Managing your contacts didn’t used to be so difficult. When you started your business, you had a handful of suppliers and customers, and few enough team members that you could memorize their email addresses.
Things change. That’s good: business is growing and you have more people than ever to keep track of. You need a CRM—a Customer Relationship Management app—to help you keep track of everyone. We've explored why you'd want CRM software in the first chapter. Now, the question is: Which CRM is best for you?
There are CRMs of every form and fashion. They live in Gmail or Outlook, on your wrist or in your glasses. They can track the people you know, the deals you’ve won, and the conversations in between. And they can cost you an arm and a leg or be 100 percent free.
It's time to find a great CRM tool for your team. Whether that means you need a CRM for your small business, startup, nonprofit or large enterprise, or one for your role in sales, business development or public relations, one of the more than 25 apps in this list should suit your needs. Let’s dig in.
From the dozens of CRM systems available, there are surely a few that’d be better for your organization depending on what you’d like to track and how your team works. You’ll find everything from expensive apps you run on your own servers to customizable web apps with dozens of plans and features to the simple contacts app in Gmail. You could easily pay hundreds of dollars a month for a CRM, skimp by with a free app, or find something that’d fit your budget a bit better. And there are dozens of apps with CRM features that work with Zapier, meaning they’ll easily integrate with the other apps you use.
There’s no way to include every app with a CRM component, so we've applied a criteria to this inspection. Every CRM listed:
Then, we've grouped the CRMs by their type, and listed them inside each category in order from lowest cost to most expensive. Pricing is difficult to compare, since some CRMs charge a base price for a set of users and others charge per user. To average it out, we've listed the average price per user per month for the standard account that's not capped at a small (less than 10) number of users, followed by the number of people that can use it for free, if any. That should help you make a better direct comparison.
With each app description, you'll find a screenshot and price, along with a link to our review page (sample above) where you'll find more screenshots and details about the app's features and pricing plans. That way, you can find the apps that sound the most promising at a glance, then get more info about them to help you make your choice. It's also worth noting this doesn't include marketing platforms such as Intercom, Infusionsoft, and Interakt; those are covered in the next chapter.
Sound good? Then here are the CRMs you should consider for your team, grouped by category and listed in order from the cheapest to most expensive.
Click on a category below to learn more about the strengths of those CRMs or jump to an app directly by clicking its name.
There’s only a slight jump from a CRM focused on conversations to contacts, but it does make a difference. Where a conversational CRM works more like an email app—sometimes living inside your email app—a contact-centric CRM shows people front and center. You may still track the conversations, but they’ll be centered around individual people, not the conversations themselves.
If you want to know more about the people you're interacting with, these are the CRMs for you. They're especially great when you need to meet clients and know everything about them at a glance.
The last app you’d imagine could be on this roundup, Google Contacts is of course just an address book that’s built into Gmail. And yet, it’s more than an address book. You can add just about any possible contact info to your contacts, and Google will automatically update contacts with their Google+ information, as well. Then, you can also keep plain-text notes on contact pages. That's a great way to track, say, info that you'd otherwise add to a contact's page in a CRM.
Then, there's an extra trick in the top right of the Google Contacts page. Tap More, and you can see a list of all your recent correspondence with that contact. Select an email, either there or in your inbox or anywhere else, and you'll see your contact's info on the right side like with many CRMs add-ons.
It's not marketed as a CRM, but put these features to use first and you'll have a part of the power of a CRM for free without even having to try a new app.
Price: Free; included with Google Apps for Work, starting at $5/user/month
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Google Contacts review .
Imagine one piece of paper with every possible detail about your contacts, including all of their contact info, your tasks related to them, previous conversations and documents, and more. That, in a nutshell, is Highrise.
With a similar simple design approach as Basecamp, a project management app originally made by the same company, Highrise is focused on helping you know the most about your contacts. You can track every bit of info about each contact, manage client emails in a team inbox, and email contacts directly from Highrise. You can even reach out to all of your contacts at once with its bulk email Broadcasts.
