10 Best CRM systems for small businesses in 2021
Want to grow your small business, or just find a new way of managing it? The finding the best CRM system for your business is crucial.
We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.This article was co-authored by:
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and as an acronym it refers to both a strategy, and a type of popular business software.
As a strategy, it refers to how you manage and engage with your customer base. But as a software, it's so much more.
CRM software is the ultimate database for managing all your contact information; leads, deals, clients, prospects – the lot. CRM software ties up all your sales, marketing, and customer service efforts into a single, intuitive interface. Powered by drag-and-drop functionality, it's a simple way of staying on top of your pipeline, handling customer service issues, and creating stunning marketing emails… that work.
And with many businesses forced to rely on remote working, it's never been more important to improve workflows between your team, and to give everyone full visibility of the sales funnel and client communications.
Deciding whether or not to use a CRM system for your business is the easy bit. What's slightly harder is choosing the software that's best-suited to your startup's unique requirements. But that's where we can help.
Read on as we break down the top CRM systems for small businesses in the UK. Price? Ease of use? Pure, unadulterated functionality? Whatever features or attributes you're after in a CRM system, we can help you find the one that will help your business scale.
Jump into the list to navigate straight to a CRM provider… or try another way of getting quotes. Simply provide us with some details about your CRM software requirements (mainly the features and number of users you'll need), and we'll do the rest. We use your responses to match you with leading CRM suppliers, who'll be in touch with quotes tailored to your specific needs. It takes 30 seconds, and is completely free.
The best CRM systems for small business
So without further ado, here they are: the 10 best CRM systems for small businesses, compared.
We looked at the wide range of CRM software for small businesses in the UK, weighing them up on metrics such as price point, usability, scalability, and customisability. With all this in mind, we found the best small business CRM tools on the market.
Dive into the table below to view prices, or read on for our expert reviews.
Our picks for the best CRM software for small business are:
These are our top provider picks – you can find more in-depth for them below, along with these seven other top CRM providers.
Used by the likes of the BBC, Adobe, Unilever, and Coca-Cola, Monday.com has some massive corporate fans, but is its CRM offering suitable for small businesses?
We think so, yes. For a start it's extremely easy to set up and get to grips with, and has a wonderfully intuitive visual interface. It has all the features you could ask for from a decent CRM, but if you do need additional functionality, Monday.com’s apps marketplace is very extensive.
You can also be safe in the knowledge that your Monday.com platform is well, safe. The company says it takes security “very seriously”, with Enterprise-grade security available to all customers. Features include customisable permissions so you can control exactly who has access to what. It’s also GDPR and HIPAA compliant.
One thing we’d mark it down for is its confusing pricing structure. While there are four tiered plans to choose from for a set price, your overall monthly cost is based on the number of people in your team and the length of your contract. That said, the prices are pretty reasonable.
What can Monday.com do?
- On-the-go – you can access your sales pipeline, manage your leads and more all from your smartphone, so you never miss an opportunity
- Visual interface – we were impressed by Monday.com’s colourful dashboard which allows you to see your data in a variety of visual
- Integrations – com integrates with a number of everyday essentials such as Slack, Zoom, Outlook, and Mailchimp
- Automations – automatically schedule notifications and reminders
What will Monday.com cost me?
Monday.com’s plans are reasonably priced, but are significantly affected by the number of people in your team.
|Specially designed for small teams||Great for a single growing team||For large teams to streamline operations and control workflows||For large teams to streamline operations and control workflows|
*all prices billed annually and based on a team of 5 people
Indian-based Freshworks CRM (formerly Freshsales) is behind a suite of essential business software, including its fully-integrated CRM solution.
Powered by Freshwork’s own AI Freddy, Freshworks CRM integrates a range of tools that you can use to generate leads, close deals, and increase customer engagement.
Freshworks CRM is broken down into three distinct but compatible offerings: Customer-for-Life Cloud, Sales Cloud, and Marketing Cloud. If you’re looking for a comprehensive CRM solution, we’d recommend Customer-for-Life Cloud. Sales Cloud and Marketing Cloud each offer a more tailored suite of tools for a lower monthly cost.
