To choose the best CRM for small businesses we looked at over 30 programs and narrowed it down to three – Insightly, Zoho and Nimble. Of all the options, these had the best range of features, were the easiest to use, and fit the budget of most small businesses (with editions priced at $15/month or lower).
Best CRM for Small Business Owners: Insightly
We recommend Insightly because it’s flexible, easy to use, and offers all the features most small businesses need. At $12 per month per user, it’s also one of the least expensive CRMs.
Best CRM for Small Business Summary Table
Ease of Use
Price for Recommended Package
Free for 2 users (limited functionality)
$12/user per month
Free for 10 users (limited functionality)
$20/user per month (Professional Edition)
$15/user per month
(Besides basic contact & deal management)
Web forms for capturing leads
Strong automation, including auto-lead assignment, workflow rules and alerts
Web forms for capturing leads
Scalable add on features
Combines all your social media accounts into a unified contact book & inbox
Nimble mines your social media accounts for opportunities to engage
Integration with Other Systems
Help center with videos and support articles
24/5 Phone and email support
Web conference demos, user guides, videos, webinars, and user forum
User forums, FAQs, weekly demos, and solution partners (surcharge)
iOS & Android
View & edit records, but limited admin tools
iOS & Android
Includes most CRM features and works offline.
iOS & Android
View contacts & tasks, but no deal management.
Not finding what you are looking for? See our reviews of Salesforce, Microsoft, and 7 other CRM systems here.
Why We Chose Insightly as the Best CRM for Small Business Owners
Insightly can be set-up and used within minutes – you don’t need an IT person to get you started. It offers all of the features a small company will need to streamline and manage their sales process: You can send emails and schedule appointments with leads, track the progress of your sales opportunities and forecast your earnings. At $12 a month per user, it’s also the least expensive of the best CRM for small business options.
In addition to CRM, Insightly includes an integrated project management solution. Since projects are generally done on behalf of customers, having your relationship and project management software together in one package is a natural fit.
The cons of Insightly are:
- It is not as proactive as Nimble at helping you mine your social networks for business.
- You can’t customize the layout, data entry or workflow rules as well as you can with Zoho, SugarCRM or Salesforce
- There’s no marketing automation tools like you’ll find in Hubspot or Hatchbuck
Most people looking for a CRM do not need these advanced features, however. With some exceptions, most small businesses just need a tool for managing follow up, tracking sales and distributing tasks amongst a team. Insightly handles these basic tasks perfectly – in fact, we use it internally at Fit Small Business for just this purpose.
When to use Zoho, a customizable CRM
Zoho requires a little more time to set up and learn how to use, but it includes many features you won’t find in the other CRMs. There’s customer service case management, invoicing and website visitor tracking, to name a few.
Their robust automation tools also enable you to create features of your own. For example, you could auto-assign leads to different sales teams depending on the their location. You can setup alerts for managers when a sale reaches the final stage, or surpasses a certain dollar value. For suppliers or retailers, you could automatically send customers a followup email 1 week after delivery. The possibilities go on…
The downside of all these great features it that things can get complicated quickly. Also, at $20 for the “Standard” edition and $35 for the “Enterprise” edition, Zoho is a bit more expensive than Insightly and Nimble. If you don’t need these tools, you can save a lot of time and money by going with one of the latter CRMs.
On the other hand, Zoho is far cheaper than Salesforce, which is another CRM that offers a lot of automation tools and add-ons. Salesforce Enterprise runs $125/month compared to only $35/month for Zoho.
When to use Nimble, a social CRM
Like Insightly, Nimble is very easy to set-up. Nimble brings together all of your social media accounts into one unified contact book and inbox. The goal is to keep you organized across multiple platforms, and help you mine those networks for new customers.
Nimble is visual, intuitive, and fun. The snapshot of “today” helps you plan your time and ensures that important leads and marketing tasks are not neglected or forgotten. This makes it ideal for salespeople who could use the extra help to maintain relationships with their prospects.
