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12 Best Free CRM Software (2020 Update)

Michael Zunenshine & Christopher Sirk
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A free CRM may be the best introduction to understanding CRM. They are after all… free! 

Without the pressure of committing money, you can take your time learning CRM. You’ll be able to find out which features are most useful to you, and “shop around” (for free) before settling on a specific vendor. 

This is important because a CRM system doesn’t just get popped into a workflow and “do its thing.” People need to work with and understand CRM in order to have tangible, positive benefits for their business.

Free versions of CRM software exist usually as feature-limited or time-limited iterations of a paid-for full version. Deciding on a particular CRM can be hard so vendors offer free versions to help take the guessing game out of the decision-making process—it's a great opportunity for users to try a CRM and see if it's a good fit before fully committing.

Ultimately, understanding how customer relationship management works will open up many new possibilities for your business.

 

 

Taking time to make time (and money)

Let’s take a step back and approach the CRM question tangentially, using some good old fashioned dialectical reasoning:

  • Thesis: CRM software saves your business time.

  • Antithesis: Setting up and learning how to use CRM software takes time.

  • Synthesis: Good CRM software should be a snap to set up and a piece of cake to learn.

OK, so, customer management relationship software is there to help streamline work for the sales team—or a number of other purposes such as social media management, leads/contacts organization, customer support, email campaigns, subscriptions, sign-ups, etc. But what is streamlining exactly?

“Streamline” is understood as making things faster and easier. CRM achieves this by combining what could be several different programs into one single platform: customer communication, email marketing, phone, data logging and retrieval, reports and analytics, work task assignment, etc. To streamline means to have all that essential data in one place—the ability to analyze, organize, and optimize—so that companies can paint their best customer behavior portrait.  

There’s also an emphasis on the user-friendliness of today’s CRM. This is where a lot of software companies take pride, providing an upgrade from dreaded static spreadsheets, and complicated funnels/sales pipelines.

With CRM you get readable versions with useful charts featuring extensive data and customer histories. Relevant information like stats and analytics are instantly created from any number of readily-available data sets, while team member task assignments can be as simple as drag-n-drop action.

The CRM software industry has been growing at a crazy pace in recent years. Intensified competition and the “Uberization” trend have conspired to push costs down, ease the adoption curve, and increase quality and features. More and better free CRM software is one happy result.

12 best free CRM (try before you buy)

Free CRM systems offer the opportunity to try out a platform with your team and see if you can derive value from it without dishing out on the initial investment—especially if you’re a small business or a budding startup on a lean budget.

Since it’s free, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t try it out! Here are some of the best free CRM software platforms, with enticing free plans:

 

Less Annoying CRM

Benefits:

Less Annoying CRM (aka LACRM) is designed as an all-inclusive CRM solution for small businesses. They offer a long 30-day free trial. After that, they have a single, low-cost paid plan.

LACRM handles task management, lead-to-sale, contact management, and follow-ups. Manage all your customer data, track your leads through sales pipelines. Stay on top of events and to-dos (in easy-to-use calendar and agenda formats).

Emails written and received outside a CRM platform can be logged inside LACRM. The app provides every user with a unique email logging address. You can create a contact with whatever email provider you use.

Drawbacks:

There are minimal app integrations, which might be a significant limitation, depending on your needs. The app sends out notifications by SMS or email, but not in-app, which feels a bit retro.

Pricing:

  • $10 per user/per month, billed monthly.

LACRM offers a risk-free, 30-day free trial for its only pricing plan.

Website: lessannoyingcrm.com

 

HubSpot

Benefits:

HubSpot is one of the biggest vendors out there (up there with Salesforce), and they offer a free CRM for unlimited users with basic features. 

The free HubSpot CRM allows you to assign and track leads, manage the sales process, manage workflows for better project management, and record customer interactions across every channel in one place. It also has pretty comprehensive email marketing, as well as inbound marketing tools (the latter is quite useful for getting search engine hits for blog posts).

The platform works with G Suite and Microsoft Office, making implementation and data syncing seamless. Integration with Zapier facilitates easy information sharing and task management across apps like Google Sheets, Facebook Lead Ads, Slack, and more). 

The non-free, paid add-on packages for HubSpot CRM boost data storage, generate more sophisticated reports, and incorporate new AI and advanced automation tech.

