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The definitive guide to CRM software in 2021

All of us at monday.com
All of us at monday.com

    Choosing the right CRM software is no easy feat. With so many options out there, how can you be sure you’re making the right choice if you can’t even decide what to make for dinner tonight?

    To save you the dreary hours of research, we’ve done the work for you.

    In this guide, you’ll find exactly what a CRM is, the different types of CRMs, and exactly what you should look for when choosing one for your team.

    We’ll also be reviewing 20 platforms you should integrate with your CRM software to streamline your processes.

    Let’s get started, shall we?

    What is CRM software?

    The term CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It’s the process of managing customer interactions to increase sales and keep current customers happy.

    A few decades ago, companies relied on spreadsheets and lists to manage this process. With the introduction of database marketing in the early 1980s and the spread of the first contact management system, CRM technology started to evolve.

    Today, the CRM software experience offers a wide variety of functions, including marketing and workflow automation, sales management, advanced analytics, and much more.

    For instance, let’s say you manage a customer service team.

    • You’d use a CRM to store customer profile information to personalize support.
    • You’d use a CRM to give your team quick access to all relevant information to speed up service.
    • You’d use a CRM to record customer conversations to improve their experience in the future, as well as inform your own data-driven campaigns.

    If you run a digital marketing agency, a CRM platform helps you keep in touch with potential customers, score them based on conditional data, and move them throughout the sales cycle.

    And if you manage a hotel, the right CRM software helps you personalize your guest’s experience, automate and optimize communication, and drive repeat business.

    In short, CRM software helps you better understand who your potential and current customers are and improves how you communicate with them.

    The 4 types of CRM

    We can divide CRM software into 4 different categories based on 4 different objectives:

    • Operational CRM: streamlines and automates specific processes—usually sales and marketing.
    • Analytical CRM: gathers insights and data about customers to improve decision-making.
    • Collaborative CRM: gets rid of silos and shares customer insights across all departments in your organization.
    • Specialty CRM: streamlines and manages customer relations in a specific industry (i.e medical, hospitality, construction, etc.).

    Here’s the good news: there are companies out there offer all-in-one solutions. 

    That means you get all of these functionalities in one place.

    monday.com is one of them, such as with over 30+ drag-and-drop building blocks, you can streamline any sales process regardless of your industry.

    We’ll cover this a bit later in more depth, but our CRM platform is fully customizable, data-driven, and collaborative by nature.

    Also, you get access to advanced data dashboards to gather insights and drive business growth.

    monday.com's data dashboards screenshot

    The point is that in today’s day and age, you don’t have to rely on limited CRM systems that focus on just one aspect of the process. 

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    What’s the difference between a CRM and marketing automation software?

    Many people confuse the two, and for good reason. Many CRMs offer marketing automation, but they’re entirely different beasts.

    The main difference lies in their focus.

    CRM software focuses on sales and customer satisfaction, while marketing automation focuses on… well…marketing — lead nurturing, email broadcasting, lead generation, etc.

    As we see in the image below, both systems are part of the same sales funnel, but they just help you at different stages of the process.

    Marketing automation software vs CRM software

    (Image Source)

    For example, you could use marketing automation to capture leads, nurture them through content, and score them based on their engagement. Once they’re qualified, you could use CRM software to personalize the sales experience, see your business’ full history with a specific lead, and improve your relationship with existing customers.

    Now, many platforms out there merge the two aspects so you can consolidate all your work into one place.

    For instance, with monday.com you not only get access to powerful CRM features, but you can also integrate all your favorite marketing automation tools. This way, you can sync your customer data into the same workspace.

    monday.com integrations screenshot

    What makes a great CRM software?

    Now that you understand what Customer Relationship Management software is, you may be wondering: how can I choose the right one for my organization?

    G2—a software reviewing site—lists over 630 CRMs, and that’s just a fraction of all the tools out there.

    So, with so many options, how could you possibly find the best one? Well, you need the right criteria.

    According to FinancesOnline, the top 3 features that most professionals look for in a CRM software are:

    1. Ease of use
    2. Schedule management
    3. CRM data snapshot capability.

    But, of course, those three elements aren’t enough to find the right CRM for your team. Nowadays, most CRM platforms are easy to use and many of them offer similar features.

    So, how to tell the difference between a “good enough” CRM software and a great one?

    Let’s break it down:

    1. Flexibility is king (or queen)

    Any functional CRM system you choose must adapt to your own processes and operations and not the other way around.

    For instance, monday.com is fully customizable.

