The 4 Best CRM Software for Manufacturing

In the prior article we shared how to select the best manufacturing CRM system. This article will share comparison information among the four best CRM software solutions for manufacturers.

The Best Manufacturing CRM Solutions

I have been implementing CRM for manufacturers for just over three decades. From this experience, a frequent question I get is, "What is the best CRM software for manufacturing companies?"

To deliver an objective answer, I think a CRM buyer should consider market share, market growth and the industrial specific requirements that make CRM for manufacturing different than generic CRM software.

CRM Market Share in the Manufacturing Industry

Starting with market share. The top 4 CRM software applications across all industries are Salesforce, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics. They collectively account for less than half of the total CRM software market. That's in large part due to a very fragmented market that includes well over 100 vendors.

CRM Market Share

The top 4 CRM solutions are also the leaders in the manufacturing industry. Not because manufacturers have the same requirements; they do not. But because these publishers deliver the specific CRM capabilities most needed by industrial companies. Capabilities such as market and customer insights to support product innovation, Partner Relationship Management (PRM) to facilitate indirect sales channels, Configure-Price-Quote automation to accelerate highly configurable orders, contact lifecycle management to ensure compliance, Field Service Management (FSM) to grow higher margin revenues, IoT to measure product performance, AI to deliver predictive analytics, and seamless integration with ERP systems to support enterprise-wide business process cycles.

Even seemingly standardized processes such as sales are different for manufacturers. Unlike most other industries which prioritize new customer acquisitions, manufacturing business models are more dependent on increasing repeat business with existing customers. They source more revenues and have longer relationships with customers.

That reinforces why certain other capabilities, such as big data, IoT and AI are needed to measure product performance and understand how customers are using their products. And why customer relationships – either with customers or business partners – are vital. Customer churn is more devastating in the industrial industry.

The 4 Best Manufacturing CRM Software

Choosing the best CRM software is a long-term decision that should be based on the many criteria that support your staff, customers and company priorities. Consider the following comparison points only as a starting point.

  1. Salesforce
    Salesforce is the clear market share leader. This company continues to innovate and offers advanced capabilities such as Einstein AI, an extremely broad platform and a deep third-party AppExchange ecosystem. Manufacturing CRM software strengths with this solution include best-in-class CPQ (from the acquisition of SteelBrick), PRM, FSM, IoT and a Manufacturing Cloud edition with templates and objects designed for the industrial sector.On the down side, Salesforce is the only top CRM manufacturing solution that does not offer Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or Supply Chain Management (SCM) applications. However, the company does offer packaged system integration to SAP and a few other ERP systems.

    Consider Salesforce if you seek digital transformation, business transformation or otherwise intend to transform your industrial business. However, acquiring the market share leader comes with the Salesforce price premium. If you leverage this enterprise software for transformational outcomes your investment will pay dividends. But if your goals are less ambitious you may incur increased investment without increased payback.

  2. Microsoft Dynamics Customer Engagement (CE)
    Microsoft Dynamics 365 CE is a feature rich, mature application. The Microsoft CRM value proposition is in large part based on CRM being an integrated component in a broader business application stack that includes ERP, SCM and Human Capital Management (HCM). And as the ERP software suite includes mature discrete and process manufacturing support, the entire solution can be very attractive to industrial companies. In fact, the Microsoft ERP application has made the manufacturing industry the company's top sector.Consider Dynamics 365 CE if you seek a complete front-to-back office, fully integrated CRM and ERP application. Or consider this solution if you are a large company using SAP and want a tier 2 solution for decentralized business units or dispersed geographic locations (where SAP is considered overkill), or just desire a more nimble and lower cost CRM solution that integrates with SAP.  Dynamics 365 CE is almost always the lowest cost CRM solution among the Big 4. The investment can become even more attractive if you have a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement.

    However, some cautions exist. Microsoft's business focus is not with its Dynamics business applications (it's with Azure) and certain industry requirements such as Configure-Price-Quote must be obtained from the Dynamics AppSource marketplace.

  3. SAP CRM
    SAP is the tier 1 ERP software market share leader. FYI, Microsoft Dynamics is the tier 2 (middle market) ERP software leader. Most companies only consider SAP CRM if they are purchasing or already own SAP ERP. To be candid, SAP CRM software does not possess the same reputation as its ERP application. For SAP customers, the CRM solution can be acquired at an attractive price. SAP is known to heavily discount or even bundle the CRM software with an ERP purchase. In fact, it's this bundling that gives SAP its CRM market share position.Like Microsoft, industrial companies make up one of SAP largest install bases. Also like Microsoft, the CRM application is not the company's focus. The ERP software is. It's that focus that is generally a predictor of innovation and continued evolution – or the lack thereof.
  4. Oracle
    Oracle's flagship CRM solution is called Oracle CX. That moniker was born from a branding program designed to tap into the Customer Experience movement. But branding aside, Oracle CRM offers similar marketing, sales and customer service applications as the other top CRM solutions. Oracle has amassed many products from acquisitions. Most notably, the company acquired the first CRM market share leader, Siebel Systems, which creates an inside path to product upgrades or replacements for a large install base. Oracle's acquisition of Eloqua accelerated its place in marketing automation platforms, a top ranking it still holds today. And Oracle's acquisition of RightNow boosted its customer support capabilities.For industrial companies with direct sales organizations, Oracle CX capabilities such as territory management, quota management and PRM are some of the best in the industry. Other manufacturing-centric capabilities such as FSM and e-commerce are also notable.

    Like SAP and Microsoft, Oracle offers a single vendor, enterprise-wide solution with tight CRM integration to SCM and ERP. Oracle is priced below Salesforce, similar to SAP and above Microsoft Dynamics.

If you are evaluating CRM software, consider our CRM software selection framework to identify the best CRM system for your company.