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What is CRM?

Wondering what is a CRM system and how it can help your small business? Read on to find out and compare CRM system quotes today

A customer relationship management (CRM) system is an invaluable business tool that can refine a company's processes.

With the right CRM system, businesses can develop customer relationships, improve their customer service and satisfaction rates, and ultimately increase sales – which, as we all know, leads to greater profits and business success.

That's all well and good, but you're probably wondering: what are the key aspects of CRM? What makes a CRM system tick? And why, as a small business owner, should you invest in one?

The following will explain, in detail, all the ins and outs of CRM. We'll show you how a CRM system works, and shine a light on all the features and benefits that CRM could bring you.

Or, if you feel that you already know what a CRM system is, and want to get stuck into some quotes right away, simply fill in the form at the top of the page. Our quick, easy and free online form will help you find tailor-made software that best suits your business needs. It’s simple: you provide the answers and we’ll provide the quotes.

On this page, we will cover:

What does CRM mean?

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) means monitoring any point at which your brand or business engages with its customers. This produces data, that, in turn, is analysed and used to refine any further points of contact between brand and customer.

To illustrate: imagine you own a business that sells sports gear, and you’re creating a niche sales campaign via email with the view to sell sports socks. The campaign is targeting male customers that fall within a certain age bracket, are a specific shoe size, and have an interest in sport.

This is a very unique demographic, and to target it properly, your campaign will require certain information about the customer before you send them a sales email.

For example, you would need their age, gender, and shoe size, as well as an idea of whether they are likely to buy sport socks from you. This could be deduced by examining whether or not they have bought sportswear from you on previous occasions.

An 18 year old woman is unlikely to buy men’s socks designed for a 40+ athletic male, so there’s no point sending her an email about them. In fact, an 18 year old woman might be a bit offended if you tried to sell her sport socks that are much more suitable for her Dad, so this is a situation best avoided.

The best way to make sure you don’t commit such a marketing faux pas would be to invest in a CRM system that allows you to identify – and target – customers who are most likely to engage with any particular campaign.

Whilst it might sound like a massive faff to obtain all of the above information about one customer just to sell some socks, this is just the kind of data that a CRM system will keep on file. Using a complex set of statistics, a CRM system will find and target the customers that are most likely to respond to even the most niche of sales strategies.

What is a CRM system?

A CRM system is a cloud-based piece of software that allows you to streamline and manage your marketing strategy, and direct specific sales drives towards customers and prospects.

Gone are the days of guesswork when it comes to customer contact points. With customer relationship management, a business can – and is expected – to do just that: manage its relationship with its customers.

So, what exactly does CRM entail?

CRM is a multidirectional approach to providing insight into which areas of your business your customers engage with most positively. This will allow you to streamline your marketing, and make your path to engagement-led sales as efficient as possible.

The idea of CRM can be split into three parts:

  1. System
    A cloud-based piece of business tech, CRM systems facilitate the digital documentation, communication and evaluation of any interactions that occur between the business and its customers.

    This can be as simple as noting a customer’s engagement with a particular social media post, or analysing their buying habits with your business, so you can better tailor the marketing they’re exposed to.

  2. Approach
    Customer Relationship Management means much more than simply tracking the emails, correspondence, and social media interaction your brand has with its customers. It also refers to the philosophy your business applies to nurturing its contact points with customers and prospects.

    CRM can be strategically focussed to communicate closely with customers. The direction in which you choose to take this will form part of your business ethos in general.

    For example: if you run a subscription service that your customers pay for monthly, would you send them an email reminder every time money passes from their account to yours, or would you simply ‘let it happen’?

    Or, if you offer a free trial for a short period of time, but then start charging your customers if they forget to cancel the trial, would you remind them that the free period is soon to end? Or, like some sneaky companies, would you simply let the automatic transaction ‘happen’ without communicating this to your customer?

    These points of consideration form part of your company philosophy, and dictate how you’ll be perceived by both your customers and your competition.

