With so many options out there, selecting the right customer relationship management software (CRM) can seem like an uphill battle. The problem isn’t just that there are so many different systems; the fact that so many systems are designed to address specific needs is also an issue. It’s no wonder, then, why comparing CRM software to meet all of your specific requirements can be overwhelming.
Today’s most popular CRM software vendors offer a wide variety of features. Many of these are pretty standard, as they’re found in most CRM solutions. Other features, however, are newuter or more specialized, and may only be offered by a handful of CRM vendors. Further complicating things is the fact that some vendors handle certain features better than others. Oh, and there’s also the question of whether you want a cloud-based CRM or one that’s deployed on-premise. In fact, there are so many questions to ask about your CRM, we put together a full (and, admittedly, long) CRM checklist.
So how the heck are you supposed to be able to find the best CRM software? And how are you supposed to find CRM software that suits your company’s needs to a “T?” Whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise, you probably have limited time, money and other resources to devote to a CRM software search. So in order to help you get that search started, we put together the CRM comparison chart below:
Now it’s time to get a little more in-depth, so let’s go over some of the key CRM software features that are highlighted in this CRM comparison chart. In addition, we’ll discuss the vendors that handle each feature the best:
Highlighting Key Features and Standout Vendors
This integral feature allows you to plan, execute and analyze campaigns from beginning to end. From a single window, you can create and manage a full-fledged campaign across a variety of platforms, including events, email, social media, mobile and even direct mail.
Standouts: Infor, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Salesforce, SAP, Pega and SugarCRM all excel in this department. NetSuite is a particular standout, however, with intuitive, integrated marketing automation software.
Customer targeting allows you to establish marketing strategies that target specific types of customers. By tracking key characteristics like spending patterns, product likes/dislikes, geographic location and age, this feature automatically builds a file for each group. This makes it that much easier to effectively market to each group, rather than sending generic content.
Standouts: Nimble, SAP, Sage, Salesforce and NetSuite all offer powerful customer targeting features. But since it offers a 360-degree view of every aspect of each customer and prospect, Infor earns our top rating here.
Creating a campaign is really just the first step in the process — it’s also crucial to ensure that your campaigns unfold as planned. Campaign delivery features allow you to track the progress of your campaigns with ease, monitoring them in real time. With these features, you can make sure that messages are sent out as scheduled and that they go to the correct recipients. Without this feature, it’s very difficult to tell whether your marketing efforts are actually reaching the intended audience. In turn, this makes it difficult to tell whether or not your marketing spend is capable of producing the desired results.
Standouts: Pega, SugarCRM and Oracle Siebel perform well in this department. Once again, however, Infor takes the top slot thanks to its powerful workflow management tools that allow you to define and script most of your delivery needs. In addition, reports and analytics let you easily visualize the progress of any given campaign.
What kind of return are you getting on your marketing investment? You can find out both quickly and easily by selecting a CRM software with high marks for its campaign analysis features. The best programs are loaded with tools that make it a breeze to gauge the revenue and profit generated from your various campaigns, in addition to the cost of running them.
Standouts: Most of today’s CRM platforms offer useful campaign analysis tools, but Oracle Siebel, Mothernode CRM, Microsoft Dynamics, Infor and NetSuite are particular standouts. With real-time results, however, Mothernode is the top pick when it comes to this feature.
Batch Email Marketing
Although it’s been overshadowed in buzz by social media and various mobile technologies, email marketing is still a very effective marketing tool. Batch email marketing features let you quickly design emails and newsletters through the use of simple design tools. Drag-and-drop functionality is a must-have feature for less tech-savvy marketers. With it, you can create custom email templates that look as professional and unique as ones that are specially coded. After building your templates, you can send your creations in batches to different groups, tracking the progress of all of them.
Standouts: Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle Siebel, Salesforce and NetSuite all go the extra mile when it comes to this feature. Yet again, Infor tops the list with its real-time email campaign visualization tools. Also placing it in the top slot is its ability to develop drip, email and newsletter campaigns in no time.
Lead Management and Contact Management
Effortlessly reach out to current customers and viable high-quality leads with built-in lead management and contact management tools. These features let you zero-in on potential customers based on their likes, interests and various demographic information. Sales force automation features help you nurture those leads through the sales funnel. All of this helps you maintain relationships with your leads and customers, keeping them coming back for more.
