Why do you need a top CRM system? Historically, sales and marketing departments weren’t as complex with their operations. They could manage their workflows through ad-hoc tools such as spreadsheets. Or siloed software. However, this is no longer enough for today’s sales and marketing departments. Now they require several systems that can offer deep analytics about customer behaviors (and personalized journeys). These analytical needs, therefore, drive the need for system integration. Why? For the insights to be meaningful and actionable for marketers to drive revenue.
Additionally, CRM workflows vary substantially across industries. And business models. So unless your CRM supports the data model needed for your industry, the experience may not feel natural. Moreover, CRM is powerful when it can gather quality data from other systems — and put it at salespeople’s fingertips. But getting this data could be trickier. Always? Generally, if the CRM’s data model deviates significantly from your customer hierarchies (and transactions).
Moreover, the lines between CRM, e-commerce, and ERP keep blurring. These days, CRMs house functionality that traditionally resided in the ERP or eCommerce. So unless you have a streamlined architecture in place, you might have adoption and data integrity issues. The architecture needs to define clear roles and responsibilities for each system. Not to mention a source of authority for each dataset. That said, there are some CRM systems that are more likely to do well in several industries than others. But that is not to suggest that top CRM systems (with the highest market share) will always be fit for every industry. And business model. Therefore, selecting a CRM requires careful analysis of your architecture. And a deep understanding of the solutions present in the market. But you need to start somewhere. How about starting with a list of top CRM systems in 2023?
- Overall market share/# of customers: The higher the market share in the CRM market, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Ownership/funding: The more commitment to the CRM offerings, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Quality of development (legacy vs. legacy dressed as modern vs. modern UX/cloud-native): The more cloud-native capabilities, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Community/Ecosystem: The larger the community with a heavy presence from CRM users, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Depth of native functionality for specific industries: The deeper the publisher-owned out-of-the-box functionality, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Quality of publicly available product documentation: The poorer the product documentation, the lower it ranks on our list.
- Ability to natively support diversified business models: The more diverse the product, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Acquisition strategy aligned with CRM offerings: The more aligned the acquisitions are with CRM offerings, the higher it ranks on our list.
- User Reviews: The deeper the reviews for CRM offerings, the higher the score for a specific product.
- Must be a CRM product: It can’t be a CRM integrated with an ERP (that enterprise software vendors can’t sell standalone). Must contain deep sales and marketing operations capabilities. For example, marketing automation, territory planning, and sales and marketing workflow management.
10. Oracle CX Cloud
Oracle CX Cloud contains several best-of-breed CRM offerings. Capabilities such as sales, marketing, service, content management, and advertising cloud. Primarily, it targets large B2C companies such as communications, media, and financial services. The business models where they need more profound content collaboration. As well as centralized advertising management.
In comparison with our last year’s ranking, we have downgraded Oracle CX Cloud this year due to the development in the Oracle Commerce portfolio. With the expectations of Oracle Commerce being shut down, the application of Oracle CX Cloud might be limited to fewer industries, unless Oracle acquires another product to replace Oracle Commerce.
- Marketing Automation and Ad Spend Tracking: First, Oracle CRM contains more profound capabilities for ad spend tracking and marketing automation. As well as customer behavior tracking across ad platforms.
- Content and Centralized Asset Management: Secondly, Oracle CRM has superior capabilities for content management and content workflows for enterprise-grade approval (and control). These capabilities are especially critical for companies heavy on content production. The content production companies such as media or telecom.
- Integration with Enterprise-grade CPQ and Sales Performance Management Tool: Finally, Oracle CRM integrates with other Oracle products, including a configurator for subscription-based offerings. This is especially relevant in media and telecom verticals. It also has enterprise-grade capabilities to manage territory, compensation, and budget for large teams.
- Clunky UI: Oracle has acquired several systems from the market to gain these capabilities in its CX portfolio. And while the products are functionally rich for enterprise-level needs, the UI would not feel as seamless.
- Not as Strong B2B and Post-sales Capabilities: It’s not as strong with its post-sales CRM processes critical for specific B2B industries where pre-sales processes aren’t as thick such as manufacturing or distribution.
- Not as Strong for Regulated and Audit-centric Industries: Finally, it might struggle in verticals and geographies where you have substantial audit needs such as GDPR compliance and version control.
9. SAP C/4 HANA
SAP C/4 HANA is part of the S/4 suite with several best-of-breed CRM options in the CX portfolio, such as sales, marketing, and service cloud. Primarily, it targets large utility, finance, and public sector companies. In general, the solution would fit companies that require deeper regulatory workflow as part of the CRM processes. And the ones that might already utilize other SAP offerings. However, not so much a fit for smaller companies (or companies not on SAP).
