Half of businesses fail within their first five years.
Most theories focus on issues like cash flow. Unfortunately, given my undisclosed amount of credit card debt, I’m not qualified to give you advice on this particular pitfall.
However, I can help you avoid another small business hazard: not keeping track of your customers.
The quick fix for this common problem? Get a CRM.
Through conversation tracking and data organization, customer relationship management software provides crucial information about who your customers are and who they could be.
In a recent study, 47% of companies that used a CRM reported a significant improvement in customer retention and satisfaction rates, and 45% linked CRM use to increased sales revenue.
But before you start counting all the hypothetical money your team could be making, remember the cash flow problems many small businesses experience. You can’t just throw money at a CRM and expect it to fix your problems overnight. If you’re going to invest in sales software, you’ve got to make the right choice for your organization at the right price.
While, being in sales, you’ve surely heard the adage, “Sometimes you’ve got to spend money to make money,” you should still try to minimize your costs.
One obvious way to narrow down your hundreds of CRM options is to look at price tags and eliminate high-cost systems.
And no matter how low-cost a system is, you need it to work reliably for you and your team. You also need a solution that’s easy to learn because you don’t have time to train everyone to use a complicated system.
However, between these two lists, you’re still left with 26 different CRMs to choose between.
Since we know you don’t have a million years to devote to software shopping, we evaluated both reports with an eye to which are the best CRMs for small business.
Below are our five picks based on combined scores and some additional, small-business-specific, metrics:
Below, we’ll get into all the reasons why any one of these five solutions would be a solid pick for most small business sales and client success teams. Since there are a lot of reasons, we’ve also provided a table of contents so you can skip to the functionality or section that most interests you.
If you’re a visual person like me, you’ll want to start with an easy-to-read display of where everything stands. Below are the rankings, scores, and awards for each of the systems we evaluated.
Out of all the CRMs we evaluated, Teamgate had the highest combined score on both our Most User-Friendly and Most Affordable reports. Teamgate offers all the necessary features for a small sales team to hit the ground running, and, bonus points, Teamgate describes its interface as “simple yet playful.” So your team might even have some fun using this solution.
If you’re a small team with little-to-no experience using a CRM, Teamgate’s intuitive setup is easy to navigate, offering all the tools a team just starting out needs to get selling. And, for $20-$25 per user per month, it’ll cost you well below the CRM market average of $37 per user for month.
HubSpot, our number two pick, is a great budget-friendly pick, as it’s free. The free versions of their CRM and sales tools, used in tandem, are a great starter package for a growing team. As your team grows in size and revenue, upgrading to paid versions of HubSpot’s marketing automation and sales products will give your team access to more advanced functionality without completely switching CRM systems.
Less Annoying CRM focuses on being, well, less annoying than other CRMs. Its approach has been to pare down its system only to the essentials, with streamlined and straightforward processes. Straightforwardness extends to its pricing plan, where all features are available for $10 per user per month. If you’re looking for a low-cost, no-frills system, you might want to give Less Annoying CRM a try.
amoCRM is aesthetically pleasing, with a sleek dashboard and colorful, easy-to-read reports. As far as interfaces go, it’s almost as nice to look at as Teamgate, but it’s a little less expensive ($15-$20 per user per month). Especially if you like flashy reports and graphs, you’ll want to give amoCRM a test drive.
Finally, Pipedrive places fifth on our top five list. It offers tons of useful features and an easy-to-use, modern interface for a reasonable price ($20-$25 per user per month). Pipedrive’s focus is small teams with long and/or complicated sales processes. If that sounds like your organization, you’ll want to check them out.
To make our reports, we started by looking at the nearly 500 solutions in our CRM directory. Using specific eligibility criteria (e.g. that a product had to have at least 10 customer reviews), we narrowed that list down to about 70 systems to evaluate for our Top 20 Most Affordable and Most User-Friendly reports. We surveyed those companies and combed through websites, asking which features and services they offered and how much their systems cost. Finally, we tested nearly 50 of these systems ourselves, timing how long it took us to perform standard tasks in each of them.
If you’re dying to know exactly how we evaluated the solutions in our reports, you can read more about our methodology here and here. But you can also reference the simple list of our eligibility criteria for each system below.
