Once you start getting clients or even before that, leads, you'll quickly notice there's so much a Google doc or an excel can take. Having a CRM tool in place from the beginning will prevent you a HUGE headache later on, when the client data starts pouring in. In one SAAS company I worked with, there was no CRM in place for the first year (!) of operations. This caused 2 major issues: 1) confusion about where some data is and worse, 2) missed super important data on clients and did not optimize their conversion.
Therefore, unless you are working with a bootstrapped CRM you will later move data from to a more established CRM tool, it's better to have a lean and cheap CRM in place from the start.
And no, no. Salesforce has its advantages but no need to jump to it. We'll talk below about the times when it would work but Salesforce can be cumbersome and expensive for many startups. Instead, try one of the CRM tools below I love the most:
Online and Offline CRM
You probably heard of Intercom.io as it is one of the most used CRM tools for startups. Intercom combines all the communication between you and your clients - email, chat, automated marketing, customer database and more. It bridges between the customer care team (or in an early startup's case "person") and marketing as well, allowing the marketing team to learn from intercom's data and help target and convert better.
Intercom also allows you to have an easy to use userbase dashboard that you segment, see retention rate and more. It's a deeper more customized view of your analytics.
With intercom, you'll be able also to add a chat to your website and communicate in real-time with your clients. In my opinion, having a chat is important not only as a customer service tool, it can also give you great input from the client and a direct line of communication to hear what they think of your product.
Price: 14 day free, then 49$/month
Insights from Your Clients Through Surveys
They say most startups don't fail because their product is bad, but because nobody's buying it. Qualaroo is on a mission to prevent that. With Qualaroo, you can create custom surveys for your website and appear at predetermined times to be more engaging to visitors and not drive them away
Qualaroo helps you with your sales, conversion and overall customer experience. It has many different options to survey your clients while on the sites, and then present you with these insights. Qualaroo is not one of these annoying tools that pop-up in the website that you just want to minimize. Qualoaroo is different than other survey tools such as Survey Monkey by being more in-depth and real-time
Price: Free trial, then $199$/month
Olark is a well-established and very popular chat service. It allows you to have add a slick chat window to your website, and talk directly to your clients in real-time, or allow them to leave a message at off-hours. Its price plans differentiation is the number of users, so if you're just starting you can choose the cheapest plan. You can also get insights and transcripts of the conversations, to get a better understanding of the quality of your customer service, and what your clients are looking for.
The design is flexible too, so you can change it to fit the color scheme of your site.
Real Insights from Users
Your product is awesome. But how about hearing what actual users and potential clients have to say about it? User Testing is a great tool that provides you with valuable insights from real clients that use your site or app. It's not a heatmap widget to add to your site or a any other code. You just specify which tasks you're looking for the user to perform on the site (for example, buy a monthly subscription to product x). You can choose their age, gender, income etc - all to fit your target audience. They have a database of over 1M people, so chances are you'll find the right fit. The results you get are ones you can work with - you get both a screen recording and can hear the tester too. You can also have them answer questions like "did you find the checkout page easy to find?" during their testing. It's a very informative tool that is popular among startups and enterprises alike.
Price:$49 per video for your first 10 videos or $99/video
Online Surveys Tool
SurveyMonkey is an established company (launched in 1999) and you probably heard of it before. It offers a variety of services that help you create, distribute and analyze the best surveys for your business. SurveyMonkey survey software is designed to create a positive experience both for you when you design the surveys and for your key audiences when they take them.
In April 2016, it launched SurveyMonkey Intelligence which gives app developers insights about their market and competitors. For example, if you want to launch a game app, you can check what's the biggest one right now and check out its strategy.
DIY PR Outreach Tool
Zoho CRM is a great choice for startups that are looking for a cost-effective CRM software that has the core features they need when they're still a small team. Features like lead and contact management, workflow automation, analytics and more tools to help you with your sales efforts. Zoho CRM also connects with a wide range of third-party apps and services like Google Apps, to help you integrate your CRM data with the rest of your operations. While this tool has many features of leading CRM tools like Salesforce, with a friendlier price, it does not have the in-depth features the other tools have. So this can be a great solution for your start but later on, you may need to upgrade to a different tool.
Price: Free for 15 days, $12/month after
CRM in your Gmail
Streak is a lean CRM and email tracking Chrome extension you can add to your Gmail. With Streak, you can label your emails by sales progress from cold lead to sale, and follow up closely on correspondence throughout the process. You can also use Streak for support, bug tracking and more.
Streak allows you to see your entire sales pipeline in your inbox, and see which leads are at what stage. Although it is in your inbox, you can share the information from streak with others in your company and select if they can view it, edit it etc. This integration is really helpful as a startup as it's hard to have to deal with dozens of different tools.
CRM and Project Management
The first thing you notice with Insightly is that it's a beautiful and clean interface. There has definitely been work done here on UI. It's very easy to work with the different sections here. For example, in the "tasks" label, you can set various tasks by priorities, assign to team member and more. In the "contacts" tab, it integrates with all the communication you've had with that person, as well as their social media profile and latest tweets, giving it a very live real-time feeling. You can also sort opportunities by the progress of them, allowing you to know better what is exactly the next step. The tool also has reports of pipelines, opportunities. Insightly also has a mailchimp and Google calendar integration so that you can schedule an email campaign for a segmented group of leads.
CRM and More Apps
Apptivo is a powerful all-in-one solution that would fit B2B websites best. It includes a variety of tools such as project management and invoicing, not just CRM. It's a one-stop-shop for tools you need from nurturing a lead to managing your time on the project to invoicing it.
Apptivo has been selected by many top reviewers like PC Mag as an excellent tool and it's very affordable for startups just setting up their business too. Apptivo provides you with a holistic view on a client - opportunities, projects, estimates, invoicing, with a very comprehensive history of communication. Apptivo also integrates with the major tools you use - Dropbox, Google Apps, PayPal.
The Mothership CRM
No need to introduce Salesforce. It is the largest CRM tool, used by many enterprises. Salesforce has webinars, advisors who come to your office for training. But as a startup, you don't need all of that - it is just too much. That's why in 2014, Salesforce launched a "Salesforce for startups" program. It is not a tool but a program that helps Salesforce products be more accessible to startups. Big cloud providers like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft all shower free credits on startups, and now Salesforce is doing that too. By signing up to their program, you can get free or heavily discounted tools for various tools for launching the product and later growing it.