Growth is exciting and painful. You take on more clients, you hire more employees, and you or your employees struggle to keep track of it all. You’re dealing both a blessing and a curse.
Your grandfather might have used a physical spreadsheet to keep track of customer relations. In his office, there were reams of paper in organized stacks. It was likely a nightmare sifting through all that information.
Today, we don’t use physical spreadsheets to keep track of clients, spending, and advertising. The digital revolution was supposed to eliminate that kind of wasteful confusion. And yet, our digital desktops are a universe of files and our cloud drives are filling up with organized messes.
Does this sound familiar? Are your employees wasting their time searching through piles of digital client files?
There is a solution.
Cloud-based CRM will change your operational life entirely. Are you curious how? Don’t even know what CRM is? Keep scrolling to find out.
Do you want to maintain a relationship with your customers or clients? Then cloud-based CRM is right for you.
CRM stands for customer relationship management. CRM does exactly what it says. It helps businesses manage communication-related information about clients, and it automates and facilitates client communication.
These systems often come with automation tools for common processes. CRM systems include tools to help you maximize your marketing and follow up with one-time clients. On top of all of this, CRM even provides productivity and performance measuring tools to help you blow clients out of the water.
CRM is popular in the B2B world. Most B2B businesses use some sort of CRM system. This doesn’t mean CRM is only for B2B businesses.
No matter what kind of business you run, you need to organize your customer data. No matter what kinds of clients or customers you serve, an ROI of $2.50-$5.60 per dollar invested sounds like a sweet deal.
If you’re still wondering if you should adopt a CRM system (you should), here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Do you need to maintain a list of information on your customers and leads?
Are you storing customer and lead information in more than one place?
Will your clients or customers interact with more than one person on your team? If so, are you missing a streamlined way to transfer all information about a client or lead to the next person?
Would a better understanding of your sales team’s productivity benefit your company?
Are you lacking a structured process for your sales team?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might need a CRM system.
The final barrier to adopting any software system is often price. You’re likely budgeting around 7-8% of your gross revenue on marketing. Your budget is like a frozen soda can ready to burst.
CRM companies understand that adding one more software subscription to your already maxed-out budget will stress you out. They also understand that as you grow, you’ll want to increase access to their software.
This is why most companies who develop CRM tools offer a free version of their software. Not all of them include every single feature, but the best ones do. Here are the top five free cloud-based CRM systems.
Are you the kind of person who buys every single tool you need and even some extras (just in case) before starting a project? Do you love discovering new and useful tools? Then Bitrix24 is the customer relations manager you’re looking for.
Bitrix24 is the complete tool chest of CRM programs. Sure, it includes the basic customer relations and lead management tools most programs include, but it offers surprising features such as file sharing, email marketing integration, and various automation features.
Bitrix24 designed their software to scale with your company. If you’re a small business, you’ll be able to centralize all your collaborations and communications. As you grow, the functionality will be there when you need it.
Free for up to twelve users. A small business might not need more than twelve users. And ask yourself, does everyone in the company need access to cloud-based CRM tools?
If the answer is “yes”, then you can gain unlimited access in the Standard version for an unlimited number of users for only $99 a month. No matter how much you scale your business, Bitrix24 will still charge the same per month. If you're large enough to need the unlimited option and you’re hesitant to sign up, try the professional option 30-days for free.
The Standard version offers 100 GB of storage and the ability to use your own logo.
If you want to add more project management features, try the Professional plan. It’s $199 a month and it includes unlimited storage, time management, meeting and briefing tools, records management tools, and use of your own domain name.
Bitrix24 is the best at putting customers at the heart of your business. Their tools allow you to balance hundreds or thousands of clients at once without losing sight of everything else.
Bitrix24 is as easy to use as your Facebook page. And if you need to understand how to use a tool, you can watch any of their introductory videos or take part in a number of online training courses.
Use one of Bitrix24’s workflow processes or create your own. Collaborate with your team using the Activity stream. Alert others quickly to your reviews by “liking” an activity. Track deals, leads, build sales funnels, make quotes, bill clients with invoices, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
And if something goes haywire, Bitrix24’s top-notch multichannel customer support center will be ready to solve your problems.
Salesforce created one of the first cloud-based CRM platforms. They paved the way for future web-based collaboration and customer relationship software suites.
They’ve since expanded beyond CRM. But CRM is their core offering.
They offer several capability tiers starting with their Sales Cloud. This allows you to tailor your experience to your business and limit or increase functionality as you need.
Salesforce has been around long enough to garner some impressive value-add partners. This allows you to add features from other companies and integrate with other software solutions.
Salesforce puts their AI, Einstein Analytics, front and center. It does what other CRM software suites do, but Salesforce merely wants you to think their AI is special and can do things other CRM can’t do. Einstein is pure marketing.
Salesforce’s tier system can be a tad confusing. If you’re looking for the purest CRM offering at Salesforce, you’ll want to use Sales Cloud and one of the tiers within that designation.
