What is CRM software?
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management and it’s software, usually an online service, that allows you to manage your customer contacts so you can easily categorize them, email them, and market to them. It’s a great way to mass-communicate with your customers, promote your business, and manage your customer relationships. Since you’re reading this, you probably already recognize that a CRM is essential to your online business success and just need to make a choice now – so let’s get into that!
From research and experience, I’ve put together this list of recommended CRMs, all powerful and affordable. Each of these CRM solutions has the following:
- At least 1000 contacts for under $50/month
- Email templates
- Web signup forms
- Lead management
- List segmentation
- Email autoresponders including email series
For our web design firm, we’re focused on our clients’ online success so part of our criteria when evaluating CRM software is that they connect easily with the website to capture leads and that our clients can send automated emails. I’ll discuss each of our picks in detail below.
Also, there’s a couple of high-end CRMs that I’m leaving off this list since they’re too expensive (HubSpot, Salesforce, Infusionsoft/Keap, and MS Dynamics – I’m talking about you). They can be great options as well if you’re willing to shell out the extra cash. For most clients though, these solutions are overkill.
Read more about each below, listed alphabetically.
Number of contacts: 1000
Coming in at $9/month for 500 contacts, ActiveCampaign offers a full suite of features including lead capture forms, lead segmentation, tracking, email reports, free customer service, and autoresponders. They boast one of the best marketing automation platforms that’s both very powerful and easy-to-use. Email templates can be built quickly with a drag-and-drop email design. Reporting is insightful and most functions can be found on the dashboard. If you’re switching CRMs, ActiveCampaign offers to do the migration for free.
At their $49/month plan level, they also offer SMS marketing, lead scoring, social integration and tracking, dynamic content, and third-party integrations. The lead scoring allows you to assign points depending on different actions, which can lead to more powerful automations. The dynamic content feature allows for different content based on the contact. Sending postcards and more are available through integrations.
Number of contacts: Unlimited
The free plan actually comes with quite a bit, with the ability to set appointments, email tracking, ability to make outbound calls, and of course managing contacts through a clean, modern interface that utilizes gamification and fast onboarding to make it an easy-to-win option.
Their Starter plan ($8.99/mo) provides the site integration you’d need with form builder, email campaigns, and marketing automation. It also includes a landing page builder, and mobile marketing. Importing contacts is quick and easy.
With their Regular plan ($29.99/mo), you get the Helpdesk feature that includes groups, labels, canned responses and better views and reporting. Additional plugins and integrations are available at their $47.99/mo Enterprise plan level.
I’ve used Agile CRM on several projects and have enjoyed its features and ease to integrate with websites.
Number of contacts: 2,500
Positioning themselves as a leader in email marketing and newsletters, AWeber offers the same features at each of their pricing levels, starting with an entry plan of $19/month for 500 subscribers. These features include unlimited emails, autoresponders including email series, list segmentation, sign-up forms, image hosting including 6,000+ stock photos, over 700 responsive email templates and integrations. They also offer split testing and analytics reporting. Their documentation is good and they include free phone, email and live chat support.
Their campaign flow is a little confusing out of the gate but is easy to work with after you get the hang of it. Creating great email templates and personalized emails is a breeze and we’ve enjoyed working with AWeber on a few projects, especially when an automated email series is required.
Number of contacts: 30,000
With an eye on making it easy for you, Copper integrates into your Google suite, automatically working with the contacts in your Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and Google Hangouts. While you can still use it as a traditional CRM, this Google integration saves lots of data entry hours and many features are directly accessible from Gmail.
At their $19/month plan level, you can only send 1 email blast per day but includes a meeting scheduler and reporting. Their lead management is intuitive and can be largely automated where you can set rules for new contacts pulled from your emails.
You’ll probably want the spendier $49/month Professional plan that includes email open tracking, 10 sends/day, workflow automation, sales forecasting, and integrations. With these integrations, you can send outgoing calls and more.
I really like the Google integration with Copper CRM but find it limiting as a full CRM. Zapier is required to send automated emails.
Number of contacts: Unlimited
This CRM solution is a breath of fresh air with lead management, importing, tasks and appointments all included in their free plan. Their $12/month plan includes lead scoring (to assign point values to actions), email sync, SMS text integration, phone calling, and other integrations. The lead management is easy-to-use and full featured.
While this offering is impressive, you’ll want their $25/month plan since it includes workflow automations so you can set rules and set up automated emails. This plan also includes better lead management, custom roles, and advanced reports. The custom roles are nice if you have multiple users in your organization.
Number of contacts: 100,000
Insightly has been getting a lot more popular recently and it’s easy to see why. At their $29/month level, you get all the basics of a good CRM and project management tools. It’s for building relationships, generating quotes and delivering projects.
Included you’ll get terrific lead management, lead capture tools, mass mailing, email templates, integration with cloud storage, integrated project management (including kanban board), integration with email and calendar, business intelligence reports, and plenty of customization. They also have a mobile CRM app.
At the $49/month level, you unlock more automation with lead assignment, email scheduling, and better workflows. You also get the option of integrated phone dialer.
Number of contacts: 100,000
Their free plan is arguably the best free CRM plan out there. It includes up to 2000 contacts, email templates, lead management and segmentation, lead capture forms, great reports, and is easy to get up to speed with. At my business, we recommend the free MailChimp plan all the time. It has their branding at the bottom of each email but is an amazing solution for free.
They have a $9.99 plan with more email templates and A/B testing but you should upgrade straight to the $14.99/month plan. At that level, you get custom branding, additional insights, you can customize your own email templates, send postcards, and can set up event-based automation. This automation can allow you to set up an autoresponder followed by a personalized postcard. MailChimp integrates nicely with WordPress and WooCommerce, with plenty of other integrations. MailChimp is a big name in email marketing/newsletters and has now grown into a respectable CRM, especially at that price.
Number of contacts: 1000
With just one simplified price, Nimble offers everything a small to mid-sized business would need to manage contacts and communication across multiple channels. Nimble has a unified message inbox that pulls in emails from multiple email accounts and Twitter. It syncs with your calendar. It listens on social media for mentions of you. It captures contact information from email signatures. It also does reminders, tracks activity, group messages, and does sales forecasts.
So far I’ve just mentioned advanced features but it also does the core CRM abilities well with pulling contacts from emails, lead generation, lead capture forms, automated emails and workflows and great reports. It integrates with a lot of other systems and has an API for the programmers.
Number of contacts: 25,000
What makes Zoho CRM really stand out is that Zoho also offers a toolbox of other business productivity tools including mail, helpdesk, finance and project management. So if you’re looking for just the CRM software, you could sign up for that for $19/month, or for $50/month, you could subscribe to Zoho One for all the tools your business would need.
Zoho has a free version that allows you to send out 50 emails per day and 5,000 contacts. There are additional plans at the $12/month and $20/month levels but their Enterprise plan at $35/month includes all the features you’d want. This includes the standard lead management and segmentation, web forms, email templates and customization, automation, lead scoring, and reporting. It also includes integrations with third-party software and seamless integration with other Zoho tools.
There’s a bit of a learning curve with Zoho but there’s something to be said for having all your tools in one spot.
Who wins out?
For our company, the low-cost champ would be MailChimp since they have a fully functional free version that we can leverage with a lot of our clients to boost their communication and marketing. When they’re ready to take it to the next level though, the $14.99/month plan gives the extra features we’d expect.
I haven’t used Nimble or Insightly yet but both look like powerful solutions that I’m looking forward to possibly using in a future project. With all the tools included within Zoho One, that’s a compelling solution as well.