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Best CRM For Small Business Owners
Generally speaking, it doesn’t particularly matter what industry you work in; your ability to keep your customers happy and attract new ones is the main driver of any kind of success you’ll achieve — whether you’re running a big or small business.
Still, some of the smaller business owners out there definitely have a few more hurdles to overcome when it comes to building and maintaining customer relationships. If things don’t work out and you ultimately end up losing the client or customer, you may not have as many revenue streams to fall back on as businesses with much larger client bases do.
As such, any kind of tool you can get your hands on when it comes to strengthening customer relationships is generally something you should snatch at the opportunity to access, and there are few better tools than Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.
Still, there’s definitely no shortage of supposedly innovative software to ‘completely transform’ the way your business works, so what exactly makes CRM software so effective?
Throughout this article, we’re going to be breaking down all you need to know about these business tools — covering things like what business sectors might benefit the most, general pros and cons, and what our top six choices are for options you can sign up for today.
Table of Contents:
- What Is CRM Software
- How Does CRM Software Work
- Pros and Cons of CRM Software
- Features to Look for When Searching for a CRM Solution
- 1. Monday.com
- 2. Zoho CRM
- 3. Pipedrive
- 4. Zendesk Sell
- 5. HubSpot
- 6. Freshsales by Freshworks
- Final Thoughts
What Is CRM Software? ➡️
We’ll be working through some of the specifics in a moment, but it’s worth kicking things off by building a basic understanding of what CRM software actually entails and what its main appeals are.
As you might’ve guessed, CRM is an acronym for ‘Customer Relationship Management’, and it basically refers to a range of different business tools that you’re able to take advantage of in order to analyse certain data from your customers.
Ultimately, the main idea here is that you’re able to use the software in order to not only enhance but generally optimise all the individual relationships you have with customers — which is something that can start getting massively difficult to do when you achieve a bit of success and start dealing with many more clients.
As such, it can be incredibly useful if you’re trying to grow your business in a more sustainable and well organised way. Of course, you don’t have to be in any one particular industry to use the software either, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a few different sectors that might benefit a little bit extra from CRM software.
So, let’s look at a couple different examples of some of the more common types of businesses that use these tools:
Firstly, if you’re running a business like a consulting firm where you’re going to need to keep an account of previous clients, CRM systems can help massively when it comes to things like tracking client engagements and managing all the various appointments you’ll be attending.
The same is equally true for law firms, too, as CRM can be a great way of tracking details with one particular case, as well as generally improving communication with your clients.
Retail and E-Commerce
Online businesses might actually be one of the businesses that are most likely to benefit from CRM software, given how much it assists in things like tracking customer preferences, managing their order histories, and even just getting started with a targeted marketing strategy.
Although the previous options that we’ve covered so far are catered slightly more towards a modern business model — especially when it comes to an online eCommerce store — there are still plenty of reasons for owners of traditional physical stores to invest in a CRM.
It might not be as diverse in terms of the way it can help you, but you’ll still be able to gain insights into things like the effectiveness of loyalty programs — as well as being able to analyse your customers’ purchasing patterns.
How Does CRM Software Work? 🔎️
With a basic understanding of what CRM software is all about under your belt, let’s dive into some of the more complex details:
In essence, try to think of a CRM as a kind of digital repository for collecting customer data — collecting it from a range of different places and keeping it all together on one platform.
To get specific, this includes things like customer interactions, sales transactions, any marketing campaigns you might be running, customer service engagements, and even things like project management details — quite the extensive list.
Now, you might already be keeping track of a lot of this information in an attempt to improve your business, but whatever method you’re currently using probably doesn’t provide the same level of insights as CRM software, so this is definitely one of the best options out there for tailoring your marketing strategies.
Still, rather than simply being somewhere where you can store data about your customers, you’re also gaining the opportunity to analyse this information thanks to the range of different algorithms employed by this kind of software — giving you way more insight into the behaviour and preferences of your existing customers.
For instance, if the software picks up on a particular customer always going back to the same kind of product that you’re selling, you’ll be able to see this much more clearly and possibly suggest complementary products to them.
As a result, you’re turning raw data into something that’s actionable, ultimately helping you make better business decisions.
