October 31, 2014

Zoho CRM: Low-Cost Customer Relationship Management Software

zoho crm

If you want to grow your small business, you need technology. If you want to give your customers what they want by customizing their experience, you need customer relationship management (CRM) software to help you. CRM software helps you run marketing campaigns, manage leads, offer support services, and in some cases, manage inventory to keep on top of the market. Zoho CRM offers a low-cost and effective option for the small business owner.

I just spent a couple of weeks importing contacts into Zoho CRM for a client of mine, so it is fresh in my mind. It isn’t that he really needed someone to do the tech part, he was simply too busy, so I volunteered to help and then produced this Zoho CRM review. So let’s jump in and get started.

Zoho CRM Review

The screenshot below shows the activity types you can add on a contact and also on specific accounts (in orange).

Zoho CRM Contact Details

Zoho CRM doesn’t look fancy when you use it, but it offers the same services you could pay up to 4x as much for with other software. You can track your sales, connect with your customers, and integrate your CRM account with other apps to expand it into a customized business solution. It even allows you to sync your account with Google Apps.

What I Like:

  • Once you set up a workflow a few times, Zoho CRM’s time-saving design limits the number of clicks necessary to use it. The inventory management features make it easy to turn a quote into an invoice or sales order with one click. There are also built-in social network monitoring features.
  • They have a two-factor authentication process, which gives you and your customers added protection.
  • One especially interesting feature is the ability to access all your up-to-date customer data from remote locations through your phone. You can do this even if you are on an airplane and offline, but iOS, Android and Blackberry are supported. You can even log your calls, send emails and manage records. I view these as great features.
  • Zoho CRM comes with the ability to create dynamic reports. Not only can you choose from a variety of pre-constructed reports, but you can use CSV, Excel or PDF to create your own. Adobe Flash technology allows you to create dynamic charts from the data. One click on a chart takes you to the data set producing that information to help you better understand the results.

What I’d Like to See:

Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM can be a little tricky if you are a first-time CRM user. To be fair, that’s pretty standard for CRM. It can take time to wrap your head around.  So, maybe a few more popups to guide you through the basics would help. Overall, Zoho does a great job of providing plenty of self-help information – from blogs to videos. Expect to spend a few days getting it up and running, but paid customers get 24-hour support responses and free customers can expect an email response in two business days. You can tell I don’t have many “complaints” with this service because it handles the basics plus way more.

Zoho offers a free 15-day trial so you can test its paid plans. There are four levels of service available:

  • Free
  • Standard
  • Professional
  • Enterprise

The Free level is a basic package that allows three users to access it (pretty good deal, I think).

The Standard level is said to be for small businesses, and offers more reports and customization.  It is $12 per user per month.

The Professional level is $20 per user per month and includes a workflow management and inventory management.

The Enterprise level adds security controls, data storage and duplication and more customization options for $35 per user per month.

Overall, Zoho is a great value for the price.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated to reflect pricing levels

7 Comments ▼

TJ McCue - Product Editor


TJ McCue TJ McCue served as Technology/Product Review Editor for Small Business Trends for many years and now contributes on 3D technologies. He is currently traveling the USA on the 3DRV roadtrip and writes at the Refine Digital blog.

7 Reactions

  1. Unfortunately Zoho is putting too much effort to compete with Salesforce and moving toward enterprise, so we have a weird situation where even free SMB centric CRM systems (like Bitrix24, for example) now do more than paid Zoho in terms of business logic. Otherwise Zoho has been on a roll lately.

  2. Zoho has the potential to be a great enabler for business. Though support and ability to work with clients to maximise Zoho in the business environment is still an issue. However, if you get to the right people they are very helpful.

  3. The pricing on this article is out of date. It changed about 6-7 months ago.

    Standard is $12, Professional is $20 and $35 for Enterprise which now includes all the add-ons such as mail, mobile , phonebridge etc at no extra cost.

    @Nadya IMHO you can’t compare Zoho with Bitrix and much smaller CRM players as it is now a complete platform with so much more. That’s not to say these smaller players don’t have their place though. Fact software grows in functionality over time, and to survive all software companies have to move from a Niche to the wider enterprise market with time. Even Microsoft Word was originally launched on the Mac platform in the early 90’s before moving to Windows to compete with then market leaders WordPerfect.

    Zoho’s strategy is spot on and have earned the right to compete with a Google and Microsoft in the enterprise space. Salesforce has never quite managed to capitalise on TheForce as a platform, so hopefully Zoho will be able succeed where they haven’t.

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