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Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) is a system that has become more popular over the years. The system refers to strategies, technologies, tools, and techniques to help enterprises acquire, develop and retain their customers. There is a common misconception that CRM only originated towards the tail-end of the twentieth century. Although the term CRM may be a relatively new one but the concept, the system is as old as trade itself.
Trade has been a part of human society for millenniums, with the first recorded instance around 20 millenniums ago. So, how did the concept of CRM come into play at this time?
What is CRM?
When you hear CRM, what comes to your mind? Some people would say CRM is a tool, while others will say it is a new technology. CRM includes both of these and even more. It is a system that fosters collaboration and increases productivity by giving you the tools and technologies required to go from customer identification to customer conversion.
The goal of a CRM system is quite simple, focus on improving your business relationships and seeing your business grow. The most common concept of CRM that most people have is a tool that helps with customer contact management, agent productivity, sales management, and so on. You can use these tools to manage your customer relationships throughout the customer lifecycle.
There is a huge difference in how business is done today as opposed to a few decades ago. Flexibility and adaptability are some of the key success factors and this can be attributed to the proliferation of technology today. Technology is one of the primary change drivers today, as any innovation in technology often leads to new ways and methods of doing things in different industries. The marketing industry is no exception.
According to Statista, the public cloud services market is expected to grow from about 314 billion dollars in 2020 to an estimated 482 billion dollars in 2022. This makes Cloud technology one of the fastest-growing technology today. This influence has reached Customer Relationship Management, as you see a yearly increase in the number of cloud-based CRM systems being produced.
Right now, you may be asking yourself, what does it mean for my CRM system to be cloud-based. One of the key components of a complete CRM system is customer data. For you to have an effective relationship with your customers, you need to have data that will help shape your communication with them. For a cloud-based system, all your data is stored on the cloud for easy access at any time.
Apart from keeping your data on the cloud, cloud-based CRM software also helps you reach out to customers across different channels. You can also plan email campaigns and set up marketing automation. This leads to more deals being closed as you have a solid grasp of your sales pipeline.
The benefits of cloud-based CRM software for your business cannot be overemphasized as they bring the modern CRM to feel to your marketing department.
Benefits of Cloud-Based CRM Software
Just like software in other industries, CRM software has evolved over the years and will continue to evolve to provide the best possible solutions to marketing officers and business owners. The best systems reduce the learning curve required to fully utilize the system and start enjoying its benefits.
Let’s look at a few of the numerous benefits of this software.
One of the biggest advantages of cloud technology is the fact that it removes the need for you to manage your systems in-house. This means that you don’t need to deploy physical hardware that will work with your CRM system.
Now, the implication of this is invaluable as its benefits cut across, operations, cost, maintenance, and so on. With cloud deployment, you reduce the time-to-go live for your CRM software and you don’t have to worry about hiring extra staff for the full deployment process.
Another conversation that comes up alongside cloud-based CRM is the one involving operational expenditure and capital expenditure. One of the biggest benefits of moving to a system based on cloud technology is the move away from capital expenditure to operational expenditure.
You already know how cloud-based CRM does not require any physical hardware. This means that you don’t have to spend money on physical hardware that you may not fully utilize. This also means that you can save money on employing and maintaining extra IT staff and you won’t have to spend money every few years on upgrading the system.
Another big benefit of using a cloud-based CRM system is the ease with which you can scale. Gone are the days when an unforeseen rise in your customer base will lead to every staff in the building running around. Now you can reduce the time and effort it takes to scale up or down by leveraging the automatic scalability feature of the CRM system.
Another advantage of automatic scalability is that you have more flexibility with the system. You don’t have to go all-in when trying out a new cloud CRM software. In an on-premises system, you must decide how much hardware is required for the full implementation of your system.
Collaboration and Ease of Use
If you have ever reviewed software before, one of the things you look out for is the user experience. How easy is it to use the software and what features does it have that improve the current working system?
One big asset of cloud-based CRM software is its ease of use. Cloud-based CRM software makes it possible to work from any location and any device. This is even more important in a post-pandemic era where remote working is the new working style. The software gives colleagues a feeling of working closely together even if they are not physically close at the time.
This is made possible because updates are made in real-time, and everyone can freely access the system from anywhere. So, if your marketing team starts working on a lead, the sales team can get information about the progression in real-time and make the required plans for conversion.
There are many more merits of using cloud-based CRM software and we just can’t cover them all in this article. Now, let’s check out some of the best cloud-based CRM software in the market today.
Top Cloud-Based Solutions
Perhaps you are searching for the best CRM software solution for your business, here is a list of the top cloud-based CRM software.
HubSpot CRM is one of the first choices on most lists. Some attribute this to the free tools you get to automatically track performance and update reports. Some other experts believe it has one of the most comprehensive dashboards that gives you instant visibility of your sales pipeline.
The template generators help you create invoices, email signatures, marketing plans, and business plans. This software also offers a free basic tier, so you can test the features before any more commitment is made. The library building is another interesting feature that allows team members to monitor sales materials.
This software has a bit of a steep learning curve, as it can be a bit technical. Also, it is not great at spotting and removing duplicate data.
When it comes to pricing, Hubspot’s price varies according to the category. I’ll take the Marketing Hub section to give you the ballpark figure.
- The basic version is free.
- Marketing Hub Starter plan is billed annually at $45 per month
- Marketing Hub Professional plan is billed annually at $800 per month
- And the Enterprise plan is billed annually at $3,200 per month
Salesforce is one of the biggest players in the CRM industry. It has become a household name and for good reason. Salesforce was one of the first products that introduced technology into CRM.
