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The Best CRM for Small Businesses: The 2019 CRM Market Leader Awards

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THE MARKET

Like all businesses, smaller firms share a desire for more exposure, increased sales, and a larger customer base. Growth is no less on their radar than it is among their larger counterparts, but when it comes to their CRM purchases, budgets and staffing are a much larger concern. That is a big reason that only about 30 percent of SMBs are currently deploying some form of CRM software, according to AMR Research. To appeal to these business users, CRM systems have to be inexpensive, feature-rich, easy to learn and use, customizable, easy to integrate with other systems, and backed by strong customer support from their vendors. Particularly among this segment, the need is great for systems that offer contact management, sales reporting, customer segmentation, deal and opportunity management, workflow automation, and forecasting. Luckily, there seems to be a growing trend among many vendors to bring their solutions down-market.

THE LEADERS

Copper, providers of a CRM system specifically designed to work within the Google Gmail and G-Suite environment, jumps onto the leaderboard for the first time in 2019 after strong scores of 3.9 in company direction, customer satisfaction, and cost. Many SMBs rely on Google for their email and basic business operations, so the Google integration is particularly important for them, says Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of Nucleus Research, and Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research. Wang, in fact, called Copper “a strong alternative to other CRM suites in the small-business category.”

Infusionsoft started 2019 with a rebranding under the Keap name to reflect the need among small businesses—its primary users—for software to help them “keep” going. The company posted a 3.9 in depth of functionality, a 3.5 in customer satisfaction, and a 3.7 in cost, but struggled in company direction with a category-low 3.3. The company hopes to change that, though, with the launch of a new product, also named Keap, a line of smart client management software built specifically for small businesses.

Last year’s winner, Microsoft, drops a bit this time around. The company posted a 3.8 in depth of functionality and a 3.7 in both customer satisfaction and cost. Last year, it had a 4.2 in depth of functionality, a 3.9 in customer satisfaction, and a 3.8 in cost. Wettemann notes that the company “continues to make investments in usability and functionality in CRM to drive greater productivity for SMB users.” According to Wang, customers “appreciate the strong integration among the suite,” but “seek more AI-driven capabilities.”

Zoho in 2019 maintains its position on the leaderboard. The company earned category-high scores in cost (4.7) and customer satisfaction (4.3). It also posted a 3.7 in depth of functionality and a 4.0 in company direction, with Wettemann noting that it “continues to make investments in making SMBs successful across sales, marketing, service, and other areas of the business.” Wang adds that Zoho offers a “strong end-to-end business suite across the board” and that “most customers are impressed by the value for functionality.”

THE WINNER

With an Essentials product line just for SMBs, Salesforce.com claims the winner’s spot this year, with category-high scores in depth of functionality (4.3) and company direction (4.6). The company also earned a 3.9 in customer satisfaction and a 3.7 in cost. All of its 2019 scores improved over last year’s, and that’s bound to continue. “Salesforce’s Essentials for SMBs has made it more accessible both in terms of price and deployment,” Wettemann says. Its latest upgrades enable SMBs to communicate with customers on their preferred conversation channels, from Facebook Messenger, Instagram, YouTube, and webchat to one-click inbound and outbound phone capabilities, all without leaving Salesforce.

ONE TO WATCH

Once again, SugarCRM earns One to Watch status. Hot off a few key acquisitions in 2019 and a change in leadership, it earned a 3.7 in company direction, a 3.6 in customer satisfaction, and a 4.0 in cost, but it struggled in depth of functionality (3.3). “We continue to see Sugar SMB customers getting positive ROI from rapid deployment, mobile access, and ease of use,” Wettemann says. 

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