What is a CRM? [+ a breakdown of our top tools]

 In Business, Data & Analytics, Digital Marketing, Top Tips

You may have heard the acronym “CRM” used in business settings (or even here on our blog) but what exactly is it?

CRM stands for customer relationship management, which encompasses the strategy and technology companies use to manage and analyze key insights from consumer relationshipssuch as data, interactions and customer lifecycle.

Customer relationship management is hard to do by yourself. So CRM tools and systems help businesses manage consumer data, so they can effectively communicate and create solid relationships with customers. Through years of research, sales and marketing industry experts have learned that communication and creating valuable consumer relationships are key factors of companies’ success in any market.

CRM enables institutionslike businesses, schools, nonprofits, and moreto follow the details of client preferences, contact information, purchases, and more, which helps to create more seamless, effective and personal relationships with consumers. It can be used for acquiring prospects, customer retention, and continued management of those created relationships. And not only do they help you organize and keep up with all your clients and customers, CRM systems are also beneficial to companies’ internal communication and interaction, as they provide fast and convenient way for employees to share information with each other. Direct mail, emails, phone calls, you name itCRM databases keep track of these interactions between you and your clients to make sure you provide the best consumer experience and relationship possible.

Providing flawless customer service can be complex, because consumers are dynamic individuals with varying preferences. CRM systems can help you maintain organization and communication to provide your consumers with all they need. Great products and great service create happy customers, and small business owners and corporations alike will find that CRM systems can be quite beneficial to business functionality.

Which CRM system is the best choice for my business?

CRM systems can be a great investment to make sure you maintain happy and helpful relationships with your clients, students, and/or donors. But with so many alternatives in today’s market, you will have to determine which CRM system meets your business needs most efficiently.

We’ve compared our top three recommended CRM systems below:


  • All-in-one, powerful and efficient CRM system for sales, marketing, and communication operations. This is a fully loaded system with multiple functionalities for business operations.
  • Uses a built in artificial intelligence tool, Einstein, that predicts, recommends and automates sales, marketing as well as service tasks.
  • Features live webinars, on-demand videos, in-app tutorials, and access to Salesforce experts to enhance your team’s productivity and efficacy.
  • Businesses, on average, see a 20% increase in revenue with Salesforce CRM in one year, and can be used for small or large businesses.


  • Pricefor small businesses, especially, if price point is a ‘sink-or-swim’ factor, this may not be the most viable option for your team.
  • While it’s great that Salesforce has a ton of features and is a fully loaded CRM program, it may require extra time spent training your team to learn the system.  Integrating Salesforce to get optimal usage of the system could be a separate task of its own.

Bottom Line:

Salesforce is ideal for businesses, both large and small, that need an intricate system to manage their consumer data and sales process. This system has a variety of features that make interaction with consumers, follow-up tasks, data reporting, and communicating with your team a breeze. If your business is price sensitive or is not in need of a high-functioning CRM system, you may want to consider alternatives to a full package like Salesforce. Nonetheless, this CRM program delivers and meets most, if not all, consumer relationship management needs.



  • Designed to optimize sales activities for small businesses and small sales teams
  • Multi-faceted functionality outside of sales activity such as workflow, enrollment, reward programs, etc.
  • Customizable to your business sales process and uses a simple, visual dashboard with a simple drag-and-drop interface to manage sales pipeline.
  • Built around activity-based selling and using system capabilities to capitalize on sales opportunities at the right moment.


  • Not a viable option for large businesses (limited data storage per user).
  • Monthy fee paid per user

Bottom line:

Pipedrive will work well for small- to mid-sized businesses that need an efficient CRM system that doesn’t trade off great quality and capability for price. It’s simple, intuitive to use, and a great option for increasing team productivity.  Pipedrive cuts data sifting and sorting down to a minimal left-click on your mouse. If your business is price-conscious yet in need of a great data and consumer management solution, this is a perfect option for you.



  • System allows customizable sales operation that fit your business’ processes, making it quite practical and adaptable.
  • Visual dashboard let users set quotas, track sales progress, and features a search function for quickly sorting through information.
  • System updates contact records, sales pipeline, and forecasting simultaneously at the click of a button.
  • Free certification courses and online training videos for new users.
  • No monthly feefree for your entire team.


  • HubSpot onboarding, consulting, and group training can range from $350 a month to $5,000 per day session.
  • Very simplified system and only supports CRM functionality and may not meet all business needs – marketing and sales functions are available as separate downloadable softwares.

Bottom line:

HubSpot is great for very small businesses, and especially for new business owners who are in the beginning stages of gaining clientele and customer volume.  It will also be a great fit for larger businesses who simply need a system for data organization.  Datanames, phone number, mailing addresses, etc.can be a lot of information to keep up with.  HubSpot is an excellent tool to help an organization maintain accurate and up-to-date information about their consumer base without compromising their budget. If your business process is in need of “spring cleaning” software to help enhance your productivity, this is the pick for you.

And so, there you have it.  CRM is the relationship management system for businesses of the future. If you find yourself a little timid or unsure of what these technological advancements can do for your business, there’s no harm in trying out a free trial!

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Maya Parnell is a Senior and Advertising major at Michigan State University.  Strategy development, working with innovative teams, and achieving team objectives are a few of her areas of interest.  Though just in the beginning of her field experience, Maya has previous experience in media planning and project management. She sees value in data and is passionate about learning new information.

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