Disclosure: We may use affiliate links which means that, at zero cost to you, we may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.


Customer nurturing and retention are the major tasks of your sales & marketing teams if you want to scale your business. Marketing Metrics book reports: the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, while the chance of selling to a new one barely reaches 10-20%.

You’ve got it. Your existing customer base is the core of your future profits. And it’s easy to manage this base when it stands at dozens. But when the number of contacts jumps over hundreds and even thousands, customer relationship management becomes unbearable, unless…

Unless you have a good CRM software solution at your fingertips.

But how to define which one is the best for your startup without trying? It’s quite challenging if you only take your first steps in business and don’t have enough budget to test all CRMs available on the market. To help you out, we compiled a list of 7 most affordable CRM platforms with the extensive sales & marketing functionality.

1. ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign improves your customer’s journey at all its stages by providing a kit of versatile tools under one roof. The platform combines email, marketing, sales, and cross-channel messaging automation. And they’re quite successful in their endeavors. According to their recent case studies, Teton Sports grew their email list by 700%, while Cupid’s Charity doubled their retention with ActiveCampaign.

ActiveCampaign’s CRM features a handy dashboard that displays the whole sales process at a glance. You can see which leads are won, which are lost, and which of them are the highest priority to follow up with. The software can be integrated with 150+ sales tools you may already use like Zapier, Unbounce, and Pipedrive. There is also a mobile version of a CRM to close deals on-the-go.

How to start for free? ActiveCampaign offers a 14-day free trial for new users. This period of time is enough to assess the platform’s capabilities. The paid subscription plan starts from $9 per month, allowing you to manage up to 500 contacts in its cheapest version. However, the full-fledged sales & CRM functionality comes only with a more advanced plan at a price of $49 per month.

2. Hubspot

Hubspot is likely the first brand that pops up in your mind when it comes to sales & marketing automation. And for good reason: the company offers a sophisticated yet (almost) entirely free CRM for companies of any size. The platform is respected by such top players as Casio that got a 496% increase in leads and Shopify that uses Hubspot to speed up their sales process.

The free version of a Hubspot CRM is good at visualizing your sales funnel in an accessible way. The software tracks all interactions automatically and gathers them all into a clean timeline. Aside from contact management, its functionality includes contact & company insights, email scheduling, real-time chats, and meeting planning. The best thing about Hubspot: you can manage up to million contacts with a team of up to a thousand people.

How to start for free? All you need is to register and get your forever free CRM. But this works only until you decide to supplement your experience with marketing, sales, and service hub features, which are quite costly.

3. Insightly

Insightly is CRM software for small and medium enterprises known for its seamless integrations with Google Apps, Office 365, and G-Suite. The platform can boast of 1.5M users worldwide and increased scalability of such enterprises as 4over LLC, Airbnb HandsFree, and Annexus Health.

Insightly’s working space is divided into several tabs including Tasks, Contacts, Leads, Projects, etc. This eliminates the last remnants of confusion from your experience and allows you to organize your activities in a much more convenient way. “Dashboards” is the section we especially like, as there you can observe nicely designed charts, graphs, and diagrams, visualizing the progress of your campaigns.

How to start for free? It’s possible to try both plus and professional Insightly plans at no cost. Also, the platform is free for 2 users, which is definitely not enough for a business team. So when it’s time to pay, you have to cough up $29 per month for a Plus plan, and $49 per month for the professional version. In this case, the saving of money becomes tangible only when you pay more.

4. MailChimp

MailChimp is a popular marketing software, mostly famous due to its robust email marketing tools. Frankly speaking, the platform has never been focused on CRM features and likely never will be, although it remains attractive for those who require a strong emphasis on marketing automation along with basic CRM functionality.

The company’s CRM is nothing special. Like any other CRM solution, it helps you create a single view of your leads and customers, organize your contacts and form reports based on your customer data. The feature pack remains very limited, so it’s recommended to combine MailChimp with a more comprehensive CRM like Hubspot or Insightly.

How to start for free? MailChimp has a free offer for small businesses with less than 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per months. But as your company scales, you might upgrade your plan to “Grow” option for just $10 per month. A better option would be start with ActiveCampaign which will allow to scale up as your business grows.

5. SuiteCRM

SuiteCRM brings together sales, marketing, service, and IT solutions for enterprises that value customization above all. The system is open-source, so your in-house developers may change the CRM’s code, adjusting every tool according to the needs of your company. The platform consists of dozens of modules like “contacts module”, “email module”, “workflow module”, etc. After preparing all the ingredients the way you wanted, you can assemble your dream CRM out of them.

Such an agile customization capability is accompanied by inevitable drawbacks. Full facilities of SuiteCRM may be hard to master for those who got used to ready-made solutions and have little-to-no coding skills.

How to start for free? SuiteCRM comes entirely free and without any subscription plans unless you request the total care package with extensive support services.

6. Agile CRM 

Agile CRM is a relatively young cloud-based CRM with a clean UI and startup-friendly subscription plans. The brand’s message is clear: they target at small and medium enterprises, assisting them in growth no worse than expensive CRM systems meant for Fortune 500 companies. Since the establishment, they have empowered a number of SMEs including ClickData, PromptCloud, and Yeah!Local.

The CRM provides essential sales tools like 360° customer view, deals, contacts & documents management, automatic lead nurturing, tracking & scoring. All those features are supplemented with marketing and service automation instruments like.email marketing & tracking, multichannel campaigns, and support workflows. The web engagement tools such as landing pages, web forms, and push notifications are the icing on this cake.

How to start for free? Agile CRM is free for the smallest teams up to 10 members and up to 50,000 contacts. Interestingly, this pack contains all sales features but no marketing & service tools at all. If you want to enhance your capabilities, you can pay $8.99 and $29.99 to get those kits respectively.

7. Zoho 

Zoho is a long-lasting vet on a CRM market that started its path in far 2005. Its multichannel software solution has won more than 150,000 customers including Amazon.com since then. For now, it improves brand-customer communication via all widely used mediums like email, social media, phone, and live chat. Overall, it’s a solid CRM platform for serious users.

Also, Zoho CRM is stepping out because of its AI-powered sales assistant called Zia, ensuring a hands-free control over major CRM features. Despite a lot of history behind the brand, Zoho keeps their subscription plans quite affordable.  

How to start for free? We recommend you to try a Free Edition limited to 3 users or test software during a 15-day free trial with all features available. The standard edition costs just $12 if billed annually and contains everything necessary for not-so-demanding users.

Final Thoughts

What it all boils down to is that you don’t need to be a rich and prosperous enterprise to benefit from a CRM usage. Conversely, many CRMs from the great and powerful Hubspot to the open-minded and young SuiteCRM are quite loyal to newbies. All platforms on the list saved a couple of sweet deals for you to taste their basic options.

The CRM we use for our own businesses and the one we recommend to most clients is ActiveCampaign. For brand new businesses some may choose to start with MailChimp however they will find as their business grows they will need to migrate their data to ActiveCampaign. For larger businesses we may opt to implement Hubspot or Insightly depending on which industry they’re in.

But what you shouldn’t do for sure is to get hung up on free functionality of the chosen CRM. Remember: you need not the cheapest CRM available right now, but the one that will ensure your business growth today, tomorrow, and in five years as well.