Best CRM For Small Business Of 2024 – Forbes Advisor

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Customer relationship management (CRM) software helps businesses increase sales, drive growth and provide exceptional customer experiences. There are many CRM platforms on the market, each with its own set of features and benefits. To help make your research easy, we’ve created a guide to the best CRM for small business available today. Take a closer look at our top picks so you can find your ideal CRM software.

The Forbes Advisor Small Business team is committed to bringing you unbiased rankings and information with full editorial independence. We use product data, strategic methodologies and expert insights to inform all of our content to guide you in making the best decisions for your business journey.

To find the best CRM services for small businesses, we considered over 25 of the leading CRM providers in the space and narrowed it down to 15, which we then evaluated across five key categories and 35 different metrics. Our ratings consider factors such as transparent pricing, pipeline and dashboard customization options, compatibility with third-party integrations, access to customer support and user experience. All ratings are determined solely by our editorial team.

Free; $14 per month (billed annually) or $20 per month (billed monthly)

Free; $14 per month (billed annually) or $20 per month (billed monthly)

Free; $14 per month (billed annually) or $20 per month (billed monthly)

Zoho CRM offers everything you need to manage your sales pipeline and grow your business. It allows businesses of all sizes to customize their process, create sales workflows and leverage powerful reporting. It also provides a full suite of apps that integrate with the platform for marketing, customer support, accounting, human resources and inventory management, provided you have a paid plan.

Monthly plans start at $20 per month and go up to $65 per month, with a sizeable discount if you sign up for a full year. There’s also a free option. The free basic plan is good for up to three users, so it’s best for small businesses and startups, and includes leads, deals, contact management, tasks, events, Zoho app integrations and multichannel marketing.

Paid plans include features such as custom dashboards, inventory management, advanced customization and scoring rules. You can also create a mobile app for your business in minutes using Zoho Creator. It allows you to access your business data from anywhere, directly from your Android and iOS devices.

Zoho CRM is best for startups and small businesses because of its sales workflows and pay-as-you-go pricing.

Cloud-based is best for teams that need to collaborate on tasks and projects. The platform offers a Kanban-style board view of your tasks that helps you visualize your work and collaborate with team members. You can also track the progress of projects, add due dates and comments and attach files.

You can get a free trial for 14 days, and monthly pricing starts at free and goes up to $60 for three users (yearly subscribers receive an 18% discount). For Enterprise-level plans, you must contact sales for a quote. Its free plan is robust, with templates for lead, contact and deal management, web forms, up to 1,000 contacts, two team members, over 20 column types and an iOS and Android app.

Paid plans include features such as unlimited customizable pipelines, unlimited contacts and viewers, sales forecasting, sales analytics, automations and integrations.

The flexible CRM is best for teams, especially those that need to collaborate on projects and tasks. The platform visualizes your work in Kanban-style boards and lets you track the progress of tasks and add due dates, comments and attachments.

Freshsales built-in lead capture forms allow you to easily gather information from potential customers on the web. Then, track leads through your sales pipeline and convert them into opportunities and customers.

You can get a free trial for 21 days, and pricing starts at free and goes up to $83 per user per month. Paid plans include features such as multicurrency support, advanced reporting and analytics, business process workflows, deal management and holiday routing.

Freshsales is best for businesses that need a CRM with comprehensive lead management.

Salesforce is best for businesses that want a comprehensive all-in-one CRM. It allows you to manage your leads, contacts, opportunities and customers. You can get a bird’s-eye view of your business with its interactive dashboard and receive real-time alerts.

To test drive plan features, take advantage of the free 14-day trial. Pricing starts at $25 per month when paid annually and goes up to $300 per month for the Unlimited plan. There are add-ons to extend the functionality of your Salesforce solution as you grow, which makes it a great option for companies that want to stick with the same CRM provider at all stages of growth.

Businesses that need a comprehensive CRM in an all-in-one tool will appreciate Salesforce. As your company grows, you can add on additional products to support that growth.

Agile CRM automates complex marketing tasks, offering a lifeline to small businesses where resource constraints are a daily reality. The essence of the platform is to ensure that limitations in personnel don’t translate into restricted marketing capabilities. The Drag-and-Drop Designer empowers even those with limited technical skills to create intricate marketing workflows. With just a few clicks, small businesses can construct multi-step campaigns, ‌nullifying the steep learning curve often associated with CRM platforms.