It's simple to use, with a strong focus on your contacts and flexible cases that can bundle your work together however you want.
Price: Around $4/user/month; up to 2 users for free
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Highrise review .
Perhaps you'd rather get a quick glance at your contacts' info without having to click through to their individual page. That's what Clevertim does best. It shows you a quick summary of your contact info right in the contact list, so if all you need is to look up an email or phone number you'll likely be able to do it without a click. You can then filter your lists easy by name, location, and more, to get even more details without having to click through to individual contact pages.
Then, if you want to handle cases, tasks, and even your teams appointments and meetings all in the same app, Clevertim has the features you'll need for that, too. It's a simple way to keep tabs on your company and contacts.
Price: Around $4/user/month; up to 2 users for free
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Clevertim review .
If you want more power than you can get with a CRM that lives inside Gmail, yet want the same interface you're already used to using, Insightly may be the app for you. It features deep Google integration and a design that's very similar to Google's apps, while giving you extra contact-centric features. But then, if you don't use Google Apps, it also works great with any other apps you use.
Insightly will automatically find your contacts' social network profiles, LinkedIn information, and more, and show it alongside your team's emails, notes, and tasks with that contact. There's then task management, advanced reports, and more that you'd expect from a full-featured standalone CRM.
Price: $9/user/month; up to 3 users for free
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Insightly review .
You need a CRM to manage your contacts, find leads, and close sales. Then you need a support app to manage your interactions with your new customers, a marketing tool to stay in touch, and more. Or, you could just use Vtiger, a CRM that does it all.
Vtiger will mange your contacts similar to a contact-focused CRM, but also includes a combined email inbox for your team to collaborate on communications in. Depending on your plan, it also includes a support system where you can answer customer emails, and build support documentation so customers can solve their own problems. And it also has a project management tool for your team to plan your own work. It's a CRM that'll help you keep track of everything about your team and customers, and will keep everything in one place.
Price: $10/user/month Starter plan for either sales or support features; $25/user/month Ultimate plan for full sales and support features
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Vtiger review .
Want a really simple CRM? OnePageCRM may be just what the doctor ordered. It literally keeps everything on one page, and is surprisingly fast to use. You'll see your contacts on the front page in a list that shows quick information about them, and dynamically loads your contacts in the order they need contacted. Select one, and their info will load automatically in a pane on the right.
There, you can add notes, track emails, save tasks, and anything else you'd need about that content. The rest of your contacts are still just a click away, ready for you to work with them once you're done.
Price: $12/month per user
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our OnePageCRM review .
One of the very first CRM apps, the first version of Act! ran on DOS, and its name stood for "activity control technology". You can still run Act on your computer or servers today, but the newest version of Act runs in the cloud and is integrated with social networks.
The new Act! Cloud is an advanced contact manager that'll let you pull in your contacts from your email, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts, then easily see when you've last contacted them. It's a great way to track interactions and know who you need to contact next, especially if you're working on your own.
Price: $10/user/month (Zapier support coming soon)
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Act! Cloud review .
Keeping track of your customers is great, but there's a lot more people you need to remember: vendors, media, and even your team members. Some contacts might be important to one project, while others may fall in several of your categories. Capsule understands that, and makes your contact lists front-and-center.
You can organize everyone into lists that represent their relationships to each other and your company. Then, you can dive in and see how recently you've gotten in touch with each person, with your last interaction at the top of the page. It's a unique twist on a contact CRM that gives you a bit more power and automation.
Price: $12/user/month; up to 2 users for free
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Capsule review .
Everyone needs to track different things in their CRM, and use that data in different ways. Solve, well, solves that problem by being deeply customizable, with custom fields, tags, activity templates, and more that let you use it the way that works best for your team.
