Find the Best CRM for Small Business Needs

Running a small business is no easy task, and finding the right CRM can make a big difference.

Are you considering a CRM for your small business, but aren't sure where to start looking? Running a small business is no easy task, and finding the right CRM can make a world of difference. The search can take time, especially for small business owners who have never used a CRM before. You have to figure out what you need for your business, learn what various platforms are capable of, and then find the right fit with those two factors in mind.

The right CRM can save you and your team hours of time, give you access to crucial data, and help you create and build connections with your customers, leads, and partners. As a result, your team is able to focus on what you do best — serve your customers.

Here is what you need to know about CRM for small businesses.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: What Is a CRM?

Customer relationship management software, often shortened to CRM, is a software system that helps businesses store and manage contact information for customers, track leads, find sales opportunities, manage marketing campaigns, handle customer service efforts, and more, all in a single dashboard. Your CRM needs to allow you to track customer interactions throughout their lifecycle, providing insights into the conversion process.

In short, a CRM lives up to its name. It helps your business manage its customer relationships, from the moment a lead learns about your company to the interactions you have after a customer has made a purchase. All of these interactions are part of the customer journey.

 
 
 
As of August 2020, 56% of SMBs
have invested in a CRM system.



This is a 24% increase in CRM use
since 2019.

For example, a CRM can show you when a lead first contacted sales, when a sales team member scheduled a demo, when they signed a contract, and if they filed a support ticket. The software automatically collects a large amount of data, and your team adds additional notes, information, and data points to create a detailed, 360-degree view of each customer. A cloud-based CRM stores all that data in one centralized platform, where it’s immediately updated and accessible to all employees at all times.

Small business CRM systems have powerful automation features that streamline the sales process, improve customer service, and drive return on investment (ROI) of your marketing campaigns. They also provide access to a vast amount of business intelligence data to help personalize outreach and build relationships. As of late 2020, 56% of small and midsize businesses are using CRM systems, which is a 24% increase in use since 2019.

But your small business isn't just about ROI; it's about people. A CRM keeps data about your customers organized and easy to access. Even so, how do you know it’s time to invest in a CRM platform instead of using the methods you already have in place for customer relationship management?

Chapter 2: Does My Small Business Need a CRM?

The right CRM can keep your business organized, help you build relationships, and streamline the sales process. But does your small business actually need one? Is it worth the investment?

While CRMs are essential for many businesses, not every small business needs one. If you are not interested in growing your business and are happy with your current system, you may not need a CRM platform.

However, if your business is looking to grow or improve just about any part of the customer journey, a CRM can help you get there. When SMB leaders were asked about the biggest benefits of a CRM system, 63% said that with a CRM, they were able to provide better or faster customer service.

 
 
 

 

63% of SMB leaders who use a CRM system say the number one benefit of a CRM is that it helps them provide better or faster customer service.

Seven Signs Your Small Business Needs a CRM

Chances are good that if you’re researching CRM platforms for your small business, you could benefit from having one. Here are seven factors that may indicate your company is growing and needs a CRM.

1. You need a better way to track prospects and customers.

In the beginning of a small business’s life, knowing what each lead or customer wants and how to serve them is fairly simple. Sticky notes or a spreadsheet are sufficient. Once your small business expands its customer base and has many leads with many different needs, it’s time to take the next step with customer relationship management. If your team needs help remembering who last contacted a prospect or where a lead is in the sales funnel, a CRM can keep you organized. With it, your team can document messages, points of contact, and where a contact is in the sales funnel.

2. Your prospects and customers have multiple points of contact.

It's easy to lose track of conversations when your team is communicating with several people, which happens often in the B2B space. Did you last talk to Dave in sales or Anne in compliance? Did your team receive the contract you need to move forward — and is it signed by the right people? A CRM allows your entire team to see all interactions in one place and serves as a single source of truth.

3. You have a long or complex sales cycle.

For some small businesses, it is challenging to track progress when the sales process lasts weeks — or months. A CRM keeps your business organized by tracking conversations, contacts, touchpoints, and individual prospect and customer needs, and by storing documents.

4. You want to improve your sales, marketing, and customer service ROI.

A small business CRM platform can help you sort vast amounts of data and use that data to target high-value customers, then treat them to personalized service. Your platform should help you create, segment, track, and optimize marketing campaigns, smooth the sales process, and help customers quickly, no matter whether you use built-in tools or third-party apps integrated using APIs and other methods.

