I used Desk.com for the last couple years and HubSpot CRM for nearly a year. I'm currently migrating to Salesforce Essentials. I've gotten better acquainted with Salesforce over the last few years through nonprofit gigs and appreciate the possibilities of customization. I agree the learning curve is steeper but I think it's worthwhile.
Happy to share more insights and/or help others make a decision. One of my key deciding factors was that I don't use Gmail and am not willing to adopt a platform that runs as a Gmail add-on.
I use Tave for customer contact info, automated workflow, contracts, invoicing and client payments. I don't know if it fits the definition of a CRM (it's more about the workflow once you have a lead), but close enough 🙂 It's used by a number of photographers, and the language and default templates are definitely from that world, but nothing in the design precludes it from being a good tool in other businesses. 17 Hats was what I used in the recent past, and if one wanted a lighter weight solution that's a god choice.
@LVphotog, if 17 Hats was more than you needed, I suspect Tave will be too - but it's worth checking out I've used Shootproof and Square (not for appointments, though), though that was earlier, before Shootproof added some of their recent management features.
I do think committing to a process and system is where the benefit comes from, more so than *which* specific system one picks 🙂
I love all of these suggestions! I use Filemaker and, like Salesforce, it is a little more involved - but it has been worth it for me. I have been able to customize to a very detailed level for my business (I make cakes) - from inventory, to reminders for repeat clients on anniversaries and birthdays, to cost of goods sold. It's been really great.
Best of luck to you! I think a CRM is one of the most crucial steps in growing your business!
It would be nice if Thumbtack made a simple CRM for us. That would be a valuable service justifying the cost of all our bid. It would get me to bid more and use the platform more.