    And when we say “fully,” we mean it. We provide you with over 30 drag-and-drop columns, more than 20 dashboard widgets, and 200+ premade templates for any use case.

    monday.com's customizable boards in action

    We also offer no-code app creation right within our platform and have an active community of users who share their own creations.

    You can play with these elements and design any workflow, sales process, or operation you can imagine.

    Whether you’re tracking leads, managing sales pipelines, or onboarding customers, monday.com is fully customizable so that your team can get started instantly.

    2. Integrates with your existing tools

    Let’s face it: in today’s digitalized world, no team operates with just one tool.

    We’ve got email marketing, customer support, advertising, sales, analytics; you name it, there’s a tool for it.

    And each of these activities requires a different set of technology.

    What does this mean for you?

    If your CRM software doesn’t integrate with these tools, you’ll have a hard time trying to centralize all your information into one place.

    For instance, with monday.com’s integrations center, you get access to over 40 integrations so you can bring in all the tools and apps you already use and operate in just one work hub.

    monday.com's integrations center screenshot

    Not only that, but we also give you integration recipes to automate tasks based on specific parameters and conditions.

    monday.com's integration recipe example

    3. Easily track revenue

    A CRM that doesn’t track revenue is quite inefficient.

    If you don’t know your numbers, you’ll fall into the business-ending mistake of investing in things you shouldn’t be.

    In short, any great CRM software should provide you with robust analytics and data dashboards so you know exactly how you’re doing against KPIs.

    For instance, with monday.com you can visualize your entire sales process—including the value of leads and customers—at a glance:

    monday.com's dashboards example

    With more than 20 dashboard widgets, you can visualize the information that matters the most in your business and remove needless data.

    For instance, with our “Numbers” widget, you can get a quick view and total sum of your revenue across projects, clients, or even departments:

    monday.com's numbers widget in action

    Our “Chart” widget could help you track sales and commissions earned by specific sales reps:

    monday.com's chart widget in action

    You could even add another Chart widget in the form of a pie chart to display the amount of leads you collected in a specific period:

    monday.com's pie chart example

    And your final dashboard might look something like this:

    monday.com's CRM dashboard example

    This way, you can get an accurate understanding of your progress and make smarter decisions faster.

    Simply put, the CRM software you pick must be data-driven.

    4. Top-notch security

    Did you know that cybercrime has increased by 300% since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak?

    That’s why studies forecast that, in 2021, the global cost of cybercrime will be close to $6 trillion per year.

    Here’s the point: your CRM software will manage critical information about your customers. If that information isn’t safe, you can get into serious trouble.

    So, before choosing a specific software, make sure it complies with the most common security standards and certifications.

    For example, monday.com complies with the most rigorous global security standard for Information Security Management Systems (ISMS): ISO/IEC 27001:2013.

    monday.com's security badges

    Besides, you can set permission levels to make sure just the right people can access your information. So, you can be sure your customer data will always be in good hands.

    5. It should automate work

    Automations are no longer a luxury—they’re a necessity. If you can’t automate repetitive tasks, you’ll waste time and increase risk of error.

    To improve efficiency, any great CRM software must offer aproductive automations.

    For example, with monday.com’s automation center, you get access to hundreds of automation recipes you can set up in one click.

    monday.com's automations center screenshot

    You can automate tasks, notifications, item creation, status changes, and much more.

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    15 integrations to boost your CRM efforts

    Now that you understand the importance of CRM software and the features and traits you should look for, it’s time to deepen a bit on integrations.

    And if you want to get the most out of your CRM, you need to make sure it integrates with your current tools and apps.

    If it doesn’t, you’ll be leaving a huge opportunity on the table —an opportunity to centralize your work into one place and remove silos between departments.

    We’ll segment these platforms by category and use case.

    Marketing automation

    Marketing automation and CRM work in tandem.

    On one hand, the marketing team uses software to create landing pages, segment audiences, nurture new leads, and score them based on levels of engagement. Once they’re ready, they send them to the sales team as “Marketing Qualified Leads” (MQLs).

    On the other hand, a CRM software is an auxiliary system for the sales team—it gives them a complete view of leads, prospects, and customers.

    When CRM and marketing automation work together, you get better outcomes and better reporting.

    Some of the best marketing automation platforms include:

    1. JungleWorks

    JungleWorks is a suite of products that focuses on every step of an on-demand business journey, building online storefronts, and marketplace apps and websites.

    You can also communicate and collaborate with business stakeholders in the same platform.

    Some of the top features include:

    • Omnichannel automation: launch cross-channel communication campaigns based on conditional data and triggers.
    • Personalization: create a dynamic experience for each of your customers.
    • Journey designer: map out the entire customer journey and set actions for each stage.

