Compare the Best CRM Software (156 Vendors)
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Updated: July 10, 2018
What is CRM Software?
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a tool designed to help companies keep track of their relationships, manage sales and marketing processes, and deliver more efficient service. A CRM functions as both a database and a productivity tool, providing a repository for customer contact and interaction data and workflow automations that help improve efficiency.
Building off the tried and true analog salesperson’s best friend, the Rolodex, CRM tools are databases of customer and business contacts at their core, but leaps in technology now enable sales, marketing, and customer support specialists to use customer relationship management tools for a wide variety of business tasks.
With CRM systems, sales users get greater personalization, build better relationships, and can better track and plan customer interactions to make the entire sales funnel more intentional. CRM software now offers lead management, lead scoring, sales activity, email tracking, automatic updates to contact records, and notifications for upcoming sales events like calls, emails, follow ups and appointments. Additional features include contract and document management, sales goal planning and tracking, invoicing and billing, sales performance and activity monitoring, and nurture campaign mapping and analytics.
Aggregated information about customers from within a CRM system is useful for marketing teams to better personalize marketing outreach to target audiences and mine data for better-fit customer personas. Individual customer information is useful for customer support teams who receive the client handoffs from sales to better understand the context and content of sales deals.
The CRM Market
With such mission-critical functionality, it’s no wonder CRM has become one of the most widely-adopted solutions in business IT. Current adoption rates of CRM software hover around 60 percent for all business sizes, with another 20 percent hoping to adopt the technology within the next 12 months. Thanks to a wave of cloud and mobile innovation, this broad category has expanded far beyond sales into other job functions and industries like financial services, real estate, and nonprofit.
Companies are expected to upgrade and adopt new CRM software to keep up with a renewed focus on targeting the right customer and retaining them for the long term–jobs traditionally managed by sales and marketing. It’s no coincidence that these departments are expected to be the top two software spending areas for 2018. Interestingly, 59 percent of C-level tech execs plan to invest more spending in Salesforce in 2018 after its acquisition of Mulesoft, an API hub technology that connects different types of applications together. Salesforce’s investment in this technology highlights a tech trend that many companies already understand: CRM lives at the core of any customer-driven company, with other software forming a galaxy of apps around it.
As the CRM software market has become more crowded in the race to build bigger-better-faster CRM and integrated tools, it’s become harder than ever to choose the right CRM system for your team. Gene Marks, formerly of KPMG says, “The cloud is steadily turning applications into commodities.” Technology has progressed so much in the past five years that consumers can’t use feature lists to differentiate between options. To distinguish and find the right product for your company, you have to look at all of the surrounding factors like support, community, and your own IT infrastructure.
CRM systems are rapidly changing to encompass more business-critical features and make managing sales, marketing, and customer success easier than ever. The market can feel overwhelming to any buyer, but we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll look at primary CRM categories, industry specializations, leading vendors, and current technology trends impacting the CRM market today and in the future.
If you’re ready to start browsing the best CRM systems, click on the product selection tool at the top of the page, or give one of our Technology Advisors a call at 877.822.9526. We’ll hook you up with recommendations based on your company’s needs.
Best CRM Software Vendors (by market presence)
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Enterprise CRM Platforms
While there are many different kinds of CRM platforms designed for enterprise use, they are all intended to serve large scale business needs across a variety of departments. Enterprise platforms typically have numerous integrated features, the ability to add features by purchasing apps and add-ons, and/or the ability to custom-design new features by using a developer toolkit.
The phrase enterprise CRM usually has a traditional connotation, meaning the product is focused on contact management through a set of predetermined channels — both inbound and outbound — and automating sales processes to optimize old and new customer relationships.
Enterprise software also tends to provide powerful tools for data analysis and insight, which can help managers take massive amounts of stored data, make sense of it, and put it to work. In large companies, where customer data can be stored in vast databases and translated into proactive or predictive customer journeys and interactions, it’s crucial to have the right tools for transforming information into strategy. During your CRM software comparison, it’s a good idea to look for products that include built-in reporting or analytics.
For companies interested in extending the value of their data, enterprise CRM systems are more likely to include AI and machine learning tools that help augment reporting and analytics and give sales reps actionable steps to improve processes and close more deals.
Enterprise CRM Comparable Products
Ready to find your next enterprise-ready CRM system? Click on the banner at the top of the page to get fast, free recommendations, or call a TechnologyAdvisor today at 877.822.9526 for personalized CRM recommendations based on your company’s needs.
Small Business CRM Software
A market full of “megavendors” like Salesforce and Oracle can be intimidating to small businesses that work in niche industries and have limited budgets. Some of these businesses simply can’t afford a product like Oracle. Others find the large feature sets of enterprise CRMs too complicated for their basic needs.
Luckily, there are many vendors that offer CRM systems built specifically with these businesses in mind. From industry-specific (retail, nonprofit, real estate, financial services) to less complicated and more affordable platforms, there are lots of contenders in the market for the best CRM for small business.
