I would say yes. Free of charge CRM software is an option worth considering.
And this short answer could basically exhaust the subject of the entry if it were not for the fact that being a user of several different ‘free’ CRM solutions I would have a few comments.
Of course, we must assume that at the end of the day there is nothing for free. Therefore, choosing a solution tempting the ‘free of charge’ option, it’s good to consider what enters the portfolio of free functionalities. I would not naturally want to set anyone in a negative way to such solutions, but I would recommend put a bit more attention every time we decide to click Upload.
We can choose from tools available in two basic categories, Freemium and Open.
The first one is tools that are free, but with limited access, the number of users, records, a limited portfolio of functionality. A great solution for small enterprises with a relatively short list of requirements.
The second one, due to the open source nature, offers practically unlimited access to the database and functionality. The catch in this case, however, is the need to have a developer or a versatile IT man on board. The flexibility of the solution, because it usually entails the need for its installation and/or configuration and subsequent support.
The awareness of the CRM category we have decided on is very important. However, it is critical to know what functionalities it provides. As the producers (creators) try to distinguish themselves from the competition, we now observe a tendency to enrich the systems with ‘digital’ functions, such as modules for e-mail, text messages, functionalities for creating a landing page and pop-ups.
What to choose?
Definitely, a tool that best fits our needs (including even the near future) and development and service opportunities in the ‘open’ category. When deciding on a specific solution, it should also be remembered that the market trend in the selection of a CRM system is not always the best advisor. And more and more important in the light of the General Data Protection Regulation – whenever we choose the model of ‘online’ work, we must remember that our data may become available to others.
Below find, please short comparison of the basic parameters of CRM systems occurring in both the Freemium and Open categories. The list will be developed and updated on a regular basis.
The CRM Suite is an open source solution and is considered one of the best systems of its class in the world today. In addition to the new e-mail module planned for version 7.9 and practically all standard functionalities necessary for effective operation, it offers free support via the user forum. The free version provides several very useful functionalities:
- Self-service module
- Sales Portal
- Defined flexible workflow
- Module supporting marketing processes
- Return on investment calculator
- Finance management
- Flexible business process modeling
- Cost models
- Control of the pricing strategy
- Service contracts
- Support for questions and answers
Zoho CRM is one of the business software players on the market, hence the idea of making the CRM tool available for free in the option enabling the small company to operate freely seems very OK. We are talking here both about the mobile version, as well as desktop and social. The advantage of Zoho is a well-developed import module and the weaker side of data export requiring careful verification of value formats. So, what can the system provide us with in the most attractive (free) form?
- Support for up to 10 users
- Sales automation
- Channels for team collaboration
- Features of social media (Twitter, Facebook and Google+)
- Marketing automation (10 templates of e-mails, resignation from e-mail)
- Document library (sharing folders, attaching documents, file version, reviews)
- Standard reports
- Internet forms
- 1 GB for storing documents
- Personalization of products
- Workflow management
HubSpot is a solution delivered somehow ‘on the side’ of the main product, which is the Marketing Automation platform. Being complementary to the core website, it offers not only basic functions, but almost a full set of functionalities specific to dedicated CRM solutions. Unlimited number of users … and only one catch. All this is really ‘free’, if you do not have more than 1 Million of customers in your database. The ‘tracking’ functions of contacts are a strong asset of the solution and it seems that it would be difficult to find something better. To sum up – a tool for what we want and how we can use it.
- Free license for up to 1,000,000 contacts in the database
- Unlimited storage space for documents (files)
- Optimized Arranged customer documents and customer profiles
- Automatic import from data from e-mail, telephone databases and social media
- Integration of the phone’s functions
- Custom views and management of sales funnels
- Management of leads and automatic monitoring of visitors to the website
- Automatic construction of leads database
- Contracts and tasks management
- Templates and planning
- Telephone support, live support, training base
- A wide range of integration
Insightly is another of systems dedicated to small businesses. It is a relatively simple solution allowing for the storage of 2,500 records (including all elements), making quite pleasant and information-rich reports and limited to 10 items a day email delivery. So which of the system functions in the ‘free of charge’ model can lead us to consider using it in business?
