Most of us start off using an Excel sheet to manage customer or supplier data. Which is fine, but limited – you’ll quickly find you need to migrate to something a bit more flexible and connected to manage multiple users or email campaigns from. So it’s probably worth biting the bullet and going for CRM (customer relationship management) or SRM (supplier relationship management) software pretty early on.
We’ll use the term CRM from here but most systems can be used for both customer and supplier contacts.
The biggest players here are SalesForce, SAP, Microsoft and Oracle – but these are complex and cost 000s to run. There’s also LinkedIn which is a place to connect to people, share ideas and communicate and is also increasingly becoming a player in the CRM market. However at the time of writing, LinkedIn is so limited in the way you can input/output data that it’s not really a substitute for your own CRM system.
So here we’ve chosen freemium options that are ideal to get small and medium sized businesses up and running for free – and once you’re growing, they offer prices that don’t go berserk.
Zoho’s CRM has a free edition that supports 3 users, 500 records and comes with 1Gb of storage – so it’s well worth looking into. Like other freemium CRMs, there’s then a gradual ramp up in price depending on number of users.
Capsule is popular with users and it’s free for two users and 250 contacts. Beyond that, it’s a small fee per user. Capsule has integrations with other software, including gmail and popular email marketing clients like Mail Chimp.
One of the best for small businesses. Their free version is good for 3 users and storing 2500 items (different from contacts as an email address or note are separate items in Insightly’s-world). Once you outgrow the free version, it’s only a few quid a month per user.
Bitrix has a nice user interface and offers a free account that supports a mighty 12 users and 5Gb of storage. If you outgrow that option – and lets face it, you’ll be turning over a decent profit by the time you hit 12+ users – their unlimited user option is less than £100 per month.
All the above options have pros and cons so we suggest you take out a free trial of each and spend half a day playing about with them – adding contacts, searching, emailing and viewing reports to decide which works for your business.