As a business owner, you know that your customers are your lifeline. Whatever industry that you are in, your business isn’t able to survive without your customers. Once you’ve built your brand or business enough to build a customer base, that’s only the 1st step. The question then becomes, how do you get your customers to stick around?
You don’t want people to only visit your business or make a purchase from you once and never think of your business again. Rather, it’s more valuable for you as a business owner to shift your focus toward building lasting relationships with your customers so that you will have customers for the duration of your business operating.
You’ve probably heard of the term Customer Relationship Management (CRM). CRM is all the buzz in business management right now. In recent years, global spending on CRM (1) software has grown upwards of 15.6% and reached over $48 billion. By 2025, the market is expected to almost double in revenue.
Some recent studies (2) have shown that by using CRM, business teams are able to increase their sales by an average of 29% and improve reporting accuracy by 42%. The reality is that customer relationship software needs to be a priority for business owners to invest in. Our research team compared and contrasted the top software out there and narrowed it down to the top 8 CRM systems.
Never purchased CRM software before? Not sure what exactly CRM is? No worries! Click here to skip to our buyer’s guide.
|System||Starting Software Costs||Hardware Costs||Key Features|
|Annual license fee, quote based||No additional hardware is required but there is a 1 time software implementation fee||Wide array of support for their users such as webinars, blogs, guides, and more|
|4 different pricing tiers, ranging from $25/month per user - $300/month per user.||Users can typically use the hardware that they already have.||Highly customizable marketing features|
|Plans range from $20-65 per month per user||No additional hardware needed for this software.||Artificial intelligence assistance "Zia" makes tasks easier|
|Plans range from $79-$199/month for single users and 500 contacts. Additional users are $30/month. Larger contact needs must get a quote||No hardware needed; one-time $499 fee for coaching from Keap||Extremely easy to use and navigate, little to no learning curve|
|Free plan available, most expensive plan is $48/month for 3 users||Larger businesses require a quote for their software needs||Compatible with many popular business apps|
|Plans range from $19-$99 per user, per month||No additional hardware is needed||Many other software options available for business owners, an all-in-one choice|
|Packages range from $18-83/per user, per month||No additional purchases necessary||Most features offered at the price point, great option for those with limited budget|
|Most inexpensive plan is $18 per user per month, most expensive plan is $99 per user per month||Typically no additional hardware purchases are needed for software installation||Highly focused on sales efficiency and growth|
Table of Contents
- Oracle Netsuite: Best Customer Support
- Salesforce CRM: Most Customization Options
- Zoho CRM: Artificial Intelligence Assistance
- Keap: Easiest to Use
- Monday.com: Variety of App Integrations
- Zendesk Sell: Feature Rich
- FreshSales: Best Bang for Your Buck
- Pipe Drive: Most Focused on Sales
- CRM System Buyers Guide
Headquartered in San Mateo, California, Netsuite was founded in 1998. Their company began as a cloud software company with the mission to help manage businesses with their web-based system. In 2016, Oracle acquired Netsuite. Today, the company services over 21,000 companies worldwide.
Automated Marketing – Netsuite offers simplified marketing tools. The tools enable companies to track and measure their leads and continually observe buyer-readiness conditions. Using their software, businesses are able to manage and analyze their marketing campaigns in one place. These campaigns include email, events, and multi-channel. Being able to track performance in real time allows for maximal ROI (Return On Investment) and tweaking live campaigns when needed.
Sales Force Efficiency – This software compiles all customer data into one database. Having information in a central database enhances employee collaboration. The unified database allows for employees to be able to input data once into one source rather than having to search for information from multiple sources, avoiding errors and miscommunication. Netsuite features real-time data to provide forecasting tools for sales force teams.
Mobile Access – Team members can input or update customer and sales data from anywhere that they have access to a tablet or mobile device. Employees can manage calendars, reminders, call notes, quotes, time-sheets, and more with the Netsuite mobile CRM interface.
Improved Customer Service – The cloud interface on the software allows everyone access to customer information. Since all business team members and employees will be able to view key data like sales/service history, communication, and support – customer case resolution will be a more expedited process.
Company Support – NetSuite offers a wide variety of support for their users. Their software provides product demos, webinars, information guides, blogs, and more.