And as the CRM market expands, the race to attract the most SMB software subscribers means that those CRMs often include some highly advanced features once only found in enterprise tools. Look for automated workflows, reporting, and lots of integrations to widely-used tools within SMB CRM systems.
SMB CRM Comparable Products
If you’re ready to find the right CRM for your small business, click on the image at the top of the page to enter your requirements. We’ll send you a list of custom recommendations to get your search started right.
Current Trends and Innovations
It’s a good idea to keep a finger on the pulse of CRM software and understand what innovations are changing and disrupting the market. You wouldn’t want to spend money on a product that might be antiquated in two years time, or, conversely, invest in some flashy new widget, only to discover that it’s an old widget dressed in new clothes. Here are seven CRM trends that have cropped up in recent years.
Mobile devices aren’t exactly new anymore, but their capabilities continue to evolve (i.e. geolocation, cloud-connectivity), and the idea of businesses harnessing those capabilities for customer relationship management is relatively new.
Although it was promised since the release of the smartphone, the global use of mobile technology finally surpassed desktop use in November 2016, a trend that has significantly impacted how we communicate with one another and how we do business. Sales reps have not traditionally been tied to desks, but their freedom has expanded more than ever as CRM software has been adapted for mobile use. This proliferation, in many ways, parallels a growing interest for CIOs to pursue “customer experience management,” which requires businesses to meet customers where they are and react to their needs, rather than simply push products.
Your company might also want to look into a CRM platform specifically designed for mobile use. In industries where sales reps go to the clients — not vice versa — mobile CRMs are instrumental in keeping leads and client data organized and updated, keeping sales people connected with management, and optimizing daily operations. For example, many mobile CRMs incorporate geolocation features, which help your reps plan the quickest route between multiple contacts on, say, an iPad, and pull up live GPS directions to get them there.
Industries that commonly use mobile CRM include real estate, merchant services, and energy/utilities.
As with the mobile CRM category, integrated social features are becoming increasingly commonplace in the software market, especially as companies look to better engage with their customers on more than just a few predetermined channels. Social media has had marked effects on both customers’ relationship expectations and companies’ obligations.
As more companies move their customer service models out of email and into chat functions, social media CRMs and social integrations with mainstream CRMs are similarly gaining importance. You can find solutions ranging from platforms with basic social media integrations up to entire enterprise suites designed to help grow a successful community around your brand.
Many companies find it helpful to tether social media access with back-end programs so that reps can not only reach out to clients and know what they’re saying, but also respond with targeted marketing or business responses like recommend a product via email or complete a service request. Social CRM can make this possible. CRM leaders like Salesforce and Oracle have added social listening and social CRM features to their existing products, but more lightweight standalone products still exist that can provide social CRM services.
We’ve got more details and product recommendations for social CRM tools at that overview page, or you can click the banner at the top of the page to get fast, free recommendations based off your needs.
Sales Mapping Software
For mobile sales teams, mapping software can mean the difference between closing deals or sitting in traffic hoping to make it to an appointment on time. Most modern sales mapping tools will locate current and potential customers on a digital map where sales managers can assign territories and suggest sales routes, and reps can find potential leads on the fly.
Combined with geolocating services and mobile access apps, sales mapping software often includes tools that give field reps the freedom to file contracts and line up deals from the road without checking in at the office every night. These tools save reps on gas money, commuting time, and paperwork. Find sales mapping software as features of full-service CRMs or as stand-alone sales enablement software.
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) goes by many names—cloud-based, web-based, outsourced, on-demand—but try not to get confused. They all mean essentially the same thing: you won’t be housing the software on-premise. Instead of purchasing a one-time license, you’ll pay a periodic subscription (usually per month) to use the software. A lot of popular consumer software, such as Dropbox and Spotify, operate using this web-based subscription model. And software consumers of all ages now demand that their software looks, feels, and works like their consumer technology, meaning fast updates, easy to use UI, and responsive service. SaaS CRM products can meet these demands, usually by offering cloud CRM services for a monthly or annual subscription fee.
SaaS CRM software provides:
- Lower upfront cost
- Better scalability to size
- Faster roll-out and implementation
- Compatibility with an increasingly mobile sales force
SaaS CRM is here to stay, for good. Don’t be afraid of it.
Customer Experience Management (CEM/CXM)
Some CRM companies are backing a new field of technology and strategy, which, depending on whom you ask, transcends or could even replace traditional CRM solutions. It’s called customer experience management, and it offers a new, more customer-centric engagement approach to relationships, alleging that it is a company’s responsibility, not the customer’s, to make advances and contextualize approach.
This means interactions are based around catering to the needs and questions of customers, and take place on social media, web sites, instant messaging, email, and even SMS. This trend has followed the rising focus on customer experience, which Forrester reported was a priority of 72 percent of companies in 2016. To tap into this growing trend look for a solution that will help you stay connected to customers across a number of different channels and track customer interactions throughout their lifecycle instead of focusing on the sales pipeline.
Building off the trends of integrating social CRM and customer experience management tools, many CRMs look to fully encompass a company’s customer relationship landscape by enabling connections through all customer channels. These include phone, email, social media, brick and mortar, ecommerce, in-person interactions, live chat, and any other trackable customer interaction.
