Small Business CRM Buying Guide

Drew Robb

Updated · Jul 20, 2011

Our first two CRM buying guides covered the enterprise CRM and midrange CRM markets.

This article will focus on the small business customer relationship management (CRM) market. Note that it ignores companies like Microsoft, SAP and Oracle, who increasingly serve the low end of the market, as they were covered in our first article. Those included in this guide are Sage CRM, Avidian, Aplicor, Zoho, NetSuite and InfusionSoft.

Prophet CRM by Avidian Technologies

Avidian CEO James Wong says users want to make every customer contact more meaningful and more profitable. That means CRM systems must have a low barrier to entry in both cost and usability that will create immediate return on investment (ROI). Mobile CRM is also in demand among SMBs, he said.

“I don't think some of these customers know exactly why they want mobile CRM or how they will use it, but they know they want it,” said Wong. “Approximately 30 percent of our customers are requesting mobile CRM, but roughly only 10 percent are actually taking advantage of it.”

Avidian's flagship product is Prophet CRM, based on Microsoft's .NET platform and integrated with Microsoft Outlook. The logic is simple: most salespeople spend much of their day in Outlook, so why not take CRM to them rather than have them come to the CRM? Prophet, then, has been designed to take Outlook beyond tasks, calendaring and email, with centralized and secure contact management, sales opportunity management, flexible reporting and easy sharing and controlling of customer information. It is available in on-premises and cloud-based versions, plus a mobile edition works alongside both.

A newer feature called Prophet Mobile Web provides any mobile device with a browser to remotely access their Prophet CRM data. Another version known as Prophet Ultimate enables businesses to tailor Prophet's existing sales opportunity tracking capabilities to meet the needs of departments beyond the sales force. Groups such as customer service teams, technical support, fulfillment and client services can customize Prophet's opportunity tracking features to best suit their needs. This allows for all these units to be supported from a single Prophet server.

Pricing for Prophet varies depending on edition, but in general it starts at $149.95 per user for on-premises versions and $19.95 per user/per month for cloud-based versions. For a limited time, Prophet Mobile Web will be available free to all cloud-based users. After initial introduction period, it will start at $14.99 per user/per month.

“The most expensive CRM a company can buy is the one that doesn't get used,” said Wong. “Doing CRM right in Outlook helps companies kick start their implementation and employee adoption.”


Sage CRM solutions, including SageCRM, support more than 75,000 businesses and 3.6 million users worldwide. The focus of SageCRM is on ease of use, deployment, customization, integration and access. As such, it can be run on-premises or as a hosted system to manage sales, marketing and customer service activities. Role-based dashboards provide data views and graphical reports.

SageCRM starts at $595 per on-premises user license and $69 per user per month for hosted access. It is also available as part of Sage ERP suites starting at $795 per on-premises user license and $69 per user per month for hosted access. The new Sage E-Marketing for SageCRM connected service begins at $149.95 per user per month.

SageCRM v7.1, released last month, provides iPhone, social media (Twitter and LinkedIn) and Sage E-Marketing integrations. Sage E-Marketing for SageCRM is a subscription-based Sage Connected Service for managing email marketing campaigns. Real-time Microsoft Exchange synchronization provides calendar management and a single location for managing and adding additional users.

“We are developing Sage Connected Services, which are specific functions delivered via the web on a subscription basis to enhance the productivity of customers' on-premises or cloud software experience,” said Dan Wilzoch, senior vice president and general manager of Sage North America. “They leverage standards including REST, HTML5 and our own SData protocol, which provides common integration between Sage applications and extensions for integrating with non-Sage applications.”

He sees five trends converging in the CRM space: cloud computing, consumerization of business (handheld devices, social media), mobility (rich user experience, device independence), analytics (predictive, real-time), and business process optimization (role-based workflow).

“Sage believes visual data and security integration will enable more rapid and actionable insights for organizations,” said Wilzoch. “Fully integrated analytics with pre-built, role-based content paves the way for SMBs and their employees, simplifying complexities in the background while surfacing real-time insights so teams can improve productivity, grow sales and retain customers by predicting outcomes, correcting business processes as necessary, and identifying best practices. Implementing advanced, visual analytics allows organizations to focus their resources on the most profitable business opportunities.”

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  • Drew Robb
    Drew Robb

    Drew Robb is a writer who has been writing about IT, engineering, and other topics. Originating from Scotland, he currently resides in Florida. Highly skilled in rapid prototyping innovative and reliable systems. He has been an editor and professional writer full-time for more than 20 years. He works as a freelancer at Enterprise Apps Today, CIO Insight and other IT publications. He is also an editor-in chief of an international engineering journal. He enjoys solving data problems and learning abstractions that will allow for better infrastructure.

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