When start-up companies begin looking for software business solutions, the owner(s) and managers are often faced with the prospect of dealing with budget constraints that force them to seek the best solution they can afford.
Since most start-ups are unwilling or unable to invest in a hardware infrastructure and/or IT employees, they need solutions that come ready to use with minimal investment.
Over the last decade, Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) software has become a popular option for tracking of customer contact and sales data. In many cases, these CRM software products are available in a cloud environment.
That is a very appealing attribute for a start-up company that recognizes the value of keeping track of such information. Once the decision to try this option has been made, the issue becomes identifying the best CRM for startups.
Best CRM for Startups
In the real world, the Best CRM for startups is going to be the provider that offers the most relevant features that are easiest to use at the most reasonable price. That may sound like a big shopping list, but there are several CRM providers that fit the description.
While Pipedrive purports to being a CRM, the reality is that it is a “sales pipeline” package that is easily customized to provide some customer contact tracking abilities.
As a sales pipeline tool, it does that very well. The real advantage to the product is the flexibility of the software. Every component and screen is easily customized using robust drag-and-drop capabilities.
The mobile app has been evolving, but is still easy to use and functional. Sales managers will love the reporting feature that provides meaningful, well-written standard sales reports.
Finally, Pipedrive has a powerful “Rest API” that allows users to customize needed features for integration. Best of all, the pricing is only $9 per user, per month, no limitations.
- It meets the most important criteria for a start-up business owner, it’s flexible, easy to use, scalable and definitely affordable.
- The software is compatible with most Google Apps, including Google Maps and Google Contacts
- The mobile app is only compatible with iOS at this time and even that still needs some work.
- As the company grows, they need some software design directed towards a customer communications component.
Where Pipedrive has chosen to focus on sales reporting, Close.io has taken the customer communications path.
The software offers a fully integrated calling system that allows for sales calls to be made and received right from the program. The program also automatically updates the customer account profile when phone calls are made/received or emails are initiated.
In order to keep employees informed, the software likes to use pop-up reminders and alerts regarding up to the second information about customers. Like Pipedrive, the software is something short of a traditional CRM, but the software is flexible enough to be adapted to look like a CRM.
- Complete call tracking capabilities with minimal data input provides users with the ability to run a call center right from the interface.
- API access allows for customization of features that can be adapted to meet specific needs.
- The pricing on the “Business” account is $149 per user, per month, which might be a little pricy for a start-up with 10 or more potential users.
- Mobile Apps and Social media integration are very poor or non-existent.
Of the three CRM providers listed here, Zoho offers the most comprehensive CRM package.
It contains customer communications tracking, marketing capabilities, sales tracking and lead generation and a robust reporting system. Through the mobile apps feature, sales people can review, edit, add and delete records right from their mobile device using iOS, Android or Blackberry.
For small retail and manufacturing companies, the software includes a small inventory management system that integrates with the sales tracking component. Where the other CRM providers listed here have API capabilities, Zoho does not offer such a feature nor is it easily integrated with third-party tools.
The pricing is very affordable at $12-$35 per user, per month, but some components have to be purchased as extras.
- For companies with three or fewer users, Zoho offers a free base package that might suffice for a start-up company.
- The software is integrated with social media, which is not very common with smaller CRM providers.
- Lack of compatibility with third-party tools might become problematic for a start-up as they grow.
Choosing the Right CRM
Most CRM software packages offer a baseline product that includes viable customer contact tracking and sales/marketing components.
For Start-up businesses, the features that will most likely separate providers figures to be reporting, mobile access and scalability. Information is critical to a new business owner who needs to tweak his business flow based on early results in order to find the right business formula.
Good standard reporting and an efficient report writer would be vital to developing useful reports. Mobile access is necessary for start-up companies that need to provide real-time access to its salespeople in the field to keep them well-informed on each customer.
Finally, scalability becomes an issue for successful companies that experience growth. It would be of great benefit for a start-up to have a CRM platform that is ready to grow with them.