The 5 Best CRMs for Marketing and Creative Agencies

Rob Binns

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Marketing and creative agencies should employ a dedicated CRM system that provides crucial features such as email tracking, workflow automation and integration with existing platforms. With these features under your belt, you'll be confident in rolling out the most effective, data-driven campaigns.

We’ve put our decade-long expertise in reviewing CRM products to good use, and shortlisted the five best options for your marketing or creative agency.

Read on for our recommendations or use our free comparison tool to find the best CRM system for your needs and receive tailored quotes.

What are the top 5 CRMs for marketing and creative agencies?

These are the providers we recommend based on our research. Clicking on the links will take you to the provider's website.

  1. Freshsales – Best Overall for Marketing Teams
  2. HubSpot – Best Free Plan
  3. Keap – Best for Small Teams
  4. Zoho CRM – Best for Integrating with Sales and Customer Service
  5. monday.com – Best for Managing Creative Projects and Teams

What is a Marketing CRM?

Many teams employ the help of a CRM tool, including sales, customer service and marketing. We'll focus on how CRM can support marketing and creative teams. CRM broadly means customer relationship management, its main aims are to offer a solution for contact and lead management and to personalize the customer experience to ensure that a strong relationship is built with the brand.

Marketing teams often work on attracting leads at the top of the sales funnel, so their use of CRM may include lead generation, campaign tracking, email marketing automation, email design, landing pages, web form creation, lead scoring and grading, and analyzing campaign metrics.

The aim is to qualify leads and move them further along the sales pipeline, where the relationship will continue to be built by colleagues in the sales department. CRM primarily serves as a centralized database for managing contacts. Since most CRM platforms integrate with your pre-existing email marketing apps like MailChimp or Canva, it's wise to prioritize the lead management capabilities when selecting a CRM platform.

Top 5 Marketing and Creative Agency CRMs

We analysed 13 top CRM providers and whittled them down to our top five favourites for marketing and creative teams based on marketing features, user experience, customer support and value for money.

Our Top Five

1. Freshsales
2. HubSpot
3. Keap
4. Zoho CRM
5. Monday.com

Swipe right to see more
0 out of 0

Keap

Price Range

$15 – $83 per user, per month

Price Range

$0 –  $1,781 per user, per month

Price Range

$129 – $479 per user, per month

Price Range

$14 – $52 per user, per month

Price Range

$8-$30 per user, per month

Free Plan
Free Plan
Free Plan
Free Plan
Free Plan
Key Features
  • Extensive reporting features
  • AI assistant
  • Automated and tracked emails
Key Features
  • Free unlimited drip campaigns
  • Email A/B testing
  • Social media integration

 

Key Features
  • Unlimited automation
  • Unlimited storage
  • Free one on one onboarding support
Key Features
  • Customer segmentation for personalized campaigns
  • Networking features for events

 

Key Features
  • Unlimited sales pipelines
  • Customization
  • Mobile app

Prices correct as of August 2023

Why Can You Trust Expert Market for Marketing CRM Recommendations?

At Expert Market, we are dedicated to helping our readers make informed purchases to make their businesses thrive. Our publishing team is completely separate from our sales team, so our research-backed opinions are independent of financial persuasion.

We conduct an unbiased, user-led testing process to evaluate the best CRM on the market. Refer to our methodology section for a more detailed breakdown of how we arrived at our top five.

1. Freshsales – Best Overall for Marketing Teams

Freshsales Logo
Freshsales
Pricing $15 - $83 per user, per month
Who it's best for

Freshsales is our top all-round recommendation for marketing teams as it offers the most extensive features for marketing success and plenty of app integrations for a seamless experience.

Strengths

Highly customizable campaign builders

Simple software with shallow learning curve

24/5 phone and live chat support

Premium plans come with AI-driven analytics and automation bot, ‘Freddy’

Weaknesses

Fewer third party integrations than Zoho

Freshsales' CRM’s package for customer service teams, ‘Freshdesk’, isn't included

Pricing
TiersPrice (paying annually)Price (paying monthly)
Growth $15 per user, per month $18 per user, per month
Pro $39 per user, per month $47 per user, per month
Enterprise $69 per user, per month $83 per user, per month

Taking the top spot for marketing features in our independent analysis, Freshsales is the overall best CRM for marketing teams. It has all the features you expect to help your marketing team flourish and has a near-flawless usability score for being so accessible. Its plentiful email templates and preset dashboards make creating and analyzing the success of your campaigns easy.

