Testing, reviewing, and comparing 9 web-based CRM (Customer Relationship Management) applications for small business

manage that customer relationship effectively, with a web-based CRMDo you need a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) app?  Probably. If you’re in any type of business where you interact with clients on a regular basis, then definitely. Arguably, if you have a very limited number of clients at any one time (one, for example), you might be able to get by with using email and a calendar, but even then you’d be limiting yourself.

What I was looking for in a CRM

What I was looking for specifically in a CRM was a better way to keep tabs on (manage) my sales pipeline – from the first contact I make with a prospective client to the other end of the pipeline when our contract is fulfilled and both of us are satisfied with the results. Granted, the relationship doesn’t end there, so a CRM should help you do just that – manage your on-going relationship with your client.

With that in mind, I came up with the following criteria:

1. It needs to be in the cloud. I’m not going to try to make the case in this article for why that’s important – if you’re reading this then you probably already understand why online apps are a good thing.

2. Seamless (or nearly so) integration with Google Apps, and if possible, Freshbooks.

3. Intuitive, usable, simple, and fast. I’m not opposed to challenges as a rule, but keeping something like this simple is going to greatly increase the chance that I’ll actually use it on a daily basis, which is one of my goals to begin with.

4. Low cost (or free) is always a good thing, but I also understand that you need to spend money to make money, and the folks who design and provide these apps need to make a living too.

5. Scalable for future growth. Currently Black Hills Web Works is a one-man shop, but that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be – time will tell.

6. Contacts-centric. There are different ways to organize a CRM and how it works, but I tend to think in terms of the people I know and interact with, and want the features to branch out from that. If that makes sense.

7. A way to track, see, and manage my sales pipeline, leads, opportunities, etc. Interactive graphs and charts would be a bonus.

8. Social media integration of some sort wouldn’t hurt. Twitter, at least.

9. Task manager with a reminder system of some sort. An integrated calendar would be nice, but not mandatory if I’m able to pull the tasks into Google Calendar with an iCal feed.

10. Finally, I want it to look good, at least to my eyes. If I’m going to be looking at this app on a daily basis and (probably) paying for it, then looks do matter. I also realize that this is personal and subjective – what looks good to me might not look as good to someone else.

Project Management as a bonus

Some of these CRMs also handle, to varying degrees, Project Management (PM). That could be a nice bonus, and in some ways it might make sense if your particular reason for having clients has everything to do with “building” projects for them. If one app can do both, then why not take advantage of that feature?  Here at Black Hills Web Works we’re currently exploring a Joomla component called “Projectfork,” which allows us to keep all that project data on our own server, and helps to keep our costs down for that feature. Because of this, integrated PM isn’t a critical criteria for our purposes.

What about my data?

A question you should ask is what happens to your data, and not just your contact list, should you decide to close your account or switch to another CRM. Given enough time this could be a significant amount of information, and this issue is worth thinking about and taking the time to preview these CRMs to make sure you find the one that’s right for you from the beginning. Capsule, for example, provides a way for you to export your data (contacts, opportunities, and cases) in a CSV file using their “one click export” feature. I didn’t test this feature, and I don’t know how easy it would be to import your data into a different CRM, but at least you would have your data.

How I tested them

Nothing complicated here, I imported my contact list or integrated with Google Apps (if that feature was available), and started adding tasks, deals (leads, opportunities), notes, and other relevant information. Some I used more than others, and that happened naturally as I gravitated more towards one or two of these apps.

Some of these apps have free plans, and the ones that don’t have free plans do have free trials lasting from two weeks to thirty days, giving you enough time to try them out and see if they fit.

The Contenders

The apps I took a serious look at are Apollo, Bantam Live, Capsule, Glasscubes, Highrise, Insightly, Nutshell, Solve360, and Zoho CRM, and most of these integrate one way or another with Google Apps. As of this writing, Capsule, Highrise, and Solve360 also integrate at some level with Freshbooks.

CRM features at a glance

CRM features

So here we go…

Apollo

Apollo CRM screenshot

In their own words: “Apollo is project and contact management done right. Using Apollo, you will realise that it’s built to help you get things done, quickly and efficiently. With Apollo, you will always know where your projects, your contacts and your life are at and you will feel on top of everything — regardless of how hectic your schedule is.”

www.apollohq.com

The good: Clean look, lots of features, integrated calendars, integrated timers, so new it still has that “new car smell!”

The bad: No integration with Google Apps (yet?), no iCal feed, no email dropbox.

Mobile app? Edit: (via email from Apollo) No – though they do have a mobile specific web interface. Still in beta, but I’ve tried it and it worked well on my Android phone.

The price: Free (for now), with premium plans in the future. (see for yourself)

My conclusion: Apollo was a late entry in this review (via Twitter), and for that reason I was going to give them a brief mention at the end of the article. But then I started really looking at their features, and decided I’d better give it a try. They’re still in beta as of this writing, and new features are rolling out quickly, but what they’ve accomplished so far is really impressive.

Bantam Live

Bantam Live screenshot

In their own words: “Bantam Live provides a collaboration workspace with social CRM features for business teams to collaborate internally and build relationships across the web. Fusing social media with productivity applications for business teams, it’s an “all in one place” tool to help small businesses grow.”

www.bantamlive.com

The good: Social media features, clean layout, integrated Twitter client (think built-in HootSuite), nice sales pipeline anayltics, team collaboration.

The bad: The social approach may not be for everyone.

Mobile app? iPhone, Blackberry.

The price: Free (limited), Personal ($19/month/1 user), Basic ($29/month/6 users), Pro ($49/month/12 users), Pro Plus ($85/month/25 users), Deluxe ($140/month/unlimited users). (see for yourself)

My conclusion: Bantam Live takes a different approach than the other CRMs in this review, and they rely heavily on the social media stream. In today’s world there is validity to this idea, and this probably won’t be the last CRM to incorporate this idea. For my purposes, my clients tend to not be users of social media (at least in a business sense) when they start thinking about a website, so the built-in social stream wasn’t a big draw, but it might be for you, and it might be for all of us in the future.

Edit: Tweet from @BantamLive – “Thx 4 coverage. Do know that our stream is mainly for team interaction and collaboration, not just outside social content.”

Edit: Bantam Live has been acquired by Constant Contact – read about it in this press release.

Capsule

Capsule screenshot

In their own words: “Capsule is a simple, flexible CRM for small businesses and sales teams. Capsule makes it easy to keep track of your customers and other contacts, your sales opportunities and follow-ups.”

www.capsulecrm.com

The good: Web interface has excellent response time, clean layout, nice visuals for the sales pipeline, newly incorporated Gmail contextual gadget, tags.

The bad: Terminology takes getting used to (minor detail), calendar only starts on Monday (no Sunday option).

Mobile app? No. Edit: See the comment below from Greg about an iPhone app for Capsule that he released on February 8, 2011.

