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Top 10 CRMs Small Business Owners Need to Thrive The majority of top CRM programs offer trial periods that allow you to take their tools for a test drive.

By Peter Daisyme Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Customer relationship management (CRM) has been an effective tool for managing interactions with customers and prospects of course, with the main goal of enhancing and improving the customers relationship with the company. It was in use long before we started working with Big Data and has really set the stage for the powerful work that can be done -- and has been done -- to better understand what our audience wants. From past purchasing patterns to a clearer picture of individual preferences, CRM software has been an important tool that mostly large businesses have leveraged.

However, research by various organizations reveals that CRM is gaining ground as a platform that even small business owners can use to better target customers and retain their existing base. For example, Apptivo collected a number of recent statistics that show the growth potential and current use of CRM, including a study by Gartner that predicted 2016 would create a market for CRM products for mobile and non-mobile valued at $36 billion. They also cited a study by Capterra that found that nearly half of the companies that implemented some type of CRM solution experienced a significant improvement in their customer service numbers as well as customer retention, customer satisfaction, and upselling/cross-selling results.

Related: How to Pick a Customer Relationship Management Tool That Fits Your Business

To illustrate the growth in CRM solutions for small business owners, here are the top 10-rated CRM products that are providing this segment of companies with a competitive advantage:

1. Insightly.

Insightly is an easy-to-use CRM software helps you with organizing client interactions as well as tracking milestones, leads, projects and dialogue with prospects and clients. The layout of this CRM software feels like a social media page, making you feel at home instantly and confident that you will be able to navigate through it quickly. The CRM solution works as a non-mobile and mobile application with apps for iPhone and Android.

There are many options for customizing your interface and features that you need as a small business plus it integrates with other applications already in use, such as Google Apps, Dropbox, Quickbooks Online, Google Drive and more. It's got an incredible project management feature that helps small businesses stay organized. There are five pricing levels, including a free, basic, plus, professional, and enterprise tier with one to match all types and sizes of businesses. In order to get integrations like Google contact and MailChimp integration, you will have to pick a level beyond the free plan.

2. Zoho CRM.

Despite being such a low-cost solution, Zoho CRM does not cut corners on the features that are included in the platform. Bringing sales, marketing and customer service functions together into one place means you have a clearer picture of your overall business and the short-term and long-term potential for your revenue and customer retention rates.

In highlighting some of its standout features, Zoho CRM cuts down the clicks you need to make to get work done related to marketing, sales, and customer service tasks. It also offers dynamic reporting tools that allow you to create or export data. If your small business deals in inventory, Zoho CRM also provides features that enhance that aspect of your business processes. A real plus is the ability to link this CRM system with your social media contacts found on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, expanding the view of conversations with customers and prospects and offering an additional way to stay engaged with them. Lastly, Zoho CRM integrates with your iPad or iPhone, Blackberry, or Android device.

3. ProsperWorks.

Working within your Gmail account, ProsperWorks is made for individuals and teams. It helps to identify, organize, and track sales opportunities as well as better understand, target, and service existing customers. One of the best features is the decreased amount of time needed by you or your sales team to enter data. This is because the CRM data can already be found within your Gmail account, including offering suggestions to add to your lead list straight from your email box.

Other benefits include quick set-up, minimal training, and features that handle the time-intensive work of customer service and the sales experience. It also works with iOS and Android and offers a real-time way to see all interactions in one place. Although it's not free, the CRM solution is offered at a monthly rate that is very friendly to the majority of small business owner budgets, including freelancers on a shoestring.

4. Sugar CRM.

Considered ideal for both small and medium-sized businesses, Sugar CRM solution goes beyond just organizing your leads and customers. It includes a comprehensive set of campaign and reporting tools as well as web forms with easy-to-use drag-and-drop functionality. It works with many cloud service providers so you can leverage those benefits. The menu options on its navigation are easy to follow and tell you exactly what is offered based on specific tasks you need to complete.

Other features include mobile capability as well as integration with Google Docs, Microsoft Word and Excel and email clients like Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo! Mail and more. Plus, there is built-in social CRM features to maximize those campaign tools. The only thing to note here is that, because it has so much functionality, it is one of the more expensive small business CRM tools on the market. All editions require at least five users and a year contract, which may mean freelancers or startups cannot use this particular CRM solution right at first.