  3. Action
    CRM action refers to the channels your business uses to develop the relationship between brand and customer. For example, will your brand use social media to communicate with customers and prospects? Do you rely heavily on email correspondence? Or, perhaps you’d like to introduce a loyalty card scheme that tracks your customer’s spending, rewards them for brand loyalty, and provides an incentive for prospects to engage with your brand?

    The data derived from your business’ interactions with its customers will be stored and displayed on a dashboard, meaning that your employees will be able to view data relating to a specific customer at any one time. This is particularly useful when trying to close a sale while out in the field.

The features and benefits of a CRM system

A CRM system will help drive sales. How? By providing a unified view of all interaction between business and client. This allows prospects to be easily identified, and equips all members of the team with the essential information to make a successful sale.

Also, research has shown that companies who invest in an efficient CRM system see their profits grow by up to 10%. This kind of margin could make a massive difference to a small business, and makes investing in a CRM system a worthwhile consideration.

Mobile solutions through use of the cloud.
The fact that the majority of CRM systems are cloud-based means that you can have valuable statistics about clients or prospects at your fingertips, even whilst out in the field. All notes will be visible to any employee at any time, creating better business efficiency and greater accountability.

Also, you’re able to see how customers connect with employees and the business as a whole, so any issues with communication can be identified and a strategy of resolution put in place.

Track progress and fill quotas.
A CRM system will save time by automatically generating analytic reports. Prospects are targeted based on their value to your business, so resale/upsell opportunities are not missed, and marketing campaigns can be proactively targeted.

Time is not the enemy of the small business owner.
In fact, time is the business owner’s greatest friend. A recent study by Mavenlink showed that two out of five small business owners rank ‘time’ as their greatest asset. A CRM system will maximise your time spent selling by arming all areas of your business with the vital information needed to close deals efficiently.

Small businesses don’t stay small forever.
Give your business room to grow, and make sure that when you scale-up, productivity stays up. A CRM system will ensure that key business is not lost, even whilst yours is growing.

Stay abreast of the social media revolution.
As small businesses are more dependent upon having a relevant social media presence, CRM is essential in keeping all online interaction with customers current and well-targeted. You can easily see what works across a variety of channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Different types of CRM

CRM can be split into roughly three categories:

  1. Operational CRM

    This entails the day-to-day management of sales, marketing and all-round customer relationships. Operational CRM is also the most common form of CRM system.

  2. Analytical CRM

    Designed to make customer acquisition and retention easier, an analytical CRM system manages big data and allows you to identify key pain points within your business marketing strategy. This is a data-driven approach to CRM, and is more likely to be applied to a B2B marketing strategy.

  3. Collaborative CRM

    Created with the customer experience in mind, a collaborative CRM system tracks all communication between business, customer and stakeholders, so you can streamline future communication based on previous contact points.

Aside from being either operational, analytical or collaborative, a CRM system will target your customers via different means. The different types of CRM directed targeting include:

  • Social media marketing
    Your CRM system of choice will automatically plot the social media channels that any particular customer follows, the posts they engage with most, and the social advertising they are most likely to respond positively to. This assists your marketing strategy, so you’ll be able to hone the perfect social media campaign.
  • Email marketing
    Not all of your customers will be Instagram savvy, rendering your social media marketing somewhat redundant in such cases. It’s therefore important that your marketing comes from emails too.

    A CRM system will track the emails sent to any individual customer, and even show which were read/responded to. Again, this helps to streamline a marketing strategy, as you will be able to spot who has the best response rate to email marketing.

  • SMS (text message) marketing
    Ever received a text from a restaurant reminding you that you have a booking that evening? Or maybe your GP has texted you to let you know when your appointment is scheduled for? These messages will have been automatically sent via the organisation’s CRM system, using SMS to directly contact a specific customer about a specific arrangement. If SMS marketing sounds like something your business could benefit from, then be sure to check out the Startups page fully detailing the benefits of SMS marketing
  • Postal marketing
    Yes, some people still send letters. And yes, some people read them. Postal (or print) marketing is still alive, and your CRM system will have all of the relevant information stored so that you know what to post and who to post it to.