Then, it's deeply integrated with Google Apps to help you do more with your CRM data. In Gmail, it'll show your contact info below your emails so there's space for all the info. It then integrates with Google Sheets so you can make custom reports directly in a spreadsheet with your raw data. You can even mail merge and make personalized documents using Google Docs. If you're using Google Apps and want a powerful CRM, it'd be hard to pass Solve up.
Price: $25/user/month (min. 4 users)
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Solve review .
Staying in touch today means using social networks, collaborating on shared calendars, and emailing more than most of us want. Nimble pulls all of that in, automatically creating rich contact cards with your conversations from everywhere. It'll then smartly tell you who's the most promising and which people you should followup with today, along with your normal calendar appointments and more.
Then, it's also rather good at leads and deals, with a Kanban-style layout to help you lead your leads through your sales process. It's everything in one place, and it's smart enough to help that not feel overwhelming. Best of all, there's only one plan, so you'll never have to worry about needing to upgrade.
Price: $15/user/month for everything
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Nimble review .
Many CRMs integrate with your email apps, and some even surface social media accounts and add contact info from them. Batchbook goes further by being fully integrated into Hootsuite. You can connect with dozens of social networks in Hootsuite, and see your CRM data right alongside from Batchbook.
Batchbook has another way it's more social: every plan includes unlimited users, so your entire company can easily use the CRM. That makes its upfront price look higher, but since every other CRM on this list charges based on the number of users, it'll likely work out far cheaper if you have a large team.
Price: $55/month for unlimited users
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Batchbook review .
Your email account's "All Mail" list is a CRM of sorts. It shows the names of the people you interact with most frequently, along with your most recent conversations. It's just not very smart, so it won't surface conversations you should follow up or promising leads. That's why there's conversational CRMs. They'll live close to your email conversations, helping you know what's been said and when you should reply again.
If you're having trouble keeping up with the conversations with your partners, and perhaps have multiple people that might jump in on a conversation at any time, a conversational CRM might be what your team needs. They're especially great for tracking partners, building stories in newsrooms, and other more conversational processes.
CRMs don't have to be boring. They're designed for serious work, sure, but they can also have a personality and make your workdays a bit more fun. Nutshell does just that. It'll pull in your Gmail conversations and show you what needs your attention today, but then will also show extra info about your contacts like the current weather and time in their location and their Twitter profile info.
It's still a fully professional CRM, though, with detailed contact info, simple tools to track leads, and reports about your team's performance. Combine that with its cute UI, and it'll add a bit of whimsy to your CRM experience while still giving you the power you need.
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Nutshell review .
Since your email inbox is already a CRM of sorts—one that sorts your conversations by how recently you've received them—the simplest CRM could be a shared email inbox. That's what Streak gives you, along with a handful of Gmail power features.
With Streak, you can share email conversations with your colleagues inside Gmail, organize messages in pipelines, and add notes to conversations that your whole team can see. It's customizable, so you can use it for a wide variety of email uses from CRM to support. There's also tools to remind you of important messages, or delay sending emails until a specific time, which are handy extras to have in your email inbox aside from CRM features.
Price: $39/user/month for full CRM features; free for basic CRM features for 1 user
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Streak review .
Yes, its name starts with "contact", but Contactually is actually a great app for conversations. It's built around email, with customizable email templates to help you quickly send emails, and bulk mailing to personalize emails even if you send them all at once.
Then, its dashboard is organized based on who you need to contact again, based on your last emails. You can followup via email right from the app, and rate your performance based on how well you've stayed in touch. This is an app designed just to ensure your conversations keep going.
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Contactually review .
What if you had an assistant who read your entire team's emails, found the conversations from contacts that were most important, and shared them with everyone who needs to know about those conversations? That's SalesforceIQ.
Formerly known as RelateIQ, SalesforceIQ may be part of the Salesforce family of apps but couldn't be more different from the app that launched the CRM web app business. SalesforceIQ has perhaps the most unique UI of any CRM in this list, and rather than being filled with customizable database fields, it's just focused on your conversations. You add your email accounts, select conversations you'd like to share, and collaborate on them with your team. It'll pull conversations from all contacts at the same company together, so you'll get an overview of your team's relationship with that company.