Freshsales’ Marketing CRM Features

  • Email design editor: Freshsales' email marketing design editor allows you to assemble campaigns with headings, footers, images, and videos. The drag-and-drop style makes it approachable for users without much prior design experience. If your creative juices aren’t flowing – or you simply want to save time – you can choose from Freshsales’ 169 templates, categorised by newsletter, offers, promotions and transactional.
  • AI assistant: “Freddy” can help take the guesswork out of lead management by scoring the quality of contacts based on a number of factors, e.g. email open or click-through rate. While it offers the flexibility of segmenting your audience into separate ‘lists’ it does not offer an A/B testing feature for its email platform, so you cannot test your designs as you can with Keap.
  • Freshsales Suite: An entire section of the platform dedicated to building landing pages and web forms. With a similar, user-friendly drag-and-drop editor you can change the font, color and layout of any of the numerous design templates including categories such as webinar, ebook, lead gen, e-commerce, events, newsletter sign-up, free download, customer success, and B2B.
  • Drip campaigns: There are 24 drip campaign templates provided but it’s easy to create your own as you’ll be walked through a short tutorial at the start to get the hang of the different functions needed to set up a workflow.

Why Should You Choose Freshsales’ Marketing CRM?

As well as offering extremely user-friendly campaign builders and accessible reporting systems, Freshsales also boasts the best customer support of all the CRM systems we looked at. You’ll have expert support on hand who can build your CRM in 30 minutes, as well as 24/5 phone and live chat service, plus all the email and social media support you’d demand from any self-respecting CRM.

There’s also an impressively extensive knowledge base available online, where you can watch tutorials, read articles, and participate in tutorials to make sure you're getting the most out of Freshsales' system.

Freshsales allows you to talk to an expert when setting up your CRM account
Customer review

My experience with Freshsales has been great for what I need. We have email campaigns set up to reach back to clients who are interested in working with us at a later date and Freshsales allows us to easily set up a monthly campaign and send it out to 100+ people within a day. Definitely a great service for what I need.

Sam Ressler, Freshsales user
- 26th February 2021 - Trustpilot

2. HubSpot – Best Value for Money

HubSpot logo
HubSpot
Pricing $0 - $1,781 per month
Who it's best for

HubSpot offers a free plan that is a worthy rival to many of its paid competitors, making it a top contender for marketing teams seeking CRM software with minimal financial investment.

Strengths

Bots collect leads

Take payments

Make and receive calls

Weaknesses

Limited number of pipelines

No analytics or custom reports (Standard tier)

Permissions editing only at Enterprise tier

Pricing
PlanPricing
Free Tools Free
Starter (Marketing Tools) $20, per 2 users, per month
CRM Starter Suite (Marketing, Sales and Service) $20 per month (billing monthly) $216 per month, no user limit stated
Professional $500 per month (billed monthly) $5,400 per month, no user limit stated
Enterprise $1,200 per month (billed annually) $14,400 per month, no user limit stated

For a free plan, it doesn’t get much better than HubSpot. If you’re not ready to commit to a paid CRM system, or not sure if it’s something your team will benefit from, HubSpot is an excellent place to start at no extra cost. If you do find it works for you, its tiered pricing makes it easy to upgrade to a fuller plan.

HubSpot’s Marketing CRM Features

  • Contact segmentation: HubSpot’s free plan allows you to segment your contacts according to certain characteristics and easily switch between your segmented view and full list.
  • Email campaign building: There is a fully customizable editor however only five templates are provided which is far fewer than some of the paid plans (Freshsales and Keap). Nevertheless, the email builder is intended for marketing purposes as the templates are split into 3 categories: welcome, promotion and newsletter.
  • Integrations: If you're Canva-savvy, you’ll be happy to learn that HubSpot can integrate with Canva so you’ll also have the option to design your emails directly within HubSpot using Canva design features.
  • Webform builder: Build fully customizable web forms, albeit with a few limitations for free users around changing fonts and colours and a pesky watermark, which is removed on the paid plan.
  • Chatbot: With HubSpot’s free plan you can also create chatbots to offer customer service, qualify leads and book meetings – which is a rare feature, for a paid plan, let alone a free option.

Why Should You Choose HubSpot’s Marketing CRM?

If you’re a small business owner or freelancer looking to upscale your marketing efforts with a dedicated CRM system, HubSpot Free is the perfect solution. Regardless of it being free, the features are objectively generous and geared toward marketing teams. Its wide range of tiers means if you outgrow the capacity, you’ll easily be able to upgrade without experiencing too much upheaval.