The price: Free for 2 users/250 contacts, Professional ($12/month/user). (see for yourself)

My conclusion: For the price, Capsule is a good deal and a well-thought-out product. Some reviewers have mentioned that since it’s based outside of the U.S. it’s by default less trustworthy or something like that, especially for business purposes. Personally, I don’t hold to that way of thinking and wouldn’t let that stop me if this was the CRM that “clicked” with me and the way I work.

Glasscubes

Glasscubes screenshot

In their own words: “Glasscubes focuses on simplicity, clarity, and ease of use making it truly unique. You’ll love using Glasscubes. Organize your day to day work – manage projects, information, people & files securely.”

www.glasscubes.com

The good: They’ve been making steady improvements to the app, file sharing, clean UI, integrated calendars.

The bad: Number of workspaces seems limited, and I couldn’t verify what happens to the data in a workspace when you’re done with that workspace.

Mobile app? No – though they do have a mobile specific web interface.

The price: Free (Basic) for 2 workspaces, Standard ($49/month/6 workspaces), Professional ($125/month/20 workspaces), Max ($199/month/unlimited workspaces). (see for yourself)

My conclusion: To be fair, Glasscubes is, as I understand it, more of a Project Management and Collaboration tool than it is a CRM, but it does do CRM and that’s why I included it here. The people behind this app are accessible and communication seems to be important to them – I even had a voicemail from Nick (in London, I’m assuming) during my first trial run to see how it was going.

Highrise

Highrise screenshot

In their own words: “Highrise is the famous application from 37signals to track your Leads, Contacts, & Deals. With this Gmail gadget, you can do this directly from your emails.”

www.highrisehq.com

The good: Intuitive (for me, at least), nice layout, has what I need but not loaded with extras I won’t use.

The bad: Limited Google Apps integration (via a Gmail gadget).

Mobile app? iPhone. Edit: Contacts, tasks, and cases can be synced to Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, Palm webOS, Win Phone 7, Win Mobile, Nokian Symbian using an app called “CompanionLink Express” (via the 37signals blog on February 22, 2011).

The price: Free for 2 users, Solo ($29/month/1 user), Basic ($24/month/6 users), Plus ($49/month/15 users), Premium ($99/month/40 users). (see for yourself)

My conclusion: There is a LOT of anti-37signals attitude on the web, but that seems to be standard fare towards industry leaders. Frankly, I was very satisfied with how well Highrise works. The more I worked with it, the more I realized that “Yeah, that’s how I would have done it,” which made it all-the-more intuitive for the way I think and work.

As of this writing, there is no synchronization between Highrise and your contacts in Google Apps, which at first turned me off, but there are enough users making noise about this on the forum that I suspect it will be available in the (near) future. Hopefully. Until then, importing contacts wasn’t difficult, and I’m not adding THAT many new contacts on a regular basis that I can’t handle doing it manually.

Project Management is handled separately through one of their other apps, Basecamp, but since I’m still giving Projectfork a serious look this didn’t bother me.

Insightly

Insightly screenshot

In their own words: “Insightly is the most popular Google Apps CRM and Project Management package. Track leads, proposals, opportunities, projects and manage files, all through an easy to use interface.”

www.insight.ly

The good: Email integration with full email conversation history, tasks, projects, file sharing.

The bad: Kind of plain looking? (I had to say something!)

Mobile app? No.

The price: Free (up to 4 users), Starter ($29/month/6 users), Plus ($49/month/15 users), Deluxe ($99/month/40 users), Max ($149/month/99 users). (see for yourself)

My conclusion: Insightly is unique in this group of apps because it is so tightly integrated with Google Apps that, in their words, it was “made for Google Apps.”  There isn’t a stand-alone version – to sign up for Insightly you must do it from within Google Apps. It will be interesting to see what features are added, if any, when the premium plan is fully launched. There’s probably a pretty good reason (or lots of them) that Insightly is the most popular Google Apps CRM.

Nutshell

Nutshell CRM screenshot

In their own words: “Nutshell takes full advantage of modern technologies to make your job incredibly efficient. Geeky words like HTML5 and AJAX mean that Nutshell provides a refined, interactive experience that we’ve meticulously designed around the needs of sales teams like yours. It’s the future of CRM.”

www.nutshell.com

The good: Impressive good looks, excellent UI, native mobile app (iphone only at this time, but Android is planned), notifications, Google Calendar synchronization, competitor tracking.

The bad: No Google Apps integration (other than Calendar), contact list is buried somewhere, can’t import contacts. Edit: I had a phone call from a Nutshell sales rep today and she said that (for now) they could manually import contacts for their customers.

Mobile app? iPhone.

The price: $25 per active user per month. (see for yourself)

My conclusion: Nutshell is so new they’re not showing up in the search results yet, though I’m pretty confident that’s going to change. (I noticed them in a Google Adwords ad.)  They wanted to build a good looking, modern app, and I for one think they pulled it off. Not only does it look good, it’s loaded with features, though there are still some rough edges that probably won’t last too long once people really start using this one.

One small gripe is that Nutshell seems to be targeting businesses that are more product-oriented rather than service-oriented, which seems to limit its potential for me anyway.

Solve360

Solve360 screenshot

In their own words: “Solve360 is a modern CRM that integrates features to manage client projects. It’s ideal for small teams in service based companies that need a flexible solution.”

www.norada.com

The good: Two-way sync with Google Apps contacts, integrated email, project blogs.

The bad: Two-way sync (for me), the price (perhaps not prohibitive, but a little more than I was looking to spend).

Mobile app? No – though they do have a mobile specific web interface.

The price: Basic ($39/month/3 users), Plus ($69/month/6 users), Pro ($149/month/18 users). (see for yourself)

My conclusion: Solve360 is pretty impressive, but a little too invasive (?) of Google Apps for my taste. Some people value and want the level of synchronization you can get with this app, but personally I prefer a little more compartmentalization. You can manage your email from within the app, which helps to link emails with contacts. However, doing so makes your Gmail act like Outlook, and I really don’t want to go back to Outlook. I made the switch to Gmail several years ago, and I’m very happy with it.

Solve360 has a good thing going here and they do it well, but in the end I was looking for something a little different.

Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM screenshot

In their own words: “Zoho CRM offers businesses a complete customer relationship life-cycle management solution for managing organization-wide Sales, Marketing, Customer Support & Service and Inventory Management.”

www.zoho.com/crm

The good: Free(!), capable of doing a lot, remote meetings and desktop support, lots of Zoho and other add-ons and plug-ins.

The bad: Might be more than a small shop needs, admin options can be overwhelming, data backup (export) costs $10 each time.

Mobile app? No.

The price: Free for 3 users, Professional ($12/user/month), Enterprise ($25/user/month). Extras and add-ons for all three editions. (see for yourself)

My conclusion: Zoho CRM is impressive, it has a lot going for it, and the free account is very attractive to a start-up or very small business,  but at the end of the day, it just didn’t feel like what I was looking for. I know that’s really subjective, but that’s where I’m at.

Final thoughts

A review like this one could conceivably go on for a long time, so I had to draw the line somewhere, write the blog post, and get on with my work. All the apps in this test are worth looking at,  they all have significant feature sets, and depending on your needs you should be able to find at least one that will do the job – some more completely than others, of course. Some are more “mature” (age-wise) than others, and the regular release of new and creative features for the “younger” apps is exciting to watch.

