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The Top 5 Tools to Use in 2022

The Top 5 Tools to Use in 2022

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is used to organize lead information, track pending sales opportunities, and collaborate with team mem

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Customer relationship management (CRM) software is used to organize lead information, track pending sales opportunities, and collaborate with team members on deals and tasks. While traditional CRM products such as Salesforce and HubSpot are excellent for managing sales-related operations, some teams don’t need the advanced automation, reporting, and communication tools in these products but instead, need CRM alternatives for tracking prospects and deals.

We’ve reviewed dozens of software that act as substitute CRM options and have narrowed them down to our top five recommendations:

Top CRM Alternatives

  • Trello: Excellent CRM alternative for teams seeking a prebuilt CRM add-on within a project management tool
  • monday.com: Best alternative CRM option for those wanting an easy-to-customize database and user-friendly interface
  • Asana: Solid pick for larger sales teams that need robust collaboration features
  • Airtable: Good option for marketing teams seeking integrations with social media and content management tools
  • Google Workspace: Great choice for teams using Gmail and other Google apps

Best CRM Alternatives Compared

*Pricing based on annual billing. Monthly billing is also available at a higher price.

Trello: Best for Prebuilt CRM Templates

Trello

Trello Logo

What We Like

  • Free plan for unlimited users
  • Offers built-in CRM board templates
  • Easy-to-use tasks automation capabilities

What’s Missing

  • Does not have reporting or analytics features outside of the dashboard
  • Custom data fields required paid plans
  • No dashboard view until Premium plan

Trello Pricing at Glance*

  • Free: Unlimited users and up to 10 boards
  • Standard: $5 per user, per month
  • Premium: $10 per user, per month
  • Enterprise: $17.50 per user, per month
  • Free trial: 14 days

*Based on annual billing. Monthly billing is also available at a higher price.

Trello is an excellent project management and team collaboration tool that can be used as a CRM system. In addition to using boards, cards, and workspaces to manage leads and projects, Trello has hundreds of integration options with popular software like Google Drive, Twitter, and Mailchimp.

This collaboration tool also has an array of native add-ons, called power-ups, to enhance user experiences. Power-ups are Trello’s solution for additional functionality within the project boards for automation, organization, and productivity. Some of the most popular ones include notes and documents, bulk actions, and card linking.

Although users can customize their experience by designing boards that meet their sales data field and view needs, they can also use prebuilt CRM templates in the form of Trello’s power-up Crmble. Crmble automatically turns your board into a CRM with pipeline management, lead tracking, and sales dashboard funnel and revenue reporting.

How It Compares to a CRM

While using Trello as a CRM is a great alternative for costs, integration options, and simplicity, it doesn’t quite compare to traditional CRMs in terms of features. For instance, the platform does not have any type of built-in mass emailing tool for deploying email marketing campaigns at once, nor can managers receive advanced sales analytics. There are also no options for goal setting and tracking on an individual or team basis.

Trello CRM Features

  • Contact data organization: Lead, customer, and contact information tracking using Trello cards on the boards
  • Pipeline management: Ability to track and make updates on current stages of sales opportunities using Kanban board views
  • Workflow automation: Easy-to-use automation through creating actions on the Trello board based on rules and conditions
  • Document management: Can add file attachments to lead or custom cards
Trello board powered by Crmble

Trello Crmble pipeline view (Source: Trello)

Visit Trello

monday.com: Best for System Ease of Use

monday.com

Monday.com logo

What We Like

  • Unlimited documents on all plans
  • Great usability attributes for setting up, operating features, and navigating interface
  • Customizable forms can be created and shared directly on boards

What’s Missing

  • Free plan limited to 2 users
  • Automation not available until Standard plan
  • No integrations available on low-tiered plans

monday.com Pricing at Glance*

  • Individual (Free): Up to 2 users
  • Basic: $8 per user, per month
  • Standard: $10 per user, per month
  • Pro: $16 per user, per month
  • Enterprise: Contact for pricing
  • Free trial: 14 days

*Based on annual billing. Monthly billing is also available at a higher price.

Using monday.com as a CRM is a simple way to track leads and gain insights on activities as they occur. Using a system of boards and items, users can customize the types of prospect data they want to manage and the stages on the sales pipeline each opportunity falls under. monday.com also provides reporting notifications to notify you of weekly activity and an unlimited number of “item” documents to be stored and shared.

While all software tools on this list are relatively easier to use than a traditional sales CRM, monday.com stands out as the most intuitive. Based on both our evaluation and a majority of user reviews, it’s clear that designing workspaces, boards, and items requires little to no technical skill, and task collaboration and lead management are virtually effortless. Much of this is due to the clean interface layout of buttons and the intuitive navigation process.