HubSpot’s free plan does not offer social media integration or drip marketing campaigns, so if they are especially important you may need to think about an alternative paid plan, such as HubSpot Professional or Freshsales.

During our testing, we found HubSpot's email editor simple to use
Customer review

We have used multiple CRMs in our company. We transitioned to HubSpot last year for our marketing team. In the first few months we built out automation workflows for lead routing, we built out automation workflows for nurtures, and automation for the entire marketing pipeline. The company was able to become more of a data driven organization by using custom built HubSpot reports. Since then, we have transitioned our sales development, account executives, manager, and VPs into HubSpot as well.

Jacob Feuerman, HubSpot user
- 30th November 2022 - Trustpilot

3. Keap – Best for Small Teams

Keap Logo
Keap
Pricing $159-$289 per month
Who it's best for

Keap is a great CRM system, yet it's a more expensive option than most, and therefore an investment best suited to scaling business operations. Marketing and sales managers in industries such as fast-moving consumer goods, ecommerce, fashion retail, professional services, insurance, and technical or support services will benefit from a Keap subscription.

Strengths

Unlimited automated workflows

Dedicated account manager

Unlimited storage

Weaknesses

Plan limited to two users

Limited contacts

Pricier than other plans

Pricing
PlanPrice
Pro 2 users included ($29 per additional user), 1500 contacts $159 per month (billed annually) $199 per month (billed monthly)
Max 3 users included ($29 per additional user) 2,500 contacts $229 per month (billed annually) $289 per month (billed monthly)

Keap's focus is all about automation, which means it takes over monotonous actions that can easily be outsourced to software, such as sending emails, segmenting leads and following up on invoices. While Keap is considerably more expensive than the other providers, its unlimited automation can save you a ton of time and after all, time is money.

Keap’s Marketing CRM Features

  • Unlimited automation: Keap is the automation MVP, with unlimited potential to create automated workflows based on specific events and triggers. While it can sometimes be complicated and time-consuming to set up automations, it's one of the biggest benefits of using a CRM software due to the amount of time you can save and reallocate to more important matters.
  • One-on-one coaching: To ensure you squeeze the most out of your CRM platform, Keap provides you with a dedicated CRM expert to help set up your software and answer any questions you may have. Keap is the only platform that offers onboarding help at no extra cost. If you're investing in software, you want to be sure you're using it to its maximum potential so this is a huge plus.
  • Email design editor: Keap's email design editor allows you to create personalized campaigns and send them out to contacts, who are segmented based on criteria that you assign them. This ensures that you don't lose the human touch in your email marketing.

Why Should You Choose Keap’s Marketing CRM?

Keap works best for smaller teams or sole traders who need to save time since its plan only includes 2 users and is a little pricier than the other providers. If you fit this bill, it can act as an invaluable extra pair of hands and allow you to focus on more important affairs.

It's worth noting that Keap does not offer integrations with communications apps such as social media platforms and is not the most suitable platform for marketing teams that also require customer support features from their CRM software.

Keap offers a number of automations such as invoice reminders and deal follow-up

4. Zoho CRM – Best for Integrating with Sales and Customer Service

Zoho
Pricing Free - $52 per user, per month
Who it's best for

As well as being our top-rated CRM platform for all-round marketing, sales and customer service teams, Zoho offers a free plan and a free trial so you can be sure it's for you before committing.

Strengths

Free trial

Plenty of software integrations

Onboarding support

Weaknesses

Some features are paid add-ons, not included in price

No drip campaign feature

Pricing
PlanPrice
Free Free
Standard $14 p/a - $20 p/m, per user
Professional $23 p/a - $35 p/m, per user

Zoho CRM is a great all-rounder for marketing teams that need one platform that will integrate well into the sales funnel along with sales and customer service teams. It tops the rankings for its features, doing solidly across the board for marketing, sales and customer service teams.

Zoho’s Marketing CRM Features

  • Social media integration: A key area of marketing is social media, so it's incredibly helpful when your CRM integrates with your social accounts. With Zoho, you can stay on top of customer interactions, get alerts within your CRM and monitor and post on your accounts.
  • Website visitor tracking with Zoho Sales iQ: For a small extra cost, you can introduce Zoho Sales iQ to upscale your marketing efforts. This add-on includes live chat, chatbots, visitor tracking and lead scoring.
  • Email design editor: Zoho offers a user-friendly email template designer so that you can easily achieve professional email campaigns and replicate them by creating stored templates.

Why Should You Choose Zoho’s Marketing CRM?

