7 Best CRM Systems For Small Business 2024

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Finding the best CRM system for your small business depends on your specific priorities. You might want to focus on value for money, functionality, ease of use or the ability to scale as you grow.

Our latest round of research, carried out at the end of last year with an independent analyst, takes into account all of these factors to find the top CRM software options for small businesses.

Overall, we recommend HubSpot as the best CRM software for small businesses. Today’s bad economy is causing SMEs to look at their bottom line as never before. HubSpot is a slick, modern tool that has a near unbeatable free tier. It’s also our top choice for email marketing and management, and a great affordable option to adopt as the cost of living crisis continues.

Best Small Business CRM Software for 2024:

  1. Hubspot CRM – best for email marketing-focused SMEs in the early-stages of growth, with an amazingly-competitive free plan.
  2. monday.com – best small business CRM for building customised dashboards. As an affordable and visual Work OS, it’s also great to display a catch-all breakdown of information.
  3. Freshsales – our top CRM for usability. It guides new users through setup, and has lots of handy tools to simplify steps. For example, a lead-scoring algorithm which provides automatic scoring for new contacts.
  4. Zoho CRM – best range of marketing and sales features to choose from, which also means it’s excellent for value for money.
  5. Pipedrive – best for contact management. According to our research, it takes just over one minute to set up email lists which are also simple to use and view.
  6. Zendesk – best for customer service and support funnels, with an excellent sales-focused CRM tool as well
  7. Salesforce – best for depth of features and an excellent choice for larger businesses, but potentially complex for smaller ones

No two small businesses are the same. We’ve been working with SMEs for more than two decades, and we know that every firm has a unique process when it comes to engaging new customers and retaining existing ones.

To help you find the best solution you can compare these most popular CRM tools for SMEs on pricing and key features in the guide below.

BEST OVERALL

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Features:

  • Send 2,000 emails per month
  • 5 active contact lists for outreach
  • Thorough 12-step onboarding process
  • Chatbots, campaigns, and webforms

Features:

  • Huge range of CRM board templates
  • Message board for dashboard collaboration
  • Widgets available for bespoke metrics
  • Unlimited contacts and dashboards

Features:

  • Freddy AI tool gives you insights ready-made
  • Communication, ecommerce, and accounting integrations
  • Big library of preset templates

Features:

  • 21 features available on free plan
  • Automated reports included on free plan
  • User permissions available for larger teams

Features:

  • Unlimited contacts permitted
  • Communication, ecommerce, and accounting integrations
  • Allows unlimited custom fields

Features:

  • Communication integration for team working
  • Fast-loading dashboard for large datasets
  • 2 million contact limit

Features:

  • Automatic data capture
  • Mobile access and administration
  • Salesforce Inbox
  • 10 user limit

Looking for a bespoke recommendation?

If you’re new to CRM systems then our expert team has built a quick and easy comparison tool to match you with the best provider for your specific needs. It’s completely free of charge, and designed to give you personalised quotes from the top CRM solutions on the market.

CRM trends for 2024

According to a recent Insightly survey, 79% of companies are dissatisfied with their current CRM software. Firm owners are seeking ways to upgrade their CRM systems to match changing customer expectations.

With that in mind, here are three CRM trends that we expect to see in 2023:

1. AI in CRM – AI has revolutionised the world in a very short space of time – but its CRM applications are only just beginning. Brands like HubSpot have been quick off the mark to upgrade their software with new AI tools.

Thanks to these changes, users can now use machine learning to analyse large customer datasets in seconds for intelligent recommendations about a customer or prospect. This will not only improve sales numbers and revenue – it will also improve the customer experience.

2. Personalisation modern CRM systems have evolved to the point that they can explore and analyse a customer’s purchase history to identify other, relevant products or services that the business could upsell.

In today’s market, with people expecting unique and niche products that cater to their every demand, this is a particularly helpful feature of a CRM. It will also improve conversion rate. Smarter targeting means you’ll capture more high quality leads than you would by blindly firing off email campaigns into the ether.

3. Self-service – today’s customers are impatient. Just like with the self-service checkouts in big supermarkets, customers want to be able to serve themselves.

Modern CRM systems should offer users instant access to knowledge bases, user forums, and other resources like chatbots, that will help a customer to avoid the time-consuming process of contacting a helpdesk.

See our guide to CRM examples to learn more about instances of how CRM is being deployed.

HubSpot

Best CRM for new startups wanting to onboard customers with email marketing

Hubspot CRM An innovative marketing solution that’s completely free.

  • Intuitive user interface
  • Brilliant email marketing features that make it easy to attract new business

Summary Aimed at SMEs, HubSpot Free is an innovative CRM solution that offers lots of add-ons to supplement its core focus on email and marketing outreach. Because of this, it doesn’t have as much feature depth as other products. However, advanced UX-focused tools like its live and historical data sync mean it’s an intuitive and affordable CRM choice.