The downside to Nimble is that it’s not as powerful as Insightly at tracking sales. You don’t get a separate menu for managing leads (before they’re converted to “contacts” and “opportunities), nor is there project management or workflow automation. Also, like Insightly, Nimble does not have the advanced reporting functionality offered by Zoho.
When To Use Another System Besides Insightly, Zoho, or Nimble
Best CRM for 3rd Party Add Ons: Salesforce
Between the high price, lengthy setup time and need for ongoing administration, Salesforce isn’t an ideal system for small businesses. It does boast the largest number of 3rd party apps and addons, however, with over 2,600 in the official web store. This gives you the widest range of customization options that do not require any coding.
Best CRM For Mobile Users: Base CRM
Base is one of the most user-friendly CRMs on the market, thanks to its intuitive design, drag-and-drop features and top-notch customer support. It also has a highly-rated mobile app, that is unique in that you can access all the main CRM features (contacts, deals, tasks, emails, reports etc.) and view the location via a Google Maps plugin. This makes it ideal for traveling businesses, like caterers or repair services.
Best CRM For Online Stores: Hatchbuck
For web stores and other business that generate leads online, Hatchbuck can help you attract customers with personalized ad campaigns. For example, a music shop could segment their customers into drummers, guitarists, woodwind players, pianists, etc, then send more personalized newsletters and coupons to each group. Hatchbuck does this by tracking customer behavior on your webstore (Shopify, Bigcommerce, Loop Commerce), as well as the click-through rate on your emails.
What more? Say a customer abandons their order at the last minute – Hatchbuck can automatically send them a coupon for that same product 1 hour later. Little tricks like this can help you curb abandoned shopping carts and boost customer retention overall.
Best CRM for Offline Access: Microsoft Dynamics
If you use other Microsoft business applications, like SharePoint, Outlook and Office, or a Windows mobile device, then Dynamics CRM will fit nicely into your workflow. Through an integration with Outlook, you can even use some of the CRM tools offline. This makes Microsoft Dynamics one of the only systems that works offline.
Best CRM for Customization: SugarCRM
SugarCRM is one of the few companies that gives you full access to their source code. What this means is total customization capabilities. Like Zoho and Salesforce, you can change the layout, data fields and build custom pages from the setup menu. If you’re technically proficient and have a creative spirit, however, you can also open the source and build any feature you like.
Best Free CRM for Remote Teams: Bitrix24
Far more than a CRM, Bitrix24 is loaded with collaboration tools, including project management, web and video chat, document sharing and more. While the CRM is not the most user friendly, you can’t beat the free account for up to 12 users.
Best CRM for Online Marketers: HubSpot
While Hatchbuck has great tools for track customer preferences and building personalized email campaigns, you won’t find any tools to boost your page traffic, like a keyword planner, SEO checker or blog builder. HubSpot, on the other hand, includes all these features, though the price tag is a bit higher ($800/month for 3 users).
Insightly vs. Nimble vs. Zoho In-Depth Review
Ease of Use of the Best CRM for Small Business
Insightly is basically ready out of the box. After you’ve imported contacts (which can be done directly from Gmail or Outlook), there’s little setup required. Whereas other CRMs require you to personalize the layout of each menu page, adding or removing features you don’t need, Insightly already feels optimized for the best performance.
Depending on the needs of your business, you might have to add custom data fields and save activity sets (which are used for projects and sales stages). While these steps will probably require a tutorial, the process is fairly easy. The admin panel keeps things simple and straightforward.
Nimble is also an easy-to-use CRM that’s ready out of the box. You can import contacts straight from Gmail as well as Facebook and Twitter (LinkedIn as well, though it requires a little more work). Using this data, Nimble automatically builds vibrant contact profiles that shows their photo, work history, recent Tweets and Facebook status as well as standard contact details.
Like Insightly, Nimble’s menu pages are already optimized for ease of use. The only features that may take some getting used to are the “Signals” and “Today” pages: two unique tools for monitoring your social networks and finding engagement opportunities, respectively.
As a more robust CRM, Zoho takes a little more time to set up. While it’s easy to get your data into the system (like Insightly, you can import contacts straight from Gmail or Outlook) the issue is adjusting the menu pages and navigation bar to your liking.
