There’s no such thing as a free lunch. It’s one of the saddest facts in my life, right up there with my insane student debt and the realization that Taylor Swift will probably never talk to me.
But there’s good news! I just saved a bunch of money by switching to… no, I’m kidding.
The real good news is that, while lunch may not be free, Customer Relationship Management software can be!
Free CRM comes in two categories – free, but limited (also known as freemium), and open source.
So the free, but limited, versions set caps on the amount of free users, contacts, storage, extra features, or some combination thereof.
Open source, on the other hand, offers an unlimited, fully functional CRM to users. The caveat is that your company needs a person (or team) who can install and configure the CRM. Of course, because of this, open source CRM is extremely customizable, which is nice. Most open source CRM companies also offer a preconfigured version and/or installation and support for a price.
Please note that I have not placed these in any particular order. Each system is different and each one will serve some companies better than others.
SuiteCRM is an open source alternative to SugarCRM and is actually based on Sugar’s open source version. Sugar’s open source product is extremely stripped down, and as one reviewer put it “SuiteCRM is the best of all worlds. It’s based on Open Source Sugar, but uses Open Source add-ons to make it close to, if not better than, the ‘Pay’ Sugar.”
Suite offers a preconfigured version for those users who don’t have the ability to install/configure in house. The upgrade fee for that is £10 or roughly $16.40 a month.
Capsule is free for up to two users with 10 MB of storage, and 250 contacts. To upgrade, it’s $12/user/month. With the upgrade comes two gigabytes of storage, 50,000 contacts, and integration with such applications as Mailchimp andFreshbooks.
Capsule’s best feature, according to its many glowing reviews, is its ability to integrate with at least 33 other software programs, including Mailchimp, Freshbooks, and Gmail.
In fact, according to the reviews, the only place Capsule is really lacking as a system is its customer support. While they have a FAQs section as well as helpful articles posted on their page, if you need any help after hours, you’re sunk. In addition, they offer no direct phone service. Rather, you must submit a form, though they do claim to call you back within a single business day.
Insightly claims on its homepage to be the “#1 online small business CRM.” I have no evidence to corroborate this particular claim, but I can tell you that they offer a great free program and a very friendly website.
Insightly offers their system free for two users, 2,500 records (which they define as any stored item from contact to note), 200 megabytes of storage and ten custom fields. New features on the freemium level include advanced reporting and 10 emails a day. The upgrade fee is $12/user/month and includes 25,000 records, and 1 gigabyte of storage.
The feature that really sets Insightly apart from other CRMs is it’s built-in email marketing system. The freemium level has very limited access to the email marketing system, which is not likely to be a problem because a business that small probably won’t have the bandwidth for email marketing tasks. However, when your business expands, Insightly will save you money because you won’t need to spend extra on a second system for your emails.
As they say on their homepage, Insightly is great for small businesses. For many small businesses two users is really more than enough. However, many reviewershave mentioned that Insightly is not ideal for bigger businesses, particularly because its functionality is not capable of handling the demands of a larger business. One particular example cited is that the email integration lacks a lot of user functionality that other CRM platforms don’t think twice about. It should also be mentioned that Insightly only offers support via the online community.
Really Simple Systems claims to be the best CRM system for small businesses. (But it does not claim to be the #1 online CRM for small business, so there’s no rivalry with Insightly.)
Really Simple Systems offers a free two user system that includes 100 accounts (business that you deal with), unlimited contacts within those accounts, tasks, and 100MB of storage, along with free full customer support. When you’re ready to upgrade, Really Simple Systems has very flexible pricing. If you choose to forego certain features, you can get the pricing as low as $8/user/month.
Customers love Really Simple Systems because it’s actually really simple and they offer excellent customer support. I honestly struggled to find the problems people had with this system, that’s how much users love it.