Equally compelling is Agile CRM’s behavior-based segmentation. It automatically tags and scores leads based on distinct activities, such as email interactions and website visits. This feature allows small businesses to surgically target the right audience segments, reducing the waste of resources on poorly targeted marketing campaigns. The real-time alerts about high-potential leads further help to streamline effort and focus.

Beyond marketing, Agile CRM extends its automation into the sales process. The platform can qualify a lead and route it automatically to the appropriate sales representative. This creates a harmonious alignment between sales and marketing teams, ensuring that leads don’t fall through the cracks and that customer engagement remains consistent and timely. By automating these various elements, Agile CRM provides small businesses with a tool that caters to their specific needs: managing intricate marketing campaigns and customer interactions without requiring a steep investment of either time or money.

Small businesses seeking to navigate the complexity of marketing tasks with limited human resources.

Apptivo offers a level of flexibility and customization that’s invaluable for small businesses, striving to adapt the tool to their specific workflow rather than the other way around. Custom views, layouts and fields can be easily adjusted, making the CRM mold to your business’s unique requirements. This feature alone sets it apart from competitors that often prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution.

Its mobile CRM ensures that your sales team isn’t desk-bound; data-driven decisions can be made from anywhere, keeping the momentum going even outside of office confines. While some CRM platforms may have sophisticated analytical tools, Apptivo demystifies this by breaking down win-loss analyses, sales projections and performance metrics into digestible visuals. This means actionable insights are more readily available, even for those who aren’t data scientists.

The software also offers a significant advantage in its sales funnel builder, which allows businesses to get an intricate understanding of their sales process, from lead generation to deal closure. Sales automation features, such as email sequencing, liberate the sales team from repetitive tasks and ensure consistent follow-up, making it easier to turn prospects into long-term clients.

Small to medium-sized businesses looking for a highly customizable and mobile CRM solution that offers deep sales analytics.

HubSpot earns its reputation as a go-to CRM for businesses of all sizes. One of the key advantages is its ability to scale with a business, making it ideal for startups and SMBs alike. With the option to begin at $0, small businesses can test the waters without a financial commitment.

The pricing tiers also offer a path of growth, leading from basic functionalities to more advanced features as a business matures. With features such as form automation and SEO recommendations, HubSpot makes it possible for businesses to generate leads and manage customer relationships without breaking the bank.

It also provides a unified dashboard for marketing, sales and customer service functionalities, which avoids the cost and complexity of integrating multiple stand-alone tools. HubSpot’s detailed list segmentation enables granular targeting, giving businesses a leg up in creating personalized marketing strategies.

Small businesses looking to grow their customer base without managing multiple apps or platforms.

Salesmate is an unpretentious solution that zeroes in on what smaller enterprises need most: tracking, organizing and automating sales activities without overcomplicating the process or overstretching the budget. The tiered pricing plans starting at $12 per user per month offer flexibility in feature sets, allowing businesses to incrementally integrate more advanced functionalities such as Goal Management and Power Dialer as they grow.

It goes beyond mere contact management to offer features such as multiple pipeline management and workflow customization. These functionalities bring discipline to your sales operations, enabling a company to monitor deals in various stages and to automate repetitive tasks. The Team Inbox feature in its higher plans consolidates all customer correspondence in one place, making team collaboration more organized and effective. Email sync and tracking amplify your outreach strategy by offering real-time updates on how recipients interact with your emails.

Small to medium-sized businesses seeking an affordable, scalable solution to organize and automate their sales operations.

Nimble CRM elevates the practice of customer relationship management by embedding social media into its core functionality. While most CRMs offer social media as an afterthought or add-on, Nimble centralizes it, offering social profile matching and enrichment right off the bat. By automatically fetching and integrating information from various social networks into your contact records, Nimble provides a 360-degree view of clients and prospects, offering businesses a richer context and more meaningful engagement points.

Beyond social media, Nimble offers specialized features such as data enrichment and group messaging. Data enrichment allows businesses to augment their existing contacts with additional details, thereby adding layers of insights that can be pivotal for targeted marketing. Group messaging, on the other hand, is not mere mass mailing; it’s a feature designed to send personalized messages to segmented contacts, complete with open and click tracking.