Automation for Efficiency
Aside from only providing insights for your business, there are a lot of marketing automation features that come with CRM systems, so you’re able to free up a lot more time for both you and your staff — whether that’s in the form of automated follow-up emails based or keeping all of your contact information automatically updated.
Pros and Cons of CRM Software
Ultimately, implementing a CRM solution into your business is something that should take quite a lot of consideration, so to stay impartial, we’ll be breaking down some of the main advantages and disadvantages of these platforms in this next section.
Kicking things off, let’s start on a positive note with the main advantage of this kind of software:
Improved Sales Efficiency ✅️
Above all, we have to say that the sales pipeline management features are by far the most impressive things about CRM software, given how much more strategically you can run your business once you’ve automated certain tasks and can access real-time insights into the sales process.
Naturally, this increased efficiency translates to shorter sales cycles, higher conversion rates, and, ultimately, improved revenue for your business.
For all we’ve talked positively about the influence CRM software can have on your business, we’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t also go through some of the less desirable parts of these tools:
Cost Considerations ❌️
Investing in a robust CRM system is undoubtedly beneficial, but it comes with a whole host of costs that you’re going to need to carefully evaluate when making your decision — weighing up the long-term benefits against some of the ongoing expenses that come with CRM software.
Additionally, the cost of customisation and integration with existing tools should definitely be factored in, too.
Data Security Concerns ❌️
Storing sensitive customer information on a digital platform might raise a few concerns about data security, so you’re going to need to implement some strong security measures within your CRM systems in order to protect customer data from unauthorised access and potential breaches.
Regular system updates and compliance with data protection regulations are essential to maintain the integrity of customer information.
Features to Look for When Searching for a CRM Solution 📑️
Generally speaking, the majority of CRM solutions out there mostly offer the same kinds of services as one another, but there are still plenty of specific things you want to ensure your CRM software is able to do before you fully commit and invest in one for your business.
So, throughout this next section, we’re going to be breaking down what kind of features you should keep an eye on to make the best decision for your company:
Seamless Sales Pipeline Management
If you’re running a business that’s mostly focused on driving sales, whichever CRM system you ultimately end up choosing should be able to manage your overall sales pipeline — meaning the sales process is tracked and optimised all the way through, from lead generation to conversion.
Some of the more basic CRM options only come with generic sales funnel tracking, so try to find a platform that comes with customisable pipelines that’ll work nicely with your particular business processes, making sure your sales team is able to move any potential customers through the various stages of the sales cycle quickly.
Mobile CRM for On-the-Go Access
You’re not always going to be sitting in front of the computer when you’re running a business, so a platform that’ll let you access all the information you need while you’re out and about is generally pretty invaluable.
So, keep an eye out for any CRM solutions that give you access to a mobile app — letting both you and your sales teams stay connected and responsive whether you’re in the office or on the road.
Cloud-Based CRM Platform for Flexibility and Scalability
When CRM software was in its infancy, most of it was offline-based, meaning you were only able to access your data when using one particular device.
Since then, though, most CRM systems have shifted to a cloud-based model, and this provides way more accessibility and opportunities to scale since you’re now able to collaborate remotely with all of your employees.
As such, you’ll always want to ensure that the CRM tool that you choose is cloud-based, as any options that aren’t are probably a little bit antiquated for modern businesses.
Best CRM Software — Reviews ➡️
Now that you’ve got a much clearer understanding of how CRM software works and what sort of aspects of it are most desirable, let’s get into the review section of the article and break down our top six choices for your business.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that it’s not as simple as calling one software the ‘best’ in comparison to all of the other options, as the ‘best’ option for a large business with plenty of resources to invest will generally find it to be the most expensive software.
On the other hand, the best option for small business owners with less cash is something a bit more affordable that still comes with plenty of features, so keep in mind what your personal finances and business needs are when making a decision:
1. Monday.com — Best Option for Collaboration
To kick things off, our favourite option out of all the cloud-based CRM systems that we’ll be covering throughout this review is monday.com, which is quite possibly the most appropriate for your style of business if you need to work in teams or collaborate frequently.
When you get onto your Kanban, you’ll be able to visualise all of the work that you and your employees need to do for the week as clearly as day — not to mention that you’re able to add various files and comments to these projects.
