17 min read
Jul 28, 2017

The state of CRM in 2017: What small businesses are really looking for

We analyzed data from over 10,000 SMBs looking to purchase a CRM. Here's what small and medium businesses expect from a CRM in 2017.

Suzie BlaszkiewiczContent Analyst

Choosing a CRM is difficult. As the backbone of almost any sales team, having a CRM with the right features and functionality can be the difference between making or breaking a deal. With talk of artificial intelligence and machine learning dominating the future of CRM, the current state shows a much more simple story– small and medium businesses (SMBs) want automation and the ability to follow up on leads, and they’re willing to pay for it.

We pulled data from almost 10,000 small and medium businesses looking to implement a CRM within their company to get a better picture of what their biggest pain points are, what they’re looking for in a CRM solution, and how much they’re willing to pay.

We’ll go through some of the findings below to see the state of CRM in 2017, and show which software options best fit the needs of SMBs.

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What's an SMBs biggest CRM issue?

Implementing a CRM usually stems from some type of operational issue that makes it difficult to properly keep track of and follow up with leads. Common pain points aren’t only the result of not having a CRM, but also the result of not having the right CRM.

Based on our analysis, the biggest pain point for SMBs looking to implement a CRM is organization, with 37 percent of SMBs citing ‘work being unorganized’ as their biggest problem. Another 10 percent say that their current manual methods aren’t cutting it.

One advertising company with ten employees and $5 million in revenue told us that using Excel to track their leads was causing problems with both duplicated and missed follow-ups, letting potential clients slip through the cracks.

Notably, managing contacts and following up on leads are pain points for 17 and 29 percent of SMBs, respectively, which includes both SMBs who are currently using a CRM, as well as those who are yet to implement one. For those SMBs already using a CRM, 9 percent say that their biggest problem is the system’s interface and its lack of usability.

One real estate agency with five employees and less than $1 million in revenue said that their current system wasn’t user friendly and wasn’t easy to train new employees on. As they were looking to hire new agents, they wanted a simpler system in place.

Other SMBs, however, find their current methods too simplistic, with 23 percent looking for additional marketing features in their CRM to be able to automate the marketing process.

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Which features are SMBs looking for in a CRM?

When it comes to finally choosing a CRM, SMBs are prioritizing one thing: sales automation. According to our data, 92 percent of SMBs say that sales automation and its related features are a must-have in their CRM.

More specifically, lead management and contact management are key features for 84 percent and 79 percent of SMBs respectively, with the need for functionality that can help organize the sales pipeline. A construction company with roughly $10 million in revenue and 50 employees told us that they were looking for contact management, interaction tracking, and follow-up reminders, as well as a notification system for staying on top of their clients.

Task management, at 69 percent, is another important feature for SMBs in order to be able to create and assign sales-related tasks to themselves and different members of their team. Features for intelligence and reporting, which give sales teams an overview of key-decision making figures including revenue, sales team performance, and forecasting, is another big request, at 47 percent.

As one real estate company with $5 million in revenue and 20 employees told us, their current system is made up of several apps pieced together. Without a coherent dashboard, the reporting isn’t good, there’s no accountability, and data seems to disappear when transferred between agents. Their hope was to find a more cohesive and coherent system.

Having email integration and being able to send out campaigns is another key feature for SMBs, with 42 percent requesting some type of connection with email, while 24 percent note the need for marketing features to centralize all of their client communication.

One hospitality company with $6 million in revenue and ten employees said that they were experiencing issues with duplicated data entry and having to export a lot of files, and they were also looking for a system to integrate directly with their email provider.

Another food and beverage company with $5 million in revenue and 20 employees said that along with a system that captures contact information, tracks leads through the sales process, helps automate daily tasks, and is able to schedule follow-ups and send reminders, they’re also looking for a CRM that incorporates analytics from marketing campaigns to see which are most effective.

Accounting and inventory integrations and features are requested by 39 percent of SMBs. An accounting and CRM integration is especially important for being able to track and follow-up with invoices, as well as get historical purchasing data for forecasting future sales numbers.

Customization and security were among the least requested features at 9 and 8 percent respectively, although they still play an important role for certain industries and company size.

As one consulting company with 5 employees and less than $1 million in revenue told us, they handle a lot of sensitive client information and were looking to upgrade their current system for something more secure.

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How much are SMBs willing to spend on a CRM?

With the necessary features and integrations outlined, SMBs are willing to spend money on a CRM that’ll eliminate some of the frustration caused by an unorganized workflow and a piecemeal system.

As our research data notes, SMBs with more employees are willing to invest more in a CRM, as their requirements and the number of employees using the software are more likely to increase and need a more advanced system.

As the above graph notes, companies with up to ten employees are willing to spend up to $73 per user per month for a CRM, while companies with 11 or more employees are willing to spend up to $81 per user per month. Interestingly, there is little difference in maximum budget between companies with 11 to 50 employees, and those with over 50 employees.

As the number of users go up, however, SMBs expect the initial cost per user to go down. SMBs who will have a maximum of ten users for their CRM are willing to pay $78 per user per month, but as the number of users exceeds ten, companies expect to pay no more than $66 per user per month. Similar to the graph above, ten employees seems to be the threshold for significant changes in price expectation per user.

