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CRM Systems’ Comparison / Business and Implementation Perspective

Matt Pliszka

Consultant at SoftwareSupp

Consultant with several years of experience in advisory, finance, and marketing for international businesses.

written by

Matt Pliszka

Consultant at SoftwareSupp

Learn more about Matt and hire for services on his SoftwareSupp Expert profile page.

Which CRM to choose? This is one of the most common questions we hear from the customers these days. With so many possibilities among both free and paid solutions, it becomes more and more challenging to choose the right option based on the needs, features, or required integrations.

In this material we are only going to look into actual high-quality, growing paid solutions as these are the ones that support long-term growth for your company (customization and tailoring to your specific organization’s needs, the competitiveness of features, and many more) and are the only ones we use when providing services to our customers. We’ll also take a more business-oriented perspective.

What to look at when choosing the CRM system?

When choosing the CRM system, there are a few key factors you need to consider and I’ll try to prioritize them in the right order:

1. Scalability and security

In my opinion, that’s one of the most important factors to consider when selecting your CRM solution. 

You want to make sure that as your team and business grow, you will be able to adjust your CRM to meet the increasing team’s needs and demands.

But what does scalability mean? It means that once your business grows, you need to reconfigure your system to meet the needs of new or growing teams. CRM needs to be responsive to these reconfiguration issues.

E.g. Your marketing team decides to launch Google Ads as a new marketing channel which has never been used before. They need to be able to quickly plug into the CRM system to analyze the campaigns’ data and/or generate remarketing/retargeting lists.

Of course, as CRM is the most important software in the organization, security plays a crucial role and all the data you store in your system must be safe.

2. User-adoption

In today’s dynamic environment, onboarding current and new team members to the software is crucial for your company’s success.

Make sure that when given a choice, you choose a more user-friendly solution, allowing your team members to quickly onboard and start using the system.

As a result, you will find spending much less time training your team members on using the software properly and solving tech queries and have more time to discuss business strategy and actual CRM data.

E.g. You onboard a new team member to the team, not understanding the company's processes. If they jump into a user-friendly CRM, they will see the straightforward sales process and will be able to start acting on this right away.

3. Open API/environment

If you’re investing in a CRM system, you need to make sure that you’re able to access it from every side as you grow.

Let’s say you want to automatically extract the information from your CRM to generate proper custom reports. You’d then need to be able to parse the records of your organizations/contacts.

E.g. If you need to set up an integration between your ERP and CRM system, make sure that you have an open API in your CRM system in place allowing you to write scripts between 2 software solutions.

4. Growth

Don’t choose a CRM that doesn’t grow in features and integrations every month.

With today’s market being so competitive, you need to make sure that your technology stays competitive and allows you to explore new areas for sales and conversion growth.

How to check if CRM is growing in features/integrations? Just check their release history or current features’ pipeline. Also, the amount of funding and growth in the number of integration/implementation partners can be a good indicator of CRM’s growth.

5. Maintenance costs/budget

Don’t take price as the most important factor in your CRM selection but calculate the upfront cost related to this kind of investment and if possible, minimize the time devoted to maintenance development.

You can also use professional, specialized support to make sure you succeed in your CRM implementation/refinement.

E.g. Some of today’s solutions provide many robust no-code functionalities allowing you to easily integrate and configure without significant dev spending.

What are the fastest growing CRM systems, how much do they cost, and what are their development plans?

CAGR - a compounded annual growth rate

1. Pipedrive / +75.50% CAGR customers’ growth

2012: 1,000 customers
2020: 90,000 customers

Source: Data reported by the vendor.

Standard license cost: $69/m per user.

Pipedrive is the fastest growing CRM (announced unicorn status today) and has quickly grown into one of the CRM market leaders, with the rapid growth of +75.50% CAGR and expansion of features, integrations, and user-friendly capabilities.

A huge advantage and benefit of Pipedrive is its straightforward approach towards CRM with a super user-friendly interface based on visual pipeline, custom fields, per-account activity planning, and workflow automation capabilities.

Pipedrive grows very fast when it comes to releasing new features and adjusting to changing customers’ needs, with some of the new features including:

  • Live chat/chatbot
  • Documents
  • Prospects’ database
  • Web visitors identification
  • Sales documents creation

Pipedrive can be easily customized and personalized to match the needs of the company and is industry-agnostic.

So you will be able to easily adjust it to the specific needs of your business or team by customizing custom fields, proper integrations, or workflow automation setup.

As a Pipedrive Partner and implementation company, we’ve seen many companies strive with this technology, growing their sales and conversion thanks to proper setup.

Pipedrive benefits:

  • Easy-to-use, configure, and secure data
  • Growing in features and integrations
  • More and more robust open API

Pipedrive drawbacks:

  • No proper communication integrations (e.g. LinkedIn)
  • The offering module is still early stage
  • No marketing automation (to be added with Mailigen integration into the product)

-> Read our Pipedrive CRM review

2. Freshsales / +63.30% CAGR customers’ growth

2018: 15,000 customers
2020: 40,000 customers

Source: Data reported by the vendor.