    For example, does your company send out a quarterly newsletter? Or, perhaps you want to send some promotional materials to your clients. For this, you’ll need all sorts of data, like the address of the recipient, the former correspondence they have received, and any other information relevant to the preexisting business/customer relationship.

CRM system providers

There are lots of CRM system providers in the market today, so we’ve turned the spotlight on three of the top providers here. If you’re looking for a fuller-fat breakdown, take a look at our top CRM companies page now.

1. Salesforce

One of the most popular and widely-used CRM systems, Salesforce CRM is a dependable option through sheer market familiarity.

Salesforce benefits:

  • Salesforce will centralise and automate your sales process to save time and money, while providing key insights about your customers.
  • Salesforce will encourage your customers to return using its customisable solutions to marketing strategy.
  • Salesforce understands and refines your customer journeys, and can create personalised marketing communications across a variety of channels.
  • Salesforce’s point-and-click tools allow you to build your own apps with ease. Its unified platform means everything scales and integrates well.

Salesforce cost:
The essentials package from Salesforce costs as little as £20 per user, per month. This cost escalates to £240 per user per month for Salesforce’s most comprehensive plan.

For more information regarding Salesforce costs and more, take a look at our dedicated Salesforce CRM UK page. Or, if you want to get in touch with CRM providers, simply fill in the form at the top of the page to receive tailored quotes from CRM suppliers.

2. Zoho CRM

Designed with the smaller company in mind, and with user-friendly features at an affordable price, Zoho is another popular choice for the discerning start-up.

A web-based CRM system that also features a well-rated mobile app, Zoho makes it easier to stay on top of your sales and marketing, wherever you are.

Zoho also features a suite of additional apps that allow you to easily create campaigns, and to build a business website – helping you to grow both your business and your brand image.

Zoho benefits:

  • Zoho has a clean and simple interface, making it very easy to use.
  • Zoho is jam-packed with features that are designed to improve your business strategy with ease.
  • Zoho has a responsive support team with well-rated levels of customer service, happy to assist you with any CRM related query.
  • Zoho integrates well with other software.
  • Zoho offers budget friendly packages.

Zoho cost:

Zoho CRM has four paid packages, starting from just £9 per user per month.

Better still, Zoho also offers a free package! Its free CRM service has everything you’ll need to get up and running, but if you’re interested in serious business growth, a paid plan will offer a lot more services for very little cost.

For a more detailed spotlight on Zoho, take a look at our Zoho CRM review.

3. Insightly

Better for slightly bigger businesses, Insightly is known for its simplicity and scalability.

Insightly benefits:

  • Insightly will help your business to build positive customer relationships, discover new connections, future-plan sales strategy, track organisations, and manage partnerships.
  • Insightly will connect to apps and manage them from one database.
  • Insightly will automate lead capture and generation, streamlining and improving processes.
  • Insightly improves team collaboration, as it facilitates live-feed communication regarding customers and prospects.

Insightly cost:

Insightly offers a variety of plans to accommodate a range of budgets. From its free plan to its Enterprise plan (coming in at £75.00 per user per month), Insightly offers a variety of plans to accommodate a range of budgets.

For more details on Insightly, including a full list of features and benefits as well as a cost breakdown, please visit our page on Insightly CRM.

Next steps

Overall, a CRM system will analyse your business’ interaction with its customers. This, in turn, will streamline your marketing strategy, boosting sales and ensuring that each customer has a tailored experience with the brand.

The modern consumer expects a personalised experience, and that's exactly what big brands and big budgets can give. For example, Coca-Cola is still lauded for its campaign that offered personalised bottles of Coke, while tailor-made subscription services are popping up left, right and centre.

But this does not mean that small scale start-ups have been completely blown out of the water – quite the opposite in fact. With a nifty CRM system, any business of any size can create a personalised experience for their customers that'll keep them coming back for more.

If you’d like to compare different CRM systems and speak to suppliers today, then simply fill in the form at the top of the page to receive direct quotes from CRM suppliers.

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