In the competitive business world, no matter your industry, product or service, free can be a magic word. Yet many companies shy away from free software options, wrongly believing that only a paid version will be able to handle the complexities of their systems and processes. Customer relationship management (CRM), for example, is a critical part of the sales and marketing process, but it can be managed effectively with free CRM software.
How to Determine if Free Software is Also High-Quality
The difficulty in choosing between free software options is deciding which one is best for your company. While every business has unique goals, business models and workflows, all companies can agree on a few things. A CRM needs to:
- Improve the efficiency and productivity of your team
- Adapt to growing and changing business needs
- Be accessible on multiple platforms
Also, it’s imperative that the CRM has robust support services, so companies can quickly resolve any issues. This will enable them to keep prospecting flowing and ongoing customer relationships strong.
Historically, it might’ve been enough to keep basic information on clients and potential clients in a spreadsheet or hard copy files. Today, however, with multiple touchpoints between company and customer, more advanced CRM is required.
How to Select the Best Free CRM Software
There are many ways to evaluate CRM platforms. The first step is to identify the different type and level of functionality you need. This could include criteria such as:
- Number of users: While you may be a small business now, be sure to take in your growth forecasts into account and choose a platform that can accommodate you as you grow.
- Record management: The main reason you need a CRM is to manage your records. A high-quality CRM will simplify and organize this process.
- Ease of use: The best software is one your employees will actually use. It’s important to evaluate how user-friendly the software is by considering how many clicks it takes to do a task and how you will record and access the information you need.
- Capabilities: Some vendors may try to win you over with advanced capabilities. These bells and whistles may unknowingly bump you into a paying version. There’s nothing wrong with paying for a capability you really need, but make sure it is one that is necessary for your business.
- Lead scoring: One of the best ways to organize your sales pipeline is with lead scoring. This function will make sure you are focusing on your high potential customers will not neglecting the long tail of new leads.
- Email and phone: CRMs don’t just include contact information anymore. They should also include every interaction you have with potential and existing clients. The best CRM offerings make this easy for you and automatically record email and phone interactions.
- Integrations: These related applications make CRMs even more robust. Whether they are built into the software or connected through an API, integrations such as cloud storage, lead management tool or other platforms could save time and make the sales and marketing process easier.
- Marketing automation: Given your busy schedule, a CRM should also be able to take care of some of your marketing tasks. With a high-quality tool, you’ll be able to build rules that automatically remind you when to reach out to various contacts during the sales process.
- Reporting and analytics: Since the CRM tracks contact information and touchpoints, you should be able to leverage the CRM to provide comprehensive and helpful business intelligence around sales statistics, demographics and product and service trends.
- Mobility: The workday is often split between the office and being on-the-go, especially for client-facing associates. A CRM with a clean and easy-to-use mobile version is critical.
- Security: CRMs will be storing sensitive customer data. You should make sure their security protocols are consistent with your internal cybersecurity practices.
How do Leading Free CRMs Compare
There are many vendors providing free CRM software. While some of these are just a pared down “teaser” version that requires you to pay for it to add value to your business. Below are ten of the most robust free options in the market today.
This CRM is known for collaboration. It permits an unlimited number of users at the free level and provides lead and contact management, project tracking, document management, email marketing, and sales automation. The main difference between free and paid is the level of storage, with the free plan being limited to 5GB.
- Pros: Unlimited users, limited differences between free and paid versions
- Cons: Built mainly for small and medium teams
The free version of Capsule is limited to two users and up to 250 contacts. It offers basic customer relationship and sales support capabilities but is well-known for its social media integration. Capsule is able to track interactions and store this information in a way where companies could turn social leads into customers.
- Pros: Ability to track social media leads, easy-to-use system, detailed searching capability
- Cons: Limited integrations, users and storage
This vendor is known for its modern and easy-to-use interface. Sprout, the company’s free version (there are several paid plans available too), provides effective contact management with unlimited users and storage. It has a basic lead capturing and scoring process that is ideal for high-growth startups and small to mid-sized companies.
- Pros: Includes Freshdesk (help desk) integration and advanced reporting
- Cons: Doesn’t have smart notifications or sales management, integrations not as robust
This software is popular among small to medium-sized companies. It tracks all customer interactions from email to in-person to social media and works with several integrations. It keeps leads in a clean timeline view that all users can view. HubSpot has unlimited storage and can track up to one million contacts.
- Pros: Robust free capabilities, easy-to-use interface, easy to learn
- Cons: Maybe too basic for larger companies with high customer service needs
While it’s well-known for the capabilities provided in its paid tiers, Insightly’s free plan provides sole proprietors and teams of up to two people decent end-to-end CRM. It’s built for companies just starting their CRM process with the freemium approach that these companies will pay for additional services like integrations, workflow automation, and more users and storage as the company grows.
- Pros: Effective way for small businesses to get started in CRM
- Cons: Can’t use the mobile app in the free version, limited storage, users and reports
For businesses that work mainly in Gmail, Streak could be a good fit. The CRM integrates with your Gmail account to provide email tracking, sales management, mail merge, and basic API access. Users can create unlimited private pipelines and track 200 emails a month. Its cloud hosting and no-coding structure make it popular among small to medium-sized businesses.
- Pros: Unlimited users, ideal for Gmail-focused teams
- Cons: Limited capabilities compared to other free offerings, no phone support or data recovery
This vendor has a long history in CRM, being one of the first to provide a digitized relationship management system. The modern produce includes essential lead management, analytics, and sales automation functions. The open source platform may appeal to more traditional developers who want to build a customized CRM, but it can work for companies ranging from one person to large businesses.
- Pros: Open source and flexible, open API, real-time pipeline
- Cons: Need PHP and development knowledge to install, the free version doesn’t include mobile
SuiteCRM is an open source software that can be deployed in many environments including public or private cloud, local server or Amazon. It offers traditional CRM capabilities as well as activities such as finance management, pricing strategy control, contract renewals, and business process modeling.
- Pros: No paid plans, can adapt to businesses of all sizes, support available no matter the deployment
- Cons: Open source platform may be confusing to some users
The free version is built for teams up to ten within small and medium-sized businesses. It includes lead management, email marketing, workflow management, sales force automation, and full support. Zoho CRM can integrate with other Zoho products but is limited in some of its other integration at the free level.
- Pros: Provides mobile app, sales force automation, lead and sales management
- Cons: Limited to 1GB of storage
Don’t let the simplicity of this tool deceive you, it’s actually a robust open source CRM and contact management platform. It has fairly advanced offerings at the free level including integrations, custom reporting, custom dashboards, unlimited contacts, lead and activity management and marketing automation. Its gamification features are designed to improve the agent-customer relationship.
- Pros: Gamification features, fresh user interface
- Cons: Designed mainly for beginner CRM users, have to pay for advanced support
Need Help Deciding Which Free CRM is Right for You?
We know that all businesses are unique and need the right CRM that fits their needs. Our team has extensive experience in helping companies find sales and marketing solutions that propel them to the next level of growth. If you need more information or help choosing the right CRM, contact Link360 today.