Finding the Right CRM for Your Small Business

As a marketer, you probably wear many hats – especially if you’re working for a small business where you don’t have a big team. You have to generate ideas for new marketing campaigns, manage social media, create graphics, design print materials, schedule emails, write blog posts … the list goes on and on. But one thing often gets overlooked in all of this: tracking your leads and how they convert.

In fact, at BetterWeb, we often work with clients who have no mechanism for this. Some folks have an address book in their email client. Others have spreadsheets. And many consider their Mailchimp account to be their CRM. In short, it’s not uncommon for us to work with marketers or small businesses that have not had the time or opportunity to select and implement a proper CRM tool. So we often find that one of our key engagements is helping our clients do just that.

What is a CRM?

If you’re saying to yourself right now, “Um, I don’t know what a CRM is but it feels like I should,” you’re not alone! It’s not like people talk about this stuff at cocktail parties. (Well, we do … but that’s because we’re kinda geeky that way.)

CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Management” and it’s become shorthand for a software system that keeps track of prospects, leads, and customers. CRMs are an “address book” for those people, but they are also much more than that. They help you keep notes about the contacts; log phone calls, emails sent, and other activity involving the customer; keep a running to-do list for follow-ups; and sometimes automate those follow-ups for you.

When CRMs first became popular, they were considered more of a sales tool than a marketing solution. However, they have grown to include more marketing-related features and actually help bridge the gap between prospect and customer. Marketing can use them to store information about prospects and continue to market to them, while sales can take over warm leads and track closing activities. If that sounds like something that only works in big organizations, think again. Even if you are the marketer and salesperson (and service provider and HR and janitor), you’ll benefit from the organization and automation that a CRM provides. Actually, you may benefit even more since you’re so busy!

What’s the Best CRM?

If you’re convinced that your business could benefit from a CRM, your next question is probably, “What CRM should I use? Which one is the best?” Great question, but there’s no simple answer.

The two biggest players in the CRM game are HubSpot and Salesforce, but they both have their disadvantages – first and foremost, price. Time and complication to implement them are also important factors to consider.

HubSpot’s pricing is a bit complicated for this blog post. (In fact, it’s so complicated, they have a calculator on their website to help you figure it out.) Part of the confusion is that HubSpot actually has several products available. You can implement their Marketing Hub, and optionally combine it with their Sales Hub, or implement just one or the other. They also offer a Service Hub that’s priced separately. Their pricing model also starts very affordably – they even offer a free option – but it can jump very high very quickly if you need to add their “professional” features.

Salesforce is the big player for larger businesses. It’s a robust suite of tools that include sales, service, marketing, ecommerce and lots of integrations and customizations. They do offer a small business package as well that is much simpler to start. But, as with HubSpot, jumping up to the “Pro Suite” is a significant jump in pricing.

What are the Other CRM Options for Small Businesses?

HubSpot and Salesforce are great options to consider, but if you’re a small business that wants to dip only your toes in the CRM waters or if you have specialized needs, it’s worth shopping around at the hundreds of other CRMs available out there!

A few that we like:



If your site is built on WordPress and email automation is an important part of your business, Groundhogg is a great option. It has a form builder that’s fully integrated with your site, so any leads that come through your website are added to your CRM and tagged automatically. You can then create automated email funnels – a series of emails that guide your leads through a process – and mass emails to your entire audience. Because it’s fully integrated with your website, it also tracks all the activity that leads take on your site.

Pricing starts at $20/month. Since Groundhogg is integrated into your website, it’s a per site cost, not per user.

Read more about Groundhogg

Fluent CRM

Speaking of CRMs specifically for WordPress, FluentCRM is another great option. This one is particularly great if you’re doing ecommerce or selling digital memberships because it integrates nicely with WordPress tools like WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads and MemberPress. It features integration with form builders and WordPress user management to add leads and customers. You can create automated email sequences based on user actions on your website, including sign-ups, purchases, and more. And you can bulk email to segmented lists and track campaign success right in your website’s FluentCRM dashboard.

Pricing starts at $129/year for a single website with no per-user costs.

Read more about FluentCRM

Bigin by Zoho

Bigin is billed as a “starter” version of the more robust Zoho CRM. While that might be the case, it’s still packed with a lot of great features. Bigin provides a form builder that allows you to create and style forms that can be embedded on websites, emails, text messages, etc. so you can easily capture leads. Leads are placed in pipelines so that you can track their statuses over time. Bigin also has “connected” pipelines, so you can continue to track a customer even after the sale closes. This is great for companies that focus on repeat business or want to track the customer through project or service completion. It can also be integrated with your telephone system, email client, and WhatsApp. It has both email automation and mass email capabilities.

Bigin offers a free plan but it’s fairly limited. The first paid version starts at $9/user/month.

