4 Affordable Small Business CRM Options

Small businesses don't need expensive customer relationship software to manage customer records and important business data. Here are four inexpensive CRM options that offer the functionality you need and also integrate with the social sites your customers and prospects use.

When you think of customer relationship management (CRM) software, there's a misconception that the solutions are not well-suited to a small business environment—that CRM falls into the category of enterprise applications and systems that require dedicated IT teams. Luckily, this isn't the case, as there are a number of CRM solutions designed specifically for small busineses.

Small business CRM software is typically lightweight (in the good sense), designed to meet the unique needs of a small business without being cumbersome, overwhelming or expensive to maintain. These systems will consolidate customer records and other data to give your business timely access to critical business data and actionable business insights. This means less time wasted trying to maneuver through reports and functions you really don't need.

If you're looking to invest in small business CRM software, here are four systems with social integration that are worth a look.

Batchbook: Learn Who Your Customers Are

Batchbook is a cloud-based social CRM platform. Any member of your or team can use Batchbook on any device to keep track of important customers, partners and deals. To get started, you can import existing contacts from a spreadsheet or collect contact information from your website.

Batchbook Social CRM
Batchbook Social CRM features contact details management, social integration, a to-do list, advanced searching, list building and reporting.

Batchbook offers several ways to organize contacts to learn who customers are, how they relate to each other and what steps are needed to close a deal. You can organize contact lists by location, by last contact date or by using custom fields. You can also learn more about customers by connecting to their Facebook profile within the Batchbook interface.

Another important feature of BatchBook for SMBs is easy access to your communication history with a customer. You can record emails automatically, attach notes to the conversation and chat with team members about different company contacts. The Task System lets you assign tasks within a team, create lists to see who you haven't talked to in a while and keep everyone up to date on who's conversing with contacts at any point in time.

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Batchbook for small businesses starts at $20 per month for unlimited users. A free 30-day trial is available.

ContactMe: Use Modern Web Interface

ContactMe is Web-based small businesses CRM app with a comfortable, easy-to-use interface. The CRM offers a number of useful tools for notes and email forwarding, calendar and reminders and task management in addition to the contact management and reporting tools.

The contact management tool will be useful for small businesses looking to consolidate and sort contacts. Most small business owners use a system of email, documents and spreadsheets to handle contacts. With ContactMe, though, you'll be able to update your contact list from one place and organize contacts into categories such as lead, potential and customer.

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Also worth noting are the ContactMe sales lead buttons and forms. These can be displayed on any website or social page, and the messages that potential customers send messages are added into the CRM.

The reporting tool, while basic, does include graphs to view button views and form submissions, charts to view contacts by sales stage and data charts that show where customers are coming from.

The ContactMe "BizPro" plan starts at $7.42 monthly. A free 14-day trial is available.

Zoho CRM: Automate Day-to-Day Activities

With features such as sales tracking, Google service synchronization and social profiles, Zoho CRM lets your business focus on customers, not data.

One important feature in Zoho CRM is the Opportunity Tracking Tool, which is designed to give your business a comprehensive view of all sales activities. You'll know where every customer is in the sales cycle, the deal size and contact history. You can even access competitor information. An editable Notes Section displays the time and content of past customer conversations; this lets you make each connection with the customer more personal and productive.

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Small businesses using Google Apps and Google Drive can synchronize Google Mail and access other information within Zoho CRM. You can contextually create business opportunities within Gmail, attach documents from Google Docs, export events to Google Calendar and capture leads from Google Sites using Web forms. This makes it easier to collaborate, communicate and share information whether users are in Zoho CRM or Gmail.

Zoho offers a mobile edition for the iOS, Android and BlackBerry operating systems. Users can also link prospects' and customers' social profiles from LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter directly to Zoho CRM.

Zoho CRM is free for entrepreneurs and startups (up to three users). The Professional plan for SMBs is $12 per user per month.

Nimble: Manage Social Relationships

Nimble aims to help you to better manage social contacts—including co-workers, customers and partners—and all the online conversations you have with them over email, Twitter, Skype, Facebook and other services. All your contacts (and team contacts) can be managed in one screen using this lightweight online platform.

Nimble Daily Digest
Nimble offers a Daily Digest email to keep you informed of new social engagement opportunities around birthdays, job changes or upcoming meetings.

Nimble's Contact Manger interface provides options for adding people or companies as a contact and for syncing all messages from email or social media sites to a contact. You can then create new events and manage the list for upcoming and completed tasks.

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Nimble also offers team collaboration features, which let any team member check contacts and see what's pending and who's working with a particular contact. The team functionality lets all users see all the conversations that have occurred with every contact and team member. This makes it easy to delegate or schedule tasks.

Business plans are priced at $15 per user per month. A 14-day free trial of Nimble is available.

Based in Nova Scotia, Vangie Beal has been covering small business, electronic commerce and Internet technology for more than a decade. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

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