We have upgraded the ranking of the SAP C/4 HANA platform this year due to the recent development of the Hybris portfolio. The advancements with headless capabilities are especially noticeable. Along with the native integration with the S/4 HANA suite and other native SAP offerings.
- Integration with Qualtrics, Gigya, and Customer Data Cloud: First, its strength includes consent and preferences with audit-readiness capabilities. These capabilities help with compliance workflows such as GDPR, CCPA, and LGPD. It also contains cross-channel personalization and identity management.
- Integration with Other SAP S/4 HANA Products: While C/4 HANA is a standalone product, the main strength of the solution is to have access to operational data in the CRM workflows. Thus, making it reliable for regulated companies. A critical factor for companies that might be at a risk for non-compliance.
- Integration with Enterprise-grade CPQ and Sales Performance Management Tool: Finally, companies with enterprise-grade quoting, sales territory, and compensation management needs would find C/4 HANA attractive.
- Marketing Automation: First, C/4 HANA is not as sophisticated with the pre-sales processes. And that includes marketing automation. It might also struggle with the seamless integration with third-party marketing automation software.
- Tight Integration with SAP Products: The data model might feel tight for sales and marketing teams that prefer fluidity. The fluidity helps them focus on the sales goals than worrying about operational details.
- Inflexibility and Complexity of the Solution: Finally, enterprise workflows such as approval management, regulatory checks, and budgetary approvals might feel unnatural. As well as complex for small to mid-size organizations, looking for more straightforward CRM solutions.
8. Zendesk Sell
Zendesk Sell is a new entrant in the market after Zendesk’s acquisition of Base CRM. And it targets smaller companies with under 10-15 employees. The companies that might already be on Zendesk for customer support. However, not so much a fit for companies sophisticated in their sales and marketing organization. The ones that need robust CRM with sales ops planning, marketing automation, and territory management. Zendesk maintains the same rank as the last year as there has not been any material development with the solution.
- Simple Interface for Startups: Zendesk’s interface will appeal to users who might not have complex needs for CRM. And primarily use it for lead and opportunity tracking. The interface has a similar look-and-feel as HubSpot and Close.io. It’s especially attractive for first-time CRM users.
- Easier Transition for Zendesk Users: Zendesk users might find it attractive due to both apps’ similar look and feel. And the ability to create integration workflows between them.
- Easier Calling and Emailing Natively within the App: Finally, Zendesk design is friendly for sales development reps interested in multi-touch campaign execution. As well as, tracking right from the app.
- Zendesk Sell and Support not Tightly Integrated: While both apps are part of a suite from Zendesk, they barely integrate. The experience of switching will feel as if these are two completely different apps. Like the apps that would allow minimum data exchange between them.
- Marketing automation: Marketing automation capabilities are not as strong in the Zendesk CRM. It would require you to use another third-party marketing automation software. Another license!
- Advanced CRM Capabilities: Finally, Zendesk CRM has limited advanced capabilities such as reporting, CSV import/export, and revenue operations planning.
Monday.com is another new entrant in the CRM market. It targets small companies that might already be on it for project management. It also targets companies with unique CRM workflow needs, such as real estate and non-profits. However, it’s not an excellent fit for larger companies that need tight data integrity and standardized workflows for their CRM processes. Monday.com maintains the same rank as the last year as there has not been any material development with the solution.
- Better Customizability: Monday.com is more of a highly customizable technical platform designed for ad-hoc workflows. It will offer superior customization capabilities than other primitive CRM apps such as Zendesk sell.
- Easily Build Automated Action and Integration with Other Apps: Building automated actions for notification and approval flow is easier for business users. It also offers easy integration with other apps such as Slack, Jira, etc.
- Best for Industries Such as Real-Estate and Non-profits: Since industries such as real estate and non-profits might find other standardized CRM systems limiting for their customized processes, Monday.com might offer the flexibility they need for their custom processes.
- Risk of Overengineering Processes: While customizability is excellent for specific industries, the flexibility may result in the over-engineering of processes that may impact other downstream workflows.
- Primarily a Project Management Tool: Monday.com is primarily a project management tool and will require you to build advanced CRM functionality and reports.
- Data Integrity: Due to the technical nature of the product, the referential integrity between business objects might not exist, and it might cause data integrity issues.
SugarCRM targets smaller companies that might need free or open-source software. It also targets companies with unique CRM workflows, as having access to the code will allow them to tailor the experience for their needs. However, it’s not suitable for large companies looking for a robust CRM solution. Sugar CRM maintains the same rank among top CRM systems as the last year as there has not been any material development with the solution.
