Traditional Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems were relegated to the large enterprise due to cost, maintenance, complexity of implementation and the overall risk involved. But the times, they are a-changin. CRM is now also part of shop-talk among smaller businesses who are realizing the value of being able to have a flexible database for their clients. Today’s CRM market is filled with many systems that are appropriate for the small business owner, allowing them to track clients and leads, including where they are in the sales pipeline down to details of any purchase history. These systems operate in the Cloud, which allows vendors to offer a lower upfront purchase price (typically licensed for a monthly subscription fee) and reduced risk at the onset.
To help you sort through the many available systems, we have compiled a list of our five favorites: Sage ACT!, SugarCRM, Salestrakr5, Maximizer CRM and Infusionsoft. Before we dive into what makes each vendor unique, let’s take a look at the functionality that each vendor offers. You can see a side-by-side functionality comparison in the table on the right.
Sage is a legacy vendor in the CRM space, and ACT!
is one of the strongest products in their portfolio. ACT! provides contact management for the small business owner. They offer specialization in multiple industries, including real estate and financial services. Their latest release of the product, the 2011 edition, introduced a more user-friendly user interface, as well as a new add-on that aggregates business contact information from Hoover’s and deposits it directly into ACT!
Companies looking for a high level of flexibility and ownership over their CRM will want to take a look at SugarCRM
, the leader in open source CRM software. The basic edition is free and offers standard features such as contact and campaign management. For more sophisticated features, companies will want to look into the paid editions. SugarCRM can be deployed both on-premise and via the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model.
This web-based solution is ideal for the SMB owner looking to better align their sales and marketing teams. Salestrakr5
offers lead management, sales pipeline management, email campaign management and many other features to help sales and marketing automate their processes. It is also offers strong integration features, allowing users to import contacts from almost any contact management, CRM or email service provider.
Sales people are always on the go, looking for the next big opportunity. Maximizer CRM
has strong capabilities for contact and opportunity management, but their mobile integration is the one that shines. Whether using an iPhone, Android or Blackberry, users can access vital contact and account information from anywhere in the world. The Entrepreneur edition is probably the best fit for the SMB, but Maximizer makes it easy to upgrade to more robust editions as your company grows.
was created by small business owners for small business owners. It offers basic CRM capabilities, with its strongest features centered around marketing automation. Perhaps the best feature Infusionsoft offers is the dedicated marketing mentor assigned to every client. CRM and marketing automation are complex systems that can often be intimidating. This mentor serves to ease you into the system, teach you the bells and whistles and provide you the training wheels you need until you are ready to go it alone.
Which system you decide to go with depends entirely on your business objectives and feature preferences. It’s not uncommon for new users to shift between two or three platforms before deciding which one works best for them since usage often determines needs.
For more information on CRM software, visit the Buyer's Guide on Software Advice.