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our SalesforceIQ review .
What SalesforceIQ does for email conversations, Close.io does for phone conversations and emails. It's built around phone integration. You can make sales calls right from the web app, logging, recording, and even transferring them to other sales agents right from the app. Whenever someone calls your company, you'll see their contact data complete with your previous conversations automatically.
Even in reports and individual contact views, Close.io is designed to help you get in touch easily with one-click phone and email links. If you want the quickest way to get in touch, and do more of your work over the phone rather than in email, Close.io is the app to try.
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Close.io review .
Salespeople made CRMs a popular category of apps, since they could track the people who potentially might buy the product and then make sure you follow up until you actually close the sale. That's why CRMs focused on Leads and Deals are what you'd think of by default when you're thinking of CRM.
Some of the biggest names in CRM, from Salesforce to Oracle and Microsoft's on-premise offerings, and even the older CRM apps that started this field of software in the '90s, are all lead and deal CRM. Their basic idea isn't so different from the contacts CRMs, as you're still using them to track people. The only difference is, these apps are designed around moving contacts through a sales process, where they start out as a lead that potentially might buy your product and turn into a deal.
That's why these CRMs are perfect for sales teams—the original CRM customers—where the other types of CRMs might be better for other use cases.
You wouldn't expect one of the best CRM apps to be free, and yet, there's HubSpot CRM. It's a brand new CRM app from the team that's best known for marketing automation tools—you can use it alongside its professional marketing services, or you can just use the CRM on its own for free.
And it's a very nice CRM, too. Add a contact's name and email, and HubSpot CRM will try to find any other info it can about them. Add a company's domain name, and it'll pull in any relevant info from the web and your email inbox. You can drag and drop fields to the order you want them, and rearrange the deal lists to look the way you like. It's a flexible CRM that's smart enough to help you in your work, and it won't cost you a dime.
Price: Free; premium features and upgrade to full the HubSpot marketing suite available
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our HubSpot CRM review.
Just adding your contacts to many CRM apps can be overwhelming with so many fields to fill out. ClinchPad tries to keep things simple by just asking for the most basic details with your contacts and leads. You'll only need to add a name and email for your contacts, and can create leads just by typing in a name for the lead on your dashboard.
Then, you can organize your leads on a kanban-style board, and have ClinchPad automatically add tasks to your leads each time you move them through another sales stage. It'll then show you list of everything you need to do, along with a report of all the tasks you've finished, to keep you on track.
Price: Around $3/user/month; up to 100 leads for free
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our ClinchPad review.
Some apps show just one thing, while others give you some overviews of your sales process with a Kanban board. Pipedrive shows you everything in easy-to-view boards that let you see what's going on in your CRM at a glance, no matter which part of the app you're using.
You'll see your deals in a sales pipeline, one that you can filter down to see just want you need. Then, you can see a Timeline view of how your deals have progressed, an easy way to see an accurate sales forecast for the months ahead. And when it's time to check your monthly reports, you'll find they use your same sales pipes to show how you've been productive.
Price: starting from $12/user/month
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Pipedrive review.
Just because you're tracking leads and deals doesn't mean you can't also keep up with your contacts and conversations. ProsperWorks has a nice blend of all three with its deep Gmail integration that makes it simple to get all of your CRM info automatically entered.
ProsperWorks will watch Gmail for new contacts and let you easily turn them into leads. You'll then be able to see all of your conversations in one place, turn them into opportunities, and move the opportunities through your sales process on a Kanban-style board.
Price: $19/month (Zapier support coming soon)
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our ProsperWorks review .
Zoho's suite of apps includes everything from word processing and spreadsheet apps to a hosted email service and accounting apps. There's also Zoho CRM in the mix, an app that's reasonably priced while providing many of the features you'd expect from an advanced CRM.
