7 Best CRM systems for small businesses in 2021

We’ve picked out the top 7 CRM software tools on the market to help you drive sales and grow your customer relationships.

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The best CRM system for small business depends on what's most important to your team – value, functionality, ease of use or the ability to scale as you grow. The great news? There are some brilliant CRM options that can satisfy these needs and more:

  • Freshworks CRM is one of the best CRM systems to offer a free tier, making it a fantastic choice for solo entrepreneurs or very small teams. Prices for paid plans scale up as your business grows.
  • If you're a creative company, and you want to find the number one solution for customisation, then monday.com is a top choice, with a fantastic, modern interface that you can use to set up your own processes and easy automations
  • Firms that are more experienced with CRM might want a system that will integrate well with their existing technology, and Pipedrive is one of the best choices.
  • If simplicity is key, then Less Annoying CRM is one of the easiest to use. Its simple interface means it has a gentle learning curve and serves as a great introduction to CRM software for newcomers.

This guide will go through the 7 best CRM brands on the market, and help you to find the best system for your specific business needs.

0 out of 0
Best for
Price per month (billed annually)
Free trial?
Verdict

Number of features, and a free plan

Customisation

Integrations

Intuitiveness

Affordability

Scaling businesses

Generating new leads

Free plan, or £25 per user

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Freshworks CRM’s huge list of features means there’s no end to its capabilities. Great for teams with complicated sales pipelines.

Monday.com has excellent customisability to give a personal touch to your CRM needs – we’d recommend it for creative teams in design or marketing.

Sophisticated integration tools make Pipedrive an excellent choice for small, tech-reliant businesses with any sized team.

Small businesses with fewer than 10 employees will rate Less Annoying CRM highly for its gentle learning curve and easy-to-use interface.

One of the most affordable options on the market, Bigin offers budget-conscious SMEs good value for money, with all the essential features covered.

Salesforce makes for an excellent CRM system that can develop alongside your expanding business – starting with teams smaller than 10.

Nimble’s impressive social networking tools will benefit startups or small businesses at the beginning of their growth plan

Having a smooth and efficient CRM system is also becoming an increasingly important way to drive sales. The right platform can monitor and improve your customer service strategy by acting as a database of information for things like supplier contact details, leads, and deals – preventing you from missing out on business opportunities.

With many good options on the market, it can be hard to make a confident decision about which one to pick for your business. To help you to decide, we’ve reviewed the most popular CRM platforms currently available to look at how well they perform against specific priorities for small businesses.


If you’re completely new to CRM systems then our expert team has built a quick and easy form to help you tell us more about your business' requirements. It's completely free of charge and designed to save you time and effort as you search for the right CRM solution.


Just before you get started…

Our CRM experts are checking the market regularly to make sure we're always aware of the best deals and prices when it comes to CRM systems. You can find the best prices for the UK's leading CRM system brands that have been identified below.


 

Less Annoying CRM

Best for: Intuitiveness

4.5 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    5
  • Features
    4.5
  • Integrations
    4

The clue is in the name: Less Annoying CRM is designed to offer the simplest user experience possible, with an easy-to-use interface and one unchanging payment option. User reviews give it a high rating for its gentle learning curve and excellent customer service, which allow new starters to quickly master the app.

Less Annoying CRM screenshot

What type of small business is Less Annoying CRM best suited for?

Less Annoying CRM is a good choice for small businesses wanting a short and simple setup time. New startups, or those moving into the CRM space for the first time, are probably looking to get to grips with managing a new customer workflow. They can do so easily thanks to this platform’s intuitive interface.

In terms of features, Less Annoying CRM offers all of the essentials, plus excellent training for newcomers:

  • Contact management 
  • Call logging 
  • Activity dashboards with multiple views
  • Lead scoring
  • Referral tracking 
  • Marketing automation 
  • Training for online webinars and videos

Pricing

Less Annoying CRM offers a 30-day free trial. After that, it costs £10.83 per user, billed monthly. This gives you an unlimited number of users and contacts, although the platform’s website recommends no more than 50,000 to avoid performance issues.