5. You want access to more usable business data.

If your small business runs on instinct rather than data, you may be missing out on growth opportunities. A CRM provides reports such as sales forecasts, customer insights, and marketing effectiveness. Not only are these reports based on data, but they’re also analyzed by algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) in order to more accurately predict trends and help your business plan for the future. Research from IBM shows that 76% of the best companies are investing more heavily in data-driven, decision-making solutions, including CRM platforms with built-in AI. IBM defined the best companies as those that “understand that customer experience is a direct reflection of employee experience and redesign their business and operations accordingly.”
 
 
 
IBM research states that the best companies understand that customer experience is a direct reflection of employee experience and redesign their business and operations accordingly.
 

 

• 76% of the best companies are investing more heavily in data-driven, decision-making solutions.

• These solutions include CRM platforms with built-in artificial intelligence.

6. Your goal is to grow your business.

As leads come in and convert into paying customers, your entire team needs to stay organized. A CRM is a scalable resource that helps businesses create data-driven processes so your team can work efficiently and stay on target as you grow.

CRM platforms are proven to increase:

  • Conversions
  • Deal sizes
  • Win rates
  • Qualified leads
  • Campaign effectiveness
  • Customer retention
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Case resolution speeds
  • Online revenue
  • Deployment speeds

7. You’re ready to leverage automation.

John Kucera, SVP of Product Management at Salesforce, writes that automation is like “your very own built-in personal assistant.” For example, each time a potential customer steps away from their cart on your website, marketing automation can immediately send an email to that person to remind them of their waiting purchase. Your team sets up this automation once and updates it as necessary, but doesn’t have to individually email each potential customer about their cart.

Automation is available for every section of the sales funnel and every department in your business. Your CRM can be set up to automate time-consuming tasks, keep customer records organized, improve compliance, send task reminders, and streamline workflows. In fact, research finds that after security and identity technology, workflow automation — putting technology to work on things that don’t need a human touch so employees can take care of more important tasks — is IT’s top employee experience technology priority.

Many small businesses aren’t aware that they would benefit from a CRM system; CRMs aren't just for enterprise companies. Small businesses with lean or growing teams can use CRMs to get more done and stay on top of their success.

Chapter 3: A CRM Can Help Your Small Business Grow

A CRM stores and helps analyze and filter data, but how does that help your business grow? CRM platforms do more than track your current or prospective customers. They also offer a range of features designed to streamline the process of running a small business.

Benefits vary by platform, but there are four core attributes you should consider when comparing CRM platforms. Here are the most common CRM benefits, how they work, why they matter, and how they can help your small business grow.

1. Contact management helps you build and maintain relationships.

Your small business will use a CRM platform to store customer and company details and contact information — including names, phone numbers, addresses, social media accounts, billing information, and every other detail — in the searchable database. This keeps departments organized and prevents accounts and tasks from slipping through the cracks.

For example, sales teams can use contact management to follow prospects through the sales cycle. Marketing can use contact management to build more effective marketing campaigns.

When comparing CRM systems, consider how easy the database is to use, the filters each offers, and whether the platform offers import and export features. Relationships are key: Research shows that 86% of sales reps report an increased importance of long-term customer relationships.

 
 
 

 

The fourth edition of Salesforce’s State of Sales Report shares that 86% of sales reps report an increased importance of long-term customer relationships.

2. The sales process is smoother.

Your CRM platform should track interactions with leads, help with lead generation, create sales reports, automatically score leads, automate follow-up reminders, and even assign leads to specific salespeople. A CRM is a powerful tool, and small businesses that use it have massive advantages over their competition.

Salespeople often spend more time on account management than on actually contacting leads and building relationships, but with a CRM, your team can stay focused on closing deals, rather than spending time on paperwork and rote tasks.

3. You improve your marketing efforts based on data.

CRMs don't just help your sales team. While salespeople were originally the primary users of CRM platforms, the technology has significantly expanded and now helps companies manage just about every aspect of running a business, including marketing.

A CRM can improve your marketing efforts in a variety of ways, including letting users manage and automate drip campaigns, providing insights into a contact’s customer journey, and helping monitor social media campaigns and sentiment. Small businesses can also use data to inform upselling, cross-selling, and personalized marketing, such as recommending related products.

