Free CRM for Small Business: How to Find “The One”

Our brains are hardwired to develop habits and stick to them. That’s why we so often cling to familiar tools and routines — even when they cost us way too much time or effort.

You’ve probably heard that switching to a CRM is a game-changer for any business. After all, over 91% of companies with more than ten employees already use CRMs.

CRM software allows you to eliminate chaotic spreadsheets, inbox clutter, and sticky notes and never look back. It helps you organize and track your deals, measure your success, and make data-driven decisions quickly and with absolute confidence.

But implementing new software often causes stress, confusion, and, well, extra expenses. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

There are many free CRMs explicitly created for solopreneurs, startups, and small and medium-sized business (SMB) owners. Let’s find out what they can do and how to choose the one that is right for you.

Table of Contents:

What is a free CRM?

A customer relationship management (CRM) system is more than just a sales tracker. It’s also a place where you keep all your customer data, score leads, and start nurturing campaigns. A CRM allows you to spend up to 50% less time on these tasks.

This begs the question, how can any CRM be available for free? What’s the catch? 

With a free CRM, you usually get limited users, storage, and features. Some CRM platforms are free during a trial period, while others offer a free-forever plan.

Nevertheless, both options allow you to window-shop before making any financial commitments, so you shouldn’t dismiss them. Dip your toe in the water and compare different interfaces for free — that’s the best way to find customer relationship management software you’ll genuinely like.

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How small businesses can benefit from using a CRM

A CRM solution can make all your sales-related processes and activities simpler, smarter, and more effective, but you need to know what to look for.

There are enough clunky, non-customizable free CRMs that can do more harm than good — you’ll end up adjusting your own routine to fit their rigid interface. As a small business owner, you need a flexible CRM that can cover all your needs and doesn’t call for a team of developers to set it up.

how crm benefits small businesses
How CRM benefits small businesses

Here’s what you should be able to do with an intuitive, all-in-one customer relationship management platform:

  1. Track every customer interaction to maintain complete customer context: Understand where they are in your sales pipeline, their past activity, what they’ve discussed with your representatives, and how you can accommodate their current needs.
  2. Get a bird’s-eye view of your sales process and assess its strong and weak stages: See how many leads you have at various stages, who’s currently taking care of them, and how likely they are to move to the next stage.
  3. Save hundreds of hours of unbilled time: Forget about pointless switching between messengers, tools, and apps and manage all aspects of customer relationships from one place.
  4. Prevent miscommunications within your team: Help everyone stay in the know without having to write bulky emails or manually check for deal updates.
  5. Create and distribute tasks: Effectively manage your team’s workload and keep things running smoothly by delegating and assigning deals and tasks in one click.
  6. Analyze how everyone on your sales team is performing: Increase transparency and accountability within your team to reward high achievers and provide underperforming teammates with training and support.
  7. Increase your data accuracy: Replace manual data submission and copy-paste errors with automated contact updates and synchronized data across different communication channels.
  8. Improve customer retention and recover abandoned sales opportunities: Save falling-apart deals and bring passive leads back to life by making timely follow-ups and automatically sending them nurturing emails.
  9. Scale your business without getting your sales reps overwhelmed: Easily deal with sudden spikes in demand and prevent client disappointment by distributing workload evenly and using data-driven forecasting.
  10. Integrate your CRM with automation tools to align your marketing and sales efforts: Make all your tools sing in unison and access them from one tab in your browser.

These benefits alone can outweigh all potential frictions and minor inconveniences caused by a typical CRM setup. But let’s also look at the most prominent free CRM features to understand the advantages of these systems even better.

Eight free CRM features small businesses didn’t know they needed

Look for these specific features to reach your most ambitious CRM goals. They’ll also help you streamline the most mind-numbing and repetitive tasks so you can enjoy using your CRM from day one.

1. Easy contact migration

This feature makes it easier for you to migrate to your new CRM. You don’t need to transfer your contacts manually — simply compile them into a CSV file and upload them to your CRM account.

crm contact migration
CRM contact migration

If you own a small business, chances are, you already have some sort of a customer data file — say, an Excel spreadsheet. Simply export it as a CSV file, and you’re good to go.

If you migrate to ActiveCampaign’s CRM, you can test the contact migration process using our sample import CSV file to be absolutely sure that it’ll go smoothly.

At this stage, you can also add custom contact fields to store additional information about your leads. For example, their company size, concerns, or financial constraints — anything that may help your sales team understand them better.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. As a rule of thumb, you can only import active, opt-in contacts. If your customer data is purchased or invalid, you won’t be able to proceed with the setup.
  2. Instead of dealing with self-service implementation, you can reach out to your software provider and ask them if they can help you migrate your contact list, forms, email templates, and even pages.

For instance, if you want to import all your data to ActiveCampaign completely stress-free, our free Expert Migration service will take care of that. We also have Education Center and onboarding webinars to help you start on the right foot.

2. Lead scoring

Some free CRM systems can automatically assign values to your leads based on their engagement with your business. For example, ActiveCampaign’s CRM can track your page visits, purchases, email open rates, signups, downloads, and many other metrics to identify those contacts who are more likely to convert.