So where did I land?  Believe me, it was a tough decision. For my Black Hills Web Works CRM I’m leaning towards Highrise. What can I say?  It just felt right, had most of the features I was looking for, and I’ll quietly hold my breath for Google Apps integration. I also run a small construction company, and for that I haven’t decided which one to go with yet. My wife is a modern-day abolitionist who has a website and blog that she writes on regularly, and if she’s up for it I’m going to set her up with one of these CRMs and get her impression as well.

Granted, this review could have been more in-depth, and if time permits I may write more extensive reviews of several of these CRMs in the future.

How about you?  Have you found a CRM that works well for you and your business or organization?

(To my knowledge, the information in this article was accurate at the time this was written. Some of these apps are changing on a regular basis, so new features may have been added since this was written.)

Updates

This is a list of additional CRMs that have been mentioned in the comments below. I have not reviewed them – I’m simply listing them here as a courtesy to the commenters who asked to be added to the post. :)

Water for CapsuleCRM –  iOS mobile app for CapsuleCRM
OnePage CRM
WORKetc – a CRM, and much more than a CRM
BlueCamroo
KPI.com – formerly WorkForceTrack
Catalyst
Timetonote
KarmaCRM
SohoOS
dashboard
icomplete
iFreeTools CRM
HeapCRM
Apptivo
Yoxel Portal – Highrise – Google Apps – MS Exchange integration
Base CRM – looks impressive, and their free plan allows for up to 150 deals (wow!)

Comments

  1. says

    These are great, you should compare them with WORKetc – which can do a heck of a lot more than a basic CRM, PM, or Billing app, because it’s a combination of all of them.

    It’s comparable to any CRM, while still consolidating other aspects of business management. Lead management, contact organization, sales pipelines, collaboration, calendars, quoting, product catalogs, invoicing, well that’s just the CRM aspect of WORKetc.

    • says

      Marcus,

      Thanks for your feedback. I just looked at and read through the WORKetc website (http://www.worketc.com) – are you using it on a regular basis?

      I’m really liking Freshbooks, and the CRMs in this article are all top-notch, but WORKetc sounds intriguing…might have to give it a try.

  2. Anonymous says

    Thanks for checking us out, John! Nutshell is brand new to the market (we launched in November at the Future of Web Design conference in NYC) and we are eager to compete with other CRMs. We’re actively building a lot of the features that you’ve discussed, and hiring additional developers to make that happen.

    I just wanted to offer a few corrections to your feature grid:

    We do support data export in two ways: we have full SOAP and JSON APIs to retrieve data and you can export custom reports as Excel-compatible CSV files.

    We also have an email dropbox — messages sent to bcc {at} nutshell {dot} com are attached to the appropriate leads and contacts. We even automatically detect forwards to this address and interpret them appropriately.

    We have basic file management on leads — you can upload PDFs, Word documents, or any other files to leads in Nutshell, which are shared by other users working that lead.

    We are significantly expanding our account & contact interfaces, one shortcoming you mentioned, and as part of that, we may consider syncing contacts with Google Apps. Like you mentioned, we do synchronize activities with Google Calendar.

    Thanks for letting me take the space to clarify a few things — your review helps us to see where Nutshell needs improvement, and where we need to do a better job of showing off.

    Andy Fowler
    Lead Developer, http://www.nutshell.com/

    • says

      Andy,

      Thanks for the feedback. I’ve made the corrections that you mentioned to the features grid. Don’t know how I missed those – I searched on the Nutshell website and in the admin of my trial account but didn’t see them. Good to know they are there though.

      John

  3. says

    Hey Michael, I just signed up for a 30-day trial. I probably won’t add to the original post, but here are my initial thoughts.

    First impressions: clean and fast UI, the (almost) “one page” concept is intriguing, pricing is manageable for a small shop, the “next action” approach is something worth considering, summary and full details for each contact is a nice touch, I really like the Sales page layout and data, and the Sales/Lead summary in the footer is helpful.

    Features at a glance (for anyone else reading this): contacts import and export, email alerts, sales pipeline, tasks, tags.

    Pricing is free (very limited), and Pro ($14/month – though free while in beta). Michael, how long will you still be in beta?

    I think for me adding an iCal feed and email dropbox would round it out nicely. And perhaps the option to change some colors, but that wouldn’t be mandatory.

    Let me know if I missed a feature. Thanks for commenting!

    John

    • says

      Hey John,
      Sorry for the really late reply – you got the feature list pretty much spot on. We’re coming out of beta in the coming ‘days’ … so exciting times.
      Hoping to integrate with GApps in future, also push to calendars… and lots more.
      Look forward to you testing in future when we have built more around our core concept.
      Mic.

  4. says

    Great review – there’s couple in your review I had not seen before. I just did a price comparison of Highrise, Basecamp, Insightly, Batchbook, Zoho Projects and Dooster. I know you are more focused on CRM solutions rather than project management but I find Insightly interesting because it combines both functions rather well. My main issues are with its pricing model. My price comparison is here, http://www.mdesaulles.net/blog/2011/2/18/project-management-crm-tools-price-comparison.html

    • says

      Thanks Martin,

      I just checked out your pricing comparison table and that should prove helpful to anyone weighing their options. Like you said in your article, it will be interesting to see what the CRM and PM fields look like in another year or so when some of the dust settles.

      John

  5. Patrick Honorez says

    Thansk for this very good post. I took the time to see what some of your suggestions had to offer. However, I think you missed one of the most attractive ones, which will probably become my choice, and which seems to be a market leader for SMBs: Batchbook. (I am in no way related to them nor interested in promoting them).

    • says

      Thanks for your comment Patrick.  Batchbook could be worth looking into – I just had to draw the line somewhere!  If you think of it stop back and let us know how Batchbook works out for you in the future.

  6. says

    Nice recap indeed. I’m trying to find the perfect solution, only to find that it does not exist. One app worth noting is bluecamroo (http://www.bluecamroo.com/) but the interface is not perfect, although it has lots of interesting features, but no GoogleApps gadget. 

    WORKetc is really nice and their Google App gadget is really full flavored, plus they have multilanguage. I wish the interface was better. 

    As for Solve360 I still dont understand how to use it ! 

    I should also mention WorkForceTrack  http://www.workforcetrack.com/ which does a pretty good job, although – again – the interface is a bit cumbersome (or outdated ?)

    I did not try http://www.projectartcrm.com/  yet, although it looks interesting

    For less advanced features, Timetonote is really interesting : http://www.timetonote.com/  with no learning curve

    KarmaCRM http://www.karmacrm.com/  is a very simple CRM with a nice interface. I want more features so I wont even try it but some people might be interested.

    I also want to try SohoOS http://www.sohoos.com but the email part is strange, they want you to use your email app from within the system… Come on guys, can you do better than Gmail ?

    I tried http://getdashboard.com/  some time ago but for some reason was not impressed…

    And finally I like http://www.onepagecrm.com  the interface is great, it’s a clean small CRM but again I need more…. 