Over time, your CRM becomes a treasure trove of information about current and past customers, including which customers are most profitable, when they are likely to churn, and what types of products or services they are likely to purchase. Marketing, as well as other departments, can use these metrics and this data to personalize the customer experience.

4. Your business can provide better, personalized customer service.

In business terms, personalization is “the act of tailoring an experience or communication based on information a company has learned about an individual.”

CRMs offer a variety of features to improve customer service and make it more personal, including first-contact resolution capabilities, contact tracking, and call recording. Plus, by storing all your customer information in one place, known as a single source of truth, agents can quickly see how a customer has interacted with your company in the past and address any issues that a customer may face — sometimes preemptively. Because a CRM hosts all your customer information, your reps can interact with each person with full knowledge of their customer history, speeding the process along and helping customers feel unique and valued.

Additional CRM Benefits for Small Businesses

CRM platforms do more than just keep track of customer names and manage marketing campaigns. The right CRM can improve your small business in other ways, with features like:

  • Marketing and sales automation
  • Document storage and organization
  • Ecommerce features
  • Detailed reporting tools with filters
  • Cloud storage
  • Workflow management
  • Business intelligence
  • Competitor analysis

When used to its fullest potential, a CRM can impact every aspect of your small business, including customer interactions, team communications, and workflows. With that in mind, what features should you look for as you consider your options?

Chapter 4: Features to Look for in a Small Business CRM

Comparing CRM systems can be overwhelming. There are dozens of features to consider and plenty of platform options. When comparing different CRMs, here are several features and restrictions to keep in mind.
Features
Salesforce Capability
  
 
Pricing
Salesforce’s suite of tools are available as Editions and Add-ons. Small businesses have four Editions to choose from, and as you grow, you can select additional products and tools to suit your needs.
 
Scalabity
Start with one user and expand as much as you need. Some Editions have contact limits, for example, small businesses that choose to invest in a suite of marketing automation tools called Pardot Growth will be able to use it for up to 10,000 contacts.
 
Customization
You can customize your Salesforce experience in a variety of ways, including the CRM and the mobile app.
 
Automation
Einstein Automate is Salesforce’s AI automation assistant and tool to automate everything — even integrations. You can learn more about creating end-to-end workflows with process automation with our articles, videos, and Trailhead modules.
 
Platform Customer Support
All users have access to Trailhead, the Help Portal, the Trailblazer Community, and the Success Center, as well as to expert technical support. For companies that want a partner to walk them through every step of their Salesforce journey, more support is available.
 
Social Media Tools
Small businesses can start with the Basic Edition of Marketing Cloud’s Social Studio, which allows for brand listening and engagement, community engagement and social care, 20,000 mentions, two social accounts, and more. As your small business grows, you can upgrade your Marketing Cloud Edition for more features and capabilities.
 
App
Integration

The AppExchange marketplace lists hundreds of apps that install quickly and work within Salesforce products. Another method is to use MuleSoft, an integration and API platform, that can connect any system, application, data, and device to the Salesforce CRM platform. One additional way to integrate other apps is with Customer 360 Truth, which is a portfolio of add-on products.
 
Mobile Access
Salesforce is available as a mobile app for all users.
 
Training Requirements
No training is required, but Salesforce offers Trailhead, which is a learning center with a breadth of different topics and lessons. Salesforce also provides dozens of industry-recognized certifications that not only benefit the holder, but the company they work for as well.
 
Artificial Intelligence
(AI)

Salesforce Einstein includes all the artificial intelligence capabilities you’ll need built directly into the Salesforce CRM.
 

Scalability

Is the system built specifically for small businesses? Investing in something that might work well for now, but will need to be replaced in the future can create frustrating, avoidable issues. Your CRM should fit your needs now and grow as your business does. Switching CRMs can be a hassle, so look for a platform designed for growth. For example, does it offer additional storage, user logins (seats), features, and reporting tools to help your business move forward?

Contact Limits

Most CRM pricing is based on the number of leads or customers stored in the database. When comparing plans, pay attention to contact limits, which can increase the cost as your business grows. Ensure your CRM platform allows you to easily switch plans or upgrade and is cost effective for the current number of contacts you have — and for the number you plan to have in the future.

