Client management software (CMS) is handy for managing client relationships by consolidating your client data and streamlining processes like payments, project management, and communication. These tools also create a single source of truth to help you make data-driven decisions.

If you’re looking for the best client management software for your small business, the good news is that there are dozens of options. But the bad news is you’ll have to sift through different software to find the right one for you. Fortunately, we’re here to help you make an informed decision without the hassle. You’ll want to start by comparing platforms on some core features, which includes…

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6 Features to consider in client management systems for small businesses

  1. Supports relevant business functions. Maybe you only need a platform that supports sales, marketing, and customer support functions. Or perhaps you’re looking for a more advanced solution – one that centralises your client data across all business functions, from marketing to customer support, finance, and even HR (which resources are assigned to which client’s projects?).
  2. Data centralisation and 360-customer view. For a client management system to centralise your data and deliver a 360-customer view, it will need to either support all your essential business functions (thus becoming a “host” for the data), or else support integrations with platforms containing your customer data. 

    To understand why this is important, let’s consider a business management solution that lets you manage your projects, customer relationships, and finances in one place, like Caflou. With Caflou, you can quickly identify which accounts your most profitable projects are tied to, or which accounts are ideal for reengaging for additional work.
  3. Analytics and reporting. While every client management software includes analytics and reporting, you’ll want to find a solution with the right level of granularity that your business needs.

    For example, Caflou ties data from your projects to relevant client accounts. This means you get granular insights into cash flow from specific accounts, and you can make data-driven decisions. For example, you can prioritise resource allocation by identifying your most profitable projects.
  4. UI/UX and ease of adoption. Your client management system will be a core part of your business’s digital infrastructure, which means you’ll need to onboard and train people. And every time you hire someone new, you’ll need to rapidly get them up to speed as well. That’s why it’s important to consider each platform’s UI/UX – make sure it’s intuitive and easy to get familiar with.

    Plus, any client-facing elements (like a client portal or a shared project management space) should be straightforward. You don’t want your clients to have to figure out a complex interface.
  5. Automation. To get the most out of automation, you’ll ideally want either a platform that offers various automation use cases, or one that at least supports integrations with third-party software that does. For example, Caflou offers built-in workflow automation, and supports integrations with Make, a leading no-code automation builder.
  6. Integrations. Does the CMS support integrations with the rest of your tech stack, like your project management tool or workflow automation software? 

How to choose the best client management system for your small business

If you’re planning to invest in a client management system, also known as a customer relationship management (CRM) software, then you’ll have plenty of options. Some might say too many options, because dozens of CMS are available.

However, once you outline your business’s specific needs, the choice becomes easier – because different systems are tailored to suit different businesses. So, you’ll need to:

  • Audit your existing tech stack. Conducting this audit has a two-fold purpose: first, to understand what business functions your existing tech stack caters to. For example, you might have a project management tool, finance and accounting software, and a HR management system. The second goal is to keep integrations in mind when you’re comparing different client management software. 
  • Consider your budget. Client management systems typically tailor their subscription plans to different needs. Higher-priced plans offer more features, and costs may vary based on the number of user seats.
  • Forecast future needs. As your business grows, you’ll typically need more from your client management system – maybe more user seats to manage a greater number of projects, or perhaps more sophisticated features since you can now justify the ROI. 

    So, when evaluating a CRM, look at how its plans scale with your forecasted needs. For example, if you’re expecting to add, say, five more users each quarter, how much will your costs increase by? And is the platform suited for larger teams? Some solutions scale better than others. 
  • Which teams will primarily use the client management system? While different client management solutions share some core features, they may also have stark differences. 

    This is because these tools cater to various markets and needs; PipeDrive is designed for Sales teams, HubSpot lets you mix and match with modules, and Caflou lets businesses with 1-100 employees effectively manage core business functions.

