Which is the best CRM software for a new company?

Hi everyone,

I hope some of you can share your wisdom on the bottomless pit of info that is CRM. I'm the owner of a media recruitment and connections website, Rachel's List, which connects editors/employers with job-seekers, and journos with PRs. We have two potentially very large groups to keep track of (job-posters and PRs), and not a huge budget. Is there a good starter CRM site you'd recommend?

Thanks heaps.

Top voted answer
Gill Walker

Gill Walker, Owner Director, Principal CRM Business Consultant at

Hi Rachel

I would endorse what Bridget said.  Before you can ask which software, you need to work out your requirements.  Do you intend to do a lot of marketing?  Do you want to track your candidates, or just your clients?  What information about your clients is important to you?  Do you see the financial part of your client management as being something that your CRM should help you with?  If so, what are using to manage your accounting?  Do you need your CRM to manage your timesheets, both internally and for the people whom you place?  Do you want it to link to your web site?  These are just a few of the questions that you should be asking?

You are right when you comment on the 'bottomless pit of info' which is CRM.  It is a vast topic, and often misunderstood.  There are people, including here, who equate CRM with contact management which is equivalent to saying that an engine is the same as a car.  Contact Management is a key part of CRM, but it is not the whole story.  However, it may be all that you need.

True CRM comprises managing all the information about your clients and prospects in a structured and manageable way.  This will include marketing, sales and sales  / service delivery and problem resolution.  However, although 'true CRM' does comprise these elements, it does not mean that you need to implement all these elements.

Another key question is to understand your budget.  There are software products ranging from free to several tens of thousands of dollars per user within the CRM space.  Some of these are very specific and others are much more general.  And your budget needs to be considered as part of what the solution will deliver to your business.  Many businesses could find $10,000, or even $50,000 or more for a project if they could show that within a few months they will get several times this amount back in saved time - often difficult to estimate and other saved costs.  We recently showed one smaller business who was using very manual processes how they could save about 93 hours per month by moving to our solution.  But the initial cost of the product is only one component of the total cost.  See my article here on savvysme 'How to understand the real cost of a software project' for more information on this.

Another area is to think about cloud vs non-cloud.  As a small business I'm sure that you are being advised to put everything 'in the cloud' because then you access it from anywhere.  While I agree that easy access to your information is essential, and not only for small businesses, I would dispute that 'cloud' is the only or even the best way to achieve this.  Cloud undoubtedly has its advantages, but it also has its disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage is that the timing of upgrades or introduction of new features is largely taken out of your hands and into the hands of the vendor.

I would caution you against listening too closely to people who tell you 'choose CRM x - we use it and it is great' - unless the people in question have very similar requirements to you.  This is equivalent to you saying that I should employ Joe, as he was great when he worked at XYZ pty Ltd, without knowing what my recruitment needs are. As an expert consultant, who specialises in one of the myriad of CRM solutions, I would strongly advise you to list your requirements, look at your budget, and this should be your total initial budget, not just for software purchase, and then review a few products.  There are resources available which compare specific software solutions which will help with this.  There are probably some solutions which are specialised in recruitment, if not there are others that will readily meet your needs.  A few years ago, I scoped out how the solution that my company works with would support a small recruitment consultancy.  It did require some changes, but not many.

So in summary, list your requirements, understand that your business will change, so your selected solution needs to be able to change with you, and compare your total budget with the expected return on your investment (ROI) in both time and money.  Once you have done this you are in a much stronger position to talk to potential vendors and implementation consultants.

I hope that this helps, even though it is not the quick and simple answers that perhaps you were looking for.

Rachel Smith

Rachel Smith, Founder at

Gill, thank you so much for such a great answer - lots for us to think about.

Bridget Holland

Bridget Holland, Director at

Before you choose a CRM system (any system) I'd suggest you make sure you are clear what you mean by CRM and what you want the system to do for you.  What exactly does 'keep track of' mean in your business?  Is this going to manage all the emails you send out?  Is it going to include records of who's ordered and when?  Do you need to know who's with which company/publication because you might have a business-wide account as well as a one-off purchase?  If someone moves from one place to another do you want to keep the history of where they used to be?  What kind of reporting do you want?  What about tracking orders, invoices, payments etc?
I'd suggest drawing up a list of everything you need now, everything you want now and everything you might want in the future, then taking a look at all the CRM which have been suggested.  Preferably finding someone who's used each one who can tell you how easy / hard it was too.