Pricing

Price comparison is not always straightforward. Some CRM providers offer affordable plans, but limit the storage or number of contacts. Features such as automation or marketing tools may only be available as add-on features. The price is low, but the value may be, too.

For small businesses, a la carte pricing can lower costs, as you only pay for the features you need. However, the costs can quickly pile up as you add on features due to evolving and expanding needs. Consider contact limits, available features, and growth potential when comparing different plans.

Automation

CRM platforms can help users automate manual and repetitive tasks, which is a boon for small businesses with limited teams. Rather than using valuable time entering routine information, generating sales reports, and following up with leads, your CRM can take care of these tasks, and others, all on its own. Once you configure the settings, your CRM will handle the rest.

For example, your CRM can automate social media responses to routine questions, create a task to respond to customer service requests, or score a new lead and assign it to a member of your sales team. When evaluating new technology, 46% of small and midsize business owners and leaders rate automation capabilities as extremely or very important.

 
 
 

 

According to the fourth edition of Salesforce’s Small & Medium Business Trends Report, 46% of SMB owners and leaders rate automation capabilities as extremely or very important.

App Integration

CRMs are powerful, and for best results, you should integrate your other business software and tools. Integration refers to connecting two pieces of software so they can share data. Most CRMs integrate with other platforms, software, apps, and tools, which allows them to share data and automate tasks across platforms. Salesforce has AppExchange, a library of free and paid add-ons and integrated tools that quickly install and work with Salesforce solutions.

For example, you should connect your CRM and email marketing platforms. Then you can better create a segmented email marketing blast, or you can connect your CRM with Gmail to assign emails to specific clients. Integrations with tools can provide access to more data and streamline processes, so make sure the platform you select works with the other tools you use to power your business.

Mobile Access

Mobile access to your CRM enables your team to log in and manage crucial business data from any device and any location. This improves adoption rates and allows you to run your business from outside the office. Furthermore, 99% of IT leaders say businesses must be mobile-enabled to survive in the future. Give your teams the freedom to work from a mobile device in order to succeed.

Some CRM platforms offer limited mobile features or may not work as well on mobile devices, such as phones or tablets. Ensure the solution you select offers the level of mobile access your team needs to work efficiently.

 
 
 

 

According to Salesforce’s Enterprise Technology Trends report, 99% of IT leaders say businesses need to be mobile-enabled to survive in the future.

Workflow Management

Workflow management tools such as task reminders, project tracking, and approval automation simplify processes and ensure employees can manage tasks and deadlines. For example, rather than an employee manually changing a lead from “prospect” to “customer” status, workflow management tools can automate the process based on prerequisites or specified actions.

As a result, your team can stay organized, provide faster service, and work proactively. Look for a platform that provides the workflow features your team requires.

Data Backup System

To reduce the risk of data loss, consider how and where your CRM data is stored. The top CRMs today offer cloud storage or are based in the cloud, which means the provider stores data in multiple locations, and your team can use the tool from any location with an internet connection. Look for a system with redundant backups to ensure your data is safe, and for a provider that keeps your business compliant with applicable laws and regulations.

Security

Security can be a concern, especially for businesses that work with sensitive data. Make sure your CRM provider can handle this kind of data. For example, you may need data encryption. The company you trust with your CRM needs must take your security needs seriously.

Ecommerce Functionality

Some CRMs offer ecommerce features, such as a chatbot, 360-degree customer journey tracking, customer review features, and even the ability to launch and optimize ecommerce pages. If your business sells or plans to sell products online, make sure your CRM will support your ecommerce growth and goals.

Marketing Features

Effective marketing campaigns rely on accurate data. A small business CRM can help gather and analyze data, and it can also help you manage and optimize your campaigns through built-in features and app integrations. To make the most of your data and marketing budget, make sure the platform you choose provides the marketing features you need.

Customization Options

No two businesses are alike. This means the CRM your competitor uses might actually slow you down. Look for a CRM that is customizable so you can adjust it to meet your needs. For example, does it allow you to create customized sales reports or add custom fields to your contact database?

Chapter 5: Questions to Consider When Selecting a Small Business CRM

Finding the right CRM for your business takes time, but it’s worth the effort to find the platform with the resources your business needs to thrive.