Businesses that heavily leverage social media for customer relations and want a CRM that offers data-rich, contextual interactions.

To determine the best CRM services for small businesses, Forbes Advisor researched 24 providers in the space and narrowed it down to the 10 top providers. We analyzed these across five primary categories for a total of 35 different metrics. The criteria were then weighted to favor features that matter most to small businesses. The best CRM software had the best overall scores based on our methodology.

For pricing, we considered the cost per user per month for each paid plan, minimum user requirements, introductory pricing, the availability of free trials, free trial length and money-back guarantees.

We analyzed each CRM based on key features such as pipeline management, customization capabilities, contact and lead management, life cycle stages and tracking, opportunity scoring, communication tracking, lead assigning, third-party integrations and reporting analytics tools.

In addition to the key features, we also devoted 20% of our score to whether or not the services included unique features that could make a difference for certain businesses and use cases, such as built-in email marketing tools and multi-currency support for those who service international markets.

Service and support hold a 10% weight in our evaluation. To offer an accurate assessment, we go beyond basic queries such as the availability of a phone line or live chat feature.

We assess specific factors that are important to small businesses. Is live chat offered, and if yes, during which operational hours? Does the platform provide phone-based assistance, and how extensive are the service hours? We also look at the depth of online knowledge bases, specifically whether they include articles, FAQs or video tutorials that allow users to find solutions independently.

In addition, we look for the presence of an active community forum, webinars and optional training sessions. The availability of maintenance or service contracts is also evaluated, recognizing the often variable needs of smaller operations.

Lastly, we included our expert opinion based on a great deal of first-hand experience using these different CRM services across several different use cases. We also considered factors such as ease of use and value for price based on the quality of the available features.

The benefits of using a CRM platform are seemingly endless. For starters, it provides a central hub for customer information, makes that information accessible to all departments, tracks sales, organizes analytical information and facilitates collaboration between various teams.

The return on investment from selecting the best CRM software can be massive. However, with so many CRM platforms on the market, the search can be overwhelming. To help combat decision fatigue, follow these simple steps to find the best CRM for your small business.

It is imperative to know why you want a CRM system in the first place. A CRM system can only help your business if you outline clear goals. To help clarify goals, begin with a business audit or gap analysis. Review yearly business performance reports to find areas that need improvement and identify key goals with timeline markers. Business goals could vary from expanding product lines to increasing revenue to strengthening customer service. After identifying business goals, consider how a CRM system could help you reach those goals.

It is important to identify exactly who will be using the system and why. Sales and marketing departments are generally the main users of CRM software, however, every department should have input in the decision-making process for the system to work seamlessly. Ask each team member what their needs are and how they think the software system could help them perform their duties.

The sheer volume of CRM features and tools is overwhelming. Take control of the situation by making a list of what you are looking for before you begin the search. For the sake of clarity, create a “must-have” features list to narrow down the options. Compile the information gathered from team members, along with your business goals and timeline markers to create the list. For example, if you are using the CRM for marketing purposes, then software with marketing automation, lead tracking and data analysis might be on your must-have list.

No matter what your focus is, make sure robust data security and customer support features are on the must-have list. Required software security features are two-factor authentication, encryption and advanced user permissions. Customer support features like live chat and phone support will be crucial when questions or concerns arise.

While all CRM systems should help you develop better relationships with your customer base (hence the name), there is no one-size-fits-all system. CRM solutions can vary widely depending on the features they focus on. The three major types of CRM are:

The cost of CRM software swings widely based on the number of users, features, subscription base and more. Prices range from $9 per user per month on the low end to $99 per user per month on the high end. Some companies do offer free versions of their software, however, the features, number of users and storage capacity are highly limited.

Another way to whittle down the plethora of companies is to set a budget at the onset to give you search parameters. This will give you a clear ceiling and eliminate options that live outside your predetermined budget.

Once your search is narrowed down to a handful of options, start researching those options. There are a few key things you can use to determine if a platform will be a good fit for your needs.

Once you have narrowed down your search to one software provider, test it out to make sure it works for your company. Most CRM vendors offer a free full-feature trial of their product. Take advantage of this to ensure the system meets your business requirements and expectations.

