A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Right CRM for Small Businesses

Posted on June 28, 2023 | Updated on October 20, 2023

Entrepreneurs considering scaling their small businesses need customer relationship management (CRM) software that best aligns with their company goals. This will eliminate all the guesswork and allow the team to find exactly what they need to improve customer-business relationships. This article will examine what a CRM is, why it is essential, and five of the best CRM for small businesses to consider to help scale to new heights.

What Is a CRM?

Customer relationship management software allows business owners to track their existing and potential customers. The main goal of a CRM is to improve the relationship between a company and its clients.

CRM software tracks a customer’s interaction with a business and all related contact information of that customer — email, website, contact number, and social media. CRM software also makes employees’ lives easier by combining everything they need — marketing information, support and sales data —  in one place.

If a small business is struggling to keep track of customer interaction and what has been said to them, it might be a sign one needs to invest in good CRM software. Before jumping onto the first CRM, do a bit of research. What are the key features to should look for in a CRM?

How to Identify the Best CRM for Small Businesses

When looking for CRM software that will best suit the needs of a business, there are a few things to look for.

  • Easy to use: Startups don’t want to spend a lot of time learning how to use the software. It needs to be easy to use and understand. Essentially, try looking for a CRM with a low learning curve.
  • Affordability: Look at the price of the upgrade plans as well, instead of only paying attention to the starting plan. An entrepreneur might want to upgrade their plan in the future and not be shocked if they see a sudden price increase.
  • Customization: Businesses want software that can cater to their specific needs. The ability to customize things provides a better experience with the tool.
  • Features: Make a list of everything necessary from the software and keep that in mind when deciding. For example, if one of the key focuses for the enterprise is managing projects, make sure the software can do it very well.
  • Integration: Ensure the CRM can integrate with the programs already in use or intended for use. This will keep an enterprise from unnecessarily switching tools just because the CRM can’t combine with it.
  • Tutorials: No matter what program a business chooses, the system will be new to staff. Look for a company providing plenty of tutorials and hands-on training to show the ins and outs of using the software. Seek one offering videos and printed matter, since employees may have different learning styles.
  • Interface: Most CRM software has an option to try before you buy. Take advantage of the trial period to see if the interface is user-friendly.

The Best CRM for Small Businesses: Top 5 Options

While there are many options, narrowing down the best can help a startup owner make a better decision. Here are five of the best CRMs available to small businesses.

1. Hubspot CRM

Thanks to all the inbound marketing tools it offers, Hubspot is one of the best free CRM software out there. Many small businesses find Hubspot the ideal choice because it is entirely free for the base plan and has an easy-to-learn interface. Another thing this CRM does really well is email marketing.


  • Team collaboration
  • Customer insights
  • Email tracking
  • Facebook, Gmail, and Outlook integration
  • Live communication channels
  • Customizable quotes
  • Custom landing pages and ads management


  • Simplistic and modern design that is easy to navigate
  • Advanced marketing options
  • Content creation tools
  • Helpful and quick support
  • Free plan for unlimited users


  • Upgrading is expensive
  • Customization is limited
  • Payment processing is only available when upgrading
  • Limited automation in the free version

2. Nutshell

The best CRM programs automate lead assignment, taking time sensitive tasks off the table and seeing they go to the proper person. Not only does Nutshell free up management’s time but it ensures potential customers get a response as quickly as possible.


  • Web form collection
  • Lead automation
  • Team collaboration
  • Custom pipeline views
  • Analytics and presentation-ready charts
  • Contact management


  • Easy to locate contacts and past conversations
  • Multiple ways to view and manage pipeline tasks
  • Analysis of marketing efforts and which works best to drive leads that convert
  • Send emails and email drip sequences
  • Excellent customer support
  • Lower cost than competitors


  • Limited to 150 emails per month and then must pay more
  • Data import/export process is complex
  • Reviews state there is a lack of phone integration into the customer management system and addresses must be entered manually
  • Users indicate the app doesn’t work as well with Android devices
  • No CTRL + F search for specific words to locate a contact you perhaps had lunch with or can identify by some other small detail

3. Capsule

This CRM has four plans for customers — free, professional, team, and enterprise. Capsule is a cloud-based platform that is easy to use and navigate. It also has excellent project management features and lots of customizable options to choose from.