However, I did manage to dig up one con to keep in mind. Cloudpro’s review, while generally praising this CRM, does mention that Really Simple Systems offers more limited functionality, and so works best for small businesses compared to large or enterprise ones.
Here’s another CRM that claims to be #1 at something. This time its #1 at online free CRM software for business (so again, technically no rivalry!).
This free version comes with 100 free users, 100,00 contacts, and all the basic features. The upgrade fee is $24.95/user/month for more features, storage, and support. Two major drawbacks up front: you only get one year free, and no customer support.
So what makes FreeCRM worth it? First, their upgraded system is actually one of the most affordable CRMs on the market for mid to large sized businesses. Second, it’s a web-based solution, so you don’t need to create an expensive and time-consuming infrastructure to host it on, meaning pretty much anyone can get it up and running with ease.
I like Bitrix a lot because it offers really flexible price options. I like flexibility. For a completely free account you get 12 users, five GB of storage and the ability to do anything you want with that storage, which is already a pretty sweet deal.
This is how it gets better. The upgrade fee to get unlimited users and 50 gigs of storage is $99, but if you’re not feeling that cause really all you needed was a few more users, or maybe just more storage… Bitrix totally hears you! They offer an additional 12 users to the same program for $25/user/month. And/or if you want more storage they offer a tiered pricing plan on that up to one TB.
If you’re looking for an installed CRM, Bitrix can do that for you as well (although it’s not free). For a one-time fee of $4990, you can get their small-business installed CRM (good for up to 25 users).
So that’s the pricing.
Overall, reviewers find Bitrix to be a very easy-to-use system. In addition, itsdocument management feature is well integrated and extremely useful. What makes Bitrix really stand out above the crowd is just how feature-rich it is. Check out this (very abbreviated) list of all the things the free version comes with:
- Project management features such as: tasking, gantt charts, and time tracking. (In fact, Bitrix is actually one of our favorite free project management software solutions.)
- Built-in email marketing
- Telephony features such as: call-recording, and dial-out from within the CRM.
- Sales automation
- Sales funnel + reporting
- Sales team management
The drawback that reviewers all point out is that Bitrix’ aesthetics are a little rough at points. One reviewer mentioned that they use a flashing clock in the corner to remind users to timestamp all activities, which I could easily imagine is quite obnoxious.
Raynet markets itself as an easy-to-use, does-it-all CRM. It’s free version allows for two users, 150 accounts, 50MB of storage, and full customer support. Upgrade to 20,000 accounts and one TB of storage for just $19/user/month.
Raynet’s system is very aesthetically pleasing and features an “account card” (featured above) where you can glean most of the information you need about a customer from a single glance, including how much they’re worth to your company.
All that said, Raynet is a fairly new company, and the fact that it’s headquartered in the Czech Republic may make support difficult for U.S.-based companies (though they have an office in Florida). Additionally, perhaps because it’s such a recent entrant to the American CRM market, there is not yet much third party information or reviews on software.
vTiger is an open source CRM, that is also based on Sugar. vTiger was actually originally a part of Sugar, but both have since gone their own ways.
While you can download and install the open source version of the software for free yourself, vTiger does offer several preconfigured versions starting as just $12/user/month. In addition, vTiger also offers installation, support, hardware, and/or administration for a price. This paid version integrates with MailChimp,Intuit and Paypal, among others.
One thing that vTiger does really well is offer a wide array of features for very cheap, even on the preconfigured level. These features include billing, inventory tracking, and project management capabilities, all of which are fairly unusual to find in any CRM system.
From reviews, it would appear as though a fairly important drawback to vTiger is the fact that it has compatibility issues with PHP 5.6 and above.
Zoho is one of the big dogs of business software, so it’s pretty cool that they offer a free program. This CRM version is free for 10 users and 5,000 records. It comes with a mobile app and social CRM among other things. Their first step upgrade (for more users, features, and 100,000 records) is only $12/user/month.
Zoho is well known for being easy to use with highly developed importing features.