Good luck!

Rachel Smith

Rachel Smith, Founder at

Thanks everyone for all your fantastic insights, much appreciated!

Chris Dobbin

Chris Dobbin, Owner at

Hi Rachel,

You could try Hirise, reasonably flexible and grows with your needs. Also plenty of tools that link into it so you can create reports or share data.





John Belchamber

John Belchamber, Owner & Senior Consultant at Invoke Results

I use WORKetc which is highly cost effective and as well as CRM includes sales management, project management, finance, Social Media profile linking, email marketing, team chat, support desk and much more all for around $40 per user per month.

Stephen Pearson

Stephen Pearson, Director at

Hi Rachel,

For me Zoho - not perfect but it is fully featured and free for under 5 users:


I use it to hold my contacts and manage my potentials. As a quality not quantity style of business I don't use the activities etc features. You need to determine what you want from it but avoid feeding the beast rather than engaging with opps.




Rachel Smith

Rachel Smith, Founder at

Thanks for that Stephen!

Steven Freeman

Steven Freeman, Owner at

Top 10% Web Development

Zoho is a good middle of the road CRM which can do a lot out of the box reliabily. Pipedrive CRM is sales focused, so lacks many other core features your will expect and need from a CRM. Sugar CRM is excellent if you have lot of development capability as you can built in just about any complex or unique feature you like, at less ongoing costs compared to the per seat model. As said it is best to work backwards from what you currently need and even harder what you may need in the future to choose the right option. The problem is you often don't realise what you may need as you aren't aware of what CRMs can do at a much enhanced and automated level. For more complex requirements it is worth engaging a CRM consultant that is across the leading market place options and not aligned to any particularly product.

Kanchana Wickremasinghe

Kanchana Wickremasinghe, Owner at

Hi Rachel,

Sugarcrm (http://www.sugarcrm.com) is a pretty comprehensive Open Source CRM Solution you can start small and grow as you need. There are no user limits etc with the Open Source version of Sugarcrm. 

Hope this helps,

kindest regards,

Paul Mackie

Paul Mackie, Director at

Hi Rachel, I agree with all the advice provided about thinking through your requirements, etc. However, it is easy to become paralysed by indecision and just over-think things.  You could spend weeks evaluating a range of different systems and still not be 100% happy with any of them.  On the other hand, it might be hard to justify $thousands spend on something perfectly customised, then discover you could have probably worked through the limitations of something a lot cheaper. Sometimes it makes sense to just get going with something simple and low cost. If you find something a lot better later on, it probably wouldn't be that hard to just migrate your data out of one system (ie., export) into the new one.  If this is a consideration, then just try to avoid using your 'starting' system in unusual ways! (ie., minimise any field customisations or add-ons, etc.) Or, if you want to spend some time evaluating features and fit-for-purpose on a number of options (many cloud offerings let you 'experiment' or provide free trials), in the mean time you might find the good old shared spreadsheet (eg., Google Drive is free) serves as a sufficient stop-gap until you're ready to commit to something tighter.  (And again, you can upload your spreadsheet customer data when you're ready to too.) FWIW, our business uses PipelineDeals, which is great for a small business managing customer relationships and tracking individual sales or project opportunities.  It isn't necessarily going to be the best offering for you of course. But it's worked well for us so far and is inexpensive, so I don't mind adding it to the mix of mentions.

Rachel Smith

Rachel Smith, Founder at

Hi Paul, thanks so much for weighing in. We are currently using Google Drive and it's OK, but we want to enter the new year with a better system we're happy with - we are testing out some options at the moment. You're right about the analysis paralysis... I've never thought so much about a piece of software before :)

Leah Gibbs

Leah Gibbs, Business Owner at

I have used Capsule http://capsulecrm.com/ $12 per user since 2009, simple, easy nice interface

Tom Valcanis

Tom Valcanis, Owner at

I have been using Pipedrive to track deals, because I'm a soloist and it's simple and easy to use. Connects to a lot of other platforms, too.