Businesses that made it this far can get on with their streak acknowledging that interactions with customers need to be more personalized. These days, people don’t just buy products from an unknown company but patronize and believe in a brand.
We’re putting a lot of emphasis on customer retention and reducing churn rate rather than customer acquisition. In a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, you are more likely to increase profit by 25% to 95% when you increase customer retention rates by 5%, rather than spending millions of dollars acquiring new ones.
That said, improved relationships with your customers is the first step, which would then make expanding brand awareness and increasing sales much easier. The best way to do this is by looking for solutions that can help you collect as much valuable data as you can about your customers.
Before the advent of CRM, data is all over the place, customer info is not easily accessible, complaints are lodged through different platforms, and the only time these get response is when the customer service team finishes tickets early. The longer we imagine how companies keep track of customer information, the more we realize the need for CRM.
Now that you know the basic function of CRM, let’s take it a notch further by understanding the benefits it can bring to your business, and how you can use CRM to its full potential.
What is CRM?
CRM or customer relationship management is any tool or strategy that helps businesses organize and understand customer data better. It is a technology used for managing relationships and interactions with current and potential customers.
It’s also worth mentioning that CRM software solutions are either hosted on the cloud or on-premises. On-premises means your purchased software will be installed on your own company’s server. On the cloud means there’s a 3rd party vendor who will be giving you access to the system via the Internet.
Choosing between cloud and on-premise hosting options will depend on your access and control requirements. If you have tight security in your server, an excellent IT team that can manage all customizations, and you want to have complete visibility over your data storage, your best choice is on-premises hosting. But if your team is always on the go, and you want to free up some roles to focus on critical processes, hosting your CRM on the cloud is the way to go.
List of Best CRM Software
- HubSpot CRM: A free CRM software ideal for small to medium businesses that are just starting with CRM. Some of its key features include focused pipeline management and automatic logging of activity, which are useful to the sales team. Once you can get the hang of its features, the Hubspot Starter costs $50 per user per month. They also offer the Hubspot Professional Plan and Hubspot Marketing, which are priced according to the scale of the business.
- NetSuite CRM: Best for small-sized and medium-sized businesses to large enterprises. It’s most preferred for providing a real-time 360-degree view of customers. As this is a quote-based plan, arrange a discussion with their sales team to discuss your companies’ requirements.
- Snov.io is the best CRM for managing your contacts effectively and leveraging cold outreach capabilities. Your sales team will save time and increase revenue with automated outreach and over 2,000 integration options. Support is very quick and responsive. Snov.io offers absolutely free CRM software with every plan (including our XS freemium).
- Salesforce CRM: One of the top specialties of Salesforce, a SaaS leading company in the market. Offering services to businesses of all sizes, Salesforce focuses on sales and support by improving customer service through automation and greater efficiency across teams. Their pricing starts at $25 per user per month to over $300.
- Insightly: Best for SMB, focusing mainly on email integration, and connecting it to contacts and social media. This gives you a holistic insight into the customer buying process. Insightly CRM pricing plans start at $29 for Plus, $49 for Professional, and $99 per user per month for enterprises. It offers a free trial for both its Plus and Professional plans.
- Zoho CRM: A platform with a global network of small business users and has been one of the top choices among CRM solutions, primarily because of its low-cost plans. It offers a free plan for up to 3 users. The starter plan costs $8 per user per month, while the standard plan costs $12 per user per month. The former has all the tool’s basic functionalities to run a business, making it a practical option.
- Pipedrive: A platform suitable for small to medium growing businesses that are dealing with a huge amount of sales, but aren’t yet in the financial stage to expand teams. Pipedrive provides an efficient visual presentation of your sales pipeline from lead gathering, sales task automation, up to closing deals. The Essential Plan is available at $12.50 per user per month, the advance plan at $24.90, while the Professional Plan is available at $49.90. You can also avail of an Enterprise Plan at $99 per user per month.
- Nimble: A CRM platform with an intuitive dashboard, giving you a 360 view of your customers. With scheduled-based reminders to stay in touch with your customers, you become ahead at any level of the sales funnel. The Nimble Business Plan includes a unified message inbox, contact management, marketing and outreach tools, and pipeline management and customer support all for $19 per user per month.
- monday.com: Gaining traction because of the simplicity of its platform, Monday.com offers a customizable board and diverse template options. Set priorities, assign tasks to members of the team, add subtasks, move items to categories, and update status as easy as drag-and-drop. Monday.com offers flexible pricing plans based on the number of users starting at $39 per month for the Basic Plan with 5 users. The Standard Plan is available at $49, while the Pro Plan is available at $79.
