CRM software for small business

Even if your business is just starting out, customer relationship management (CRM) software should be the hub of your company’s interactions with all of your current and future customers. CRMs manage contacts, track sales, record activities, send emails, make calls, and dozens of other functions. Some go above and beyond and include features that let you manage projects, automate processes, build reports, or market your business.

No matter your requirements, there’s a platform that will fit your needs. To help your search, we’ve tested several dozen platforms that are designed specifically for small businesses or have features suited to small teams. Click on any app to learn more about why we chose it, or keep reading for more context on small business CRMs.

Best small business CRMs of 2020
Vtiger for an all-in-one CRM

Zoho CRM for scaling your business

Freshworks CRM for ease of use

HubSpot CRM for a free option

Insightly for project management

Creatio for automating sales processes

Bitrix24 for an inexpensive option

Agile CRM for marketing needs

Streak for managing from a Gmail inbox

What makes a great small business CRM?
Cost is usually a major consideration for small businesses, so we only evaluated CRMs that have plans that cost less than $60 per month per user.

Ease of use was also considered. Small businesses owners shouldn’t need a specialist to manage their CRM software. It should be approachable for everyone using it—salespeople, marketing, the office manager, and on up to the CEO. And it shouldn’t require outside help for set up and ongoing management.

For our review, we looked at each company to ensure they offered phone, email, and chat support. The different channels are important because they represent levels of urgency. For example, if you have a pressing issue you’ll get faster resolution by phone than by email.

We tested each platform and its overall user experience. Was setting up each CRM essentially self-explanatory? Were there helpful resources along the way if we needed them? Would we be comfortable using this every day?

We compared features. All CRMs should have contact and deal management, task automation, and reporting, along with unique features that make them stand out from the crowd.

Finally, CRMs should integrate with other business software such as eCommerce, telephony, email, or marketing platforms either natively or with Zapier. All of our selections provide integrations to help you expand your capabilities.

Best all-in-one CRM for small business
Vtiger (Web, iOS, Android)

Vtiger dashboard
Vtiger includes sales, marketing, and help desk features in their all-in-one plan, and also offers a sales-only CRM for those just looking to get their feet wet. It also includes project and inventory management, telephony, social media integration, and internal collaboration. This makes it ideal for small businesses looking for an affordable, do-it-all CRM.

The backbone of Vtiger is the ability to link contacts to opportunities, quotes, cases, projects, and invoices. All of the software’s major functions, called Modules, are accessed from a hamburger-style menu at the top. Clicking on any one will open up only that app to keep things simple and focused. However, from any Module, you can easily create contacts, tasks, opportunities, projects, and other actions.

For example, if you want to create a contact quickly, click the plus icon at the top right, select contact, add a last name, select who it’s assigned to, and pick the contact type. That’s it. You don’t need an email address or even a first name if you’re in a hurry. You can add more info later. There’s also an option to use the full form if you want a more complete record. A few handy features in the contact record are options for do not call, email opt-in/out, SMS opt-in, and referred by.

The marketing app lets you create professional-looking email templates and campaigns. You can segment your contacts based on multiple conditions, such as lead source, engagement score, location, industry and products purchased, plus send autoresponder email campaigns based on triggers such as emails opened and links clicked.

The help desk app provides service case management, live chat, work orders, internal tickets, and real-time performance metrics. Live chat is handled through an integration with Olark, which offers a low-priced and free plan. Cases can be created from email, phone, chat, and social, and linked to contacts with a quick search in the case record. Some options in the case record are priority level, linking products (from the inventory management app), adding billable service, and service level agreement (SLA) info, which you can customize.

Best scalable CRM for small business
Zoho CRM (Web, iOS, Android)

Lead score prediction feature in Zoho CRM
Zoho CRM’s feature-rich sales platform and deep selection of add-ons make it ideal for businesses needing scaling capabilities. The CRM offers customization options to accommodate growing teams and some slick artificial intelligence tools to help high-volume teams identify qualified leads.

Along with contact and deal management, SalesSignals notifies reps when leads and customers interact with your company’s different channels. Whether it’s visiting your pricing page, opening an email, or a mention of your brand on social media, you’ll receive real-time notifications and documentation of the interaction in the contact’s record.

SalesIQ is an add-on that provides live chat and lead scoring based on demographics and contact behavior, such as time on site and pages visited. Again, the data collected is posted to the contact record, giving sales reps additional insight about their customers and opportunities. There is a free starter version and a trial for the paid plans.

Artificial intelligence (AI) features found on the Enterprise plan help busy teams prioritize leads and deals. For example, the AI system tracks a contact’s event data, such as calls, emails, and chats. It then suggests the best time to reach these individuals so reps have a better chance of making a connection. The lead and deal scoring feature also use past data—reps’ interactions and contact characteristics—to predict the probability of success for both. Based on these, each lead and deal is given a probability of success score between 0 and 100 percent.

As businesses grow, so do their needs for a flexible CRM. Zoho lets you customize modules, fields, pages, buttons, and other elements. For example, you can design a “create a proposal” button that links to your proposal software or Google Drive templates.

Finally, Zoho’s suite of software is designed to meet all of your business’s needs. In addition to the CRM, Zoho has products for accounting, collaboration/projects, help desk, email campaigns, surveys, forms, social media, and human resources. Some of these, such as Campaigns, Desk, and Survey, also offer free plans to get started.

Zoho CRM price: Free for 3 users; from $12/month for paid plans

Best easy-to-use CRM for small business
Freshworks CRM (Web, iOS, Android)

Freshsales dashboard
Some software companies create products with the latest gee-whiz technology but then lose sight of the user experience, making it difficult to set up, navigate, and operate. Freshworks CRM is not one of those companies. Its CRM is designed to allow anyone to jump in and immediately use even its most advanced features.

When you sign up for Freshworks CRM, you’re first given a short tour of the major features (you can opt to skip) and then taken to the activities dashboard. This page includes lots of white space so your first impression is not overwhelming. Here you’ll be prompted to import leads and add tasks and appointments. There’s also an explanation—What’s this page about?—describing the purpose and uses of the page with a link on how to use the dashboard and one for submitting feedback.

On every page, there’s a question mark icon with options for live chat, demo request, feedback, and FAQ. Clicking on FAQ suggests articles for common topics such as leads, contacts, email, tasks, and other settings, and there’s also a search button that instantly displays short explanations for your topic. For more detailed info, you’re given videos and links. During our test, their chat reps were responsive and helpful.

The settings menu displays your options—email, automation, user roles, etc.—with clear explanations of what each setting does and why it’s beneficial. On the left, there are related help articles and videos with detailed instructions. In Pipelines, for example, you’re shown the default pipeline and given the opportunity to revise it or create a new one. And there are seven help articles and a video on various pipeline topics such as “how users can set their preferred pipeline.”

If you’ve exhausted the resources and still need help, there’s phone, email, and chat support included with all accounts.

Freshworks CRM price: Free for unlimited users; from $12/month/user for additional features