Standard license cost: $69/m per user.

Freshsales is part of the Freshworks suite of products, so its great advantage is that it’s a part of a growing and expanding ecosystem, which comprises solutions like helpdesk (Freshdesk), live chat (Freshchat), or calls center (Freshcaller).

Another great advantage is a built-in marketing automation module, allowing you to easily draft customer journeys, based on clicks, opens, website visits, and many more.

It will also integrate with your WhatsApp and Apple Business Chat, providing you with robust features when it comes to communicating with prospects and customers.

It’s not the easiest CRM to use, though. Every page of the system takes some time to load which I would say sometimes makes it more tailored to larger businesses and not dynamically growing startups.

Freshsales benefits:

  • Marketing automation and communication module
  • A part of a suite of applications
  • The built-in lead scoring system

Freshsales drawbacks:

  • Slow to use/respond
  • Not the most user-friendly solution 
  • Pricey add-ons

3. HubSpot / +44.65% CAGR customers’ growth

2015: 15,000 customers
2020: 95,000 customers

Source: Data reported by the vendor.

Standard license cost: $108/m per user.

HubSpot is more than a CRM solution as it’s a marketing suite that allows you to run full content marketing, funnel, and customer journey planning. 

Hence, HubSpot is a perfect tool if you operate an online or semi-online business based on content marketing and want to analyze visitors’, customers’ sources, extract the data about their conversion, and make sure you know the actual cost of every lead you acquire through a content marketing channel.

Like other tools, HubSpot will allow you to personalize customer journeys, customize the records to match your desired data structure, and communicate with prospects on the CRM level but once you use its marketing module, you will also be able to draft landing pages and integrate them with your CRM system.

It’s quite expensive for a CRM solution, though, so if you’re not into an in-depth marketing analysis, another CRM tool will likely be a better choice.

HubSpot benefits:

  • Marketing funnel analysis
  • All-in-one solution (marketing, sales, service) with automation functions
  • Data enrichment capabilities (e.g. data on size/revenue)

HubSpot drawbacks:

  • Quite expensive
  • Being all-in-one might not be the most user-friendly approach for everybody

4. Zoho / +24.57% CAGR customers’ growth

2015: 50,000 customers
2020: 150,000 customers

Source: Data reported by the vendor.

Standard license cost: $35/m per user.

Zoho is another all-in-one CRM growing in popularity focusing on products and offers. That means it acts as a good solution for those selling repeatable products (like retail stores or e-commerce) and sending structured offers to potential customers.

Zoho CRM will allow you to create order forms for customers and has vast options when it comes to creating a custom data structure (there is no limitation like division into organizations, products, contacts), invoicing, and reporting customization. 

Zoho will also allow you any custom API integration with an own Deluge coding framework. 

Zoho benefits:

  • Flexible for retail businesses
  • Good reporting
  • High level of personalization in terms of data structure

Zoho disadvantages:

  • Not the most user-friendly solution
  • Integration environment focused on Zoho applications

5. SalesForce / 4.61% CAGR customers’ growth

2011: 100,000
2020: 150,000

Source: Data reported by the vendor.

SalesForce is the largest and one of the oldest CRM solutions on the market, so it’s not growing as fast as other CRMs do (at least customer-wise) but contrary to other CRM systems, it will offer you every functionality you can think about.

These include marketing automation, sales automation, prospecting, cold emailing campaigns, resources management, invoicing, account management, and many more, including additional apps or APEX-based modifications.

And while its features will be great in terms of functionality and robustness, you will need to handle them through separate modules (e.g. Sales Cloud for Sales & Pardot for Marketing) which will require some significant integration work (still, despite being interconnected these act as 2 separate modules).

Implementing SalesForce will be challenging and expensive (significant development cost, upfront payment for the software), so you will need to be sizable to handle one and maintain it. 

On the other hand, joining the “SalesForce club” can be beneficial for building your business relations with other SalesForce users.

SalesForce benefits:

  • Fully adjustable to your organization
  • Robust account management
  • Lead scoring/qualification systems 
  • (implementing Miller-Heinman or Bant will not be a problem)

SalesForce disadvantages:

  • Most changes/modifications will require professional development support
  • Onboarding new team members to SalesForce will require more extensive training if they haven’t used the software previously
  • Wouldn’t call SalesForce a user-friendly solution

As you can see, new CRM solutions are building a stronger presence due to their user-friendliness and increasing number of features/integrations which makes them a considerable choice when compared to SalesForce and other large CRM solutions on the market. 

Pipedrive is my personal favorite but what is are your views on the future of CRM?

-> 10 Steps to Successful CRM Implementation & Integration

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written by

Matt Pliszka

Consultant at SoftwareSupp

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