A watchlist of cloud-centric services for small-biz CRM

A watchlist of cloud-centric services for small-biz CRM

Summary: If Salesforce.com is way more than your company needs, here are 14 other options -- most of which tightly integrate marketing automation features.


Even though Salesforce.com dominates most headlines about customer relationship management (CRM) applications, cloud-centric options specifically targeted at small businesses are alive and well for many years and more reach market on a daily basis.

The past few weeks brought two particularly notable updates to my attention -- from Insightly, which has more than 500,000 users in more than 180 countries; and Swiftpage, the developer behind Act! Here's a recap of what's new for each:

Act! enters the cloud era: Swiftpage, the developer behind the widely used Act! Contact manager, is beta testing an all-new software as a service (SaaS) version of the application that should be commercially available this summer. Swiftpage bought the application from its original developer, Sage, in early 2013. Among other things, Act! Cloud will let small businesses work with contacts consolidated from many different places including Outlook, Gmail, LinkedIn and Facebook. The service includes integrated email marketing features and allows SMBs to track interaction histories for customers.

Insightly revises mobile app, adds more languages: There's now native language support for Spanish and Portuguese along with new instructor-led training options for the cloud service, which is one of the top-ranked applications in the Google Apps Marketplace. Next up is a French version, planned for later this year. The new mobile app update also was redesigned to take advantage of the Apple iOS 7 operating system.

From an overall standpoint, approximately 41 percent of all CRM sales in 2013 were cloud-based, according to Gartner's May 2014 report on the category. Clearly, Act! and Insightly aren't the only options for small companies seeking a SaaS-based CRM option. Here are other players that I've got on my SMB CRM watchlist.

Avidian – The company's Prophet CRM tool works directly inside of Microsoft Outlook, providing analytics that help teams quickly gauge the status of leads in their sales pipeline.

Highrise – The application allows small companies to track notes and email conversations for up to 30,000 customers and contacts, as well as share the status of proposals and deals with small teams.

Infusionsoft – One of the latest additions to this comprehensive option is a sales and marketing assessment tool for small businesses that provides recommendations for ways to improve these processes. It rates three phases of the sales lifecycle: Attract, Sell and Wow.

InTouch – Designed for a U.K. developer, this offering puts a big emphasize on its integrated email and marketing features. Like several of the other offerings mentioned in this article, it maintains a freemium version.

Maximizer – The company killed its Entrepreneur edition in January 2014, devoting more attention to its cloud service for "small enterprises." It boasts extensive features for marketing and customer service automation.

Microsoft – If your company prefers sticking with just one vendor for its productivity tools, it makes sense to look at the tightly integrated Office 365 plus Microsoft Dynamics CRM online option

Nimble – This application is pitched as a "Social CRM" tool that makes special use of the social Web to help small companies with prospecting. One of its latest features is "Smart Summary," which helps individuals automatically create dossiers about contacts that can be shared as part of business introductions.

Pipeliner – Pitched as a CRM app developed with a salesperson's sensibility in mind, this service was updated in May to build social profiling features into each contact record, two-way synchronization with Google Apps and Microsoft, lead scoring and new mobile apps for Android and iOS.

Really Simple Systems – If your businesses is super small, this company touts a free offering (up to two users and 100 accounts), but you have to pay if you want to use the mass email marketing capabilities.

Stride – This application focuses on automating and analyzing sales processes, offering insights about how effectively teams are collaborating and underscoring potential bottlenecks that could be slowing down the pipeline. It can be integrated with more than 250 other cloud services, including Gmail, Outlook, Github, Dropbox, Trello and Basecamp.

SugarCRM – Although not strictly meant for SMBs, the company is likely to focus more attention there after the April 2014 of a new chief product officer, Bill Hunt, who boasts a deep background in this segment. The company had 1.5 million users as of the first quarter. 

Zoho – The company enhanced its flagship app in late 2013, with new territory management features and tighter integrations for social media platforms. More than 50,000 companies use this CRM service, which starts at $12 per month per user.

Topics: SMBs, Cloud

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  • May be the option for SMB is not to have a CRM?

