Have you ever herded cats? Of course you haven't. In fact, I defy you to find a single person who's ever successfully managed such a feat. And yet, in marketing and sales, it's kind of your entire job: it's called lead management.
There's no magic bullet app for handling all of your lead management tasks. A real estate agent, for example, doesn't manage prospects in the same way as an enterprise tech company might. Like any good strategy, your lead management system is going to involve matching the best solutions to your specific needs—but no matter what, it's going to involve a lot of lead management software.
Software for lead management helps you keep your business-critical tasks running smoothly while you focus on the work that humans do best.
The best lead management software
What is lead management software?
If you're looking for a single lead management tool, you probably want a CRM. But your online lead management system is more likely going to involve a whole suite of tools—because lead management is a complex beast. It starts with lead gen, moves through lead distribution, lead scoring, lead nurture, and beyond.
That's why I'm not going to try to curate a list of specific apps and call them the best software for lead management—plenty of folks do that, but there's no way they've tested every single lead management app in every single lead management category. Instead, I'm going to introduce you to the categories of apps you should be thinking about when putting together your leads management system. I'll suggest some apps along the way and link you out to lists of the best apps for each of the categories, so you can dig deeper.
Lead generation software like Carrd
To efficiently manage your leads, you'll need to have a few of them standing by in the first place. That's where your lead generation workflows come in. Much like lead management, lead gen isn't any one single item on your to-do list. It involves a number of complementary pieces, all moving in concert with one another to drive eyeballs to your business and prospects to your door.
For an in-depth overview of lead gen software options, check out Zapier's coverage of the best lead generation tools. In includes apps like Carrd, a landing page builder that offers its core features for free and helps you build a one-page website in a matter of minutes.
The right lead management tools will help you build your lead generation funnel—whether that's using top-of-funnel content, email marketing, lead generation forms, landing pages, or anything in between.
And once you're set up with your lead gen tools, be sure to analyze your lead gen efforts. Taking steps to review your lead scoring metrics, for instance, will give you a better sense of where your efforts are paying off, and where they're being wasted. That way, you can move on to the real lead management stage of things.
CRMs like Zoho CRM, EngageBay, and Vtiger
Once those prospects start coming in, you'll need to reach them while they're hot for the best chance at conversion. It sounds simple, but you know better than anyone: it's not.
For starters, you'll need to be able to nail down your lead scoring for easier segmentation and routing to the right channel with the most relevant message. That takes a reliable and speedy lead distribution system. And you'll need to stay on top of things along the way to ensure that no balls get dropped or leads go cold. For that, you'll need reliable and responsive tracking to get the latest updates.
You can customize your own system in a way that makes the most sense for your budget and industry, but if you're looking to do most of it with just one lead tracking tool, you won't do better than a CRM.
CRM software for every business
Contacts, pipelines, deals—if all of that is on your shopping list, CRM apps will help. Salesforce is synonymous with CRM, but you have a lot of options. Zoho CRM, for example, lets you scale up painlessly, starting with a free option and then charging as you grow. And Pipedrive is an easy-to-use option with a real laser-focus on sales. The list doesn't end there.
Check out Zapier's picks for the best CRM software to see which one fits your business's needs.
Free CRM software
If you're looking to start free and stay free with your CRM choice, there are still a ton of great CRM tools available at the best price point imaginable: zero. EngageBay is one lead management platform, allowing you to manage up to 250 unique leads while providing you with sales, marketing, chat, and customer service features.
Here's a list of the best free CRM software for more options.
CRMs for small business
Free is an unbeatable price if your resources are limited, but if you run a small business, chances are you have other unique challenges to consider when picking a CRM. The right choice for you starts with understanding exactly what a CRM can do for you, the kinds of CRM tools that are available, and how each feature might work with other parts of your sales pipeline.
