Jun 27, 2018

CRM Platforms – Your Practical Guide to the Most Popular Options

by Digital Marketing Institute

A customer relationship management (CRM) platform is an indispensable tool for digital marketers. It helps you to track and organize important data, gather valuable insights about prospects, cultivate more personal relationships and drive engagement, ease communication, improve efficiency, provide better customer service, and increase the accuracy of your data, analytics, and reports.

In other words, it’s hard to imagine being successful without a CRM system in place, and the right tool can certainly help you drive business growth and meet your sales and marketing goals. However, there are many CRM solutions out there, and choosing the right one can be a major chore for organizations.

The good news is that some CRM systems are more robust than others, and each has unique features and benefits to offer, and this can help you narrow down your choices. Here we will focus on four of the most popular CRM solutions available, and tell you everything you need to know about the features, functions, pros, and cons of each one.


Platform Description:

Salesforce is among the most popular CRM solutions around, and it’s suitable for small and medium-sized businesses, as well as larger enterprises. The platform is cloud-based and offers a full range of features that can help you manage accounts, track leads, monitor campaigns, and much more.

Key Functions and Features:

Salesforce is equipped with everything you could want in a CRM system, including marketing automation features, sales management, customer service functions, opportunity tracking and management, contact management, and lead generation tools.

The dashboards are also customizable and provide advanced analytics reporting, making it easy to track progress and manage projects. With the Outlook edition, you can also synchronize a great deal of data, including emails, tasks, contacts, and calendars.

Pros and Cons:

The things that people love most about Salesforce are that it’s very intuitive and easy to use, and it makes project management a breeze. You can customize dashboards to show only relevant information to the right team members, including things like summaries, opportunities and sales numbers. The platform also uses a tab system that’s very easy to navigate, which improves efficiency and organization.

One of the main cons with this tool is that there are multiple packages, so choosing the right one for your needs may require the assistance of customer service. Moreover, the cheapest version, which costs $25 a month, is only suitable for small teams, and if you have more than five team members, then you’ll have to opt for a more expensive version.

Why Choose Salesforce?

There are many Salesforce features that make it ideal for marketers who want to focus on improving the customer experience. This includes the Solutions tab, which allows you to compile information that can be easily accessed to provide quick answers to consumers.

Another great feature with this platform is something called Chatter, which enables coordination among team members in terms of opportunities and service, which in turn makes it easier to provide a seamless customer experience.


Platform Description:

Oracle is an on-demand CRM platform which currently has nearly 5 million users around the globe. It is popular with organizations in the fields of wealth management, life sciences, insurance, automotive and technology. The platform is comprehensive, providing all the key features you’d want in this type of tool, and is great for intelligence, analytics, and planning.

Key Functions and Features:

When Oracle touts itself as a complete CRM platform, this rings true: the features of this platform span all aspects of CRM, including sales, marketing, automation, analytics, service and more.

Here are some of the key features:

  • Automated sales processes
  • Accessibility (you can access the platform anytime, anywhere, even from a mobile device)
  • Automated lead nurturing campaigns
  • Customer satisfaction monitoring
  • Real-time analytics
  • Historical and trend insights
  • Forecasting tools
  • Lead management
  • Sales coaching
  • Social media integration
  • Quota and workflow management tools

Pros and Cons:

The sheer number of features available through this platform makes it suitable for any marketers looking to improve customer service, and the mobile capabilities mean the tool is flexible and convenient to use.

However, some people report that it doesn’t display well on mobile devices, iPhones and iPads in particular. Security is another great feature with Oracle, as is the user-friendly interface. Furthermore, there are integration opportunities with other Oracle products which can expand the functions.  

Why Choose Oracle?

Oracle has been specifically designed to help marketers drive sales through increased loyalty and improved customer experiences. The data and comprehensive analytics tools provide great insights into customer histories and behaviors, giving you a better understanding of their needs, and helping you to constantly improve on customer interactions, marketing campaigns and service.


Platform Description:

SAP is an industry-specific tool designed for both CRM and engagement, which helps you provide customers with more personalized experiences. The platform is composed of integrated modules, including a sales module that’s ideal for customer acquisition and retention, and a marketing module that makes it easy to plan and execute marketing efforts.

Key Functions and Features:

As a comprehensive solution, SAP has everything you’d expect from a CRM system and more. This includes features like lead management and nurturing, pipeline management, and detailed reports and analytics that can help you better understand the needs and behaviors of your prospects. There are also automation capabilities for sales and marketing, leaving you more time to focus on customer engagement, satisfaction and service. Other important features available with this CRM include:

  • Contact history and management
  • Time tracking
  • Email marketing capabilities
  • Partner management
  • Document management

Pros and Cons:

One of the major benefits of SAP is that it’s available as both a cloud-based deployment and an on-premises one, so you can pick the option that’s right for you based on your security needs, accessibility requirements, IT infrastructure, customization needs, and other factors. The platform is also relatively easy to use, making it a good choice for beginners and small organizations. One of the drawbacks of SAP, however, is that it doesn’t offer any third-party integration options. If youre not sure if this solution is right for you, the good news is they do offer a free 30-day trial.

Why Choose SAP?

Customer engagement is the major benefit that most people find with SAP, and greater customer engagement leads to better relationships, more loyalty and retention, and higher sales. SAP does this by helping you to provide omni-channel engagement, giving you valuable insights, making forecasting easier, helping you find the right prospects at the right time, and allowing you to personalize your marketing messages for higher response rates and better engagement.


Platform Description:

Zoho is an affordable and adaptable CRM solution that’s ideal for small and medium-sized organizations who are looking for flexibility, comprehensive features and excellent customer management capabilities. The platform also supports multiple channels, allowing you to be where your prospects are.

Key Functions and Features:

The features that are available through Zoho are robust enough to serve the needs of any small or medium-sized organization. They include advanced analytics, easy-to-read dashboards, social media integration, email marketing tools, sales forecasting, performance, productivity, automation, project management tools, collaboration tools, and even call capabilities right from the CRM.

Pros and Cons:

People love the modern and clean look of Zoho, because it makes the platform intuitive and easy to use. For example, the real-time notification icons facilitate checking emails, carrying on chats, and seeing upcoming projects without you having to abandon what you’re working on. There are also plenty of options to extend and customize, including integration options with Google and other Zoho products. It is also very affordable, and there's even a free version that allows up to 10 users.

There are few concerns to report with Zoho, but one complaint is that their customer service could use some improvement, especially when you’re trying to reach an actual human. Beyond that, there are some features which are not available with the lower subscription levels, including workflow automation.

Why Choose Zoho?

For small and medium-sized organizations, Zoho is a solid choice. It offers all the features you need at the right price, plus a whole host of other advantages. There are plenty of customization options available, especially when you compare this platform to others in the same price point. Moreover, Zoho is very easy to use and scale, so it can grow and change as you do.


The benefits of a good CRM platform cannot be disputed, as they range anywhere from improving customer engagement to increasing data reporting and analytics, and everything in between along various points of the sales funnel. All of the benefits a CRM tool has to offer boil down to helping you drive sales, increase profits, and meet marketing and sales goals, which means no modern organization can do without one.

Choosing the right platform for your business is a big responsibility, but knowing what the most popular platforms are, why they’re sought after, and what makes them useful can help you pair the right tool with your needs.

Upgrade to Power Membership to continue your access to thousands of articles, toolkits, podcasts, lessons and much much more.
Become a Power Member

CPD points available

This content is eligible for CPD points. Please sign in if you wish to track this in your account.