Zoho CRM Review: Is it right for your small business?
With so many CRM providers out there, how do you know which one’s best for your small business? Here we put Zoho CRM under the microscope, and answer everything from “Is the free version good enough for me?” to “But what about Salesforce?”
With so many CRM providers out there, how do you know which one’s best for your small business? Here we put Zoho CRM under the microscope, and answer all your most burning questions
In this article you will learn:
- What is Zoho CRM?
- Why is it great? And why not?
- How does it work?
- How much does it cost?
- Who is it ideal for?
What is Zoho CRM?
Zoho CRM is one of the most popular CRM softwares for small businesses and start-ups. It was designed with the smaller company in mind, and its customers love how user-friendly, features-packed and affordable it is.
Like many competitors, Zoho is a web-based CRM, and comes complete with a well-rated phone app, making it easier than ever to stay on top of your sales and marketing.
But with Zoho, you also benefit from their suite of additional apps – from building campaigns to creating websites – all to get you closing more deals in less time.
So, what can it do? Zoho CRM is a simple platform that lets you automate your everyday business tasks, track your sales, and engage your customers across a number of channels online.
We dive in deeper below.
What does CRM mean?
Many people know that CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. But what does that mean? CRM is just the strategy used to organise a business’s relationship with customers and leads (potential customers).
It’s hard to do it all yourself, so today companies of all sizes are looking to CRM software providers to help them stay on track.
For more tips on choosing the best CRM provider for you, take a look at our review of the best CRM for small businesses.
But what makes Zoho CRM different?
- Reputation – Quite simply, Zoho is one of the most trusted CRM providers today. With over 50,000 customers and counting, not only is it the go-to for some of the big guns in customer relations (even Amazon), it’s also a chart-topper for small business owners.
- Affordability – Zoho’s free edition has many of the top-notch features you’d need to pay for with other providers. Plus, their subscription plans are some of the most budget-friendly, starting at just £9 ($12) per user per month for the Standard package. And it’s easy to scale Zoho with your business.
- The Zoho Suite – Zoho CRM will integrate well with many of the platforms you are already using to stay organised (including Google Apps, Outlook and QuickBooks). But by joining Zoho CRM, you will get also access to the other applications in the Zoho family, even ones that help take the pain out of your emails and accounting.
Why choose Zoho CRM (or not)?
And now for the nitty-gritty. Zoho CRM offers plenty of bang for very few bucks. But to really understand how it could work for you, let’s zoom in on its benefits – as well as limitations.
✅ Clean, simple interface
✅ All-you-can-eat features
✅ Fully customisable dashboard
✅ Easy setup and maintenance
✅ Support team quick to respond
✅ Budget-friendly packages
✅ Easy to scale plans up or down
✅ Good integration with software
✅ Access to the full Zoho suite of apps
❌ No flat file integration
❌ Can be slow on Internet Explorer
❌ Help documents are limited
So, is it for you?
Now let’s take a closer look at Zoho CRM’s strengths and weaknesses, and help you work out if it’s a good fit for your small business or start-up.
Zoho’s layout is crystal clear – it has one of the simplest CRM interfaces on the market, as well as plenty of easy-to-use features. Customers used to complain about the clunky design, but Zoho listened, and have just rolled out a clean, minimalist dashboard that’s very easy on the eye.
Even if you are completely new to CRM, you shouldn’t struggle to get to grips with the software. As soon as you first log in, Zoho will guide you through all the steps you need to take. There is also a list of helpful guides – just don’t expect them to have all the answers.
Zoho CRM is also a great team player with any third parties you may already be using. You can fully integrate Zoho CRM with Outlook, MailChimp, Evernote, Quickbooks – and many more.
Or you may even like to use Zoho’s own tools – like Zoho Books for your bookkeeping and Zoho Projects to stay organised. And because Zoho doesn’t just do CRM, they can even help you take care of most areas of your business, from your finances to your web design.
Plus, if you’re a Google fan, Zoho CRM is an easy choice. Their software has an especially slick integration with the G Suite, so your contacts and calendar entries will directly transfer over. It even works a dream on Chrome – though it can be slower on Internet Explorer.
“I recommend Zoho CRM as often as I can because the barrier to entry is so low and anyone can jump in”
– Chester Hull, CEO and founder of music retailer Prosound
Zoho serves little businesses, but it’s capabilities are huge. As a CRM customer, you’ll gain access to over thirty different business solutions – including tools for web optimisation, customer support and project management.
But Zoho CRM also offers a host of features well beyond basic CRM, from deep-dive reporting to the first AI-powered sales assistant in CRM. Just see below for the full list. There’s more than enough for any small business.
As with most new tools, it may take a bit of time to get the hang of it, but this will pay off. Most new users like to start by customising the layout – and Zoho has made this step as intuitive as possible – you just drag and drop your data to where you want it.
Then there’s the new Page Layouts, which makes it a breeze to deal with numerous projects from a single CRM account. And for the more adventurous user, the Sandbox tool lets you test various modules and layouts to find what works best for you.