If you're part of a marketing team that is seeking a one-size-fits-all platform that can easily integrate with sales and customer service teams further down the sales funnel — Zoho is your best bet. It's as fully stocked with sales and customer service features as it is with marketing and its unlimited user limit makes it an excellent choice for a centralized, cross-departmental hub.

Zoho's timeline view gives you greater visibility over your workload

5. monday.com – Best for Customizable Lead Management

monday.com Logo
monday.com
Pricing $8 - 30 per user, per month
Who it's best for

monday.com is suited to multi-tasking managers and service agents thanks to its mobile apps that let you perform tasks on the go. If your business uses lots of codewords, you'll benefit from its wide-ranging customization.

Strengths

Unlimited sales pipelines

Plenty of customization

Weaknesses

No mass email on cheaper plans

No lead scoring

More sales-focused than marketing-focused

Pricing
PlanPrice
Basic Templates for lead management, smartphone app use, unlimited contacts $10 per user, per month (annual billing) $12.50 per user, per month (monthly billing)
Standard Email integration, create invoices, merge duplicate data $14 per user, per month $17 per user, per month
Pro Sales forecasting, mass emails, email automations $24 per user, per month $30 per user, per month
Did You Know?

monday.com doesn’t just count a range of advertising and digital marketing agencies among its glittering client base – it’s also powering the projects of big hitters such as Uber, Universal, and Adobe.

monday.com is highly customizable and is ideal for teams who want to tailor their CRM to their unique processes. Its flexibility extends to being suitable for remote and hybrid teams since its hosted on a cloud-based server and provides handy mobile apps to stay connected on the go.

monday.com's Marketing CRM Features

  • Collaboration and sharing documents: monday.com offers a generous storage limit of 100GB, which allows ample space for document sharing. It further enables team collaboration by allowing annotation within the system.
  • Cloud-based: monday.com is a cloud-based CRM software which, as opposed to an on-premise system, is stored on a remote server. The benefit of this is that the software is automatically updated and maintained by monday.com and all members of your team can access it from wherever they are.
  • Email segmentation: Add a personal touch to your marketing emails by segmenting your customers based on purchasing behavior, customer preferences or other criteria. This can be done manually or automated by your software and means that your emails will be tailored to their recipients.
  • Mobile app: Multi-tasking managers, this one's for you. With monday.com's mobile apps, you can stay connected to your team, leads and campaigns while on the train, plane, you name it.

Why Should You Choose monday.com's Marketing CRM?

monday.com's CRM system is mainly designed with sales teams in mind, so it's not our number one recommendation for marketing teams as it lacks some key marketing functionalities such as email features, website visitor tracking, lead scoring and social media integration. We do love it for a collaborative solution for larger teams as it has an unlimited user limit and is the most customizable platform in this list. With a customizable sales visual sales pipeline, custom objects, fields and fully editable contact fields, you can make this CRM your own.

During our testing, we found monday.com's interface super user-friendly and intuitive to navigate.

Why Would You Need a Marketing CRM?

If you've been in the game a while and managed this far without dedicated CRM software, you may think, “why now?” Of course, any investment in new software should be carefully evaluated but here are a few problems to which CRM may offer a solution.

Too small team

Perhaps you're just getting started or you don't want to invest in hiring extra team members. With a CRM platform, you can outsource time-consuming, repetitive tasks to software and leave your team free to work on more complex matters.

Missed opportunities

If leads seem to be slipping through the net, employing a dedicated CRM platform ensures that data is stored securely in one place. With scoring and tracking features, leads will be analyzed and actions will be suggested to offer you the best chance of conversion.

Unsuccessful email campaigns

Email marketing is notoriously thankless, with the average click-through rate often confined to single figures. With CRM's tracking capabilities, you'll get a better idea of what works and what doesn't. With contact segmentation, you'll also be able to send personalized emails with minimal extra effort.

High drop-off rate or low conversion rate

If you're noticing your website visitors are not converting, or perhaps you're experiencing abandoned carts, a CRM system can help track leads to see where changes need to be made.

What Can You Achieve With a Marketing CRM?

The possibilities are near-endless with CRM software as many offer a hugely broad range of features and can be highly customizable. Here are a few of the top features to look out for when choosing CRM software for marketing.

Automated Workflows

Outsource repetitive marketing tasks like sending emails, posting on socials and more by choosing a CRM platform that offers ample automated workflows. This saves time and allows you to upscale your operations without hiring extra hands.

Campaign Management

CRM platforms provide tools to easily create, execute, and track the results of personalized marketing campaigns across channels all in one place.

