The 8 Best CRM Software Systems for Small Businesses in 2021

CRM system on laptop thumbnail

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 15 March 2021

We’ve researched, ranked, and rated the eight best small business CRM systems in the US. Find yours today, and compare tailored quotes from suppliers


Sometimes, it’s the smallest of businesses that come with the largest of workloads. Contact numbers, emails, spreadsheets, folders… it’s enough to make your head explode. How do you keep tabs on all the admin, while keeping all your staff on the same page?

With a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, that’s how. This is software that will help you automate your customer service team’s issue management efforts, and tailor your marketing campaigns for better results. CRM software also acts as a central hub for all your small business’s lead, deal, and client information, accessible any time, and from anywhere in the world.

Choosing to start using a CRM is the easy part. But choosing exactly which CRM is right for your small business? Well, that’s a little more difficult.

That’s why we’ve researched, rated, and reviewed eight of the industry’s key suppliers. You can view our methodology below, or read on to start scrutinizing suppliers. Or, if you’re short on time and just want to begin comparing quotes, we can help with that too.

Simply provide us with some details about your requirements, and the type of CRM software you’re interested in. In return, we’ll put you in touch with leading CRM suppliers, who’ll provide you with quotes tailored to your small business.


The best CRM systems for small businesses in 2021

According to our expert research, the best CRM for small businesses is Freshworks CRM.

Joining the industry leader at the summit of small business CRM excellence are HubSpot, monday.com, Salesforce, Zendesk, Zoho, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and SugarCRM.

Scroll on to find out why Freshworks CRM triumphs, or use the list to your left to jump to a specific small business CRM supplier.


1. Freshworks CRM

Most user-friendly CRM for small businesses. Great for solopreneurs. Best customer support. Free version.

When you’re going to be staring at something for forty hours a week, you at least want it to look nice. That’s why we recommend Freshworks – its smooth, slick interface is true to its name, offering a refreshingly vibrant approach to small business management. It’s leaner when it comes to features, sure, but counters that with 24/5 customer support, stripped-back lead and deal management pipelines (pictured), and an irresistible starting price of just $19 per month.

Expert Rating: Try Freshworks CRM for Free
Freshworks CRM CRM interface
FunctionStarting priceHighest price
Sales$29 per user, per month (free version available)$99 per user, per month
Marketing$19 per month$99 per month
Customer-for-Life*$29 per user, per month$125 per user, per month
Customer support: Live chat (24/5), phone (24/5), email, knowledge center
Data storage limit: 1GB to 100GB per user, dependent on plan. No data storage available with Freshworks’ free plan.
Contact limit: 1,000 to 25,000
Integrations: Freshworks CRM has several key native integrations – including with all of its own products, naturally!

Freshworks CRM’s ‘Customer-for-Life Cloud’ plan encompasses the provider’s core sales and marketing functionalities, and packages those up with key chat and telephony features.

A separate product, ‘Freshdesk’, caters specifically to the CRM needs of customer service teams.

Pros:

  • Free version available
  • 24/5 phone-based support for all users – Freshworks CRM is the only provider to offer this
  • Budget-friendly

X Cons:

  • No social tracking
  • You’ll need to upgrade to at least Freshworks CRM’s ‘Growth’ plan to make it worthwhile

Freshworks CRM for small businesses: The verdict

Affordable, straightforward, and easy on the eye, Freshworks CRM is an ideal first CRM. There’s a free forever tier, after all, and round-the-clock weekday support is on hand to walk those small business owners with less CRM experience through any teething pains.

Did You Know?

Freshconnect is a free add-on that works with Freshworks CRM’s products for both sales and marketing teams. It’s an internal communication tool that allows your staff to send instant messages to each other, without leaving the CRM software’s interface.


2. HubSpot

Best small business CRM for marketing automation. Ideal for creating and executing email campaigns. Free plan.

When you’re going to be staring at something for forty hours a week, you at least want it to look nice. That’s why we recommend Freshworks – its smooth, slick interface is true to its name, offering a refreshingly vibrant approach to small business management. It’s leaner when it comes to features, sure, but counters that with 24/5 customer support, stripped-back lead and deal management pipelines (pictured), and an irresistible starting price of just $19 per month.