In 2017, Zoho CRM joined forces with LinkedIn to develop Sales Navigator. This tool helps your sales team gather details about leads through LinkedIn, without ever having to step off Zoho CRM. Really, the list of features is endless – and growing.
“Zoho did everything that we needed it to do, and did it very easily.”
– Allen Teruel, CEO of student travel site JusCollege
Customer support is unlimited for everyone. Zoho has a 24/7 helpline for paying customers, and everyone has access to email support. They also have a helpful – if small – catalogue of handy documents as well as a popular blog, all to help you make the most out their services.
Zoho’s customers love how attentive the company is – you can quickly get hold of someone when you need them. Although some grumble about how helpful that person can sometimes be. As with most CRM providers, you may find yourself dealing with a call centre in India.
That said, Zoho is known for its customer service. And with the shiny new addition of the AI assistant Zia, getting what you need has never been easier. In a nutshell, paying customers will have nothing to worry about – and the service is still great for everyone else.
“Having a system that's thinking for me is beautiful.”
– Philippe Bogard, CEO of science research start-up Proteomics
Zoho is one of the most affordable CRM solutions out there, but don’t be fooled by its tiny prices. This is a robust system that packs plenty of bang for just a few bucks. That’s why it’s trusted by firms as big as Amazon, as well as start-ups and freelancers the world over.
Zoho’s pricing is also flexible, meaning you can easily scale your subscription up or down. Apptivo still takes the crown on price, but with such a features-rich offering, Zoho is hard to beat on value for money.
Zoho CRM has four paid packages that start from just £9 ($12) per user per month (no credit card required). The free version will have everything small businesses need to be up and running. But if you have your sights set on serious business growth, you can get a lot for paying just a little.
Below we break down the prices for you, and help you decide if a free or paid plan is right for you.
“The value-to-cost ratio is incredible, and the applications are incredibly user-friendly.”
– Alun Rafique, Director of Bristol software company Market Dojo
How does Zoho CRM work?
At its core, Zoho CRM is designed to make managing your customers and leads a walk in the park. But it is also hard to beat for organising your sales pipeline and purchase control.
Zoho is a cloud-based software, meaning you can access it whenever you want, wherever you are. Then their mobile app makes it even easier to stay connected on the go, and offers handy tools like: call logging, voice notes, and geographical lead tracking.
CRM doesn’t have to be complicated. Zoho’s platforms save you time and money by automating (the more menial) tasks and providing a 360-view of your business operations.
In this way, Zoho CRM will keep your customers happy and your staff on track, and with them taken care of, your business will flourish too.
What are its features?
Zoho CRM has an impressive features list, even in the free edition. It’s perfect for small business owners wanting a simple CRM solution, and includes all the essentials: contact management, workflow automation, lead gathering – and more.
Here’s what you get with Zoho CRM:
1. Multichannel – Be where your customers are
Your customers are active on many channels, from email to phone, live chat, and even social media. Clearly, your business needs to be there too.
Zoho’s Multichannel feature lets you connect with your customers and prospects in real time, across most platforms. Plus, they tell you what people are saying about your business online, and alert you when a hot prospect comes on your scene.
2. Zia – The conversational AI assistant
2018 brought Zoho CRM a makeover, and it is now more intuitive than ever. One of the most useful additions was Zia, the first AI-powered sales assistant for CRM. Zoho has always been one of the more user-friendly CRMs, but Zia takes ease-of-use to a whole new level.
Rather than getting bogged down with the data, you can simply ask Zia for whatever you need. It’s easy: you hit the ‘Ask Zia’ button at the bottom of your desktop, or call her from your mobile to get quick access to your information.
Just note that Zia’s help is not currently available on the free version.
3. Automation – Let AI do the boring bits
As a small business owner, you can do with all the help you can get. Most CRMs offer sales and marketing automation, but Zoho gets top marks for providing fairly advanced options, even for no – or very small – subscription fees.
If you want to up your sales, but not your workload, this is the feature for you. You can sit back and let Zoho take care of the more tedious manual work – including any custom functions you need. With the paid plans, you also get to assign tasks to your team to help keep everyone on track.
4. Analytics – Get to know your customers
The more you grow, the more you need to know. Everyone is raving about the importance of data these days, and Zoho’s CRM tools make it easy to get to grips with yours.
Although the standard reports (on the free version) are basic, new features like Zia (on the paid plans) make it easier and more intuitive than ever to find the information you need.
The reports are great for seeing sales trends and assessing the reach of your marketing campaigns, while forecasting helps you predict your sales more accurately, so you can stay well stocked.
5. Process – Get everyone working smarter
Of course, it’s no use having all this CRM muscle power if no one knows what they’re doing with it. That’s why Zoho have developed Blueprint, a technology that automates your processes.
It’s a simple tool, but it’s mighty powerful. To make sure you or your sales team knows what to do at every stage in the pipeline, all you have to do is map your blueprint process, which Zoho will then use to guide everyone through what actions need to be taken when.