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Gold medallist HubSpot tops our research as an excellent choice for budget-conscious small businesses in the early-stages of growth. It has an competitive free plan, short setup time, and impressive functionality – particularly for email marketing, for which we scored it 5/5.

HubSpot Contact File

HubSpot Contact File

What type of small business is HubSpot best suited for?

As we mentioned in our full guide to the HubSpot platform, HubSpot’s humble origins are as an inbound marketing company. Even if a business is operating at a very small scale, the HubSpot free plan makes sourcing leads and onboarding new customers painless.

Marketing automation is available to handle all of those repetitive, lead generation tasks, such as emailing customers. Users even get access to a chatbot tool to help stretch out resources and handle requests at scale. For £0 per month, you’ll also get:

  • 500 emails per day
  • 1 million contacts
  • Lead reports for sales teams
  • Paid ad tracking
  • Social media integration
  • Task reminders
  • Website visitor tracking

We’ve included the below video from HubSpot, which demonstrates how to organise customer data within HubSpot CRM, and some of the ways you can then leverage this data:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qS_YaM2d5No

HubSpot’s weak points aren’t many, but they are significant. Unlike more customisable options like monday.com and Zoho, the app doesn’t have a lot of tailorable features (it comes in last place for this category in our ranking). Your sales process might need changing to fit with your business operations, rather than the other way around.

James Macey (2)
James Macey, independent CRM analyst and tester, says:

“HubSpot’s biggest highlight is the tidy user-interface where you view all the information related to a contact. That said, I was disappointed that Hubspot Free doesn’t allow you to create your own reports to populate the dashboard.“

HubSpot pricing

In terms of paid-for plans, HubSpot has three. These are all strategy-specific: Marketing, Sales, and Service. Compared to HubSpot Free, they offer users more control over what they want to prioritise.

Here’s how the costs break down:

  • HubSpot Free – £0 per month
  • HubSpot Marketing Hub Starter Plan – £18 per user, per month
  • HubSpot Sales Hub Starter Plan – £18 per user, per month
  • HubSpot Service Hub Starter Plan – £18 per user, per month

These fees can, of course, increase as your business scales and requires more in depth features. But, with a genuinely impressive free tier, there’s a lot you can try for yourself without spending a penny on HubSpot. Here’s a bit more detail on what you can expect from the Free tier and the paid tiers of HubSpot:

HubSpot Free (£0): This entry-level plan offers a basic suite of tools designed to get you started on your customer relationship management journey without breaking the bank. With features like list segmentation, shared inbox, and user management, it’s suitable for solopreneurs or very small businesses looking for a simple solution. However, its limited functionality might not be sufficient for larger businesses or those with more complex needs. Consider this plan if you’re a freelancer, consultant, or a small local business seeking a cost-effective way to manage your contacts and communication.

HubSpot CRM Suite Starter (£18 per seat, per month): This plan provides a step up from the free version, offering enhanced features such as customisable forms, email health reporting, and marketing or sales events objects. It’s ideal for small to medium-sized businesses that need a bit more functionality to manage their customer relationships effectively. With the ability to remove HubSpot branding from emails and forms, it’s suitable for businesses looking to maintain a professional appearance. Consider this plan if you’re a growing startup, small agency, or a local retail store looking to level up your CRM capabilities without breaking the bank.

Zoho CRM contact lists
Want to find the best free CRM software?

Read our full guide to the top freemium CRM systems for small business.

Best free CRM software

monday.com

Best CRM for client-focused industries, like marketing, and building customisable dashboards

monday.com (CRM) monday sales CRM is an all-in-one platform that enables business owners and sales teams to manage all their CRM functions in one central location.

  • Ecommerce integrations offered – rare for a CRM tool
  • Excellent customisation means you won’t have to redesign your existing CRM process

Summary Monday.com offers well-designed creative tools that make it an endlessly customisable CRM system, perfect for tailoring to clients’ needs. The app also uses a visually appealing traffic light system to help you track customers throughout the pipeline, and has over 200 dashboard templates, making it a particularly stylish tool to use.

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Though it’s not a brand name commonly associated with CRM software, monday.com has been investing consistently into its CRM functionality, and the result is a user-friendly and intuitive service that’s particularly appealing for small businesses. Where larger firms may benefit from the deep functionality of something like Salesforce, smaller, more nimble businesses could flourish with the approachable (and highly customisable) look-and-feel of monday’s dashboards and workflows.

Best known for its project management software, monday.com has shifted its offering into a “Work OS.” This means it can be used to enact lots of different work tasks thanks to its fantastically customisable interface and a wealth of creative tools – perfect for building bespoke dashboards to measure different CRM metrics.

Monday.com screenshot

monday.com Kanban board view

What type of small business is monday.com best suited for?

Our research team identified monday as an incredibly flexible system thanks to its simple-to-customise workflows. These can really help teams big and small to create a sales or marketing funnel that suits the needs of their particular business. We recommend it to teams with a lot of account managers, like PR agencies, as a way to build informative dashboards that meet specific client needs.