What we looked at:
- Features included
- Cost of those features
- Results of Capterra’s own user testing
- Customer services available
- User reviews
To come up with our top five solutions, we started with the systems who scored the highest on both our Most Affordable and Most User-Friendly reports. Then, yours truly went over all the data we collected for these systems again. I scoured their websites again to see if any information had changed since August 2016, when we first published our CRM reports. Finally, I evaluated free trials of each of these systems again to compare features and functionality and gather some fresh thoughts on them.
This report is a labor of love. Either that or insanity. Up for debate.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the features and functionality that show why these CRMs are our top five picks for small businesses, starting with price.
Finding a system that’s right for your business means finding a system that’s right for your budget. If you’re a small business, every penny counts. We kept that fact in mind when we picked the top five CRM solutions for small business.
Here’s what you can expect for pricing with each of our picks:
Our number one pick, Teamgate, isn’t the lowest-cost solution of the bunch. However, in the CRM market as a whole the average cost per user per month was about $37. At $20–$25 per user per month, Teamgate is still a considerable bargain in the CRM space. With its Professional Plan, you have access to all the features a small team needs from a CRM.
Teamgate also offers a Starter version of their system for only $9 per user per month. But that version lacks a lot of features like activity reporting and lead management. Spending a little more on the Professional Plan to get a lot more functionality is a much better bargain.
Another reason we picked Teamgate over some of the lower-cost CRMs is that it has the look and feel of a high-quality system. During our usability testing (using an industry-standard questionnaire), Teamgate and Less Annoying CRM tied for the highest user experience score.
Although our team enjoyed using it, Less Annoying CRM focuses on paring down its system to the absolute essentials. This paring down shows in its interface. But if you’re looking for a no-frills CRM that can get the job done, Less Annoying CRM’s low cost is a solid argument for picking it.
Pipedrive also scored highly on our Most User-Friendly report. It has a long list of integrations, so it’ll most likely work in tandem with a lot of other systems you already use. However, of our five systems, it has the highest cost. Pipedrive’s price tag is still lower than the average CRM ($20-$25 vs. $37 per user per month) but not low enough to beat Teamgate. Pipedrive, along with HubSpot, also appears on our Top 20 Most Popular CRM Software report, indicating a high number of existing users and customers.
Speaking of HubSpot, it’s the only free solution in our top five list. Like most free systems, HubSpot starts charging when you need “more robust” features, such as letting your prospects schedule meetings directly through your calendar. However, its free solution is already pretty robust since it gives you limited access to many of its sales tool’s paid features. For instance, it lets you store a small (vs. unlimited) amount of email templates in the system.
So if you’re not quite ready (or able) to shell out any cash for software, HubSpot could be the right choice for you. If you do outgrow its free tools, keep in mind that the price jump to a paid version of their system is higher than the average. Its Pro Sales tool starts at $50 per user per month, and its marketing tools start at $250 per month (including onboarding fees) for a maximum of 100 contacts.
Finally, amoCRM had a middle-of-the-road cost at about $18 per user per month. A lot of amoCRM’s interface looks very modern and could even rival Teamgate in some cases. Its robust reporting feature, discussed in more detail below, makes it worth the cost alone.
We’ve given you the rundown for CRM pricing, but what are actual customers saying about ROI? Below are excerpts from Capterra user reviews.
Price isn’t the only factor you should take into account when shopping for a CRM. Every system has its own strengths and weaknesses. Below, we’ll discuss which system is best equipped for processes your team will carry out every day.
Ideal for contact management: Pipedrive
Pipedrive organizes its system by contacts and deals. You can create a new deal with a simple form, and every new contact or company automatically gets added to your system after you’ve created a deal. You can also customize the information you need to gather for each contact.
Once you’ve created your deal, you can go back to an individual contact or company and add as much detail (phone number, email, etc.) as you need. You can view your contacts by people or by organization and see all the important contact information you need at-a-glance. This at-a-glance focus carries over when looking at individual contacts. Within every contact profile, you can see just about everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen in a simple, uncluttered layout.
Pipedrive’s focus on delivering information clearly and quickly makes it an ideal fit if your organization needs, above all, to get a handle on your contact management.
All that said, the contact management functionality in the other systems may still meet your needs. For instance, Teamgate’s lead creation form is similarly streamlined, and their solution also has an uncluttered layout, although they lack Pipedrive’s activity reports.
Whereas Teamgate’s contact profiles had a clear layout but no reports, amoCRM takes the opposite approach. AmoCRM could do a bit more to unclutter contacts’ activity feeds, but their “Statistics” view of all the work that’s gone into a contact is pretty cool.
