When you’re just getting started, or have just reached the size where you feel a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, it can be very easy to go with one of the big boys – and often that means HubSpot.
Don’t get me wrong, there was a time when I absolutely loved everything that HubSpot put out and would read everything – as everything was new to me when I first started out on my marketing career.
But, now a little older and wiser, although HubSpot probably is the right tool for some businesses, it certainly isn’t something that I’d suggest everybody gets started with – especially if it is your first time using a CRM, or you’re looking at marketing automation for the first time.
I will add further information to this post down the line, but for now, here’s a quick overview to some of what I’d consider being suitable HubSpot CRM alternatives for small businesses (and those just getting started).
Budget-Friendly CRM Options for Startups and Small Businesses
If you use Gmail for email, then you can get a very basic free CRM integration/extension called Streak which might help you get started, but if you want to do more than just track your sales pipeline, you’re better off going with a proper CRM.
CapsuleCRM provides a basic, low-cost (£12/month/user) simple to use option that will likely meet your needs for the next 12-24 months until you are in a position where you need to utilise marketing automation (e.g. automated workflows, email triggers, lead scoring, etc) or have a high volume database of leads.
However, if you wanted to get started with something that would allow you to more easily scale up and make use of automation, then you’d be better off looking at something that has this capability already built in.
Although HubSpot is a market leader in this category, and has a free plan, experience (I went through a lot of pain with this at 2 previous companies before going freelancer) tells me their pricing model means it gets expensive as soon as you start building your contact lists, and it also takes a while to get everything configured.
In all honesty, you’ll probably find it’s a similar story with all the larger fully-integrated systems, so I suggest you find something that will give you the features you want/need for the next 2-3 years, and then reassess the situation. Really Simple Systems, FreshSales, AgileCRM, and Zoho all have integrated sales, marketing & support tools with free and low-cost plans.
Gold-Vision CRM is the UK-based vendor that I used to work for and has a very good CRM but a slightly clunky automation tool, and there’s no free plan. If you only have a small team (under 5 users), then you’ll probably be too small for them, otherwise it’s definitely worth having a look as although barely anyone has heard of it, it is genuinely one of the best CRMs I’ve ever come across due to the personalisation and configuration options.
SharpSpring is another HubSpot alternative that I have an increasing amount of experience with as one of my clients is using it having found it to be a good, cheaper alternative to HubSpot. From experience so far, it’s not got the best UI, and is rather clunky in the way it manages certain things. But could be a more viable alternative. Again, there’s no free plan available.
Get Hands-On Before You Buy
There should be something for everyone in here. Get yourself a demo – and a free trial if you can. Consider what it really is that you want to be able to do – not what you could do! – and take it from there.
Remember: you can always change your mind and/or upgrade to a different solution. So don’t go all-in on something if you’re not ready for something, it’ll only make things harder to get to grips with, and that means your implementation is much more likely to fail.
Need any help with getting things setup or optimised once you have made your choice, you know where I am 🙂