The app is organised around a simple traffic-light system that categorises your workflow as either green (it’s completed), orange (I’m working on it), or red (I’m stuck), helping you to design a system that personalises the status of every customer relationship.

Here’s an overview video from monday, showing some of the basics of what you can do with its CRM for sales teams

During sign up, we were prompted to fill out a user-profile. This includes identifying an area you’d like to focus on with each client (contact management, sales pipeline etc.). Other customisable elements, include:

  • Custom fields
  • 200+ dashboard templates
  • Full mobile CRM
  • Document management
  • Custom apps
  • Unlimited contacts
  • Unlimited users

More good news? Compared to plenty of other CRM tools, monday is also very wallet-friendly. But, its pricing has a slightly confusing system that’s worth being aware of – see more, below.

James Macey (2)
James Macey, independent CRM analyst and tester, says:

“What makes monday really stand out is its customisation. Many platforms require users to dig through settings menus, but monday lets you edit most things by the click of a mouse. It’s just missing some sophisticated tools offered by rivals, like spam protection.“

monday.com pricing

monday.com has a distinctive payment structure which is based on a set number of seats, starting at £10 per user and rising to £24 per seat on the Pro tier.

Here’s the cost breakdown – though see our note below on how this scales:

  • Basic – £10 per seat, per month (annual billing, minimum 3 users)
  • Standard – £14 per seat, per month (annual billing)
  • Pro – £24 per seat, per month (annual billing)
  • Enterprise – bespoke pricing

Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits of each tier, before returning to that note about the pricing structure.

monday Basic CRM (£10 per seat, per month): This budget-friendly plan serves up the essentials for small businesses on a shoestring. Think local businesses, shops, or solo consultants looking for a simple CRM fix without breaking the bank. It’s got the basics covered with customisable pipelines, contact management, and boards, plus handy mobile apps for on-the-go access. This tier is on the limited side, particularly for integrations, but could still be a good fit for those who want to keep their sales streamlined.

monday Standard CRM (£14 per seat, per month): Stepping up from the Basic tier, this plan offers a bit more oomph for growing businesses. Picture digital agencies, small manufacturers, or online retailers needing a bit more firepower in their CRM toolkit. With features like email integration, activity management, and invoicing, it’s a solid choice for those ready to level up their sales pipelines.

monday Pro CRM (£24 per seat, per month): This plan is better suited to mid-sized companies like software firms, marketing agencies, or regional distributors hungry for comprehensive sales tools. From forecasting to mass emails, it’s packed with features to help teams engage prospects and seal deals. If you’re ready to invest in more advanced CRM functionality, this could be your ticket to sales success, and the price point is pretty reasonable compared to rivals.

Whichever of the above plans you’re considering, it’s important to know that monday.com has a unique pricing model. Instead of charging per user, its payment structure is based on a set number of seats, with its Basic plan offering £13 per seat, billed monthly (£10 per seat when billed annually). The seat number equates to the size of your team, and increases in the following increments:

3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 100, 200+

This means that even if you only have six people on your team, you’ll still have to pay for 10 at a cost of £130 per month when billed monthly. The closer you are to the upper limit, the better value your plan will be. This can be beneficial or frustrating, depending on your team size.

For more information, read our monday.com pricing guide.

monday-logo
Already tried monday.com?

Want something similar, but different? Read our top 5 monday.com alternatives for CRM.

Best monday.com alternatives

Freshsales Suite

Best CRM for offline industries that need something easy for staff to train on, like retail

Freshsales Suite Freshsales’ huge list of features means you’ll never be caught short when it comes to CRM.

  • Brilliant customer support
  • Automated workflows make managing work easy

Summary Freshsales (formerly Freshworks CRM) organises your customer and sales processes into one easy-to-use platform – from sales and marketing to data management. It boasts a genuinely impressive list of features, including an advanced AI tool, and is unparalleled in terms of the number of capabilities.

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Freshsales combines both sales and marketing strategies to make one easy-to-use platform for small businesses. Based on our comparative tests of all the platforms we’ve covered in this article, we consider Freshsales to be one of the most approachable to use. That could give it extra appeal for particularly small businesses who need to get up to speed fast on a CRM system.

Freshsales screenshot

Freshsales dashboard view

What type of small business is Freshsales Suite best suited for?

Firms that are new to CRM software and maybe not as logged-on as other sectors, such as retail, will appreciate Freshsales intuitive backend that takes care of the most complicated CRM tasks for you.

Set up is near instant as the platform guides users with tutorials on everything from making a template to building automations. Because you’re effectively signposted and given step-by-step direction, other tasks like email connection, adding users, and customising the pipeline, also become a quick process.