Not every option that we’ll be covering comes with a free plan or even a trial, so it’s good to know that monday.com will have your back if you’re on a budget and can’t afford to pay the monthly fee of $81 (that actually only covers three separate employees.
Still, if you’re running a larger business and need something with a little bit more scalability, you’ve got the option of upgrading to their enterprise plans instead — you just need to get in touch with one of their sales team members for the price as it’ll depend on what kind of features you opt for
Expect a range of quality features with these paid plans, though, whether it’s unlimited contacts, customisable pipelines, sales forecasting, or even a range of different programs you can integrate.
- Highly flexible platform for a CRM.
- Range of different tools with their premium and free plans, with the cheapest of the premium plans being only $14 a month per user.
- Free plan if you’re on a budget.
- Comes with a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices.
- Need to pay for at least three users if you opt for a premium plan.
- It can be slightly complicated to get your head around at first, as well as train employees.
2. Zoho CRM — Best Option for New Businesses
Another one of the more well-known options out there is Zoho CRM, which doesn’t go above and beyond with their free plans but still comes with all the things you’d expect to be able to do in the paid plans — things like insights, creating sales workflows, or any other kind of customisable tools.
Although it can be helpful to use their free plan if you’re only a start-up company or perhaps even a sole entrepreneur, it’s with these paid plans — starting at around $24 per user per month and going up to $84 — that you’re really going to start seeing the benefits, since you’ll now have access to quality, customer support and other kinds of app integrations to make managing your business a little bit more simplified.
Aside from this, you can access all of your company data straight from your phone, so you don’t need to be stuck in the office when using their platform, either.
- Comes with a free plan.
- You don’t need to sign any contracts.
- The user interface is relatively appealing.
- The free plan is a bit more limited in terms of the third-party integrations that you can make.
- The level of customer support you receive appears to be much less impressive with some of the cheaper plans.
3. Pipedrive — Best Option for a More Simple Service
Pipedrive is probably the most basic option on our list, but there’s definitely still value in a service that does exactly what it’s supposed to do without being bogged down with extra bells and whistles.
As with pretty much all CRM software, you’ll be able to keep top of all your deals, clients, and leads all in one centralised location, but there are also advanced plans that start at around $29 per user per month that give access to things such as email scheduling, for example.
Still, Pipedrive might get a bit more credit if their security features were a little bit more inclusive, as although it’s nice that they offer more affordable plans (and even a free 14 trial), you’ll only be able to access information about possible data leaks and intrusions if you’ve signed up for the Enterprise plan — not the most ideal options, but it gets the job done.
- Relatively affordable, premium plans beginning at approximately $29 per user per month.
- It is actually quite intuitive to use for beginners due to the lack of complex additional features.
- It can be used for both lead and deal management — also coming with a sales pipeline that you can customise to your liking.
- Excellent support team that is available 24/7.
- It can be integrated with almost 300 different apps and devices.
- Doesn’t come with a free plan, only a 14-day trial.
- You have fewer security features unless you pay for the more expensive plans.
4. Zendesk Sell — Best Option for Aiding Your Customers
Next on our list, we have Zendesk Sell, which might be the best if you’re a business that needs a quality customer support team — thanks to all the help desk features and ticketing systems that allow you to keep track of all of your customers from one location.
Aside from this, you’re also able to keep track of various leads by accessing your sales pipeline, and there’s a similar Kanban-style dashboard to monday.com that you can use to keep in touch with your team and receive notifications about inquiries.
There isn’t any free plan, unfortunately, but you can still try Zendesk Sell out for free for two weeks, and their cheapest plans begin at only $30 per month for every user you need.
There are more expensive plans, too, if you need something with more features, but expect to pay around the region of $180 per user per month if you want things like workflow automation or insights about your customers.
- Integrates seamlessly with your calendar.
- Connect to Zendesk Support.
- No free plan and the cheapest paid plans aren’t the most inclusive options either.
- Slightly difficult user interface to operate.
5. HubSpot — Best Option for Growing Your Start-Up Company
HubSpot’s a quality CRM for pretty much any business of any size, but it’s definitely slightly more geared to start-up businesses thanks to its free plans and educational resources.