Expert Rating: Try HubSpot for Free
FunctionStarting priceHighest price
Sales/Service$50 per user, per month (free version available)$120 per user, per month (minimum of 10 users required)
Marketing$50 per user, per month$320 per user, per month (for up to 10,000 contacts)
Customer support: Live chat, phone, email, knowledge center
Data storage limit: 1,000 documents to no limit (dependent on plan)
Contact limit: Most HubSpot products have no limits, though its marketing offering restricts you to between 1,000 and 10,000 contacts (dependent on plan)
Integrations: HubSpot integrates with over 300 applications via the HubSpot App Marketplace.
Are you a startup? You might be eligible for 90% off, thanks to HubSpot’s ‘HubSpot for Startups’ program.
HubSpot CRM interface

Pros:

  • Fantastic customer approval ratings
  • Extensive knowledge base
  • Slick user interface

X Cons:

  • Among the more expensive CRM systems you’ll find – particularly its marketing automation module
  • Onboarding fees apply

HubSpot for small businesses: The verdict

HubSpot’s not cheap, and we can certainly see why this CRM’s price tag will dissuade some of the more thrifty small business owners out there.

Investment here, though – which you can make from $50 per month, or else stick with a free plan – scores you the finest marketing CRM features around… full stop!

Small businesses looking to graduate from Mailchimp and engineer email marketing campaigns with more serious firepower should look no further.

Likewise, small businesses looking to do more with their data, and reach their customers across new channels – social media, for instance, or via chatbots – will find plenty to love about HubSpot.


3. monday.com

Best for managing projects and teams. Most intuitive design. Highly affordable.

OK, OK… monday.com is more of a project management tool than a full-blown CRM. But when it has such a captivating interface (its color-coded, drag-and-drop timeline planner, which is pictured below, screams productivity), we’re not getting too caught up in the semantics. Sure, it doesn’t quite boast all the features of a fully-realized CRM… but as a hip, low-budget alternative for managing tasks and projects, it’ll get the job done.

Expert Rating: Try monday.com for Free
FunctionStarting priceHighest price
All$7.80 per user, per month$15.80 per user, per month
Customer support: Phone, email, knowledge center
Data storage limit: 5GB to unlimited
Contact limit: N/A
Integrations: monday.com integrates with a wide range of email service providers, plus applications that support collaboration, communication, conference calls, event management, and data collection.
monday.com CRM interface

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Affordable
  • Integrates with your online store

X Cons:

  • No audit trail, segmentation, or social tracking features…
  • …and you can forget about VoIP calling!

monday.com for small businesses: The verdict

If you’re looking for a platform to stay on top of projects, collaborate seamlessly (and remotely!) with your team, and better manage workflows and processes, monday.com is for you. It’s easy to get the hang of and use, too, and the price point makes it an alluring proposition for smaller teams and solopreneurs.

Bear in mind, though, that it won’t bear phone integration, or the elaborate tracking and analytical tools that CRM offers.


4. Salesforce

Best for analytics. Most comprehensive all-round CRM, with 24/7 phone support available.

Best in class analytics, 24/7 phone-based support, and pricing which starts from $25 per user, per month? We like the sound of that. Offering thousands of app integrations, unlimited contacts, and just about every feature a small business could ask for, Salesforce is one of our top CRM selections. Be warned, though – Salesforce does come with a fairly steep learning curve. And beyond its cheapest tier, it gets expensive – and fast. We’d recommend small businesses stick to the ‘Essentials’ plan, to keep costs down!

Expert Rating: Compare small business CRM quotes
FunctionStarting priceHighest price
Sales/Service$25 per user, per month$300 per user, per month
Marketing$400 per month$3,750 per month
Analytics$75 per user, per month$150 per user, per month
Customer support: Live chat, phone (24/7), email, knowledge center
Data storage limit: 10GB (+ 2GB per licence) of files, 10GB (+ 20MB per licence) of data
Contact limit: No limit
Integrations: Salesforce has a large app exchange (conveniently titled ‘AppExchange’), where you can connect the CRM to over 2,000 third-party applications.
Salesforce CRM interface

Pros:

  • Its ‘Einstein Analytics’ add-on is one of the most advanced reporting tools money can buy
  • No contact limit
  • Free trial available for sales, service, and analytics modules...