Unfortunately, Zoho is not as feature-rich as other CRMs on this list and has some quirks that take getting used to. An example that one reviewer used was that, when exporting from Zoho, you have to be very careful to ensure that there are no commas in any records, or else it will split up the record when putting it into Excel.
Zurmo is open source, and is unique on this list because it is also gamified. Zurmo was written on the principal that offering users incentives along the way makes users better employees. So the system sets goals, or ‘missions’ (which are different for different types of users) and then gives badges along the way to goal completion. It also allows coworkers to challenge each other to missions with set rewards at the end (like a gift card).
Currently, the biggest drawback to Zurmo is that it’s pretty new on the scene – which, being open source, can actually be a bit of a bother. Zurmo’s open source version lacks some fairly basic features such as social CRM. This, of course, is unlikely to remain a problem the longer it sticks around.
Zurmo’s preconfigured version has now been spun off as it’s own cloud-based, gamified CRM system called CRM.me. The upgrade fee starts at $35/user/month.
11. Hubspot CRM
At the time that I originally wrote this article, I mentioned that Hubspot was coming out with a free CRM. Well, they finally have come out with their CRM so let’s talk about it.
It’s a 100% free CRM. They have a few “Sidekick” features, like click-to-call that you do have to pay for if you want them, but this is not a product Hubspot is interested in making much money off of. Why? Because Hubspot’s main product is their phenomenal marketing automation solution and this CRM is intended to be a gateway system to using Hubspot’s marketing automation software.
Having said that, let’s talk about what makes Hubspot’s CRM worth looking at. For starters, being designed by marketing automation specialists with the purpose of eventually convincing users to start using their marketing automation software, Hubspot’s CRM has some amazing data gathering abilities. Traditionally, all the data in a CRM must be entered by a salesperson. That’s slowly changing, but Hubspot really jumped in. They’ve got a leg up on the competition because they long ago figured out how to pull data about people from their internet doings and email engagement rates among other things. All those abilities are put to good use in their CRM, the point being, of course, to make their CRM an intuitive part of their marketing automation software. As a result, though, Hubspot’s data tracking features are head-and-shoulders above the competition.
It’s important to keep in mind that Hubspot’s CRM is extremely lightweight. It is really only an option for small to midsize businesses that have never used a CRM before. Of course, the solution is brand new on the market. There may come a day when this free CRM can compete swing for swing against a solution like Salesforce(who also has a companion marketing automation solution).
InStream is a fairly new CRM, but it’s great for small businesses. It’s free for 2 users, and includes unlimited lists, social integrations, and basic integrations. InStream’s upgrade price is roughly $11.36/user/month (it’s £8/user/month).
One feature that makes InStream great for small businesses is its suggestion feature. InStream is able to provide in-app suggestions on how to continue working on a prospect, which is a pretty cool feature for a sales team just learning the ropes.
InStream is so new that it’s still a very lightweight CRM, which makes it ideal for small businesses, but difficult to use for larger businesses.
13. High Rise
High Rise makes CRM simple for small businesses. Their free CRM level gives you 2 users and 250 contacts. Upgrade to 6 users and 5000 contacts for $24/month (which works out to about $4/user/month!).
High Rise is a lean, mean, contact-managing machine – what I mean by that is that it gives a small business everything they need to sell, without cluttering up their dashboards with anything unnecessary. High Rise also integrates with many other software products that are popular amongst small businesses (like MailChimp andZendesk), making it really easy to supplement any current strategies you’re using.
Reviewers like High Rise because of its “simplistic and affordable” nature, though, predictably, they mention disliking the lack of features.
Finally, there are a whole host of cheap and affordable CRM options you should be considering that, even though not free, may be the perfect fit for your organization.
Are there any other great free and open source CRM programs out there that I missed? Put them in the comments below!
If you’re still wondering if you even need a CRM, check out my post explaining what CRM is and what it can do for you here.