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What is a CRM and why do you need it?

Learn about CRM software, a tool used by businesses to manage customer relationships. Find out how small business CRM software helps businesses centralize customer information.

Image courtesy Bonsai
Image courtesy Bonsai

This article is Sponsored Content

By Tom Smery

A CRM is a popular technology that various businesses use for customer relationship management. Industry estimates show that over 91% of businesses with more than 10 employees use CRM software systems. This bit of statistics indicates the huge benefits that you can draw from a CRM. 

Choosing the best CRM software for small businesses especially, can be a challenge though. Studies show that 1,610 CRM system providers offer services in the U.S. as of 2022, a 15.6% increase from the previous year. 

You need a well-crafted CRM solution that can deliver the most benefits from this tool. Choosing the system right for you opens great opportunities to pump up the sales of your business.

Its potential as a sales driver is the primary reason why you need a CRM. This system in your toolkit will provide you with a deep understanding of your current and prospective customers.

With CRM-derived knowledge, you can build intimate relationships with these customers and deliver outstanding services or products to them.

The best CRM software for small businesses and large companies enables optimal tracking of customer interactions. The data that you derive from this automated monitoring process are then compiled in a convenient and easily accessible database.  

As the consumer market grows increasingly competitive, your company needs a CRM to achieve the following: 

  • Make data-driven management decisions
  • Automate customer support workflow
  • Maximize customer satisfaction
  • Optimize sales forecasting
  • Streamline overall business operations

How much does a CRM cost?

The cost of CRM software varies widely, with the rate going as low as $9 a month per month. Free versions of this tool are available online, but their features are quite limited.

While the cost of a CRM is wide ranging, one thing is for sure. It doesn’t require a large investment in physical IT infrastructure. You can choose from many cloud-based, software as a service (SaaS) CRM solutions. 

The amount you’ll pay for CRM software will depend on several factors. Among these are the following:

  • The number of users or subscription base 
  • Add-ons to basic features, such as:
    • sales automation 
    • customized reporting
    • higher data storage limits 
    • technical support
Image courtesy Bonsai

What are the benefits of CRM? 

A CRM is a backbone for growing a data-driven culture within your business. It provides the digital infrastructure for customer development and support crucial in creating long-term growth for your business. 

The advantages that CRM software provides offer these benefits:

  • Centralized customer information. A CRM stores information on all your customers in one place for quick access and action as needed. 
  • Clearer reading of customer behavior. A central CRM database allows you to segment your customers and personalize approaches to them. 
  • Strengthen customer retention. Customer data shared among your sales staff makes them more proactive. They’re able to anticipate problems and solve these quickly or prevent their occurrence. 
  • Pump up lead generation and conversion. A CRM provides a reading of customer responses to your marketing messages. With this input, you can optimize your lead generation, determine if it’s working, and identify areas for improvement.
  • Better-informed business decisions. CRM platforms with data analytics tools are available for you to measure your sales performance and marketing campaigns. Having these inputs will provide you with a better market reading and sales forecast valuable in business planning.
  • Automation of routine tasks. CRM solutions can automate tasks like customer follow-ups and e-mail campaigns. This automation will consequently free your sales team from these repetitive tasks. It will allow them to focus on more important functions, such as lead generation and customer satisfaction. 

Can CRMs be automated with forms?

Parts of the sales and marketing process can include forms from your website that automatically route them into your CRM. These automated CRM web forms are useful for capturing new leads.  They can facilitate a marketing campaign using a series of emails with pre-determined messages.

Further, stored CRM data enable automation of sending pro forma follow-up messages or reminders to prospective customers. This thus helps to keep your sales staff on track of new leads.

Besides creating a new record, you can also use CRM web forms to update existing customer files. Automated personalized communication with customers can interface with CRM systems, too, to help improve customer service.

For example, the chatbots in your website or social media page can provide instant customer assistance through predefined messages from your CRM system.    

Image courtesy Bonsai

What are the 5 best CRMs for small businesses?