In both HubSpot and Less Annoying CRM, the contact management functionality was more pared down, lacking the varied visual displays of the other tools. Given that HubSpot’s CRM is a free tool and Less Annoying CRM’s mission is to provide a low-cost, just-what-you-need-and-only-what-you-need solution, the simple, no-frills layout in both systems is understandable.
Ideal for interaction tracking: HubSpot
It’s no real surprise that a great CRM for people most interested in smooth interaction tracking comes from HubSpot. HubSpot’s bread-and-butter solution is their marketing automation tool, and anyone in marketing knows that keeping tabs on how consumers interact with your company is critical to success. Monitoring interactions with customers provides crucial information to your marketing team for campaigns and helps your sales team make better pitches and connect with customers on a more personal, detailed level.
You can add notes to your contacts in HubSpot via a drop-down menu, which specifies different types of interactions you might have. Are you more likely to catch a particular lead via phone or email? At what time? Do they prefer meeting face-to-face? Within a contact, you can note things like summaries, reminders, and time-stamped activities.
HubSpot displays every interaction on what looks like a big, digital notecard. This view makes your activity feed easy to scan and skim.
Among the other systems, Pipedrive also makes its activity feed readable at-a-glance. All completed activities show up under your “Past” tab in the activity feed. You can use filters to separate activities, notes, etc. A unique icon, like the phone icon below, specifies different types of actions and notes.
Teamgate’s activity feed is similarly laid out. However, its emphasis on who’s done what and the size of the text in the feed makes it harder to scan information than either Pipedrive or HubSpot. For sales managers who are big on accountability, this might be a great feature for scrolling through lead notes, but if you typically only have one person working one lead, this information could be redundant.
Both Less Annoying CRM and amoCRM track your interactions with customers. However, their interfaces don’t emphasize scannability in the same way as the other tools. You’ll still find all the details you need in your contact profiles, but it might take you a bit longer.
Calendar management, at the most basic level, involves scheduling meetings, calls, activities, and tasks. Good calendar management also involves setting up reminders to do everything at the right time.
Pipedrive’s scheduling and reminder setup is all in one window, eliminating the need to toggle between your calendar and contacts when scheduling a call. Your calendar pops up to the side, so you automatically know whether you’re free at a certain time.
Pipedrive’s system also insists that you follow up with your deals. Once you’ve completed a task within a deal, it prompts you to schedule your next action. For fans of the Getting Things Done philosophy, these constant prompts ensure that you’re always following up with a deal, scheduling tasks in your calendar until you close it.
Among the other CRM tools, Teamgate also has comprehensive calendar and scheduling functionality. While Teamgate separates their calendar view from the window where you schedule calls and meetings, it lets you set up multiple reminders, via email or text message, about following up with your leads. Take it from someone who pushes snooze 20 times each morning: there’s no such thing as too many reminders.
Teamgate also integrates with Google Calendar, preventing you from doing double entry when scheduling all your events and calls.
Less Annoying CRM, amoCRM, and HubSpot all provide ways to manage your calendar and schedule events easily. However, none of them provided the same emphasis on follow-up as Pipedrive or allowed you to set up multiple reminders, like Teamgate.
It’s difficult staying on top of everything you need to do, especially if you’re managing multiple leads and deals at once. Teamgate helps ensure nothing slips through the cracks. It lets you create tasks from the software’s lead dashboard and link them to a specific lead or deal. The option to set a reminder to complete your task is also available from this window.
Once you’ve created a task, it shows up in your Organizer. You can view the organizer in a “Calendar” or “Agenda” view, but for tasks, I like using the “List” mode.
Overdue items or ones that are due soon display the due date and time in red, so you know they’re more urgent than the other tasks on your list. And when you’ve finished a task, you get to put a satisfying check mark next to it to cross if off your list. For those that love a pat on the back after finishing a difficult task, Teamgate’s check mark validation is a great fit.
Pipedrive takes the same approach to scheduling tasks as it does to scheduling events. You can see a calendar view in real-time so you don’t overbook yourself. We discussed this feature in our scheduling/calendar management section, so I won’t go into too much detail here. However, they also have a clean color-coded to-do list that clearly separates urgent tasks from tasks that can wait.
Less Annoying CRM offers a similar to-do list. Staying in line with their no-frills approach, though, they don’t color code theirs by due date.
If you don’t like the simple lists that are common in CRMs, HubSpot offers a Kanban approach to completing tasks. If your team already uses a tool like Trello, they won’t have to change their habits much when using this system.