You can capture leads from forms on your site or Facebook page, automate your workflow to bring those leads through your sales funnel, and use the Pulse and Forecasting tools to know what's most promising. You can then use its integration with Zoho to mail merge documents from your contacts, email them and start video conferences from the app, and more. Plus, you can extend it with custom modules to make it the CRM that works just like you want.
Price: $12/user/month; up to 3 users for free
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Zoho CRM review .
The majority of CRMs show everything at once: all your contacts in a list, all your pipeline stages on one screen. With Base, that's simplified down to just what you need to do next. You'll look at a step of your deal process, and just see that one step and a bar for the next step so you can drag deals directly to their next stage.
It's not just the workflows that Base simplifies. It also simplifies your contact info, showing truncated views of your recent conversations, notes, and calls on a page that's easy to scan at a glance.
And when text isn't enough, Base lets you pick up the phone and call or SMS message your contacts right from inside your CRM. You can log calls and record them, right alongside the emails and notes you'd track otherwise. It'll be the one place for all of your communications, even if those are over the phone.
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Base review .
When you start your work day, you need to see what needs to be done today. Many CRMs show the most important conversations or leads that need contacted, but PipelineDeals shows everything right on the dashboard. You'll see your team's latest activities, the tasks that are due most urgently, along with charts about your current deals and their progress. And, you'll get a daily email that summarizes what's going on, so you'll be ready for the day as soon as you check your email.
Then, PipelineDeals makes it easy to find the lead or task you need, with a simple sentence style sort field that lets you write naturally what you're looking for. It'll help cut through the clutter, too, in addition to showing you the big picture.
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our PipelineDeals review .
It's easy enough to link contacts together and list the stages of your deals, but it's another thing to see it all in action visually. Pipeliner turns every part of your CRM into graphics, so you can see how your contacts and deals go together.
You'll organize your leads and deals on a Kanban-style board, then link your contacts into groups in a mindmap-style editor so you can see how everyone's linked. Then, there's native Mac and PC apps for Pipeliner, so you can take your work offline, too, if you can't always work online.
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Pipeliner review .
Sales are important, but the most important thing is the people that you're selling to. SugarCRM keeps that in mind with its contact-focus even as it's a powerful CRM for tracking leads and deals.
You'll find detailed contact and interaction info on each contact's page, right along with graphs that show insight into this account with the number of deals you've won and lost with them. Combine that with deep app integration and analytics, and you've got a sales tool that'll help you know a lot more about your customers.
Then, if you'd like a CRM that you can tweak and run on your own servers, SugarCRM is the CRM for you. Its full-featured open-source Community Edition lets you easily install and run it from Linux, Windows, or OS X, and tweak it to work just the way you want, for free.
Price: $35/user/month; free Community Edition to run on your own servers
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our SugarCRM review .
Web apps with APIs that let them integrate with other apps are such a common thing today that there's over 350 that work with Zapier. And yet, in 2000 when Salesforce first launched, the very idea of having an app in your browser was revolutionary. Salesforce was one of the very first web apps with an API, and it's that legacy that keeps it one of the most popular CRMs today.
Salesforce is actually a platform: there's the Salesforce1 Platform, an online database you can use to build your own apps, or use the Salesforce CRM and Support apps that are built from it. The CRM still holds similarities to the original Salesforce, complete with perhaps the most dated interface on this list. Its database backend, though, makes it more customizable than most. It also includes some of the best reporting and prediction, along with customizable workflows, automation, and team-specific dashboards.
Your data's what matters. Once you have that, you can show it in infinitely different ways that make sense for each task you need to do. With Salesforce, that's not only possible—it's built-in.
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Salesforce review .
Many CRM apps do more than just track your contacts, leads, and deals. Base and Close.io lets you make calls and send SMS messages, Insightly also lets you manage your projects, and Zoho CRM is deeply integrated with the other apps in the Zoho suite. Then, there's the CRMs that are actually just one feature of a much broader application. These apps typically let you select a number of apps—including a CRM—and use them together in one place.
