End of 2013 CRM Selection for Small Businesses

Posted by David Chism | Thu, Dec 12, 2013

CRM Growth This Year

Cus­tomer Rela­tion­ship Man­age­ment (CRM) cloud pro­grams are a hot item for small busi­ness­es in 2013. I received a lot more emails and calls this year than ever before ask­ing me what CRM is the best. That is a very dif­fi­cult ques­tion to answer, because most of the pro­grams all have strengths and weak­ness­es. I am a firm believ­er that what­ev­er CRM a com­pa­ny selects, it will most like­ly do a good job if they are com­mit­ted to using it. The num­ber one rea­son CRM pro­grams fail is not the CRM’s fault. It is because the busi­ness­es that signed up don’t use even 25% of the fea­tures and just give up. I know folks who are pay­ing a month­ly fee for CRMs and have not even touched it in prob­a­bly over a year. So before I list the top CRMs I’ve seen on the mar­ket in 2013 and what to look for in 2014, I’ll put anoth­er plug in there for you all read­ing this to do one big thing(s) in 2014
  • Find a CRM you will like
  • Don’t get a free ver­sion or you won’t use it.
  • Learn how to use it (Train your­self and your team)
  • Com­mit to use the CRM
  • Use it

Top 2013 CRM Pro­grams on the Market

Base CRMBase CRM

Base, by FutureS­im­ple is the CRM pro­gram that I use and like. I’ve used it for almost 2 years straight. That says a lot, because I test and login to oth­er CRMs often! The desk­top ver­sion is get­ting bet­ter every quar­ter (lots of real­ly cool fea­tures com­ing in 2014…so stay tuned). But the real sell­ing point of Base is the amaz­ing Mobile Apps they’ve devel­oped. You can pret­ty much use Base from a tablet or smart­phone with­out log­ging into the desk­top ver­sion: that is how good it is. To learn more about some of the lat­est fea­tures in 2013, read this blog among oth­ers. Sign up for a Free Tri­al of Base

Pipeline Deals (PLD)

PipelineDealsLogo1Most of my paint clients are using Pipeline Deals CRM and have for the past 3 years+. I’ve been work­ing with Pipeline for over 4 years now and real­ly like their team. They have pro­duced a very sim­ple and straight­for­ward CRM for small and medi­um size busi­ness­es. The key CRM fea­tures are in place: con­tact man­age­ment, deals, cus­tom report­ing, sched­ul­ing of appoint­ments, and so on. Read a more thor­ough review of them here. The pro­gram is not buggy…it is super clean. I believe this is because their devel­op­ment of the cloud app is slow and care­ful. So when they release a new fea­ture, it has been thor­ough­ly test­ed. The down­side is that there are not new fea­tures very often. So those of you look­ing for some­thing spe­cif­ic or cus­tom may be dis­ap­point­ed with Pipeline Deals. Their mobile devel­op­ment, for exam­ple, has been a slow process. The good news is they do have an iPhone App that works pret­ty well and a soon-to-be-released Android App.

Cork CRM for PaintersCorkCRM

Cork is a new CRM that seems to be focus­ing its mar­ket­ing on paint­ing con­trac­tors. Being that my audi­ence is typ­i­cal­ly painters, I’m excit­ed to see the role Cork’s CRM will play in 2014. They have asked me to look at the pro­gram and write a review. I’ve done a lit­tle bit of test­ing. At this point, I’m not ready to ful­ly endorse it for my clients, but I do believe they are off to a good start. They have includ­ed a few fea­tures oth­er CRM com­pa­nies have left out: sched­ul­ing and light project man­age­ment.


