  • Dashboard

  • Performance metrics

  • KPI monitoring

  • Contact management

  • Backlog management

  • Marketing automation

Free trial/subscription: free version for up to 5 spaces



Lowest pricing tier: $5/month per user (billed annually) or $9/month per user (billed monthly)

How to choose the right small business CRM?

There are many types of CRM software options out there, but you’ll want to do some careful thinking before choosing one. First, talk with your team and consider what everyone’s needs are so you can build a CRM strategy. Here are some questions to consider to get a better understanding of what you need from your CRM software.

  • How many customers do you currently serve?

  • Who is your ideal customer?

  • How do you typically interact with customers? In-person, on social media, or over the phone?

  • How are you currently bringing in leads, and how would you like to expand your reach?

  • What repetitive tasks are dragging down productivity and gobbling up team members’ time?

  • What is everyone’s comfort level with using new software? Is one person comfortable taking the lead on training?

  • What other apps do you currently use to conduct business?

  • What are your plans for growth in the future?

Next, be prepared to ask CRM vendors the following to make sure they can serve your needs:

  • Is your platform cloud-based so my team can work from anywhere?

  • What security features come with the platform?

  • Can features be added in the future as my business grows?

  • What third-party app integrations do you offer?

  • How user-friendly is your software?

  • What kind of support do you offer if my team members have issues?

  • Do you offer training?

Always keep in mind what makes your business and your customers unique, and be prepared to do some research. There are a lot of CRMs out there, but not all of them will match your needs.

Frequently asked questions on small business CRMs

Though you now know what CRM can do for your business, you likely still have questions. Here are some queries small business owners often ask before starting their search:

Frequently asked questions on small business CRMs

Though you now know what CRM can do for your business, you likely still have questions. Here are some queries small business owners often ask before starting their search:

Try CRM software for your small business for free

Zendesk was created to put the customer first, whether they’re buying from a small one-person operation or a large-scale enterprise business. No matter how many customers you currently serve, every single one counts towards your success.

That’s why our sales CRM is outfitted specifically to keep customers happy and coming back for more. Try 14 days of free CRM a risk-free test drive of one of the best sales CRMs for small businesses out there.

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There’s a lot more where this came from. Keep exploring the world of CRM for small businesses, global user processes, and sales customer service software.

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