By default, menus like “contacts” and “accounts” are a bit cumbersome, with 25-30 data fields on display. You’ll probably want to slim this down to just the essentials, which is something you can do on the admin panel (see here and scroll to “Add Required Fields or Hide Unwanted Fields”). Doing so can take a bit of time because of the huge number of customization options Zoho makes available to you.
Pricing for the Best CRM for Small Business
All of these systems are priced around the same. Insightly and Zoho start at $12/month (not including their free versions) and Nimble is priced at $15/month.
To get advanced features from Zoho, however, you’ll have to pay closer to $20 or $35/month. It should be noted, however, that equivalent packages from SugarCRM or Salesforce would cost $65/month and $125/month, respectively.
Cost for Recommended Edition
Features of Recommended Edition
Save up to 2,500 records (contacts, opportunities, tasks, etc.)
Can save up to 30,000 contacts
Has most features except territory management
Save unlimited records (contacts, potentials, tasks)
Cost of Premium Edition
Features of Premium Edition
Save up to 100k records, priority email support, and more
Adds territory management, custom modules and more
Yes, for up to 2 users.
You get most features, but with limited storage and no integrations.
Yes, for up to 10 users.
Basic CRM with no mass emails, custom reports or sales forecasting
Key Features of the Best CRM for Small Business
Each of these CRMs serve a unique purpose: Insightly is great for basic sales & project management. Nimble is for businesses who generate leads or handle customer service through social media and Zoho is for larger teams who want multiple departments using the same system.
With the recent addition of lead management and integrated email, Insightly is a full-powered sales tracking system. You can import leads from a spreadsheet (or directly from a webform on your website) and use Insightly to manage them amongst your team.
Email leads straight from Insightly, or log conversations from your inbox using their Gmail widget. This, along with the ability to save notes & files on a lead’s profile page, keeps everything in one centralized place.
Once qualified, you can convert that lead to a “contact” and sales “opportunity.” Here, Insightly’s workflow automation comes in handy. You can automatically assign tasks to different team members when each new stage of the sale is reached. (i.e. “Schedule Demo”, “Approve Proposal”). If a sale is made, you can convert it yet again to a “project” where you oversee the completion of the sale with the same workflow automation tools.
Nimble organizes your email and social media contacts in one place, giving you a 360 degree view of all of your connections. Flipping through your contact book, you can view a client’s work history (via LinkedIn) as well as their latest Tweets and Facebook statuses all from the same page.
Businesses who communicate with customers through social media will appreciate their integrated inbox, which let’s you send/receive email, Facebook messages and Twitter direct mail. Perhaps the strongest features of Nimble, however, are the “Today” tab, which finds you opportunities to engage with your important contacts, and the “Signals” tab, which helps you find mentions of your business.
Keep in mind that if you and your sales team do not use social media, then much of Nimble’s usefulness will be lost.
Zoho is the most feature-rich of the options. It’s similar to Insightly in that it’s primarily a lead management and sales tracking tool, although with Zoho’s basic package ($12/month) you get additional tools such as:
- Website Visitor Tracking – log the browsing activity of your contacts, or monitor your website in real time
- Email Marketing – send mass emails and analyze how many people read or clicked-through the email
- Custom Reports – create reports using any data metric in the system
More advanced editions give you invoicing, inventory management, customer service case management, social media monitoring and automation rules for assigning leads to salespeople.
With automation rules you can do a host of other things, like alert managers when a sale surpasses a certain value or probability, or automatically schedule an appointment when a sale reaches a new stage. Combined with Zoho’s customization – the fact that every menu, data field and process can be edited from the admin panel – you can do some very powerful things.
Integration of the Best CRM for Small Business
Depending on your type of business, it can be very beneficial to link your CRM with other business software, such as accounting, invoicing, project management or customer support. By “linking” systems, you can automatically transfer data between the two programs. Or, in other instances you can actually use the program within your CRM. For example, Zoho lets you make VoIP phone calls within your CRM by integrating RingCentral.