Standouts: Since lead management and lead generation is such an in-demand feature, most CRM solutions do this well. These include Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Mothernode, Sage and NetSuite. Infor takes things a step further (yet again) by allowing you to define your own qualification criteria through its lead qualification mechanism, so you have even more control.
Identify and leap on promising opportunities with this innovative feature. Opportunity management zeroes-in on potential conversion opportunities at various points in the sales pipeline, automatically alerting you to take action if desired. This allows you to focus on the most promising prospects, so you can allocate your time more effectively. It includes deal routing and end-to-end tracking, as well as the tracking of products, milestones and competitors.
Standouts: The vast majority of today’s top CRM programs offer solid opportunity management features. Infor and Mothernode top the list, with the latter offering desktop opportunity management that delivers powerful sales tools and an intuitive interface.
Online Case Management
Track, close and reopen existing cases with this useful feature. Online case management also allows you to manage any confidential information in a secure environment, ensuring that your customers’ and leads’ most sensitive information is kept away from prying eyes. This is an essential feature because it helps you avoid cybersecurity issues. The last thing any business needs is to get in trouble due to data security issues.
Standouts: Mothernode and Infor both perform well in this area. Mothernode gets a special nod for providing powerful after-sale support features, including the ability to receive inbound cases via case capture forms or email.
Early on, most CRM platforms simply offered an array of predesigned reports. If you needed one that wasn’t there, you were out of luck. Luckily, that’s changed in recent years. Most programs these days allow you to quickly create custom reports, so you can get your hands on the information that matters the most to your business.
Standouts: Most CRM vendors are up to speed regarding custom reports, but delve a little more deeply to ensure that you get what you need. Once again, Mothernode and Infor top the list. Infor offers both prebuilt and custom reports, and its advanced dashboards are a nice touch.
Keep track of how well your company manages customer service with this must-have feature. Business intelligence (BI) allows you to accurately measure and monitor customer satisfaction, as well as a variety of other customer service factors. This feature helps you improve customer retention because you can jump in and take corrective action when needed. It also enhances the acquisition of new customers while improving the rate of customer referrals.
Standouts: Although Mothernode and Infor both excel in this area, Infor gets the top slot for its Advanced Analytics and Visual Analyzer.
Industry Business Process Support
This feature offers support for industry-specific business processes, allowing you to customize your software based on the way in which your company does business. From procurement to logistics to product development and manufacturing, this feature covers every conceivable metric that matters to businesses.
Standouts: We really like both InfusionSoft CRM and Mothernode, but once again, we have to give the highest kudos to Infor for its defined workflows. These workflows deliver unparalleled flexibility as well as strong add-on functionality.
You know how good communication between people is important in business? The same goes for communication between software. The more your various systems communicate with each other, the easier everyone’s jobs get. So when it comes to your CRM software, you need integration with other systems to be possible. Just as importantly, you need it to be easy. Whether you want to integrate your CRM with marketing automation, ERP software, HR software or another system, the more integration possibilities you have, the better.
Standouts: The big software developers like Infor, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft naturally build in integration between all of their products. This makes it easy to share data and automate various processes if you use the CRM, ERP, HR and/or other software from the same vendor. For integration with other software, both internally and externally, however, Salesforce gets the edge. Salesforce CRM easily integrates with other Salesforce products such as Pardot Marketing Automation. In addition, it’s built to integrate with several other systems, making it a great option for businesses that use software built by different vendors.
The best CRM solutions are always evolving and improving. The companies behind them keep their eye on the future, ensuring that each new version of the program includes cutting-edge features that allow businesses to improve their marketing and excel in their sales processes. Some platforms are better about this than others, and it’s something that should be kept in mind when looking for CRM software. By choosing a CRM that continually adds improvements to enhance and expand functionality, you’re more likely to find one that’ll stand the test of time for you.
Standouts: Pega, Salesforce and Infor all top the list when it comes to planned enhancements. Mothernode constantly expands its CRM capabilities by adding new features, however, so it takes our top pick here.
