free vs paid crm

Customer Relationship Management. It’s the term used to describe intelligent business software that helps to manage and track customers (and potential customers!) through their lifetime with your business. But should your business go with a free CRM or paid version?A CRM system can help analyse patterns of customer behaviour, remind staff to follow up on leads, track relationships over time, make predictions about sales and lead generation, and so much more.

If you’ve been using systems such as Excel spreadsheets and Google Contacts to help track customers, then it’s time to upgrade to a CRM. It’s going to make your life that much easier!

Picking up a CRM is a big business decision. This is going to transform the way that you work. There are free CRM solutions and, more commonly, paid CRMs, such as Salesforce CRM Integration And Training.

Free CRMs:

  • Are generally very limited
  • May be suitable for very small businesses with a very restricted budget and not a lot of information to capture
  • Are usually a stripped back version of a paid CRM
  • Usually say that they are free, but then once you are in the system – extra features will need to be paid for to be unlocked.

There is also a category of free CRMs that are what’s known as open source software. These have the code of the CRM software available for anyone to download, configure and change as they wish. Unless you have great technical skills and software developers on hand (code writing!), this can be very difficult. Open source CRMs often offer a paid version where the product comes preconfigured so you don’t have to do the technical stuff.

Paid CRMs:

  • Generally, have tiered pricing solutions, depending on your business size and requirements
  • Offer plenty of user support
  • Mostly cloud based – so you can access it anywhere, on any device

Here we take a look at the differences between Paid and Free CRM solutions.

Team Size

When you start examining free CRM solutions, you’ll often find that the number of users you’re allowed to have on the system is very limited. For example, the free version of Insightly allows just 2 users per account. If you find that you need to go over the limit, you can upgrade your account to a paid version.

With a paid CRM, these are generally charged on a “per user” basis, however you can also find solutions that have unlimited users, or by team group size.


Free CRMs will usually have a limited amount of storage and contacts. For example, the free version of Capsule allows just 250 contacts and 10MB of storage. These are generally only useful for very small businesses, without a lot of data, and who aren’t looking to grow.

You can compare this to the paid version of the product, which provides 2GB of storage per user and up to 50,000 contacts. Another system like Salesforce has 1GB of Record Storage (Around 2 million records, not limited to contacts, leads etc.) and in addition to that, around 3GB per user for file storage. Paid CRMs offer your business room to grow – essential if you want more customers!

Getting Up and Running

With a free product you can’t expect any help from a customer service department. You’ll find yourself trawling through online articles and YouTube videos to find out how to set things up and make your CRM useful.

Paid CRMs will have dedicated customer service staff available, via phone, email, web chats, etc. that can help guide you through the process if you’re having difficulties. They will also usually have an exclusive partner network (like us) who’s daily line of work is to help customers implement the platform successfully.

Add Ons

If you’re using a free CRM, you’ll likely find that it isn’t as punchy as you need it to be for your business, and access to add ons is limited. For example, if you choose the free version of the Zoho CRM, you don’t get access to the Zoho Marketplace, where you can download handy extensions for the CRM – like the MailChimp add on. With any of the paid versions of the product, you can.

Paid CRMs, if they are a busy, big provider, will offer a large array of very useful add ons. These can be both paid and free, and you’re likely to find most of the apps you already use have an extension.

Free CRMs can be useful for a try before you buy type of thing – however paid CRMs have free trial periods, too.

If you really have no budget for a CRM and have a very small business, then you will have to make do with a free CRM. For everyone else, paid CRMs are vastly better than any free versions. Our recommendation for a paid CRM goes to Salesforce, the current industry leader.

Related Tag: Salesforce CRM training

Other Articles in this series:

When Does Your Business Need a CRM?

Making the First Steps with A CRM System – Preparing the Team for Change


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