- On-prem Option with the Community Edition: SugarCRM offers a community edition that can be hosted in an on-prem setting. So this option might be friendly for companies that might already have their server farms.
- Ability to Build Ads Right from the Platform: In addition, SugarCRM has unique features such as the ability to build ads right from the platform. So this will help companies that need a more straightforward interface for ads management without learning multiple tools for ads management.
- Great for Cost-sensitive Organizations: Companies that are cost-sensitive and have in-house developers will find SugarCRM especially useful as they don’t have to worry about the software’s yearly or monthly licensing fee.
- Clunky Interface: The interface is not modern, and because of this clunkiness of the interface, your sales team might not use it at all.
- Reporting: The reporting capabilities of SugarCRM are limited and will require you to invest a substantial amount of money in development and internal costs to develop these reports.
- Might End up Being More Expensive: Finally, with the community edition, you are responsible for support, upgrades, patches, hosting, and security. So while it might not be as intuitive, it might end up costing the same or more as a SaaS option.
5. Pipedrive CRM
Pipedrive CRM targets smaller companies and solo founders with limited budgets that need an entry-level CRM to manage customer interactions. However, it’s not suitable for larger companies with mature CRM processes with the need for territory planning, quoting, and sales compensation management. Pipedrive CRM maintains the same rank as the last year as there has not been any material development with the solution.
- Workflow Automation: Firstly, Pipedrive CRM workflow automation capabilities might be helpful for companies that need to minimize the data entry across systems and look to automate their lead capture and nurturing processes.
- Similar Look-and-feel as HubSpot: Secondly, Pipedrive CRM has a similar data model and look-and-feel as HubSpot. So this experience might help sales teams adopt the CRM easily if they might not be as sophisticated in their technical abilities.
- Easy Customization of Reports and Goal Setting: Finally, the teams not as technical with their abilities will find Pipedrive reports easier to customize than other more robust tools on this list.
- Weak Data Structure for Complex B2B Organizations: First, B2B organizations with complex hierarchies of customer masters will find it challenging to integrate with Pipedrive due to its weak data structure. The limitations, such as sharing the data models for leads and contacts, could be challenging for larger companies to map their workflows.
- Data Import and Export Not as Friendly: Second, data import and export for companies that might want to upload leads or opportunities from external systems might be limiting.
- Not Fit for Larger Organizations: Finally, Pipedrive CRM is not suitable for larger companies that might have more profound needs for territory management, sales compensation, and approval workflows.
4. Zoho CRM
Zoho CRM targets smaller professional services companies such as marketing agencies, tech startups, and software development companies. It is especially suitable for companies that might already use Zoho for HCM or accounting. However, not so much for product-centric organizations that need advanced CRM capabilities. Zoho CRM maintains the same rank as the last year as there has not been any material development with the solution.
- Data Model Similar to Salesforce: First, Zoho has a data model similar to Salesforce, making implementing and integrating it with systems such as ERP with complex customer masters easier.
- Workflow for Data Quality: Second, Zoho CRM comes pre-packaged with a workflow builder that allows a team with development experience to build complex workflows. And that helps with? In maintaining data hygiene and improving CRM adoption.
- Zoho Creator: Finally, Zoho Creator is the app development platform offered as part of their suite. It allows developers to integrate other software and build custom apps quickly (without requiring additional third-party software).
- Advanced CRM Features: First, Zoho CRM is not suitable for large companies with regulatory, compliance, or planning needs due to its weaker out-of-the-box support for these capabilities.
- Territory Management and Sales Team Planning: Second, Zoho CRM does not have as strong support for territory management and sales team planning support as some of the other leading CRM on this list.
- Limited integration Options Outside of Zoho: Finally, while Zoho CRM offers excellent capabilities inside the Zoho ecosystem, the integration options outside Zoho are limited. They would require custom integration and development to connect with other systems.
3. HubSpot CRM
HubSpot CRM offers a free option for companies that might already use it for marketing automation. In general, it could be an excellent fit for companies with simpler customer master and data model needs. However, it’s not suitable for large companies with complex customer masters such as buying groups or associations as their customers. HubSpot CRM maintains the same rank as the last year as there has not been any material development with the solution.
- Price: HubSpot CRM is very attractive for companies that might need a free SaaS CRM option. It might also be attractive for companies that might find Salesforce pricing expensive.
- Marketing Automation and Omnichannel Tracking: HubSpot CRM has one of the most robust products for marketing automation, with the ability to create widgets on different lead acquisition channels. And these widgets directly write to the HubSpot database and trigger subsequent marketing automation workflows.