    • says

      Thanks for the additional CRMs to check out – I hadn’t heard of some of those before.  I think you’re right that the perfect solution doesn’t exist, though some or most of these app builders are trying which is good for the rest of us!  In the end, I determined to go for the one that was closest to my perceived needs and learn to use it as it is, knowing that new features will be added in the future.

      So have you decided on one in particular yet?  Or are you still looking?

      I tried WorkETC for a month after writing this post, and it looks promising, but I don’t think they’ve quite arrived yet.  Good communication from their team though, and they even offered an extension of my free trial if I still needed time to think about it. 

      Solve360 is definitely taking a different approach.  I think that if you can adapt to their methods, it could work well.

      • Anonymous says

        John, 
        We’ve finally chosen Insight.ly because of the ease of use. It has really no learning curve. The way things are handled is quite different from what we were looking for, but we can’t afford to spend days learning a new piece of software. With insight.ly it’s a matter of 5 minutes, which is good for interns, people outside the company and non-techies. The very good integration with Google Apps, as you mentioned in your post, was also an important point. 

        As for WorkETC, it’s features packed but the interface looks like it was built 5 years ago. We are in the iPad “gesture” interface times now…User Interface  really is an important thing. 

    • Cathy Cross says

      I would NOT go for Highrise if I were you. I have been a user of HR for over 3 years. I have recently had the need to restore a backup of my data WITHIN Highrise, and even though both the website and the company sales and advertise that as FULLY POSSIBLE, I found out that it is NOT THE CASE. After 3 days of much discussion with HR tech team, I have been suggested to MANUALLY TYPE IN tens of thousands of notes and three years worth of my time. Run while you can Highrise is a scam.

    • Ron Armstrong says

      I would love to know more about why KarmaCRM did not work for you. I am narrowing down my choices as a small real estate team and recognize I may need a few systems that integrate well. Of course I have been saying that for 9 years. KarmaCRM is now 2.0 and has amazing support and I am only on the 30 day trial thus far. Will seriously investigate Nimble and Insightly and revisit Solve360 (I need pleasing to the eye as well and they were not last I looked though have since added an app so that is fixed).
      This has been one of the better review pages I have found and I have read many.

      • says

        Hey Ron,

        Thanks for stopping by and adding your voice and experiences to this conversation. It sounds like the original commenter you were replying to didn’t actually try KarmaCRM, if I’m reading their comment correctly. They also commented two and a half years ago, so I think you’re right that Karma has changed significantly since then.

        Karma’s feature tour doesn’t say much of anything about a sales pipeline, though their pricing mentions a limit on deals for each price plan. As a current user what’s your opinion of how it handles that task, if it does at all?

        John

  7. Jean Dimans says


    Workforcetrack.com
     is all-in-one software
    specially designed for small and mid-sized organizations. We chose this
    software because it is related to my business (eCommerce) and has all the functions we need such us Project Management,
    CRM, Accounting, etc. Nevertheless, there is an affordable price and with discounts and the supporting team is much better than I had with previous one.

      • says

        Hi John

        Great analysis on the CRM front.  I hope you don’t mind me making you aware of our CRM software.  It is unique in that it has optional telecoms (VoIP) built in which I think you would find very interesting as it captures and stores all forms of communication – works similar to googlevoice functionality. The software is called icomplete CRM – http://www.icomplete.com

        • says

          Thanks Claire, and thanks for sharing about icomplete CRM. I wasn’t able to try them all, but as this post is still getting a lot of traffic you’re likely to get some exposure by telling us about it in your comment.  So are you saying that it captures the actual voice conversations? Interesting…

          • says

             Hi John, yes our CRM software captures call recordings, call logs, caller ID, voicemail in email, email, emarketing (ours is built in), fax, sms messages as well as usual history notes, meetings, task activity. It captures it all centrally under a contacts history making it really powerful to keep track of who said what to whom and when.

            If you ever decide to look at CRM and Unified Communications let me know. Thank you for the opportunity to talk about our software.

      • Anonymous says

        Great review. what CRM would you recommend if I only need it for purposes of grouping contacts, monthly email campaigns to certain groups, syncing with gmail contacts and call follow up reminders per contact. The simpler and lower the price the better.

        • says

          Thanks DJ. Not sure what to recommend for that combination, though maybe some of the other commenters will weigh in.

          Perhaps Solve360 for the serious Gmail integration and monthly campaigns, or maybe Constant Contact who acquired Bantam Live after this review was written and I’m assuming integrated their features into CC.

          I’m still using Highrise and liking it a lot, but I’m not doing any email campaigns, and it doesn’t sync with Gmail or Google Apps yet, and I don’t know if it ever will.

        • Harry says

          For this I’d probably go with a combination of Highrise (simple CRM) & Mailchimp (the best for email marketing).

          What did you end up with?

        • says

          The best I have found for this requirement is relenta at relenta.net. You can group contacts and simply mass email that group. It also receives email directly into the software and sorts it by contact.

          best of luck

          biz

  8. Anonymous says

    After trying out Insightly and ZohoCRM, we wound up going with Solve360. It’s integration with Google Apps is pretty good and continuing to improve, but what really sealed the deal was that Solve360’s approach allowed it to fit in with the way we already work, rather than forcing us to work the way the other CRMs expected us to (or even required).

    The one thing I wish they would improve upon is real-time communication. Sure it’s easy enough to get updates by manually refreshing things in the app, but it’s almost expected at this point that things like that are auto-updated.

    • says

      Rich, I think you nailed it when you said that “Solve360’s approach allowed it to fit in with the way we already work…”  That’s going to be different for different people and organizations, and if you can find one that already fits how you work, you’re going to be that much further ahead. 

      On the other hand, it may be possible that we could improve on our processes by adapting to a CRM (or other app) that works differently than we do now.

      With plenty of choices on the market, either way is possible and there’s probably something out there for all of us.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  9. Enrique Valladares Solis says

    Hi John, very nice work.
    We used to work with iFree Tools (http://crm.ifreetools.com/) mainly because of their Google Apps Integration.
    Unfortunately the interface and lack of features are moving us away.
    We have conducted an evaluation between Zoho, Capsule, Nutshell, Highrise and Insightly.
    We decided to go Nutshell, the UI is fantastic and we already have a PM Tool (Manymoon) so we wanted to stay away from a CRM with PM features.

    • says

      Hi Enrique,

      Thanks for your comment.  I agree, Nutshell does have a great looking UI.  If you think of it, I’d like to hear more about your experience using Nutshell after you’ve used it for a while.

