The Top 10 CRMs for Startups on a Budget: Features and Capabilities Don’t Have to Cost a Fortune

Elizabeth Lockwood

Startups are famous for their ability to bootstrap, but also infamous for their scattergun approach to tools and systems. In the drive to save money and stick to a shoestring budget, startups cobble together solutions that offer what might be perceived as viable functionality for the right cost. Sadly, the true cost often goes unmeasured: lost time, lost productivity, lost opportunities to focus on what really matters while trying to master a chaotic collection of tools and systems never really designed to work together.

There is a solution, though. A CRM, or customer relationship management platform, offers an integrated approach and helps ensure that your team can focus on what they do best while automating and streamlining all the rest. What should you look for in a CRM designed for startups, though?

Finding the Right Choice for Your Startup

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of CRMs out there today. Which is right for your startup? While every startup is unique, they share some similarities, including a tight budget, the need for team members to wear multiple hats, the requirement for collaboration and transparency across all levels, and the drive to bolster revenue and profitability while simultaneously improving efficiency and productivity.

The right CRM can speak to each of those requirements. The trick is finding the correct choice. Really, it comes down to identifying a few key features present within a CRM and then comparing each platform to determine which is most cost-efficient while delivering the right mix of capabilities. Some of the features startups value most include the following:

  • Accurate sales forecasting
  • Sales reporting, automation, and tracking
  • Cross-team alignment
  • Contact/client/customer data management

The right CRM will pull all those capabilities together and provide intuitive ways to achieve your goals. For instance, detailed client/customer cards can provide you with deep information at a glance, including contact information, previous touchpoints and experiences, and more, allowing you to deliver personalized service and drive improved outcomes. This is just one example of how a well-designed CRM can benefit startups.

Making sense of the options

At Smith.ai, we understand just how challenging it can be to find a cost-efficient, capabilities-rich CRM that also dovetails with the rest of your technology stack. We’ve created a list of the top 10 CRMs for startups on a budget with a focus on saving money without sacrificing functionality to make finding the ideal asset simpler. (But don’t forget that the human touch is just as critical – our 24/7 live receptionists ensure you never miss a call, text, email, or Messenger message again). 

Hubspot logo

1. HubSpot

We’ll kick off our list with what is probably one of the best-known CRMs out there. HubSpot has become synonymous with digital marketing and success, and the best news for startups on a budget is that you can use it completely free forever. That’s right – it’s free, no strings attached. Of course, if you want to access more advanced tools, you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version.

HubSpot delivers an in-depth reporting dashboard, deep company insights, deal tracking, and the ability to manage your entire pipeline within the free version. It also enables team performance tracking, email tracking, prospect tracking, and more. Upgrading to the paid version gives you access to advanced features, such as premium CRM tools for closing deals. Some of the top features to consider with HubSpot include the following:

  • Free option? Yes
  • Price: $45 per month
  • Custom landing pages
  • Custom forms
  • Contact website activity
  • List segmentation
  • Email marketing and ad retargeting
  • Form follow-up emails
Close logo

2. Close

The name says it all here. This CRM was designed to help you close more deals and convert more prospects into clients/customers. The designers understand that today’s customers (whether B2B or B2C) don’t rely on a single communications channel or even a handful. They use a broad range of tools and platforms to communicate, and you must be present on all of them to see success. Close offers a robust multi-channel approach to connecting with your audience and building strong, lasting relationships.

From deal tracking to intuitive, custom reporting, automatic logging and syncing to integration with platforms like the G Suite, Slack, Stripe, Zoom, and more, Close delivers the capabilities and functionality that you and your team need, and does so cost-effectively. Some of the most important features of note here include the following:

  • Free option? No, but there is a 14-day free trial.
  • Price: $25 per month for teams of up to three people.
  • Store, track, and manage leads, contacts, and opportunities
  • Task management
  • Activity management
  • Pipeline views
  • Custom activities and reports
  • 2-way email sync
  • Email and auto-response tracking
Agile CRM logo

3. Agile

If you haven’t heard of Agile CRM, it’s time to take a look at what this platform can offer. It’s widely used across industries, but some of its features and capabilities make it very well-suited to startups on a budget. One of those things is that the fact that it’s free to use for teams of up to 10 people, giving you access to plenty of power without a big price tag. 

What do you get for that $0 per month price? A lot, actually. Agile CRM integrates with your existing technology stack, provides web and email tracking, helps automate your marketing process, and provides excellent contact management. You can also track and manage deals and leads, contacts, vendors/partners, and more. Some of the features to know with Agile CRM include the following:

  • Free option? Yes
  • Price: $8.99 per user per month
  • Track deals and milestones
  • Single-page contact management
  • Marketing automation
  • Landing page builder
  • Integrates with social media
  • Email tracking and mobile marketing capabilities
Copper logo

4. Copper

While a lot of CRMs focus on automating lead/deal tracking, Copper takes things a step or two further. You’ll find that this is one of the best CRMs for startups on a budget thanks to its focus on automation. How much time could your team save with automated data entry? 

Copper does a lot of other things, too. For instance, you’ll find that it offers smart identification, helps you track leads and customers, optimizes sales contracts, and so much more. It also integrates with the G Suite. Some of the features to consider with Copper include the following:

  • Free option? No, but there is a 14-day free trial.
  • Price: $19 per user per month.
  • Pipeline progression reporting
  • Drag and drop functionality
  • Data visualization tools
  • In-depth customer/lead tracking and management
  • Lots of automation
  • Project management
Streak logo

5. Streak

Another CRM you might not have heard of, Streak delivers speed, flexibility, and cost savings in the form of a free basic account forever. Of course, upgrading to a paid account is recommended to get access to more advanced features, but there’s really no need to if you’re happy with the basic options. 