It can be as simple or as complex as you like, and could look a little like this:
6. Collaboration – Work better together
Zoho gives you real-time feeds, chat and a centralised calendar to keep everyone on the same page.
Staying organised and staying connected is a big deal for small businesses and start-ups. Zoho provides a central library for all your documents, a Gamescope tool in case you’d like to inject a bit of healthy competition, and it’s easy to customise your system so the right people are given the right information at the right time.
7. Security – Protect with encryption
With all that information running from your customers and business to your CRM provider, you want to know it’s in the best of hands. Zoho names security their top priority, and we can believe them.
Zoho CRM can assign roles to your staff, letting you define permissions and control access to information. They also use one of the most robust methods – AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) – to protect your sensitive data from being leaked or lost. This is considered a gold standard in CRM.
8. Developer – Be your own tech pro
Did you know you could build enterprise-grade apps yourself? Or Zoho can, to be precise.
Whether you want to skip the code altogether or get your hands dirty with high-level programming, Zoho is quite unique in offering a host of tools to help you start making apps, widgets, SDKs (Server Software Development Kits) and more.
Their technology works a dream on Microsoft, Apple and Android – and you can even integrate your CRM with any third-party services you are using. There aren’t many CRMs who offer that service.
Plus, you can track your API (Application Programming Interface) usage with zoho’s intuitive dashboards to see how your customers are interacting with your site – and whether there might be a better way of designing it. It might look like this:
But if you still want more, Zoho CRM also works well with Zoho’s many other products, helping you with everything from project management to point of sale (PoS).
Zoho CRM pricing
Zoho CRM offers a features-packed free edition that is a great start for many CRM first-timers. It includes must-have features like sales and marketing automation, as well as unlimited support should you ever need a helping hand.
But as you would expect, it does have its limitations. So, if you want more than three employees on CRM, or you’d like a more custom experience, you’re better off paying a bit more.
Most small businesses find the paid plans – with their all-you-can-eat features and intuitive AI support – great value for money. They are also some of the most affordable ones on offer, and start at just £9 ($12) per user per month.
Many small business owners and freelancers learn the ropes with the free package, then upgrade in time as CRM helps them grow. You are also welcome to try Zoho’s 15-day free trial, so you can test-drive some of the bonus features before opting for the paid version.
Of course, there are a number of subscriptions, built to suit most needs and budgets. This is how they compare:
|$0/user per month||(£9)$12/user per month||(£22)$29/user per month||(£37.50)$49/user per month||(£76)$99/user per month|
|Basic CRM, all you need to start your small business||Standard CRM, including sales forecasting and KPIs||Standard CRM, with integration and workflow||Advanced CRM, with custom modules||Full package, with customisable and tracking options|
Is the free Zoho CRM enough for me?
Still not sure which plan is right for you? Here’s how the open source (free) edition compares to the paid packages:
|Feature||Free Edition||Paid Subscriptions|
|Access||Up to 3 free Users||Pay Per User, plus Team Collaboration|
|Sales||Sales Force Automation||Sales forecasting|
|Marketing Automation||Mass Emailing|
|Analytics||Standard Reports||Custom Analytics|
|Task Management||Workflow Management||Full Inventory Management Kit|
|Customisation||Dashboard Customisation||10 Custom Fields & 2 Unique Fields per module|
|Synchronisation||Social media integration||Full synchronisation with Google and Slack|
|Support||Unlimited basic support||Unlimited premium support, plus Zia AI assistant|
Zoho vs Salesforce?
Zoho and Salesforce are two of the most popular and award-winning CRM providers today. Both are great options for small businesses, but they differ in one key way. Salesforce is big on functionality, whilst Zoho is easy on the purse.
For the tech savvy user, Salesforce offers some extra perks like in-depth reporting and individualised task assignments. Though, of course, this comes at a price.
Zoho, on the other hand, provides top marks for value for money, and if you only have a handful of employees and are just starting out with CRM, it should be more than you need.
Who is Zoho CRM ideal for?
Zoho CRM is a dream come true for the budget-conscious but ambitious small business owner.
The free version is perfect if you are new to CRM, have under 10 employees, and want to be up and running with CRM fast. But if you want to turbocharge your business growth, you might be better off with a paid plan – and there are many affordable options to choose from.
Zoho is trusted by businesses of all shapes and sizes the globe over, but their software was made with the smaller company in mind. Even if you are unsure where to begin, Zoho is easy to get to grips with, and will scale even as you grow.
Break it down for me
Zoho CRM is a simple yet feature-rich CRM solution that was made for small businesses, freelancers and start-ups.
This is a flexible option that will grow with your company. Or you may even be pleasantly surprised with what the free edition can do.
If you are a seasoned CRMer, you won’t tire of the features available to boost your business growth. And if you’re new to CRM, you can easily customise the system to make it as simple as you want.
In a nutshell, Zoho CRM scores top marks for value for money. It may not look too fancy and you can find cheaper, but you’ll be hard pressed to get this level of data gathering and intuitive software for such a friendly price tag.
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