Essential Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software for SMEs

In our quest to uncover the very best essential software for UK SMEs, we are this week turning our attention to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools. While our previous post explored collaboration and project management software, CRM tools represent another critical piece of the puzzle in managing and growing a successful business.

CRM software helps businesses manage interactions with current and potential customers, streamline common processes and, ultimately, improve profitability. With an abundance of platforms available, choosing the right CRM tool can make a significant difference in how effectively a company can connect with its clients and scale its operations. It can support in keeping existing customers happy whilst helping nurture leads into becoming new customers.

There’s actually a bit of overlap between CRM tools and some of the other software we’ve been looking at previously. By its very nature managing relationships with customers can bring a need for collaboration between team members and clients, and this in turn would feed into a project’s overall goals and deliverables, requiring project management. However, just because some tools can claim to cover all bases, not every business will be best served by a Jack-of-all-trades software suite.

Given the above it can really pay to consider the integrations between various tools you’re already, or propose, using. Rather than pick an all-in-one tool you could quickly outgrow, finding the platforms that complement one another now will pay dividend in the future. For this reason we’re looking at the most fully featured CRM-first dedicated platforms, even if they’re also used for other business functions, and will highlight how they interact with other tools as appropriate.

So, let’s dive into some top CRM tools that are particularly well-suited for small and medium-sized businesses, examining their primary benefits and costs.

CRM Software Top Picks

  • Zoho CRM – A renowned and well established player in the field, Zoho today offers a suite of over 50 cloud-based business applications covering everything from accounting and bookkeeping to web design and hosting. However, at its core is the product that made Zoho its name: Zoho CRM. As well as being one of the best known CRM systems on the market (meaning excellent integration with other software – there are currently over 800 supported integrations) Zoho CRM is also one of the most scalable solutions available. If your business is on a rapid upwards trajectory (or you’d like it to be) then ensuring your software can keep pace with your growth is vital. Of additional benefit is Zoho’s advanced reporting and AI capabilities which are helping to reduce the learning curve so users can interact more naturally with the software. Plans start at £16 per user per month and a no credit card free trial is available.
  • Less Annoying CRM – If your approach to CRM is more “do we have to?” than “let’s get ’em” this may very well be the solution for you. The name is key here, Less Annoying CRM wants you to know that a lot of enterprise level CRM software is geared towards badgering your customers and prospects, which though proven to get results, doesn’t sit well with everyone. And this is a tool that is far more about being useful and simple, than complex and forceful. It does all the things you’d expect it to, but it does them without needing a degree in computer science to get set up. The platform bills itself as “the number one easiest to use CRM for small businesses” which is a nice claim in a world of endless acronyms and complex jargon. You can get up and running for $15 (approx £12) per user per month and this gives you access to all features so there’s no limitations once you’re signed up.It also boasts an impressive roster of integrations so you can easily get it to play nicely with your Mailchimp or Google Calendar for instance.
  • Hubspot – Another of the industry’s major players, Hubspot is most certainly a big beast but it’s not just for the big corps. The platform offers a whole host of marketing tools within its suite alongside helpdesk functionality so you’re getting a sales, service and marketing product in one. And it’s good at all of them. Once configured you can easily produce dedicated marketing landing pages for your website then track their performance to the nth degree, right down to seeing exactly who has engaged with them. There’s a free version with obvious restrictions (you can only add 1,000 contacts) but it may very well be worth trying to see how you get along with it. Though be aware that if and when you outgrow the free version, it can quickly become quite expensive (another 1,000 contacts will run to $45 a month). So it’s best to utilise Hubspot for all its product suite features and save on buying separate tools, if you like the way it all works.
  • Insightly – This is another platform with a suite of tools for small businesses, but its simple CRM is easily good enough to justify by itself. One of the best features of Insightly is its simplicity and unlike a lot of its competitors, the interface doesn’t tend to bewilder, even if it’s not the flashiest looking tool out there. You can use it for free with just two users whereas paid plans start at $29 (£23) per user per month but they’ll try and steer you into using their related products which can quickly become quite a significant monthly outlay (the All-in-One plan’s lowest tier is $349 per month). But if simplicity is what you’re after, take Insightly CRM for a spin and just ignore its attempts at wooing you towards its beefier packages.

Don’t forget to take a look at our first post on essential SME tools which assessed the best automation and accounting software for small businesses.

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