Which vendors make the best CRM for small businesses?

Choosing a CRM for small businesses can be difficult, as the most well-known CRM vendors cater to large enterprises. Others, however, create products with SMBs in mind.

The CRM vendors with the largest market share -- Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle and SAP -- introduce features designed to handle larger and larger data sets and to accommodate more complicated workflows as businesses become more dependent on this software. This is ideal for enterprises but ill-suited to the needs of SMBs.

Many larger vendors advertise that they cater to smaller customers, but the scope of their offerings -- along with the training required to use the CRM software -- can be intimidating for small businesses. Few of these big-name platforms designed their SMB offerings with small-scale operations in mind.

However, several products do stand out as SMB-friendly:

  • HubSpot offers a free service, which includes basic CRM functionality; a dashboard and features for organizing contacts and customer profiles; and managing developing deals. It also integrates easily with larger platforms, such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.
  • Zoho CRM has lead scoring and sales forecasting, provides pop-up notifications on leads, and tracks and analyzes website visitors. Its dashboard is clear and well-organized, and even the most basic edition offers flexible workflows.
  • Insightly offers a CRM for small businesses with extensive lead management features, such as task management; however, it does not have the breadth of features that Zoho does. It lacks dashboards and provides only preset reports.
  • Agile CRM's customer experience features, such as its drag-and-drop marketing automation interface, customization and integration capabilities, are comparable to what many enterprise platforms offer. This product also includes lead scoring, advanced analytics and deal tracking management.
  • Nimble CRM is a small platform for small businesses, bringing contacts, email and social media together in an easy-to-use interface that sorts tasks by priority. Nimble also uses a business rules engine to determine the most relevant contacts based on user behavior.
  • Zendesk, formerly a customer service-only platform, recently introduced a CRM suite that small businesses may find suits their scale of operations.

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