One minor quibble is that some customers have found that Freshworks’ customer service isn’t always up to scratch. Then again, some have reported excellent customer service.
The software has some pretty big fans in the form of Cisco and Honda, but is it any good for smaller businesses? We’d say so. Freshworks has actually designed its CRM specially for small businesses. Take a look at a breakdown of its key features below to see what Freshworks could do for you.
What can Freshworks do?
- Visitor tracking – track page visits to your site and even what actions visitors are taking
- Freddy AI – a smart CRM assistant that can analyse deals to offer insights and aid decision making
- Build custom web forms to capture vital visitor information
- Tailored email campaigns – generate cost-effective leads for sales
- Categorise customers – identify high-engagement customers and target them with messages to boost conversions
- Understand customers – monitor interest and engagement levels with the activity timeline so you can focus on the best opportunities with predictive contact scoring
What will Freshworks cost me?
There are three pricing plans for Freshworks CRM’s Customer-for-Life cloud.
|All-in-one CRM for small, fast-growth businesses||For larger, scaling businesses that demand efficiency||For larger enterprises that need more customisation and control|
*all prices billed annually
Salesforce is the biggest player in CRM, and is still considered one of the finest choices for small businesses.
As you would expect, the tools are slick, and integrate nicely with any platforms you are already using. It has a jaw-dropping range of features, giving you the most in-depth insights into your customers.
But even for those who are just finding their feet with CRM, there is also great customer support, an intuitive interface and tutorials to help you make the most of their impressive tools.
And because Salesforce caters for businesses of all sizes, you can be sure it will scale as you do.
What can Salesforce do?
- Sales – Improve, centralise and automate your sales process to save time and money, and get key insights into your customers.
- Service – Keep your customers happy and coming back with its intuitive and customisable solutions.
- Marketing – Understand your customer journeys better to create personalised marketing communications across all your different channels.
- Apps Builder – Build your own apps with point-and-click tools. Its unified platform means everything scales and integrates well.
What will Salesforce cost me?
|Lightning essentials||Lightning professional||Lightning enterprise||Lightning unlimited|
|£20/user per month||£60/user per month||£120/user per month||£240/user per month|
|Out-of-the-box CRM for up to five users||Complete CRM for any size team||Deeply customisable sales CRM for your business||Unlimited CRM power and support|
Salesforce CRM products
Salesforce’s CRM product range is expansive and varied to adapt to different customer needs. With everything included – from speciality sales functions to marketing features – it truly can be a one-stop-shop for small to large businesses looking to improve their operations.
Salesforce is able to offer a huge number of plans, with various services designed to match different requirements. Included in their plans are:
- Cloud services – offers expertise, data and innovation.
- Success plans – offers a range of services to suit different goals and objectives.
- Advisory services – provides consultation services to help your small business grow.
It isn't easy to find a great all-in-one provider that is absolutely free, but HubSpot is one of the best here.
CRM Free is not a trial – it's free forever, but there are add-on services for when your business grows: Marketing Hub (£0-£655 / month) and Sales Hub (£0-£333 / month).
HubSpot is ideal for small businesses with limited business development and marketing resources, whereas fast-growing companies might find they soon outgrow its capabilities.
HubSpot is known as a one-stop platform for organising, tracking and nurturing your customers and potential customers, and a great option for businesses looking to target specific persona groups with their sales and marketing campaigns.
What can HubSpot do?
- Marketing automation – Integrate all the data you have on your current and potential customers into a workflow which helps you take the best care of them.
- Email marketing – Create templated and customised emails, with automatic shifting, scheduling and robust reporting.
- Social media marketing – Get basic social media contact and tracking capabilities.
- Lead management – Market more efficiently with communications tailored to your customers.
- Reporting and metrics – Understand your customers better with customised reports.
- Site keyword tool – Help your pages rank better on search engines, by comparing you with your competition, and suggesting ways to improve.
What will HubSpot cost me?
The table below includes some information about HubSpot's various plans.
|£0/user per month||£27/user per month||£41/user per month|
|Out-of-the-box CRM for up to five users||Complete CRM for any size team||Deeply customisable sales CRM for your business|
With over 1.5 million users worldwide, Insightly is one of the most popular CRM systems around. It’s known as a user-friendly option and is often a favourite for small businesses.
