Which is the best CRM for your MSP?

Paul GreenUncategorized

I must tackle this question at least twice a week: Which is the best CRM for your MSP? Because there are plenty to choose from.

First things first, three common related questions:

What's a CRM?

Your Customer Relationship Manager is software that stores data about your leads and prospects. It helps you easily email them en-masse, and automate marketing tasks.

Can I just use Autotask or ConnectWise Manage? That has a marketing plugin

Your PSA may have a marketing plugin, and it may be useful for messaging clients. But it's unlikely to have been designed from the ground up to make it easy to send email marketing to prospects. Better to invest in a tool that's been designed from day one to do just that.

Why did you suggest that CRM? I tried it, but I didn't like it

Picking a CRM is like picking a PSA. You're going to be using it a LOT, so you need to make sure you enjoy using it.

And that makes it a matter of personal choice. Find a CRM you like, use it, realise you love it, then stick with it. Really, there's no need to switch to the new shiny thing unless your current thing is holding you back.

Here are 7 CRMs to look at. Three of them I've used extensively. The other four are all being used by MSPs, either those I work with, or in my MSP Marketing Facebook group.

Yes there are hundreds more. These are just the ones I hear people talking about often.

Price details are correct as of date of publication (September 2020).

3 basic free or low cost CRMs

80% of MSPs should just get one of these. If you don't currently have a CRM, then this definitely includes you.

They do a perfectly good job. They just don't have all the bells and whistles of some of the more advanced CRMs. In my opinion, there's no point buying an advanced CRM unless you're really, really going to work it, and use a lot of the advanced features.

And you know what - you can always upgrade down the line. Start with this, build a marketing database, and when you find that your imagination is being curtailed by your CRM... then switch.

First recommendation then is MailchimpThis has been around since 2001, with its popular freemium offering starting in 2009.

Mailchimp is a great tool kit. I use it for one of my projects. Pricing-wise, it's free for up to 2,000 contacts, although to switch on more than basic automation you'll start to pay $9.99 a month or more.

Free to get started on a stable, quality product... can't beat that.

Next up is MailerLite. This is a Mailchimp challenger that's growing aggressively.

I've used this a few times in the past and love its simplicity. It's free for up to 1,000 subscribers, then you only pay $10 a month up to 2,500 subscribers. Again you have to pay to switch on advanced functionality.

Finally, look at Zoho CRM. I've personally never used it, but a growing number of MSPs are telling me they're using it. Judging by its website, Zoho looks like a comprehensive toolkit. Free for three users, with the subscription starting at $12 a month.

3 more advanced CRMs

If you know you're going to use advanced automation functionality, or start playing with APIs and programmable campaigns, then it might be worth looking at one of these more advanced CRMs.

Imagine your CRM is a car. A basic CRM is like a basic car - it gets you where you need to go. A more advanced CRM is like a luxury car - you'll have more features to help you drive. But it still does essentially the same job.

The first for me to mention is Infusionsoft (which I refuse to call by its rebranded name of Keap).

I've been a client of Infusionsoft for probably about a decade now, across 2 businesses. For years I adored it. It was the first CRM to pull together lots of different tools that actually worked with each other, rather than being separate tools sat in a suite.

Yes, yes, it had a nickname of "Confusionsoft". But I was still a massive fan. You were limited by your imagination, rather than the tool.

Once, I was talking about Infusionsoft at home for so long, that my wife actually suggested I get I ❤️ Infusionsoft tattooed on my arm. True story.

So... what changed? I think it lost its way a few years ago. I don't know the full story, but they took a LOT of funding, and I believe at some point there was a management change.

They launched Keap as a cut down version. And the core software just seemed to stop progressing. Customer service seemed to get worse. Tiny little problems would go on for months and months.

It started to make me miserable. Because we use Infusionsoft for everything, and I mean everything. It drives the direct response marketing of our entire business.

I looked into how much it would cost to switch to ActiveCampaign (more on that in a second). We have so many complex automated campaigns and custom API stuff, that it was going to take weeks and cost a fortune. And inevitably we'd break stuff and it would be a nightmare.

Fortunately, there's good news. The old management (the original founders) are now back, and they're fixing all the problems. There's lots of progress and weekly software updates. I'm a lot happier now and I'm sticking with Infusionsoft.

You have no idea how happy it makes me to be able to type that 😃

It's still a great toolkit, after all. My limits are my imagination, not the tool. I have full confidence they've got a great roadmap, including merging their 2 separate products into one. There's a great video about the future here.

Pricing's from $79 to $199 a month, depending what you need.

Back to that other CRM I mentioned then, ActiveCampaign. I've never used it, but I've seen inside it. It reminded me of Infusionsoft of old, when it was a younger more focused product.

Lots of MSPs I know use it and recommend it. It certainly seems an elegant solution to create automated campaigns and track prospects throughout their entire journey with you. Pricing starts from $9 a month, although gut feel says you'll end up paying more for the full toolset.

And finally there's HubSpot. Its toolset looks amazing. It gives you an integrated way to track prospects, and a series of clever tools. And it seems to be developing into "one software to rule them all", with software for marketing, sales, customer service. And now you can even build your website in HubSpot.

If I could influence the development of my CRM Infusionsoft, I'd want the multi-platform functionality and tracking capabilities that Hubspot seems to offer.

The only downside is the price. It starts at $40 a month, but everyone I know who uses it says the bill soon rises as you start to use the functionality.

HubSpot footnote 1: They are incredibly, incredibly good at content marketing. Their blog is required reading in my opinion.

HubSpot footnote 2: There are 2 books about HubSpot. They Ask You Answer explains why they're so good at content marketing, and is basically a massive advert for their software. Whereas Disrupted paints the business in a less than flattering light.

Finally, an MSP-focused CRM

Honey CRM says it's the only CRM built specifically for MSPs. I only know a couple of MSPs who use it, but they seem to like it.

The functionality looks good, and it integrates with some vendors too. Pricing starts at $49 a month.