The Best Free CRM: An Expert Guide to Choosing

Jo White posted in CRM June 24, 2019

If you have a desktop full of spreadsheets that are becoming too hard to manage, but you’re not sure if you need a full CRM, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you need a CRM?
  • What can a CRM do to make your life easier?
  • How can a CRM help you reach your future goals?

Once you know the answers, a great place to start is with a free trial. Most CRMs offer up to 30 days free and to sweeten the deal some CRM systems offer a free forever plan too.

The regularly cited best free CRMs are:

  • Capsule
  • Hubspot
  • Zoho
  • Agile CRM

The best things in life are free

The best free CRMs are perfect for a startup or SMB with a small number of contacts and just a couple of CRM users. Most of the free plans limit the number of contacts and users, but they’re a great place to start as they focus on the basics first:

  • Organize your contacts the way you want them
  • Set up a simple sales pipeline with your own milestones
  • Report on the basics such as pipeline forecast, conversion rate, won and lost opportunities

Integrating software with your free CRM

It should be easy to connect your favorite business software to your free CRM using a third party such as Zapier, PieSync or the CRM’s custom-built integration.

It’s crucial to integrate because the more you connect, the more data you can automatically collect and the deeper you’ll understand your customer.

At a basic level, email is one of the most important integrations. Whether you use Gmail, MailChimp or another platform, make sure it’s easy to connect to your free CRM and record your customer conversations.

And if you’re new to business software tools, it’s worth looking at the best free plans available for them too. If you work it right, you may be able to connect up all your favorite software without spending a dime. Examples of the best free forever business software include:

What to expect from the best free CRM

Free CRMs available today will quickly get you started on your CRM journey. The best free CRM for your business will be the one that gives you access to all the basic features for a small number of users. This will give you a good feel for the whole CRM so you can make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you.

If you choose a free CRM that locks down most of the features but gives you unlimited data or users you’ll only experience one side of the software.

Here’s what you should be able to do with the best free CRM:

  • Easily import all the data you need for each customer.
  • Organize your contacts in a familiar way.
  • Store email conversations.
  • Customize and manage your sales pipeline.
  • Integrate with important business software such as Gmail.
  • Give an overview of your sales performance.

Most importantly your free CRM software provider should support you.

Every CRM will give you access to a comprehensive support portal with all the relevant help articles and videos. But not many free CRMs offer unlimited human support, this is generally saved for those on a paid plan.

It’s worth seeking out the CRMs that do offer this level of support. When you’re new to CRM, you’ll have lots of questions you’ll want answered by human beings.

As your business starts to boom, you may reach the limits of your free CRM plan and look to upgrade. This is when you enter the world of free trials.

With time limited on a free trial, it’s good to have a plan before you sign-up.

Here are some tips on how to get the most out of a free CRM trial.

How to get the most out of a free CRM trial

Like any free trial, you have a small window of time to try the product. Here’s how to get the most out of that time:

Be clear about what you need

Before you start a free trial be clear about what you and your business needs. All CRM systems have fancy features but they’ll only add value to your business if they satisfy your core business needs.

Limit the choice

Be realistic with the amount of free trials you can manage at one time. You may see 5 - 10 CRMs you like but can you really test 5 thoroughly in a short amount of time?

Block out time

Blocking out a few days or hours per week to trial the CRMs thoroughly will help you focus. You’ll need to import your data and test the functionality and this can take some time. Remember, as soon as you signup, the setup emails will begin to guide you through the most important steps. You’ll get the most value if you follow the email sequence in order. It may be a bit overwhelming if you leave them to build up in your inbox.

Import real data

Some free CRMs are populated with example data so you can see how the system works before you import your own. You’ll only get a true feel for the CRM if you import real data and assess how the features work with the customer information you have available.

Customize what you can

Most CRMs will have default settings for each contact, opportunity and report. When you implement your CRM you’ll do a lot of customization so it reflects your business processes. Taking the time to test how easily this can be done during the trial will help set realistic expectations when you roll out.

Connect your software

A CRM delivers the greatest value when it becomes the hub of your business and pulls in data from other sources. Each CRM will have a different way of displaying the data you pull in from an integration. It useful to check during the trial, which layout suits your business best.

Invite the team

Your CRM is likely to be used by multiple people in your business, why not invite some of them to the trial? You may find a specific feature gives you everything you need whereas a colleague may need more. It’s useful to invite the main users of the CRM to discover how well it works for them too.

Test out support

When you implement a CRM, you or your colleagues are likely to need a bit of help every now and again. During your trial you should use the support portals, read the documents, watch the videos and email the support team. Assess the support across all channels as it’s a good indication of what you’re onboarding experience will be like.

If you’re creating a short list for the best free CRMs, Capsule should be at the very top. In addition to our excellent support team, our free plan includes:

  • Access for 2 users
  • Up to 250 contacts
  • 10MB storage per user
  • Unlimited customization to contact data
  • A fully customizable sales pipeline
  • Sales dashboard and activity reports
  • Unlimited bespoke workflows for opportunities or cases
  • Data segmentation tools - lists, filters and tags
  • Basic project management tools with Cases, tasks and calendar
  • Ability to sync your Capsule calendar with your own
  • Integration with Gmail and MailChimp
  • Unlimited Zapier integrations

You can customize Capsule as much as you wish on the free plan, there are no restrictions and you can report on basic sales activity too. It’s perfect for SMBs and people starting out with CRM for the very first time. Sign up now.

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