CRM systems on the market vary much based on functionality, pricing, and usability. From the many CRM platforms available, here are the industry’s top 5 CRM for small businesses based on these service providers’ software features and benefits they deliver.

1. Bonsai 

More than 500,000 small business owners and freelancers subscribe to Bonsai. It boasts an all-in-one product suite with smart automation enabling its users to focus on their business, not their paperwork. Bonsai integrates and automates every step of its subscribers’ business so their operations run seamlessly—from proposal to tax season. With Bonsai, you can manage your clients and ongoing projects all in one place, as well as organize all the documents, files, and payments together for you and your client or customer. 

2. Keap

The services of Keap centers on its Sugar Sell platform. It has an AI component that gathers and keeps historical records, allowing its users to know more about their customers. This platform can make predictions from the data it automatically captures. Its users can integrate Sugar Sell with other tools they use and have back-up technical support.


This platform features visual project boards so that its users can track their sales funnel each step of the way. The system not only can improve the way a business tracks sales pipelines but also step up its lead generation. It manages the users’ contacts for smoother processes and better experience. also serves a Work OS providing an automated means for users to manage teams working on complex projects

4. Insightly

Designed as a cloud-based CRM for small businesses, Insightly can also handle the needs of medium-sized enterprises. Its design is simple yet powerful, able to track lead information most relevant to its users. This system provides users the mechanisms for automated marketing campaigns based on email blasts, phone calls, meetings, and other tasks.

5. Pipedrive

This CRM is a deal-driven system known for its simplicity. It is geared at making the sales process and customer-building exercise more efficient. Pipedrive serves as an account management platform for the sales and marketing team. It enables its users to import leads easily, assign these to the team members, and move prospective customers through the sales cycle. 

What to evaluate

Choosing the right CRM for small businesses is a delicate task on what to evaluate or look for. It will be helpful to first ask your sales staff what type of CRM software would be most suited and cost-effective for your business.

Small businesses basically have three common CRM types to choose from depending on their goals and objectives. These basic choices are the following: 

  • Analytical CRM for data collection and analysis 
  • Operational CRM for automating business processes 
  • Collaborative CRMs enabling customer data access to team members concerned

SMB CRM costs

The average CRM cost varies and the expense a small business pays will depend on its actual size. Furthermore, the CRM cost factors in the specific requirements of a business.

The exact range of CRM services that small businesses use can also vary. Some modest-sized enterprises already need sophisticated customization. Others start with basic features and upgrade their system after they achieve a certain growth level.

Some small companies are also content on sticking to basic systems, while others spend in customized CRMs at the outset. 

Here are the CRM costs you can expect to pay for based on this tool’s features and number of users: 

Setup and implementation costs

For a sales team of 10 users, CRM implementation can cost from $10,000 to $20,000. The actual amount will cover the time spent in choosing and implementing a CRM. It will also include the consulting costs, training expenses, and reduced productivity during the migration process. 

CRM integrations costs

The cost of a CRM integration will be anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000 per integration. The amount will depend on whether the integration is a legacy system or if it is a web service integration. The legacy system integration cost is higher.

CRM support costs

Basic support packages of CRMs are typically free. However, CRM service providers and consultants will charge monthly fees per user for full-service options. The support cost can reach 10─20% of your original implementation costs.

CRM add-on costs

Pricing for add-on costs is difficult to predict, but expect monthly charges usually starting from about $10 per user. This cost applies to add-ons like third-party applications that you can adopt instead of a customization. Applications on project management and commission tracking are two common third-party add-ons for CRMs.

Wrap up

Check out the Plans & Pricing of Bonsai for choices on cutting-edge but affordable CRMs for small businesses. We provide a fully integrated, native CRM that connects to the ecosystem of tools available on the market. 

Bonsai has developed robust CRM solutions capable of building a unified database as a platform for lasting customer relationships. With our system in place, you’ll have at your fingertips all the tools to grow your business.

Have a preview of what Bonsai CRM can do for you. Start your free trial today!

Digital Journal
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