5. Nimble.

As another low-cost option, Nimble CRM is on budget for freelancers and small business owners with various pricing tiers that allow you to expand the number of contacts, storage, and features that you can access. As you add information to your account and dashboard, it fills up with helpful data and direction on what you can do with this growing information. It will also send you more information through its connection to your social media presence, alerting you when there is a conversation that includes your company so you can respond and engage. Nimble also has a marketplace where you can find ways to integrate with more than 40 other types of applications to link all your businesses processes together for a more efficient system between marketing, sales, customer service, social media and accounting. Additionally, there are project management tools and mobile capability that turn this into a comprehensive CRM solution without the high monthly fee.

Related: Tips for Investing in Customer Relationship Management

6. Salesforce.

Although you might just think Salesforce is a CRM system for those large companies out there since it's such a widely touted brand in the CRM industry, it's also suited all the way down to the individual user like a freelancer or small business owner. Its smartly designed interface is user-friendly and intuitive and includes a customizable dashboard, tasks, calendar and activity feeds. Even if you have no programming skills, you can still customize aspects of your Salesforce account, including the interface, fields, and tabs as well as publish custom apps from its marketplace known as AppExchange.

Other features include real-time access to your data on your Windows Phone, Blackberry or iPhone; integrated social CRM functionality with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter; company collaboration through a social networking tool that is included on this platform and is called Chatter; and B2B data through and Dunn. Just note that not all these features are included in the lowest price monthly tier of this CRM platform for small business.

7. Capsule CRM.

As a relatively new entrant to the CRM community, Capsule is a UK-based tech company that offers its solution for small businesses located in many countries. Features include an easy-to-read interface, task reminders, sales pipeline tracking and social media feeds with its increasingly API-focused architecture. This means that other companies can create programs that integrate with Capsule, offering you even more functionality. It also integrates with FreeAgent, Freshbooks, MailChimp and Xero. Capsule offers a free plan that supports two users and 250 contacts along with limited storage. For a very small fee, you can upgrade to the Premium Plan that includes multiple users, 50,00 contacts, and considerable storage. With its mobile functionality it works for Android and iOS devices.

8. Contactually.

This low-cost CRM solution is geared toward smaller companies while giving them big company CRM functionality, including integrating with other CRM solutions like Salesforce's Sales Cloud and Zoho CRM. It also integrates with Constant Contact, MailChimp, Pipedrive and Google Tasks. The best aspects of Contactually is that it improves one-on-one communication with customers and prospects while identifying new relationships, providing the power to follow up on these relationships and close more deals.

Key features include closing the connection gap with your contacts across email and social media platforms, delivering email templates for campaigns and personalized communication, and giving you the convenience of real-time data through mobile apps so you can stay on top of customer service on the go. Pricing for Contactually is considered mid-range compared against the free and budget options on this list and the more expensive options also noted here.

9. Campaigner CRM.

This intuitive CRM platform has an interface that allows you to arrange the tabs you need in a way that makes sense to you while hiding the ones that you just don't need. Campaigner's drag-and-drop functionality is a user-friendly way to create the interface that works for you while reducing the time spent on learning how it works. If you upgrade from the free tier to the SPM plan, you will be able to add custom sales processes, sales analysis with Pulse reporting, and integration with third-party applications like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and QuickBooks. However, the free plan designed for the small business owner is full of great features like email campaigns, report generation, social media linking and mobile capability.

Related: 4 Ways Entrepreneurs Are Getting Customer Relationship Management All Wrong

10. ContactMe.

ContactMe solution is considered a lighter version of other CRM solutions, which may be all you need as a freelancer or very small business. There are also two other payment levels available that increase the features beyond just using it as a way to organize your contacts and stay on top of your leads. For example, its Form Plus plan adds auto responses, text message alerts, detailed stats and other features, making it a good option for bloggers and other freelancers. The Biz Pro level includes tasks, notes, attachments, reminders, calendar and other beneficial features. This is definitely more of an option for a single business owner versus a company that has teams of marketing and sales staff.

When you are ready to consider a CRM solution for your small business, the majority of these top CRM programs offer trial periods that let you take their tools for a test drive before committing to purchasing a monthly subscription. Even if you are not sure if you need a CRM solution, this is a good way to learn how CRM works to improve your sales leads and closings as well as how it can enhance the customer engagement process for greater retention and loyalty.

Peter Daisyme

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Co-founder of Hostt

Peter Daisyme is the co-founder of Palo Alto, California-based Hostt, specializing in helping businesses with hosting their website for free, for life. Previously he was the co-founder of Pixloo, a company that helped people sell their homes online, that was acquired in 2012.

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