5 Inexpensive CRM Solutions for Small Businesses

The right customer relationship management (CRM) software can take your business from ‘winging it’ to ‘well-oiled machine.’
CRM
An effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can increase customer retention and boost sales. (Photo: dizain/Shutterstock)

Increasingly, the customer experience is everything. One way to improve that experience, and to better court current and future customers, is through a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Designed to help you boost customer retention and sales, it can have a major impact on your business.

CRM systems give you the ability to easily organize contacts, manage your sales funnel, track sales and customer communications and more. Many POS systems (including NCR Silver) can help with basic CRM functionality, such as purchase record keeping, automated email marketing and integrated loyalty programs. If you want something more robust, like advanced analytics or lead generation, a good POS can integrate with CRM software.

“A company needs CRM if they want to go from ‘winging it’ to being a ‘well-oiled machine,’” said Erik Robie, a CRM writer for software review site Merchant Maverick. More than a glorified spreadsheet, Robie said that a good CRM system provides “all the information you need to give your clients A+ interactions.”

Bob Spoerl, co-founder of Bear Icebox Communications, agreed, describing CRMs as “a useful and necessary administrative tool to keep prospects top of mind and engaged. Also, most CRMs have useful goal tracking components that motivate teams and keep you in line with your business plan.”

There are countless CRM tools to choose from. Here are a few simple and inexpensive options for small businesses.

HubSpot

HubSpot is one of the top inbound sales and marketing tools available. The HubSpot CRM product is free. There are also free versions of HubSpot’s sales and marketing tools.

“This is what my partners and I use,” said Spoerl. “The price is certainly right — you can create a strong starter CRM for free.” Spoerl noted HubSpot allows you to organize your prospects and contacts, establish your funnel, track sales goals and manage customer communications.

“One of our favorite features is that you’re able to integrate Gmail with HubSpot’s CRM. This makes it much easier to log activities, schedule follow-up reminders and keep the entire pipeline organized.”

bob-spoerl

“Most CRMs are meant to scale as you grow and bring on team members. Let the CRM grow with you.” – Bob Spoerl
(Photo: Bob Spoerl)

Zoho CRM

Another popular system for small businesses is Zoho CRM. Zoho’s freemium pricing allows your business access to basic CRM features for up to 10 users at no cost. Upgrade options are very affordable.

Like HubSpot, Zoho is not “just” a CRM. According to Robie, “Zoho offers a suite of applications available from the cloud, which all integrate with one another seamlessly.” Most of Zoho’s other business management apps have a free option as well.

Insightly

Jeremy Marsan is a business analyst and staff writer for FitSmallBusiness.com, specializing in CRM systems and other small business technology. He suggested Insightly as a low-cost CRM option for small businesses.

“It’s very affordable and easy to use yet packs in advanced features like custom reports and Gmail integration,” he said. “We use it internally for contact and project management.”

Like Hubspot and Zoho, Insightly also offers a free version that is sufficient for the needs of many small businesses.

Contactually

For businesses that rely heavily on personal networks and authentic relationships with clients, Robie recommended Contactually.

“This wonderful app focuses on relationship management, whereas many CRM apps major on the sales pipeline,” he said. “This is a great pick for a reliable, solid and straightforward contact manager.”

Contactually doesn’t offer a completely free option, but it does offer a free trial, and plans start at $29 per month per user. If your primary source of business is from personal relationships and referrals, this may be a better option than a more extensive, traditional CRM system.

CleverTim

Another low-cost CRM option for small businesses is CleverTim.

“This is the ‘by small business owners, for small business owners’ solution,” said Robie. “An entrepreneur knows that they must be quick, decisive and savvy. This is CleverTim to a ‘T’.”

Unlike most CRM solutions, CleverTim’s main plans are not charged on a per-user basis, which makes it much more affordable as your company grows. CleverTim does offer a free plan for up to two users, but the company’s unique pricing model gives you more bang for your buck as you add more members to your team.

According to Robie, the CleverTim feature set is designed for small businesses, “which means you’ll find exactly what you need, without the cumbersome learning curve of enterprise-sized applications.”

Spoerl agreed, warning small business owners to not bite off a bigger CRM system than they can chew. “Don’t get the Cadillac, full-service CRM plan when all you need is a starter package,” he said. “Most CRMs are meant to scale as you grow and bring on team members. Let the CRM grow with you.”

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