      John

  10. says

    Hi John

    Yes we capture call recordings, voicemail in email, sms messages, call logs and caller ID as well as usual email, efax, notes, eMarketing campaigns (as we have built our own eMarketing into it too) etc.  It enables all forms of communications to be captured and stored within a contact in real-time.  Also this information is reflected out onto the dashboard so the rest of the team can see what is happening it will also show calls in progress so you can see who is on the phone.  If you want to watch a quick video to show the telecoms and CRM integration here is a link:

    http://k2p.net/i/quick_tour_crm_optional_telcecoms_mpg4.mp

  11. says

    I tried Highrise, too. I found it easy to use, yet, I din’t know how to follow up tasks and people correctly. Also, the interface does not allow to show but the latest contacts/re-edited contacts and so I was kind of forgetting some contacts. probably it’s me not being able to use highrise correctly. But I discovered Apollo, and things started to be more intuitive, too. One major flaw (I know it’s intentional, ok) of highrise is that you cannot export your data into an excel or similar format, so when you cancel the account, all data is lost. I am surprised Apollo allows importing data from highrise. How do they do that? All in all, I would give Apollo the head, today. They seem to have an app for mobiles, too.

  12. Anonymous says

    Hi, this is a really good post and following up, however I’d like to add one more great CRM :

    http://heap.wbpsystems.com/

    It is super fast, google apps gmail and docs linked and clean layout, it have good calendar function, contact category function, group email sending function…..etc…

    Actually I am stuck now in between ‘heapcrm’ and ‘insightly’, …

    give it a try , you won’t be disappointed.

    Regards
    Sean

  13. Taiwo Ayedun says

    Thanks for your reviews John. I came across your blog after having started a few trials myself. However, I came across a handful of CRM software on your blog that I wasn’t previously aware of and I am checking them out now. BTW I have one other person helping with our reviews and I find that this helps to reinforce the functionality and ease-of-use that are important to us.

    I like Highrise’s deceptively simple and clean interface/layout the most but it lacks some features that we need. Worketc is feature-rich but its usability paled in comparison to Highrise’s and to some of the other packages. Several of these new breed of web software possess highly interactive and context-sensitive UIs that make possible short work of achieving almost any task.

    Although my mind is still open to discovering other more suitable hosted CRM software, we’re currently narrowing our choices down to either Solve360 or Nutshell. Therefore, I’ll focus my remaining comments on their features that are important to us.

    1. Because we can have more than one sales person working with an account (client), or have a need for a sales manager to monitor activities on an account, Solve360’s contact-centric view works better for us compared to Nutshell’s Lead-centric view. Every activity (interaction) with a contact is evident in Solve360’s view of the contact. Also, the contact list in Solve360 is always visible once in the Contacts window and thus provides a quick way to select and view a contact without always having to search for the contact. And I like the way the contacts are tabbed in Solve360, thereby enabling one to move easily between windows of already open contacts. Since the list of activities with a contact can get large over time it would be important to be able to filter activities by date, sales person, activity type, and keywords; unfortunately I can’t find this functionality in the current version of Solve360.

    2. While Nutshell has a more elaborate feature for defining and applying sales processes, I find that Solve360’s activity template feature works quite well for us to achieve similar objectives; with Solve360 I can save the set of current activities for a contact as a named Activity Template and later apply the saved Template’s activities to any other contact. The beauty of the way this is implemented is that you’re not required to go looking for this feature as it is right there at your fingertip while viewing activities for a contact. On the other hand, the similar feature in Nutshell is so comprehensive and elaborate that I decided mentally to set aside time later to approach learning how to use it.

    3. Nutshell’s contact import facility is better than Solve360’s in that if your contacts contain company names Nutshell creates the companies as separate accounts, whereas Solve360 doesn’t create contacts from the company information. However, once manually defined, Solve360 is quite good at displaying these relationships in practically all the relevant places within Solve360, including providing the ability to view related activities of contacts associated with a company, and vice versa. BTW, I later read that Solve360 lets you import companies and contacts and would automatically create the relationship but when I tried the feature three times (after deleting all previously imported contacts) Solve360 froze each time while uploading my 13KB CSV file!

    4. Hands down, Nutshell’s built-in reporting feature blows away the feeble attempt made by Solve360. Solve360 has a video showing how to build reports using Google Apps to import data from Solve360. The use of external reporting software ought to be for other non-standard reports. Solve360’s feeble reporting won’t work for us and it won’t work for a lot of other businesses who have no plans to master the use of Google Apps to create reports. Nutshell’s reporting functionality is superb although I couldn’t figure out how to export the generated reports. If Solve360 can copy the rich functionality of Nutshell’s reporting feature it’d be hard to beat!

    More of a minor ease-of-use advantage, Solve360 has a feature to re-arrange activities through drag and drop on the Contacts and Project Blogs views.

    Right now we are leaning toward Solve360 with a critical look at Nutshell. The deal breaker with Solve360 for us is that it lacks the great reporting of Nutshell. On the other hand Solve360 is more intuitive, more ergonomic and gets us up and running much more quickly than Nutshell but, ultimately, our sales team and management need those reports regularly and we can’t be exporting data to Google Apps to build the rich reports that Nutshell provides out-of-the-box!

    TaiwoA

    • says

      Taiwo,

      Thanks for taking the time to add your thoughts to this review. You’ve gone deeper into Solve360 and Nutshell than I did, and I suspect others will find your contribution to be valuable to their decision process.

      Sounds like you’re in a tough bind between the two choices. I think sometimes the best we can do is find the product that most closely meets our needs, then conform the rest of the way to how the app works.

      If you think of it, stop by again and let us know which one you ended up going with.

      Thanks again,
      John

      • Taiwo Ayedun says

        Hi John:

        Thanks for your comments. We have decided that usability is key at this point. That is, we want a CRM application that is approachable and that our employees will actually use. Therefore, we are cautiously choosing Solve360.

        Our caution is related to the fact that the Solve360 folks are pretty adamant at doing things their way and don’t accept feedback easily. However, we will see how it plays out.

        Best regards.
        Taiwo

        • says

          You can say that again! The owner of Solve360 sent me an email 10pm on a Sunday evening blasting me for a negative review I left them and threatening to terminate my use.
          UNREAL!

  14. Anonymous says

    Nice and useful review. As a distributor I am missing inventory or products page with special and standard pricing.

  15. Anonymous says

    Hi there. Let me share my past experience with you here. I`ve used several applications that are online based. And now I`d recommend you consider Highrise (developed by Basecamp) and KPI.com (developed by UK-based company Finnet Ltd).

  16. says

    I really appreciate the time and effort you’ve saved your readers by trying all of these out. After trying Salesforce for a year (we loved the amount of data they capture and analyze, but couldn’t incoporate it into our workflow well enough to get everyone to use it), we ended up with Solve360. The flexibility and simplicity make it workable, and the integration with MailChimp is terrific, but it has some issues for us.

    First, integrating PM and CRM is a key criterion for us, and Solve 360 doesn’t let us bring contractors into projects and assign tasks as Basecamp does without adding them as users and losing the ability to be discreet about our clients.

    It also doesn’t, as far as I can tell, allow us to track and report on things like conversion rates of leads from different sources or to integrate billing.

    Customization of the solution that gets closest to perfect for your business may really be the best solution.

    Now that I’ve answered your question, I’ve got one for you: why didn’t you include the big dogs like Salesforce or MSDynamics? Were they too expensive?

