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

You’re a consumer as much as you’re a business person, which means you’ve already interacted with customer relationship management — or CRM software — whether you know it or not. Apple, Coca-cola, Amazon, Wells Fargo, Activision, and nearly every other enterprise organization use CRM to serve millions of customers. But that doesn’t mean customer relationship management is exclusive to big businesses.

The truth is, you don’t need millions of customers to benefit from CRM software. Implementing a CRM process into your daily workflow boosts business in a big way, no matter how many customers you currently serve. In this guide, we’ll answer some of your most pressing questions about CRM software for small businesses and go over the following:

What is CRM for small business?

Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps businesses 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, on the other hand, 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.

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

Enterprise CRM platforms often come loaded with features like business intelligence and call center management, which can require teams of dedicated IT personnel to run. But CRM for small businesses is built for simplicity. It’s 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.

With better access to data, improved organization, and a more complete view of your customer journey from lead to conversion, even 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, every team member needs to be able to handle some heavy lifting. And your CRM software is no exception: it should streamline everyday tasks without putting an extra burden on your team.

Here are some of the ways using sales CRM for small businesses can help your organization on a day-to-day basis.

Get to know your customers (and what they want)

Your customers are buying from you for a reason. You might think you understand why your product is popular with some demographics and not others, but it’s much better to know. Without the hard data to tell you why customers are buying, you’re missing out on valuable insight that can help you retain the customers you have, and win over new ones.

CRM software lets you gather information about your customers from across multiple channels, including websites, social media, and phone interactions. With that data stored and accessible from one spot, everyone on your team is in a better position to serve customers' needs and anticipate their wants. Knowing who your customers are lets you see a more complete customer portrait.

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. And if someone leaves the company or has an IT mishap, your business could suffer for it.

The best CRM for small businesses will reduce the repercussions of (inevitable) human fallibility by automatically keeping records of customer interactions and consolidating all of that data into one place. And with a cloud CRM with cloud-based storage capabilities, that information is accessible no matter where your team is operating.

Personalize your messaging

Word-of-mouth is great — but there’s only so far it can get you. Having a website and social media presence lets you expand your network, and CRM lets you pinpoint your area of focus to 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 personalized 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 with a price — but the best CRM system for small businesses will actually end up saving you money.

Time wasted is money wasted, and most small businesses can’t afford to hire extra labor just so they can keep up with tedious, day-to-day tasks. CRM for small businesses lets you automate repetitive tasks, freeing up your time to generate more sales. On top of that, having all of your data stored in one spot means that team members don’t have 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 labor. 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 workflow so your team has time and energy left over to pursue more leads, expand your services, and add exciting new products or promotions.

What features do you need in a small business CRM?

CRM software can often come with a lot of bells and whistles, but CRM for small businesses doesn’t need much in the noise-making department. The best CRM tools for small businesses are the ones that focus on streamlining the tasks you’re already doing. When you’re shopping around for the best CRM for small businesses, keep your eye out for these key features.

Small Business Contact Management

At its most basic, CRM software is there to help manage your contact lists. Think of it as the ultimate address book — you’ll store not only 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 so you can target customers with pinpoint precision when running a new promotion or announcing a new product. And 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 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. And because not everyone needs to see all their numbers at once, employees can pick and choose precisely what data they want to be displayed on their personalized dashboard.

Email marketing

Email marketing is a key feature of CRM for small businesses; 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 campaigns 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 & Reminders

When you write down a task and its due date in your planner, your planner doesn’t independently 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 & 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. But 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 CRM 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 on a team, integrating CRM into your daily workflow can massively boost productivity and bring your business to the next level.

Increased sales and profits

A Nucleus Research study found that using a CRM pays back about $8.71 for every dollar spent — and it’s no mystery as to why. Understanding your customer base increases conversion rates.

CRM boosts sales by helping you maintain longer relationships with your customers, identify opportunities to upsell and 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 patronizing small businesses. Being able to give every customer a personalized experience lets them feel like a priority, and not just another wallet on a conveyor belt.

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

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, through disorganization or oversight. Whatever the cause of the silo, it can have a seriously detrimental effect on business and internal relationships.

CRM reduces silo working by letting everyone share their data easily, which increases opportunities for enthusiastic 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 personalized 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 current sales pipeline info 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.