You can access it online, or even on your mobile via its app, and it will integrate well with other online applications like Gmail, MailChimp, and Evernote. Its dashboard provides real-time information and a range of reports, but there is also the option of customising your own.
Overall, Insightly is a solid entry point into the world of CRM.
What can Insightly do?
- Building customer relationships – Discover new connections, plan your sales process, track organisations and partnerships.
- Connecting to apps – Monitor all tools and manage them from one database with email and software integration.
- Accelerating sales – Automate lead capture and generation to streamline and improve processes. Close deals faster and more efficiently.
- Delivering projects – Manage assignments and projects, set schedules and share goals and objectives across teams.
- Being enterprise ready – Safeguard with encryption and backups to ensure that your vital information is protected.
What will Insightly cost me?
Insightly offer CRM plans to match different budgets. In the table below we have included information about each plan, with prices and some specific features.
|$0||$29/user per month||$49/user per month||$99/user per month|
|Introductory package, ideal for a one or two person company||Segment, communicate and monitor outreach efforts||Add workflow automation and team security||Scale your CRM to fit your business needs|
Small businesses love SugarCRM for its low cost. It has a simple user interface, and a range of services to suit many sectors. This makes it ideal for companies with fairly straightforward sales processes, and little need for more complex processes (features like customisation are possible, but come with a learning curve and limited support).
Growth is at the heart of SugarCRM, so it will be difficult for businesses not to grow with this tool. But because it’s open source, you don’t have the support services offered by some of the larger providers.
What can SugarCRM do?
The five main areas covered by SugarCRM’s products are:
- Enterprise – providing adaptable software and systems that can be scaled to ensure the success of small and large businesses alike.
- Sales – get the most out of each client, and provide them what they need too. Schedule with your system and approach every sale with expertise and resource.
- Customer service – handle all customer relationships with expertise and efficiency. Handle complaints and sales quickly and easily, by optimising workflow with a quality system.
- Marketing – market effectively by integrating systems into one central dashboard. Launch campaigns with confidence.
- Mobile – mobile CRM from SugarCRM lets you monitor and track, wherever you are. Stay connected and ensure quality, from top to bottom.
What will SugarCRM cost me?
The table below includes some information about SugarCRM's various plans.
|Sugar Professional||Sugar Enterprise||Sugar Ultimate|
|$40/user per month||$65/user per month||$150/user per month|
|Basic CRM, ideal for growing your small business (15GB storage)||More CRM capabilities, best value for larger businesses (60GB storage)||Most complete CRM, plus highest level of support (250GB storage)|
Sendinblue promises a “complete sales and marketing toolbox” to help small businesses grow, sell, and engage, and all for a very affordable price.
And with 175,000 customers across 160 countries, for whom it claims to facilitate 100 million emails every day, it looks like it's on to something.
Sendinblue’s comprehensive CRM platform encompasses customer data storage, messaging across multiple channels, and automated marketing, to ensure you can make the most of any opportunities that come your way. However, in comparison to other providers, its range of integrations with other tools is limited.
Sendinblue is also proud to say that its platform is entirely GDPR-compliant, so you can launch campaigns and communicate with customers without having to worry about falling foul of data regulation.
Let’s take a closer look at what it offers small businesses.
What can sendinblue do?
- Centralise your contact info – store, manage and utilise all that vital information from one central location. Any new info is automatically updated directly into the CRM contact profile, and contacts can be organised by everything from characteristics to source of acquisition
- Track opportunities – create tasks for members of your team, add a deadline, and automate follow up emails
- Messaging – contact customers with personalised messages across email, SMS and chat
- Turn visitors into customers – create dedicated landing pages for each of your campaigns, integrate custom signup forms into your website, and launch Facebook ads to retarget contacts or reach new ones
What will Sendinblue cost me?
After its basic free plan, Sendinblue’s paid plans are very reasonably priced. It also has an Enterprise offering for businesses that need something a little more bespoke.
|£0/month||Starts from £16.50/month||Starts from £42/month||Tailored pricing|
|Limited starter package||Great for new marketers||For more experienced marketers||For big brands with custom needs|
*all prices billed annually
Zoho is a great option for start-ups who want to be up and running in CRM quickly, and are looking for an option that’s simple and affordable.