Netsuite offers an annual license fee, and there is a one-time initial implementation fee for their software. You have to reach out to NetSuite directly for a price quote.
Some users of Netsuite software have reported that the system is too complex for small businesses. It has also been reported that their software can be difficult to use. The most common complaints were hidden information that is difficult to find/access in analytical reports, and that their troubleshooting time is long. It should also be noted that some users have reviewed their software as being “buggy”.
Founded in a small San Francisco apartment in 1999. Since then their company has exploded. They service over 150,000 companies, including name brands like BBVA, T Mobile, and (RED). Their system is one of the most well-known on the market.
Customized Marketing Solutions – Customized marketing techniques help customers feel more important by focusing heavily on the individual customer data. Marketing messages and campaigns are triggered based on customer action and activity, and customer information is acquired from multiple sources like different devices and channels. Key customer information is compiled into a single data profile for each customer.
Automate Sales Tasks – Sales tasks and admin work that are deemed as redundant are able to be automated with sales tools through the Salesforce CRM software. These tools free up sales team members to focus on specified customer goals, rather than investing large chunks of time into excess busy work. The automation allows for deals to be closed faster with automated tasks and analytics.
Personalized Customer Support – Salesforce offers several customer service solutions. The tools their system features include receiving actionable customer insight that is able to be shared, engage with and support customers on their desired channel, scale AI (Artificial Intelligence)-powered support chatbots, and service cases more rapidly with automated workflows.
Wide Variety of Resources – When using Salesforce, business owners are able to choose to get help in just about any facet of their business that they need. From customer service, to marketing, analytics, integrations, and more.
There are many packages available. The most popular CRM package is their Sales Cloud option which has 4 different pricing tiers, ranging from $25/month per user – $300/month per user. It’s recommended to reach out to Salesforce to find out which package would best suit the individual needs of your business.
Salesforce CRM has an overwhelming amount of positive consumer reviews. Some of the common negatives mentioned among users included that there is too much scrolling and clicking that has to be done on the consumer end, making it easy to make errors or miss things.
Zoho began in 1996 and started as simply a technology company. Since then, the company has expanded their offerings to a wide variety of web based business tools. Their global headquarters are in India and their United States headquarters are located in California. The company currently has over 7,000 employees located worldwide.
Omnichannel Communication – Zoho allows users to communicate with their customers across an array of channels. Rather than being confined to a specific contact method or web-based form, their software will support customer support and communication across the channels of email, telephone, chat, and social media. Their communication reporting creates a customer profile that stores all previous communication from across varying channels, making it easy to pull up all consumer history in just a few clicks.
Complete Workflow Customization – Not only can workflow processes be automated, but they can also be completely customized. Their software enables business teams to set up trigger campaigns with rules that can be specified with up to 10 conditions (when, then, if) per a single rule. The depth of customization allowance will really enable teams to zone in on personalization and connection with the customer.
ZIA – A unique feature that you can expect from Zoho is Zia. Zia is the AI assistant built into their software. Hearing AI or Artificial Intelligence can be a bit overwhelming for those who don’t consider themselves tech savvy. This is where utilizing Zia really comes in handy. Users of Zoho can live chat with Zia, call the assistant, ask Zia to take notes, retrieve and update records, optimize customer records, extract key email information, and so much more. Think of Zia like an Alexa on steroids, but for CRM purposes.
Zoho has 4 different pricing packages that they offer. Their most basic “standard” plan is $20/month per user, and their most expensive plan is “ultimate” plan that is $65/month per user. You can cut down on these costs by a few dollars if you choose to be billed annually rather than monthly.
Finding a recent negative user review of Zoho is a difficult task. Some users mentioned that a few of their app integrations can act buggy at times, but the majority of the reviews and ratings are extremely positive.
Keap is a more recent company. They began in 2001. Their headquarters are located in Arizona, and they have office locations in both California as well as Atlanta. Keap really focuses on small businesses, specifically ranging from 2-20 employees. Although their focus is small, don’t let that fool you. Their software has been reviewed by sources such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, and The Wall Street Journal.
User Friendly – A great word to describe the software from Keap is simple. Their company has chosen to set themselves apart from other systems in the industry but focusing on small businesses. The small business centered approach has allowed them to simplify their software.