    Starting price isn’t provided by the company. 

    2. Campaigner

    Campaigner is a marketing automation tool that helps you map out your customer journey, automate customer interactions, and attract and nurture leads through customizable forms.

    In addition, you can design and optimize conversion campaigns with features that help you measure revenue by channel and score leads based on engagement.

    Some of the top features include:

    • Dynamic content: show targeted content to your prospects with dynamic variables.
    • Conversion tracking: measure the effectiveness of your campaigns with ease.
    • Drag-and-drop builder: customize the emails you send to fit your brand.

    Campaigner offers 4 paid plans: Starter, Essential, Advanced, and eCommerce. Plans start at $49.95 per month. 

    3. MailChimp

    MailChimp is one of the most popular email marketing and automation platforms available. It helps you send emails, invitations, and reminders to all your clients and prospects.

    Besides, you can perform A/B tests, segment your audiences, and fine tune your messaging to increase conversions.

    Some of the top features include:

    • Audience management: store contact information and create segments based on different criteria.
    • Content studio: sync all your content — photos, videos, emails, etc. — and keep your brand consistent.
    • Analytics: get valuable insights about your audience behavior.

    MailChimp offers a free plan and 3 paid ones: Essentials, Standard, and Premium. Paid plans start at $11.79 per month.

    4. Marketo

    Marketo is an account-based marketing automation software suitable for small or large businesses. It helps you create, deploy, and automate marketing campaigns to capture and nurture leads.

    Marketo also provides you with built-in conversion features, including lead scoring and content personalization.

    Other helpful features include:

    • Sales partnership: strengthen your pipeline process through recommended content and resources.
    • Content personalization: show personalized content to your customers and prospects with AI-powered technology.
    • Experience automation: engage, nurture, and score customers automatically.

    Marketo offers 4 paid plans: Select, Prime, Ultimate, and Enterprise. Pricing depends on the size of your database. 

    Invoicing and accounting

    The whole purpose of using CRM software is to improve your bottom line, right?

    But if you can’t measure how your initiatives are doing, then you can’t know where to pivot or what to fix.

    That’s why integrating invoicing and accounting software to your CRM platform is essential. This way, you can correlate your finances with your sales activities and measure how they’re performing.

    Some of the most popular invoicing and accounting platforms include:

    5. Quickbooks

    Quickbooks is an all-in-one invoicing tool designed for small business owners. It helps you oversee all your purchase orders, invoices, sales, and expenses.

    You can also automate recurring invoices, integrate your bank account, and ensure you’re financially solid.

    Some of the top features include:

    • Inventory management: keep a close eye on your stock, suppliers, and costs.
    • Payroll management: make sure your employees are always paid on time.
    • Invoice management: send invoice automatically and collect payments online.

    Quickbooks offers 4 paid plans: Simple Start, Essentials, Plus, and Advanced. Plans start at $12.50 per month.

    6. Invoicely

    As the name suggests, Invoicely is a free and customizable platform to design, well, invoices. You can accept online payments, track time and expenses, and automate recurring invoices.

    Besides, you can calculate taxes, customize statements with your brand, and work on the go with Invoicely’s mobile app.

    Some of the top features include:

    • Multiple businesses: manage multiple businesses and teams in the same account.
    • Reporting: get access to valuable insights to improve your decision-making.
    • Customization: customize your proposals and invoices to fit your specific needs.

    Invoicely offers a free version and 3 paid plans: Basic, Professional, and Enterprise. Paid plans start at $9.99 per month. 

    Customer service and support

    Customer support and sales must work together to provide the best experience possible. In fact, CRM software must be an elementary tool for any customer service team.

    By integrating your ticketing systems, live chat apps, and customer-related software with your CRM, you can get valuable insights about your customers and use that info to personalize the experience.

    Some of the top customer service apps and tools include:

    7. Zendesk

    Zendesk builds business software for customer engagement. It provides you with a simple help desk system to manage and organize customer tickets from all your different channels.

    You can also provide personalized support experiences and segment your audience based on specific behaviors.

    Some of the top features include:

    • Messaging: manage, track, and respond to customer queries from a single, unified place.
    • AI-powered bots: personalize conversations with customers and increase your response speed.
    • Help center: create knowledge bases, FAQs pages, and forums to help your customers.

    Zendesk offers 4 paid plans: Team, Growth, Professional, and Enterprise. Plans start at $49 per month (per agent), billed annually.