X Cons:

  • …but not for its marketing automation product
  • 24/7 phone-based support is restricted to Salesforce’s more expensive pricing plans

Salesforce for small businesses: The verdict

The ‘catch’ with Salesforce is a simple one. The more advanced you need it to be, the more expensive it is.

However, it’s a drawback that also plays straight into the hands of small businesses. Because Salesforce starts at just $25 per user, per month, it’s not only affordable, but you can also be sure that you’re not paying for any features that you don’t need.

And, as your small business grows and your data, reporting, and contact management needs balloon, you can upgrade the CRM to fit the scaling dimensions of your operations accordingly.

The sparkling interface, drag-and-drop pipelines, and lack of contact limits are just a bonus!

You’re halfway through our list of the eight best CRM systems for small businesses.

Ready to compare prices from leading CRM providers? Hit one of the buttons below to fire up our quick quote-finding form. We’ll ask a couple of questions to find out what your main priorities are in a CRM, and match you with providers that are the best fit.

Then, you’ll receive quotes from leading providers, each tailored to your small business’s exact size and unique requirements.

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5. Zendesk

Lowest starting price. Excellent customer service automation features for small businesses.

With robust modules for sales and customer service, Zendesk is a versatile CRM offering plenty of value for small businesses. You can get started with a monthly fee of just $5 per user, and benefit from some of the highest quality help and support we came across. Zendesk’s contact management features are a breeze to use, as is calling people through their profiles (pictured). That said, Zendesk – perhaps more than any other small business CRM featured here – ails from freemium software’s biggest weakness: that you’ll need to upgrade to the most expensive plans to enjoy its finest features.

Expert Rating: Compare Small Business CRM Quotes
FunctionStarting priceHighest price
Sales$19 per user, per month$199 per user, per month
Service$5 per user, per month$199 per user, per month
Customer support: Live chat, phone, email, knowledge center
Data storage limit: For sales teams, it’s 2GB to 25GB per user, per month. For customer service teams, it’s 30MB to 200MB per agent, per month in data storage, and 500MB to 10GB per agent, per month in file storage (dependent on plan). More storage can be added at an additional cost.
Contact limit: N/A
Integrations: Zendesk’s sales and service products are supported by a range of free integrations. These enable a range of functions and services, including live chat alerts, and the ability to connect the CRM to your social media platforms.
Zendesk CRM interface

Pros:

  • Extremely low starting price
  • Excellent ticket management capabilities
  • Robust VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)* functionality

X Cons:

  • No document storage
  • Lacks the same level of data analysis as Salesforce and SugarCRM

Wait… what is VoIP? 

VoIP is the name for the technology that allows small businesses to make and take calls over the internet, rather than with a conventional phone line. When CRM software has VoIP capabilities or integrations enabled, it means you can dial contacts and leads – providing their phone numbers are saved on the system – directly from within the CRM’s interface.

As you can imagine, it’s a pretty important feature!

Zendesk for small businesses: The verdict

A lack of marketing functionality hampers Zendesk’s capabilities as an ‘all in one’ CRM solution. But for sales and service teams, it has plenty to offer, and its renowned customer support will have small businesses singing.

Its service CRM solution starts at just $5 per user, per month, too – one of the lowest rates around.


6. Zoho

Best value for money. Simple to get the hang of, easy to use.

Zoho’s logo, which depicts four colorful building blocks, describes the CRM’s interface accurately – it’s so simple, a child really could use it. Add in a jaw-droppingly low price point – at $12 per user, per month for its sales, marketing, and customer service features, you can’t really go wrong – and Zoho is amongst the very best CRM systems for small businesses. And, while its reporting dashboards (pictured) certainly aren’t the most comprehensive that money can buy, they’re still refreshingly pleasant to look at.