Once you've made your call, you'll also need to consider how you're using your software. Prior to bringing your CRM online, you'll need to have a plan for managing change, leveraging third-party apps, and tackling other strategies covered in these tips for successful CRM implementation.
Once you've got that handled, you're ready to go shopping. Vtiger is one lead management app to consider, providing sales, marketing, and help desk functionality for an all-in-one price point, but there are a lot of options.
Here are Zapier's picks for the best CRMs for small business.
Read more: Once you've settled on the right software for you, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Or, you can do the exact opposite: let automation handle all the business-critical tasks for you.
Marketing automation platforms like HubSpot
Efficiency is one thing—successful outreach is something else altogether. When it comes to nurturing leads, ensuring a personalized and responsive presence is vital. The challenge lies in making sure the right message is finding the right people at the right time. Even if you have all the kinks worked out in your lead management workflows, you'll still need to make sure your communication is effective.
With the right software, you can automate your entire marketing campaign. From email to social media to more sophisticated tasks like A/B testing and analytics reports, marketing automation software gives you the power to outsource a ton of work.
Here's a list of the best marketing automation software.
Take HubSpot, for example. Right out of the box, you'll get free live chat and lead management features, and a paid plan offers additional functionality like branded emails and landing page features, SEO optimization, and re-engagement of cold leads. You can also customize your workflows to suit your business's specific profile.
Read more: For more inspiration, check out other ways to grow your business with marketing automation.
Drip email apps like Flodesk
The old adage of striking while the iron is hot doesn't really apply when you're bulk emailing every lead with the same generic message. (That's more like trying to strike while you're not even sure if the iron is plugged in.) When it comes to tailoring your outreach to the right prospects at the right time, you'll want to take advantage of drip email apps.
Here are Zapier's picks for the best email drip campaign software.
An application like Flodesk, for example, provides you with the ability to reach an unlimited number of leads using a variety of available messaging templates. You can segment your lists to make sure that the emails being sent are timely and relevant, and you'll get access to analytic insights to see what's getting opened, where folks are clicking, and who's sending your message directly to the trash. Managing a drip campaign with this many features and variables is relatively simple with the right app.
Read more: Automating your email drip campaign can boost your conversion rates while leaving you free for more human work.
Email marketing software like MailerLite
Budget constraints dragging down your outreach? Financial limitations don't have to get in the way of your message. With these free email marketing services, you're able to get in touch with leads without breaking the bank.
MailerLite is one option to consider. Its free options include pre-designed content blocks that deliver dynamic, text- and image-rich content to your leads' inboxes. Include product details, embedded videos, blog posts, RSS feeds, and more—all for free.
Read more: Take your free email marketing efficiency to yet another level with automation. Add and segment prospects, stay responsive to inquiries, follow up on abandoned carts or cold leads—and do it all without adding to your to-do list. Here's how to automate your email marketing.
SMS apps like TextMagic
If you have prospects that value more direct interaction, SMS marketing can be a better choice. SMS apps can get your message directly into the pockets and purses of future customers' phones, opening up scalable, more flexible avenues of communication that can boost conversion rates.
Here's Zapier's list of the best SMS apps for businesses.
When you use TextMagic, for instance, you'll be able to route leads' responses to an API, web app, email, or directly to your own mobile number to keep you responsive in the way that best fits your schedule and resources. You can also trigger template-based messages to go out at predetermined times to ensure relevant messaging.
Read more: By integrating your SMS app with other platforms, you can automatically follow up on new leads and orders, respond to incoming feedback, and loop in team members. Here's how to get the most out of SMS messages with automation.
Meeting schedulers like Calendly
There's nothing more frustrating than doing all the hard work required to attract a potential customer, only to run into an additional mountain to climb when it comes to setting a face-to-face or virtual meeting. Meeting scheduler apps take the back-and-forth out of the equation by managing your and your prospects' calendars, finding availability, and preventing dropped balls with automatic reminders and follow-ups.