- Ecosystem: HubSpot has a great ecosystem and integration with other CRM systems, CMS platforms, and eCommerce tools if you want to use HubSpot only for marketing automation.
- A weaker data model for B2B businesses: First, the HubSpot data model is leaner for B2B organizations with only the parent-child hierarchy supported at the company level. And these additional hierarchies require custom objects only available in the enterprise version with significant limitations.
- Advanced CRM Features: Second, HubSpot would not be an excellent fit for companies with deeper needs for compliance, regulations, and quoting. They would require substantial development on top of HubSpot.
- Territory Management and Sales Team Planning: Finally, the weaker data model makes it inferior for industries requiring substantial out-of-the-box capabilities for territory management and sales team planning, where referential data integrity may be critical to getting accurate data from the CRM system.
2. Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM targets mid-to-large-sized companies. In general, it’s especially suitable for companies that might use other Microsoft products such as Dynamics 365 ERP products. However, it’s not suitable for smaller companies that find the fluidity of the data model of other smaller systems such as Zendesk or HubSpot attractive. It maintains the same rank as the last year as there has not been any material development with the solution.
- Data Model can Support Complex Business Needs: First, Microsoft Dynamics CRM has one of the richest data and object models to support complex sales and marketing organizations. This data model helps companies create appropriate permissions and approval flows required for larger, regulated organizations.
- Integrated with Other Dynamics Products: Second, MS Dynamics has database-level replication, and a common data model shared among different Microsoft products. As a result, it makes the integration among Microsoft products seamless.
- Territory Management and Sales Team Planning: Finally, Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM is pre-packaged with robust capabilities for advanced territory management and sales compensation planning for global organizations.
- Data Model not as Fluid as Other CRM Systems: First, MS Dynamics 365 CRM has much tighter dependencies between its objects regarding pricing and product and their correlations with accounts. So this makes it slightly harder for sales teams to use compared to the other flexible CRM systems.
- Not as Friendly for CSV Import and Export: Second, MS Dynamics 365 doesn’t have intuitive support for CSV import and export as the other newer CRMs. This makes it harder for sales teams to use if they want to import opportunities and leads from external systems.
- Limited Marketing Automation Capabilities: Finally, the marketing automation component of MS Dynamics 365 is not enterprise-grade and would not have as strong integration and ecosystem with external CMS providers as would HubSpot or Pardot.
1. Salesforce CRM
Salesforce targets companies of all sizes, including an extremely friendly version for startups. It’s especially suitable for companies with complex CRM workflows. However, Not so much for companies with custom CRM processes, such as real estate or non-profits. Because the out-of-the-box options for these industries are likely to be limited. With such high authority among top CRM systems, Salesforce CRM still maintains the #1 on our list. As well as its commitment to the CRM market. And a solution that works for several industries and companies of different sizes.
- Richest Data Model to Support Complex CRM Needs: Salesforce has the richest data model among all CRM systems to meet the complex needs of various industries and business models. It also has a superior development ecosystem and platform that allows building enterprise-grade capabilities to integrate with other systems.
- Strong in Telecom and Media Verticals: Salesforce has far deeper product and CPQ capabilities for specific industries such as Medical devices and Telecom to enable geography and territory-specific pricing and product release workflows.
- Most Comprehensive Product Portfolio and Ecosystem: Salesforce has the richest best-of-breed offerings for all areas of CRM, including marketing automation, field services, and eCommerce. They also have one of the most vibrant development communities and integrate most products and ecosystems to create best-of-breed architecture.
- Price: Salesforce may be the most expensive CRM, and the per-seat cost could be more expensive than most other CRM systems on this list.
- Customization is Not as Easy: Salesforce customization may not be as intuitive as other CRM systems. In addition, the object model may be unnecessarily complex and dated due to the mixing of lightning and legacy interfaces.
- Might not be the Best Fit for Every Industry: Salesforce is strong in specific industries. But it’s not a fit for every industry where you need deeper collaboration with your ERP.
As customer experience becomes crucial in winning deals, sales and marketing departments will likely need deeper CRM capabilities. They will also need a centralized view of their customers at each step of their journey, whether in the pre-sales phase or post-sales. And unless you have a CRM that provides a centralized workflow and interaction management platform, it might be more challenging for your business to compete in today’s market conditions.
The selection of CRM may impact your enterprise architecture. So selecting the right CRM suitable for your business model and enterprise architecture is crucial for the success of your digital transformation initiatives. And if you are in the market to evaluate your next CRM system, pay attention to the points mentioned above. And hopefully, this list can help narrow down some options for you. Until next time!