Lead Management

Sophisticated lead scoring, routing, and nurturing features allow marketers to focus energy on hot prospects primed for sales.

Analytics & Reporting

Detailed metrics on performance, lead quality, and ROI can be tracked within the CRM platform to optimize marketing efforts.

Personalization

Customer segmentation, profiling tools, and tracking in the CRM enable more personalized, 1:1 marketing experiences as well as tailored sales efforts.

Software Integration

CRMs smoothly integrate with other software tools used by marketing like email services, messaging apps, social platforms, and web analytics.

Centralized Data

A dedicated CRM software platform offers a central space for marketing, sales and customer service teams to collaborate and share data.

Verdict

Our top CRM recommendation for marketing teams is Freshsales. Its unlimited user and contact limit leaves room for expansion. With an impressive range of software integrations, complete reporting capabilities and contact management features, it's the full package. At just $15-$18 per user, per month, it's at the lower end of the spectrum for a professional CRM platform.

However, if you're not quite ready for financial investment, try HubSpot‘s free plan to enjoy many of the same features you'll find on the paid plans, just without the price tag.

That being said, the best way to find the best fit for your agency is to compare quotes and we can help with that. Just use our free quote comparison tool and we'll match you with trusted providers. They'll then get back to you with custom, no-obligation quotes.

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How We Test CRM Systems for Businesses

We tested 13 market-leading CRM systems to evaluate them in terms of functionality, usability, cost, scalability, and more so we can make the most useful recommendations to US businesses.

Our rigorous testing process means these products have been scored and rated in six main categories of investigation and 13 subcategories – in fact, we covered 84 areas of investigation in total. We then gave each category score a ‘relevance weighting' to ensure the product's final score perfectly reflects the needs and requirements of Expert Market readers – and that's our product testing algorithm in a nutshell!

Our main testing categories for CRM systems are:

Features: the functionalities and capabilities provided by the CRM software, such as contact management, lead and opportunity tracking, and task and activity management.

Help and Support: the resources and assistance available to users when they encounter issues or require guidance while using the CRM software.

Customization: the ability to tailor the CRM software to suit the specific needs and processes of the organization, e.g. customizing fields, layouts, and workflows.

Scalability: the ability of the CRM software to accommodate the growth and changing needs of the organization, such as the capacity to handle a growing customer database.

Price: the cost associated with using the CRM software. It includes factors such as licensing fees, subscription plans, and additional charges for add-on modules or features.

Team Structure – Sales CRM: determining if a platform makes it easier to manage large sales teams, including team dashboards, team hierarchies, and team inboxes.

Usability – Small Business CRM: assessing the simplicity of the interface, the ease of navigating through menus and options, and the overall user experience.

 

FAQs

Is there any free CRM marketing software?
Yes – several providers offer free CRM marketing software, such as HubSpot. However, free CRM can come with some limitations on data and contact storage, features, and the number of users that you’re allowed.

If you'd like to bypass these limitations while still keeping costs low, check our top CRM systems for small businesses. These systems are cost-effective, scalable, and come with excellent customer support. Plus, we’ve researched, rated, and ranked them for your convenience!

How does a CRM for marketing and creative agencies differ from a general CRM solution?
Marketing and creative agencies may use the same CRM system as other teams such as sales or customer service teams, often this is the case. However, it's important to look into the features of the chosen CRM provider to see whether it offers the necessary features for marketing operations. These may include, email automation and tracking, webform creation, chatbot creation and website visitor tracking.
Can a CRM for marketing and creative agencies integrate with popular advertising and analytics platforms?
Yes, the beauty of CRM is that it acts as a central hub that connects both colleagues and various software platforms. Zoho, HubSpot and Freshsales are our winners when it comes to software integrations.
Can a CRM system help streamline project management and collaboration within a marketing or creative agency?
For streamlined project management and collaboration within a marketing and creative agency, you'd be better off exploring a dedicated project management software. monday.com offers an excellent platform for project management complete with Kanban boards and Gantt chart views and tools for collaboration to help your team stay on track with its goals.
Are there CRM solutions that offer customizable reporting and analytics for campaign performance tracking?
All of the CRM providers in our list provide reporting and analytics, allowing you to measure the success of your campaigns. Zoho, Freshsales and monday.com go the extra mile by providing custom reporting features.
Written by:
Rob Binns
Rob Binns Services Expert

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.

Reviewed by:
James Macey Senior Business Software Researcher

James thinks all businesses can improve if they use the right technology. At Expert Market, he utilises his 4+ years experience as a researcher to offer specialised advice on a wide range of categories from CRM to Fleet Management.