October 9


How to Choose the Best Marketing/CRM Service for your Business: Part I

When it comes to your business you want the best. But how can you choose the best when every service claims to be it? I’ve looked at the top-performing and most popular CRM services. Over the next few blogs we will break down the top four. I will provide recommendations based on industry standards, functionality, customer satisfaction, and expert opinions. Remember every business is unique so consider your business's needs and goals (the more specific the better) before making a final decision. 

Our first pairing is: ZOHO vs. SugarCRM.  



  • Best for Small to Midsize Businesses
  • Easy Setup
  • Standard and Popular CRM Functions
  •  Admin Features
  • Customization
  • Familiar Layout and Easy Navigation

Best for Small to Midsize Businesses

Zoho CRM is user friendly.  It is ideal for teams looking for a turn-key product. Their free service includes up to 3 users. With no account minimum this service is ideal for smaller teams. 

Easy Set up

They offer a variety of customizations depending on what additional services your team requires. Keep in mind more customizations will result in a lengthier setup process. However, getting the basic plan implemented and operating it can be done with little effort. It is designed to be user-friendly (even for non-tech people) with clear and simple setup guidelines.

Standard and Popular CRM Functions 

Zoho CRM offers popular services like customizable email templates. Users can start from scratch creating a 100% original design. Or edit one of  Zoho’s many professional and visually appealing templates. Track essential analytics with standard and custom dashboards. All users have access to see their metrics perform in real-time. Users also have access to a shared document library where content can be uploaded, stored, and shared.

Admin Features

Admin can easily delegate by creating groups with varying degrees of access and clearance levels. This part of the software was designed for any admin user, even those who have little or no previous software experience.


The Zoho Marketplace is a convenient one-stop-shop for your extension needs. Enhance your primary Zoho account with popular integrations. The Marketplace is broken down into major categories like: Sales, Finance, Productivity, Mail, Analytics, Campaigns etc. This is ideal when you are trying to enhance a specific area of operations. Most of these are low (to no) cost and don’t require coding. 

Third-party software may require admin clearance to modify Zoho’s CRM API. If you or your team lack tech/coding experience I recommend taking advantage of the Zoho assistance team. It will cost more, but it will be done correctly and you'll avoid future complications. Schedule in advance if you require additional assistance.

Familiar Layout and Easy Navigation

Post-setup the Zoho platform looks and performs like a standard cloud tool.

It is easy to navigate the simple layout. The dropdown menu takes the user to a specific section and filters relevant listings on the left of the screen. Notifications are always visible in the upper-right corner. Sync your email to see your inbox alongside notifications. This is an excellent feature for those who need to answer messages, but don’t wish to abandon their current task.


  •  Tiered paywall
  • Smaller operating scope

Tiered Paywall 

The tiered levels of access will deny lower-level subscribers to some of the service’s most useful and highly rated features. If there is a must-have feature for your business check to see what level it’s offered. For example, if you want CRM support with Google Ads you will need to upgrade to at least the professional tier. The good news is the company is transparent with all tier differences. You can look at what every tier offers here

Smaller Operating Scope 

Zoho is seemingly designed with smaller operations in mind. Because it is an alternative to more expensive and involved products it won’t perform exactly like them. That is to say you require a more powerful and robust system; it may not be the software for you.


Billed Annually  

  • Free for 3 users           
  • $12/user/month (Standard) 
  •  $20/user/month(Professional) 
  • $35/user/month (Enterprise) 
  • $45/user/month (Ultimate)

Billed Monthly   

  • Free for 3 users           
  • $18/user (Standard) 
  • $30/user (Professional)
  •  $45/user (Enterprise) 
  • $55/user (Ultimate)


Average 4.35 stars out of 5

Overall positive ratings. Most claim that its features best compliment small to midsize businesses. They praise the overall performance, customizable options, and impressive capabilities.

SugarCRM (Sell/Market/Serve)

SugarSell is broken down into 3 major services:

  1. Sugar Market
  2.  Sugar Sell
  3.  Sugar Serve



Sugar Market is designed to amplify marketing reach, attract new clients, and track data. It is advertised for mid-size businesses and teams. Sugar Market has built-in advertisements and social media tools. It is designed to generate leads. It also ranks the likelihood of prospective clients becoming verified buyers. It uses both SEM and SEO to increase traffic on your site. 

Create unique campaigns with landing pages designed with your business’s most urgent call-to-action. Easily edit with drag and drop features and make content that feels personal and unique to your customer base. 


  • Centralized Structure
  • Simple, Assisted Marketing Campaigns

Centralized Structure

This system centralizes your customer. It provides a seamless transition between support and customer experience. Each user has access to all customer profiles. Every team member is equipped to handle a customer’s question or correct an error. Data is stored in one location so there is no loss in translation.

Simple, Assisted Marketing Campaigns

SugarCRM has a component that sets it apart from its competitors: the dashboard Campaign Wizard. This Wizard stores leads and helps route them into appropriate engagement funnels. There is a specific tutorial for the wizard with easy-to-follow instructions, so your team gets the most of the feature. You have the ability to rate your own leads, assess their validity and assign them to individual team members.


Sugar Sell enhances your sales team’s performance.  A directory of all customers includes these important metrics: social and business data, program insights, and individual scores. Users receive notifications when these factors change or fluctuate.

The program documents your customer’s entire journey throughout the funnel from initial contact to their glowing testimonial. 

You can your sync Gmail and other Google accounts with the software. Integrate your calendar and inbox to keep track of your progress with all your clients. Automation is one of Sugar's top selling points. They’ve worked to create a system that reduces transitional friction between departments and provides a seamless routing experience.


