The difference between small business and enterprise CRMs

Learn about two of the major categories of CRM software, and consider which type might be best for you.
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If you’re currently researching CRMs, you’re probably a bit overwhelmed by all of the different options. Whenever I talk to people who are just getting started, I suggest that the first step should be deciding whether you want an enterprise CRM, or a small business CRM. This will help you narrow down the options so that you can make a more educated and focused decision.

An enterprise CRM is designed for a very large company (that’s what “enterprise” means in this context). These CRMs are focused on having every feature imaginable because that’s what large companies need. In particular, most enterprise CRMs will excel at automation (turning your sales process into an assembly line), and advanced customization (being able to hire programmers to extend the functionality). They can normally be difficult to set up, but once they’re up and running, they’re incredibly powerful.

Examples of enterprise CRMs: Salesforce, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle

A small business CRM is less focused on having lots of features, and more focused on being simple and easy to use. Most small businesses don’t have IT departments to help with the implementation, so unlike enterprise CRMs, they’re designed to require virtually no setup work, and they should be relatively intuitive. Of course this also means that there won’t be as many features because that would make the software too complex for most small businesses.

Examples of small business CRMs: ACT!, Nimble, Insightly, Pipedrive, and of course Less Annoying CRM

But the most important difference between small business and enterprise CRMs (in my opinion) is how they are sold. At big companies, software is purchased through a long process with the involvement of many different departments (sales, marketing, IT, outside consultants, etc.) and ultimately the decision is made by an executive like the CEO or CFO. However, it’s unlikely that any executive will spend much time actually using the CRM, so that basically means that the person who decides to buy the product isn’t going to actually use it. Because of this, enterprise CRMs are heavily focused on offering features for the leaders at a big company. Things like high-level financial reporting and analysis tools. At small businesses, the decision maker will normally use the CRM themselves, so it’s much more important to make the product something that people want to actually use, even if it’s lacking in some of the more advanced features.

So that’s the basic rundown of the differences between enterprise and small business CRMs. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the CRMs out there, I’d suggest that you figure out which category best describes you, and filter your search based on that.

Have thoughts, questions, or ideas? Hit me up on Twitter (@TylerMKing)!


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