Because they monitor and incorporate information from so many sectors, omnichannel CRMs bring together the sales, marketing, and customer support teams over data in ways that previously seemed impossible. This greater cooperation between teams and proliferation of data can be found in AI and automation-enhanced CRMs, many of which integrate directly with marketing automation or ERP tools that aggregate data and transform it for business use.
AI, Machine Learning, and Automation
AI, machine learning, and automation have surpassed just being a trend and are now fully making contributions to the software market in general and CRMs in particular. The adoption of AI alone could add $1 trillion to the CRM market and 2 million jobs by the end of 2021, including those jobs lost to automation.
These three technology advances serve to augment and remove much of the manual work that sales reps have traditionally performed in the administrative side of their jobs: updating contact records, finding new leads in networks, remembering to follow up with prospects, and analyzing sales for trends can all be handled by automation, AI, or machine learning–and much faster and better than busy humans can manage. That leaves human sales reps free to focus on the customer interactions that drive revenue growth.
While many companies choose their CRM based on size or price, some industries have more custom needs from their CRM software. Industry-specific CRM systems include specialized features built to ease customer relations and speed work for companies with strict regulatory requirements or unique customer demands.
Nonprofit organizations have specific needs for member management and donor relations that demand specialized tools to manage lists and manage outreach on personal and mass scales. Nonprofit CRMs are specialized tools that cater to the requirements of nonprofit organizations who are looking to sustain membership and grow their donor books.
When researching nonprofit CRM software, look for platforms that include features designed to increase donor engagement, manage current and prospective donor lists, and analyze organizational improvements. Traditional CRMs can work for nonprofits, especially if they give users the flexibility to define custom categories or tags for leads and prospects, but often don’t include the right features for a price that fits within a nonprofit operating budget.
Comparable Nonprofit CRM vendors
Ready for custom recommendations on the best CRM for your nonprofit? Click the image at the top of the page for a list of vendors who meet your organization’s requirements.
Financial Services CRM
A financial services CRM organizes contacts and provides insight into sales pipelines for financial services outlets including insurance, banks, investment firms, and others. Since many financial organizations don’t directly provide products to consumers but rather work as third party connection, the best financial CRM software helps sales representatives grow their clients’ portfolios, take on new business, and create networks of clients within these restrictions.
Financial services companies also operate under strict government regulations concerning the privacy and security of their client’s personal data. A good financial services CRM will include security features, document management for contracts and tax forms, and integrated analytics that help reps build relationships and keep records safe.
Leading Financial Services CRM software
Real Estate CRM
Real estate CRM software helps real estate agents and brokers manage the complicated relationships between property owners, sellers, buyers, lenders, banks, brokers, and lawyers. With property as the product, real estate CRMs help agents track relationships through the sometimes lengthy and difficult process of finding, contracting, and closing deals in the housing and commercial real estate sectors.
A modern real estate CRM will provide agents with contact management, contract and document management, sales pipeline visibility, task automation, and should include or integrate with marketing tools. Many real estate agents use their CRM as a central hub to track and manage both incidental and ongoing relationships with buyers and sellers as well as third party vendors. Connections to other sales enablement and support tools are vital with real estate CRM systems, as well.
Real Estate CRM software options
CRM for Field Service Management
Field service management software helps those in the construction, utilities, and service sectors organize their relationships with a widely dispersed customer base and field technicians who are constantly on the move. Nearly 80 percent of all field service management software includes some form of CRM software, but this is not always the case. Depending on industry or company needs, some companies might adopt a FSM or ERP software that does not include CRM capabilities, and in these cases the company should look for a CRM that integrates closely with their FSM dispatch, work order, and inventory software.
CRMs that work for field service organizations might include features like mapping, quote management, invoicing and billing, and mobile applications. Some big-name CRMs like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics have FSM-specific extensions and capabilities, but may be overkill for small teams with tighter budgets. Small teams may fare better by customizing a small business CRM that integrates with their other field service technology, or adopt a full-service FSM software that includes CRM features.
Field Service Management CRM vendors
Commonly known as patient management and medical practice management software, healthcare CRM software is on the rise among modern healthcare groups that adopt sales and marketing techniques long used by businesses to stay relevant in a highly competitive marketplace.
Healthcare CRM will include many of the standard customer relationship management tools like contact, billing, purchasing habits, and network records, but will also include features unique to the needs and regulatory compliance inherent in healthcare. Look for HIPAA-compliant databases and security features, patient portals, and billing tools ready-made for insurance inquires. Many healthcare CRM software options also include patient education and outreach tools similar to what one would find in a marketing automation tool.
Healthcare CRM vendors
Choosing the Best CRM Software for Your Business
Now that you have a better picture of some specific applications and vendors, it’s time to choose one for your business. Luckily, TechnologyAdvice has already done the hard part for you. When you use our product selection tool banner at the top of the page, you’ll find organized information and reviews on 100+ different CRM software vendors. We’ll help you connect with the right solution for your business according to the features you value most.
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