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8 Best Free CRM Solutions For Startups

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A startup has to face many hurdles in the beginning due to bootstrapping, scalability and identifying market needs and fit for their product or service.  Normally a startup has very little manpower in order to reduce their burnout rate  (tracking the amount of monthly cash that a company spends before it starts generating its own income.)  This means every member should don multiple hats and oversee multiple responsibilities.  A good startup and its founders would make the wise decision to find processes which need automating and will make the shift so as to give them room to employ skills elsewhere.  For example, if a startup relies on high volume sales from a regular customer, it makes sense to automate the process of  invoicing and sales.  Payroll and attendance can be linked and automated on a common dashboard.  This is where customer relationship management (CRM) comes into the picture.  To a layman, CRM is a tool or a strategy which helps businesses organise or strategically manage their customer data.  Data was previously stored in databases on single computers but with the advent of the internet, digital marketing and cloud computing, accessing data has never been easier, thereby making life easier for startups.  

A CRM platform or a tool in the current era is a software which connects different departments from front office to back office and organises notes/data, metrics, analytics into one smooth and cohesive ecosystem.  Every user has direct access to real time client and internal data which lets startups add a personalized approach to clients.  For example if a startup has recurring monthly salessale from an individual customer, the tool can generate an invoice monthly as well as allowing the freedom to include a gift on special occasions for recurring customers.

In this article we give a list of 8 best and free CRM solutions for startups looking to scale up.

1) Hubspot 

Hubspot is a CRM tool which offers complete toolkits and integrations which lets startups increase leads, accelerate sales and streamline customer services.  They have a CRM offering for sales, marketing, services and content management which lets startups choose what works best for them.

2) Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM tool lets startups customize their requirements to suit specific needs.  The CRM is designed for individual functions like process management, sales automation, marketing automation, predictive sales and many more letting the startups choose the best tool for their organisation.  The CRM tool can be used by startups from any kind of industry and is used by some of the world’s largest organisations like Amazon and Ola.

3) Insightly

Insightly prides itself on being the best CRM tool for startups which rely on G Suite and Microsoft Office 365.  Insightly provides CRM software for businesses of all sizes across a range of industries such as manufacturing, consulting, professional services, media and advertising, non profit, technology and others.

4) Flowlu

Flowlu offers CRM solutions for businesses by providing essential tools for efficient business management from projects to sales and marketing.  Instead of having a different program for lead generation, accounting, and human resources, Flowlu puts everything on the cloud.The CRM also offers tools for financial management.

ALSO READ: How To Increase Online Sales Of A Business

5) Freshworks

Freshworks or Freshsales as it iswas formerly known, is a CRM provider with powerful integrations.  Startups would benefit from this CRM as they have a free offering and also by providing the option to upgrade the services.  This option shows the kind of trust Freshworks has in its CRM platform.

6) Really Simple Systems

Really Simple Systems makes CRM software targeted at small businesses which follow a business to business (B2B) model.  Their free offering is aimed at startups looking to manage and track their leads and customers.  What is even better is this feature is free for startups forever.

7) Agile CRM

Agile’s free CRM is targeted at small and medium sized startups and is free for the first ten users.  The CRM offers tools for increasing sales and for automating marketing.

8) Suite CRM

Suite CRM offers unlimited users in its free version for thirty days allowing startups to have ample time to think onabout the CRM tool.  Following the thirty day free trial startups can make a purchase from three plans which will suit their business needs perfectly.

This concludes the list of free CRM tools which are currently the best available in the markets for startups.  Let us know if you are already using any of these CRM tools or plan on using them in the future in the comments below.

 

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Importance Of Communications For A Startup

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Importance Of Communications For A Startup,Startup Stories,Why is communication critical for a startup?,Reasons Why Business Communication is Critical to Your Company's Success,Effective Communication in a Startup: A Doorway to Business Success,Why Communication Determines Startup Success,The Importance Of Communication In Business: How To Improve it,Importance of Communication in Business,The Importance of Communication in Business,How important is communication for startups?,Importance of Good Communication in Business,The Importance of Communication in Business,The Importance of Business Communication in your Organization

A startup usually prioritises its focus on the front end functions like marketing and sales, as well as the backend functions like finances and product development.  While there is no denying these functions are very critical for the success of a startup, there is one more important aspect to it which often tends to be neglected because it may not seem important.  Communications and information management is an often overlooked function a lot of companies ignore.  The fallout from ignoring the criticality of good communication does not immediately make itself known but rather keeps on piling up until the problem becomes too big to ignore.  

