Customer relationship management software (CRM) is integral to customer service and sales teams. It is an excellent resource for managing leads, visualizing sales, and simplifying deal processes all on one interface, ensuring customer data is efficiently used to drive sales.
However, for small businesses and startups, full-stack CRMs such as Salesforce may do a bit too much.
Full-stack CRMs typically incur a fairly steep starting price point upwards of $55 per user per month – meaning a small business could be paying for features they wouldn’t actually use.
There are a lot of CRMs out there vying for your attention, as you can see in the Crozdesk Market Radar™ on your right, making it difficult to know which ones are lightweight and suited for small businesses.
Making sure the CRM software suits your company is one of the key questions you should ask yourself before buying a CRM.
In our mission to find the best small business CRM alternatives to Salesforce, Crozdesk spoke to small business owners to discern the features and solutions they need the most, and the ones they don’t.
Michael Manson, the owner of Perfect Chaos Film, told us the features that mattered most to him:
- Customizable sales stages
- Tracking the origin of leads
- Keeping basic sales stats, track meetings in a month, close rates, etc
Manson also told us what aspects of a CRM were unnecessary to him as a small business owner:
- Integrating a CRM with email
- Overly detailed info on accounts, which often leads to unneeded data entry
- Additional modules such as project management, which is generally for larger companies with a lot of hands talking to each other
Sometimes, small business owners do need the bells and whistles though, but finding an affordable solution is a hassle.
Deltrease Hard-Anderson from D. Hart Accounting told us she had trouble finding a CRM for her small account and tax firm.
The functionalities she needs the most:
- Task and project management systems and task delegation to be assigned to whole groups
- Synchronised email capabilities
- Built in invoicing
- Lead automation
- Live support
With these considerations in mind, we have compiled a list of 5 customer relationship management solutions for small businesses.
Each entry has a starting price point lower than $15 per month.
Secondly, each has an interface that puts simplicity at the heart of the user experience, while not skimping out on features.
Pipedrive caters for more than 50,000 small businesses all over the world. It is highly visual, quick to setup, and easy to navigate.
- Detailed and easy-to-read sales pipeline. Quickly assess your strategy with sales forecasting and sales reporting features
- Robust statistics suite with analytics for emails sent, deals added and activities added. All of which can be filtered by informative parameters
- Powerful API which enables full integration with productivity enhancing software, such as Zapier, MailChimp, Google Apps and Drip
Pipedrive’s interface is beneficial for users that prefer visual information, as Pipedrive gives a broad overview of all of your sales, allowing you to prioritize the most important deal, and ascertain the stage you are at with each deal.
The Pipedrive pipeline always keeps users looking ahead, you are constantly reminded of the next activity pertaining to a deal.
Ryan Matzner, the founder of Fueled, told us about his experience with Pipedrive.
“Inside the (CRM) software we needed one essential thing, ease of use without sacrificing the ability to collect data. Our goal was to have user-friendly software that every level of our organization can utilize from our most junior to most senior employees. Ideally, software an intern can pick up inside their first week.
“Pipedrive did all of this without locking us in, they adjusted to work with us and we appreciated that more than anything. We saw many other CRM software include unnecessary industry specific features and overwhelming interfaces; all while charging significant prices.”
Pipedrive is remarkably intuitive, and training staff in its use shouldn’t be an issue.
Changing and updating deals is a breeze since it uses intuitive drag and drop functionality. In fact, you can edit nearly anything on any page, with a single click. The ability to edit on the fly means updates can be made within seconds.
The activity tab lets you ascertain activities in the pipeline, providing much-needed clarity in regards to time management and scheduling.
Pipedrive offers a transparent pricing plan.
Each plan comes with all of the CRM solutions intact, but there are a few differentiators between the three plans.
Each plan progressively offers more storage data for each user, at 2GB, 5GB and 100GB respectively.
The second difference is that the Gold and Platinum plans let you fully sync your work email address with Pipedrive.
The Silver plan will only provide you with a BCC email address, meaning some manual input will be required for each email conversation you want to sync with Pipedrive. In practice, this is a simple process, all you need to do is BCC your personal Pipedrive email into any email thread you want to sync with Pipedrive.
Either option is a step up from endlessly trawling through an inbox looking for the correct conversation.
Overall, Pipedrive does a great job of untangling an incomprehensible web of deals and data, by turning them into easily actionable and accessible points.
Insightly is an intuitive CRM serving over 25,000 businesses. Insightly tracks projects, communications, sales, documents and more in a unified user friendly-interface.
- Integrations options, such as MailChimp, Dropbox, Google Apps, Outlook and Quickbooks
- In-depth webinars and papers which introduce users to the service, making it even simpler to learn
- Track and discover new connections and leads through relationship links, which is great for up-and-coming businesses
- Workflow automation enables automated data entry and auto-send emails
Insightly has an easy-to-use interface for even the least tech savvy users. When logging into Insightly, you will notice the clean and modern interface.
The eight categories that comprise Insightly are situated on the left-hand side of the screen. A handy search box at the top of every page allows you to find any contact, business, or general function.
While the deals workflow takes front and center of Pipedrive, Insightly opts for a different approach. The sales visualization is centered around leads and opportunities.
For businesses on a limited budget, Insightly has a free plan supporting up to 2 users and accommodating up to 2,500 records.
The cheapest plan costs $12 a month, with a record limit of 25,000 which is typically enough for most small businesses.
The free and Basic plans are intact as far as integral features go, as both have solutions for lead & sales management, task management, email templates, accounting integrations, data visualizations, and mass email (10 and 500 per day respectively) making it a good solution for email marketing.