Expert Rating: Compare Small Business CRM Quotes
FunctionStarting priceHighest price
Sales/Marketing/Service$12 per user, per month (free version available)$45 per user, per month
Customer support: Live chat, phone, email, knowledge center
Data storage limit: 10MB to 10GB (dependent on plan)
Contact limit: No specified limit
Integrations: Zoho works with a wide range of platforms, as well as integrating with custom third-party apps.
Zoho CRM interface

Pros:

  • Transparent, accessible pricing
  • No. Contact. Limit.

X Cons:

  • No VoIP capability… which is a biggie
  • No phone support

Zoho for small businesses: The verdict

Don’t let its simple, intuitive UI fool you – there’s a lot more to Zoho than meets the eye. With myriad integrations, a variety of plans to scale with your operations, and ‘Zia’ – the software’s conversational, AI-powered assistant – Zoho ticks all the boxes a small business CRM should.


7. Microsoft Dynamics 365

Best small business CRM for data management. Great for reporting and analytics.

If Freshworks CRM is the belle of the ball, Dynamics 365 is its stately gentleman. It’s a classy, complex CRM, offering more insights and number-crunching than most of its peers, but lacking user-friendliness. It’s also more expensive than a lot of the other CRM software we reviewed, though with a starting price of $65 per user, per month, it shouldn’t cause your accountant too many headaches.

Expert Rating: Compare Small Business CRM Quotes
FunctionStarting priceHighest price
Sales$65 per user, per month$199 per user, per month (10 user minimum)
Marketing$1,500 per month for up to 10,000 contacts*Fixed price of $1,500 per month for the system; extra lots of 5,000 contacts cost $250 each
Service$50 per user, per month$95 per user, per month
Customer support: Phone, email, knowledge center
Data storage limit: 32GB, though up to 4TB of additional storage can be purchased.
Contact limit: 10,000, with additional bundles of 5,000 contacts available to buy.
Integrations: Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers plenty of integrations with third-party apps. We recommend using Zapier as the initial conduit between Dynamics and available integrations.

* Reduced to $750 if you already use another Microsoft Dynamics product, and have a minimum of 10 users

Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM interface

Pros:

  • Its generous contact limits pave the way for your small business to scale
  • Its sales and service modules are affordable...

X Cons:

  • …though we can’t say the same for its marketing automation product!
  • No social tracking

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for small businesses: The verdict

Dynamics 365 is certainly a comprehensive CRM tool. However, how much your small business gets out of it will depend largely on not only your tech-savviness, but on the amount of time and effort you’re willing to spend getting to grips with the system’s impressive breadth of features.

Those who are willing will be treated to a super scalable CRM system that offers elaborate insights into helping you understand the performance of your marketing, sales, and customer service efforts. When it comes to that, Dynamics 365 is one of the finest tools a small business can own.


8. SugarCRM

Huge range of integrations. Good for more established small businesses. On-premise deployment available.

If you can look past the $52 per user, per month price tag (make that $1,000 if you’re in marketing!), SugarCRM offers plenty of sweet features for your small business. It’s up there with Salesforce and Dynamics 365 – in terms of analytical CRM software, at least – and is sure to provide suitably granular insights into the health of your small business’ sales. That said, there’s a reason it’s lower down on our list – namely, because of the steep learning curve, and because it’s only more established small businesses that’ll come close to requiring SugarCRM’s daunting breadth of features.

Expert Rating: Compare Small Business CRM Quotes
SugarCRM CRM interface
FunctionStarting priceHighest price
Sales/Service$52 per user, per monthOn request
Marketing$1,000 per monthOn request
Customer support: Phone, email, knowledge center
Data storage limit: 15GB to 250GB (dependent on plan)
Contact limit: 10,000 contacts
Integrations: Released in April 2020, Sugar Integrate facilitates and connects to over 200 different platforms. Sugar Integrate also offers native integrations with several other leading CRM software providers – including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, and Sage – which helps if you’re switching from another CRM system, or importing data from elsewhere.

SugarCRM offers both on-premise and cloud-based CRM variants. 

As a small business, you’ll most certainly want to stick to the ease, convenience, and scalability that the cloud-based kind offers. On-premise CRM does, however, offer more scope for tech customization, and – because you’ll have less ongoing costs to think about – typically works out to be cheaper in the long run.