For example, data import takes just 6 and a half minutes (during our testing, HubSpot took almost 18 minutes). This excellent usability is also helped along by an impressive list of convenient and smartly-designed features:

  •  Drag-and-drop journey builder
  •  20 workflows 
  •  5 sales sequences 
  •  Custom reports and dashboards 
  •  Freshworks marketplace for add-ons 
  • Automatic lead scoring for new customers

Below, we’ve included a highlight video from Freshsales showing some of the sales functionality of its CRM:

James Macey (2)
James Macey, independent CRM analyst, says:

“Freshsales guide their users through the main set up. This includes the data import, email connection, adding users, and customising the pipeline. Because you’re effectively signposted and given step by step direction, it becomes a quick process.“

Freshsales pricing

Freshsales Suite is competitively-priced. It offers a free version suitable for solo users, but only 100 contacts are permitted. One tier up is the Growth plan which, at £12 per user, per month when billed annually, gives you access to a wide array of sophisticated tools.

  • Freshsales Free – £0
  • Freshsales Growth – £12 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Freshsales Pro – £29 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Freshsales Enterprise – £55 per user, per month (billed annually)

You get what you pay for with the platform’s long list of features, but we would recommend you try the free version before committing to Freshsales CRM long-term.

Here’s a bit more detail on what you’ll get for each Freshsales plan, and the types of business each tier would best suit:

Freshsales Free (£0 for up to 3 users): This plan caters to small teams or startups, offering essential CRM tools without any cost. With features like Kanban View, Contact Lifecycle Stages, and built-in chat, email, and phone capabilities, it’s suitable for businesses seeking a straightforward CRM solution. It’s a good “taster CRM” for very small teams needing simple functions, not complex features. Retail stores, local service providers, or freelance professionals could use this basic CRM to manage customer interactions, for example.

Freshsales Growth (£12 per seat, per month, billed annually): For expanding sales teams, this plan introduces CRM automation to streamline workflows. Building upon the Free tier, it has AI-powered Contact Scoring, Sales Sequences, and custom workflows. These extra features make the Growth plan better for those in industries such as software as a service (SaaS), digital marketing agencies, or ecommerce stores looking to automate sales and aftercare processes.

Freshsales Pro (£29 per seat, per month, billed annually): This plan provides comprehensive tools for professional sales management for businesses managing multiple sales teams and focusing on revenue growth. In addition to features from the Growth tier, it offers multiple sales pipelines, time-based workflows, and AI-powered Deal Insights. All of this may be overkill for very small teams, but they’re useful features for medium to large enterprises in industries like manufacturing, financial services, or telecommunications. In short, if you need more sophisticated CRM capabilities to manage complex sales processes, it could be worth spending on the Pro tier.

Zoho

Best CRM for sectors with complex reporting and analytics requirements, like accountancy

Zoho CRM Zoho CRM holds a huge range of data that means it’s best for small businesses wanting strong analytics and reporting tools.

  • Excellent onboarding and support functions
  • Huge range of report types
  • Clever social media workflow function

Summary Intelligent design is the best descriptor for Zoho CRM – every one of its features focuses on user experience first, which also means you have excellent customisation options to tailor the software to your business’ unique processes. It also permits customer service queries at its free tier, which is a generous oddity compared to its rivals.

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Our latest round of research shows that Zoho CRM is the best CRM system for features. Surprisingly for its low-cost, Zoho boasts lots of sophisticated sales, service, and marketing tools for you to create a bespoke CRM solution for your firm.

Zoho CRM screenshot

Zoho CRM leads dashboard view

What type of small business is Zoho CRM best suited for?

We recommend the Zoho CRM system to those operating in a niche industry, for example, those with specialist reporting requirements such as finance. Zoho also has excellent sales features, such as an intuitive visual sales pipeline that can give you an on-the-spot overview of the status of your various leads and active clients.

Using Zoho, your sales representatives can create separate workflows to function independently – handy if you’re a business that needs to protect sensitive data to comply with GDPR. Similarly, Zoho also has custom fields to create unique task lists for each customer. Most impressively, all of these are available with the free plan.

There’s really not much that Zoho can’t do, which makes it good for those wanting lots of functionality without needing to splash out on budget. On Zoho’s lowest-priced tier, Zoho Standard, you’ll get:

  • Visual sales pipeline
  • Automated lead scoring
  • Calendar
  • Reminders
  • Meeting scheduling
  • Activity, lead, custom, and deal reports
  • 250 emails per day (half the amount of HubSpot)

As with most big software companies, Zoho is pivoting to AI. Its proprietary AI assistant “Zia” has various ways of integrating into the CRM platform to improve processes and workflows. The Zoho video below shows how this can work in practice:

James Macey (2)
James Macey, independent CRM researcher and tester, says:

“Zoho’s onboarding tour was limited and could be improved by including an actual tour of the interface. But there are lots of sophisticated tools here. Social media workflows – to automatically add a lead based on their interaction with your social media account – are especially clever.“

Zoho CRM pricing

In terms of pricing, Zoho CRM is a very scalable option with five plans available overall ranging from £12 to £42.

