If your small business is serious about growth, there will come a time when you need to get more organised about customer relationship management, more commonly known by the acronym CRM. That’s where CRM and marketing automation software comes in.
Marketing automation software is designed to help you track your marketing efforts, taking care of everything that happens during the lead generation process. CRM software, on the other hand, takes care of what happens next, helping you manage an efficient sales funnel that turns leads into customers. It enables you to keep track of all your dealings with current and potential customers in one place, typically logging everything from phone calls and emails to online product views and support tickets.
In today’s article, we’ll be looking at a few popular CRM platforms and how they could help your business convert more prospects into customers. These all appeared in Capterra’s Top 20 CRM platforms.
Salesforce is the market leader when it comes to CRM. It’s cloud-based, so you can manage your leads from wherever you happen to be, and it lets you automate common tasks to save your business valuable time and money. Those who use it routinely praise its usability – once you’ve got past the initial learning curve – and you can customise it to your business so that you only see the information that matters to you.
As well as linking Salesforce with your emails so that communication is logged automatically, you can also link it with marketing software such as Mailchimp so that you can manage the entire process, from marketing campaigns to closing a deal and beyond. Its handy reporting feature makes it easy to measure performance, and these can be configured to be emailed to you automatically based on the metrics you’re interested in.
The good news is that there’s a 30-day free trial so that you can see whether or not it will work for your business, and prices thereafter start at £20 per user per month for out-of-the-box CRM for up to five users.
One downside that comes up regularly in reviews is that the company’s customer service is limited, unless you’re initially buying or subsequently upgrading the product. That said, there’s a big online community of other users who’ll probably be able to help with any queries you have. While you’ll have the opportunity to suggest things that need changing or fixing in the software, user reviews speak of such requests sitting in a queue for years at a time.
Zoho CRM is easy to use and can be accessed on mobile devices as well as computers. It lets you customise it by creating your own sections, fields and layouts based on how you want to organise prospect and customer data. You can tailor your own homepage so that you can see the metrics you’re tracking and get easily to sections you’re most interested in. It’s great for marketing, too, even letting you create and save email templates.
Designed to save you time, Zoho gives you plenty of scope for automation, handling routine tasks such as sending follow-up emails so that you don’t have to. It also helps your team work more productively, as you can set up workflows that guide them through the sales process down to the final deal. Powerful analytics let you monitor everything from campaign success to staff performance, and the platform also makes use of AI to assess your sales trends and offer tips, such as the best time to contact particular sales prospects.
A big plus is Zoho’s ability to handle multiple channels: it’s doesn’t just help you log emails and phone calls, but also instant messaging and social media interactions. This means you have everything in one place for each customer – perfect if your business relies heavily on social media. Even better, there’s a feature that sends you instant notifications when your customers interact with you, whatever the channel, so you can reply quickly and deliver great customer service.
Online reviews complain about poor technical support for this platform. What’s more, at 15 days, the free trial period is shorter than the 30 days offered by many other platforms, so you’ll have less time to settle into it and assess how effectively it could work for your business.
3. Microsoft Dynamics 365
We’re virtually all familiar with Microsoft Office, so unless you’ve only ever used a Mac, you should recognise many of the elements of Outlook, Excel et al in Microsoft’s CRM offering, Dynamics 365. It’s generally described by reviewers as easy to set up and start using, and naturally, it integrates well with Microsoft’s suite of other products. Depending on what your priorities are, there are applications to enable you to use it for Sales, Marketing, Finance, Customer Service and/or Recruitment. You can access it via the web or a mobile device.
If you’re not already a Microsoft user, the reviews suggest that you might find it a bit of a learning curve getting used to Dynamics 365, and there are a few clunky, annoying or buggy elements to the user interface (reviews mention the counterintuitive location of the ‘save’ button and automatic logging out, for instance). If your customers have more than one business, you might be frustrated by the fact that you can only have one organisation per contact record. Though many like how easy it is to customise, some reviewers comment on the limited customisation options available with this software. The price is steeper than others on this list, starting at $64 per user per month.
Described as “the most flexible CRM”, OroCRM is open-source CRM software that gives you control of your customer data and interactions. It claims to give you a “360 degree view” of your customers, capturing every piece of information about them in one place, across multiple channels, including social media. Because it’s open source, it’s fully customisable to the needs of your business, and it has all the features you’d expect of the more established platforms, including insightful reporting.
Like all CRM software, it’s designed to help you convert sales into leads, but unlike some platforms, some reviews suggest that this one doesn’t offer as much in the way of marketing features as others (that said, you can integrate it with other platforms, such as Mailchimp). Prices start at a hefty $116 a month according to third-party review sites – the company doesn’t publish its costs on its website.
Whichever CRM platform you end up choosing, the great news is that you’re already taking a big step towards growing your business. Whether you’re using it primarily for marketing and outreach, converting leads into customers, or just trying to improve your customer service, you’ll find that CRM software will transform your day-to-day business operations and take your business from start-up mentality to SME efficiency.
Rachel Ramsay is a freelance copywriter with a background in digital marketing. She's written copy for clients ranging from the United Nations World Food Programme to The North Face, and particularly enjoys working with lifestyle and travel brands. In her spare time, she volunteers for Guide Dogs and flies light aircraft and helicopters.Read full profile