Best Small-Business CRM Software Suite: The 2017 CRM Market Leaders

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As the number of affordable, web-based CRM products increases, so too does the number of small businesses actively seeking out systems to manage interactions with both current and prospective customers. Many are upgrading from basic email marketing or contact management systems, while others are just getting started; others are looking to replace outdated or problematic systems.

As these firms often have limited budgets, interest is high in hosted, cloud-based CRM solutions. In 2016, roughly 64 percent of total CRM software revenue was generated from SaaS-based CRM, according to Gartner.

Small businesses are also among the biggest adopters of monthly subscription pricing, which makes solutions scale well for fast-growing companies that might have to add user licenses or features down the road. 


Once again, Infusionsoft proves to be a popular choice for SMBs. The company posted scores of 4.1 in functionality, 3.9 in company direction, 4.2 in customer satisfaction, and 4.1 in cost. Brent Leary, cofounder and partner at CRM Essentials, says the company has “re-dedicated itself to serving the under-25-employee crowd needing sophisticated marketing functionality catered to their needs, not watered-down enterprise retrofits.”

Salesforce.com pulled down industry-leading scores of 4.8 in functionality, 4.7 in company direction, and 4.1 in customer satisfaction. According to Leary, the company “has done more in the last couple of years to focus on SMBs in terms of beefing up the lower end of the platform offerings with sales intelligence and integrations.” But Salesforce also struggled the most on cost, scoring a category-low 2.3. Salesforce “remains very expensive for the value obtained for a small business,” says Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, adding that while its company direction “remains one of the strongest in the industry,” it is “really suitable only for enterprises that are able to invest the resources and expense of going all in.” 

SugarCRM followed up a strong showing last year with scores of 4.2 in functionality, 4.1 in company direction, 3.9 in cost, and 3.5 in customer satisfaction. According to Leggett, the company “is a solid choice for an all-in-one CRM on a singular platform, for companies both small and large.”

Zoho is back on the leaderboard after slipping to One to Watch last year. Analysts gave the company high marks in cost (4.8). It rounded out its strong performance with a 4.1 in customer satisfaction, 3.7 in functionality, and 3.6 in company direction. Zoho “has a breadth of products and offerings with good depth of functionality at such low price points that it delivers great value, even to the smallest of SMBs,” Leary states. Leggett agrees, saying Zoho “offers a Swiss Army knife of broad applications for the small business,” but adds that “the true company and product direction is somewhat confused.” 


Microsoft is the category winner for the fourth year in a row, with impressive scores across the board. Last year, the company impressed analysts in functionality, scoring a 4.2. It followed up this year with a 4.6 in functionality, along with a 4.4 in company direction, 4.2 in customer satisfaction, and 4.1 in cost. Leary says that “Dynamics 365 makes for a compelling offering with Office 365.” However, Leggett notes that Microsoft “is rapidly moving upmarket and has increased its pricing this year, which makes it less attractive to the small business.” 


Last year, HubSpot managed to secure a spot on the leaderboard despite a low score (2.9) in functionality. It improved a bit this year (3.0), but dropped down to One to Watch in the face of stiffer competition. Nevertheless, HubSpot posted decent scores of 3.9 in customer satisfaction and 3.8 in cost. According to Leary, HubSpot is “still heavily driven by an inbound marketing foundation, with their [sales force automation] functionality acting as a nice complementary piece for the marketing-focused SMB.”

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