There is a free plan available. However, this is fairly generous for features, and includes a calendar view. However, you’ll miss out on a few attractive CRM functions, including workflows and the ability to have multiple pipelines.

  • Zoho CRM Free – £0
  • Zoho CRM Standard – £12 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Zoho CRM Professional – £18 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Zoho CRM Enterprise – £35 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Zoho CRM Ultimate – £42 per user, per month (billed annually)

Zoho Free Plan (£0 for up to 3 users): This plan offers essential CRM tools suitable for small teams or startups. With features like Leads, Accounts, Contacts, Deals, and a document library, it provides a basic foundation for managing customer relationships. It’s best-suited for businesses just starting out, or with minimal CRM needs. Stores, solo business owners and freelance professionals would find this a helpful CRM solution for organising the basics of their customer data and interactions.

Zoho Standard Plan (£12 per seat, per month, billed annually or £16 month-to-month): Designed for growing businesses, this plan enhances the Free version with additional features like AI-powered Contact Scoring, Sales Sequences, and Workflow automation. Ideal for small to medium-sized enterprises aiming to streamline sales processes and improve efficiency. Suitable for startups, agencies, or consultancy firms looking to scale their operations and boost sales productivity.

Zoho Professional Plan (£18 per seat, per month, billed annually or £28 month-to-month): Tailored for established businesses, this plan offers advanced CRM capabilities such as multiple Sales Pipelines, Auto-assignment Rules, and AI-powered Deal Insights. Perfect for medium to large enterprises requiring sophisticated sales management tools to drive growth and improve customer relationships. Suited for ecommerce businesses, software companies, or manufacturing firms seeking to optimise their sales processes and increase revenue.

Zoho Enterprise Plan (£35 per seat, per month, billed annually or £40 month-to-month): Geared towards large enterprises with complex CRM needs, this plan provides comprehensive features including Territory Management, Advanced Analytics, and Custom Dashboards. Ideal for organisations operating across multiple regions or industries, requiring robust CRM solutions to manage large-scale sales operations and ensure regulatory compliance. Suited for multinational corporations, financial institutions, or healthcare providers looking for enterprise-grade CRM software to drive business success.

Zoho Ultimate Plan (£42 per seat, per month, billed annually or £52 month-to-month): Offering the highest level of CRM functionality, this plan is designed for organisations requiring extensive customisation and scalability. With features like AI-driven Churn Prediction, it’s suitable for businesses seeking advanced insights and automation capabilities to stay ahead of the competition. Perfect for large corporations, technology firms, or global enterprises looking for a powerful CRM solution to drive innovation and achieve strategic goals.

Pipedrive

Best CRM for telemarketing firms with long client books

Pipedrive Functional CRM platform that’s competitively priced.

  • Integrates with tons of third-party apps
  • Intuitive interface focuses on user experience

Summary We think Pipedrive stands out for its huge list of third-party add-ons and integrations – which makes this software a smart choice for small firms with lots of existing resources. The platform’s lowest-tiered plan costs £12.50 per user, per month, and gives you powerful features such as email integration, goal tracking, reporting, and forecasting.

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Pipedrive is an excellent CRM system for usability – its highest-scoring category in our research. Pipedrive is not got quite as many handy tools as Freshsales (why it scores 0.3 lower than the latter). But during our testing, we found the app’s clean interface supports a tidy contact database, making it our top platform for contact management.

Pipedrive dashboard

Pipedrive dashboard view

What type of small business is Pipedrive best suited for?

Thanks to its huge list of integrations, Pipedrive users can install almost any add-on to the system to customise your CRM process to your teams’ specific client base. This makes Pipedrive an excellent choice for a variety of small firms, but we’d most recommend it to teleamarketing teams with long client books.

Contact management is not just kept to an ugly list format. Viewable from the ‘deals’ screen, every lead has an easy-to-build dashboard for you to quickly edit their name, add, or remove them to create a custom pipeline that accurately reflects your unique customer relationships.

And, thanks to its user-focussed design, you won’t have to suffer through complicated set up processes for new functions. When researching for our review of Pipedrive, it took our testing team just over 1 minute to set up a chatbot, and 2 minutes to design a webform to attract new client sign-ups.

Other features include:

  • 150+ integrations, including Google Meet, Zapier, Slack, and Microsoft Teams
  • Pipeline management 
  • Email integration
  • Calendar integration 
  • Activities and goals 
  • Data import and export
  • Sales forecasting 

Below, we’ve included a video overview of how Pipedrive can sync with your emails to create an effective ‘sales inbox’, using templates and automations to boost efficiency:

James Macey (2)
James Macey, independent CRM researcher and tester, says:

“Pipedrive’s chatbot was the most impressive that I’ve tested. Very easy to set up and is supplied with a range of templates for different uses. Other processes, like inputting data, can be a bit more complicated than they need to be.“

Pipedrive pricing

Pipedrive does not have a free option, although there is a 14-day free trial available for newcomers. Its lowest paid-for plan is Pipedrive Essential, which costs £14.90 per user when billed annually and is the most affordable plan for small business users.

