The best CRM systems for small business owners
Discover the best CRM systems for small businesses and expert tips for choosing a CRM software. Integrate your CMS with QuickBooks for optimal usability.
6 min read
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.
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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.
30-day free trial
lead list shared among all users
two-way, real-time sync with QuickBooks
targeted at small businesses
over 1.5 million users worldwide
combines CRM and project management
seamless sync with QuickBooks
fast and efficient batch invoicing
easy-to-use drag-and-drop scheduling
complete business management system
two-way sync for billable details
instant view of QuickBooks data without needing to switch to QuickBooks
instant two-way sync
quick and easy to use
automatic sync with QuickBooks
mobile app and Gmail add-on
deep integration with QuickBooks
artificial intelligence assistance
works with Alexa voice control
real-time link with QuickBooks
fast, easy transfer of QuickBooks Online data
focused on scheduling
all-in-one integration for repair shops
built-in marketing with marketr
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.