Drawbacks:

The free CRM has many features, but a lot of them aren’t that robust, which means you may find yourself having to shell out for Marketing, Sales, or Service Hub products. Customizability is limited, which might make the CRM hard for certain niche small businesses to tweak and meaningfully implement.

Pricing: 

  • HubSpot CRM is free and the number of users is unlimited.

  • Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Service Hub add-on packages are $50 each per user/per month, billed monthly.

  • HubSpot CMS starts at $300 per month, billed monthly. 

  • All-inclusive Starter Growth Suite starts at $113 per user/per month, billed monthly.

Website: https://www.hubspot.com/

 

Zoho

Benefits:

Zoho CRM provides a small business-friendly platform with a simple user interface, customizable modules, pragmatic automation, and social media features. 

If you’re seeking free-ness, their unpaid plan for up to three users is a good place to start. The platform will allow you to build up and define specific workflow, manage leads, and start rationalizing day-to-day operations. It integrates with Twitter, Google+, and Facebook too, so you can reach out to leads with superhuman perfect timing.

Once you outgrow the free CRM, you can upgrade to the reasonably priced Standard version of Zoho, which pumps up the usability factor with robust sales forecasting and KPI tracking. The Enterprise version piles on more features like stage-by-stage sales funnel tracking, data comparisons across users, teams, regions, products/services, and much more. 

Drawbacks:

Zoho has no email tracking or individual lead notifications, which might be a problem if one-on-one, long-term engagement with specific users is integral to your business. UI can be a bit laggy. Paying for Zoho add-on modules to give the CRM more mileage can shoot up operational costs quickly.

The free version lacks mass emailing features and overall the CRM has pretty limited customizability.

Pricing: 

  • Free version is available for up to three users. 

  • Standard version is $12 per user/per month, billed annually

  • Enterprise version is $35 per user/per month, billed annually. 

Website: zoho.com/crm

 

Bitrix24

Benefits:

Based on number of users, Bitrix24 is one of the most popular free CRM in the world. Bitrix24 provides a cloud CRM solution that’s free for up to 12 users, with a cap on data storage of 5 GB. Features-wise, it provides largely the same range as paid plans, albeit scaled-down. Everything you need is there: pipeline management, lead management, sales tracking, reporting, task automation, and more. 

The user interface helps make Bitrix24 easy to use (the Kanban view is especially good). There’s voice, email, chat, and video channel access in-app, and mobile apps for iOS and Android to ensure your team can clinch deals and defuse issues at critical moments.

Drawbacks:

While the UI looks nice, it’s sometimes a bit confusing to navigate through different modules. Customization possibilities may not be robust enough for complex and/or specialized business applications. The app can lag sometimes. 

It should also be said that Bitrix24’s learning curve is firmly in the ‘moderate’ category. 

Pricing:

  • Free starter business tool suite for up to 12 users.

  • CRM+ plan for up to 6 users is $55 per user/per month billed annually, and $69 per user/per month billed monthly. 

  • Project+ plan for up to 24 users is $55 per user/per month billed annually, and $69 per user/per month billed monthly.

  • Standard plan for up to 50 users is $79 per user/per month billed annually, and $99 per user/per month 

  • Professional plan is $159 per user/per month billed annually, and $199 per user/per month for an unlimited number of users. 

  • The prices above are for the cloud-based version. On-premise solutions are also available.

Website: bitrix24.com

 

Streak

Benefits:

Streak provides a fully integrated Gmail CRM built into your inbox. Piggybacking off this familiar everyday software tool, the app makes CRM adoption easy for new users. 

The free version of Streak, intended for personal use (i.e. freelancers and solo entrepreneurs), includes basic CRM tools and pretty comprehensive email features. Email templates allow you to personalize emails and send them out at high volume, a far more effective alternative to generic mass-blast email marketing. 

To populate your mail lists, you can effortlessly pull contact information and data from Google Sheets using the Streak CRM Importer add-on, or import offline CSV files. This means it’s no longer necessary to fill in the blanks and email everyone one-by-one.

Email tracking gives you a heads up on who read your email, and where on earth they read it (thanks to a handy map view), as well as how many times. This is excellent for increasing visibility across your team, but particularly sales⁠—when you know someone read your message and understand their behavior a bit more, you can move the sales process along by following up in a way that’s both well-timed and appropriate. You’ll be able to avoid repetitive email practices and nurture the correct customer relationships.