Scoring your leads helps you find the most valuable and promising deals and focus on closing them. Also, this feature allows you to see less engaged leads and target them with personalized nurturing campaigns and more relevant offers.

In our free CRM, you can create your own lead scoring conditions based on the actions you want your audience to take.

scoring leads in activecampaign's crm
Scoring leads in ActiveCampaign’s CRM

For example, you may want to concentrate on leads who have already registered for your consultation or subscribed to your updates. Our visitor and email tracking features will provide you with that priceless data.

By scoring your leads, you can easily find the most active and interested contacts and give them the attention they need. This feature is crucial for any growing business — the more deals you get, the harder it’ll be to evaluate them manually.

3. Lead segmentation

Unlike scoring, lead segmentation doesn’t necessarily help you find the most lucrative sales opportunities. Instead, it allows for a greater degree of personalization in your email communications.

segmenting leads through crm
Segmenting leads through CRM

Here’s how it works. You split your contact list into segments that share similar characteristics or behaviors. Then, you send them tailored messages and relevant content to help them move down the funnel.

You can use ActiveCampaign’s segment builder to communicate with your leads more effectively and boost your email deliverability. Segment your audience by tags, custom data fields, contact details, actions, geography, or deal characteristics such as deal status, value, etc.

4. Automated deal notifications and updates

It’s easy to get carried away with never-ending tasks and forget to follow up with your leads. However, this won’t happen to you if you set up deal notifications to stay informed about everything happening in your sales pipelines. In ActiveCampaign’s CRM, you can choose which notifications you want to receive and how often.

crm deal updates
CRM deal updates

Automated deal updates can also be beneficial. For example, you can set up automations so that a deal stage will automatically change if that contact visits your website or expresses their interest by subscribing to your emails.

5. Collaboration tools

Even free customer relationship management software can significantly improve the way your teams work together. Everyone will have access to the same intuitive dashboard, and there’ll be little to no tedious back-and-forth messaging.

collaborating in crm
Collaborating in a CRM

A CRM can boost your team collaboration in many other ways, too:

  • Anyone on your sales team can add notes to the deals and contact records they’re working with to keep others in the loop.
  • Each sales manager can see their own progress and how their teammates are performing.
  • Your marketing and sales teams can access all customer conversations stored in a unified inbox.
  • Your team can use shared image assets from a single destination within the CRM.
  • You can connect ActiveCampaign’s CRM to Slack and 800+ other apps to chat and collaborate with your colleagues and partners without leaving your primary workspace.

Start tracking your leads. Download our FREE Excel and Google Sheets CRM now!

6. Task and deal assignment

Keep the wheels turning by automatically assigning incoming deals to specific team members or whoever is less busy at the moment. This feature helps you find comfort knowing that all your potential customers will be taken care of. You can, of course, take back control and assign especially vulnerable deals manually.

assigning tasks in crm
Assigning tasks in CRM

Creating and assigning tasks to individual salespeople is an easy way to ensure that your team reaches out to the highest quality leads at the right time. You can do it manually or with the help of automations. Your assignee will receive automated reminders before any due date, so they won’t have to manually put it on their calendar.

7. Customization

Many CRM solutions allow you to customize your workspace to better reflect your unique sales process. For instance, in ActiveCampaign’s CRM, you can add, edit, and remove deal stages and even give them a new, more distinct look using your brand colors.

customizing crm
Customize your CRM

You can also customize your admin panel by adding a custom logo and favicon and updating your website name. When you outgrow your current plan, you will be able to switch to an enterprise plan and get even more customization options, such as custom CSS and email headers and footers.

8. In-depth sales reporting and forecasting

CRM software arms you with insightful data and allows you to spot weaknesses in your email marketing and sales strategy. Generating CRM reports is the most reliable way to track the progress of your goals.

crm report types
Types of CRM reports

Here are the key areas ActiveCampaign’s CRM reporting can shed some light on:

  • Total number and value of deals created, won, and lost across all pipelines
  • Individual sales performance and activity
  • The average sales cycle duration
  • The pipeline status
  • Revenue forecasts on a daily, weekly, or monthly cycle
  • Automation and email campaign overview
  • Lead sources and the number of contacts acquired

In short, in-depth reporting and other CRM tools allow you to see the big picture, meaning how many sales you’re getting and whether your sales reps are reaching out to the right people. You can extract even more value from custom reports, but those usually come with enterprise pricing plans.

Try our CRM for free and automate your entire sales process

Imagine using a single platform for deal tracking, managing contacts, sending email campaigns, creating sophisticated marketing automations, and delivering state-of-the-art customer service. 

You’re one click away from making it your new routine.

Try ActiveCampaign’s CRM — it’s an all-in-one solution with powerful marketing tools and hundreds of valuable integrations. We have everything you need to get started: a free trial with no card required, an intuitive and clean design, a helpful community, training webinars, tutorials, guides, and more.

Our free Expert Migration service makes moving to ActiveCampaign a breeze, no matter what marketing software you used before. Our support team is there to help you start selling smarter byautomating lead nurturing and other parts of your customer lifecycle.

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