Less Annoying CRM’s most unique selling point could also be its biggest drawback, as the single-tiered pricing structure does not give much wriggle room for personalisation. However, its pricing page advises teams with 10+ users to get in touch for a personalised account, enabling you to design your own payment plan.

 Less Annoying CRM
Price per month (billed monthly)£10.83 per user
UsersUnlimited
Contacts50,000 (recommended)
Storage1GB per user

Verdict

Small businesses looking for a CRM system with a gentle learning curve and an easy-to-use interface will find Less Annoying CRM the best option available. Teams with more than ten users should make use of the system’s outstanding customer service to curate a personalised CRM solution.

Are you new to CRM systems? Our free online comparison tool can help you find the best product quickly and easily, based on your specific business needs.

Monday.com

Best for: Customisation

4.3 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    4.5
  • Features
    4.5
  • Integrations
    4

Monday.com might be primarily known as a project management tool, but you can easily customise the app for CRM thanks to its intuitive interface and huge number of creative features. 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 personnalises the status of every customer relationship.

Monday.com screenshot

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

The platform has a generous inventory of features, many of which allow for innovative customer relationship management. We think Monday.com works best for creative industries and businesses with unique client needs, such as design or estate agencies.

Whether you’re looking to track and organise your marketing activities, deals, client onboarding, or projects, Monday.com hosts lots of customisable elements, including:

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


Pricing

Monday.com has a distinctive payment structure which is based on a set number of seats. For more information, read our monday.com pricing guide.

 IndividualBasicStandardProEnterprise
Price per month (billed annually)Free£7
seat/month
£9
seat/month
£14 seat/monthContact sales
Price per month (billed monthly)Free£12
seat/month
£27
seat/month
£42 seat/monthContact sales
UsersUp to twoMinimum of threeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Storage500MB5GB20GB100GB1000GB

Verdict

Despite being best known for project management, Monday.com is a surprisingly good CRM tool. The platform has excellent customisability to give a personal touch to your CRM needs – we’d recommend it for creative teams in design or marketing.

According to a survey by PwC, people are willing to spend just 16% more on products and services for a good customer experience, meaning there is a cost benefit to your purchase.

Pipedrive

Best for: Integrations

4.1 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    4
  • Features
    3.5
  • Integrations
    5

Pipedrive is a CRM system with a focus on sales management. Its visual pipeline supports more complex sales processes, as you can easily enter and edit your data inputs in one simple view. This is controlled using a clean visual interface, with powerful features such as email integration, goal tracking, reporting, and forecasting.

As a CRM system, it stands out thanks to its huge list of integrations and available add-ons, which you can install within the system to customise your CRM process to your teams’ specific sales channel. This makes Pipedrive an excellent choice for small, tech-based firms wanting a CRM tool that works alongside their existing software.

What type of small business is Pipedrive best suited for?

Pipedrive is built to suit small businesses with a lot of existing technology, thanks to its large number of third-party integrations. That makes it a particularly good option for teams that are working remotely or based in the tech industry.

Its 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 

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 £12.50 per user when billed annually and is the best option for small businesses in terms of affordability. Pipedrive Advance costs £24.90 – out-of-budget for most SMEs – and offers a lot of sophisticated, if ultimately unnecessary features.

 EssentialAdvanceProfessional Enterprise
Price per month (billed annually)£12.50 per user£24.90 per user£49.90 per user£99 per user
Price per month (billed monthly)£15 per user£29 per user£59 per user
UsersUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
ContactsUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Storage2GB per user5GB per user100GB per user100GB per user

Verdict

Sophisticated integration tools and a focus on the entire customer lifecycle make Pipedrive an excellent choice for small, tech-reliant businesses. Teams of any size should use this system if they want to align the CRM process with their existing software for improved customer satisfaction.