How It Compares to a CRM

Compared to a CRM system, monday.com is cost-friendly, simple to use, and has some similar features such as basic activity reporting, pipeline tracking, and data management for leads and contacts. Unfortunately, however, the platform cannot fulfill certain standard CRM functionality such as communication with leads, artificial intelligence (AI) features, or ticket management for customer support.

monday.com CRM Features

  • Lead management: Data organization with custom fields for tracking leads, contacts, and customers
  • Activity reporting: Basic reporting based on board activity as well as work performance insights, pivot analysis, and dashboard metric views
  • Pipeline tracking: Pipeline status monitoring with Kanban and spreadsheet views
  • Sales management: Customizable, template-based features for goal setting, key performance indicator (KPI) reporting, and sales forecasting
Monday.com sales goal targets dashboard metric views.

monday.com sales goal targets dashboard (Source: monday.com)

Read our in-depth monday.com review to learn more about pricing plans, features, integrations, usability, and best-for scenarios.

Visit monday.com

Asana: Best for Collaboration Capabilities

Asana

Asana Logo

What We Like

  • Free plan for 15 users
  • Basic reporting available on all plans
  • Unlimited tasks, projects, messages, activity logs, and file storage

What’s Missing

  • Paid plans get relatively expensive compared to other alternatives on this list
  • Goals not available until Business plan
  • Custom system branding not allowed until Enterprise plan

Asana Pricing at Glance*

  • Basic: Free for 15 users
  • Premium: $10.99 per user, per month
  • Business: $24.99 per user, per month
  • Enterprise: Contact for pricing
  • Free trial: 30 days

*Based on annual billing. Monthly billing is also available at a higher price.

Asana is an advanced workflow management tool that can be tailored to CRM needs by treating projects and tasks as contact records. Once the system is designed, you can monitor and manage status updates of each record as if it were a sales pipeline and track notes and activity logs within each task. Asana also lets you view tasks, projects, and other custom records like contacts or leads in a list or single-page view.

What stands out the most for this platform is the team collaboration capabilities. Whether you’re creating a task as a lead or customer record or as part of a workflow for a project, employees can communicate internally with the team messaging features, make comments on boards, assign work to users, and set goals or milestones. There’s also the ability to add task dependencies for items that need to be done before the next task, use shareable templates, and set start and due dates to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

How It Compares to a CRM

Asana does not have the external communication capabilities to contact leads or customers through email, live chat, or telephone that some CRMs would have. However, it does have excellent automation building tools, activity logging, and basic and advanced reporting options that users of traditional CRM systems find very useful.

Asana CRM Features

  • Workflow builder: Automation configuration for task creation, assignment, and notifications based on preset rules and triggers
  • Team messaging: Internal messaging on tasks or projects with other team members who have access to shared boards
  • Activity logging: Update tracking on tasks and project boards for users who made changes and what information or resources were adjusted
  • Reporting tools: Activity and workload viewing and custom reports for goal tracking, status updates, and progress made on boards
Asana team internal messaging on tasks or projects.

Asana team messaging (Source: Asana)

Visit Asana

Airtable: Best Alternative With Marketing Capabilities

Airtable

Airtable logo that links to the Airtable homepage in a new tab.

What We Like

  • Built-in drag-and-drop interface application designer
  • Includes premade CRM templates
  • Solid marketing capabilities through integrations and product extensions

What’s Missing

  • Limited integrations allowed until Enterprise plan
  • Only 5 users allowed on Free plan
  • Board permission management requires Pro or Enterprise plans

Airtable Pricing at Glance*

  • Free: Up to 5 users
  • Plus: $10 per user, per month
  • Pro: $20 per user, per month
  • Enterprise: Contact for pricing
  • Free trial: 14 days

*Based on annual billing. Monthly billing is also available at a higher price.

Airtable can quickly become a CRM by customizing spreadsheet rows, otherwise known as records, into lead and customer profiles with pipeline statuses. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for small businesses to require sales teams to also handle marketing activities. Many CRM providers have extended their functionality to allow organizations to manage social media profiles, email campaigns, and content development through the CRM.

While using Airtable as a CRM, users get similar capabilities through integrations with Pexels stock image database and AirFlow, a date pipeline software to import and sync data collected from Facebook. Additionally, automations can be created to schedule posts to Twitter if a specific project or task record matches a preset condition. Premade coding scripts also allow users to import YouTube analytics data into Airtable and validate email addresses.

How It Compares to a CRM

Some automation capabilities and extensions for marketing activities make Airtable a great CRM alternative—especially for popular marketing CRM tools like HubSpot. There’s also record management, workflow automations, and document storage features similar to a CRM. Unfortunately, there are a few common CRM features that are relatively lackluster. Reporting features, for instance, are limited to just simple status updates and dashboard data charts. Also, system customization is mostly applicable for just data fields, charts, and workflows.

