I get this question a lot and who can blame tech founders, the marketing behind the CRM companies is really good so it can be a challenge to figure out what the best CRM for startups really is. Firstly, I would argue that not all tech startups are in the same position so I am going to be a little more specific. This article and analysis is for early stage startups, who may or may not have their first few customers/testers and want to scale up their sales and marketing.
Startup CRMs: Have Your Done Your Homework?
Before you spend the time and money on a CRM, you need to ask yourself: “have I done my homework”?
- Do you know who you are selling to (what market and target buyer)?
- Do you know what problem you solve for them?
- Does your website talk about your customers problems more than about you?
If you can’t honestly answer yes to each of these three questions, then you are aren’t ready for a CRM yet. CRMs help you scale up but you need to be ready with your positioning. If you aren’t sure, you can get a free audit of your website and online positioning here.
The best CRM for Startups with a Complex & Long Sales Process
As I mentioned above, I don’t think you can say ‘this is the best CRM for a tech startup’, so I am going to talk about startups with the most complex sales cycles. If your startup has long and complex sales and relies on educating customers before closing business, this requires a different strategy than just a CRM. Let’s use a quick example, imagine you’re an AI Startup selling in Financial Services. You need to educate your buyers to generate demand because you solve a problem they have but to which they don’t even realize there is a solution.
If you need to educate and generate demand before launching into a sales cycle, you actually need a marketing automation tool and a CRM that can work well together. I’ve worked with several different combinations of tools here and like anything it depends on your budget.
The Best CRM: Long Sales Cycle & Unlimited Budget
Hubspot for Marketing Automation and Salesforce for the CRM
Hubspot is far and away the best marketing automation tool and Salesforce is (arguably) the best CRM, so if you have a big budget you can use them together. Do note that Salesforce also offers Pardot as a Marketing Automation tool but I have found Pardot to be much more complex to use and the integration between Pardot and Salesforce doesn’t work any better than the connection between Salesforce and Hubspot. So if you have the money, you can go with best of breed for both!
The Best CRM: Long Sales Cycle & Money is Tight
HubSpot CRM and Marketing Automation
HubSpot offers a free CRM. It isn’t as powerful as Salesforce and there are some challenges with the way it manages “Accounts”, “Customers” and “Leads”, but if you need content marketing to generate demand, this is the best mid-level option.
The Best Startup CRM: Long Sales Cycle & Almost No Budget
This approach requires a little more time and effort to setup and work on the customer journeys you have in mind. But the payoff is that it is significantly cheaper and let’s you do most of the things you can do with Hubspot and others. The challenge is that you need a to be a little more tech savvy to use it.
So what’s the best CRM for startups? Well, the honest answer is that “it depends”. But before you rush to buy any CRM, you need to make sure you’re ready for a CRM and that you have built a sales and marketing process that is ready to scale up.
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