  • Pipedrive Essential – £14.90 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Pipedrive Advanced – £27.90 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Pipedrive Professional – £49.90 per user, per month (billed annually)

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key features of each of these Pipedrive tiers, and what types of business they might best suit:

Pipedrive Essential (£14.90 per seat, per month): This entry-level plan offers basic lead and deal management, and we’d say it’s the best choice for solo entrepreneurs or very small teams. While it lacks bells and whistles, the visual pipeline provides a clear overview, and basic communication tools like mentions and comments allow for simple collaboration. Consider this if you’re a freelancer, consultant, local shop, or home-based business seeking a straightforward solution. However, limited features might hinder scalability as your business grows.

Pipedrive Advanced (£27.90 per seat, per month): This plan adds key features like email syncing for automated lead capture and communication. Custom pipelines let you tailor the CRM to your specific workflow, while basic automation helps streamline repetitive tasks. This could be a good fit for small marketing agencies, tech startups, or B2B businesses looking to improve efficiency. However, compared to higher tiers, reporting capabilities and collaboration tools are more limited.

Pipedrive Professional (£49 per seat, per month): This plan caters to established teams, who will appreciate its powerful automation tools and the impact they can have on sales or marketing funnels. Another benefit for big teams are the in-depth reports that provide insights into team performance and areas for improvement. Seamless collaboration tools like shared dashboards and reporting can keep everyone aligned, even across big teams. This could be ideal for sales teams in growing SaaS companies, busy consultancies, or expanding ecommerce stores.

Zendesk

Best CRM for those organising tickets and/or customer support, such as IT helpdesks

Zendesk Strong business support tools and high-performing features make Zendesk a good option for SMEs providing specialist services

  • Long list of integrations
  • Excellent analytics tools
  • Unparalleled support services

Summary Zendesk is a powerful name in the business software market and it has a fantastic array of integrations, spanning across a huge range of categories including analytics and reporting, e-commerce, email and social Media, IT and project management, and tons more. Perhaps Zendesk’s best known feature however, is its excellent support tools. New users at any payment tier can utilise a vast library of handy materials including onboarding and adoption resources, guided learning paths, and on-demand training courses.

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Zendesk Service is our top choice for organisation (achieving a score of 5/5 in our testing) which makes it excellent for helpdesks. It’s an all-in-one solution that monitors client bugs, and also analyses your performance fixing them, helping you keep on top of demand and keep clients happy.

Zendesk screenshot

Zendesk Service messaging tool

What type of small business is Zendesk Service best suited for?

If your business provides a specialist service, such as software engineering, Zendesk Service is the smart way to manage customer issues and requests in one database. The platform’s ticketing system allows users to record, organise, and track these in one dashboard accessible to the entire team for a clear and up-to-date ticket pipeline.

Making your database is also simple with Zendesk. Its simple import process enables you to first check whether the fields in your data match the system’s, to ensure the data import is accurate before it even takes place.

Other features include:

  • Triggers and automations
  • Staff management
  • Pre-built analytics dashboards
  • Google Analytics for help centres
  • Data exports
  • Messaging tool
James Macey (2)
James Macey, independent CRM researcher and tester, says:

“Zendesk doesn’t provide a whole lot of guidance for the onboarding process. There’s no list of things given or signposting. However, Zendesk has a sleek and responsive interface which is easy to navigate, helping to make all the steps for setup straightforward.“

Zendesk Service pricing

Below, we’ve outlined the pricing information for Zendesk Service. It’s worth noting that the platform also has a 30-day free trial available if you want to try before you buy.

  • Zendesk Suite Team – £45 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Zendesk Suite Growth – £75 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Zendesk Suite Professional – £89 per user, per month (billed annually)

Here’s an overview of some key benefits for each of these tiers:

Zendesk Suite Team (£45 per seat, per month): This plan is tailored for small teams or startups requiring essential CRM tools at an affordable price point. With features like a ticketing system, email, chat, voice, and social messaging capabilities, it provides basic customer support functionalities. It’s a useful plan for small businesses seeking simplicity and efficiency in managing customer interactions.

Zendesk Suite Growth (£75 per seat, per month): Geared towards growing businesses, this plan offers expanded capabilities beyond the basic features. In addition to ticketing systems and multi-channel support, it includes features like multiple ticket forms, service level agreements (SLA), and customer satisfaction ratings (CSAT). Perfect for businesses experiencing growth and requiring more advanced CRM functionalities to meet increasing customer demands.

Zendesk Suite Professional (£89 per seat, per month): Designed for established businesses or enterprises with complex CRM needs, this top-tier plan provides comprehensive CRM solutions. Alongside the features offered in the Growth plan, it includes advanced functionalities like customised and live analytics, skills-based routing, and integrated community forums. Ideal for medium to large enterprises looking to optimise their CRM strategies and enhance customer engagement.