Bigin

Best for: Affordability

4.1 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    4.5
  • Features
    5
  • Integrations
    3

Bigin is a product developed by Zoho CRM, another popular CRM software option, which has been designed specifically for small businesses. It is a basic and cost-friendly alternative to other CRM systems.

Bigin’s simplistic ‘drag-and-drop’ interface means it has great navigation and functionality. Deals are organised on cards which show contact details, value, and other project details for your other team members to easily view and pick up where you left off. These are then tracked on a dashboard which the whole team can access.

What small business is Bigin best suited for?

Bigin is well-suited to any small business with concerns about software spending that want to purchase a CRM system without splurging.

Because of this, Bigin’s feature list mostly consists of the essentials – as well as a limited amount of more complex features, like custom dashboards –for a generous price. Its paid-for plan, Bigin Basic, includes:

  • Multiple Pipelines
  • 25 Workflows
  • 5 Web Forms
  • Email Integration and Mass Emailing
  • Custom Dashboards
  • Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, Mailchimp, and Twitter integration

One area where Bigin does not perform well is its file allowance, which only allows for 50,000 records. That amount includes contact lists, Word documents, or PDFs, which means that for teams with large-scale sales operations and a data-led approach to reaching new leads, Bigin is not the best option.

Pricing

Bigin’s pricing structure is simple to understand, with either a Free or Basic option. Due to its maximum of one user, Bigin Free would suit solo users or freelancers. The next payment tier, Bigin Basic, works well as a low cost solution for small businesses with more than one employee due to its unlimited number of users. It costs just £5 per month, per user when billed annually. However, we’d recommend trialling the available features first with Bigin Free.

 FreeBasic
Price per month (billed annually)Free£5
Price per month (billed monthly)Free£7
Users1Unlimited
Contacts500 records500,000 records
Storage limit1GB1GB

Not sure how much you should be spending on CRM software? Read our guide to learn more about CRM system costs.

Verdict

As one of the most affordable options on the market, Bigin offers good value for money, with all the essential features covered. We’d recommend it for smaller-sized teams looking to get started on their first CRM system – although the limited number of records could prove troublesome for those with long contact lists.

Freshworks CRM

Best for: Number of features

3.7 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    4
  • Features
    3.5
  • Integrations
    3.5

Freshworks CRM (formerly Freshsales) 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, nicknamed ‘Freddy’. Freddy gives you data to back up every decision, helping you to identify leads based on how likely they are to convert.

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

Freshworks CRM was launched in 2011 after its co-founders struggled to find a CRM system with enough features to cater to their demands. You can see this goal reflected in the system’s huge number of available tools and integrations. Even its lowest-tier payment plan, Freshworks Growth, includes:

  •  1,000 marketing contacts 
  •  Freddy AI
  •  Web forms 
  •  Website tracking 
  •  Built-in phone and email integration, as well as a mobile app 
  •  Lists and Segments 
  •  Drag-and-drop journey builder
  •  Visual sales pipeline 
  •  Collaboration with Slack 
  •  20 workflows 
  •  5 sales sequences 
  •  Custom reports and dashboards 
  •  Migration from other CRMs 
  •  Freshdesk integration 
  •  Freshworks marketplace to view and access the most popular user add-ons 

This USP makes Freshworks best for companies wanting a CRM with the maximum number of capabilities. That means small business owners with a more complicated sales pipeline would benefit most from a subscription.

One drawback to the Freshworks system is that it has an individual email limit of just 200 emails a day, per user for its lowest-tier payment plan. Given that most small businesses will use email as the primary way to connect, this might prove troublesome for firms looking to engage in marketing outreach.

Pricing

In terms of pricing, Freshworks CRM is the most expensive option in this list. It offers a free version suitable for solo users, with only 100 contacts permitted. The next step up is the Growth plan which, at £25 per user, per month when billed annually, is a big investment for small businesses. You get what you pay for with a long list of features, but we would recommend trialling the free version before committing to Freshworks CRM long-term.