Call logs and meeting notes, meanwhile, help keep an easy-to-find record of your non-inbox interactions, organized chronologically and by type. You’ll also be able to manage leads and sales by creating any number of pipelines you might need (the free version provides for unlimited pipelines too). Keep in-app notes, centralize record-keeping, utilize data tracking on your contact correspondence, and find out if leads have or haven’t opened your emails. 

Drawbacks:

Streak is a browser extension, which is inconvenient when it comes to changing devices, as it’ll be necessary to download the extension and log in again on every new device you access. Given that Streak is a lightweight CRM, it might not work for more complex business processes. 

Pricing:

  • Personal version is free for individual users.

  • Professional plan is $49 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • Enterprise plan is $129 per user/per month, billed annually. 

Website: streak.com

 

Freshsales

Benefits:

Freshsales is the CRM component of the full-featured Freshworks 360 suite. It’s touted as a contemporary makeover of Excel spreadsheets, with customizable organizational parameters and lead scoring. They offer a free version for up to 10 users, with a cap of 10,000 leads, contacts, accounts, and deal records.

The CRM provides excellent collaborative tools for teams and has an intuitive, easy-to-learn user interface that can quickly get everyone on the path to smarter working. There’s in-depth task delegating, time-zone sensitive reminders for remotely distributed teams, and much more. 

The in-app telephony module provides features that include automatic dialing, call recording, and call routing, giving a boost to your sales team’s visibility on all things voice. 

Some helpful advice: to get the “free forever startup plan,” you’ll need to sign up for a 21-day free trial first, which will give you the uber-features of the highest-tier paid plan. After your free trial has elapsed, you can opt to subscribe to one of the four paid plans or keep using it in its basic-yet-free form.  

Drawbacks:

The free version’s limited number of records can create a lot of tedious deletion and/or off-shore backing up of old data. If you want smooth data storage and more information over time, you’ll need to spend money on a paid plan. If your company surpasses 10 people, you’ll also have to pay up.

 Pricing: 

  • Basic ‘Sprout’ plan is free for up to 10 users.

  • ‘Blossom’ plan for small teams is $12 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • ‘Garden’ plan for growing teams is $25 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • ‘Estate’ plan for large teams is $49 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • ‘Forest’ plan for enterprises is $79 per user/per month, billed annually.

A 21-day free trial is available for all Freshsales plans.

Website: freshworks.com/freshsales-crm/solutions/free-crm-software

 

Insightly

Benefits:

Yes, there is a free version of Insightly, although it’s almost purposefully hidden (go to Insightly’s pricing page and scroll way down to find it stuck at the bottom). The freebie gives you a pretty good bang for your no bucks, with project management features and contact records all accessible within a cleanly designed user interface. Training videos are available that explain features in an easy-to-digest way, which eases the learning curve and implementation time.

Insightly is a full-stack CRM offering lead routing, workflow automation, customer management, and sales pipeline tools. It’s built around the basic principle of ‘relationship linking,’ which is the complex web of interactions between your company and your customers and leads. Part and parcel to this is ‘record linking,’ or creating vivid, fleshed-out portraits of all the contacts in your business universe by nabbing cross-channel data and seeing who knows who, who has interacted with who, and when said interaction(s) took place.

Customizability is a major part of Insightly’s attraction. You can also build custom apps and data visualizations to track key metrics without knowing any developer stuff; just click through options and drag-and-drop elements into place. You can manage organizational security for specific modules, contact records, etc. by setting permissions by business role and/or department. 

The platform has native integration with both G Suite and Microsoft 365, as well as Mailchimp, Slack, Dropbox, QuickBooks, and a ton of other apps. 

Drawbacks:

The free version of the CRM is capped at two users and has no data backup system, as well as mass emailing daily limits and limits on custom fields per record. In a similar vein, you need to get a paid plan to get access to more detailed, useful lead assignment modules.

Pricing: 

  • No-frills plan for up to 2 users is free.

  • Plus is $29 per user/per month, billed annually. 

  • Professional is $49 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • Enterprise is $99 per user/per month, billed annually. 

  • A 14-day free trial is available for the Plus and Professional plans. 

Website: insightly.com

 

SuiteCRM

Benefits:

SuiteCRM offers a free, open source solution that covers sales, service, support, and marketing functions. It has a relatively low learning curve and short set-up time, making it one of the most popular pieces of open source software on the market. 

A real-time dashboard syncs incoming data so that you gain timely insights on open project statuses, pipeline metrics, and revenues/expenses.