Salesforce

Best CRM for larger firms with 20+ sales representatives and a long sales pipeline

Salesforce Best-suited to larger sales teams, Salesforce Essentials is a high-performing three-in-one CRM product – that comes at a high price.

  • Hundreds of prebuilt charts and template options for a quick overview of your sales pipeline
  • Our highest-scoring CRM software for organisational tools and contact management

Summary Salesforce Essentials is like a box of neopolitan ice cream. It mixes three small versions of its main CRM products: Marketing, Sales, and Service into one tempting combo, offering SMEs an all-in-one customer management solution. Costing £20 per month, per user, it’s not the most wallet-friendly option. But our expert researchers give it 3.8 out of 5 overall thanks to its impressive usability and long feature list.

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For speciality sales functions, Salesforce can truly serve as a one-stop-shop for small to large businesses looking to improve their customer outreach. This makes it an excellent choice for scaling businesses – as we highlighted in our full guide to the Salesforce platform.

Salesforce customer card

Salesforce customer card

What type of small business is Salesforce best suited for?

Recording sales opportunities is a big responsibility for today’s businesses and Salesforce makes this incredibly simple to monitor. We gave the platform 5/5 across categories like organisation, email, and contact management, while Pipedrive gets just 3.7/5.

Onboarding is also super easy with Salesforce. The ‘chatter’ function on the sales opportunity information screens is an excellent feature for collaborating with other departments to move leads down the sales pipeline.

SMEs that are looking to expand their company will want a system that can develop alongside them. Salesforce comes in three cloud-based editions: Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, or Marketing Cloud. Salesforce Essentials is the most basic paid-for tier in each of these products and gives you:

  • Account and contact management 
  • Opportunity tracking 
  • Lead management 
  • Task and event tracking 
  • Customizable reports and dashboards 
  • Mobile access
  • Email integration

Naturally, more sophisticated capabilities equals a longer setup time. Some users have reported that Salesforce can lag when used with bad broadband connections. If you don’t think Salesforce is for your small business, you can always read our guide to the top Salesforce alternatives.

James Macey (2)
James Macey, independent CRM researcher and tester, says:

“Salesforce has a very clunky interface which made the onboarding process time-consuming. One highlight though is that Salesforce provides a variety of options for displaying data. You can use multiple widgets or select charts like donut, funnel, line, and bar.“

Salesforce pricing

Salesforce is a splurge compared to budget-friendly CRM systems like HubSpot. However, you can purchase extra features as an add-on at any point in your plan (such as PRM – Partner Relationship Management for an additional £30 per user, per month) which means that Salesforce can be excellent value for money if used wisely.

  • Salesforce Essential – £20 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Salesforce Professional – £64 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Salesforce Enterprise – £132 per user, per month (billed annually)
  • Salesforce Unlimited – £264 per user, per month (billed annually)

How did we choose the 7 best CRM systems for small businesses?

Having worked with SMEs for over twenty years, we know they have to contend with different issues compared to larger or mid-sized companies. Today’s small business owners also have less time and money to spend on CRM due to the current economic challenges.

With this in mind, we’ve picked out the top CRM systems on the market, and compared them using five specific metrics that small businesses need to think about when purchasing a CRM system:

  • Pricing – what are the best low-budget CRM system?
  • Functionality – what features will you get for your budget?
  • Usability – is it something you can easily learn how to use?
  • Customisation – will you have more creative control over your CRM system?
  • Help and Support – will you get guidance on setting up your CRM system?

How to choose a CRM system

At their most basic, all CRM system do something inherently similar. They store, organise, and manage data about your customers and how they interact with your business.

But, the way that each tool goes about doing this varies considerably, and that’s where it can be useful to get more of an understanding of your particular business needs when it comes to choosing a CRM system.

Basic CRM must-haves

At its most basic level, CRM software is a digital version of an address book – a place to securely store all contact information. Your CRM database stores all of the valuable data you have about your customers, which is produced through every action and interaction. This data includes:

  • Name, title, and email address
  • Date and nature of last interaction
  • Visits to your website and engagement with your brand
  • Their previous orders and spend
  • Even personal information such as their interests and hobbies, or the name of their dog (for the sake of small talk)

A CRM database is your foundation for success. And yet, for teams focused on crunching the numbers to analyse performance, increase revenue, and drive growth, it’s so much more – it’s the building blocks of scalability and sustainable success.

That’s because CRM software allows you to not only store your business’ crucial client, lead, and prospect data, but to use it, too.