During the initial or idea stages of a startup when there are only a few members on the team, communication might not be a problem because all of the team would be together for most of the time.  However, as the idea develops into a product and the startup begins rapid scaling up, the need for hiring more hands arises.  This is when communication becomes a priority.

Communication for startups includes both internal and external.  Good communication needs to be nurtured and can become a powerful tool.  Some easy but highly effective ways to improve communication, both internal and external, are discussed as we progress through the article.

Internal communication:

Internal communication is a powerful tool for enabling better decision making and for increasing business productivity.  Open, clear, crisp communication from the top management level to all branches of the organization will serve to bring everyone together on to a common goal.  This will also further keep executives informed, engaged and make them feel valued thereby leading to more productivity.  Regular team meetings will ensure each team member is on the same page and will also boost employee morale.  Google Hangouts, Slack, Microsoft Teams and Trello are some of the tools which can be used for internal communications.

Some of the ways to drive a healthy internal communication within startups are

  1. Promoting openness, honesty and transparency.
  2. Candid one on one sessions with leaders.
  3. Valuing every opinion.
  4. Sharing challenges, suggestions, progress and expectations.
  5. Welcoming team feedback.
  6. Create an environment of creative expression and non judgemental spaces.

ALSO READ: The Importance Of A Communications Manager

External Communication

External communication also plays an important role in the growth of a startup.  While internal communication is used to keep the teams on the same page, external communication plays a huge role in the brand awareness and value.  External communications play an important role and a startup cannot ignore how it is perceived by job seekers, financial institutions and the public.  Therefore a startup needs to put out its ideas, culture, vision and products in the purview of the public and this can be done through blogs, social media, newsletters, press briefings, advertisements and emails.  A startup needs to realise the importance of managing external communications and the power of releasing information at the right time.  

Some of the ways to drive a healthy external communication and which often tend to be overlooked are given below.

  1. Leverage the correct medium for communication.  For example social media for branding, ads for lead generation, landing pages for call to action.
  2. Create a unique tonality suitable for the brand image of your startup.
  3. Ensure to stay in touch with your external public through all contextual means like emails, newsletters, publications and so on.
  4. Create high-quality content like opinion pieces, sales materials, research reports, annual reports, whitepapers, buyer’s guides, and product datasheets.
  5. Incase of any issues with the product on the technical side or manufacturing defects, startups need to immediately issue advisories.  Good communication is also essential for firefighting and damage control

Startups should keep in mind that internal and external communications are mostly about being spontaneous, relevance and honesty.  A healthy communication goes a long way to improve employee performance, team productivity, positive mindset, and above all business revenue.

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What Are Series A, B And C Fundings?

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What Are Series A, B And C Fundings?,Startup Stories,explored seed funding,Initial Public Offering,funding,startup,Series A funding,Series B funding,Series C funding

Startups usually go through a tumultuous series of journeys during their lifecycle.  As a startup is continuing to grow, the need for funds becomes more and more important.  Funding offers startups the necessary influx of money at various stages to focus on different aspects like product building, scaling up, expansion, innovation, research and development.  While only a handful of startups usually make it big without the need of much funding, the rest of the other startups  engage in multiple efforts to raise enough capital through rounds of external funding.

In the previous article, we have explored seed funding and the various sources of seed funding.  Once a startup completes a seed funding round, the next following rounds are called as series funding and are classified into Series A, B and C respectively.

These Series fundings usually have a timeline and Series A is the first of the three rounds of funding.  Many startups often spend years in search of a Series A funding while some other startups easily get their foot in the door.  The Series fundings are a stepping stone for a startup to eventually become a Unicorn or for filing for an Initial Public Offering (IPO.)

As is the case with seed funding, the Series A,B and C rounds of funding also see investors putting their money into a startup in exchange for equity.  The success of a startup directly correlates to the amount of returns an investor gains.

Before any round of funding, a startup needs to be valued and a valuation is done based on multiple factors like management, track record, market size, risk and liabilities.  Let us have a look at what Series A,B and C funding means below.

Series A funding

Once a startup gains a proven customer base and consistent revenue figure, the startup may opt for a Series A round of funding.  This funding can be used by a startup in question to improve their customer base as well as taking opportunities to scale their product across different markets. A startup also usually prepares a long term business plan after receiving a Series A funding.  Series A fundings range between $ 2 million and $ 15 million.  Investors are not looking for a great idea but rather a plan to take the great idea and make it into a money making business.  