    8. LiveChat

    As you may imagine, LiveChat is a cloud-based live chat solution that helps organizations keep in touch with visitors and customers with ease. It also provides you with a built-in help desk to monitor and handle customer tickets.

    LiveChat offers multiple ways of accessing the platform, including a cloud-based system, a desktop app, and downloadable mobile versions available for both Android and iOS.

    Some of the top features include:

    • Chat tools: embed a live chat on your website and communicate with users in real-time.
    • Customer engagement: send targeted messages, save chat history, create URL rules, build eye-catches, and store chat transcripts.
    • Reports and analytics: get valuable reports on the performance of your agents and the ROI of your conversations.

    LiveChat offers 4 paid plans: Starter, Team, Business, and Enterprise. Plans start at $19 per month (per agent).

    CMS (Content Management Systems)

    Content Management Systems help you create, organize, manage digital assets, forms, and more.

    In short, a CMS helps you manage your online presence.

    For example, let’s say a prospect visits your site and sends a message through your contact page. In this case, your CMS could send that info to the CRM platform so your sales team can reach out to that person later.

    And this is just a simple example of the benefits of this type of integration.

    That said, some of the best CMS platforms in the market include:

    9. WordPress.org

    WordPress is the most popular CMS. You can use it to publish content, design your website, and manage the technical side of it with no coding skills. From corporate websites to industry magazines, WordPress provides you with all the tools you need to build your online presence.

    Besides, WordPress is totally open-source, meaning many external software engineers work at it to improve it, day by day.

    Some of the top features include:

    • Simplicity: get access to a simple, user-friendly interface to manage your content.
    • Flexibility: modify and adapt the platform to your specific needs and add extra functionalities through easy-to-install plugins.
    • Publishing: create, publish, and track content with an in-built word processing platform.

    WordPress is completely free.

    10. WooCommerce

    Like WordPress, WooCommerce is a free, open-source CMS designed for eCommerce-oriented businesses. You can design your online store, accept payments online, manage shipping and carrier control.

    It also helps you optimize your email marketing initiatives, manage inventories, and keep your data secure at all times.

    Some of the top features include:

    • Plugins: install add-ons, widgets, and features in a couple of clicks.
    • Online payments: integrate your favorite payment gateways and accept online payments.
    • Customizations: edit your website with no coding skills whatsoever.

    WooCommerce is completely free.

    Proposal management

    A great proposal management system can help your organization streamline your proposal creation processes and increase efficiency.

    Also, a proposal management system integration can help your sales team get the most out of their efforts by measuring which proposals work best and providing you with advanced reports.

    Some of the most popular platforms include:

    11. Proposify

    Proposify helps teams streamline their proposal processes and organize their documents in a more efficient way. You can automate proposal sending, adapt documents to your brand, and get insights on your best-performing proposals.

    In addition, Proposify allows you to send, track, and manage e-sign documents, which is a vital element of any business.

    Some of the top features include:

    • Content management: protect your digital assets from inconsistencies and keep your brand aligned all the time.
    • Snapshot: oversee progress of specific reps throughout all the sales process.
    • Interactive pricing: tailor your pricing for each prospect and increase your conversion rates.

    Proposify offers 3 paid plans: Tall, Grande, and Venti. Plans start at $19 per month (per user).

    12. RFPIO

    RFPIO is a RFP (Request for Proposal) response system that automates your proposal process and optimizes your prospect outreaching activities.

    You can use it to import and format any RFP questionnaire, add custom questions, and assign questions to your teammates.

    Some of the top features include:

    • Collaborationkeep in touch with your team through built-in messaging, file sharing, and notifications.
    • Response management: manage customer interactions and streamline your RFP processes.
    • Answer library: design an AI-powered knowledge base that answers the most common customer questions.

    Starting price isn’t provided by the company. 

    13. Qwilr

    Qwilr is a proposal automation software that helps you turn PDF documents into interactive websites. You can create sales pitches, proposals, quotes, and client-related documents —like contracts and agreements.

    In addition, you get access to fully customizable proposal templates to start a bit faster.

    Some of the top features include:

    • Page notifications: get notifications every time a document is seen or reviewed.
    • Interactive quoting: send custom pricing packages to customers and let them decide which of them fits their needs.
    • Templates: get access to customizable proposal templates to create good-looking documents that showcase your brand.

    Qwilr offers 2 paid plans: Business and Enterprise. Pricing starts at $75 per month (for up to 3 users).

    Collaboration

    It’s no secret that great communication enhances productivity and, thus, your overall results.

    Some of the best collaboration platforms include:

    14. Slack

    Slack is an online collaboration platform that brings together apps, people, and data. It consolidates all your communication into a single channel to increase productivity and reduce time wasted.