When comparing different CRM platforms, keep these six questions in mind.

Integrations allow apps and software systems to share data and coordinate business processes. Because of the large number of applications businesses use, 55% of IT leaders say system integration is a high priority.

To make the most of a CRM, verify that it integrates with the platforms you use for communication, document sharing, sales, marketing, ​​and other business-critical functions.

 
 
 

55% of IT leaders say system integration is a high priority.

Different businesses have different needs. When comparing CRMs, look for a solution that allows you to adjust settings, forms, and processes so you can use it in a way that fully benefits your workflow and processes.
You may not have a dedicated IT person — or you may have a full team of professionals. Find out what it takes to set up, use, update, and maintain the CRM platform you’re researching. Look for a system that’s easy to set up or a provider that offers assistance getting your system up and running. Some CRM providers provide onboarding and training to make the process easier.
A great CRM should make growing your business easier. Make sure the platform you choose is intuitive to use and well designed. Read reviews, watch videos on YouTube, and request a demo to get a feel for the user experience. Look at onboarding and training options to ensure you'll have support as you learn how to use the platform.

No matter how great a system is, you will need help at some point, whether it’s a simple question or an intense process. Does the provider offer reliable, easy-to-use customer support options? Are they patient and empathetic?

If they offer live support, when are reps available? Do their hours match your business hours? For example, if the company is based in Europe and you are based in California, it may be difficult to get support when you need it.

As a small business, you want a platform built for your specific, current needs — as well as your needs in a few years when your business has grown and changed. Choose a platform that only fits your business now, and in the future you may spend time and effort searching for a new CRM platform, then transferring data, integrating all your software, and teaching your team a new system.

Look for a platform that works for both today and tomorrow. Consider how easy it is to upgrade your plan. Can you add additional contacts as your business grows? What features do you need to consider in the future? AI and automation are fast-growing fields — does the CRM provider regularly update its platform?

Your team may not currently know what features and tools it will need in the future. Reviews from other small businesses regarding CRM add-ons may help; there are 80,000 customer reviews on AppExchange alone. CRM providers may also have resources and guides for you to consider.

 
 
 
AppExchange is a marketplace of free and paid apps that work directly in your Salesforce CRM platform or help you integrate a piece of standalone software with Salesforce.

You can read more than 80,000 customer reviews on the AppExchange to help you decide what you need.

Chapter 6: Six Steps to Help You Choose a CRM for Your Small Business

By now, you have a good understanding of what a CRM is and how it can help your business grow. You also know all the questions you need to consider when looking at providers. Now it’s time to find a solution that works for your business. Follow these steps to select the right CRM platform for your small business.

  1. Outline your pain points: Where does your business struggle? What systems aren't working for you? What goals do you have trouble meeting now, and what are your goals for the future? Write down the biggest business challenges and your expectations for a CRM.
  2. Make a list of your current programs and systems: What platforms do you already use for email, marketing, contact management, communications, customer service, social media, data management, and other processes? Make a list so you can evaluate how well your current programs work, and make sure the CRM you select will work for your business.
  3. Set a budget: How much can you invest in a CRM? Compare platforms based on the number of contacts you have and the features that will be most useful. Consider the value of a CRM platform: the features, customer service, and ease of use.
  4. Compare features and resources: Invest in what you need, with options to grow in the future. Choose the provider that offers onboarding and support so you can make the most of your new CRM.
  5. Think about the future: As you compare platforms, don't just think about your needs today. Will the platform continue to serve your business in the future?
  6. Narrow down your list: You may start with a list of a dozen different providers, but as you consider the features, functions, and values of each, this list will shrink. Once you have five or fewer options, request demos. Invite department heads or other potential users to try the platforms and give their feedback.

When it comes to finding the right small business CRM system, try to be patient. Researching what your business needs to achieve its full success takes time, and investigating which CRM tools and features will be most effective will serve you well in the long run.

Your small business has goals, and a CRM platform can help your team achieve them faster and with a more focused effort. Your team will be more efficient, employee and customer experiences will improve, and your company will thrive.

Questions? We’ll put you on the right path.

Ask about Salesforce products, pricing, implementation, or anything else. Our knowledgeable reps are standing by, ready to help. Or check out our Pricing and Packaging Guide to learn more.