What’s the best CRM for small business? Research your options with our guide


Wondering about the best CRM for small business? The range of tools out there for small businesses can be overwhelming.

To ease the burden of choosing software, here’s a list of highly-rated CRM systems for you to research.

CRM stands for customer relationship management. CRM systems are platforms that allow you to gather data about leads and customers.

If your business relies heavily on negotiating and closing sales, a basic CRM platform should give you the ability to see your sales pipeline and the different stages of a particular deal.

CRM systems can also be used as marketing platforms that help you to categorise and interpret data about customers and prospects. Then you can take action, for instance by sending marketing emails and managing the customer experience.

So, CRM tools are sales and marketing tools. They can help you keep track of orders, manage your pipeline, and identify opportunities for selling other products and services to existing customers, among other things.

Best CRM for small business UK

Since there are lots of CRM systems for small businesses, we’ve put together this list so you can compare the options.

CRM software is generally cloud-based, which means you can access it from anywhere through your internet connection.

We detail the main features of each as well as prices, so you can see what suits your business best. The best news is that all of these are free to try – and five of the six options have plans that are always free (although features will be more limited).

One of the best-known CRM systems: Salesforce

Salesforce is one of the CRM world’s giants. While it counts huge businesses like Deliveroo, Pets at Home, and Addison Lee among its customers, it has an option for small businesses called Small Business Solutions.

Salesforce has three different products depending on your needs:

  • Sales Cloud – when you’re acquiring customers this platform lets you manage your contacts, track and forecast sales, and automate tasks and workflows
  • Service Cloud – this is a customer service platform that gives you an overview of each customer’s activity, along with live chat and other community management software
  • Marketing Cloud – a digital marketing platform that gives you tools for email marketing, social media marketing, mobile marketing, online advertising, and marketing automation

The above have different pricing levels, meaning you pay for the service you need most.

Sales Cloud starts at £20 a user each month, for up to 10 users.

Service Cloud also starts at £20 a user each month, for up to 10 users.

You can get a free 30-day trial for each of those services to see whether they work for your business.

There aren’t any pricing details for Marketing Cloud and you’ll need to get in touch with Salesforce for a quote.

But if you’re looking for options that are always free, it’s worth considering the next CRM systems on this list.

Salesforce also offers comprehensive support and learning resources, so there’s help on-hand if you need it.

A range of cloud-based tools (plus a free CRM): Zoho CRM

Zoho is a technology company that offers a huge range of software, from an office suite to CRM software.

We’ve previously written about Zoho Books in our guide to the best accounting software for small businesses.

One of the positives with Zoho CRM is that there’s a free version for up to three users. Its features are more limited than the paid plans, but it gives you a cost-effective way to try the software.

The paid plans also have a 15-day free trial, so you can test drive more features.

The standard plan is £12 a user each month. With this plan you can:

  • manage leads, contacts, deals, and workflows
  • prioritise leads by scoring them
  • send bulk emails to reach more people
  • customise dashboards to see your data in the way that suits your business most
  • customise pipelines to your sales processes

The professional plan is £18 a user each month and gives you access to more features, like real-time customer notifications.

As mentioned, there are lots of Zoho apps that you can extend the software with (for example accounting and bookkeeping).

Another free CRM to try: HubSpot

HubSpot is another well-known name. If you’ve searched for marketing guidance before, it’s likely you’ve landed on one of their articles.

The great news for small businesses is that HubSpot has a range of free software to try. Using its free CRM software, you can:

  • manage contacts and data using automations
  • see a contact’s website activity, from page views to form submissions
  • record details of companies you want to do business with
  • track and manage deals
  • manage tasks and activities related to your customer relationships

Of course, on the paid plan you get access to more. Your limits increase and you can remove HubSpot branding from tools like live chat.

The Starter CRM Suite is a bundle that includes the tools you need to manage your contacts and sales. It starts at £38 a month.

A CRM tool if you’ve already started in Google: Streak

We get that small businesses often grow naturally from a side hustle or other venture.

So, you might already be working in Gmail and other free Google software and now want a CRM tool to manage your contacts more effectively.

Streak integrates with Gmail and other Google apps like Sheets and Docs.

It allows you to send personalised mass emails using your data and you can see when someone’s read your email, too.

It’s another tool with a basic option that’s always free. The free option gives you 500 ‘boxes’, which is the data moving through your pipeline.

It also gives you 50 mail merges a day.

The option above is free for one user and is $15 a month.

A free CRM with collaboration tools: Bitrix24

Bitrix24 bills itself as a single ecosystem that you can replace multiple apps with – and as with other CRM systems on this list, there’s an option that’s always free.

Bitrix24 offers a whole suite of business tools, including group chat and instant messaging, project management, online document storage and shared calendars. There’s even a website builder, too.

It means you can choose to have all your company’s communication and collaboration in one place.

Within the free CRM, you have unlimited deals (opportunities), unlimited contacts, and you can create custom fields. However, you can only have one sales pipeline, so you might want to upgrade if you have different processes for different products and services.

So, the free version doesn’t include all the features and there’s an online storage limit of 5GB. But unlike most of Bitrix24’s rivals, you can have unlimited users.

The basic version costs £29 a month for up to five users (but that’s one price for all users).

A free CRM with a cost-effective basic option too: Apptivo

Apptivo is another CRM system with an always-free option, but as usual, the features are more limited.

On the CRM side of things, you can manage leads, contacts, and tasks with the free plan. But you can only have one user, you don’t get access to Apptivo’s 27/7 live chat support, and you can’t integrate any other apps either (like Google Apps, Dropbox and PayPal).

The lite option is cost-effective at $8 a user each month and you get access to far more features, including a product catalogue and deal management.

The free option gives you 500GB of data storage for your whole account, while the lite version gives you 1GB a user.

You can try the paid packages free for 30 days.

What are your biggest CRM challenges? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sam Bromley

Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.

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