If you have an IT department (or.. an IT person or two), they will be very pleased with the custom layout, module, and relationship development tools the CRM vendor supplies. The ability to customize, and the large number of add-ons available on the web, allow SuiteCRM to deal with applications at pretty much all complexity levels. It also works on basically any OS imaginable, i.e. Windows, OS/X, Ubuntu, Android, and iOS.

Drawbacks:

Helpdesk support comes from the SuiteCRM community, which can make getting answers somewhat slow. As one might expect, the free version is limited in some respects: integrations and features are less robust than in the paid versions of the product. In general, the vendor doesn’t offer any ERP software integrations, so this may be an issue if you’re looking for a do-everything platform for your business. 

Open source often translates to ‘higher learning curve,’ and that is still the case with SuiteCRM. 

Pricing for SuiteCRM: OnDemand:

  • Pure SuiteCRM is free. 

  • Starter plan (recommended for 1-10 users) is $123 (billed as £95) per month, billed annually.

  • Business plan (recommended for 5-50 users) is $430 (billed as £332.50) per month, billed annually.

  • Premium plan (recommended for 10-150 users) is $614 (billed as £475) per month, billed annually.

A 30-day free trial is available for all SuiteCRM: OnDemand hosted solution plans.

Website: suitecrm.com

 

Agile CRM

Benefits:

Agile CRM offers a free all-in-one business platform with project management, contact view, reporting, support/service, and timeline features. 

Customer ticketing for support teams offers feedback forms, helpdesk, knowledge database, and everything else you need to keep churn down and boost the customer experience. Integrations with RingCentral and Twilio enhance the built-in telephony features of Agile CRM, ensuring conversation tracking, call recording, and deal-making over the phone lines is organized and super effective. 

You can automate upcoming voice calls and follow-ups by putting your appointment calendar online. You can also attach documents in-app within the deal process, company and contact profiles, and emails. 

Drawbacks:

If you upgrade from free to the Starter plan, the price jump is totally reasonable, but if you scale up again to Regular, you’ll find yourself paying over 3x more per user. This feels somewhat unfair, and it creates a notable financial obstacle for using the platform as your business scales. Customization options are limited. 

Pricing: 

  • Free version available for up to 10 users.

  • Starter version is $8.99 per user/per month (billed every two years)

  • Regular version is $29.99 per user/per month (billed every two years)

  • Enterprise version is $47.99 per user/per month (billed every two years)

Website: agilecrm.com

 

Apptivo

Benefits:

Apptivo’s cloud-based suite of business solutions focuses on customizability. They dish out their starter version free of charge for up to three users. which offers a lot of the core tools included in paid plans, as well as 500MB of storage. 

Apptivo’s contact app (for contact management) makes it easy to import data from emails and websites, allowing you to harvest lead, client, and customer data without any tedious manual entry. Apptivo’s project management apps provide team and individual organization tools. 

Apptivo’s Cases app helps you manage customer issues and interactions, automatically turning customer emails into tickets. It integrates with CRM, project management, invoicing, and every other app in the Apptivo universe, meaning all pertinent information is always available to team members. 

If you outgrow the free plan, you’ll find that Apptivo’s pricing plans are very reasonable, and all the features are bundled together (rather than sold separately), which is refreshingly simple. 

Drawbacks:

The free version of Apptivo has no marketing tools and does not support third-party integrations, limiting is usefulness. Meanwhile, the app’s user interface does the job, but can be a bit unintuitive. 

Pricing:

  • Starter plan is free for up to three users. 

  • Premium plan is $8 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • Ultimate plan is $20 per user/per month, billed annually.

Website: apptivo.com

 

Airtable

Benefits: 

A non-traditional, lightweight CRM with a very on-point design aesthetic and breezy ease of use. The free version of the software is pretty useful, with unlimited ‘bases’ (i.e. flexible workbooks that can contain different-yet-related spreadsheets). You can put 1,200 records in each base, with each base having an attachment data cap of 2 GB. 

Airtable’s workflow management database aims to re-invent the spreadsheet, allowing users to link data from different sets and interpret them easily. Importing and exporting data from .CSV is a cinch.

Probably the main reason people love Airtable is the fact its software puts a premium on creativity and personalization. The drag-and-drop dashboard allows you to generate custom fields, and populate them with everything from attachments, run-on long-form text notes, checkboxes, links to records in other tables, and yes, even barcodes.