Most users pick Zoho because it’s reasonably priced, easy to use and very customisable. Plus, 2018 brought Zoho CRM a makeover, so it is now more user-friendly and powerful than ever.
Rather than struggling with a series of how-to videos, Zoho users have access to a conversational AI assistant, so you can ask it (in everyday language) to find whatever information you need for you.
Zoho gives a lot of bang for a few bucks and is one of the best low-budget CRM providers out there.
What can Zoho CRM do?
- Channels – Merge multiple channels for quick and streamlined conversations with customers.
- Performance – Make things easier for your staff, and improve sales figures with help from advanced platforms.
- Platforms – Use software that can be customised to suit your needs and goals.
- Scale – Zoho’s CRM solution can be scaled as you grow.
What will Zoho CRM cost me?
Zoho offers a range of CRM plans to match different budgets. These plans are designed with different features included, allowing most businesses – including small businesses – to find a plan to suit their requirements.
The table below includes a small side-by-side comparison of the plans that are available from Zoho.
|$0/user per month||$12/user per month||$29/user per month||$49/user per month||$99/user per month|
|Basic CRM, all you need to start your small business||Standard CRM, including sales forecasting and KPIs||Standard CRM, with integration and workflow||Advanced CRM, with custom modules||Full package, with customisable and tracking options|
As well as traditional CRM, Zoho have also continued to introduce high-value technical functions into their company, with new features like Zia – an AI sales assistant – among their latest developments.
Finally, Zoho allows you to test its CRM system with a 15-day free trial, so you can get a feeling for what it could do for your small business, free of charge!
Pipedrive is a leader in managing sales opportunities and is designed around activity-based selling. It is a great starter CRM, and its customisable and easy-to-use interface will appeal to small businesses looking to grow.
Don't be fooled by its modest price tag – this is a powerful sales tool, and takes the pain out of managing sales and related activities. There are also a number of out-of-the-box integrations available, making it as easy as possible to adapt the software to your sales and marketing strategies.
What can Pipedrive do?
- Pipeline management – Stay on top of all your deals with a clear visual interface.
- Email integration – Start sending and receiving emails from their platform to keep everything in one place.
- Activities and goals – Reminders, notifications and alerts help to stop things falling through the cracks.
- Sales reporting – See where you’re losing sales, and spot ways of tweaking your approach.
- Sales forecasting – Forecast revenue, and pick the deals that are most likely to close.
- Mobile apps – Work from anywhere with Android and iPhone apps.
What will Pipedrive cost me?
The table below includes some information about Pipedrive's various plans.
|£12/user per month||£24/user per month||£63/user per month|
|Everything you need to create a clear sales process and get your team organised||Optimise your sales process to spend less time on admin and have more sales conversations||Manage teams, track performance, and adjust course when needed|
Apptivo is a cloud-based system of applications, specifically aimed at small businesses. It is also one of the most affordable CRM options on the market.
Unlike some other CRM suppliers, with Apptivo you get access to its entire platform of 40 apps (covering key areas like CRM, Project Management, and Invoicing) included in the monthly price.
It uses a graphic-heavy dashboard, which makes data management less intimidating for the less tech-savvy user, and they specialise in a range of fields, from financials to human resources and supply chain management.
What can Apptivo do?
- Marketing – Create targeted lists of contacts, build email marketing campaigns, and track analytics.
- Sales – Complete CRM capability with robust contact management, sales pipeline, automation, and reporting.
- Help Desk – A powerful ticketing system with email integration, web portal, and time tracking.
- Project Management – Manage project schedules via gantt charts, track time and milestones, and invoice for effort spent.
- Field Service – Work order assignment and dispatching, mobile photo, time, and materials capture, and billing.
- Quoting and Billing – Build professional quotes and email them to customers with integrated billing and recurring invoice capabilities.
- Order Management – Turn quotes into orders, track inventory and shipments, and bill your customers for products purchased.
- Procurement and Supply Chain – Manage vendors, track purchase orders and invoicing, and manage inventory.