CRMs are a vital component of today’s business landscape, and a number of CRM trends are becoming more common. Here are the top 2024 CRM trends we anticipate for the upcoming year.

Customer relationship management systems continue to become more sophisticated, functional and comprehensive. CRM software companies now offer improvements to existing functions while also creating specialized solutions for a variety of needs. Technological advancements regularly change the way we use CRMs in the business world by increasing the usefulness of and adding more value to collected data.

Artificial intelligence is hands down one of the most impactful technologies incorporated into the world of consumer data utilization. The technology encompasses many areas, including predictive analytics, machine learning and language processing. Companies have been adopting more AI technology to streamline internal and external processes and improve the customer’s experience with the business.

The primary areas in which we expect to see AI growth are predictive models (trigger events, customer behavior, project timelines, etc.), customer service (chatbots, self-service, sentiment analysis, etc.) and lead management (customer preferences, nurturing schedules, upselling suggestions, etc.). AI can both assist customers directly and to provide company employees with better tools and suggestions for managing and optimizing their work.

In 2019, data from Freshworks Inc. revealed that only 12% of CRM software users had incorporated AI tools, but that 75% were interested in exploring the capabilities offered by AI technologies.

CRM isn’t just for big companies and niche industries. Until recently, the majority of industries employing CRMs have been large corporations working in consulting, insurance, real estate and distribution. Now, more industries than ever before are recognizing the value of CRMs and finding ways to integrate these tools into business operations. A report from Stellaxius showed overall CRM usage increased by 18% between 2018 and 2019.

There has been an increase in CRM development that caters to the individual needs of certain industries. Examples include hospitality, banking, construction and healthcare, which are all industries that rarely benefited from CRMs in the past. Small business owners are also beginning to recognize the value that CRMs can give to customers and conversion rates. In the future, even more industries and businesses, regardless of size, are expected to begin using CRMs.

It is now easier than ever to adopt CRM technology into the everyday operation of your company. CRM companies will continue to focus on making CRMs less expensive, easier to use and easier to implement. Companies that have been hesitant about integrating CRM technology into their business will be encouraged to give it a try.

CRM benefits include the ability to segment customers, personalize outreach, centralize and organize lead, customer and partner data, forecast sales trends, scale internal and external communication, automate tasks and data entry and discover actionable trends in customer data. All of these benefits come together to help companies offer better lead and customer experiences, ultimately boosting lead conversion rates and customer lifetime values.

Out of the best CRM software for small businesses on our list, Zoho CRM, is the easiest to use. It offers a simple and intuitive interface as well as helpful tutorials to get you started. It’s also customizable so that you can tailor it to match your business needs.

An open-source CRM offers businesses a high level of customization. Instead of being developed and controlled by one company, it consists of a source code published publicly and shared by users and developers all around the world. What makes an open-source CRM beneficial is that anyone with the know-how can “open up” the software themselves and change features, interface elements and virtually anything else as they see fit.

The fun (and useful application) in using public source code is that businesses can tweak and update it however is seen fit based on the design and growth of the company. Open-source software, such as a CRM, is ideal for niche businesses requiring specific features not offered by the large traditional platforms.

There are many types of CRM for different teams or needs, even though it’s traditionally used by sales teams. Look for the best marketing CRM software, which should include tools to automate marketing campaigns, or real estate CRM, which focuses on communication tools, such as click-to-call and text messaging within the app.

There are several truly free CRMs. With each one, you’ll have to compromise on features or limits to users or storage, for example. Zoho CRM, and EngageBay are Forbes Advisor’s picks for the best free CRM plans.

There are plenty of cloud CRM solutions that information technology (IT) novices can employ. You don’t have to make a large investment in physical IT infrastructure or hire IT staff to manage your CRM. Many CRM solutions are available as software as a service (SaaS), which means that you only pay for what you use and can stop using it at any time.

Katherine Haan is a small business owner with nearly two decades of experience helping other business owners increase their incomes.

Kelly Main is a Marketing Editor and Writer specializing in digital marketing, online advertising and web design and development. Before joining the team, she was a Content Producer at Fit Small Business where she served as an editor and strategist covering small business marketing content. She is a former Google Tech Entrepreneur and she holds an MSc in International Marketing from Edinburgh Napier University. Additionally, she is a Columnist at Inc. Magazine.

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