CRM Review: CRM Software for the Smallest Businesses

by Vangie Beal

Do home users really need a small business CRM solution? ContactMe thinks so. Its new offering has the basic CRM features to suit small or micro business needs for less than $10 per month.

One thing a small business owner knows is that most customer relationship management (CRM) systems and solutions go well over their heads and budgets. For the most part, CRM software has been an enterprise application — the kind of solution that requires a dedicated team to develop custom CRM modules to fit the business, another team to analyze the resulting data and reports, plus an IT staff to handle costly upgrades and deployment.

These CRM systems are called enterprise applications for a reason: They are too complex and offer too many features and options for your average small business user.

Today, CRM is becoming more user-friendly, and a new breed of lightweight offerings for small businesses has been moving in to the CRM software space. The difference between your typical enterprise CRM and small business CRM software is not only the amount of data that is handled by the system, but also the IT requirements, pricing, and the tools and features of the application itself.


A New Niche: Home-Based and Micro CRM

While many of the well-known vendor names like Oracle, SAP, Salesforce and Microsoft are looking down market to small business CRM opportunities, it is not surprising to see new vendors announcing solutions for the small business CRM space. With an estimated 29 million small businesses in the U.S. alone, it's a market worth pursuing.

According to Score.org, 91 percent of small businesses have between zero and four employees, which is right where Webs.com, a do-it-yourself solution for website creation, is targeting its new micro business CRM software.

The company recently announced ContactMe.com, a customer relationship management tool targeted specifically to entrepreneurs, home-based and micro-businesses with zero to 5 employees.


ContactMe CRM Software Features

At first glance, ContactMe feels like a tool designed for individuals and small businesses. There are no gray spreadsheets or confusing charts — just a nice modern interface that anyone who uses Web applications will feel comfortable with.

Breaking down the features and options, ContactMe offers the following tools in its SMB CRM application:


  • Contact Management: This tool enables users to consolidate and sort contacts. Most small business owners use a system of email, documents and spreadsheets to handle contacts, but this application lets you import, manage and update your contact list from one place. You can also organize contacts into categories and also assign a sales stage to a contact, such as lead, potential, and customer.


  • Notes and Email Forwarding: The tool offers Notes — messages you can attach to a contact in your CRM. This is where small businesses can add notes about meetings, communications, payments, or any other business task you have associated with a customer. As an added bonus, any email you have with the customer can be forwarded to a special ContactMe email address and stored as a note in the customer's contact page.


  • Task Management: Task management helps you keep on top of your important business tasks. In ContactMe, you simply add a task by clicking on the "Add Task" box on any contact page. As you add tasks, they become available from the main Task management tool page. This provides small business owners with an organized to-do list for today, tomorrow and next week. Tasks you define will also be shown in the calendar, and the contact page.


  • Calendar & Reminders: ContactMe offers a calendar tool that connects with other tools in the CRM system. For example, as you add a new task, or create a meeting with a customer the details will be shown in the calendar. You can also sync this with a private calendar you may already use for your business, Google Calendar or iCal. You can also choose to have a morning agenda reminder via email or text message that outlines the day's tasks.


  • Reports: The reporting tool in ContactMe is pretty basic, but it also isn't "data overload" for an individual or small business owner to sort through. The reports offered include graphs to see how many button views, form views and form submissions your business gets per day, a pie-chart showing your contacts by sales stage, and a chart to see where your customers are coming from (such as the sites and spaces where you have published a ContactMe button or form).


  • Mobile Access: Since many home-based and small business owners are also the sales contact, mobile access is important — a one-person show can't be in front of the computer reviewing data and be at a business meeting at the same time. Realizing that small businesses are often on the go, ContactMe offers mobile access via Apple iPhone, Android or Blackberry devices.


Web Forms and Buttons for Contacts and Leads

One of the most important features of ContactMe is its sales leads buttons and forms. The ContactMe button can be displayed on any of your websites and some social networking sites, like Facebook, so potential customers can reach out and send you a message.

When you post a ContactMe button, it stays on the page regardless of where visitors scroll, and when someone clicks on the button, the contact form pops up. As forms are submitted, the leads are automatically added to your ContactMe contact list. Using easy copy-and-paste code, you can also embed the ContactMe form directly into your website's "Contact" page, removing the need to manually transfer new contact information to the small business CRM system.

ContactMe integrates with a number of platforms, including WordPress, Constant Contact, Facebook, Twitter and a number of popular services. It presently offers some integration with Google Apps, but ContactMe co-founder and CEO Haroon Mokhtarzada told eCRM Guide that additional Google integration for Google Apps Marketplace is in development.


ContactMe Pricing

ContactMe is available in two versions: Standard and Pro. The Standard version is free and offers ContactMe Buttons and Forms for unlimited contacts and groups. The pro version includes these features plus Notes, Attachments Calendar, Tasks, Reminders, Mobile Apps and Stats for $9.95 per month, with additional savings offered on a one-year subscription.

Vangie Beal is a veteran online seller and frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.


  This article was originally published on Thursday Nov 11th 2010
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