The quality of this product is no surprise considering the reputation of the company. Their CRM software has many packages based on business size and specific needs. You can be sure of getting the basic tools for a reasonable price and it offers one of the best scalability opportunities out there.
In a bid to provide all the possible packages and features to cover many business needs, the platform can become overwhelming and require an above-average level of technical expertise. It is also a bit pricy.
You can visit the Salesforce website or contact a vendor for more information.
Zoho CRM is another popular software that helps organizations rapidly grow their customer base. The CRM software has many features that can compete with the best of them.
The smart AI tools help you easily track your business performance, and the unified dashboard helps you gather quick insight into the effectiveness and efficiency of your processes. This software also makes collaboration between teammates seamless. Overall, Zoho CRM is a great choice for any business size.
Zoho can do better with the speed at which customers get a response to complaints. Most of the features that make it shine are only available for more expensive plans.
- There is a free version
- The basic plan is billed annually at $14 per user/month
- The basic plan is billed annually at $23 per user/month
- The basic plan is billed annually at $40 per user/month
- The basic plan is billed annually at $52 per user/month
Personalization is one business element that can’t be overemphasized, as it has shown to be a customers’ favorite over time. Insightly is known for its great personalization feature. The intuitive interface also makes the learning curve for this software a low one.
Insigtly’s dynamic and fluid design coupled with its intuitive interface makes it one of the top choices when it comes to user experience. The wide range of functionalities also means you will be using software that will cater to most of your CRM needs.
One of the downsides of using the Insightly CRM solution is the extra cost for support, which is not the case for some of its competitors.
If you don’t have the budget for some of the pricier CRM software on this list, then EngageBay is a great option for you. Although this software is on the low side on the affordability scale, it does not lose out in terms of functionality and overall experience.
Moving from a different CRM software to EngageBay is very seamless as the software allows you to migrate your data from the previous platform for free. You can also make calls and send out emails using the system.
EngageBay can do a bit better with the old-school feel of the dashboard and make it more intuitive for users. The advanced searching is also a bit slow, and the email templates could also be improved.
- The software has a free version
- The basic plan is billed annually at $11.99 per user/month
- The growth plan is billed annually at $39.99 per user/month
- The pro plan is billed annually at $63.99 per user/month
I am sure you also took a second to take in the name, trust me, everyone does. This software offers a simplified interface to help small-sized businesses manage their customer contacts. Its user-friendly system is built to be quite easy to use and effective.
As much as this CRM software goes for simplicity, users are still offered a good level of customization. Its affordability also makes a great budget CRM software, making it an excellent choice for small businesses.
Less Annoying CRM does not have some of the more sophisticated collaboration features as some other software on this list have. The software also has very minimal features which are not surprising for budget software.
- It comes at $15 per user/month
This easy-to-use and comprehensive CRM tool is built with your sales team in mind. It removes all the friction and issues like delayed updates which can be a thorn for smooth collaboration.
The smart lists feature makes it easy to segment your leads and deals in real-time. The unified integration with MailChimp makes it easy to track campaigns and view your contract status.
One of the biggest challenges you may face using this software is when uploading .csv files as it can be quite tedious. If you are looking for a standalone solution, then Zendesk Sell may not be the best option for you.
Apptivo is an excellent example of a well-rounded CRM solution that ticks most boxes for small and medium-sized businesses. It also has applications that support accounting, ERP, and project management.
Some of the biggest draws of using Apptivo CRM are its granular security controls, impressive mobile applications, and of course, the 24-hour support. The software also offers you a decent level of customization.
One of the issues that seem common among users is the sometimes-sluggish performance, which can impact your overall experience. Also, some mobile users have reported some features to be buggy.
- The software has a free version
- The Lit plan is billed annually at $8 per user/month
- The Premium plan is billed annually at $12 per user/month
- The Ultimate plan is billed annually at $20 per user/month
- Contact the vendor for details of the Enterprise plan
The hallmark of an effective CRM software is when its best features lead to conversion. Pipedrive CRM can help you focus on moving your customers through the sales funnel.
This software offers features that help you predict revenue, prioritize deals, and track sales performance. The chatbots and custom web forms also work towards feeding deals into your sales pipeline in real-time. The AI feature also means you can eliminate repetitive tasks.
Perhaps the biggest drawback is the fact that the software doesn’t have a lot of marketing features. The workflows could also be better for this software.
- The Essential plan is billed annually at $12.50 per user/month
- The Advanced plan is billed annually at $24.90 per user/month
If you are looking for a CRM cloud software that is easy to use and integrate and has the functionalities that you require for your business, then Salesflare is a good option. It is one of the leading CRM software that is targeted towards small-sized businesses.
The system syncs easily with your calendar and other applications on your phone. You will also find it easy to upload documents on the platform, with easy search and data retrieval functionality.
The mobile application could do with a bit more simplicity, as it could have a simple favorite button to help keep important things close.
- The Growth plan is billed annually at $29 per user/month
- The Pro plan is billed annually at $49 per user/month
- The Enterprise plan is billed annually at $99 per user/month
CRM is an essential system for any serious-minded business. Some business owners often make the mistake of thinking only large businesses can leverage the system. However, you can reap the benefits of a standard CRM system even as a small or medium-sized business.
There are many CRM Cloud software out there but getting the right one for your needs may be a bit tricky. We have reviewed what we believe to be the top 10 CRM cloud software on the market today. If you choose any of the software on this list, then you most likely will not be making a bad choice.