TECHNOLOGY

These Are 5 Great CRMs For Your Small Business

If implemented the right way, any of these will serve you well

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BY Gene Marks - 10 Aug 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Research firm Gartner predicts that the Customer Relationship Management market will be about $37 billion in 2017. That's a huge number and consistent with the industry's past double digit growth every year since 2011.

The reason why CRM applications are so popular is pretty understandable. When used the right way a good CRM system will ensure that everyone that comes in touch with your business are engaged, marketed, sold and serviced. To be sure, these systems are nothing more than databases that hold information (contact, activity, calendar, notes, email, service, campaigns, opportunities, etc.) about anyone (customers, prospects, vendors, partners, influencers, friends) that comes in contact with your company. If your company has the discipline and the culture, your CRM system will become the core of your sales, marketing and service efforts. And, in this big data world, you will find it will also create a significant intangible asset in your business.

So is your business too small for a CRM? Absolutely not. My company sells five CRM applications and our clients come from all industries and range in size from one user to hundreds. Having said that, there are certain considerations you should make if your company has less than 25 users of a CRM system. You don't need to drive a minivan if you're just young couple with no kids. Same goes for CRM systems -- there are some that are better suited to small business because they're simpler and priced more affordably, with a focus on the features that most small businesses actually use.

There are dozens -- literally dozens -- of excellent CRM applications for small (less than 25 users) businesses. The below list includes five that I trust and run into frequently. All of the "most popular for small businesses" versions of the software I list below come with the functions that you would expect: contact, activity, campaign, opportunity, lead and sales management as well as email integration, workflow/automation, alerts, and mobile apps. They also (with the exception of GoldMine) integrate with hundreds of other, third-party applications.

My company, The Marks Group PC, sells and implements CRM systems and currently serves about 600 active clients. These opinions are MY opinions and have been accumulated over the years based on my review and use of these products as well as feedback from other small business owners that use them. Rest assured, the five I selected are all great applications and even the cons -- I bet -- can be overcome with the help of a product expert or consultant. You be the judge.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

1. GoldMine

(Disclosure: The Marks Group sells this product)

Price:

$2,995 one-time fee for a five-concurrent-user system (there's also a 3-user package). Licenses are $695 per license after that, plus maintenance.

Most Popular Version for Small Businesses:

GoldMine Premium is the company's flagship. There are also cloud and mobile versions.

Pros:

On-premise (not cloud, although there are cloud options) means lower long term cost and control over data. Strong contact management. Built-in email client (and Outlook integration). Fast performance. Easy to use. Strong partner channel.

Cons:

Older architecture. Difficult to integrate with other applications. Few third-party integrations. Limited ability to customize.

2. Insightly

Price:

$12-$99 per user per month (free version also available).

Most Popular Version for Small Businesses:

Professional ($49 per user per month with annual subscription).

Pros:

Excellent Google (Gmail) and Slack integration. Simple interface. Great video tutorials. Fast performance.

Cons:

No partner channel. Reporting capabilities are limited. Some users complain of "too many screens."

3. Nimble

Price:

$22 per user per month (one version).

Most Popular Version for Small Businesses:

There's only one version of Nimble.

Pros:

Nimble founder Jon Ferrara is a CRM icon and a passionate advocate. Very strong social media integration. Tracks customer "value" based on engagement. Searches across all social media platforms.

Cons:

More 3rd party integrations needed. Limits to customizable fields, views and workflows. LinkedIn integration limited due to LI's relationship with Microsoft.

4. ProsperWorks

Price:

$19-$119 per user per month.

Most Popular Version for Small Businesses:

Professional ($49 per user per month).

Pros:

Arguably considered the strongest Google-based CRM application around. Also includes a Chrome extension. Very easy to learn.

Cons:

Still a young product. No partner channel. Limited number of custom fields. Data migration challenges.

5. Zoho

(Disclosure: The Marks Group sells this product)

Price:

Ranges from $12-$50 per month (free version also available).

Most popular version:

Enterprise ($35 per user per month with annual subscription).

Pros:

Large user base. Very customizable. Built in e-mail client (and Outlook integration). Part of a suite of other Zoho products that includes accounting and project management. Strong partner channel.

Cons:

Overseas-provided support can be slow and unsatisfactory. E-Mail sharing among teams is cumbersome.

The takeaway: if implemented the right way, any of the above five applications will work fine for your small (less than 25 user) business. These companies compete and watch what each other is doing. When one company adds a feature you can bet the others will follow shortly. Every business needs a CRM. Your business needs a CRM.