Congratulations, small business owner… you’re finally following your dream. No matter which line of business you’re in, you’re making everyone proud, working hard every day to fulfil a societal need, and not to mention you look so smart in your grown-up office clothes.
But. It’s hard work, isn’t it? Your email inbox is full and getting fuller, your phone never stops ringing, and your intern keeps nipping out for another cigarette break, another packet of biscuits, and you don’t know what they’re really up to. Nobody does.
Yep, as a small business owner it’s hard to stay organised and on top of things. The catch 22 is, this disorganisation only gets more difficult to organise as you get more successful. More emails, more phone calls, and more interns. More clutter; more stress.
You need to get on top of your small business somehow.
Step forward, small business CRM.
Does my small business need a CRM?
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is, obviously, a tool businesses use to manage their customer relationships. To sum it up in a sentence, CRM is a tool that gleans, stores, and manages data; nurtures leads automatically, keeps sales and marketing teams aligned and productive, and hopefully brings a customer closer to conversion with continued loyalty to a brand.
For early-stage entrepreneurs and small business go-getters, developing even the most basic functionality of what a CRM does can be hard work. You can straddle multi-sheet spreadsheets full of customer data and self-running macros. You can even take advantage of native Gmail auto-fill macros for email marketing purposes. But… that all sounds like a lot of hard work with so few resources.
CRM helps small businesses organise, automate, and scale their growth. It surfaces data so it is accessible and manipulatable. Keep everything under one tab, rather than having all your different processes scattered across different platforms, on different servers across the world wide web. To answer the question… does your small business need a CRM system?
I don’t want to tell you how to run your business… but probably, yes.
What makes a good CRM for small business?
If we want to generalise our small businesses as young, wide-eyed, and wet-behind-the-ears eager business beavers, CRM for small business needs to be three things in particular…
Easy to use. Flexible and scalable. Cloud-based.
A CRM for small business needs to be easy-to-use because you don’t want to use something that’s hard to use. In the absence of dedicated training sessions and a developed, formal working culture, it needs to be easy for new staff to pick up and start using as well. Basically, you want to have the feeling of knowing what you’re doing… when you don’t necessarily know what you’re doing.
A CRM for small business needs to be flexible and scalable. Flexibility is provided when a system bends to fit your existing business processes, embedding those processes within itself. A lot of modern systems are modular and you can build your own dashboards and processes. Scalability comes from additional features, native or third-party, that you can add as your business grows.
A CRM for small business needs to be cloud-based. Most modern CRM systems are cloud-based. Some of the best ones integrate directly with your Gmail inbox to bring full CRM functionality to a tool that is an important part of your business. When you’ve not got an office space for big clunky servers, which are expensive to run, you should choose a cloud-based CRM for small business.
All the following CRMs for small business meet these basic criteria.
1. NetHunt CRM is good at just-about everything.
NetHunt CRM is a fully-integrated Gmail CRM. That means it’s not just some lousy sidebar integration, with a couple of buttons at the side of your Gmail inbox. Everything happens inside Gmail, as part of Gmail; the whole lead prospecting, generation, nurturing, and conversion journey. NetHunt CRM is cloud-based, so everything happens on our servers. As a bonus of this feature, NetHunt CRM can send unlimited daily emails; Gmail limits users to 500 emails per day.
The mission has always been to get everything under one tab. NetHunt CRM features a flexible contact database, based around records made up of deals and contacts. Records are customisable and filled with fields upon fields of information for a business to harness and manipulate. They can be sorted and filtered as you need to organise, automate, and grow your small business.
🧐 Feature in Focus: Workflows by NetHunt CRM
Workflows is NetHunt CRM’s automated workflow builder. No complicated integrations, and no coding experience required whatsoever. NetHunt offers sales automation as a flexible tool that can be bent to fit just about any sales workflow. It greases up your pipeline and gets things moving quickly.
I’ll say it again: no complicated integrations and no coding experience required whatsoever.
Capture inbound leads with handsome lead generation web forms built in an intuitive builder. Once there, they can be subject to triggered nurturing campaigns with beautiful, personalised email templates. Set reminders for sales teams to follow up. Never miss a beat again. No leads fall through the cracks, no prospect gets neglected. Workflows does all the heavy lifting for your everyday business processes.
✔️ NetHunt starts with a 14-day free trial.
✔️Prices start at $24.
✔️NetHunt offers an early-stage startup pricing plan.
2. Pipedrive CRM is focussed on optimising the sales process.
Pipedrive is designed to be simple enough for up-and-coming entrepreneurs and small business owners to get their heads around. It is renowned for its straightforward interface. We can add a new deal at the click of a button and get it moving through the pipeline as part of an automatic sales process quicker than you say the best small business CRM. Pipedrive requires minimum onboarding.
Pipedrive bundles all the different bits of data together from each individual deal and visualises them as part of a drag-and-drop sales journey. The main dashboard hub offers shared access to information everybody needs. This clarity lies at the heart of Pipedrive’s success as a small business CRM, with members of different teams keeping track of business and staying on top of their deals.
