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Affordable CRMs That Work for Startups and Small Businesses

Has your company grown to the point that it needs some structure and organization around its sales processes? Do your existing ad-hoc collection of online tools not cut it anymore for supporting sustained outreach to clients and closing deals? I recently found myself helping a growing startup wade through the sea of customer relationship management (CRM) tools online to narrow in on a few that fit its needs and thought I would share some of my research.


Obviously, the right tool for a company depends on its needs, so there isn’t a silver bullet that will solve everyone’s headaches. The startup I was helping wanted a CRM that was lightweight, with minimal data entry, since it has a tiny sales team with no formal processes. The solution had to be affordable and reliable -- a cloud-based SaaS would be ideal. And it had to integrate with Google Apps, which many startups use. Since the startup used social networks frequently to develop leads and keep in touch, a social CRM functionality would also be desirable.


Here are the CRMs that made my shortlist. The information below is correct at the time of writing.


Streak -- free for now

http://www.streak.com/  

For small and very young operations, this ultra lean CRM that’s overlaid on a Gmail inbox may be all that’s needed. It labels leads and which stage in the sales cycle they’re in -- basic pipeline and contact management. A drawback: It doesn’t have a social CRM component.


Streak is in beta currently, so it's free, but it plans to charge down the road. Here’s a review of how it works. http://www.waxingunlyrical.com/2013/01/30/streak-possibly-the-best-...


Insightly -- free (under 3 users), $29 (under 6 users) or $49 (under 15 users) per month

http://insightly.com

This flexible CRM is more full-featured and would be more suitable for a small business that has grown somewhat -- perhaps a tween or teenager at least, as opposed to a toddler. It has a respectable social CRM component, tapping into Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Klout and more. It also has Google Apps and Gmail integration (e.g. creates contact profiles automatically when mail received from someone new), plus mobile apps and a mobile site, supporting you wherever you are. Insightly integrates with a wide range of other online tools and apps via Zapier.


Nimble -- $15/user/month

http://www.nimble.com/

This more robust CRM would similarly be better suited to tween/teenage startups and beyond. It has good contact management, with a unified inbox that includes Gmail, Google Calendar and social communications with contacts and the ability to schedule emails or social media posts to go out in the future. There's also a Nimble contact gadget for Gmail if you're using Gmail as your main interface, plus mobile apps and Google Apps and Drive integration. The tool provides macro and micro pipeline/deal views.


Nimble has the most full-bodied social CRM amongst the tools I surveyed, incorporating the social streams of your contacts, listening for significant mentions, and showing connections in common. You can reply to a Facebook post or Tweet directly from Nimble and import contacts from LinkedIn and other networks. Check out this video for an overview http://player.vimeo.com/video/78577862 for a quick look


Honorable Mentions

 

Close.io -- $59 or 99/user/month ($59 has no calls and call tracking)

http://close.io/

Its big focus is integrating calls and automating their logging into Close.io, reducing data entry to a minimum and making frequent sales calls easy via click-to-call functionality.


SugarCRM -- $35/user/month for Professional Edition

http://www.sugarcrm.com

This powerful CRM didn’t make my shortlist because it’s probably features-overkill for a startup. It has a lot of marketing (e.g. email campaigns) and customer support functionality that may not be needed, depending on your company’s maturity and needs. Its social CRM taps LinkedIn and Twitter, but not Facebook.

Hope this quick review was useful. Does your startup use CRM tools? If so, what have your experiences been?

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Tags: CRM, Google Apps, SaaS, Salesforce, customer relationship management, sales, social CRM

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Comment by Alex Salkever on April 8, 2014 at 5:52pm

I'd also add Intercom. For customer support functions / CRM, its awesome. I have used Nimble extensively and its very powerful but also VERY NOISY if you turn on the social integrations. In fact, normal people may shudder at having their LinkedIn InMails pouring into Nimble. Streak we like but its very simplistic and designed primarily as an email add-on. 

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