(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
You’re looking for a CRM system for your company. But you’re not entirely sure what you want. You are buried in choices. You read reports like this recent one from application marketplace 360Quadrants of the “best CRM software” and you’re still not sure.
So let me help you clear things up. My company implements CRM software. In fact, we implement (full disclosure) some of the products – Salesforce, Zoho and Microsoft Dynamics – listed below. We love those products but the fact is I would also love to sell every one of the products listed below. We just don’t have the bandwidth to do it all. Rest assured, if you’re working with the right people and partners and are willing to make the investment, any one of the ten “visionary leaders” CRM products listed on the 360Quadrants report below would be completely fine for your business.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some differences that separates these choices. The vendors may argue with my opinions below. But when prospective CRM buyers – mostly from small and mid-sized companies – are looking at these options this is usually the advice I give them.
Freshworks – You want CRM as part of a suite of business applications.
Freshworks is part of a trend (see Zoho) of companies offering CRM modules that are part of a growing suite of applications that they hope their clients can rely on entirely to run their businesses. Freshsales is Freshworks’ CRM application and the company offers other modules that do everything from help desk and analytics to project management and collaboration.
HubSpot – You want a strong marketing application that has good CRM capabilities.
If that’s the case, then HubSpot is great marketing automation application for small and medium sized businesses with capable CRM features. We recommend this to clients where marketing managers are driving the discussion and when there are good internal marketing resources to use it. If you don’t have a marketing department, or even a dedicated marketing person, this may not be the best option.
Insightly – You want an affordable CRM system with an intuitive user interface.
For the past few years, Insightly has grown in popularity due to its easy to use and affordable CRM capabilities. To me, Insightly is a reliable and workable CRM product that offers a similar feature set of other competitors. It doesn’t have a suite of applications like Freshworks or Zoho, but the company has recently introduced marketing automation to its mix and I know of a number of their customers that enjoy Insightly’s unique user interface.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 – You want Microsoft.
When a buyer tells me they’re a Microsoft shop then this is always my first recommendation. Because it makes sense to insert a Microsoft-built CRM application into your existing Microsoft environment, specifically if you want to leverage Office, Outlook and other Microsoft tools in your business.
Nimble – You want Microsoft but you can’t afford Microsoft.
Dynamics 365 can get a little pricey for smaller companies. So welcome to Nimble. Nimble does a great job leveraging social media and communications. But it’s best (and most recent) strength is that it’s a simple and more user friendly solution for smaller (under 10 users) companies who want a Microsoft-oriented solution because it’s currently the only small business CRM application being sold through the Microsoft partner channel other than the company’s existing CRM offerings, which are built for larger companies.
Pipedrive – You want a sales tool.
Pipedrive is the anti-suite of CRM. Instead of trying to please everyone the application is really focused on helping salespeople close more deals. There’s no accounting, marketing automation, project management or service desk features. It’s just about sales. To that end, its opportunity, sales and lead management features, along with its powerful reporting tools, are advanced and well suited for a customer that just wants a state of the art sales automation tool to help grow revenues.
PipelineDeals – You want a sales tool and maybe you don’t like Pipedrive.
See Pipedrive. But if you’re not sold on that option then this application, like it’s closely-named competitor, is also focused on managing salespeople’s pipelines. Like Pipedrive, it integrates with many other cloud based applications, includes self-customizing workflows and developer tools to build more specialized processes.
Salesforce – You don’t want to get fired.
Salesforce is the BMW of CRM. It’s corporate stock ticker is CRM. Salesforce has a wildly passionate community and integrations with just about every application out there. It has the best brand recognition and you’re unlikely to be criticized for choosing it. Unless you don’t need all of its features. Because that’s the catch: Salesforce can be expensive. But if you’re willing to pay the higher monthly fees, consulting costs and development time then you’ll be able to accomplish whatever you need with Salesforce.
Zendesk – You want a service application with CRM features.
Some CRMs are marketing applications with CRM features. Some are straight sales applications. Zendesk is at its core an excellent service management application. That means managing tickets, queues, issues, cases, problems and other issues that affect a company’s customer service. But Zendesk is also expanding into CRM with its recent aquisition of Base CRM. So if you’re the kind of company that wants a great service desk application that happens to have CRM capabilities, then this is a good one to consider.
Zoho – See Freshworks.
You like Salesforce but you don’t have the budget. Plus, you’re a smaller organization that won’t likely use 80 percent of Salesforce’s features. You also want to expand your CRM to include accounting, project management, HR and other business functions and you want to do it all on one platform, if possible. Zoho is the next best option to Salesforce and why I always recommend it to smaller companies that are looking for a Salesforce solution but don’t want to pay for a Salesforce solution. And the fact that it comes as part of a suite of other business applications is also a big plus.
I’m leaving out a lot of other great CRMs here, mainly because there’s plenty of overlap and these were the ten “visionary leaders” according to 360Quadrants. My advice, however is not to get caught up in the software. These applications compete against each other and are matching features quickly. Spend more time researching the company, its partners and its community. In the end, it will be those factors that will be determine whether or not you succeed with your CRM software or not.