    Slack also provides you with collaboration features, including file sharing, real-time messaging, automations, and more.

    Some of the top features include:

    • Channels: organize your work through central workspaces designed for communication.
    • Slack Connect: collaborate with clients, stakeholders, and external people with ease.
    • Voice and video calls: host important meetings without leaving the platform.

    Slack offers 3 paid plans: Standard, Plus, and Enterprise Grid. Pricing starts at $6.67 per month (per user).

    15. Zoom Meetings

    Zoom is a communication platform that focuses on video calls. It provides you with features like chat, voice calls, video meetings, and multi-device webinars.

    With Zoom Meetings, you can automate recurring meetings and connect with other “rooms” and participants at the same time.

    Some of the top features include:

    • Group live chat: chat with your team and clients without leaving Zoom.
    • Audio conferencing: organize sales calls and meetings on the go.
    • Auto-recording: record your conferences and store them in the cloud or computer automatically.

    Zoom Meetings offers a free version and 3 paid plans. Paid plans start at $149.90 per year.

    How to improve your CRM activities with monday.com

    At this point, you’re probably wondering how to choose a CRM system that meets the features we covered earlier but also integrates with your current tools and apps.

    This is where monday.com comes in handy.

    So, to help you make a more informed decision, let’s quickly cover the things you can accomplish with our platform.

    Let’s start by answering the question:

    What is monday.com?

    We’re not just another CRM software. At least not in the traditional sense of the term. We’re a complete Work OS (Work Operating System.)

    Saying monday.com is just another CRM is like saying your smartphone is just another calculator. Of course, your smartphone includes a calculator, but that’s just barely scratching the surface of what it’s capable of.

    You can use our platform to manage complex projects—from Scrum prints to event planning—oversee any type of team, and automate hundreds of tasks (literally). You can also design any sales process you can imagine and streamline each one of your business operations.

    For instance, here’s how Parvenu—a tech startup that helps retailers raise more money for charity through personalization—use monday.com as a CRM with more than 150 automations and 52 integrations on a single board:

    Like them, many other companies use our platform to streamline their processes and improve how they manage customer interactions.

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    Integrations

    We’ve already made the case for the importance of integrations.

    The good news?

    monday.com integrates with more than 40 of your favorite tools and apps. This way, you can centralize your information into a single source of truth and improve the way you work.

    Here’s a quick video that explains more about our integrations system:

    Some of monday.com’s most popular features:

    • Templates: get access to customizable templates for any use case and industry.
    • Intuitive interface: get control over your pipelines and leads with an intuitive interface.
    • Centralized dashboard: manage leads, clients, documents, and tasks in a single place.
    • Offline solution: get access to mobile, desktop, and offline solutions and stay connected anytime, anywhere.
    • Pipeline management: track your deals and visualize how you’re doing at a glance with unlimited sales pipelines.
    • Customer tracking: track contact activities and get valuable insights about your customers.
    • Marketing operations: visualize milestones and deadlines, integrate with dozens of other tools, and manage all your marketing initiatives in one workspace.

    And much more.

    To get a full description of our CRM functions, take a look at our product overview page.

    Pro tip: use our CRM template

    As we stated earlier, we offer multiple templates you can install in one click.

    With our CRM template, you can prioritize leads, integrate existing apps, and bring in all your team with speed.

    The best part? You don’t need coding skills whatsoever.

    You just need to install the template, insert your information, and voila! You’re all set.

    monday.com's CRM template screenshot

    Here’s some of the things you can do with this template:

    • Export and import: easily export this template to Excel or turn any Excel file into a monday.com board.
    • World clocks: make sure you always contact your customers at their local time with our word clock column.
    • Customer location: use the map view to plan client visits and organize your CRM by locations.
    • Automatic calculations: track and calculate deal size, close probability, and more automatically.

    In short, this template will save you tons of hours of work.

    Pricing:

    At monday.com we offer 4 paid plans: basic, standard, pro, and enterprise. To help you decide which of our plans is right for you, we suggest reading our comprehensive guide on monday.com’s pricing.

    The CRM that we know and love

    There’s no doubt the right CRM platform will make your life easier, but choosing one of the many can be agonizing.

    The best CRM for you will depend on your specific situation.

    That said, if you’re looking for a visual, intuitive, and fully customizable CRM platform to manage your lead and customer relations, then monday.com is probably a great fit.

    We offer a flexible yet powerful system to revolutionize the way you manage every customer interaction.

    In fact, we’re offering a 2-week free trial, no credit card required!

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