The result of these ‘souped up spreadsheets’ is all-in-one collaboration platform that provides general CRM functionality for people who might be allergic to most business tools (i.e. creatives, editorial teams, and the like). This makes it a viable choice for teams that require a mix of analytic, organizational, and communications features. 

Drawbacks:

It’s worth remembering that Airtable never set out to be a full-stack, conventional business CRM. This shows in its overall lightweight CRM features. More complicated work processes and task management will probably be too much for the platform to handle. 

Pricing:

  • Free version provides essential features.

  • Plus version is $10 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • Pro version is $20 per user/per month, billed annually.

  • Enterprise version pricing is in consultation with vendor.

Website: airtable.com

 

Flowlu

Benefits:

Flowlu is a cloud-based collaborative CRM with project management and knowledge base features. The free version of the product, capped at 2 users, gives you 1 TB of storage data. Build and store knowledge bases, keep track of project expenses and revenue, and handle finance and records management.

With Flowlu, you can quickly put together personalized invoices, auto-inserting CRM data into them and then sending them out in-app. You can do quotation estimates too, and generate leads with custom web forms and invite customers to upcoming events and surveys. 

The free version includes an Agile Scrum component that allows you to implement scrum strategies like sprints on a visual task management board. Keep on top of issues and bug reports, track and prioritize product requirements, and streamline your workflows with flexible project tools.

Drawbacks:

The app’s task filter function isn’t the most intuitive, and collaboration tools are relatively basic. Financial reporting features are likewise somewhat lightweight and might not be robust enough for companies with more complex business processes.

Pricing:

  • Free for up to two users. 

  • Team plan is $29 for all users/per month billed annually, and $39 for all users/per month billed monthly.

  • Business plan is $59 for all users/per month billed annually, and $74 for all users/per month billed monthly. 

  • Professional plan is $119 for all users/per month billed annually, and $149 for all users/per month billed monthly. 

  • Enterprise plan is $239 for all users/per month billed annually, and $299 for all users/per month billed monthly. 

Website: flowlu.com

 

Really Simple Systems

Benefits:

Really Simple Systems (RSS for short) doesn’t shy away from touting their marketing automation, sales and service platform as simple—but that doesn’t mean it lacks sophistication, it’s just really easy to use. This is especially handy for companies with distributed offices and remote workforces.

While they have paid-for versions, their free option is more than just a temporary trial offer for companies up to two users, so budding businesses and solo entrepreneurial ventures can use the CRM without watching the calendar. It allows for unlimited contacts and up to 100 MBs of document storage. The free version includes many of the core features including sales automation and customer service. 

Free users will be able to access distinct management tools for both contacts, which updates in real time all relevant info and related tasks for contacts, vendors and suppliers; and leads, which aims to convert contacts into eventual sales. RSS also does reporting their own way, dividing up the action in two parts. 

For one, there’s ‘Listing reports’ for quick stats on simple questions like, “how many hits did we get this month?” (you can formulate more complex questions too). Then there’s ‘Forecast reports’ which focus on expected sales numbers in a variety of time frames. 

For small businesses in the B2B game, RSS makes moving into the CRM zone a snap.

Drawbacks:

Generating reports is probably more complex than it needs to be. Opportunities system can be a bit clunky to use. Email marketing could be better; the email templates are fairly basic.

Also, if you’re using Outlook, you can’t link tasks to trigger active reminders in your inbox.

Pricing:

  • Free plan for up to 2 users.

  • Starter plan is $14 per user/per month billed annually, and $15 per user/per month billed monthly.

  • Professional plan is $30 per user/per month billed annually, and $33 per user/per month billed monthly.

  • Enterprise plan is $46 per user/per month billed annually, and $50 per user/per month billed monthly.

Website: reallysimplesystems.com

Automation for the people

In the end, CRM makes running several different departments of a growing business easier, faster, and possibly more fun. So long as one never forgets the ultimate aim is to have better engagements with customers, both prospects and paying. Those customers are people after all, not mere datasets.

Of course, metrics are good too: insights based on data help you act with the best information possible, rather than just following gut instinct alone. Business intelligence, machine learning, AI, and advanced automation are all becoming increasingly more cheap, user-friendly, and useful. Small and medium-sized companies can do things with data that simply weren’t possible a few years ago. 

They say starting is the hardest part. But it doesn’t have to be that hard. After perusing our list of CRM above, simply sign up for free with one of the vendors we’ve listed.

Well and truly, there’s never been a better time for Free CRM.

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