What will Apptivo cost me?
The table below includes some information about Apptivo's various plans.
|$0/user per month||$8/user per month||$20/user per month||$2 Flexible|
|Out-of-the-box CRM for up to five users||Complete CRM for any size team||Deeply customisable sales CRM for your business||Perfect for growing businesses with unique requests|
How can CRM help you?
CRM systems act as a central hub for all your business' client, lead, and deal information. CRM software typically comes as a cloud-based solution. That means there's no hefty downloads to install or maintain, and allows your entire team – no matter their physical location – to access documents, make calls, and do deals in real time.
A CRM does more than just store that data, though. It empowers your entire team to actually use that data to produce accurate forecasts, and fuel better, tailored sales and marketing activities.
That means email subject lines that work, and content that people will actually open, probably read, and – hopefully – convert on, too. It means using demographic data and previous buying habits to understand your customers and personalise content. It means more productivity with less effort, and more deals closed in less time.
CRM software also helps you introduce workflows that automate the drudgery of administration, freeing up your time to grow – rather than just run – your business.
Forget the days of having to open a hundred different tabs to understand the impact of your marketing and engagement activities. CRM pulls data from your website, social media, and email campaigns into a series of neat, effective, and eye-catching dashboards, for a 360-degree of everything you need to know.
But back to that question again… just how do you choose the right CRM software for your startup?
5 top tips for choosing the best crm system for your small business
Your CRM needs will be as unique as your business, and there is no one-size-fits-all provider. But to help you decide which CRM tool is best for you, here are some key questions you’ll want to ask yourself:
- How easy is the software to use?
You don’t have much time to spare. All our picks are easy to learn and use, and we’ve highlighted which ones keep it simple, and which ones have more bells and whistles.
- Is it a team player?
You want to know the CRM system you choose will get on well with the software you are already using. We’ve selected the top options for integration, so the process will be as hassle-free as possible.
- How mobile is it?
You are mobile, and you need your software to be too. Everything on this page is cloud-based (meaning everything can be stored online, and accessed wherever and whenever your staff need it), and comes with a mobile app (to make using CRM easier than ever).
- What’s my budget?
Price is always a big factor when choosing the right CRM provider, especially for start-ups. Below you’ll find the most cost-effective options for all price points to help you get the most out of your budget, and all come with a free trial. Or you can head over to our page on CRM system costs, for the full rundown.
- Will it scale with my business?
However small your business may be now, you’ll want to think about where your CRM system will take you as you grow. To help you avoid starting all over again after a growth spurt, we’ve tracked down the CRM plans which will scale best in the long term.
CRM system for small business: Compare quotes
The information on this page should help you to understand what benefit a small business CRM system can offer, and which one you should pick.
To summarise, our top picks of the best CRM systems for small business are:
- HubSpot – great for new/slow-growth businesses that can operate well despite the limitations of a free system
- Monday.com – great for ease of use, simplicity and security
- Salesforce – great for flexibility and businesses wanting their CRM system to scale with them
- Freshworks CRM – great for a solution that's truly small-business focused
- Insightly – great for ease of use (simplicity) as well as affordability and integration with other software
- SugarCRM – great for customisability and businesses that want to balance cost and growth ambitions
- Sendinblue – great for highly competitive pricing of a comprehensive, all-in-one sales and marketing “toolbox”
- Zoho – great for startups on a budget and want to be up-and-running fast, but who still need a decent-quality CRM product
- Pipedrive – great for businesses who want a CRM system for an ambitious sales team, and need high-level sales reporting
- Apptivo – great for small businesses who want to know they can rely on excellent customer support
On a budget? Go for Zoho. Want to tinker? Pick SugarCRM. For the simplest of solutions, your best bet would be to try Monday.com – while at the opposite end of the scale, Salesforce‘s advanced reporting is a highly scalable CRM pick for ambitious businesses.
The most efficient way to find the best CRM system for you, though, is to speak to suppliers.
Simply answer a few question about your business and your specific CRM requirements. We'll then match you with up to four small business CRM providers, who'll provide you with quotes and plans tailored to your startup. It's free, takes less than a minute, and is your shortcut to productivity.