    Thus, it’s important to consider your end-users. Are you looking to equip core teams with an end-to-end client management system? Or do you just need to, say, arm your sales team?
  • What level of support do you need? CMS providers may offer different levels of support (e.g., priority support, 24/7, live chat vs. phone) depending on your plan. So make sure you know what level of support you’ll get within your budget.

The 5 best client management software for small business

1.   Caflou

Caflou is a complete business management solution that consolidates all your data in one place, giving you insights into business functions and customer accounts. You’ll get a complete, transparent overview of your customers and suppliers, with contact records, communication logs, project data and documentation, and finances and expenses.

Caflou combines your data to help you make informed decisions; you can see which accounts bring in the most revenue, which projects most of your resources are allocated to, and what bottlenecks are holding you back. You’ll have a complete 360-degree view of your business and customers, including visibility into essential functions like HR, finance & accounting, project management, and customer relations. 

Businesses with 1-100 employees leverage Caflou to improve the way they manage operations and deliver superior customer experiences. Caflou can also replace several tools in your tech stack, offering a more unified suite for managing your work. Small businesses have used Caflou to replace their project management tools (like BaseCamp and Asana), invoicing systems (like FreshBooks), CRMs (like PipeDrive), and partially even their workflow automation tools like Zapier. 

Caflou offers affordable, pay-as-you-go pricing plans, so you only pay for the number of seats you use. It also offers a free plan – the Turtle tier – to try the platform’s core features out.

2.   Bigin by Zoho

Best for just client management (i.e., doesn’t support business functions like Caflou does, but includes core capabilities for managing clients).

Bigin is the less-famous younger brother of ZohoCRM, tailored to small businesses. The client management software includes features for building and managing pipelines, scheduling meetings, creating and assigning tasks to team members, and lots of built-in functionality that lets you customise the platform. For example, you can create deals in international currencies, create custom modules and fields, and add “toppings” to your Bigin CRM. 

Unlike Caflou, Bigin doesn’t support other business functions, but it’s a reliable, lightweight, intuitive alternative if you’re looking for a simpler platform.

3.   SuiteDash

SuiteDash is an end-to-end business management solution that includes a customisable client portal, CRM and project management features, scheduling and file sharing, and even a learning management system (LMS) builder with community management. It also supports integrations with accounting software like QuickBooks. You can also make SuiteDash your own with its white-label branding functionality, which lets you add custom logos, create a branded login page with a custom URL, brand your email, and more. 

SuiteDash’s rich feature set makes it a popular choice for small-to-medium-sized businesses, but you’ll end up paying more than for alternatives like Bigin or Caflou.

4.   PipeDrive

PipeDrive was specifically designed for sales teams by sales professionals – its interface is simple and intuitive, and the platform has everything you need to manage your sales pipeline from the first touchpoint till after the deal is closed. 

PipeDrive has also integrated automation and AI capabilities to free salespeople from remote, repetitive work – the tool automatically extracts contacts from your spreadsheets/CRM to build your pipeline, and it sends automatic alerts and reminders as deals progress. PipeDrive’s AI also taps into your analytics to help your salespeople identify opportunities to close more deals.

If you’re primarily interested in a client management system for your sales team, PipeDrive is the way to go.

5.   HubSpot

HubSpot is a popular choice for midsized businesses, with its generous free plan and robust feature set. But be warned – once you venture out of the free tier, HubSpot’s costs quickly add up, and some of its more advanced features are locked behind the highest tiers.

Still, the free plan and starter packages have a lot to offer, and HubSpot’s platform is polished and focused on data centralisation. You can import and manage all your contacts in one place, adding details such as the deal stage (new, unqualified, etc.), company records for their organization, interactions you’ve had with them, etc. HubSpot’s Communications tab also includes a unified Inbox feature, which hosts every communication across your synced channels, including email, phone calls, and webchats. HubSpot also lets you manage your Sales pipeline with different views (like Kanban-style), where you can outline stages of your deals, details about each, relevant dates, etc.

Interested in learning how Caflou can help you consolidate your data, manage key business functions, and improve your customer’s experiences? Try Caflou out for free now.

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