Read more about Bigin


Some CRMs focus mostly on marketing, some on sales. Nutshell claims to do both very well, although to get the entire suite of features, you may need to purchase some add-ons. Nutshell allows you to build personal email sequences, so each user can control how and when their leads receive interactions and it syncs with your own email system so notes are automatically populated on client records. It also offers an integrated meeting scheduler so leads can schedule appointments with you easily, and its AI tools will transcribe meeting notes and add them to the contact record automatically. Add-on tools will help you build custom landing pages for your website, track website visitors and analytics, and send mass email campaigns.

Pricing starts at $19/user/month, so it’s on the more expensive side of those listed above. That price also doesn’t include all the add-on tools

Read more about Nutshell

How do I Select the Right CRM?

These few tools mentioned above barely scratch the surface of CRMs on the market. There are CRMs that focus on specific industries - MRPeasy for manufacturing, Givebutter for nonprofits, Honeybook for creatives and consultants, and many more. There is no single one-size-fits-all solution.

So how do you go about researching and selecting the right solution for you?

The most important thing you must remember when selecting any technology solution is to focus on your business goals first. Drive your business with technology; don’t let technology drive your business. That means starting by thinking through and writing down the high-level business goals you want to achieve. Some suggestions:

  • We want to automate communication with leads so that we can tell our brand story and educate leads in digestible chunks.
  • We want to free up salespeople to focus on closing sales rather than vetting leads.
  • We want more of our customers to come back for additional services and need a way to keep in touch with them after the initial sale.

Given these goals, start documenting your requirements for a CRM. For example, to meet the first goal above, you’d want your CRM to offer automated email marketing so that you can send a series of emails to leads over time. For the second goal, you’d want a way to score your leads and send them to salespeople only when they’re well qualified. And for the third goal, you’d want a CRM that offers multiple pipelines or segmentation for closed customers.

Once you have your wish-list in place, prioritize each of those items. Unfortunately, unless money is no object (and is that ever the case?), you’ll probably have to sacrifice some features. So make sure you’ve identified those you cannot live without and those that are nice to have. You might phrase the question to your team (or yourself!), “If the CRM does not have this feature, would I still consider it, or is that a no-go?”

Next up, you’ll need to identify a budget. You’re going to be able to cross CRMs off the list really easily if they far exceed your budget, so that’s a fast way to build a short list.

With a short list in mind, create a grid. Add the CRMs you want to look at in each column and the list of requirements in each row. Make sure you include your prioritization of the requirements, so your grid might look something like this:


At the bottom of your grid, include three additional rows:

  • Price
  • Internet Ratings
  • Requirements Met

Now, it’s time to start digging in. Read through the CRM’s website – especially the user guide or documentation sections – to learn if the CRM meets each of your needs, and indicate that in the grid. You can include “Yes” or “No” language or – better yet – a brief description of how it meets the criteria.

In the final three rows, you’ll want to get a bit more scientific:

  • For pricing, be sure you’re comparing apples to apples, keeping in mind several factors:
    • Is there a different price if you’re paying annually vs monthly? Pick one and price all systems the same way. Is the cost per user? Estimate the number of users you’ll have and multiply to get the real price you’ll be paying. (Hint: if you’re not sure, aim high. Once people can see what the CRM can do for them, they’ll want to use it. Plus, savings are a great surprise. Additional costs are not.)
    • Include any additional tools or add-ons that you’ll need. For example, when sending mass email through your website, you’ll need an SMTP plugin, which often charges based on volume.
    • Subtract the cost of any tools that the CRM will replace. If it will do mass emailing, and that means you can cancel your Mailchimp subscription, incorporate those savings.
  • For Internet reviews, look up the CRM on Capterra, G2, or similar sites. You may also want to check Reddit since you’ll often find great discussions about specific tools there. This is a great way to evaluate the usability of the tool and the vendor reputation. After all, a powerful tool isn’t much help if you can’t figure out how to use it, or if the company goes defunct after you’ve spent time implementing the solution. Try to consolidate the reviews from all the sites into a single rating such as “poor,” “decent,” “good,” or “excellent,” just so you have a fair basis of comparison.
  • In the final row, count the number of high priority requirements that each system met and include that number. If you’re unsure about a particular requirement, you can always include a “.5” for that item. The goal is simply to compare the systems fairly.

Once you’ve completed your evaluation, you may find that the answer is not “scientifically” clear. You may find that the most expensive option meets all your requirements but doesn’t get great reviews. Or the option that’s in the middle on price has fabulous reviews but misses the mark on a couple key requirements. At that point, you can check out the free trials of each system or ask the vendor for a demo. Once you’ve seen the systems in action and really thought through what you want to accomplish, there is likely to be a very clear winner.

Your final step is to call your marketing agency or website vendor! You’ll want to get that CRM integrated with your website so leads are automatically populated there. You’ll also want to think strategically about the messaging in those emails and plan for testing and checking analytics. Here at BetterWeb, we’re happy to help with any of those things, and we can even get involved earlier in the process and help you work through your CRM requirements. Reach out to learn more.


About the Author, Danni Bennett:
With 25+ years in the web industry, Danni Bennett has done a little bit of everything. With skills in user experience, information architecture, marketing, web development, search engine optimization, and technology integration, she is the go-to expert at BetterWeb for anything technical.


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