Take a look at Zapier's list of the best meeting scheduler apps. Or, if you prefer to have the robots help more, here are the best AI scheduling assistants.
One well-known option is Calendly, which integrates seamlessly with your own calendar (Google, Outlook, etc.) and provides users with customizable booking pages that allow attendees to schedule themselves.
You'll also want to look for tools that integrate with your video conferencing app of choice. This takes the "where" out of your complex meeting equation by putting you in real-time touch with teams, clients, and prospects in a dedicated, virtual meeting space. Zoom is the biggie here, but there are plenty of other apps that can provide you with reliable, high-quality calls—and you might already be using them for other purposes.
Read more: Whether in-person or online, your meetings can also benefit from automation. Integrate your scheduling software with other applications to manage your contacts across calendar platforms, confirm meetings, relay links, and more. And streamline video conferences with automation, generating pre-call reminders, setting agendas, and handling follow-up tasks, all while keeping your focus on a successful call.
VoIP software like Dialpad
Looking for real-time interaction without having to appear on screen? You can still keep in touch while staying mobile by taking your meetings over the phone. And there are plenty of ways for you to improve upon this more traditional approach with a virtual phone system. Using a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) can save you money while affording you the same flexibility as a mobile phone and the traditional reliability of a corded desk phone. Plus, you can take your calls via desktop or laptop to avoid juggling devices. (We tend to drop ours when that happens.)
Here are Zapier's picks for the best virtual phone systems.
An application like Dialpad, for example, lets you track missed calls, capture voicemail, provide recordings, and it even transcribes your phone conversations in real time.
Read more: Add automation to the mix to integrate your virtual phone system seamlessly into your workflows to stay just as responsive and up to date as you do with your email and SMS conversations.
Webinar software like Demio
What better way to make your case to your prospects than a webinar? Whether it's live or captured, a webinar allows you to put a human face on your business pitch. It also gives you an interactive element that run-of-the-mill email marketing simply can't. If the thought of presenting a live demo seems overwhelmingly complex, there's help.
Check out Zapier's recommendations for the best webinar software.
Tools like Demio, for example, give you the power to deliver pre-recorded or live presentations, register attendees, generate polls, and follow up once the webinar ends.
Read more: By introducing automation into your webinar marketing, you can let the computers take care of repetitive tasks like managing and tracking registrants, so you can focus on your actual job.
Other software for lead management
Once you've streamlined and integrated your platforms to trim as much of your bloated task list as possible, it's likely that there will still be moments when you find yourself asking, "Can't someone else do it?" The answer is more often than not a resounding "yes"—provided that someone is an app.
Electronic signature apps like DocuSign can provide you with an intuitive dashboard to track and manage your documents, and you can create custom templates to save a ton of manual management.
Online form building software like Google Forms allows you to build forms from templates and manage responses as aggregated or individual data.
Survey apps like SurveyPlanet allow you to proactively grab data from prospects with feature-rich interfaces. Easily customize your branding, question types, response logic, data exports, and more.
Business card scanner apps like BizConnect let you accurately and easily capture details from your business cards and organize it all in your contacts.
Video hosting sites (including YouTube—but also including a lot of other options) can do more for your bottom line than just store your files. Make sure your videos are reaching your leads and generating clicks.
And don't forget that all of these labor-saving apps can make your job even more efficient when you integrate them to create automated workflows that are more reliable, more manageable, and even—dare we say it—more enjoyable.
Streamline your lead management by integrating your apps to handle incoming forms and surveys, follow up with event attendees, maintain a responsive virtual presence in prospects' inboxes, stay on top of lead updates, and more.
Track your leads with automation to handle all the complex processes of capturing prospect data from emails, forms, and ad responses and getting it to the right place, whether that's a spreadsheet, your CRM or email marketing app, your ad tools, or anywhere in between.
Lead management apps are at their best when they're all working together—so connect them, and then let them do their thing.
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