No, we’re not talking about the ability to plan campaigns for mobile, or tracking your leads’ mobile interactions. We’re talking about the ability to use a CRM on your phone, tablet or other mobile device. This is a must-have feature if you have one or several sales reps that travel a lot. After all, they need to be fully equipped when they’re constantly on the road, talking to customers and potential customers. Requiring a cloud-based solution, the best mobile CRM apps offer the full lineup of features available in the desktop version (in other words, the mobile version isn’t watered-down).
Standouts: Salesforce and Infor both offer comprehensive mobile CRM apps. Both apps provide the full spectrum of functionality available in the desktop versions, making them incredibly useful tools for your sales reps. We put Salesforce just ahead of Infor, however, thanks to the more user-friendly interface of Salesforce’s mobile app.
Knowing standard feature packages is crucial, but just as important is keeping your functional requirements in mind when looking for CRM software. Just like with CRM features, some vendors handle these requirements better than others, so it’s well worth your time to take a closer look.
- Email Utilities: When it comes to email composition tools, Infor is a major standout.
- VOiP Compatibility: Nimble, Sage, Oracle Siebel, Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite and Infor all have their bases covered here.
- Audit Trail: CRM software has long been capable of tracking users’ activities within the system. As you can see in the comparison chart, almost all of the top providers have this feature down to a science.
- Customer History: Considering how integral this feature is, it comes as no surprise that every single vendor on the list earns top marks in this area.
- Knowledge Creation Workflow: Most of the vendors on this list perform well when it comes to providing tools for creating knowledge-based content.
- Social Media Integration: Most platforms perform well in this area, but Infor tops the list with ease.
Starting Your CRM Software Comparison
Before you begin your CRM software comparison project, we recommend that you start by defining your requirements. Using a CRM requirements template, you can define and rank your most important CRM features and requirements. Start with the features and requirements list above, and then ask around your organization to see what other requirements you may need.
Shortlisting CRM Vendors
Once you’ve defined the features and requirements that are most pertinent to your organization, creating a list of matching CRM vendors is your next step. When it comes to your selection process, there are several steps you’ll need to take. These steps include assessing vendor capabilities, negotiating price and, finally, making a selection. Following a CRM software selection quick start guide can help you organize the shortlisting process, ensuring you don’t accidentally skip a step.
The 8 Best CRM Software Vendors
A great place to start in your CRM selection process is by looking at the top CRM software vendors on the market. Based on our research — which took into account our personal experience, third-party reviews and the available feature sets — these eight vendors are the best of the best.
As the names imply, Salesforce Sales Cloud is a cloud-based system for managing customer relationships. Manage all channels of contact communication, including phone, email, direct mail, and social media accounts.
With Infor CRM, your company maintains ownership over the entire system, whether you deploy a cloud-based or on-premise solution. The Infor CRM solution enables the sales team to increase customer engagement and response rates, and receive fast feedback on their efforts.
Businesses can deploy Microsoft Dynamics as a cloud-based service, on-premise or as a hybrid system, integrating your contacts’ social streams into reports, enabling targeted and swift response for building customer relationships.
A cloud-based CRM that allows small and medium size businesses to pay for only the services and storage they use. Scalable to 1000+ users, Mothernode can quickly adapt to fit the needs of any SMB. Mothernode was designed around a mobile workforce with features that support doing business on the go.
NetSuite CRM streamlines the entire customer experience, from lead to customer purchase, upsells and renewals. This package provides a 360 degree view of the business-customer relationship, and includes automated tools like upsell management and sales forecasting to facilitate and manage the relationship.
The central focus of Nimble CRM is to improve customer relations by managing, tracking and engaging each contact. Nimble provides SMBs with a complete view of the history of engagements with the contact, as well as the contact’s social media activity.
Oracle Siebel CRM offers a comprehensive solution that integrates customer engagement data, transactional data and analytical metrics into a complete management system for your business. Tailored to the needs of more than 20 industries, it’s available as an on-demand or on-premise solution.
Uniquely designed for small to mid-size businesses, Sage CRM is an affordable option for SMBs, offering quick software deployment. With Sage CRM mobile features, your sales force can access contact information from any mobile device.
Finding the right solution for your customer relationship management needs can be tricky. However, now that you’re up to speed on the most critical features and requirements and are familiar with the top vendors, finding the right CRM software should be a lot easier.