 FreeGrowthProEnterprise
Price per month (billed annually)Free£25 per user£55 per user£99 per user
Price per month (billed monthly)Free£29 per user£69 per user£119 per user
UsersUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Contacts1001,0003,0005,000
Storage limit1GB per user2GB per user5GB per user100GB per user

Verdict

Having such a long list of features means that few users will be left unsatisfied with the capabilities of Freshworks CRM. However, firms with tighter budgets might struggle to justify the added expense.

Salesforce CRM

Best for: Scaling businesses

3.7 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    3
  • Features
    3
  • Integrations
    5

Salesforce was founded in 1999, and is one of the most popular CRM systems on this list thanks to its varied range of software products. From speciality sales functions to marketing features, Salesforce can truly serve as a one-stop-shop for small to large businesses looking to improve their operations, making it an excellent choice for scaling businesses.

Naturally, more sophisticated capabilities equals a longer setup time. Plus, due to its hefty performance requirements, some users have reported that Salesforce can lag when used with bad broadband connections.

Salesforce CRM screenshot

What type of small business is Salesforce best suited for?

SMEs that are looking to expand their company will want a system that can develop alongside them.

Salesforce comes in three cloud-based editions. The idea is that you can pick and choose which features you want in your plan based on the area you’d most like to prioritise growth in, whether that’s the Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, or Marketing Cloud. 

For each of these options, Salesforce Essentials is the most basic paid-for tier, and is an excellent choice for small businesses with under 10 users. This is due to its simpler setup and scaled back list of features, with the main focus being on helping you to grow customer demand. For example, the Sales Cloud Essentials package gives you:

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

Salesforce Professional is designed for once you have outgrown this tier. It offers more complex reporting tools to aid with decision making, plus added security.

Pricing

At £20 per user, per month when billed annually, Salesforce is a splurge when compared to more budget-friendly CRM systems like Bigin. However, as we pointed out earlier, you can purchase extra features as an add-on at any point in your plan, which means that Salesforce can be excellent value for money if used wisely.

 EssentialsProfessionalEnterprise Unlimited
Price per month (billed annually)£20 per user£60 per user£120 per user£240 per user
UsersUp to 10UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
ContactsUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Storage limit1GB per user1GB per user1GB per user1GB per user

Verdict

Salesforce has a very steep learning curve. However, if you’re willing to invest the time, it makes for an excellent CRM system that can develop alongside your expanding business – starting with teams smaller than 10.

Nimble

Best for: Generating new leads

3.5 out of 5
  • Ease of use
    3.5
  • Features
    3
  • Integrations
    4

Nimble’s USP is that it offers excellent integrations with B2B social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. These give users opportunities to connect with new contacts and leads, using organic engagement ideas like upcoming birthdays, new hires, and relevant news stories.

On the downside, because Nimble’s interface is centered around marketing outreach, it lacks a lot of the more complex organisational features, such as custom fields. However, Nimble is also available as an integration for Salesforce and HubSpot, meaning you can always double-up if you’re looking for a way to get sales insights and new leads.

What type of small business is Nimble best suited for?

We know that social media is a popular tool for finding new leads thanks to its low cost and easy outreach tools. Digital marketing firms in particular will rate Nimble’s excellent network integrations highly.

Nimble’s features are largely focused on contact lists, and it therefore boasts a lot of communication and interaction tools. In terms of storage, its single-tiered plan offers only 2GB per user, but there is an option to purchase more data if needed.

  • Call logging 
  • Group messaging 
  • Task reminders 
  • Contact management 
  • Social profile match 
  • Social media signals 
  • Calendar and email message syncing
  • Two way sync with 160+ integrations

Pricing

Nimble’s only paid-for plan is Nimble Business, which is mid-range on the cost spectrum at £13.70 per month when billed annually. This allows for only 25,000 contacts, which means Nimble will lose value in the long-term for growing teams.