In Teamgate, leads convert to deals literally at the touch of a button. Once a lead becomes a deal, it’s added to your contact and company lists and pops right into your sales pipeline.
Teamgate’s drag-and-drop pipeline is easy to customize based on your team’s sales stages. From the dashboard, all you have to do is drop a lead into whatever stage it’s in on your pipeline. Within your pipeline, Teamgate also calculates how much money you have on the table in each stage. This layout shows you where in your process it might (literally) pay off for you to focus in on.
Within a deal, Teamgate offers a small progress bar that shows how far you have to go before you close. Many CRMs have a progress bar display, and many of them are more colorful or flashy than Teamgate’s. As someone who always wants to know how much work I have left to do, I like the fact that Teamgate quantifies their progress bar. Moving through stages shows up as a percentage of how much of the pipeline you’ve pushed a lead through.
Pipedrive, HubSpot, and amoCRM all have similar customizable drag and drop pipelines. They also have more colorful progress bars that show where a deal is in your process.
Less Annoying CRM ditches the drag-and-drop pipeline entirely and instead offers a list format and dropdown menus to display your leads and change their statuses.
Less Annoying CRM didn’t have the most streamlined process for viewing your pipeline, but it did manage to upload documents very quickly. You can link documents directly to a contact, which isn’t always the case in other CRMs. Many only allow you to upload documents to a shared library without the ability to link them to a specific deal or individual.
Less Annoying CRM also organizes your documents within a contact’s profile so that you can find them again easily. All documents related to a contact can be found at the top of your stream in their own separate section.
Teamgate separates files similarly, placing documents in their own section within a lead’s profile, while Pipedrive drops them into a lead’s activity feed but clearly designates them as files by marking them with a large paperclip icon. HubSpot also allows you attach files directly to a lead or contact, but only after you’ve uploaded it to a general document library. HubSpot Sales’s free version limits document storage, so your team will have to prioritize what they’re uploading and why.
While it may be shallow to say so, amoCRM’s reports are very pretty. But their reports offer more than just their good looks. amoCRM includes a slew of different types of reports in its “Stats” section, giving you a variety of views to check in on your team’s progress.
The attention to aesthetic makes the reports easy to read. Not only will your team be sell, sell, selling, but they’ll look good doing it…in data form, at least.
Teamgate also offers attractive, pre-built reports and displays them on your dashboard, prompting you to start your day by looking over important data. And while Pipedrive’s reporting isn’t necessarily as colorful as either amoCRM’s or Teamgate’s, it still offers a wide variety of reports, broken down into “Company” and “Personal” views depending on the scope of information you want to evaluate.
Less Annoying CRM allows you to filter data within the system and then export it to Excel, where you can then play around with it to create different reports. You’re largely left to your own devices if you want to display report data in easily readable graphs or in a format other than a spreadsheet. HubSpot offers reports on your dashboard via report widgets. However, the scope of the reports is limited, and a more robust reporting tool will cost your team about $200 per month.
While our testing gives us a chance to evaluate systems on a short-term basis, actual users of our five CRM’s can give you a better idea of how these systems worked out for them in the long term. Below are excerpts from user reviews for each system.
Our top five solutions all received similar scores for the depth of customer service they offered. Teamgate, HubSpot, and amoCRM received perfect scores for offering all the implementation, training, and support services we tracked. Less Annoying CRM and Pipedrive were each missing just two.
For scoring purposes, Capterra only evaluates whether a company offers specific services. While we don’t currently measure how well a company performs its services, you can look to user reviews for that information. Actual customers can give you a better idea of what it’s like to interact with a company’s customer service department. Below are excerpts from user reviews for each system.
U.S.-based customers should note that Teamgate is based in the United Kingdom, so its service desk hours might operate on Greenwich time. However, given their stellar customer service reviews, it doesn’t look like the time difference has caused too many problems.
Finally, for those interested in HubSpot because of its $0 price tag, some customer services will cost you. Phone and email support are only available to customers using paid versions of HubSpot’s tools. Free tool users can still access HubSpot’s knowledge base and receive support by asking questions in HubSpot’s community forum.
When I first started working at Capterra, I answered software buyer’s questions for our Buyer Adviser Program. Part of my job was helping customers classify the features they needed as “Must Have,” “Additional Requirements,” or “Nice To Have.”
If you look at the features that the five solutions above are missing, I would say almost all of them belong in the “Nice To Have” category for most CRM buyers.