    • says

      Rebecca,

      Thanks for adding your voice and experiences to the conversation! To answer your question, I honestly don’t know (or remember) why I didn’t include Salesforce, and MSDynamics isn’t one that I was familiar with (was it available a year ago?). It could be that I tend to gravitate away from the really big products.

      Like you said, getting everybody on board to consistently use an app can be the biggest challenge no matter which one you pick. Are you having better luck with that using Solve360?

      I started using Basecamp a few months after writing this article, and while the integration with Highrise isn’t perfect, it does allow you to create a Basecamp project from with a Highrise Deal, and their integration may improve in the future.

      How are you tracking and reporting on conversion rates from different sources now, if at all? That could/would be helpful information to have available.

      John

    • says

       Hey Charlie,

      Not too long after writing this post I started winding down my construction company and officially closed the doors in December of 2011. I never ended up moving my data into an online CRM, but for years I used a construction suite of software called “UDA Construction Suite.” I used it primarily for estimating but I also kept client information in there as well.

      I was using the 2010 version, and it was something of a resource hog on my Win7(64) PC. I haven’t researched this option, but if I were doing it again I’d look for an online app that could handle estimating along with CRM. UDA does have an online version, but I think it needs to be used in conjunction with their desktop software.

  17. reidaru says

    Great info:-)
    Personally I like explanation of CRM as Contact Relation Management.
    Believe your test was a year old. Are you still with Highrise?
    Our need is mainly collaboration of some 10-18 workers towards suppliers. Shared contact info and history is important. I am a great fan of Google apps and believe a software utilizing Google contacts, mail and calendar might be a solution to grow with.
    Any suggestions? Can we use you as testing consultant?
    Kind regards and thanks
    Reidar (Norway)
    reidaru@gmail.com

    • says

       Hi Reidar,

      I apologize for the delay. I am still using Highrise, and I like it, but I do sometimes find myself wanting better, or any, integration with Google Apps.

      It’s been a while since I thought hard about CRMs, but based on the information you shared I’d suggest Solve360, Zoho, or maybe Capsule. I still get emails from Capsule and they seem to still be constantly improving their product and service. (Not that the others aren’t, of course…)

      Testing consultant, hey? Not sure I’m qualified for that! :)

      John

  18. says

    John, 

    Thank you so much for your review. It’s one of the best and most unbiased I’ve come across. We chose to go with Zoho a few months ago and I’m regretting the move. We don’t find it intuitive and run into issues every time we add a new user. I see Google Apps as the future and would like something that works as simple and well as Outlook but built on Google Apps. I’m using it to track hundreds of advertisers we service and that we reach out to periodically. From your reviews and comments, it seems solve360, nutshell and insightly might be the best bets for me. Any comments or suggestions? I haven’t played around with insightly yet but I really like everything I’ve read so far. The only thing I don’t like is not being able to pick up the phone for support. 

    Thanks in advance!

    • says

       Julien,

      You’re welcome, and thank you for the kind words. Sounds like your experience with Zoho confirms some of my suspicions – lots of features but can be difficult and counter-intuitive to work with.

      Out of the three you mentioned I’d probably lean towards Insightly. Both Solve360 and Insightly have tight integration with Google Apps but they differ in their approach to how they actually do that, with Insightly working within GA, and Solve360 creating a “shell” that GA works inside of. That might be oversimplification but I think you can see what I mean.

      Lack of phone support could be an issue, but I suppose that depends on how well the product actually works and how dependable their ticket system is.

      If you have the time, let us know which one you decided on and how well it did or didn’t work for you.

      John

  19. Maggy Tjin says

    Hey John, great post. This may be very late, but would you like to review Apptivo’s CRM app as well? 
    http://www.apptivo.com/crm/  we offer a very extensive array of apps from project management, timesheets, online invoices and more. Let me know what you think. 

    Maggy 

    • says

      Hi Maggy,

      Thanks for your kind words about the post. I don’t think I’ll be reviewing any more CRMs in the foreseeable future, as my work focus has shifted elsewhere. I can do this though: I think I’ll add a list of other CRMs that have been mentioned in the comments to the end of the original article. This post still gets a lot of traffic, so that should give you some exposure.

      John

  20. says

    Hi Loretta,

    Thanks for the Insightly updates. I wrote this CRM review in February of 2011 so there’s going to be some outdated information in it, and I should probably do a thorough update since it still gets a lot of traffic.

    I’m guessing that at the time I wrote this Insightly didn’t have a calendar feature, but I can see that they do now, and it’s good to know that it integrates with Google calendar.

    Nice to see there’s a standalone version now too, for those few individuals who aren’t using Google Apps :)

    By the way, your link to the Pricing page isn’t quite working – looks like you included the closing parenthesis inside the link tag. I’ll see if I can edit it but you may want to take care of that.

    John

  21. says

    I sell full trucks of firewood. I look for a CRM that can send my clients a specific proposal (specific = distance cost calculated for each). A link to mailshimp is fine, but mailing integrated would be super.

    thx for the review, it’s hard to find a non-sponsored one these days.

  22. says

    Well written and detailed review! It is exciting to see a new generation of CRMs target the needs of small business. I enjoy what I am seeing with other companies integrating CRM with other functions of the business such as project management, collaborative spaces, etc. One recent example is Fuseboard (www.fuseboardapp.com). From what I have seen, it appears they are taking a innovative approach to the problem.

  23. Julia says

    John,

    Great and detailed review, but some information is outdated. For example both Insightly and Zoho CRM launched mobile apps.
    We listed most of the tools you mentioned on GetApp, an independent marketplace for enterprise apps, so it could be interesting for you to take a look and maybe make a quick update. I leave you links to Insightly, Zoho CRM, a comparison table between those solutions and to our list of CRM software.

    http://www.getapp.com/insightly-application
    http://www.getapp.com/zoho-crm-application
    http://www.getapp.com/compare/online-crm-software/insightly-vs-zoho-crm
    http://www.getapp.com/crm-software

    • says

      Julia,

      Thanks for your comment and the links. Yeah, I realize that some or most of the information in this post is outdated. I’ve been pondering a good, clean way to fix that but haven’t arrived there yet.

      John

  24. Eddie Moreno says

    Thank you, John, for the terrific article. Although I see that you’ve retired from Sundberg Builders (too bad; it looks like you did nice work), I am very curious as to which CRM you did choose, or would have chosen, for that company? I am helping a client clean up their lead management and distribution system and they are in a similar business. Thanks again.

    • says

      Hey Eddie,

      You’re welcome! If I were to write this article today I would definitely include Base CRM in the mix. I’ve been using their service for several months now for Black Hills Web Works and I’m really liking it, especially for leads and sales. I don’t think I ever really started using a CRM for Sundberg Builders since I started shutting that company down soon after writing this article, but Base probably would have been my choice for that too.