- FreshSales: A sales CRM by FreshWorks that lets teams be on the right track in managing leads. FreshSales has a built-in email and phone integration that enables users to contact customers without switching apps. The lead scoring feature allows you to know which customers to prioritize. Get an overall visual sales pipeline so you can identify the next best action to take at any stage of the sales funnel. You can get a Blossom Plan at $12 per user per month. Garden Plan is available at $25 per user per month. Estate is at $49 per user per month. While Forest is available at $79 per user per month.
- Agile CRM: An all-in-one, cloud-based SaaS CRM for small to midsize companies. Modern businesses struggling with automating tasks, handling customer support, and organizing large amounts of customer information will find Agile a competitive player. It offers a free pricing plan for starting businesses. The Starter Plan starts at $8.99, while the Regular Pricing Plan starts at $29.99. For larger companies, they will find the Enterprise Plan for $47.99 with over 50 plugins available the most suitable.
- Keap CRM: A powerful multi-tasking CRM. It keeps track of every detail about your customer, records any form of interaction so you need not ask the same questions twice. With Smart Forms, you also get the information you need right away. The subscription plan starts at $79 per month for Grow Plan which includes up to 500 contacts and 1 user. The Pro Plan starts at $149 per month. The Infusionsoft plan starts at $199 per month combining the best features of the CRM plus sales and marketing.
- ActiveCampaign: A cloud-based marketing CRM platform with hundreds of integrations and is best for businesses looking to improve their automation process including triggered campaigns, segmentation, and follow-ups. It is also integrated with personalized email marketing, automated workflows all working together to help you keep track of leads, and create a great customer experience. Lite Plan is paid yearly at $9 per month, the Plus plan is paid yearly at $49 per month, while the Professional Plan starts at $129 per month. At $299, you can avail of the Enterprise Plan.
- SugarCRM: Another CRM platform that empowers the sales team by providing the right information about their customers. Sugar Sell compiles all the data to generate analytics and to see the whole picture, specifically the customer’s lifecycle, at large. SugarCRM offers different levels of pricing plans starting at 80 for Sugar Sell and Sugar Serve per user per month with 10 minimum users.
- Dynamics 365 for Sales: A product of Microsoft, Dynamics 365 focuses on sales CRM with hundreds of capabilities (including the integration with Microsoft products such as Outlook, Exchange, and Power BI) that aims to better understand customer needs. You can track leads and opportunities, connect with customers, create proposals, send quotations to clients using powerful tools and even let you do this on-the-go. Dynamics 365 Sales Professional is priced at $65 per user per month, while Dynamics 365 Sales Enterprise is at $95 per user per month.
- Apptivo CRM: Lastly, Apptivo is an all-in-one cloud solution that includes CRM, Marketing, and Project Management among other things. Apptivo automatically generates leads as customers provide their information. It is highly scalable, has a good number of useful third-party integrations including G-Suite, WordPress, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc.
- Indy: Best for small businesses and freelancers looking for an all-in-one, highly intuitive CRM solution. Boost productivity and save money by easily generating new leads, creating and tracking tasks for teams, streamlining communication with clients, clear and easy-to-use workflow management, professional contract templates, invoicing, time tracking, and more. Indy has a free forever plan with limited access to all the essential tools. While the Pro Bundle gives you unlimited access plus 500GB of storage for half the price of competitors at $9/month.
- NetHunt CRM: A platform that integrates natively with Gmail and other Google Workspace apps. It’s suitable for small to medium-growing businesses from various industries due to the high level of CRM customization. NetHunt offers essential CRM functionality as well as powerful workflow automation to streamline sales. The Basic plan starts at $24 per month (paid annually), while the Advanced plan costs $96 when paid annually.
How Does a CRM system work?
A CRM system combines sales, marketing, and service automation roles into one platform so that all interactions with the customer are recorded, and repetitive tasks are minimized.
The simplest way to think about CRM is a calendar app, spreadsheet, analytics, phone, email, and integration with your other devices all in your pocket. The CRM system not only enables businesses to keep in touch with customers with this information, but also to streamline processes, improve relationships, and even increase profitability.
Key Features and Benefits of a CRM System
The best way to know your customers on a deeper level is by using a system to track and keep just about any information that is useful to the business. Some key features enable you to do just that. Here are the most basic ones you can find in any CRM software.
- Contact management. Involves keeping customer contact records. This includes demographic data and their interaction with the website.
- High-quality lead generation. That said about contact management; it can give you a picture of what products will customers most likely be interested in.