🧐 Feature in Focus: Chatbot Builder by Pipedrive
A chatbot can be a wickedly effective tool for small businesses to develop good-quality, inbound leads. It’s a tool that is often embedded as part of a business’s homepage, offering the opportunity for website visitors to chat to a robot in a friendly way about anything (product-related) they need. Pipedrive’s chatbot builder is part of their Leadbooster add-on. You need to pay extra for it and other features such as live chat, prospector features, and automatic web forms.
If you do decide to fork out for chatbot-building capabilities, you’ll be rewarded with a simple, intuitive builder. You can decide which colours and style your chat box window will be, and most importantly you can build the personality of your chatbot. Common issues and questions are easily dealt with by happily-trained chatbots… just don’t over automate okay?
✔️ Pipedrive starts with a 14-day free trial. Prices start at $12.50 afterwards.
✔️ The LeadBooster add-on (with chatbot) is $32.50, per company, per month.
3. Bigin by Zoho is an experienced CRM system, simplified for small business.
We’ve all heard about Zoho, they’ve been smashing the CRM scene since the 90’s. Bigin is their CRM system for small business, stripping back the stack of features that has been tacked onto Zoho over the years and simplifying them for a small business audience. With Bigin, developers have obviously tried to remove big, scary CRM hurdles and give users unrestricted access to their business.
That’s not to say the core elements of a good CRM system aren’t found in Bigin. It’s all built around a visualised sales pipeline to give a complete business picture. From that dedicated, drag-and-drop pipeline, users can tell how and where they need to engage their prospects and leads next, manage their centralised pipeline on the go with mobile apps, hopefully close more deals, and grow.
🧐 Feature in Focus: Telephony by Zoho
It’s no secret that sales reps spend a large portion of their day on the phone, trying to present products and close deals. Bigin CRM for small business features a no-hardware, built-in telephony system for small business sales teams to make and receive calls, give individual members individual phone numbers, and streamline telephone outreach and call logging for any member of the team.
The main focus of this feature is that telephone conversations are automatically added to the interaction history of a prospect, lead, or customer. It is particularly useful for users from countries with a smaller product niche, but who spend a lot of time reaching out to users in larger markets like Europe and the U.S. No hardware required and much lower phone bills - a small business winner.
✔️ Bigin by Zoho is a free, but limited CRM system.
✔️ Beyond the limited version, prices start at $7 per user, per month.
4. Insightly helps manage your projects more effectively.
As a small business owner, it can be easy to get bogged down in the little bits you need to do. This is made even more prevalent when we consider how it feels like every little thing we do matters so much. At time of writing, Insightly is the best tool on this list to bring little tasks between teams together, as larger projects, under the same umbrella. Insightly’s project management tool is boss.
Besides that, Insightly is built upon a modular design. The look and layout of your main CRM dashboard is provided through drag-and-drop functionality for everyone to see. The contact management feature maintains contact communication from start to finish, and there are integration capabilities with over 3000 apps through Zapier. Insightly grows with your business.
🧐 Feature in Focus: Activity Sets by Insightly
The full power of Insightly’s project management and collaboration capabilities are shown in Activity Sets. Simply put, Activity Sets helps Insightly users to maintain a uniform sales process across the board. It’s an automation feature which is specifically centred around project management. It eliminates the data entry that is typically associated with task creation and management.
Imagine a new lead enters your pipeline. Typically, there are a set of tasks associated with that lead; reach out via email, give them a ring, and get a demo scheduled. Normally, a team manager would need to remember to do these tasks. With a pre-set activity set, these three tasks are automatically assigned to inbound leads with appropriate due dates attached to them.
✔️ Insightly offers a free, but limited version of CRM.
✔️ Beyond the limited version, prices start at $7 per user, per month.
5. Monday.com looks very, very cool.
Monday.com is similar to Insightly, in that it uses a modular design to its dashboard structure. You can pick and choose how your main dashboard looks, and it’s built on a colourful and intuitive interface that’s super-easy to get going from the beginning. You start your monday.com CRM journey by choosing between three board templates and you tack what you need onto it as you go.
Above all, Monday is flexible; that’s the whole idea of it. But Monday also does basic CRM tasks well. It centralises data in a clean and accessible way, keeps your team connected with mobile and desktop apps, offers marketing management features to keep marketing projects on track, and a wide-range of workflow automation and integration possibilities. Monday.com is hard to beat.
🧐 Feature in Focus: Workload Board by monday.com
You can’t be everybody to everyone. As a solo-entrepreneur with big-business dreams, you’re going to eventually need to hire a team. The monday.com workload widget offers unparalleled insight into how your that teams’ labour and time is being divided in real-time. It gives an overview of who has finished what, who is working and until when, and what’s coming up in the future.
The Workload Board gives busy managers clarity on what is happening in their business daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. They can change due dates and reassign managers with tasks. Available as part of the Professional and Enterprise plans for monday.com CRM, workload boards are easy to set up, supremely flexible in their modularity, and easy to read with saucy colour coding.
✔️ monday.com offers a 14-day free trial.
✔️ Prices start at $24 per user per month.
Your small business needs a CRM system. There are loads of options out there to choose from.
Your job is to choose which one suits your small business best.