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Which CRM options are available to SMBs?

With pain points, features, and cost expectations set out by SMBs, it’s possible to start narrowing down the list of CRM options. Below are some CRM software options that are notable for the different pain points and feature requirements outlined above.

CRMs with marketing features

Marketing features that are either a part of a CRM or are deeply integrated with marketing automation software can give an overview into the success of marketing campaigns related to specific customers, as well as provide the option to send out marketing campaigns directly.

Hatchbuck is a leading option for SMBs looking for a CRM with deep integration between sales and marketing automation. Its CRM features include lead and task management, follow-up notifications, and reporting features. When it comes to marketing, it includes email marketing features for drip campaigns, auto-responders, and customer segmentation, with additional reporting features for tracking the performance of marketing campaigns.

Pricing: Hatchbuck starts at $99 per month for 2 users (roughly $50 a month per user) on its Small Biz plan, with the Team plan costing $199 per month for 5 users (roughly $40 a month per user) and $299 per month for 10 users (roughly $30 a month per user). The Enterprise plan is $399 a month for an unlimited number of users.

Other options:

  • HubSpot CRM – free HubSpot tool with powerful integration with HubSpot Sales and HubSpot Marketing.

  • Infusionsoft – CRM with sales, marketing, and eCommerce features.

  • ActiveCampaign – Email marketing and marketing automation with sales and CRM features.

CRMs with analytics and reporting features

Having the proper analytics and reporting features help the decision making process and give great insight into every aspect of the sales pipeline. Most CRMs have some type of reporting feature, but complexity varies greatly.

As one of the most well-known CRMs on the market, Salesforce Sales Cloud has added powerful analytics features with its Wave Analytics platform. These features include sales insights, dashboards, and forecasting that help keep the sales team on course, making it one of the most advanced options in terms of analytics features.

Pricing: Salesforce starts at $25 per user per month for up to 5 users, with the Lightning Professional Plan going up to $75 per user per month for an unlimited number of users. Options to upgrade are available with additional features and pricing.

Other options:

  • Zoho CRM – an affordable CRM with good reporting features.

  • Pipeliner CRM –a visual CRM with business intelligence dashboards, reporting, and forecasting features.

  • bpm'online CRM – a CRM, marketing, and sales tool with robust reporting features.

CRMs with email integration

Outlook and Gmail are two of the most popular email providers, but you don’t have to use native Microsoft or Google products for deep email integration. Most CRMs have integration with various email providers, although some do it better than others.

Prosperworks CRM is a recommended Google partner for its heavy integration with all G Suite products including Gmail, while Prophet CRM is a good option if you’re looking for a CRM designed specifically to live in Outlook.

Pricing: Prosperworks CRM starts at $19 a month for 5 users on its Basic plan, $49 per user per month on the Professional Plan, and $119 per user per month for its Business plan.

Prophet CRM starts at $25 per user per month on its Contact Manager Plan, going up to $50 a month for its team plan and $75 a month for its Enterprise Plan.

Other options:

  • Dynamics CRM – Microsoft's native app integrates flawlessly with Outlook.

  • Streak – a CRM built specifically to work in Gmail.

  • Base CRM – a good option that integrates with both Outlook and Gmail.

See the top CRMs for Outlook based on user reviews

CRMs with accounting app integration

While most CRMs don’t have dedicated accounting features, having an integration with an accounting software can be really helpful for keeping up with invoicing and keeping track of payments coming from customers and clients.

Capsule CRM is a popular option for integrations -especially for its integration with accounting app Xero- which allows for syncing data between both apps to see outstanding invoices, historical sales data for customers, and opportunities for more customer spend.

Pricing: Capsule offers a limited free plan for up to 2 users, with a standard cost of $12 per user per month after 2 users.

Other options:

  • Insightly – CRM and project management with Quickbooks and Xero integration.

  • WORKetc CRM – CRM, project management, and billing features with Quickbooks and Xero integration.

  • Repsly Mobile CRM – specialized for field sales team, it integrates with Quickbooks and Xero.

See the best CRMs that integrate with Xero

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There's no 'one size fits all' tool for every SMB

With varying needs and requirements, it’s no surprise that there’s a variety of CRM options available on the market. While features like lead management, contact management, and task management are a given, other features should be closely monitored to decide whether or not they’re essential for a given SMB’s needs. In general, however, SMBs are looking for:

  • Better organization of their pipeline and to eliminate manual methods of customer tracking.

  • Simple lead, contact, and task management to help organize their work.

  • Sales automation.

  • To spend more per user per month as the company size grows.

  • The price per user to go down as the number of users increase.

Check out this infographic for a summary of all of the data included in this report.

If you’re looking to see which CRM has all of the features and functionality that your SMB needs, check out GetApp’s CRM scorecard to find a tool that’s the perfect fit.



An analysis was done of unique data collected from over 10,000 phone calls with SMBs looking for CRM software. The textual data was coded and analyzed for various criteria including pain points, application requirements, product features, company size, and budget.

If you’d like further information, feel free to contact me at suzie.blaszkiewicz@getapp.com for any questions relating to this data.

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