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How to Choose a CRM for Your Small Business

Having the right small business CRM can make a huge difference in the success of your business, especially when it comes to things like cultivating leads, turning leads into customers, and turning customers into brand loyalists. And throughout the sales process, there’s really not a singular point where it won’t be useful to you.

So what should you expect out of a CRM solution — and how do you choose? We’re covering all of that and more, including sharing some of our top picks for the best CRM platforms for small businesses.

Why Every Small Business Needs a CRM

Just because your business is small doesn’t mean that your tech needs are.

CRM software has become a mainstay in the business world. In 2017, 87% of businesses relied on cloud-based CRM solutions, versus just 12% in 2008. With a complete CRM solution, you get a ton of big advantages that can help you better run your business, including these benefits that a CRM can offer:

1. It Boosts Sales and Nurtures Leads

The primary benefit of any CRM for small businesses is that it helps streamline sales and boost your revenue. How?

Well, it starts with lead nurture and management after the initial lead generation. An online CRM allows your small business to capture more leads from your website and track them throughout the entire sales process. With your CRM stocked full of new contacts, you can nurture prospective buyers in your sales pipeline with targeted email campaigns until they are ready to buy.

That means your sales team can prioritize leads, spending less time on unqualified people who are never going to pull the trigger and more time closing deals.

Another big bonus of a small business CRM is that it delivers key insights so you can make smarter sales decisions. It can tell you which lead sources drive the most sales so you can allocate more time and money where it’s more beneficial. It can indicate which sales reps are struggling to hit their numbers so new strategies can be tested. And it can shed light on what your short and long-term sales forecasts look like.

Did you know that following up too late is one of the biggest reasons that companies lose customers and fail to convert prospects? A CRM software helps your sales team provide appropriate, automated follow-up to turn existing customers into long-term purchasers with ease. 

2. It Helps You Understand Your Customers

The best way to serve your customers is to understand exactly what their wants, needs, pain points, and preferences are. But short of calling each client to pick their brain, this can seem like a monumental task. With a CRM, however, you can automatically gather information about your customers at a granular level and analyze that data to gain valuable insight that will help you make more intelligent customer-centric business decisions. Track trends, assess behaviors and identify opportunities, all with a few clicks of a button.

Small business CRM software is particularly useful for companies selling complex products or companies with longer sales cycles. The constant data collection allows you to continuously perfect how you interact with each and every customer. Months of customer behavior data can be effortlessly recorded and analyzed, which lets you better understand the different decisions that guided customers throughout their entire journey.

You can use this information to improve your small business marketing, tweak your email marketing and email campaigns, website design, and sales approach until you find the optimal way to reach your target audience.

Another way you can leverage the insight gained through a CRM is to create more personalized customer experiences. When you have accurate oversight into the behaviors and preferences of your clientele, you can tailor your messaging and improve your products or services so that they are more closely aligned with their needs and expectations. Better, more personalized service is the key to differentiating your brand and developing deeper, more meaningful connections with your customers. This promotes loyalty and increases the chances of customer referrals.

3. It Improves Workflow

No matter how small your business, your sales and marketing process always has room for improvement. The reality is that most businesses have a ton of manual processes in place, such as sticky notes and spreadsheets, that kill productivity.

Small business CRM software removes the bottlenecks and makes it very easy to create workflows your team can stick to on a daily basis. Whether it’s automating follow-up on a new lead or delivering a consistent new customer onboarding process, a CRM can improve your entire team’s efficiency, from sales to customer service, which leads me to my next point. 

4. It Increases Customer Support

Customer support is the backbone of every small business. It impacts not only customer retention but also your revenue. 

So how do you deliver an extraordinary customer experience? By giving your support team instant access to detailed information about each and every customer. Let them discover their online history, their order information, and their past interactions with your company to ensure they really understand what each customer has gone through. A huge plus of CRM software is that it collects customer data in one place, making it easier to segment your customers based on their specific needs and interests.

5. It Maximizes Resources

Small business owners are all too familiar with the challenge of wearing multiple hats. Even mid-sized organizations struggle to make the most out of limited resources. Marketing automation and a robust CRM allow companies of any size to do more with less because technology does the heavy lifting. As a result, even businesses operating on a skeleton crew can deliver high-level service and remain competitive with organizations of every size.

With technology today, much of the sales and marketing tasks that used to be done by hand can be automated in a personalized manner. As mentioned earlier, CRM software can take care of the majority of administrative tasks, keep records, and make follow-ups with contacts for you. You have more time for the activities that have the most impact, running your business, and meeting with clients that are ready to buy.

6. It Enables You to Develop Best Practices

Small businesses must find a way to maximize productivity and efficiency to keep costs down and operate as profitably as possible. The best CRM software can help you identify and implement best practices to ensure that every employee remains on the same page and that the business is run like a well-oiled machine. Having these best practices in place can also make it easier to onboard new employees, bringing them up to speed faster and providing them with the marketing tools and information they need to do their jobs more effectively.

If you’re not employing a CRM system, you’re missing out on lots of ways to be more efficient and purposeful in your day-to-day sales activities. If you know your business could use some of the benefits mentioned above, then it may be time to choose a CRM that’s perfect for you. 