Streak has a lot going for it, including direct integration with Gmail, cloud-based functionality that ensures ease of access from any device, quote and invoice management features, and more. There’s also a handy Chrome extension that lets you bake Streak right into your browser for better operation. Things you’ll want to consider when comparing Streak to other CRMs include the following:

  • Free option? Yes
  • Price: $15 per user per month
  • Private and shared pipelines
  • Email tracking
  • G Suite integration
  • Mobile access
  • Tasks and reminders
  • Enriched contact reports
  • Data validation and permissions
Zoho logo

6. Zoho

Zoho CRM has been around for some time and for good reason – it offers a solid mix of features and capabilities. Plus, there’s a free option, so budget-strapped startups can enjoy access to the tools they need for success without further straining their finances. Of course, there are plenty of paid upgrades available, too.

Zoho offers plenty of features that you will enjoy. You can communicate with and support your customers across multiple channels, collaborate with your team through chat, groups, and more, and there’s even a customizable product catalog on offer. Some of the other features you’ll want to know about when comparing Zoho to other CRMs include the following:

  • Free option? Yes
  • Price: $12 per user per month
  • Customizable quotes and forms
  • Project management tools
  • Customizable customer database
  • Deal management tools
  • Workflow automation
  • Lead management capabilities 
Pipedrive logo

7. Pipedrive


Built by salespeople for salespeople, Pipedrive is an excellent option for any startup looking for ways to convert more leads and build strong relationships with customers. It delivers a good mix of features and capabilities, and while it isn’t free, it’s cost-effective for smaller teams. 

Pipedrive’s main claim to fame is its ability to help you visualize your pipelines. However, it also offers plenty of contact management features and integrates with the technology you’re already using. Automation is also a high point here, as you can automate time-consuming, repetitive tasks to save time and effort. Features of note with Pipedrive include the following:

  • Free option? No, but there is a free trial.
  • Price: $12.50 per user per month
  • Lead management tools
  • Deal management capabilities
  • Custom forms and landing pages
  • Extensive lead/customer communication tracking and reporting
Insightly logo

8. Insightly

Looking for a cost-effective CRM that delivers lots of benefits? Insightly could be just the thing. It’s free for teams of up to two people, but you’ll find several pricing tiers above that to help you control costs. It also delivers access to some of the most critical features your startup needs to succeed.

Insightly offers milestone tracking to improve your conversion rate, as well as workflow automation to help your team save time and effort. It integrates with plenty of third-party software, too, including Gmail and Google Workspace. Some of the features you should be aware of with Insightly include the following:

  • Free option? Yes
  • Price: $29 per user per month
  • Invoice creation and management
  • Real-time data dashboards
  • Locate and manage leads
  • Contact and organization management
  • Task and event management
  • Opportunity management
  • Native Android and iOS apps
Bitrix 24 logo

9. Bitrix24

With a free option to help take the pressure off your budget, Bitrix24 also manages to deliver tons of must-have features and capabilities. It’s also cloud-based, so you can access it from any Internet-connected device, from work PCs to your smartphone. 

Bitrix24’s CRM features include a full customer contact center, detailed reporting, and visualized sales pipelines. You can create and send your own invoices, track leads, and create custom web forms to personalize the customer experience, too. Some of the features you’ll need to know about with this CRM include the following:

  • Free option? Yes (with unlimited users)
  • Price: $19 per month for up to two users
  • Lead and customer tracking
  • Communication tracking
  • Pipeline visualization
  • Custom invoicing
  • Customizable web forms
  • In-depth sales analytics
  • Mobile iOS and Android apps
Less Annoying CRM

10. Less Annoying CRM

Less Annoying CRM, or LACRM as it is affectionally called, is a cost-effective (but not free) option for startups looking to better manage customer relationships and benefit from automation. It’s a lightweight, flexible platform designed to streamline some of your most time-consuming tasks.

With LACRM, your team can easily manage the sales pipeline, track leads, collaborate with one another across multiple channels, and follow-up with leads and customers. It also integrates with some of the most widely used software out there, including Gmail, MailChimp, and more. The features you’ll need to know with LACRM include the following:

  • Free option? No, but there is a 30-day free trial.
  • Price: $10 per user per month
  • Full contact management capabilities
  • Calendaring and task management
  • Visualized sales pipelines
  • Collaboration and communication across multiple channels
  • Cloud-based (but no mobile apps)

Do more without breaking your budget

Running a successful startup doesn’t have to be fraught with stress about blowing your budget. Whether you’re looking for a free CRM or a low-cost option, you’ll find plenty of choices in our list above. However, there are other ways to save time and money while delivering a better customer experience and building your brand. 

At Smith.ai, our live receptionists ensure that you never miss a single call, email, or text message again. Of course, we do more than just provide client-facing communications – we’re integral parts of your team and help build a profitable, successful business. Ready to learn more about how we can help you thrive? Explore how our Live Chat and Live Answering services benefit your business, or go ahead and schedule a chat about your Live Chat/Live Answering service needs. You can also email us at hello@smith.ai or give us a call at (650) 727-6484.

Elizabeth Lockwood

Elizabeth Lockwood is the content marketing associate at Smith.ai. She focuses specifically on writing and editing engaging articles, blog posts, and other forms of publication.

Try Smith.ai now

Accelerate growth with live receptionists and AI. Get started risk-free for 14 days!

Accelerate growth with live chat agents and AI. Get started risk-free for 14 days!

GEt Started NOWGEt Started NOW

Contact our sales team today at (650) 727-6484 or schedule a call.

sign up for our newsletter

Thank you!
Your submission has been received.
Yikes! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Categories