Series B funding

Series B funding rounds are all about startups expanding and taking their business to the next level.  Investors help startups get there by expanding market reach. Companies that have gone through seed and Series A funding rounds have already developed substantial user bases and have proven to investors that they are prepared for success on a larger scale.  Series B fundings are usually used to scale a startup to meet the increasing demand levels.  Series B fundings range between $ 30 million and $ 60 million with the average funding at $ 33 million.

ALSO READ: 8 Best Free CRM Solutions For Startups

Series C funding

By the time startups arrive at Series C round of funding, they are usually quite successful.  The idea behind the Series C round of funding is for startups to raise capital to develop new products and expand into newer markets or probably even acquire other businesses.  Normally investors expect a 200% return on their investment during the Series C round of funding.  Companies vying for a Series C funding are usually looking to go for an IPO or to expand on a global scale.  Startups are usually valued at around $ 118 million when applying for a Series C funding.  

This concludes the list of Series funding.  Series fundings are an important milestone in any startup’s roadmap to success and this article hopes to break down the Series funds into simple terms.   

 

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What Is Seed Funding And What Are The Sources For Seed Funding For Startups

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As startups begin to grow beyond an idea stage to a minimum viable product stage, they begin to brainstorm in order to develop a market ready product.  However, all the product development and testing does not happen for free.  A good product development lifecycle will need a lot of resources both financially and physically.  While physical resources can be spared, finances can often drain out quickly thereby jeopardizing the future of a startup.  Therefore startups look for investors who will be willing to invest capital into the startup.  The investment happens during seed funding events where venture capitalists look out for promising ideas and products in which to invest.

Seed money, sometimes known as seed funding or seed capital, is a form of securities offering in which an investor invests capital in a startup company in exchange for an equity stake.  Imagine a startup as a plant which needs to grow but in order for it to grow a seed needs to be planted.  A seed funding also works in a similar way,  by giving a startup enough working capital to get things off the ground.  Undoubtedly, this is one of the most important processes for laying a strong foundation for a successful startup.

There are multiple sources for a startup to infuse seed capital and the list of sources is given below.  Read on to find out more about the various sources of seed capital.

1) Bootstrapping

Bootstrapping is nothing but building a startup from the ground up with only personal savings.  While this brings in added pressure of using one’s own money it comes with its own benefits of not having to worry about returning borrowed money.

2) Incubators

Incubators are a great way to grow as well.  An incubator acts as a source of funding for businesses if they have good business models.  Many well known business schools act as incubators.  The famous startup WeWork also began as an incubator platform for startups and they have branches all over the world now.   A lot of incubation programmes do not take equity from the startup but do offer support beyond just funding.

3) Accelerators

Accelerators work with startups to scale up their business rapidly as opposed to Incubators which nurture early stage innovation.  Accelerators also provide minimal seed funding for startups along with professional services, networking opportunities, mentoring and workspace.  Y Combinator is the most famous accelerator around the world.

ALSO READ: How To Start A Business With Little Capital

4) Business Revenue

Once a startup has a minimum viable product, they can begin sales in order to generate revenue.  This revenue is then invested back into the startup as a capital to develop a fully functional product.  In recent times, this method has gained prominence as it does not involve the complexity of seeking external funding or diluting stake.

5) Corporate seed funding

Large corporations often are looking for a way to invest in a startup which is bringing a new innovation to the market.  This source of funding brings big visibility for the startup brand and is usually an early indication of an acquisition in the future.  Tech giants like Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are constantly on the lookout to spot latest innovations.  

6) Angel investment

An angel investor is an individual who provides capital for a business startup, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity.  These investors often come together to form angel networks where they each invest small amounts into a startup during the early stages when the risk of failure is high.  AngelList, Indian Angel Network and Lead Angels are some of the leading angel investment groups.

7) Philanthropic Investors

This is a perfect source of investments for startups who are looking to address social problems with their products.   Startups could approach international philanthropes, who act as seed investors for startups with social impact.  One of the major advantages with philanthropic investors is they do it for the love of mankind and not for profit and therefore the expectations are fewer than venture capitalists.  

This concludes the list of sources of seed funding.  Looking for seed funding does not have to be a complicated exercise and it can begin by looking into these various sources of initial capital.  

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