  • Task automation
  • Mobile Accessibility 
  • Many customization options
  • Offers different integrations to choose from 


  • Free plan available
  • Clean interface and easy to use
  • Low learning curve
  • Allows easy management of sales processes
  • 30-day free trial for paid plans


  • The free plan has limited features, such as a 250 cap on contacts 
  • Analytic tools could use improvement
  • There are better CRMs out there to scale a business with 

4. Indy

Indy is an all-rounder CRM that helps with a bit of everything. Due to the low learning curve and easy-to-navigate interface, this CRM is very appealing to small business owners. With this platform, all the necessary tools are in one place. Although Indy is built primarily for freelancers, any small business can benefit from this tool’s features.


  • Accounting integration 
  • Compatible with payment services like PayPal and Stripe
  • Easy-to-use workflow 
  • Custom branding options 


  • Affordability 
  • Good CRM to help scale
  • Offers nine different tools in one place 
  • Easy to use 


  • Limited template options 
  • Time-tracking features could improve
  • Needing to upgrade to the paid version to unlock more advanced features

5. Pipedrive

Pipedrive is the perfect CRM tool for pipeline-management-oriented small businesses. When using this CRM, users can see their entire sales process laid out in front of them. With this visual approach, companies are able to view their sales progress and identify areas that need their attention.

Pipedrive is a cloud-based system, meaning owners can access it virtually anywhere. It also has an app, making it a perfect option for small businesses on the go.

Unfortunately, they do not have a free plan, but they offer a trial allowing entrepreneurs to experience all the benefits of the premium version. A 14-day trial should be enough for a small business to determine whether or not Pipedrive is for them. 


  • Customizable dashboard
  • Sales assistant tool (AI integration)
  • Customizable visual pipelines
  • Mobile app available
  • Third-party integrations


  • Has features available such as lead generation, creating proposals, and around-the-clock live chat with email support 
  • Extremely easy to use 
  • Offers a lot of customization
  • Cost-effective


  • No free plan 
  • Requires some learning to get the most out of this CRM tool
  • Only some security features are available when upgrading to their Enterprise plan

6. Salesforce

A list of the best CRM tools would not be complete without mentioning Salesforce — the first CRM sales tool ever to exist. Although they are expensive with all the features and support they offer, they are definitely worth a mention. If it is within the budget and leaders want to scale in the future, consider looking at everything that Salesforce has to offer.


  • Workflow automation
  • Customizable dashboard
  • Contact and lead management
  • Cloud-based platform
  • There are many integrations to choose from


  • Many features that can help a business scale
  • Cloud-based system
  • Able to customize to unique business needs
  • Training and technical support


  • No free version
  • Plans are expensive
  • High learning curve

7. Monday Sales CRM

Monday touts itself as an all-in-one sales solution that does everything from lead capturing to sales pipeline. In additon, brands can track team projects, offer customer onboarding and pay attention to marketing activities.


  • Offers customer onboarding to make new clients feel at home
  • Syncs with Gmail and Outlook email
  • Offers templates to help send customized emails to leads
  • Set goals and track results via activity and sales figures
  • Analyze current trends and do some sales forecasting to see what adjustments the company needs to make


  • High customizable
  • Handle sales cycles and marketing from one central platform
  • Track deals and communication with leads to ensure there is no miscommunication
  • Offers smaller packages for startups and mom-and-pop businesses
  • Easy to use for those without coding knowledge


  • Free trial is limited and one can’t try all the features
  • Enterprise level software can come with a hefty price tag
  • Application takes up a lot of space and can be slow
  • Interactions between different areas isn’t always intuitive
  • Reviewers state email tracking isn’t always reliable and some things must be input manually

Thrive With the Best CRM for Small Businesses

CRM software makes managing a business much more straightforward. Startups need all the efficiency possible to stay on track and earn the most they can in their first years. Utilize this list to discover which one works best for unique needs.

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About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

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