Top 10 CRM for small businesses

  1. Zendesk Sell
  2. Drip
  3. Sendinblue
  4. Constant Contact
  5. Salesflare
  1. Zoho
  2. Pipedrive
  3. Freshworks
  4. Keap
  5. ClickUp

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. Zendesk Sell

Zendesk Sell CRM for small businesses

Recently listed as a leader in the2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant CRM for customer engagement, 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, and never get confused.

Zendesk is designed for ease of use and flexibility, offering a host of third-party app integrations and powerful features. Zendesk can be customized to fit any workflow and provides useful tools that help recruit and maintain happy customers. Designed with customer support agents in mind, Zendesk is easily among the top CRM for small business options on the market.

Features

  • Sales management
  • Customizable dashboard
  • Email automation
  • Lead tracking
  • 360 degree feedback
  • Sales pipeline tracking
  • Built-in click-to-dial call and recording
  • Customer segmentation
  • customer analytics
  • Contact management
  • Knowledge base
  • Forecasting
  • Mobile user support

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 organize their contacts using any custom field. Unlike CRMs that base their subscriptions on the number of users within a company, Drip models its pricing after how many subscribers users have on their 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 its users 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 e-commerce 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 users 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 specifically targets e-commerce 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 their content delivery network (CDN) for 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 specializes in lead nurturing: gathering customer data from social media, email signatures, and public profiles such as LinkedIn. It also provides options for linking your CRM app to calendars and 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 SMBs that offers integrations with over 500 business apps. Zoho’s key features include pipeline management, sales funnel, marketing campaign management, and AI-powered conversation assistant. 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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What started out as Freshsales is now Freshworks, a CRM application for small to large businesses. Freshworks offers AI-powered lead scoring and native integrations for 3rd-party apps, and the starting CRM package for small businesses include 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 optimization 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 over 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 customization capabilities, and includes 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 customizable 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)

A summary of the best CRM software for small businesses

Check out the chart below to compare the top CRMs for small businesses.

CRM software

Analytics/ROI tracking

Marketing automation

24/7 Live Rep Support

Training (in person & online)

Dashboard

Sales pipeline

Cloud

Mobile app

Zendesk

Drip

X

X

X

X
Sendinblue

X

X

X

X

Constant Contact

X

X

X

X

Salesflare

X

X

X

X

Zoho

X

Pipedrive

X

X

Freshworks

X

Keap

X

X

ClickUp

X

X

*features data sourced from Capterra.com

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:

Do small companies need a CRM?

Do you absolutely, 100% need one? The short answer is no. You can continue manually filling in spreadsheets, sharing data over email, waiting for said emails to arrive, and then correcting errors as you find them. Businesses can operate without CRMs, but going without one immediately puts you at a major disadvantage.

If you can afford to implement a CRM platform into your business, you should seriously consider doing it. Not only will it boost sales and productivity, but it will eliminate a lot of the headaches that often come with handling customers. Can you run a business while nursing a headache? Sure. But who would want to?

How much does CRM cost for small businesses?

The cost of implementing CRM software varies. Subscriptions are either based on the number of features you want or how many users you plan to sign up. The most common pricing model is a monthly rate per person, and can start as low as $8/month per user. Luckily, many CRM vendors offer free trials so you can test out their features at no cost.

When considering pricing and what you can afford, keep in mind that whichever CRM platform you decide on should be able to scale with you as business expands. There’s little point in acclimating to new software if it can’t grow with you.

What size should my business be before considering a CRM?

There’s no hard and fast rule for what size your company should be before you need to implement CRM software. But whether you’re working on a 10-person team or all by yourself, there are some clear signs that will let you know when you should invest in CRM:

  • Customer data is getting lost or not being shared between relevant parties.
  • You or your sales reps lack insight into what actually converts leads into sales, and are simply “winging it” and hoping to hit the mark.
  • Your team members spend more time doing menial, repetitive tasks than they do selling.
  • You only have a vague idea of who your customers are, and you find yourself throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.

In the end, it isn’t about how many people you work with or how many customers you have. The best sales CRM for small business lets you streamline your day-to-day operations no matter how small you are or how much you plan to grow.

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 Zendesk is outfitted specifically to keep customers happy and coming back for more. Try 14 days of free CRM with Zendesk for a risk-free test drive of one of the best CRM for small businesses out there (if we do say so ourselves).

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