- Free license for 2 users
- Up to 200 MB of disk space for stored documents
- Up to 2,500 records in the database
- 5 e-mail templates
- Bulk e-mails (10 a day)
- 10 custom fields (2 per record)
- 500 lines of file import
- 10 advanced reports
- Online community support
The user-friendly Capsule offers, apart from classical contact management, several functionalities allowing for synchronization and update of customer profiles with various sources, such as social media. The update takes place automatically while browsing the client’s ‘card’. In addition to this clever feature of the tool, we can count on a relatively simple integration with more than 30 different solutions, including Mailchimp, Freshbook. The system also provides quite efficient tracking of the history of contacts regardless of the medium with which they were carried out. How similar solutions also provides sharing of contacts and the ability to attach external files. The free option looks relatively modest, but let’s agree that it is intended for very small companies:
- 2 users
- 10 MB of memory
- 250 contacts
- Standard integrations
- Integrations with social media
- Dedicated technical support
Sugar CRM as one of the pioneers of the segment enjoys the scope of functionality and is sad at the same time a slightly outdated look. Nevertheless, experience on the market resulted in a range of standard for CRM functionality with a very decent user interface, a calendar that allows planning and implementation of all kinds of events, the ability to efficiently import and export data and link any system elements. An important element is a well-designed reporting module. On the other hand, the flexibility of the solution is very important in the context of matching the specific needs of a given business. Free elements influencing high scores through the prism of functionality are, among others:
- Features adapted to the specificity of the company (hosted version)
- Forms for obtaining leads and monitoring of contact information
- Extensive customer profiles
- Features of email marketing
- Communication and reporting planning
- monitoring interaction in ‘social’ channels
- Sales funnels
- Managing e-mails, calendars and files
- Comprehensive project planning
- Modifiable database
- Open API structure
Bitrix24 can become quite a decent tool if we monitor the contacts of colleagues (team) as part of tasks, manage contact data, plan projects and activities, or provide all kinds of documents. Free for 12 users, it has a standard set of functionalities allowing for contact with clients, sales and invoicing. It is true that it does not automatically download company data, which could be assigned to individual contacts (functionality has HubSpot), but the contact management model itself gives relatively much flexibility.
- Unlimited number of users
- 5 GB of space
- Management of potential clients and contacts
- Email marketing
- Sales automation
- Live chat
- Full telephone package (100 recordings of telephone conversations)
- Task and project management
- Document management
- Planning, reporting and time management
- Human resource and employee management
Zurmo as one of the ‘open source’ systems resembles more advanced and thoroughly professional tools of the MS Dynamics class, or SFDC. A very well-developed interface that allows the collection of practically unlimited profile data, as well as planning and reporting of meetings and other interactions with clients. Functionalities allow you to build offers and combine products / services with potential business opportunities (opportunities). The concept of gamification introduced into the creator’s tool is quite pleasant. The reporting module, which allows you to build statistics in a graphical form, also works well.
- Unlimited number of contacts with detailed and personalized accounts (360 views)
- Custom dashboards, boxes, layouts and labels with dependent drop-down lists
- Global information retrieval, language packs, currency conversion and support for multiple time zones
- Management of potential opportunities
- Activity management (meetings, tasks and notes)
- Transaction tracking (sales automation, opportunity management, tracking of sales streams)
- Custom reporting
- Workflow automation using e-mail notifications
- Gamification models
- Automation of marketing (creating e-mail campaigns, autoresponders, campaign management)
- Product management (creating catalogs, quantity management)
- Online community support and training documentation
- Native integrations with Gmail, Outlook, Zapier + Restful API
vTiger (Open Source) is one of the most popular CRM systems today, both because of its basic functions and a wide range of extensions that can be downloaded and purchased. The solution provides a wide portfolio of functionalities both standard and slightly more advanced. It is equipped with contact management tools, transaction tracking and conversion support. Has an efficient mechanism for both billing and invoicing. A decent mechanism dedicated to customer service, project management and calendar. The modular design enables effective optimization and adaptation to the real needs of a given business. A positively positive aspect is the possibility of relatively cheap or free use of a set of functionalities developed by the vT community. As it looks very promising, we will be back with an update of vTiger insight once finishing tests.
Freshsales dedicated rather to small – growing software companies, attractive in terms of simplicity, as well as (sometimes important though) a well-tailored interface. Originally it is part of the Freshworks package, but nevertheless it can be a full-fledged tool working in the ‘standalone’ model. The free version of the solution enables effective management of lids regardless of their acquisition channel. The fact that there are no restrictions as to the number of users and the space / memory resources allocated for document storage is positive. The downside is unfortunately the free version of advanced functions of managing customers and territories, building sales funnels, automatic notifications and the ability to monitor events in the network. On the other hand, we get the application not only simple to use but also providing all basic CRM functions. The tool in the free option is difficult to recommend with full conviction, but it is certainly worth considering its paid version. In summary, we can use the following features for free:
- Unlimited number of users
- Unlimited contact database and records
- Unlimited storage space for files and documents
- Capture and automatic import of leads (telephone, e-mail, social media)
- A complete management set for potential clients, contacts and accounts
- Basic scoring models
- Advanced reporting
- Integration with Freshdesk software
Google Contacts is a bit exotic among the above solutions, however, due to the widespread use of the Mountain View solution, deserves even a small mention. Okay, so who has Google prepared his CRM concept for? Theoretically for everyone. The platform is to serve current users of Google products, both those who want to manage their private contacts in a natural way, as well as companies that carry out the business process. The tool is available all over the world and can be used in all languages, as well as offering an open API that allows it to be easily combined with third-party systems.