Choosing a CRM for sales

For sales teams, you’ll want to focus on choosing a CRM that can:

  • Convert more leads – benefit from complete lifecycle management, from a customer’s first interaction, all the way to a purchase
  • Get a 360-degree view of your pipeline – easily monitor and track targets with drag-and-drop pipeline management
  • Don’t miss out on a deal – review historic, current, and projected deals, and engage lapsed prospects
  • Plan for the future – engage with the data that matters most to your business to produce accurate sales forecasts and reports

Choosing a CRM for marketing

For marketing teams, you’ll need a CRM that can:

  • Create effective emails – use templates to craft communications that get results
  • Boss your campaign management – document ideas and delivery methods, and target the right audience with the best message
  • Coordinate events and projects – advertise for, register, and manage attendees for events, and push projects forward more effectively
  • Understand the customer journey  – chart customers’ interactions with your business, and engagement with your emails and phone calls

Choosing a CRM for customer service:

Customer service teams will need a CRM that can:

  • Manage customer interactions – store all conversations with your clients in a central, easily-accessible location
  • Unify your communication channels – pull info from email, social media, phone calls, SMS, and live chat into a single, digestible stream
  • Detail preferred communication methods – record how and when customers like to be contacted, and catch them at the right time
  • Get better at handling complaints – receive a notification whenever someone mentions you on social media or complains, so you can deal with it instantly

Further CRM guides from Startups.co.uk

Keen to learn more about the functions and features of CRM systems? check out some of the other guides in our series on CRM software plus key trends around marketing and selling to customers and providing customer service.

Conclusion and next steps

Hopefully, by this point you’re feeling a bit clearer about your options when it comes to choosing a CRM system. There are a lot of tools to choose between, and our advice is that you focus on the features you’ll need most for your operation, plus the price point you’ll be comfiest with – particularly with an eye on how costs per seat can scale as you grow.

As a reminder, these are the top choices we’d recommend:

  1. Hubspot CRM specialises in email marketing and is the best tool for growing your customer base. Plus, it’s 100% free.
  2. monday.com is our top-rated CRM system for dashboards as a fantastic colour-coded method for organising activities, projects, and information.
  3. Freshsales is best for usability. Its clever automation features do half the work for you so that setup and data input is quick and cost-efficient.
  4. Zoho CRM is best for features. An endless amount of CRM tools will manage your business’ unique needs – handy for specialist industries, like insurance.
  5. Pipedrive is best for contact management. Its strong list of integrations means it can be easily tailored to create bespoke lead dashboards.
  6. Zendesk is best for helpdesks thanks to its unrivalled organisational capabilities that makes data importing and management quick and controllable.
  7. Salesforce is geared towards managing large sales volumes, so it’s perfect for SMEs with ambitious growth targets wanting to engage in a lot of new customer outreach.

Our recommendation is based on thorough research carried out with an independent analyst. For a more personalised approach, fill out our free Startups’ online comparison tool to be matched with provider quotes and plans tailored to your small business.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What CRM software is best for a small startup?

    HubSpot is the best CRM option for growing startups that need to consider budget alongside their growth ambitions. As a completely free platform it has great value for money, but is also unrivalled for email marketing, which makes generating new customer leads effortless.

  • What is the easiest CRM to use for small business?

    Our researchers spent months examining the top CRM solutions for usability. Top of our rankings is Freshsales. It has a very quick setup time and also automates many repetitive CRM tasks like data entry for a gentle learning curve.

  • What is the most used CRM?

    HubSpot Free is the most popular choice amongst small business CRM users. It acts as an ‘all-in-one’ CRM solution, whilst being available for zero charge, which means it is great value for money although lacking more specialist functionalities.

  • What are the emerging trends in CRM?

    As with every area of tech, artificial intelligence (AI) is a massive growing trend for CRM in 2024. Using AI, businesses can automate many time-consuming CRM processes. Dull admin tasks like organising customer information, responding to inquiries, and forecasting sales figures can be taken care of, freeing up time for staff to concentrate on growing the business.

  • How much does CRM cost?

    A customer relationship management (CRM) system can be free, such as monday.com, or cost anything from £10 to upwards of £1,000 pounds per month. Most CRM providers will charge a fixed monthly rate, although some may also charge per user, which can rack up the cost. For example, Salesforce charges £20 per month per user on its lowest tier, which means that if you have 5 users the cost per month will be £100.

  • What is the best low cost CRM?

    Hubspot’s free plan is the most popular low cost option for small businesses because it does not compromise on functionality. If you choose to upgrade, its paid plans start at £38 per month, with no additional cost per user. Other suppliers also offer free plans, such as Freshsales, Zoho CRM, or HubSpot. However, free plans don’t always offer the best value for money, and you may find that they are lacking the functions you need.

  • Do I need a CRM system as a small business?

    A CRM system can help you better understand and interact with your customers by gathering data and providing you with reports and analysis. It can also increase efficiency, by allowing you to organise and automate your work, giving you more time to focus on growth. CRM suits multiple types of businesses as it can be used in multiple ways, from sales to marketing, to customer service.

  • Is Hubspot really free?

    Yes, Hubspot’s free plan really is free, and it allows an unlimited number of users, unlike most of its competitors. It’s also functional, unlike other free plans, and includes all the core CRM tools like forms, reporting dashboards, email marketing, and a shared inbox. It’s worth noting, however, that these tools advertise Hubspot.

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