Unlike Bitrix24, there is no entirely free tier. There is a 30-day free trial of any tier you can take advantage of.
The Essentials plan costs $25 per user per month. This gives you access for up to 10 users. Really, for how feature-poor this tier is, you shouldn’t even bother. You would need to have a vendetta against Bitrix24 or one of their employees to go for this option over our absolutely free tier.
The Lightning Professional plan is the happy-medium of Salesforces CRM plans. You pay $75 per user per month and there is no user limit. You get most of their CRM tools and a few advanced tools like their collaborative forecasts.
Zoho is a popular name in the marketing world. They aren’t just a CRM company. They offer point of sale apps, marketing analytics apps, and more.
CRM is their most mature offering on the table. We have to give it to them, Zoho has done a fine job with their UI by creating a sleek cloud product that’s as easy to use as a lightweight product.
Zoho boasts gamification tools, comprehensive reporting, and lead management. Their social media and communication tools are well-designed and easy to use. And their integrations are easy to implement.
Zoho is genuinely free for up to ten users. This is still not as generous as Bitrix24’s free tier, but we’ll give them some points for being better than Salesforce.
The free version gives you sales lead tools, marketing tools, customer support automation, and forecast and reporting tools. If you want more features, you’ll have to upgrade to their Standard edition.
The Standard edition will cost you $12 per user per month if you sign up for a year upfront. You’ll receive Google-Adwords integration, social CRM tools, email integration, workflow automation, etc. Essentially, you’re paying for Bitrix24’s free tier (which gives you even more tools for free).
Is CRM really CRM without workflow automation? Companies lose 20-30 percent of revenue yearly due to workflow mismanagement and inefficiency. A major aspect of CRM is collaboration with other team members through workflow automation.
Zoho’s choice to remove workflow from their free tier is puzzling. Wouldn’t you want people to experience the full power of your software? That would be like replacing a Ferrari's engine with a five-cylinder engine and telling someone they’re test-driving a Ferrari.
Charging to access the software’s core powerhouse is a poor choice.
Agile is CRM software focused on small and midsize companies. They aren’t targeting large enterprises at the moment.
Agile is a newer CRM software company. Their founder, Manohar Chapalamadugu, was dissatisfied with current CRM software. Within six months, they decided none of the CRM offerings on the market were up to par with their expectations. Thus was born Agile CRM.
Their most innovative offering is gamification. This mimics the addictive parts of gaming to help employees by rewarding them, motivating them, and improving their efficiency overall. The idea is better labor equals better output and thus happier customers.
If you’re a small business or a solopreneur, you should go with the free version. It includes ten users and almost all the tools are available in the free version.
The Starter tier costs $9.99 per month if you pay annually. You receive 5,000 branded emails, a form builder, and a host of other cool features.
The Regular tier costs $39.99 per month if billed annually. On top of all the features from the first two tiers, you’ll receive full customer support, labels, group tools, and various new reporting tools.
Lastly, the Enterprise Tier costs $64.99/month if billed annually. This adds plugins and integrations, full email and phone support, integration with eCommerce stores, a chrome extension, and advanced email reports.
According to TrustRadius, Agile’s weakness is in customer service and support. It might make sense not to include full customer support in your free tier, but to remove it from your starter tier is a bad move.
Customers were also dissatisfied with their UI. They cited lack of customization as one of the weaknesses in Agile’s templates and campaign setup tools. If you’re looking for customization, go elsewhere.
Insightly is a decently intuitive software suite. You won’t have to spend hours on training. Its claim to fame is data flow between internal apps. While it’s not as feature-rich as some, it includes a fairly competent set of tools for small to medium-sized businesses.
The ability to integrate with Power Bl makes their reporting capabilities better than some CRM software suites. You can granularly control the sharing settings. And their expanded workflow features work in their mobile app.
There is a free option for Insightly. This option offers a limited set of tools and there is no integration with either MailChimp or Google contact.
If you want to take advantage of what Insightly has to offer, you’ll need to opt for the Plus tier. This tier is $29 per user per month. It offers all the major features with 2,500 emails per day, and 1000,000 records with 10GB of storage.
If you want more storage and more records and emails, you can upgrade to the Professional tier. This costs $49 per user per month and gives you 100GB of storage.
The Enterprise tier costs $99 per user per month and gives you 250 GB of storage. The last two options add customized success plans, API support for developers, and intensive customers support.
There is a free trial and it doesn’t require a credit card. If you forget to renew, however, you’ll lose all your data once the trial ends.
Cloud-based CRM will improve every aspect of your customer relations workflow. Why would you continue using digital spreadsheets, disparate apps, and Windows’ file-folder system?
If you’re looking for a complete tool chest that unifies your entire team, look no farther than Bitrix24. It’s a collaborative software suite that puts CRM, collaboration, and task management into one easy-to-use package.