SF-logoThere is not much to say about Sales­force except this: it is prob­a­bly the most pow­er­ful CRM on the mar­ket. It can do just about any­thing you want to do: sales, mar­ket­ing, project man­age­ment, invoic­ing and more. There is a price tag for all those fea­tures, but if you are tru­ly com­mit­ted to using a CRM, Sales­force will not dis­ap­point. To real­ly use Sales­force, you will need thor­ough train­ing. I’ve had cus­tomers send staff mem­bers (on a plane) for sev­er­al days of train­ing. The only thing I think lack­ing with Sales­force in 2013 was the lack of mobile devel­op­ment. They are behind Base CRM on this. They have deep pock­ets though, so I’m sure their mobile apps will be improved in 2014.


I do not know a lot about ImproveIt360 to write much on this post. I do know that they are doing some­thing right because Sales­force recent­ly acquired them. I did go through a pre­sen­ta­tion about their prod­uct sev­er­al years ago and was turned off by the poor UX and UI fea­tures (user experience/​user inter­face). I did­n’t like how it looked, felt and per­formed. Again, with Sales­force behind this pro­gram, I’m sure the fea­tures will only get bet­ter. It is one of more expen­sive CRMs on the mar­ket too. None of this is meant to be crit­i­cal. This pro­gram is meant to real­ly help a con­tract­ing com­pa­ny with a lot of key sales and mar­ket­ing fea­tures. I would prob­a­bly have a con­trac­tor look at ImproveIt360 before Sales­force, because it is geared toward the con­struc­tion indus­try.

Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM has been a key play­er in CRM devel­op­ment along­side Sales­force. If you want a cheap­er alter­na­tive to Sales­force, go with Zoho. From all the time I’ve spent inside Zoho’s plat­form, it seems to do just about every­thing Sales­force does for less mon­ey per user. Their mobile apps are also pret­ty clean and strong.

Nut­shell CRM 

Nut­shell CRM is a small­er and sim­ple CRM. Over­all I like Nut­shell. My only hes­i­ta­tion to endorse it for my clients is that it seems more geared to sell­ing prod­ucts (inven­to­ry), not ser­vices.


I have not spent much time in recent years inside of Batch­book. I’ve reached out to them to allow me to use their prod­uct, but they have not respond­ed. 3+ years ago, I remem­ber enjoy­ing the sim­plic­i­ty of Batch­book. They were one of the first CRMs to release a native iPhone app too. They are one of the cheap­est CRMs on the mar­ket too. It is not as pow­er­ful on the cus­tom reports that Base, Pipeline and Sales­force can give you, but all in all Batch­book (for the price) is worth look­ing into.


This com­pa­ny start­ed out as the free CRM for busi­ness­es and had fan­tas­tic inte­gra­tion with Google Apps. They kept that free sta­tus for sev­er­al years as they increased mar­ket share. Over a year ago, they added more fea­tures with pre­mi­um accounts (paid). The paid ver­sion is very good and works well. I think they are slow on devel­op­ment as well, so don’t expect fast upgrades and changes in 2014. If you are a Google user, you’ll prob­a­bly like Insight­ly. They have Androit and iPhone apps and one of the ONLY CRMs that has a built in Project Man­age­ment pro­gram. This fea­ture is not as good as Base­camp and for inter­nal use. But hey…it is there and it works. So there you have it. I’ve only list­ed the ones I have spent time review­ing and using. The two I use the most are Base and Pipeline Deals. In 2014, I believe we will see even more key fea­tures on these CRM pro­grams. Base has not allowed me to release some of their cool” fea­tures and plans for 2014, but I can say I’m excit­ed about what they’ve told me. The one thing I’d like to see in 2014 would be more inte­gra­tion with a good project man­age­ment pro­gram like Base­camp. Even bet­ter, I’d like the CRM to have an amaz­ing and easy to use project man­age­ment fea­ture built in! A CRM is not just about sell­ing. It is all about the post sale too. Let me know what CRM pro­gram you are using now or plan to use in 2014.

About David Chism

David Chism started his business out of a passion for helping small contracting businesses grow, be more profitable and become better known to their target clients. One lifelong hobby of David is using techie gadgets. So this blog is a place where he writes about technology, marketing ideas, just for fun (humor), personal thoughts on small business and more.


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