There’s two types of integrations: Official integrations that are supported through the CRM company (Zoho, Nimble or Insightly) and 3rd party integrations supported through an alternative service like Zapier.
All 3 CRMs work with Zapier, which connects them with over 450 other programs, including Freshbooks, Quickbooks, Xero, Freshdesk, Basecamp, Shopify and many more. These integrations are fairly basic – they usually just involve syncing data between the two programs. You might also need to pay a fee through Zapier depending on how many integrations you setup.
As far as official integrations, Zoho has the most options thanks in part to their other business applications (Zoho Projects, Zoho Invoice, etc.) which can be linked to the CRM. Here’s how all 3 compare:
One of the biggest advantages of Zoho is that they offer a whole host of other products besides the CRM, including Zoho Projects, Zoho Support, Zoho Invoice and Zoho Books, to name a few. All of these can be connected to the CRM in ways that give you some pretty cool tools. For example, by connecting Zoho Invoice you can view any related invoices on a contact’s profile, as well as the payment status.
Zoho also has a wide array of official integrations with other programs, including Mailchimp, Evernote, Outlook, Gmail and RingCentral. See the rest here and also check out the integrations supported through Zapier.
Support for the Best CRM for Small Business
Insightly has email support for paying users. There is no phone support or live chat. Users are generally content with the web support, citing quick response times and helpful replies. All free & paid accounts can also access Insightly University, which is an online help center with FAQs, in-depth guides and video tutorials.
Nimble offers support through ticket form submission and weekly webinars. You can also connect with a solutions partner – which is a certified support technician you can meet in person – or get help from other users on the forums. While they don’t offer phone support, users spoke highly of their webinars, which are sometimes hosted by their CEO Jon Ferrara.
Zoho has phone support available 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. The support team has received some complaints from customers, with some noting a language barrier. My own experience was adequate. The initial wait time was short, although it took a while for me to speak with somebody who can handle my specific issue, likely because of the vast array of Zoho products.
Zoho also has also has a strong help center with user guides, demo videos and webinars.
Mobile App - Best CRM for Small Business
Each of these CRMs include mobile apps, which can give you some additional tools to take with you on the go. Zoho’s mobile app is very strong – in part because it can work offline. Insightly also has a useful mobile app while Nimble is a bit more primitive:
Insightly has a frequently updated mobile app available for iOS or Android. You can view all your records (contacts, opportunities, etc.), create tasks, convert leads to sales opportunities and view your calendar. Some perks are that you can easily email, call, or text contacts through the app, and even map their location. You can also save audio recordings as notes and scan business cards to save them in your CRM. (see more here)
A few limitations are that you cannot view reports or change admin settings, like your pipelines. While the mobile app has most of the tools you need on the go, it’s not a total replacement of the browser version. Also, the app cannot work offline.
Nimble has mobile apps for iOS and Android. You can view and edit your contacts & tasks, but there’s no deals (opportunities) or reporting just yet. While it’s a nice bonus, the mobile app alone is not likely to suite the needs of a traveling salesperson.
Zoho has a strong mobile app available for iOS or Android. You can access almost all of the features of the desktop version, plus it works offline. Like Insightly there’s a mapping tool that displays your contacts (by address) on a scrollable map. You also have the ability to call contacts (and subsequently log calls) directly from the app.
The Zoho mobile app lets you manage your Contacts, Accounts, Potentials, Leads, Tasks, Events and several other modules. For each of these, you can view, edit, create or delete records. You cannot, however, access Campaigns, Reports, Documents or Invoices. The mobile app works offline, which means you can view and edit records even if you don’t have a signal – Zoho will synchronize as soon as you get back online.
The Bottom Line
Since most small businesses only need a CRM to track their leads/sales and manage follow-up, we feel that Insightly is the best choice. By sticking to this basic tools, Insightly is much easier to setup and learn. When you consider how many CRM rollouts fail because users are unable to learn the tool, you can see how simplicity is a major advantage.
That said, it’s not quite right to call Insightly a “basic” CRM. With workflow automation, project management and webform-to-lead integration, available, you can do some powerful stuff once you’re ready for it.