- Campaign management. Some customers are convinced differently. With CRM, you can identify what kind of upselling strategy will be most effective. The next time you reach out to them, say, for example, through newsletters, your conversation is bound to be more effective.
- Sales forecasting. Makes use of gathered information to predict the future of sales. With an accurate forecast, the business can decide on future expenditures and predict the company’s overall performance. This strategy can also help companies predict future growth.
- Email client integration. Another nifty feature that enables businesses to send and receive emails to and fro different customers inside the CRM. Just by looking at a customer profile and heading over email related list, you can view email conversations with the customer.
- File and content sharing. Makes collaboration easier between support, sales, and marketing. As both are using the same platform, they can all access what each team has gathered to improve each team’s strategy.
- Dashboard analytics. An interpreted summary of records kept in the CRM system. As a business, it will be the most important tool when you’re deciding about sales or developing your marketing funnel.
- Marketing automation integration is an essential tool to integrate with CRM to set up, combine, and automate marketing activities.
- Pipeline management enables managers to predict future revenues accurately by looking at the analytics dashboard.
- Mobile integration enables CRM users to access the platform anytime through a mobile app.
Types of CRM
Three subsets of CRM are different based on the focus of the business process. Although a lot of times, there’s an overlap between these types.
Operational CRM mainly focuses on direct interaction with clients and prospects. The primary purpose of operational CRM is streamlining the business process, where the main goal is to improve customer satisfaction. The teams involved in this category are contact and call center teams and data aggregation systems.
Analytical CRM, on the other hand, includes data mining from a data warehouse and rendering these large amounts of data for interpretation and correlation. After it has gone through the analytical process, CRM managers can conclude customer behavior, including their purchasing power. Through analytical CRM, you can control sales, and you can direct marketing strategies to the right audience.
Collaborative CRM helps with better alignment between sales, tech support, and marketing teams. It is a CRM subset where everyone “shares” information from their interaction with customers. As they are using the same system, they keep all the information in the same customer profile.
What To Look For in a CRM Solution
With the plethora of CRM solutions offered in the market, it becomes hard to choose the right one for your business. Out of all the features we have mentioned, only some of them could help with the business, and the rest will be just additional features. When purchasing one, keep in mind these hallmarks that make a great CRM.
CRM solution needs to integrate with other external software tools like live agents, chatbots, email apps, and others, saving time from switching back and forth between programs.
With improved processes, you just have to expect that your business can grow at a fast rate. Another requirement is that CRM software must be easily scalable and can grow with the business.
An analytics feature should be in every CRM system, which is essential to see trends and have a real-time view of important information, pending emails, and inquiries.
When all your business information and customer information are on one platform, security is of utmost importance. There should also be a control privileges feature for certain records that only specific people can access.
As mentioned earlier, more and more businesses are looking for CRM systems that can integrate into mobile platforms, enabling people to access the platform anytime they need.
Potential Issues with Using CRM
Poor data quality
Data should have some quality checks. Gathering just about any data you can get will not help the business. To safeguard this, they should assign some critical roles to the QA or IT department where they identify and gather only what other departments require in their strategies.
The customized add-on doesn’t work
We mentioned integration as one feature that makes a great CRM. On the other hand, one of the potential issues that you can encounter is your customized add-ons not working in your CRM software. So it’s always a good precaution to discuss this with your vendor.
Security Breach issues
CRM is a treasure trove of valuable information that hackers are so willing to breach the first chance they get. Additional security integration with robust security measures should be a requirement in every CRM software.
Latest Trends in CRM
Social CRM to Boost Relationships
Take, for example, social CRM tools such as Hootsuite. With Hootsuite, you can schedule your social media post on Instagram every Wednesday, and Facebook every Tuesday. Your twitter profile and email answer customer tweets with canned responses. You can also set up social listening by integrating tools to monitor brand mentions even when they’re not tagged. Hootsuite, again as an example, can monitor keywords and phrases on different platforms. By being present on social platforms regularly, CRM can help your business boost relationships.
CRM retargeting is another new way of increasing sales by displaying ads to customers even though analytics found they are no longer responding to other marketing campaigns. One form of targeted ads is by going back to your funnel and reintroducing fresh brand awareness. Retargeting can lead a prospect through the customer journey.
AI-powered Data Mining
Lastly, more companies are already using AI to improve their data mining processes. AI can analyze sales calls, follow up with leads through emails, match past data with existing ones, etc. AI and Machine Learning technologies can do so much with CRM that will never be possible with manual data entry.