A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is a place for you to store all the data you have on your customers and maintain records of your communications with them. On a micro scale, you can easily access information about a specific customer or potential lead and the past interactions you’ve had with them. On a broader scale, you can use the data you collect to gain a better understanding of your target audience and sales cycle. This information can help you improve prospect conversion, speed up sales and increase revenue. If used correctly, a CRM system can have a significant positive impact on your company and the way you nurture your leads. With this in mind, we look at 5 CRM software options available to small businesses.
Aptivo was created as an affordable CRM solution for small businesses. Their strap line is ‘A software that grows with your business’. So, this might be a good long term solution for those looking to rapidly expand their business. They offer a free version of the application with limited functionality for up to 3 users. The free version only provides 500MB of storage which will be exhausted pretty quickly. Upgrading to the paid for version gives you a myriad of features including; email marketing, business email integration, finance management, and a host of app integration facilities. Paid for version starts from $8.33 per user/month.
Insightly promote their software as being incredibly easy to use. This is useful for small businesses who wish to avoid large learning curves when it comes to testing and implementing new software. They also offer a free version with some pretty powerful features. You are limited to storing 2,500 records which could last your new business some time before having to upgrade. When you do upgrade, you will gain extended functionality including email marketing software integration and some useful reporting features. You will also receive training to help get you started. Paid for versions start from $12 per user/month.
Hubspot are making waves in business with their sales and marketing tools. Their pricing structure is unique in that the CRM module of their software is completely free. You only need to pay extra as you add more sales and marketing modules. The CRM software doesn’t cap the number of contacts it will store and comes with the tag line ‘Free Forever’. Great for businesses just starting out and who wish to minimise ongoing running costs. The reporting tools are limited, however you can add the free version of the sales module to get some basic features. If you want to integrate their marketing software this is going to cost you substantially more, starting from $200 per month.
Salesforce set the standard when it comes to CRM. They are the market leaders and one of the top 10 software companies in the world. The standard software is rather pricey but the functionality is almost limitless, with a host of features and integration options. A good example of getting what you pay for. This is probably not a realistic option for many small businesses, but fortunately Salesforce have starter package that is. The SalesforceIQ CRM Starter is an out-the-box solution with limited yet powerful features. Notable features include; automatic data capture, follow-up reminders and mobile apps. If you are planning on building a business empire, this is a great option for you. Keep upgrading the application package as your business grows. The starter plan is still dearer than the other options we cover on this list costing $25 per user/month.
Microsoft Outlook Customer Manager
Microsoft are in the process of rolling out their new Outlook Customer Manager for small businesses. This is a light-weight version of their Dynamics CRM System and is still currently being implemented across platforms. This is great for small businesses as it will be included as an add-on to Outlook for all businesses on the Office 365 Business Premium plan. For only £9.40 per user/month, this represents fantastic value for money. Not only do you get a basic CRM, but a wealth of other features, tools and applications as part of your Office 365 subscription. The Outlook Customer Manager automatically organises customer information in one manageable place. It includes many features you will find in a standard CRM software and you have the opportunity to upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics if your business grows. This is another great step by Microsoft to provide small businesses with cost-effective productivity solutions.
Managing customer relations
The solutions above are designed to support the way you manage customer relations. When combined with a customer-centric approach, value-added solutions and solid business processes, you will quickly see improvements in the way you manage customer relations and expectations.
The best product really depends on your business model, budget, and number and type of customers. When investing in software for your business, remember there are plenty of other matters to consider, and planning ahead will ensure you invest in a long-term and cost-effective solution.
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