      John

  25. Bradley says

    I have vacillated between Highrise and Solve360 for the past year. I can definitely offer that yoxel.com makes a great link between Basecamp/Highrise and Google Apps for contacts, tasks & events. I love the user interface of the 37 signals products, but I continue to be incredibly disappointed in the internal integration of their products, as well as their COMPLETE lack of integration with Google Apps. I just don’t get that part about them. It’s logically inconsistent. The same people who use online project management and CRM software will use web-based email, calendars, documents. Hey, that sounds like Google apps…

    Solve360 makes a nice product. The integration is great, and I can live with the interface for internal use. They pack a lot of features without overwhelming you like Salesforce at a fraction of the price. But Basecamp has a much cleaner client-side interface, with logins and notifications that are far more appealing.

    I have accepted that I will use Basecamp because it is the best client-side option. Then it comes down to Highrise or Solve. That’s where the decision becomes more difficult. I know in my heart of heart that 37signals will someday accommodate the legions of google apps users. Waiting just sucks. In the meantime, it opens the door for an aggressive company like Norada (Solve) to swoop in and do their best to lead google apps users down another path.

    • says

      Bradley,

      Thanks for a very constructive comment. I too feel your pain regarding 37signals and their lack of integration in lots of areas. Maybe someday?

      John

  26. Ksenia K says

    Thanks for the very useful post, John. You mentioned the problem of switching CRMs, but in fact, there are services like http://www.import2.com that allow CRM users to import all the records to their new CRM with minimum effort and no special knowledge.

  27. says

    Nice post John. ..Was wondering if you could suggest a CRM/PM tool for the following problem statement. We have tried at least 5-7 of the tools mentioned above but couldn’t figure out a solution. Would be really nice if you can give some pointers.

    The problem statement is as follows. To give you a background, We connect knowledge seekers to experts over the voice channel. We get about 30-40 requests every month which we call queries/projects. On each project, we need to identify and empanel 20-30 experts who pass a set of 8-10 stages and in case we have pre-empanelled experts they pass through the last 3-4 stages out of the previous set. We would like our internal project managers and if possible clients of specific project to monitor these stages. For reporting, we need timestamps of the change in stage of each activity or time taken to complete each one. Think of it as a holding company managing sales pipelines of multiple companies

    • says

      Thanks Gaurav. After reading through your comment a couple times I’m going to suggest Base CRM. I’ve been using it for a while now, and granted, I’m the only user in my company, but here’s what I see: All activity appears to be timestamped, unlimited users are possible, you can set up a client space, and the stages that the pipeline move through are completely customizable…among many other features.

      Let me know if you give that a try, and how it does or does not work for you.

      John

      • says

        Thanks for the feedback John, Will try it out and get back to you with the feedback. Have tried so many and have almost resigned to the idea of Sugar CRM but will give this a try for sure.

  28. Marie says

    Dear John,

    While looking through the web to find some advice, I have found your article which is great! Thank you very much for all these reviews which, as many people said, are really objective! I have discovered new products with your article and checked all of them to see if it could fit our needs but unfrotunately again, it does not :-( Basically, what we would need is no PM tool, nor a CRM tool but just a contact management tool or more basically, an address book thta is intuitive, easy to use and where links are easy to make between contacts and companies. We are no enterprises, just a small public organisation (no sales, no leads, prospects, blabla) trying to find an online tool to gather in one place all our contacts, accessible from everyone when there is an update, etc…
    But all the tools I’ve checked includes too many features which we so don’t need at all and basic adress books does not give us the opportunity to separate clearly companies and contacts (like plaxo or contactzilla). Would you have by any chance found a product JUST for contact management, to have an online contact database?
    Thank you so much for your feedback :-)

    • says

      Hi Marie,

      Thanks for your comment.

      That could be a tough request. One that comes to mind is Highrise, which does a good job of keeping companies and individuals separate but connected. It does have a deal-tracking feature, but you wouldn’t have to use that. I don’t think you can turn that off though – I just checked and didn’t see a way to disable it.

      Another option might be to use Google Apps if you’re not already, and enable contact sharing in the domain settings.

      Beyond those possibilities I’m not sure what to tell you. Hopefully you find something that meets your requirements, and if you do, stop by and let us know what you found.

      John

  29. says

    When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox
    and now each time a comment is added I get several emails with the same comment.

    Is there any way you can remove people from that service?
    Many thanks!

    • says

      Alfonso,

      I’ve looked into this and I’m pretty sure WordPress won’t let me do remove a subscriber, at least without digging into the database. In the email you receive about a new comment there should be a message and link at the bottom that reads, “Want less email? Modify your Subscription Options.” If you click that link you should be able to unsubscribe from the post comments.

      If that doesn’t work let me know and I’ll keep looking into this.

      John

  30. says

    “Some reviewers have mentioned that since it’s based outside of the U.S. it’s by default less trustworthy or something like that, especially for business purposes.”

    Seriously? As a matter of fact, ESPECIALLY a crm based outside of the US is more trustworthy, especially when it comes out of the European Union – and that is before the whole bruhaha happening right now. (I’d like to avoid the terms so they do not appear here). And that is because of privacy laws which require for example providers of these services to be more innovative to the point that they actually think about the law first. Using a US based crm solution in Europe will most likely put you into hot water (aka cost you fines) if somebody finds out what you are doing, plus a lot of the ‘features’ are okay in the US (where there are no real privacy laws) and forbidden here.

    Often they are baked so deep into the tools, that you cannot avoid using them. Which btw is one of the reasons for the so called copy cats: Very often they just make sure that “local” works – like for example your comment on sunday being your first day of the week – mine is monday. It is my usual first test with any application: Does it have monday? Can I switch of the stupid am/pm stuff or do I have to endure entering everything with that because the dialogues are built like this?

    If not, it is clear it is “just a tool for the US market with no understanding of International businesses”.

    Do I have to enter a phone number in a US way, a state for my customers and or can I put the zip code where it belongs – at least for me and everybody else here in the EU? This alone (“do I have to think US centric just to work with my contacts?”) will make customers chose a simpler, less feature rich solution because it is much less hassle.

    And that is not even talking about the point of the software being translated, just pure mechanics. If those small things above go wrong, it is usually no surprise that other things go amiss as well. Germans for example have Linkedin as a second biz network – the first always is Xing. Which has all information I can dream of for my contacts. Which has an API. Yes I can export and import the data (usually crushed by the fact that .csv in Germany means ; instead of , ….), but why would I go through the troube of doing so? The software blatantly shows me that they do not care about me.

    I understand markets and direction of business – I the user and the company who will use it however am the light house and to me, those tools are the ships.

    Long story short: I test these systems often, and usually have to give them up after a few tries for those absolut simple reasons mentioned above. It does not matter what bells and whistles they come with – the tree is missing to put them on.

    Which is btw how I ended here – I wanted to look again into some of the CRMs to see if I missed a new solution or things had changed …. not. Thanks for the comparison! :)

    • says

      Very informative comment, and a good reminder that we Americans are not the center of the world. Rather, we’re part of a larger, global community. Thanks Nicole!

  31. says

    Base CRM is very impressive- we are still on the free 150 deals so the value is amazing, although it looks like they have removed that option now. We use it on ipad and PC, currently no blackberry option which is a pain but the interface is simple and easy to use- nobody needed training, and it took me around 4 hours to get the initial data up and ready to run on all systems (I am not particularly adept so that is a strong recommendation). Data is all cloud based, but updates are quick and regular even in our rural area with rubbish signal.