Time Management – A key claim made by Keap is that they are able to save businesses time. In the business world, it’s a known (and true) statement that time is money. Keap boasts that they save businesses on average 10 hours per week by using their easy automation tools. Their advanced tools will enable marketers to optimize leads through segmentation and tagging, and focusing on activity triggers.
In-Depth Training – If the thought of getting started with a CRM software overwhelms you, don’t worry. The training offered to users through Keap is essentially endless. Their training includes in-person sessions, live online, webinars, blogs, documentation, and videos. Their support features are also pretty extensive. The support options include email, FAQs/chat forums, phone support, live chat, and more.
Keap has 3 different pricing packages. The most inexpensive is their “Lite” option and it is $79/month. Their middle option is the “Pro” package which is $169/month. The most expensive option is their “Max” package and it is $199/month. All 3 of their packages allow for 500 contacts and 1 user. Additional users can be purchased for $30/user. For more advanced businesses, a quote is required. It should be noted that all packages require their expert coaching fee to gain access to all of their training opportunities, and that is a one-time $499 fee.
Overall Keap has fairly positive consumer reviews. A common negative comment stated by users of the system is that their reporting is a little too simplified and could be much more intuitive with their data.
Monday.com was founded by business owners, so their approach is designed to benefit business owners in as many ways as possible. The co-founders, Roy Mann and Eran Zinman started Monday in 2012 while they were experiencing the challenges of scaling their own business while prioritizing CRM. Their business is actually a project management system, however within their system are some pretty sweet CRM tools.
Flexible Dashboard – The CRM dashboard offered through Monday’s software is extremely flexible. The dashboard is interactive with a drag and drop interface. The system allows users to tailor every aspect of the CRM process and manage individual customers’ entire pipeline process in one place. The dashboard will give business team members a visual overview of key components of customer and sales force data at all times. Best of all, this customizable dashboard is accessible from anywhere. Monday.com offers a mobile app as well as an offline mode.
Integrations – Monday.com is compatible with a large amount of app integrations. If you’re currently using a software or program that you already love with your business, there is a good chance that you will be able to integrate it with your Monday system. Some of the most popular systems that are able to be synced with Monday.com include Outlook, Dropbox, Microsoft Teams, Excel, Zoom, Google Drive + Calendar, and more.
Highly Trusted – A company can boast all of the claims that they want, but it doesn’t really matter at all to potential users of their software if the system can’t back up the company claims. Monday.com is used by some of the top organizations that are in the business world today. Some popular companies you’ve likely heard of that utilize Monday.com include Uber, Hulu, and Adobe. Their company services over 100,000 companies. It speaks volumes to their company that so many top organizations are currently choosing to use their software.
There is a free package offered from Monday.com. It’s very basic, and up to 2 people can use the plan. It’s targeted toward individuals who simply want to better manage their customers and workflow. Their paid plans start at $8/user per month, and it’s made for 3 users, so you will be billed $24/month. Their most expensive plan is $16/user per month for 3 users, users will be billed $48/month. There is a quoted plan available for larger businesses who have more complex needs/larger numbers of users.
The most common theme in user complaints concerning Monday.com is their customer service. Several users report that the support team is heavily lacking. If you’re looking for a software that provides robust support and training for it’s users, this may not be the right fit for your business.
Zendesk was founded in 2007, and their current headquarters are located in San Francisco, CA. Zendesk offers multiple different systems. They are most widely known for their tools such as Zendesk Support (customer support ticket resolution software), Zendesk Chat (live chat software), Zendesk Talk (cloud-based call center software), Zendesk Gather (community forum software), and Zendesk Sell (CRM software). These are just a few of the tools that they offer. They also package all their software tools and channels together in a system called Zendesk Suite.
Many Products Available (in addition to CRM) – A huge benefit of utilizing Zendesk Sell for CRM software is that Zendesk offers so many other products for businesses. Typically, as a business owner, you don’t just need help in managing customers, rather – you need assistance in multiple areas of your business. If you are a business owner that’s looking for a company that will be able to offer beneficial products in many aspects of the technological side of your business, Zendesk would be a great consideration for this reason.