Choosing the Perfect CRM for Your Needs

Businesses that work well with their CRM can see a potential 300% increase in conversion rates and a 47% increase in customer retention and satisfaction rates. But to achieve these impressive benchmarks, you’ll have to choose the right software.

Here are the big things to consider as you make your pick:

  • Your budget
  • Your team
  • Your contact list
  • Your preferred pay frequency
  • What additional features you want built-in
  • Support needs

Your Budget

Before you start researching options, you should determine what your marketing budget is. Keep in mind that the actual cost will probably exceed the base pricing when you factor in the time required to set up the software and train your employees, among other things. 

(Psst: There’s free CRM software out there for small businesses that aren’t quite prepared to make a huge investment. In fact, our Free Forever Plan is completely free, meaning you pay nothing to sign up, and there are no hidden fees. We promise.)

Your Team

If you have a certain number of people that will need access to the CRM, you’ll need to factor that into your purchase decision. If it’s too expensive, however, you could start with a single-user plan and then upgrade later on if the CRM is working out for you.

Your Contact List

The price you pay for a CRM is often related to how many contacts you have. If your contact list size is priced out of a CRM option that fits your budget, consider auditing it to remove any dead-end leads that aren’t going anywhere.

Your Preferred Pay Frequency

Most CRMs offer both monthly and annual pricing, with a discount for paying an annual fee upfront. If you’re able to work it into your budget, see if you can score a good deal with a CRM that allows you to pay annually instead of month-to-month.

What Additional Features You Want Built-in

Integrating your CRM with key features can lead to better lead nurturing capabilities and huge cost savings. This includes things like:

Email Automation

Integrating CRM with email marketing can be hugely beneficial for your business since it allows these two tools to work together for enhanced lead nurturing capabilities. This also means you can build beautifully designed HTML emails that help elevate your brand and messaging. Consider whether you want email automation to be included, and if so, how many emails you want to be able to send a month.

Note that some CRM software providers cap your emails at a certain amount or don’t offer email automation at all. If it’s a feature you know you want, make sure that you factor it in when you’re looking over your options.

Marketing Automation

If CRM plus email automation is good, then CRM plus marketing automation is even better. But it’s a good bet that if the software you’re looking at doesn’t include email, then it doesn’t include marketing automation either.

Sales and marketing automation often go together as two sides of the same coin, and if you don’t get marketing automation through your CRM, you’ll likely still have to get it from somewhere else. If you know you’ll need it, select a CRM tool that has it included so you can get all of your essentials in one application.

Landing Pages and Forms

Landing pages and forms are excellent lead generation tools, providing your prospects with a direct location where they can provide their information in exchange for high-quality resources and content. This allows you to enroll them into your lead nurture campaigns, and it advances them to the next stage of the buyer’s journey.

Many CRM platforms allow you to create landing pages and forms, but not all, so pay attention to whether this functionality is included if it’s something you know you want.

Support Needs

Do you need access to 24/7 assistance or quick communication via email or chat? If so, look for CRM software that has accessible customer support options, which ensures that help will always be available if you need it. 

Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a CRM

The biggest mistake when choosing a CRM is to not see the value in it, which could lead you to underutilize the software. It takes time and money to implement new software, but it’s worth putting in the effort when you consider all that a CRM can do for you.

As for the other big obstacles to avoid when choosing and using a CRM platform, they might not be so obvious, though they can be equally damaging. They include not setting distinct goals for your CRM usage (there are a lot of features available, so it makes sense to hone in on exactly what you need — no more and no less) and not aligning your CRM with the goals and strategies of your sales team.

Sit down with your team in advance and talk about what they need to improve the customer experience and make more sales. This includes the sorts of data they feel they require to successfully push a lead through the sales funnel, as well as what major challenges they’re currently facing.

A final mistake: assuming a CRM will fix any problems right away. Give everyone time to get acclimated and focus on long-term benefits instead of quick fixes.

Our Favorite Small Business CRMs

Narrow it down by starting your search with a popular and pre-vetted CRM system. Here are seven of our faves.

1. BenchmarkONE

We’re a little biased here. But still, we’ve built a CRM system with built-in marketing and email automation, and we’re proud of the many ways in which it allows you to make more impactful and more timely connections with your leads.

2. Agile CRM

The cloud-based Agile CRM platform provides tools for excelling in sales, marketing, and service, with integration-ready features that are easy to implement into your existing processes.

3. Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM offers international expertise that can be a big advantage if your business runs operations outside of the U.S. — or if your clients do.

4. Insightly

Efficiently organize each step of the marketing and sales process — including everything that happens after a pitch becomes a sale.

5. Less Annoying CRM

Less Annoying CRM is entirely small business-focused, meaning they don’t waste your time with bells and whistles that look good on paper but aren’t suited for your purposes.

6. Nimble

This scalable CRM promises a customizable experience for its users without the need for extensive setup, which is good news if you don’t have much time to devote to getting your CRM up and running.


There’s a lot of automation baked into, plus tools to help you find more efficiency in other departments, such as HR, IT, and even software development.

When it comes to small business CRM, you have choices. Take your time and go with a CRM that offers you everything you need at a price that makes sense. We guarantee your perfect CRM is out there — you just have to find it. 

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