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Zoho offers a comprehensive suite of business management tools to help you with everything from marketing and productivity to finance and HR.

In this review, we’re focusing our attention on Zoho’s customer relationship management (CRM) platform and comparing it to some of the best alternatives in the industry.

Ultimately, we decided this wasn’t the CRM for us but there was plenty to like about the platform while we were trialling it. Here’s the lowdown on where Zoho CRM shines and where it doesn’t.

Zoho pros & cons

To give you an idea of what we’ll be talking about in this review, here’s a quick look at the pros and cons we experienced while suing Zoho CRM.

Zoho CRM pros

  • Solid email marketing & automation features
  • Integrates seamlessly with other Zoho products
  • Form builder app available (paid)
  • Comprehensive reporting

Zoho CRM cons

  • Requires a lot of customisation to get started
  • Limited customer support
  • Forms aren’t optimised for conversions
  • Zoho offers a lot of features but the depth of their functionality proves limited as your demands increase

Features-wise, Zoho CRM stacks up well against the competition and it even beats some of the industry leaders in certain areas. For example, there’s a separate form builder and optimisation app, which is one of the best we’ve used.

Forms often get overlooked and it’s great to see Zoho recognise the important of them when it comes to lead generation and nurturing. The form app isn’t perfect (more on that later) but Zoho is doing a lot more for form building and optimisation than most CRM providers.

Like many CRM platforms, Zoho’s requires a lot of customisation to get started and this is where the company’s limited customer support can become an issue.

Overall, Zoho CRM is a capable platform that integrates perfectly into a much larger system of Zoho software. So let’s take a closer look at what the platform can do before we explain why we ended up going with a different CRM here at Venture Harbour.

How much does Zoho CRM cost?

You can try Zoho CRM for free by signing up to a 15-day trial without handing over any credit card details. If you decide this is the platform for you, there are four versions available:

  • Standard: £10/month (per user)
  • Professional: £16/month (per user)
  • Enterprise: £30/month (per user)
  • Ultimate Edition: £85/month (per user)

All of those prices are based on paying annually, which means you’re essentially signing up to a 12-month subscription. Even still, those prices put Zoho’s CRM at the more competitive end of the market.

Keep in mind you’ll have to pay extra for any of the additional apps you decide to use (e.g.: the form builder) so this can quickly bump your monthly cost up.

The integrations are great but you have to pay for them.

What can you do with Zoho CRM?

Now that you have a better idea of how much Zoho CRM is going to cost you, let’s take a look at what you’re actually getting for your money.

Multichannel Sales CRM

Zoho follow up quickly

Above all, Zoho CRM is a customer relationship management platform that help you manage sales prospects and customer across multichannel touch points – precisely what a CRM is supposed to do.

This starts with the platform’s email marketing features, allowing you to manage contacts, automate emails and track engagement (views, responses, etc.) and automate further responses. You can filter leads by engagement actions (sent, not sent, opened, not opened, etc.) and devise your follow-up strategies.

You also get Zoho’s drag-and-drop email builder to create new designs and templates, extensive email reporting and team collaboration tools.

Beyond email, Zoho equips you with tools for implementing live chat on your website, lead generation and management tools for social media and systems for managing phone calls.

Lead generation & management

Lead management is a crucial function of any CRM but Zoho also wants to help you generate more leads as well. There are three key areas the platform will help you achieve this: email sign-ups on your website, live chat conversations and converting leads via social.

Zoho’s form builder helps you create forms without writing any code and place them on the most important parts of your website. The builder is intuitive and you can auto-assign leads to members of your team upon sign-up. The tools also allows you to collect user data and automate email responses based on the info users submit.

It’s a great tool but the platform doesn’t do much to help you create forms that are optimised for conversions. Zoho offers more than most of the CRM platforms we’ve used when it comes to form creation and optimisation but, ultimately, the pre-optimised multi-step forms we create using Leadformly convert a much higher percentage of users.

Aside from that, Zoho’s lead assignment, scoring and automation features are highly capable. There’s not a great deal to criticise in this department.

Marketing & Sales automation

Zoho CRM makes it easy to build sales automation workflows, allowing you to automatically send email responses to new leads, move prospects to different email lists based on their responses and move contacts along the sales journey.

The builder is simple and intuitive, making it ideal for teams that are new to CMRs and automation in general. The automation options available cover all of the essentials, too, but we started to find Zoho’s CRM too limited when we tried to create more advanced automations – for example, personalising page content for different users.

Analytics & Reporting

Zoho puts a heavy emphasis on Analytics and reporting, which is great to see from a provider targeting both small and large businesses. Too many CRM platforms fall short on the data side of things, forcing you to implement third-party solutions into the mix.

Zoho’s reporting isn’t the most extensive on the market but it does give you a solid overview of just about everything from sales records and business performance to KPIs and web form insights.

It’s a strong offering and you’ll get quite a lot out of Zoho’s reports until you start needing more advanced capabilities.

How does Zoho compare to the competition?

We’ve given you an overview of what you can do with Zoho CRM and what you can expect to pay for the platform but how does it compare to the competition? In this section, we’re going to look at how it stacks up against HubSpot and ActiveCampaign.

Zoho CRM vs HubSpot

While Zoho CRM targets small, medium and large businesses, HubSpot isn’t really suitable for smaller businesses. While HubSpot offers a free CRM platform, you don’t get access to the automation and lead management features you need to make a real impact upon your business.

You have to pay for these and HubSpot quickly becomes too expensive for smaller businesses.

HubSot’s CRM is a great tool but things get expensive once you start adding marketing and automation features.

Zoho is genuine value for money at the small business end of the spectrum but there is a caveat. HubSpot’s automation and marketing features are more advanced than Zoho’s – so, while you’re paying more for them, you can achieve a lot more with them.

With Zoho CRM, you might find your business outgrows the platform’s capabilities. Larger businesses or companies with demanding automation needs may find it simply doesn’t cut the grade to begin with.

Zoho CRM vs ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign is a more direct competitor for Zoho CRM, also catering for small businesses and enterprise brands alike. The crucial difference for us is that ActiveCampaign has the advanced automation capabilities we need and it doesn’t charge crazy prices for them.

The problem for us with Zoho CRM was that we quickly found its features just didn’t quite go far enough for us. ActiveCampaign gives us 90% of what we actually needed from an enterprise system like HubSpot at a fraction of the price.

gives us 90% of what we actually needed from an enterprise system like HubSpot at a fraction of the price.

A few integrations later and we matched HubSpot without paying those hefty prices.

Zoho CRM verdict

Zoho is a great CRM and marketing automation platform for small businesses. It’s affordable and covers all of the bases, making it a great place to start your CRM journey. Sure, there are a few features missing and some interface quirks, but this is something you’re going to experience with any CRM – none of them are perfect.

If your CRM and automation needs are relatively simple, Zoho CRM is a great platform.

Unfortunately, our automation needs were too much and we’re not convinced Zoho is going to cut it for larger businesses. Another problem is businesses that are aiming to scale quickly are going to find they outgrow Zoho CRM and this means you’re going to be on the hunt for another CRM.

This is a key reason we chose ActiveCampaign as our CRM and marketing automation suite. It’s similarly priced but it’s capable of growing alongside your business, offering advanced features at reasonable prices as the needs of your business increase.

Aaron Brooks is a copywriter & digital strategist specialising in helping agencies & software companies find their voice in a crowded space.

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