To learn more about which option is right for you – and browse top providers – explore our guide to the best cloud-based CRM software in 2021.

Pros:

  • Offers an integration for… well, just about any software you can think of!
  • Feature-wise, it’s all there
  • Respectable customer approval scores

X Cons:

  • It’s pricey...
  • …and not particularly user-friendly, either
  • Third-party integration is required to enable VoIP calling

SugarCRM for small businesses: The verdict

SugarCRM isn’t the most affordable CRM system going – which is why we’re recommending it only to the more established small businesses. If you’re already aware of what a CRM system can do, and are looking for a step up to something with a little more of an analytical bent, SugarCRM is a great choice for you.


Next Steps

Still not sure which CRM software is right for your small business? Here’s a recap.

  • Freshworks CRM: easy to use, easy to look at… easy to summarize!
  • HubSpot: ideal for marketing teams, with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface you’ll love.
  • monday.com: great for managing projects and motivating teams, but lacks the power of a fully-fledged CRM system.
  • Salesforce: the industry leader, and for good reason. Trust us – its advanced analytical features justify the price tag.
  • Zendesk: affordable, with a range of pricing plans made to scale with your small business.
  • Zoho: user-friendly and, handily, one of the best cheap CRM systems going. Its generous free version means it’s at least worth trying.
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365: a data-driven analytical platform available at a surprisingly reasonable price point.
  • SugarCRM: very feature-rich, but expensive.

So, what next? Well, if you’re at least half as curious as our researchers, you’ll want to find out more – specifically, how much a solution tailored to your small business’s requirements will cost. Luckily, we can make that much easier than it sounds…

Simply take 30 seconds out of your day and give our free quote-finding form a whirl. In exchange for some details about your small business’ specific requirements, we’ll match you with the CRM suppliers that fit them. You’ll then receive quotes tailored to your preferences and team size.

And, if you have experience using any of the small business CRM software we’ve reviewed, let us know. We’re a user-focussed bunch here at Expert Market, and are always looking to add testimonials from small US businesses to our site.

If you use CRM and have something to say about it, let me know at rob.binns@expertmarket.com. Until then!


FAQs

What Does CRM Software Do for a Small Business?

Feeling clued up on the suppliers, but still not sure what a CRM system can do for you? Read on…

Contact management

For most small businesses, making lasting connections with customers is high up on their list of priorities. But it’s not always easy – unless you have a CRM system, that is. Contact management helps you capture key contact information, and store notes on interactions to follow up later.

You’ll know exactly which members of your team are dealing with which customers, too, so there’s no treading on toes – and no deals slipping through your fingers.

Sales management

Managing a sales team (and their egos) can be complicated, but CRM makes it easier. Sales management helps you keep track of team member activities – who’s selling the most, and why? A CRM helps you draw on analytics from day-to-day trading, and – crucially – use these to drive better, more motivated teams.

Customer service management

All small businesses, at some stage, will have to deal with complaints. But do you have a system set up for handling them? If not, CRM can help. Customer service management lets you log customer issues, and take deep dives into any recurring problems.

Marketing and social media automation

But by now, you’re asking – what’s the point of having all that data, if you’re not going to use it? Well, don’t worry – with a CRM system, you can. CRM software lets you craft and deliver targeted bulk email marketing campaigns to your database.

Good CRM systems also work with social media. Save time by automating posts to your followers, and keep them engaged with relevant curated content. You can also integrate CRM software with social listening tools, allowing you to (quite literally) tap into what people online are saying about your brand and industry.

I'm In the Process of Setting Up My Own Small Business. Is CRM Right For Me?

Of course! CRM software isn't just for more established small businesses – it's an ideal way of managing key supplier and deal information, while nurturing a growing customer base.

Plus, you can get some (albeit heavily limited) CRM systems completely free, so won't have to worry about another overhead clogging up your expense sheet.

Up next: Compare CRM Software Costs 2021

And as a reminder, if you want to compare quotes from top suppliers, just complete our form with some details about your requirements. Hit one of the buttons below to get started, and enjoy your tailored, no-obligation quotes and advice – they’re on us.

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Our CRM Research Methodology US
Rob Binns
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

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