  • Lead Consolidation
  • Public API Code

Lead Consolidation

This is the reason you’re looking into a CRM service, right? It provides a simple and effective way to keep track and take control of leads and contracts. SugarSell allows you to do so in a couple of clicks. All contact files can be updated. Attach important files and individually tag and/or star them for reference. This feature is available for group or bulk editing.

Public API Code

This feature is especially exciting for larger, tech-savvy teams. It allows you even more flexibility and customization with your integrations, but requires coding knowledge.

Don't know where to start with a CRM service? Contact our team. We can help you design, operate, and perfect your system. Get back your most urgent tasks while we generate, track and land leads.  


Handle all customer inquiries, complaints and resolutions with Sugar Serve. All your files are in one easy-to-navigate dashboard. Calls can be made and routed directly to the appropriate channel. A self-serve portal directs customers to FAQ’s. It guides them through simple steps to resolve their own issue before needing an agent's assistance. Minimize your overhead and reduce unnecessary call volume. This feature allows you to monitor your team’s progress and performance as well.


  • Communication Sync
  •  Intuitive reporting

Communication Sync 

SugarCRM has a variety of communication features that combine all the ways you communicate with your team and clients. Especially in a remote work age, you need all available communication avenues. Sugar links phone, email, video meetings and social networks into your business’s communication network. This keeps your team and clients connected no matter what.

Intuitive Reporting

SurgarCRM provides extensive data tracking and performance report features. It takes work to integrate your custom system perfectly, but there are webinars and community forums for collective knowledge sharing. It makes comprehensive analytic projections, runs reports, and creates different graphics to represent your data. Reports are created simply with the system’s wizard and can be exported as CSV files.


  •  Lengthy Setup and Complex Integrations
  • Not as familiar as other major platforms
  • Price
  • Minimum of Users 

Lengthy Setup and Complex Integrations

Many users claim that having an in-house tech team is advisable to get the most out of the SugarCRM services. Because they have so many features and options for customization it can become overwhelming. The interface and many of the dashboards are not as user-friendly as competing software. While they do have extensive information and help available through Sugar University, take into consideration the extra cost of teaching tech comprehension for this specific software.

Not as Familiar as other Major Platforms

While the SugarCRM etc. products are making a name for themselves in the industry, they still aren’t as recognizable as other major competitors. It does provide standout features in some areas. But often it is regarded as the supplemental or alternative choice vs. the premier choice.  


SugarCRM is significantly more expensive than some its competitors. Especially considering they charge by the user and the minimum for all plans is 10. The price gets you sophisticated software, but to make the most out of it's features you need a well-equipped tech team. There is a free 7 day trial available. 

Minimum of Users

This may disqualify some smaller businesses or teams from using this tech. However, the software is built to process and handle mid to large companies. It is a powerhouse software. 


  • Sugar Market Starting at $1,000 USD / per month for 10K contacts / billed annually
  • Sugar Sell Starting at $80 USD / per user per month / 10 user minimum / billed annually
  • Sugar Serve Starting at $80 USD / per user per month / 10 user minimum / billed annually
  • Sugar Enterprise Starting at $85 USD / per user per month / 10 user minimum / billed annually
  • Sugar Professional Starting at $52 USD / per user per month / 10 user minimum / billed annually


Average 3.65 out of 5 stars

Overall, the reviews of Sugar services range from average to good. In some niche regards like having an open API they outshine their competitors. The consensus is the integration complexity and overall setup is a deterrent for businesses without their own tech team. While it isn’t a deal breaker, it is something that you should consider. It is designed for more nuanced functionality vs. user-friendly functions.

Zoho vs. SugarCRM Major Features

Shared Features

  • Unique Mobile App
  • G suite integration
  • Self-Solve Customer Resolution Service [Multi-brand Help Center (Zoho) vs. Self-Service Center (Sugar)]
  • Reporting and Dashboards
  • Customization and Integrations
  • Multilingual/multicurrency compatible
  • Performance and Project forecasting
  • Omnichannel capabilities (social, email, phone, individual user profiles)

Differences in Features 

  • Sugar requires minimum of 10 users
  • SugarCRM includes a Quote Management System  (custom feature in Zoho Marketplace) 
  •  Zoho sales forecasts with an interactive assistant “Zia” 
  • Zoho use of Gamification
  • Zoho attention to Remote Work 
  • Price-Sugar doesn't have free option (Free 7 day trial available) 

Overall Recommendation: Zoho  

Zoho and Sugar are both worthy competitors. They share a lot of great features and both are quality CRM providers. The major difference between the two comes down to their ease of use and price. Sugar requires more coding and tech knowledge. Zoho is designed to be simple and intuitive to any user. Zoho does not require any user minimums which means it can work for a team of any size. Zoho has a free version as well as lower cost plans than Sugar. For those reasons (and especially if your company is new to CRM services) I recommend Zoho. It is a functional and efficient service. Weigh all the pros and cons accurately for your business by knowing exactly what your business's needs are.

Feeling overwhelmed? 

Choosing the right CRM for your business can be difficult. Setting up, maintaining, and running it can be just as vexing. 

Good news our team is ready to assist you. 

We provide market funnel services that alleviate the stress and pressure of doing it on your own. Why risk hours of frustration and potential complications? We accommodate all team sizes and needs. We have years of experience in the industry and guarantee that we can help you achieve your goals. 

Reach out for a free consultation today. 

If you are having trouble knowing exactly what service to pick or what to do next, reach out. We'll help you design, maintain, and run a system that will increase clients, sales, and achieve your biggest goals. 

Book a free 1-hour Breakthrough Consultation with us.

Erickson Business Coaching

Erickson Business Coaching, Inc. is a training and coaching company dedicated to helping skilled professionals build successful practices.

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