 Nimble Business
Price per month (billed annually)£13.70
Price per month (billed monthly)£18.03
UsersUnlimited
Contacts25,000
Storage2GB per user

Verdict

Like Less Annoying CRM, Nimble’s single-tiered payment option doesn’t give much room for scaling up. However, startups or small businesses at the beginning of their growth plan will find Nimble unparalleled for generating organic and valuable leads.

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

Having worked with SMEs for twenty years, we know that you have to contend with different issues when compared to larger or mid-sized companies. As a small business owner, you’ll have less resources to use on CRM. With this in mind, you might want to find a more affordable option to save money. Or, if you’ve already invested in other software, you might be looking for the best tool that can integrate with your existing technology.

We’ve picked out the top CRM systems on the market, and compared them using seven specific metrics that small businesses need to think about when purchasing a CRM system.

These metrics are:

  • Affordability – do you want to find the best low-budget CRM system?
  • Number of features – do you want the most features for your budget?
  • Integration – do you need to find a CRM system that will get on well with your existing software?
  • Intuitiveness – do you need something you can easily learn how to use?
  • Scalability – do you want to find a CRM system that can adapt to your business as it grows?
  • Generating new leads – do you want to prioritise growing your customer base?
  • Customisation – do you want more creative control over your CRM system?

How do the CRM costs compare?

Budget is always an important factor for SMEs looking to purchase new technology.

So how do you know which tool will perform best within your price range? We’ve reviewed the 7 CRM systems in this list to see how their prices compare.

Best CRM systems price

Unsurprisingly, Bigin was the lowest-priced option in the list at just £5 per user, per month when billed annually. Monday.com follows closely behind at an affordable £7 per seat, per month.

At the higher end of the list is Salesforce at £20 per user, due to its capability for mid-sized businesses. Freshworks CRM is far and away the highest-costing CRM system on the list at £25 per user – expensive, but reflective of the huge amount of available features.

Which is the best CRM for small businesses?

For intuitiveness, we recommend Less Annoying CRM

Less Annoying CRM logo
Less Annoying CRM is the most user-friendly system on the market, and is targeted towards teams of 10 or less that are new to using CRM software.
For customisation, we recommend Monday.com

monday-com-logo-su
If you want to add a personal touch to your customer interactions, Monday.com is an excellent choice for creative teams looking to design a unique CRM process.
For integration, we recommend Pipedrive

Pipedrive logo
Great for small, tech-friendly firms with any sized team that are looking for a tool which will work well with their existing software.
For affordability, we recommend Bigin

Bigin logo
SMEs wanting a low-budget CRM option will find Bigin both simple to use and easy on the wallet.
For features, choose Freshworks CRM

Freshworks CRM logo
If you have some budget to spare, Freshworks CRM offers a huge catalogue of features, making it the best CRM system for businesses with complex sales needs.
For scaling businesses, we recommend Salesforce

Salesforce logo
Salesforce is best for teams smaller than 10 in growth-oriented companies that want a CRM system which can scale with them.
For generating new leads, we recommend Nimble

Nimble logo
Nimble is excellent for identifying organic and high-value leads for your company. Small agencies in marketing or PR will benefit the most from the system’s excellent social networking tools.

We’ve picked out seven CRM systems for today’s SMEs and reviewed them against the most common priorities for SMEs, to find the best option based on your specific business needs.

However, for the best all-round option, we’d recommend Less Annoying CRM. Its simple payment option offers an affordable, easy-to-use system that doesn’t skimp on features, and which offers various add-ons to adapt to your business’s growth.

If you’d prefer a personalised approach to your CRM requirements, fill out our free comparison tool and let us do the work for you. We'll provide you with quotes and plans tailored to your startup.

Helena is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has previously written for a popular fintech startup covering everything from money-saving tips to cultural reviews.

She is particularly interested in project management software and the films of Peter Jackson.

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