Intelligent Sales Prospecting – The Sell CRM platform aids with closing in on sales prospects. This is accomplished by their lead generation tool (an add-on to Zendesk Sell) that’s known as Reach. Through the database on Reach, business teams get access to an accurate and updated list of 395 million prospects from over 20 million businesses that are compiled into the central database. When using Reach, you’ll be able to easily identify potential prospect lists through targeted information, and connect with automated email follow-ups.
Detailed Reporting and Tracking – Other softwares that are on the market have been reported as lacking on the reporting side of things. Zendesk Sell features analytical reporting tools that excel above the others. On the Sell platform, users will be able to choose between 20+ chart types to display your reporting data. If you’re a visual person – you’ll be able to choose whichever type of visualization that best suits your needs. Everything on the reporting end is 100% customizable. The reports can be exported in forms of CSV, Excel, PDF, and image. After viewing and analyzing your reports, Zendesk aids even further by providing forecast insights to help optimize business planning.
There are 3 pricing plans available for Zendesk Sell. The basic plan starts at $19/per user/month. The middle tier plan is $49/per user, per month. Their most expensive plan is $99/per user/month. All Sell plans are billed on an annual basis.
Some users complained that the detailed reporting capabilities were too easy to edit, making it really simple to make inputting errors that are communicated business-wide. Another common complaint is that their app integrations were subpar in comparison to other software that is available.
FreshSales is the CRM software that was launched from the company FreshWorks. FreshSales was launched out of a need in their company. Freshworks was a smaller business that was searching for a CRM solution for their 5000+ and growing contact list that would be automatically updated with their website sign up form. When they started their search, the team at Freshworks quickly found that they were limited in their options available, and those that were available were extremely costly. They couldn’t swing the high per user monthly costs as a smaller business. So, FreshSales was launched in 2016.
Email and Phone Integrations – Cloud telephony and email integration is built into FreshSales. Everything from phone and email communication is automatically logged into your CRM dashboard. Their telephony tool tracking includes the reporting of call logs, notes, recordings of relevant communication with prospects. Their email integration allows you to use two-way email sync, which means that your existing calendar and email inbox will be synced into your FreshSales dashboard. Rather than having to constantly switch back and forth between tabs, inboxes, call logs, and notes, all of your correspondence is stored in one convenient location.
Pipeline Management Assistance – You have probably heard of the term pipeline thrown around in the business world. Essentially, it is just a term that describes the process of a lead turning into an eventual customer. It’s evident that the pipeline for every business will look wildly different depending on which category or industry that the business falls under. A neat feature that FreshSales offers in their CRM software is the ability to set up pipelines with custom stages. This allows for more in-depth tracking of individual customers and deals.
Freddy – Freddy is the artificial intelligence assistance pup offered from FreshSales. By using Freddy, business owners will be able to understand their customers at a completely different level. Freddy communicates with business teams while constantly analyzing and learning from their CRM data. The powerful AI tool will make data driven suggestions based on reporting patterns. The actionable suggestions are backed by deep insight into your specific business and based on forecasted goals that you set in place.
Another attractive feature from FreshSales is the affordability of their software. Their company does offer a very basic plan that is free. There are 3 paid plans ranging from $18-$83/per user, per month. The pricing does decrease if users choose to pay annually vs. monthly.
The most common complaint from users of FreshSales is that their technical support department is not very helpful.
Pipedrive was created by salespeople back in 2010. The co-founders Timo Rein and Urmas Purde found a lack in the CRM system market. They found that there was not a system that was targeted specifically for sales teams. Their system is designed to thrive in the area of activity-based selling and is heavily geared toward boosting sales. According to their website, the company goal at Pipedrive is, “to make sales success not only possible but inevitable for teams everywhere.”
Higher Sales Efficiency – Since their software is designed to prioritize sales teams, it’s no surprise that some of their top features are in the sales department. The tools that can be found in Pipedrive’s software are created to make the sales process much more simple and insightful. For example, their pipeline dashboard is completely visual, and it is also interactive. Users will be able to drag and drop leads into different stages of the sales pipeline. Email and other app integrations are able to be synced right into the pipeline visualization. Contacts are able to be changed, updated, and found in one central location on desktop or on mobile.