    In fact I would suggest to look also at YouDontNeedaCRM.com which focus on closing leads. The concept is quite straightforward you don't manage contact, you manage leads, you can create them in few seconds (no long form filling), and each lead is automatically a todo.
    Sales people have the feeling of loosing to much time filling-out forms with classical CRMs which lead to a poor adoption level.
    Sunny noCRM
  • One more CRM for small businesses everywhere

    It makes me so happy to see so many journalists writing about CRM, and sharing some of their best advice on platforms, implementation, etc. CRM is so beneficial to a business and its bottom line, and I could not be more excited to be a part of the industry's growth. As this is a very comprehensive list, I wanted to introduce one more CRM and marketing automation platform into the mix. GreenRope is a robust platform that includes CRM, as well as sales force automation, marketing automation, social media, accounting, websites, and more.

    There are not a whole lot of inexpensive options out there these days that integrate a business' primary sales and marketing functions. I believe that integrated platforms are the next generation of what businesses need to create a more collaborative company culture, promote transparency, as well as blur the lines between sales and marketing. All of this and more can be accomplished using a CRM platform that combines all of these processes into one. You want to make more sales, more sales will come if you have a great user experience, and a great user experience is established with consistency, robust data collection, targeting, and more.

    All-in-all, each one of these solutions solves a problem, and more businesses should be taking advantage of the innovative software solutions out there to really boost their bottom line!

    Thanks Heather!
  • InTouchCRM

    I have heard of Intouch before. Great system for an even better price. Would definitely recommend these guys.
  • Sage, the original developer of Act $%#!

    In Paragraph 3, you wrote: "Swiftpage bought the application from its original developer, Sage, in early 2013"
    Pat Sullivan was the original developer of Act. Sage was simply one of several foster homes for Act, and a particularly abusive one, at that. Sage develops nothing, they acquire and suck the life out of the acquisitions. They're a holding company, not a technology or software company, and I'd never use the terms Sage and innovative and customer satisfaction in the same breath.
  • A Great CRM to add to the mix.

    For an SMB to obtain a respectable ROI from its CRM acquisition comes down to three things; how much function for the price, ease of adoption, and ease of use. Workbooks is an award winning CRM from the UK that recently partnered with MIE-Solutions in the U.S. for North American distribution. Where does Workbooks excel? Per G2Crowd, it is at the top for ease of use and customer satisfaction. https://www.g2crowd.com/categories/crm It can be used out of the box or customized to preferences. Workbooks pricing is very attractive to SMB’s and can start with 2 seats at no cost. When we found Workbooks, we were looking for a great CRM for a reasonable cost. We got that and a lot more.
  • Another option

    Check out http://lanterncrm.com for an easy interface that has most of the features these existing players provide.
  • All-In-1 CRM and Business Automation Solution

    CloudNet360 is probably the most complete and integrated solution for the small to medium sized business that I know of today. As a coach, or any type of a business that uses scheduling / appointments as part of their sales process, there really is no other option that has the CRM / E commerce / Scheduling / Website built in.

    CloudNet360 even has a built in Project Manager, Live Chat, Click to Call, Survey System and a Ticket Support system included.
    CRM Systems Expert
  • Sharing little more information...

    Just to add a bit more colour to the information on the Maximizer hosted product.
    Including Contact Management, Sales Opportunity Management, Customer Service and Marketing Automation in a single monthly fee, the Maximizer CRM Live product has a unique list based interface that has been updated for the Web. Accessible via standard browser, tablet or smartphone, the product has connectivity to office productivity tools such as Outlook and MS Word as standard. Conversion from older Maximizer products is included in the first year subscription.

    The Maximizer Web product is hosted in local country data centres in Canada, UK and South Africa, in addition the Maximizer CRM product can also be deployed on a dedicated hosted server basis on your own platform or one supplied through our channel partners as well as from our shared server (Cloud) platform.

    Why not check it out with a free 14 day trail http://www.max.co.uk/try-us/14-day-free-trial

    Mike Richardson
    Maximizer CRM
    Maximizer CRM