The Plus, Professional, and Enterprise plans are differentiated by incremental increases in the ability to send mass emails, and increases in the number of users that can use the service.
In addition, there are advanced features available for the professional plans such as workflow automation, which will automate a significant portion of your administrative work.
Overall, Insightly offers a pricing plan that doesn’t lock the core features behind a paywall, but gives you a bit more bang for your buck if you can afford it. That said, the free and basic plans have all of the solutions you would typically need.
Zoho is a full-featured CRM application with a free service that rivals the capabilities of a paid CRM.
- The free version of Zoho allows up to 10 users, which is a substantial amount for a free service. It also features sales leads, forecasting, analytics and marketing automation
- Zoho integrates with Facebook and Twitter, giving you another avenue for customer communication
- Zoho enables storage solutions for products, invoices, price books, and much more. This will enable business owners to send quotes to accounts, opportunities or contacts within Zoho
The Zoho interface is segmented, utilizing widgets, drag and drop functionality and a universal search bar that makes Zoho CRM easy to navigate.
The homepage features a sales funnel, a very useful resource for learning how much income can conceivably be generated from the deals in your pipeline.
There is also social media integration, allowing you to manage all of your conversations from Facebook, Google and Twitter in real time.
Some additional extras that help with usability include the use of on-screen calculators that are subtly placed next to any entry box that entails figures. There is also functionality to easily create campaigns, which are helpful if, for example, you are targeting multiple deals of similar type.
However, Zoho CRM does require a degree of customization from the outset.
Administrators will need to create custom components, but these components can display just about anything in regards to deals, accounts, leads, products, contact information and inventory.
Overall, users will be able to organize the dashboard to best suit the workflow of the business.
One of Zoho’s more interesting ideas is Gamescope. This enables the gamification of work, allowing employees to challenge each other and climb the leaderboards in regards to a number of different metrics such as sales, leads and calls.
Zoho offers four different pricing plans, each costing $12, $20, $35, and $100 per month. On top of this, Zoho also features a free plan which has a complete feature list well suited for any small business. The free plan entails contact management, analytics, workflow automation, lead gathering and management, that will help you manage your opportunities with efficiency.
Each tier adds new solutions, some of which are relatively advanced and may not be as useful for smaller businesses.
The Professional version comes with email synchronization and social media marketing, which is a priority for businesses looking to capture leads on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Less Annoying CRM
Less annoying CRM has been on a mission to make CRM less annoying, by streamlining and removing aspects of full-stack CRMs small businesses won’t use.
- A comprehensive contact database that enables you to view everything about a contact in a single window
- A Lead Report containing all the leads you are in contact with. From this list, find out how important the lead in and see all of the past communications with them
- In-depth customization. With Less Annoying CRM, there are dedicated customization functionalities for nearly every page. You can create an entire pipeline from scratch
- Unlimited capacity in the contacts database
The Less Annoying CRM interface is remarkably simplistic and intuitive to use.
Joshua Dan, who uses Less Annoying CRM, said “Most CRMs like Salesforce are way too extravagant. They cost too much and have too much detail. As a sales professional the only things I need are a contact book, comments, scheduling, recording of responses and invoices.”
Less Annoying CRM places a high emphasis on lead management. It features a myriad of entry fields for leads, more than what is typically offered in this category. You have more avenues to personalize each lead which leads to stronger communications.
For example, there are fields for background info give you the opportunity to add information such as how you met the lead, and anything else that will help with humanizing future communication and foster emotional bonds.
In addition, there are fields for birthdays and websites the lead is associated with. Again, this is indicative of the small business centricity at the center of Less Annoying CRM.
Less Annoying CRM has an incredibly simple and transparent price plan. You won’t find any complicated pricing tiers, as there is only one! You won’t be locked out of any features intrinsic in multi-tiered plans.
Simply put, the pricing plan is $10 a month per user. There are no upfront payments, usage limits, or contracts of any kind, which culminates in a straightforward pricing plan mirroring the rest of the service.
Capsule is an uncomplicated CRM solution focusing on the essentials.
- Capsule features excellent customer service oriented solutions to help you manage customers expectations, for example, a ticketing system which enables employees to efficiently resolve inquiries from customers
- Wide range of customization options to fit the service to your business
- Capsule is also excellent at exporting data and creating records
- Capsule’s help desk is readily available to help users with any issues that may arise with the service
Capsule is very easy to use. The interface is clean and simplistic, comprising of five simple icons on the top of the home page you use to navigate.
The dashboard gives you a quick summary of the events requiring immediate attention, ensuring you’re always up to speed and aware of the most pressing case updates.
The People section contains some of the more interesting functions on offer. Here, you can to tag contacts and add them to lists, which will substantially streamline contact organization and make navigation a lot easier.
There is one paid option called Professional, which is $10 per month. In addition, there is a free version and this comes with all of the key features intact. The free version includes usage of up to two users, 10mb of storage, 250 contacts and unlimited cases.
The Professional version allows up to 2GB of storage per user and 50,000 contacts. Lastly, with the paid option you can also make use of premium integrations, which will let you integrate your data with services such as MailChimp, Freshbooks and Xero.
CRMs are often unaffordable and impractical for startups and small businesses.
But, as this article outlines, there a many lightweight alternative CRMs to Salesforce that have a modest sign-up fee with ease-of-use at the heart of their design philosophy.
These solutions will not only ease the burden on your wallet, but they will save you time training staff on how to use the CRM.