The best CRM systems for small business owners

6 min read
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It might sound obvious, but having a good relationship with your customers is an absolutely crucial part of growing your business. 

Luckily, CRM systems are designed to help you do exactly that. In this article, we’ll explain what they are and summarise some of the best.

What is a CRM system?

CRM stands for customer relationship management. A CRM system is effectively a way to keep track of and sort your customer data.

It gives you a central, easily searchable location to store all the relevant data you have on your customers. Thus, important details that might otherwise get lost in a notebook or Word document somewhere become easily accessible.

In addition to improving your business’s ability to respond to and take advantage of customer behaviour, a CRM system can also produce valuable insights from the data, helping you plan for the future.

How to choose a CRM system

Choosing a CRM system for your small but growing business may seem like a big responsibility. The following steps will help you make the right decision.

1. Decide where to host

CRM systems can be hosted either in the cloud or on your own premises.

  • Cloud hosting allows you to access and use your system easily, without needing to worry about setting up your own server. At the same time, it requires a constant internet connection.

  • On-premises hosting, meanwhile, will work offline, giving you direct access to your CRM system at all times. In addition, it makes it easier to adjust the system to integrate it with your other systems. The downside is, of course, more intensive in-house IT management.

2. List the features and functionality you need

As with most things, you can save money on your CRM systems by picking a solution with fewer features. It’s easy to be overcautious and spend more for extra features ‘just in case’ you need them, but that’s not always wise.

Before picking a CRM system, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What specific processes do we want to improve?

  • What customer data do we already have, and what do we need?

  • Who in our company will use the system?

  • What is our budget?

You can also save money by getting different packages for different users within your company.

Your marketing team might not need to see an advanced sales set, for instance, but would probably benefit from functions like customer preference analytics. 

3. Find a system that’s suited to your industry

Different systems will be optimised for different types of business. For the best results, look for a vendor that caters to your specific sector. Check out third-party review sites, see what systems others in your industry use, and look at the software provider’s website.

4. Check your integration options

The whole point of a CRM system is to streamline your operations. You don’t want to get a new system that doesn’t play well with any of your existing ones.

To avoid this, make sure you check whether your CRM system can integrate with other systems you’re running. Businesses using QuickBooks can check out our list of QuickBooks CRM integrations.

5. Take it for a test drive

Many CRM providers will offer a free trial on their systems, and you should certainly take advantage of this. Things can look good on paper, but only using the system yourself can tell you how it actually works in practice.

Start with a live or online demonstration from a salesperson, then get your free trial set up and see what you can do. 

You should keep an eye on the following aspects:

  • What features does the system have?

  • How are you finding the user experience?

  • How functional do you find the system overall and in specific areas?

You should also be sure to try out the vendor’s customer service. No system is perfect, and you want to know that you’ll be looked after if and when something doesn’t go right.

6. Make sure it has GDPR functionality

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in 2018, setting much higher standards for data protection than were previously in place. Brexit is unlikely to change business obligations in this area, as the system has been retained in UK law.

GDPR requires you to be able to:

  • remove a customer’s data from your database at their request

  • produce an electronic report of all the data you store on a customer, again at their request 

  • encrypt and anonymise personal data wherever possible

  • conduct a data protection impact assessment if required

Take care to check that a CRM system is fully compliant with GDPR regulations before you use it.

7. Find out what training is available

Finally, you should keep your staff in mind. Even the best CRM system in the world won’t be much use if no one at your company knows how to use it.

When looking at costs, make sure you factor in how much training will cost. You can make this even easier by picking a system that’s easy to configure to your needs.

With so many things for small businesses to keep up with, find out how QuickBooks can help you run your finances.

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The best CRMs for small businesses

While a lot about which CRM system you choose will come down to your needs and preferences, there are a few things you always want to get right.

The best CRM systems:

  • are easy to use 

  • allow for easy integration with your existing systems

  • are adaptable to your future needs 

  • have a good dashboard and reporting functionality 

Ultimately, though, the most important thing to get out of a CRM system is an improvement in customer satisfaction and retention.

QuickBooks has existing integrations with a number of established customer relationship management systems that should meet your needs as a small business owner.


Key features:

  • 30-day free trial

  • adaptable software 

  • lead list shared among all users 

  • two-way, real-time sync with QuickBooks


Key features:

  • online solution 

  • targeted at small businesses 

  • over 1.5 million users worldwide 

  • combines CRM and project management


Key features:

  • seamless sync with QuickBooks 

  • fast and efficient batch invoicing 

  • easy-to-use drag-and-drop scheduling


Key features:

  • complete business management system 

  • two-way sync for billable details

  • cloud-based 


Key features:

  • instant view of QuickBooks data without needing to switch to QuickBooks

  • instant two-way sync 

  • ses Pipedrive.


Key features:

  • quick and easy to use 

  • simple customisation 

  • automatic sync with QuickBooks

  • mobile app and Gmail add-on

iEnterprise CRM

Key features:

  • deep integration with QuickBooks

  • artificial intelligence assistance 

  • works with Alexa voice control

  • completely customisable

Scheduling manager

Key features:

  • real-time link with QuickBooks 

  • fast, easy transfer of QuickBooks Online data 

  • focused on scheduling 


Key features:

  • all-in-one integration for repair shops

  • built-in marketing with marketr 


Key features:

  • easy integration with billing 

  • no more double entry 

  • quick sync with QuickBooks

What’s next in your business growth journey?

We hope you’ve found this quick guide to CRM systems for small businesses helpful. Our interactive guide to growing your business will help you identify more opportunities for facilitating business growth - simply answer a few questions to get a personalised overview of your next steps.


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