If you’re looking for a CRM but also would like to consolidate your work in one place, here are some of the best multipurpose apps with CRMs for your team:
Need apps for your business? How about 700 of them, all with the same interface and a notifications system that'll make it easy to keep up with what's going on in any of them? That's Podio.
Now run by the Citrix team, Podio has everything you could want to run your business—including a lead-and-deal focused CRM, along with a dedicated Contacts app. Each of the individual apps are perhaps simpler than similar stand-alone apps, but together they provide a way to integrate all of your company's work in one place—and you could build your own apps if you want. There's also built-in group chat, social network-style status updates, and more to help everyone keep in touch.
Price: $9/user/month; up to 5 users for free
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Podio review .
Hosted web apps are nice, but sometimes it's nicer to just run your own apps on your own server. Odoo lets you do just that. Similar to the WordPress open-source CMS, Odoo is an open-source app platform for your business that includes over 30 business apps that you can install and run together on your own servers for free. Or, you can get the same features without the trouble by signing up for an Odoo account.
It's not just the apps that make Odoo great. There's also the hundreds of integrations with financial organizations, supplier apps, and more that'll help you integrate Odoo with your work. It's aimed at enterprises, with a design more on the lines of Salesforce, but isn't quite as difficult to start using as you might expect despite its interface.
Price: $15/user/month for each app; free to install on your own server
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our Odoo review .
If you're not using a CRM, you're likely already keeping up with your contacts, leads, and deals some other way. There's a good chance you're using a spreadsheet. Most CRMs will let you upload that spreadsheet and add its data automatically, but TrackVia does even more: it lets you turn that spreadsheet directly into a CRM app that works the way you want.
TrackVia is a tool for building your own database-powered apps online, with pre-made designs for CRM, project management, and other popular apps. You can customize these as you'd like, or just start from scratch and use its features to build your very own CRM. If you already know how you'd like your dashboard, reports, and forms to look, this is the app you should try.
It'll take a bit more time to get setup, but if you want something truly personalized with just the features you want an nothing more, it's hard to find anything more customizable than TrackVia that's not far more difficult to use.
Price: Custom pricing available upon request
For a deeper look at features and pricing, see our TrackVia review .
Now that you’ve found a great CRM for your team, it’s time to put it to work. Depending on the CRM you selected, you should be able to either automatically import your leads from a spreadsheet or sync with Gmail or Outlook to import your conversations and contacts. But going forward, you won’t want to have to manually import contacts or copy data from your CRM to other apps.
That’s what Zapier’s for. It can link all of your apps to your CRM, so you don’t have to manually copy anything. Here are some of the best ways to get your CRM and other apps integrated—and if you’re using a different CRM app, you can still do the same thing on your own in the Zapier dashboard.
That's far from all. There's dozens of other ways you can automate your CRM, which you can find in the last chapter of this book.
Of all apps you’ll pick for your team, a CRM might be among the most difficult to choose. There are so many, with such similar features, and yet such different workflows and use cases.
That’s good. It should mean that you’ll get a CRM that’s perfect for your team, one that works the way you do. Hopefully the descriptions and reviews listed here will help you make your decision. If not, try out the ones that seem the most promising, see which fits your team the best, and then settle into it.
Or, perhaps you'd rather use a CRM that does a little more—one that manage your contacts and helps automate your marketing efforts. If so, the next chapter's for you: it covers the best features in ten of the most popular CRMs with marketing automation features.
If a CRM that manages your contacts, conversations, or leads and deals is enough for your needs, though, you could jump ahead to Chapter 4 to learn how other teams picked their CRM and tips from them on integrating the CRM into your workflow better and get the most out of it.
Header photo courtesy prettyinprint on Flickr.
The Beginner's Guide to CRM: Customer Relationship Management
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