    We subvert the main function of most CRM packages (chasing a large number of leads through a sales process) into what is useful for us (keeping track of around 50 large and active clients and say 10-20 active leads between around 20 people.) For us the shared address books and “twitter like” feed are the most important and Base does these brilliantly without a whole load of complex account management tools. There is outlook email integration and dropbox integration which is fantastic for us (although I am currently struggling to get the email system working properly). Given our rather basic needs, I am a bit worried about what happens when we are off the free deal as a cost of £300 a month for a shared twitter feed is a huge amount for a small business so we will see.

  32. Laura says

    Andy, has Nutshell made it possible to integrate with Google Apps, gmail and calendar? I read your comment about syncing contacts. Is this completed yet? I like Nutshell and would like to recommend it but need to make sure it has an app for iPhone and can be sync’d to Google email. I mean if I send an email it will get tagged automatically as an activity in Nutshell. Does it do this already? Sorry for the non-techie choice of words! lol Hope I’m making sense though…

  33. Kirk says

    Thank you for your insight. I’ve been on the search for a CRM as well and many of your comments are mirroring my conclusions. Greatly appreciate the time you’ve taken to present your findings!

  34. says

    John,

    You are a master communicator! I have never gotten to the end of a long long CRM review and comment field and gotten more impressed as I go with your kind response to people writing comments, ideas, plugging their CRM.

    Keep it up. Glad to see you have found a niche creating WordPress websites.

    Best fishes,

    Timothy

    • says

      Timothy,

      Thank you for your kind and inspiring words! It’s comments like yours that provide the motivation to keep writing.

      Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad you enjoyed the CRM review.

      John

  35. Dan says

    Hi John,

    This is an awesome review and site. I am part of a small Home Performance company / HVAC and we have 10 employees. I love solutions like OnePageCRM/Pipedrive . We are a Google shop (use Evernote/Dropbox too) and I was wondering out of all of these new companies and your previous reviews, which CRM tool would you go with if you still had your construction company? If you can’t pick one, then which ones would be top 5? I do like incorporating PM into the CRM as well but isn’t 100% required. Assuming it was a small shop as well.

    • says

      Hi Dan,

      I’m going to say Base CRM. It’s the one I’m now using, and it has a very nice sales pipeline feature. It doesn’t do PM, but have you looked at Asana yet? I’ve moved away from Basecamp to Asana, and I like what I see so far.

      John

      • Dan says

        Thanks! Does it have 2 way sync with google contact sands calendar? Also have you tried pipe drive?

        • says

          According to their tour page it does have 2-way sync with your Google contacts and tasks, but I don’t see calendar integration.

          I don’t recall looking at Pipedrive before, but it does look promising. Have you been using it?

  36. Susan Neff says

    Hi John, Again, praises for doing much of the homework for us. I have two industry specific questions for you. In 2012 I did a fairly extended CRM search for someone in the radio industry and ended up creating his data base in Nimble, because of their vast social integrations. He is very happy and I am too. I have since had him refer two clients to me to help them organize their data bases. Both are very industry specific and use proprietary data base managers, but they are not “modern enough”. One client is in residential real estate, needing to keep track of former sales, new leads and properties. Client #2 is a leisure travel agent needing to continually market to previous clients, maintain a referral list, a vendor list and keep track of sensitive data such as credit card info etc for existing and new clients. She is also looking to expand her business to corporate travel, so she will need to keep track of relationships within each company, as they will do corporate business and personal leisure business. I dread having to re-investigate each CRM, especially with two completely different needs in mind, if you or anyone else can weigh in on this question. Both need the ability to access their CRM from their iPhone/ipad. Both are considered “small business” with less than 10 users. Thanks for any insight you might be able to offer.

    Regards,
    Susan

    • says

      Hi Susan,

      That’s quite a list of requirements! I’m sure there are at least several CRMs that would fit the bill, but I’m going to recommend Base CRM for both of your clients. I’ve been using Base for a while now after switching from Highrise, though not as much as I should be. What I have seen and experienced has been good, they have all the major mobile apps, and their development progress seems to be aggressive.

      I just looked through their case studies and one of those is a luxury travel and leisure service, which may have similarities to your client #2.

      The Base website has a lot of information in it, and is worth taking the time to explore it.

      If you think of it, come back and let me know what you think of it, and perhaps what you ultimately reach as a solution to your challenge.

      John

    • says

      Hello Susan,

      It sounds like one of your clients has a need to link several items to a common project or sale or other item(s). I agree with John, Base is very solid. In addition, allow me to recommend another product called insightly. This product is tremendous in terms of its linking capability. You can relate all objects to each other. For example, you can relate contacts to various organizations opportunities and projects in unlimited ways. Give it a shot their website is: http://insightly.com/home/index005

  37. says

    Thanks for this big and informative article.
    Before reading this article, I know only about Zoho and sales force both are enough good but you have good collection of CRM. I am actually using the sales force now but after reading this article I realized that their packages Expensive and It’s nice to know there is a free option out there while I’m still getting my legs underneath of me. I’m going to check them out!

  38. KC Horner says

    John,

    Just wondering if you found a good project management app for construction companies? Something with gnatt charts and related tasks, along with automatic notifications once milestones are crossed? Thanks for the great article!

    • says

      Hey KC,

      Project management and gantt charts are somewhat beyond the scope of this article, but Glasscubes may have what you’re looking for.

      For a construction-specific app you could check out UDA Construction Suite. I used to use their software back when I was still in construction, though their online stuff wasn’t available then. Their software was very robust, and I’m guessing their online version is as well.

      Let me know what you end up with, if you think of it.

      John

  39. says

    Thanks for the article John, I’m late posting here but if you wanted to expand on your review ever here is one suggestion. Add a column on the comparison for a Web API and Webhook functionality. That is a big deal for me going to a web based solution for pretty much any type of software. We and several of my construction clients are using Solve360 mainly because of the deep Google integration and the fact that I can write sync programs to push/pull data out of Solve. Thanks again. RM

    • says

      Hi Rob,

      Thanks for your comment and suggestion. Don’t know if I’ll be expanding on this review, but if I do I’ll keep this in mind.

      Thanks too for sharing your experience with Solve360 – real-world feedback on these CRMs is always welcome here.

      John

  40. says

    Hi John,

    Could you or anyone recommend a good CRM for my talent / booking agency. I have been a Mac user for 5 years but I prefer a cloud based service so I can access my info while on the road making sales calls. One particular challenge in my industry is the enormus amount of information that goes back and forth between me and the client (venue) and also between me and the vendor (band). I know there are a few out there specific to my industry but either they are way too expensive or have terrible customer support. Pipeline features are very important for me to track all proposals I send out and also to reference back to previous conversations. It also needs to have a good contact management.
    I am a very busy 1 man shop so I do not need to share info with other users (but that could change in the future)…Thank you and I appreciate the time you took to write the article