Affordable and beautifully designed, Zoho CRM is the best CRM for small businesses. This breezy software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution looks and feels like a lightweight cloud product, but it packs in a surprising number of high-end features and customization options for serious business users on a budget.
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Since this customer relationship management (CRM) solution is part of the Zoho SaaS family, it can be used on its own or in tandem with other Zoho apps and services, effectively giving small business owners the ability to build out comprehensive cloud-based systems to manage every aspect of daily business. Zoho business products may be purchased a la carte or in bundles, like Workplace (an effective replacement for Office), Finance Plus (which offers expense tracking, inventory software, subscription management, accounting, invoicing and more), and its comprehensive IT Management suite, designed for SMB help desks. Zoho also offers HR products, app creation products and custom products.
Like the rest of Zoho's cloud suite, Zoho CRM is compatible with many popular third-party social media platforms, and it sports built-in collaboration features, like the shareable calendar and file repository. Unlike many CRM solutions, which were built for enterprises and then scaled down for SMB use, Zoho CRM was created specifically for small businesses, and it shows. This CRM software is affordable, easy to use, and doesn't require an IT degree to implement.
Easy to Implement and Use
Zoho CRM is a stellar solution that's surprisingly easy to implement, making it an ideal choice for small teams that want a product that works right out of the box. Of course, the more customizations you opt for and the more integrations you need, the longer the implementation process will be, but getting the basics up and running is easy, even if you don't have an in-house tech team. Zoho's online documentation takes new users through the setup process step by step, and while nearly all SaaS products claim to do this, Zoho really delivers when it comes to easy-to-follow guides.
The SaaS CRM provider also makes it easy to add extensions and integrations to the primary system through the Zoho Marketplace. Users can search categories like Finance, Sales, Productivity, Telephony and Collaboration to find the best extensions available or search based on specific product names or industries. Many of the extensions are available at no cost with zero coding required for integration, but some outside third-party integrations require admins to touch the Zoho CRM API. Of course, if it's an absolute necessity, you can enlist customization assistance (for an additional fee) from the Zoho team – just inquire in advance, so you can plan your implementation accordingly.
Once the setup process is complete, Zoho CRM offers users an unbelievably easy-to-use product that requires very little training. The UI is the ideal modern interpretation of a cloud business tool, combining easy-to-interpret menus and familiar dropdown menu layouts with a clean design and visual notifications. Across the top of the module, users will see familiar options like Home, Feeds, Leads, Accounts, Contacts and so on. Once a user selects an item, filtered options automatically appear on the left-hand side of the screen, making it easy to sort and view only what's needed at the time. Meanwhile, in the upper right corner of the screen, users can keep an eye on notifications, access email without navigating away from other tasks, utilize the search function and more. Zoho CRM also makes it easy for users to do things like create custom email templates and use existing templates, create dashboards that showcase real-time analytics and access the document library.
Admins will find Zoho CRM intuitive to use, too. The visual interface makes it easy to create and manage groups with different permissions, even if the admins you choose have never been administrators for a software product before. From documentation and setup to daily use, it's clear that Zoho CRM was built with real small businesses in mind.
Zoho CRM has four subscription tiers and two payment options. For each tier but the highest, users can pay on a month-to-month basis (rather than annually), for a slightly higher per-user cost. Paying a higher monthly rate may be a viable option for small businesses that are wary about committing to an annual plan; however, in general, it's best to make an informed decision from the start and opt for the money-saving annual payment. To test out Zoho CRM, take advantage of the Free Edition, which is completely cost- and obligation-free for up to three users.
The Standard plan, which is the entry-level Zoho CRM subscription, starts at $12 per user, per month, billed annually (or $15 each month). What makes this affordable starting point unique compared to other CRM systems is the gradual increase at each level. For example, the next step up is the Professional level, which costs just $20 per user, per month ($25 for month to month) and includes valuable features like email integrations, unlimited records and Google AdWords integration. Even the Enterprise level CRM is affordable, with a starting price of $35 per user, per month ($40 for month to month). Plus, it includes advanced features, like custom modules and buttons and conversational AI, which are typically only available at higher-cost subscription levels.
There are two other levels of service offered by Zoho CRM. The Ultimate level is $100 per user, per month, and must be paid on an annual basis. It comes with advanced customer support, enhanced storage, data enrichment and dedicated database clusters. The other high-end option is called Zoho CRM Plus, which is $50 per user, and includes Zoho CRM as well as Zoho's other customer-facing products, like Zoho Social, Zoho Motivator, Zoho Survey and more.
Zoho CRM is a feature-rich CRM with a surprisingly affordable price tag. This is just a sampling of what Zoho brings to the table.
- Great features, even at the basic level. Unlike many other tiered CRMs out there, Zoho offers fantastic features, even at the basic ($12/month) level. Reports and dashboards, a document library, defined roles and profiles, scoring rules, sales forecasting tools, call center connectors and the ability to mass email are all available to standard subscribers, plus the capacity for a whopping 100,000 records.
- Popular integrations and extensions in the Zoho Marketplace. No other CRM makes it easier than Zoho does to integrate all your favorite products. Through the Zoho Marketplace, users can select from hundreds of broadly used products, like GoToMeeting, Twilio, DocuSign, Eventbrite, as well as more industry specific solutions, like Zadarma for phone systems or CData Excel, which allows users to change information in Excel and see it reflected in Zoho CRM.
- Tons of customization options. There are some customization options available to all users, but at the Enterprise level ($35/month), users can do advanced custom views, change page layouts, add in custom buttons and conditional fields, and build out custom modules. At the Ultimate ($100/month) level, users gain access to a sandbox for dev testing and a higher level of customer support. While these customization features are not unique to Zoho CRM, they are rarely an option in CRMs at this price point.
Zoho CRM has a decent online reputation, with four-star reviews on several websites like Capterra and Software Advice. Zoho also only scored a D-minus with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). It's not an accredited business and scored a 1 out of 5 stars with nine complaints closed in the last three years. Keep in mind that this BBB page is a reflection of the entire Zoho corporation and not just Zoho CRM.
In our own customer service testing with the company, we weren't impressed. It was hard to get answers to simple questions, like what features are included in what plan, and Zoho CRM sales representatives weren't always the most forthright with product information.
One area where Zoho shines, however, is in its online documentation. If you're interested in working with Zoho CRM, you can find a wealth of instructions and documentation online about how to accomplish what you need to using the software. While there is a lot of online documentation, there are no training videos on how to use the software.
The drawbacks to adopting Zoho as your CRM may not be negatives to all users, but they are worth noting. Tiered levels of service mean users may have to opt for a more expensive subscription just to get one relevant feature. For example, while the $12 level is enticing at first glance, integration with Google AdWords, social CRM features and workflows only kick in at the $20 tier. This feature is normally standard for most SaaS solutions.
Customer service is limited to the standard work week, so if your business needs constant support, you may want to consider a competitor with more robust services. Some clients have complained about slow connections at times. While your own experience will likely differ, this is important to keep in mind.
In general, there aren't a lot of drawbacks to Zoho CRM as long as you adopt it for the right reasons. Zoho CRM is an alternative to high-cost, implementation-heavy products, so don't expect it to perform exactly like one. As long as Zoho's features meet your needs, it's a safe bet, but if you want a powerhouse of a system opt for something heavier duty, like Salesforce.
Mona Bushnell contributed to the researching, reporting and writing of this article.
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