Airtable CRM Features

  • Team collaboration: Teams can work together and communicate on tasks, projects, or records for sales and marketing activities
  • Record organization: Custom data management for records can be tailored to lead, contact, or customer information and monitored on spreadsheet, gallery, or Kanban views
  • Marketing tool integrations: Integrations with popular marketing and social media software such as Facebook, Gmail, Instagram, LinkedIn, Mailchimp, Twilio, WordPress, and YouTube
  • Workflow automation: Process building for actions both in Airtable and on external applications to automate tasks, events, and notifications based on triggers and conditions
Airtable marketing tool integrations with popular marketing and social media.

Airtable social media post management (Source: Airtable)

Visit Airtable

Google Workspace: Best for Gmail Users

Google Workspace

Google Workspace logo

What We Like

  • All-in-one solution for email, data storage, file creation, video conferencing, and task management
  • Applications are all easy to learn and use
  • Tons of integration options with other CRMs, project management, and marketing software

What’s Missing

  • No free plan
  • Only spreadsheet views available for deals, contacts, or leads
  • Does not have any reporting or analytics features

Google Workspace Pricing at Glance

  • Business Starter: $6 per user, per month
  • Business Standard: $12 per user, per month
  • Business Plus: $18 per user, per month
  • Enterprise: Contact for pricing
  • Free trial: 14 days

Google Workspace is unique compared to other products on this list because it’s not a work management tool, but a set of applications. There’s Gmail, an email system, Google Drive for storing and sharing files, Calendar for organizing events, and Tasks for creating and tracking activities that need to be completed. Additionally, the productivity software package of Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms lets users design and collaborate on various file types.

Gmail is already a popular email system that allows for mass and direct emailing to team members, leads, or other contacts. Many applications, including Gmail, Docs, and Drive, have the same layout and feel, making Google Workspace the best CRM alternative for Google users. Google also comes with plenty of native software add-ons users can purchase, such as Google Voice to make phone calls and Jamboard to share and collaborate on ideas.

How It Compares to a CRM

If you directly compare capabilities to a CRM product, each application can be used for specific CRM modules. For instance, you would use Spreadsheets as a CRM for tracking contact and pipeline information. Docs, Forms, Slides, and Sites can be used to design and manage files, content, and your website. Drive is where you organize and share files, while Meet and Chat lets you communicate through video calls or live chat.

Google Workspace CRM Features

  • Email communications: Gmail system for sending and receiving emails as well as storing email contacts
  • Video conferencing: Google Meet application for creating and conducting video calls with groups or individuals
  • File creation and management: Productivity software to create content, documents, and websites while storing them in Google Drive for security and file sharing
  • Event and task management: Google Calendar for creating and organizing events, which you can sync to Google Tasks to manage activities that need to be completed
Google spreadsheets CRM template.

Google Spreadsheets as a CRM (Source: Close Blog)

Are you a Google Workspace user who’s ready to invest in a CRM? Here are the top seven CRMs for Google users in 2022.

Visit Google Workspace

Why Use a CRM Alternative?

CRM software offers relative value in that each product or solution will be better suited for specific businesses based on their modular needs, budget, and usability requirements. Substituting a traditional software product with a CRM alternative also benefits certain businesses for various reasons. Here’s why some firms might pursue alternative CRM solutions:

  • The firm is a solo-operated business: Much of the value of a CRM stems from the ability to collaborate with team members and keep each other up-to-date on current opportunities. Solopreneurs don’t need those features as they work alone and may prefer a simpler solution.
  • Business has budgetary constraints: Small or startup businesses are often on a tight budget. Therefore, using a software tool with free and low-cost subscription options they can customize into a CRM may be a more practical route. For those on a tight budget but who would like a traditional CRM system, check out our picks for the best free CRM products for 2022.
  • Users prioritize product ease of use: Because many of these alternative products use spreadsheet-style formats, it’s easier to add and update lead and customer records than traditional CRMs. Plus, many business owners have never used a CRM before but have experience with project management tools—making it a suitable option for managing sales.
  • The team only needs minimal functionality: Some businesses have a simplistic sales operation where all they want to do is track their pipelines and contact data. Using project management or productivity software is an easy solution to basic CRM functionality—especially if your team doesn’t need advanced analytics, automation, or artificial intelligence (AI) features.

If your team is growing and your business is scaling, you may be ready to invest in a robust CRM platform. Here are our picks for the best small business CRMs for 2022.

Bottom Line

CRM alternatives are project management and productivity software tailored to be a substitute for a traditional CRM product like Salesforce. The minimal sales features, ease of use, and low-cost subscription options make these platforms solid replacements for investing in a full-scale CRM. Each product, though alternatives, is better suited for specific businesses based on their modular and budgetary needs.

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