For example, none of the above five CRMs offered quote/proposal management. But most small businesses already have an accounting solution that can create quotes/proposals. Using a CRM’s document storage feature you can then upload those files to leads or deals.
Marketing automation integration was the second most common missing feature. HubSpot was the only system of our five that offered it because, conveniently, it integrates with its own marketing tool. However, if your sights are set on any of our other four solutions, the lack of marketing automation integration doesn’t need to be a deal breaker for you.
First of all, if you don’t have marketing automation software, this particular integration isn’t a feature you need to worry about yet. As a small business, marketing is important, but your main focus should be attracting and maintaining good customer relationships. A CRM can help you do that simply by making all client information available in one place to your whole team.
If you do have marketing automation software and want your systems to be integrated, all five CRMs we’ve discussed offer an open API. Using an API requires more work, but it’s still possible to build a connection between your two solutions. In addition, four out of five solutions, with the exception of Less Annoying CRM, partner with Zapier. For a fee, Zapier will build connections between solutions for you.
The next most common missing feature was social media integration, which neither Less Annoying CRM nor Pipedrive offered. If you use social media platforms as touch points for lead generation or communication with customers then you’ll want to consider a CRM that integrates with those platforms. However, many marketing teams already use separate tools for social media interactions so, for now, you’re not missing too much by not having a social CRM.
Finally, Teamgate was the only one of our five solutions that did not offer custom reports. However, if all you need are basic sales activity reports, Teamgate offers many pre-built reports that will do the trick for you and your team. Unless you need to do a really granular deep dive into your sales data, Teamgate’s reporting options cover many of the reports you’ll need to run, such as number of leads being worked and revenue generated from particular deals.
CRM software is one of the fastest-growing business software markets, projected to grow to over $35 billion in market revenue by this year. This means you can definitely expect the number of competing systems out there to increase through 2017.
The increase in companies offering and utilizing CRM software probably has something to do with an increasing emphasis on gathering and understanding customer data. And when almost 80% of buyers research your product online before even interacting with your sales team, increasing your organization’s knowledge about consumers seems like the smart thing to do.
Although we just listed it above as a feature you can ignore, you’ll probably see more CRMs offering marketing automation integration. By using CRM information in their marketing automation software, companies can better apply customer data to create more targeted marketing campaigns.
I predict that CRM, like most software these days, will follow the trend of becoming more accessible via mobile devices, specifically phones and tablets. Cloud-based customer relationship management software is already the norm, so you can access the system anywhere you have an internet connection. But in the next few years we’ll see more device-agnostic solutions and apps specific to different operating systems (mainly iOS and Android) that will provide a better user experience for teams on the go.
And finally, whatever you think about the lifespan of Twitter, social media is here to stay. Many companies will likely increase their focus on interacting with customers on sites like Facebook, meaning you’ll probably see a rise in CRMs offering social media integration to preserve conversations via social media platforms.
Hopefully this article has given you some insight on potential CRM tools for your small business. However, we also encourage you to do your own research.
The five systems covered here (and many other CRMs) offer free trials. You should sign up for several and play around in them to see whether you like their look and feel.
You should also sign up for a free demo with any system that interests you, as that’s basically a guided tour of how a software product works. In a demo you can ask questions about a system and get answers from someone who’s very familiar with the solution.
You should also dig into the reviews available on Capterra’s website. We tried to pull out pertinent quotes from all five systems’ reviews, but there’s plenty of customer insight we weren’t able to include.
You can also look into our Top 20 Most Popular CRM Software report, which we only briefly mentioned, but which provides helpful information about who the big players in the CRM industry are and which systems many other companies are using.
Capterra recommends you evaluate three to five systems in your search for any type of software. Conveniently, this is a post about five CRMs for small businesses, so if you’d like to start making a list of solutions to evaluate, we’ve already done the narrowing down for you. To keep track of the systems you’re looking at, our vendor scorecard will help you keep all your information in one place.
Keep in mind that using a CRM should either improve or complement your team’s existing practices. To that end, you might find your company needs a system that’s more industry-specific than the ones we’ve discussed. Paying a visit to our Construction CRM, Financial CRM, or Real Estate CRM directories should help you find the CRM that best fits your team’s needs.
If you have thoughts about other CRMs that would be great for small businesses, be sure to leave a comment and let us know about it! You should also write a review for them and let everyone know exactly how much you love them. Happy CRM hunting!
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