Lead Optimization – CRM focuses a ton on engaging with potential leads and nurturing them into customers. However, if you have ever nurtured a lead, you are probably aware that dealing with more than one at a time can get pretty unorganized, pretty fast. The lead tools built-in to this system will make lead management and optimization simple. Users are able to add in leads manually, bulk import them from files, or sync them into Pipedrive from the programs you’re already using. Leads are also able to be labeled and filtered into categories such as “cold”, “hot”, and “warm”, or you can sort them with custom tags.
Endless Integrations – The integrations offered from Pipedrive are really impressive. Currently, their system is compatible with over 250+ third party apps. Some of the most popular ones include Facebook Messenger, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zapier, Trello, Quickbooks, Docusign, and so many more. The best part is, if you can’t find the app that you’re looking for – Pipedrive has what they call a “developers corner”. This tool allows users of their software to design and build their own apps and integrations based on their unique needs.
There are 4 plans available. The most basic plan is $18 per month per user, and the most expensive plan is $99 per month per user. All of their plans are billed on an annual basis. It should be noted that occasionally Pipedrive does offer sales on their pricing packages, so if you want a few dollars off wait until they are having a promotion running on their website.
Users of Pipedrive have reported that their automation capabilities are not as robust as other CRM software systems.
The Final Verdict
There are tons of different software systems that are available on the market for CRM, and it can be pretty tedious to dig through them all. Once you have identified the top needs for your business, it makes the process easier. Do you need to focus on sales? Email marketing? Customer support? Whatever aspect of your business that you need the most help in, choosing a thriving CRM system will only benefit the future of your business. Today, CRM does not have to be a difficult and overwhelming task with all of the companies that have options available.
CRM System Buyers Guide
So – what exactly is CRM?
Simply put, CRM is a business software that helps business owners strategize and manage their interactions with their customers. The right CRM software will aid in storing and categorizing customer information, enhance customer service, and streamline marketing campaigns. The goal of prioritizing customer relationship management as a business owner is really simple: help your business grow to its fullest potential.
There are tons of different tools and perks that you can get from different CRM systems on the market, depending on which company that you decide to go with. However, regardless of which system that you choose, there are a few core features you should make sure your CRM software offers.
Centered Around Customers
This feature should be the most important one to look for. If you are in the market for a system that will boost your customer relationship management, it’s crucial that the software you are using is designed with the customer in mind. Different systems may be geared more specifically towards different departments throughout your organization with their tools (I.E. Sales, Human Resources, Marketing). The top priority of the software should still be to form and nurture customer relationships for your business.
Automate Some Tasks
It’s evident that automation features will vary from system to system. Some software may choose to focus on automating marketing tasks, while other software may choose to gear their efforts toward automating pipeline tracking. The options for automation are endless, but any decent CRM system should offer some type of automation. Being able to automate certain tasks will allow time-consuming tasks to be exchanged for focusing on the necessary work – that is customer centric.
Provide Insightful Metrics
There is no real advantage in attempting to improve customer relationship and retention if you don’t have a way to track your efforts. It’s becoming more and more apparent to business owners everywhere that customer data is a key piece of analytical information. A recent report stated that the Customer Analytics Market is on track to $24.2 billion by the year 2025, climbing at an 18.2% annual growth rate. What is the reason for the exponential growth in this market? “The major factors driving the growth of customer analytics market include the need to understand customer buying behavior for a more personalized customer experience” (3).
Improved communication is accomplished by simplifying the ways that the employees and teams in a business are able to communicate important data to one another. How do you currently share information with co-workers? Perhaps some information is shared via email, some via phone, maybe some information is written down on a notepad and shared that way. When valuable information, especially pertaining to customers, is communicated through several methods, it often leads to chaos. CRM systems avoid the disorganized communication that can result in critical errors by allowing all information to be stored, synced, and exchanged in one central information database. Customers will receive an individual profile in the database where all correspondence and information can be uploaded and shared.
Boost Overall Efficiency
CRM software is continually evolving with new tools and features. One thing that every business owner should be sure to look for in choosing their software is the ability to improve the overall efficiency of their business. The right CRM will be able boost efficiency on every level of your business. Employees and teams will communicate better, marketing efforts will be more dialed in, analytical data will be more insightful and actionable, and most importantly – your sales will continue to trend upwards because you’re prioritizing customer leads.