7 December 2010

Online Tools for Managing Your Business Contacts

Eight affordable and easy to use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) options to keep you organized.

Whether you work in sales, advertising, or even journalism, your business will always need a way to manage projects, tasks, professional contacts, and calendar appointments.

It's common to spread each of these tasks among your Outlook, Google Apps, or address book. But with a customer relationship management tool, you can keep all your information in one place and have it accessible to your colleagues.

There are several affordable and easy to use CRM options out there now. (Even some free, open source ones). We listed the best services here.

1. Zoho is an affordable CRM option
Features: Zoho is a full suite of Web-based business apps that are designed to compete with big boys like Microsoft and Google. But Zoho is not afraid to offer the standard set of CRM features while still integrating data from Google Apps, Outlook, QuickBooks, and many more third party services. There's also a suite of more than 30 Zoho apps ranging from chat to document publishing that makes Zoho an excellent Web-based Office alternative.

  • The good: Google Apps integration, affordable pricing plan, and a mobile site optimized for iPhone.
  • The Bad: Lacks connection to social media sites like LinkedIn or Twitter.
  • Price: Zoho is a freemium service. The top-tier plan costs $25 per user per month. Click here for more pricing details.

2. Free CRM isn't pretty, but it'll get the job done
Features: Free CRM will give you all the basic features such as calendars, contacts, and task management for free. (Up to five users). PC World rated Free CRM one of the best free online business tools.

  • The good: The price is right.
  • The Bad: The dashboard is an eye sore, PC World says its difficult to set up.
  • Price: Free for up to five users. Premium plans are available for more users and include extra features.

3. Salesforce is one of the most popular CRMs available
Features: Salesforce has too many features and options to list here. You can start with a simple contacts manager or opt for the full suite of features that includes 24/7 support. The fact that several cheaper CRMs integrate Salesforce into their services is further proof that this is one of the best services in the business.

  • The good: Excellent interface, iPhone app, and a million dashboard tools.
  • The Bad: Salesforce isn't cheap, but it's one of the best.
  • Price: Starts at $5 per user per month for up to five users. Click here to see a breakdown of each plan.

4. SugarCRM is open source and affordable
Features: SugarCRM is an open source CRM tool with an impressive mobile offering and nice social media integration. If you have a new business, trying out the free, open source version will help you manage your new list of contacts.

  • The good: Twitter integration so you can view your contacts' tweets from the dashboard, iPhone app.
  • The Bad: The free edition doesn't allow access to the mobile site.
  • Price: The Community Ediition offers the basic service for free. Other plans start at $360 per user per year. Click here for more plans and prices.

5. Check out vtiger as another open source CRM option
Features: Like SugarCRM, there's a free, open source version of vtiger with all the basic features you need: Salesforce integration, calendars, task management, etc.

  • The good: It's free!
  • The Bad: The desktop application is only available on Windows and Linux.
  • Price: You can also get the full-featured product for $12 per month per user. Click here to sign up.

6. We love Highrise's design
Features: The Highrise dashboard looks like a Facebook news feed. You can view the latest activity from your contacts in the river, or search for individual contacts and view their history. You can also forward e-mails to your Highrise account and it will automatically link the message to the appropriate contact.

  • The good: Excellent design, iPhone app, and integrates with several other services.
  • The Bad: The top-tier plan only allows 40 users, so large companies may want to stick with Salesforce.
  • Price: The Basic Plan starts at $24 per month and supports up to six users. Click here for the breakdown.

7. BatchBook is a "social CRM"
Features: BatchBook offers a heavy focus on social media integration. You can view your contacts' Twitter, Flickr, blog, and LinkedIn updates from your dashboard. There's also a huge focus on tagging contacts so you can group them together by subject.

  • The good: Social media integration, works with a variety of third-party services like MailChimp and Google.
  • The Bad: Social media updates are cool, but they may not be useful for every business.
  • Price: There are five plans to choose from, starting at $9.95 per month. Click here to see them all.

8. Daylite is a Mac-only CRM
Features: Daylite is a desktop application for Mac OS X and iPhone. The service caters to industries like film, photography, and design, since many in those fields already use Mac. There are also several plugins available, including one that integrates with Apple's Mail desktop application. It's not cheap, but if your business runs entirely on OS X, it's worth looking at.

  • The good: Integrates with Mac OS X native applications iCal and Address Book, iPhone app.
  • The Bad: Not available for Linux or Windows, limited integration options with third party services.
  • Price: Bundles start at $1,499.95 for up to five users. Click here to see a full pricing list.

Our Pick: Highrise. This CRM has an excellent user interface, affordable pricing plans for small businesses, and can be accessed from any computer.

The above article was originally published at: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/217684

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