Selecting the right customer relationship management software (CRM) can seem like an uphill battle. Wouldn’t it be better to just avoid picking one at all? No, no it would not. Because you want to manage your interactions with customers like the true champions that you are, it’s crucial to find the system which optimizes your workflows.
We get it. It’s a challenging process and trying to pick out a system that will meet all of your company’s requirements is no small task. First, there are literally hundreds of options to pick from and they’re all designed to address an overabundance of needs.
Where do you start? How can you possibly know you’re picking the right one? You don’t have room in the budget to choose the wrong system. Even if you do, it might be just as difficult to get people on board to switch a few months later. So, yes, comparing CRM systems to meet all of your specific requirements can be overwhelming.
Today’s most popular CRM vendors offer a wide variety of features. Many of these are pretty standard, as they’re found in most CRM solutions. However, other features are newer 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. So, to help you in your search, we felt it was best to put together a comprehensive CRM checklist.
Now that you’ve seen our top choices, it’s time to get a little more in-depth. Let’s go over some of the key CRM features that are highlighted in this chart and narrow down your options even further. 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 to interact with your customers across a variety of platforms. This includes 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 customer as an individual, 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.
Creating a campaign is your first step in the process, and is crucial to ensure that 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 difficult to tell whether your marketing efforts are reaching your intended audience. In turn, it’s hard to decipher 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 which 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 quickly by selecting a CRM software with high marks for its campaign analysis features. The best programs are loaded with tools 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 by social media and various mobile technologies, email marketing is still an 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 professional and custom email templates that look as unique as ones that are coded to catch your customers’ eye and keep their attention. 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. Its ability to develop drip email and newsletter campaigns in no time makes it a clear choice.
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 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 focuses on collecting real-time data on potential customer conversions at various points in the sales pipeline, which you’ll be automatically alerted to.
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. Optimize your sales process by working smarter, not harder and nurture customer relationships that are more likely to last.
Standouts: The vast majority of today’s top CRM systems offer solid opportunity management features. Infor and Mothernode top the list, with the latter offering desktop opportunity management with 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. Manage each customer case individually and efficiently to improve customer satisfaction levels.
You can ensure that your customers’ and leads’ 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 applications 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 information that matters most to your business.
Standouts: Most CRM vendors are up to speed regarding custom reports, but sometimes delve a little more deeply. 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) is an analysis feature that helps users gain insight into their customers and users. A good BI system accurately measures and monitors data trends like customer satisfaction to help users improve their sales processes. It also offers a variety of helpful 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 and overall sales.
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 how your company does business. From procurement and 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. However, 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 rules apply to software. The more your various systems communicate with each other, the easier everyone’s jobs get.
So when it comes to your CRM tools, you need integration with other systems to be possible. Just as importantly, you need it to be easy. The more integration possibilities you have, the better. That goes for integrating your CRM with marketing automation, ERP software, HR software or another system.
Standouts: Big software developers like Infor, Oracle, SAP and Microsoft naturally build in integration between all of their products. It’s easier to share data and automate various processes if you use multiple softwares 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. It is also one of the premier programs for integrating with software from other vendors, making it versatile and incredibly popular. This capability makes it a great option for businesses using multiple vendors for their software.
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 to improve marketing and 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 will stand the test of time.
Standouts: Pega, Salesforce and Infor all top the list when it comes to planned enhancements. However, Mothernode constantly expands its CRM capabilities by adding new features, so it takes our top pick.
No, we’re not talking about the ability to plan campaigns for mobile. 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 always on the road talking to current and potential customers. For a cloud-based solution, the best mobile CRM apps offer a 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 its user-friendly interface.
Knowing standard feature packages is crucial. But it’s also important to keep your functional requirements in mind when looking for a CRM system. Just like with CRM features, some vendors handle these requirements better than others.
- 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.
- 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 system requirements template, you can define and rank your most important CRM features and requirements. Start with the list above, and then ask your organization to see what other requirements you need.
Shortlisting CRM Vendors
Once you’ve defined the features and requirements that are most pertinent to your organization, create a list of matching CRM vendors. 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 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, these eight vendors are the best of the best. We took into account our personal experience, third-party reviews and the available feature sets to determine which ones would rank the highest.
As the name implies, Salesforce Sales Cloud is a cloud-based system for managing customer relationships. Users can 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. Regardless of whether you deploy a cloud-based or on-premise solution, you’ll be in the driver’s seat. The Infor CRM solution enables your 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. It can integrate your contacts’ social streams into reports and enable swift response times to build up customer relationships and improve sales.
This cloud-based CRM allows medium-sized and small 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 and your customer relationships. It includes automated tools like upsell management and sales forecasting to facilitate and manage interactions with customers.
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. The contact’s social media activity can also be viewed to further dive into their data.
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 a web-based or on-premise solution.
Uniquely designed for small to mid-size businesses, Sage CRM is an affordable option for SMBs. 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 have a better understanding of the most critical features, finding the right CRM software should be a lot easier.