Everything that Google Contacts has to offer is made available for free. Well-known intuitive interface in a universal form, works according to any software or operating system. Very positive is the fact that in the free version the tool does not limit the number of available contacts or memory resources. It also provides identical support that is guaranteed to users of premium products. When running a company, however, we must bear in mind that Google Contacts provides a very effective but still only a basic set of functions for managing contacts, so we want to consider a different tool or integration with truly business platforms if we want to implement sales and marketing tasks.
Free set of functionalities:
- Unlimited number of contacts
- Unlimited number of users
- Unlimited storage space
- Sorting contacts and grouping using optional filters
- Contact categories and detailed profiles and accounts
- Automated synchronization with local databases
- Backup and restore of data for 30 days
- Easy search and connection of duplicate contacts
- Integration with any other Google service
- E-mail support
- Open API
Streak – another of the interesting systems cooperating with Gmail, are able to order contacts, calendars, and sales processes. Relatively simple and offering limited functional resources in the basic (unpaid) version. However, because of hosting solutions in the cloud, and thus no need for dedicated IT resources for maintenance and development of its user base is conscious attention to budgetary issues. A huge plus that users will appreciate the tools Google is that the Streak naturally uses the resources available in other applications under the big ‘G’.
Streak seems to be a very flexible tool, which is adapted to the specific business needs at the level of the end user. However, the opening should be acknowledged that the ‘free plan’ may be attractive for very small businesses. In the case of decisions about entering the area of paid services, we may be pleasantly surprised by the range of offered functionalities.
Speaking of the free version, we will get the following elements available:
- The basic CRM package
- The option to combine mail and send ‘mass’ mailings
- The ability to track 200 email threads
- Using custom columns
- Search and automatic filling in fields
- Attach files in various formats
- The possibilities of importing and exporting exports
- Mobile access on iOS (soon Android system)
- Access to the basic API
S0, what can we count on when reaching for the wallet?
- The ability to track an unlimited number of email threads
- Unlimited shared access to sales funnels
- Access to the Webhooks API interface
- Integration with the Zapier system
- Reporting, statistics and forms
- Data validation, user rights definitions and data recovery mechanism
- Premium support via e-mail / telephone
- Dedicated customer service program
Apptivo – is one of many solutions based on the cloud model, which gives it quite decent working parameters in terms of both the speed of data processing and the sharing of information. The tool belongs to relatively intuitive and not very sophisticated solutions, making available as part of the free version:
- Licenses for 3 users
- 500MB memory for data
- Mechanism of sharing contacts
- A set of standard reports
- Basic user support
Thus, we see that among the tools discussed so far, the range of the free-of-charge offer is rather out of the scope. On the other hand, if we decide to pay 8 USD per month (assuming that we will pay for the entire year in advance), we will also be able to use the Premium option as an option:
- 3GB of memory for each user
- The possibility of sending 1000 emails as part of campaigns
- 2000 calls in a situation when we decide to integrate and use API mechanisms
- Integration support
And in this case, we do not have too much freedom of movement, but the 8USD budget for a business application also does not let go. Another option in the Apptivo portfolio is Ultimate, which somehow does not differ from Premium, but the monthly cost increases to 20USD. The highest available version seems to be today Enterprise (the supplier recommends direct contact in case if someone was interested in the quote) offering:
- Dedicated instance
- Ability to send 5000 emails as part of campaigns
- White labeling, which is not often an option
- Custom integration
- Support based on SLA
- Dedicated Key Account Manager.
Really Simple Systems
Really Simple Systems – are ‘Really Simple Systems’ really simple and yet capable of providing added value to our business? Yes, if we only run a small business, and our clients are other companies – that is, everything works in the B2B model. Simple in adaptation (setup) and use thanks to the intuitive interface at a reasonable level can be a very interesting idea for startups, especially since the provider does not limit the time of free use, nor the set of functionalities available in the paid version. The only limitation of the free system version, apart from the number of users, is the volume of customers (companies) registered in the database (100). And returning to the simplicity of the solution, we can confirm it on our own by trying to learn about RSS – it should not take us more than about 30 minutes. Just like in the case of other systems, this one works on the basis of a cloud (cloud), which allows us to use scalability in the case of expanding our requirements in an elitist manner. The platform database can be expanded with additional fields and tables. The existing ones, however, are editable. We can send e-mails directly from CRM, and the addresses obtained in the correspondence are automatically synchronized with customer records in the database. It is also important that Really Simple Systems is compatible with GDPR.
And what does the list of platform functionalities look like?
- Contact management
- Planning tasks and activities
- Sales forecasting
- Report Wizard
- Automation of sales processes
- Document storage (100MB for FOC)
- Personalization of settings
- Preparing and sending e-mails
- Two-way integration of e-mail addresses
- Integration with financial and accounting systems
- Good availability of educational materials
- Free CRM help
- Available APIs
In addition to the ‘free of charge’ version, there are also paid – Starter (12 EUR / M), Professional (26 EUR / M) and Enterprise (41 EUR / M).