You can use HubSpot for free if you desire, but if you pay a little bit more, you’ll definitely see the difference — whether it’s their SEO recommendations helping to drive more natural traffic towards your website or the time you’ll save with features like form automation.
- Relatively affordable advanced tiers with a free plan, too.
- Everything is organised in one easy-to-access dashboard.
- There are limits to how many emails you can send, so it might be problematic if you have fairly high-volume marketing campaigns.
- Not the most customisable option when it comes to sales pipelines.
6. Freshsales by Freshworks — Best Option for Trialling a Service
Finally, our last option is Freshsales, which is another relatively simple CRM service that’s ultimately going to help you collect information about your customers thanks to their built-in lead capture forms. Of course, you can then track these leads by viewing them through your sales pipeline so that you’re hopefully able to gain some new customers.
There’s a free plan and, crucially, a three-week free trial that you can take advantage of to get a better feel for the platform — the longest trial period out of all the options we’ve covered.
Of course, there are paid plans, too — coming with tools like advanced insights and analytics — but this can be a little bit on the pricier side at $110 per month for every user you sign up for.
- Very long free trial, and you can also use their free plans for as long as you want.
- There isn’t a minimum requirement for the number of users you sign up for, so it’s perfect for smaller businesses that need a service for contact and deal management.
- Not the most extensive file storage.
- You’ll need to upgrade plans if you want features like warm transfers or call masking.
Final Thoughts 💡️
To wrap things up, it’s fairly clear that CRM software is one of the more useful business software options out there, as there are few better tools that’ll help you deepen the understanding of what your customers actually want.
Still, for all their effective tools, you’re not going to be able to get the most out of this software unless you implement it smartly into your business, which means aligning it with your business goals and training everyone in your company how to use it — something that not every small business owner has the time for, especially when you consider how expensive a lot of these tools can be for anyone on a relatively tight budget.
Ultimately, just try to keep in mind that for all, CRM appears to be a replacement for actually connecting with your customers on a personal level; you should only ever use it as a simple tool/supplement to provide a more customised experience — try not to rely too heavily on it.
Having said that, it’s definitely worth mentioning that the more your business (hopefully) evolves over the years, the kind of customer relationship improvement features that software like customer relationship management platforms provide will only become more essential.
So, if you want a tool that’s going to help you adapt quickly to change and generally help you provide quality customer service teams, we recommend exploring any of the six choices we’ve put together in our review.
How Does CRM Software Support Small Businesses in Managing Customer Interactions During Peak Periods?
Generally speaking, most of the automation features that come with CRM systems are the things responsible for properly managing high-traffic periods, given that they’re able to automate a lot of the more routine tasks. As such, you’re naturally going to be able to keep a good relationship with your customers at all times, whether that’s by processing orders quickly or even just responding quickly to any inquiries they might have.
Is CRM Software a Viable Solution for Solo Entrepreneurs or Freelancers in Australia?
It’s a slight misconception that CRM software is only really worth getting if you’re running a large enterprise since they’re generally versatile enough to work just as well for sole proprietors and freelancers. It doesn’t matter if your business is small; you’re gaining access to a platform where you can manage all your client relationships in one place — not to mention being able to streamline a range of other tasks thanks to the integration features they have with other apps you might already use.
Can CRM Software Assist in Compliance With Data Protection Regulations for Small Businesses in Australia?
Definitely, and when looking to find the right CRM solution for your business, keep in mind that all the best ones will make compliance with certain regulatory bodies — such as GDPR or the Australian Privacy Principles, for instance — a top priority, whether that’s by implementing features like consent management or any other kinds of security measures that’ll keep your customer data safe.
How Quickly Can My Small Business Implement CRM Software, and What Training Is Needed?
It’s definitely a fair concern, but the time it takes to fully Implement a modern CRM system with your business is actually a lot quicker than you might assume, thanks to how user-friendly the setup process is. In fact, the vast majority of providers all come with things such as training resources and tutorials that you can take advantage of to inform yourself and the rest of your staff.
Can CRM Software Assist in Streamlining Communication Between My Small Business and Suppliers?
Absolutely; in terms of your organisation on a client-to-client basis, you’re able to use a centralised platform for a whole host of things to do with your suppliers, whether that’s order management, supplier interactions, or even just basic inventory tracking — ultimately making your business operations even smoother.
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