The Best CRMs

CRM or Client (or Customer) Relationship Management tools can be almost anything; apps, strategies, technologies, or even a manual system for organizing and streamlining your customer interactions.

Have you ever noticed that your dentist (or barber, or favourite receptionist) always seems to remember who you are, and what you do?

It’s not that they all have great memories – sorry, spoiler! – but it’s that you have a customer profile in their database, and your information is recorded there. Sort of Big Brother-y. That’s a CRM at work.

It kind of ruins the magic, right? But it works! At least, it should.

A breakdown

I moved to Toronto, from London, Ontario, in 2013. A year later, I paid a long-overdue visit to my hometown dentist.

They had a CRM system that wasn’t fully up-to-date. It had my ‘upcoming’ move recorded, but hadn’t been updated to say that it already happened.

My friendly, and extremely chatty, hygienist spoke at length about her excitement for me, about the joys and perils of moving to a new city. She couldn’t wait for me to discover the great food, the unique stores, and that super-cool 6ix culture. She was so proud of me for making such a big move.

She was completely oblivious to the fact that her information was a year out of date.

I tried to garble out that I had already moved, that I had been living here for more than a year. She didn’t catch it – my mouth was full.

It wasn’t until close to the end of the appointment, when she wished me good luck one final time, when I got to tell her I had been here for a year already.

She looked mortified. I wish I hadn’t said anything.

Seriously, I still feel cringey. I felt so bad that I found a new dentist. Sorry, Dr. M!

Your customer relationship management system can make or break your customer interactions. But they’re the most important tool in your arsenal for optimizing your marketing, strategy, and operations.

What do they do?

In their barest form, CRM systems are simply databases. They store and organize information so that it’s easily accessible and easy to understand, use, and analyze.

Where are visitors stopping on your website? When are potential customers clicking out of the buy process? What type of people are signing up for your newsletter – and are your newsletters effective?

They are so important for maintaining a business in the twenty-first century. But just like anything else, they need to be cared for.

The best CRM wasn’t built for you

At Arke, we use NationBuilder, a CRM designed for political organizations. For almost all of our clients.

Although it wasn’t originally designed for businesses, we’ve found it can out perform most other CRMs at a fraction of the cost. Plus political campaigns are the best marketers, full stop. So why not steal the tools and tactics they use.

>> Check out what brands can learn from political organizations, here!

Campaigns are always tracking and analyzing data, and using it to their benefit. They’re storytelling-driven and inspire loyalty through design. They segment their markets and hyper-personalize to each one. They weigh success against their goals, and readjust quickly, and often. That’s how candidates win.

We use NationBuilder to do that for our clients.

Why NationBuilder is better than everybody at everything

Totally unbiased opinion here. NationBuilder is the best.

First, the system lets you categorize and organize everybody who’s ever interacted with your business, ever. That means everyone who’s ever partially completed an online purchase, who’s commented or shared one of your Facebook posts, who’s signed up for your newsletter, or paid you a visit in-person.

It can automatically sort these profiles according to where they are in your sales process. Are they a lead? A probably-not? A brand advocate, or frequent customer? It’s all there, with all of their information. Kinda scary. Super useful.

You can then send hyper-personalized emails to different types of customers. Some messages might be, “We haven’t heard from you in a while!”. Others, “You left items in your cart without checking out”. Your options are unlimited.

It works for phone calls, too. You can ensure that a remote sales or support team has all of a customer’s information, including every past interaction with your company ever, on-hand during a phone call. You can track their support or sales journey, even across different mediums like emails, calls, or social media. Then just hand it off to the right people automatically.

You can integrate your website directly into NationBuilder too. It also acts as a Content Management System (CMS) so every page is easily editable without touching a line of code. It has embedded e-commerce and you can track how people interact with your site. Where are they clicking? Who’s signing up for your newsletter? Can I reach out to any of them as a potential lead? Yes, you can.

There’s so much more that CRMs can do for you. We could go on all day.

End shameless favouritism here.

Here’s a list of the best small-business CRMs around, with a little bit about each one. Check them out at your leisure, or bookmark for later!


Price: $59-$299/month


Capabilities: Email newsletters, reports, lead and customer tracking, website management

Best for: Businesses new to CRM


Price: Free – $99/month


Capabilities: MailChimp integration, reports and analytics, email support, lead assignment

Best for: Very small businesses


Price: $55 – $65/user/month


Capabilities: Sales and marketing automation, Microsoft Office integration, reports and analytics, workflows and processes

Best for: Wealth management organizations, sales organizations


Price: $29-$999/month


Capabilities: Reports and analytics, lead tracking, social integration and tracking, website building, A/B testing, tons of app integrations

Best for: Literally everyone, we swear


Price: $25/user/month


Capabilities: Social integration, marketing automation, data and analytics, social listening

Best for: Social media-heavy organizations

Salesforce Service Cloud

Price: $75- $300/month


Capabilities: Workflows, customer tracking, lead and order management, social media customer service, marketing automation

Best for: Anyone who need a full-service CRM

SAP Anywhere

Price: $500+/month


Capabilities: Cloud-based e-commerce, insights and analytics, order and inventory management, marketing and customer service

Best for: E-commerce-reliant businesses


Price: Free – $35/month +


Capabilities: E-commerce, workflow, inventory management, AdWords integration, email newsletters

Best for: Organizations with less than 10 employees

Want to know more about CRMs? We’re a little obsessed. Send us a message!