You Get What You Pay for: The Dangers of a “Free” CRM

The best things in life are free – but not when it comes to technology. They’re not giving the new iPhone away for nothing, are they?

Logically, it makes sense that if something is truly valuable, it will require investment – within reason, of course. However, companies are often lured in by the promise of saving money with a free CRM. What they don’t think about is that, while they may save money upfront, everything ultimately has a price.

Case in point: HubSpot’s free CRM only offers 15 minutes of calling per user, per month.

Here are just a few of the common restrictions that arise for free CRM users, what they will ultimately cost you and how to spot them upfront.

Data Storage & Management

Although “data” may seem like an ethereal substance that floats weightlessly in the cloud, storing and securing this information takes resources. That’s why most free cloud-based CRMs place limitations on the number leads, documents, etc. that can be housed.

While this may not seem like an issue to a smaller, growing business, it’s guaranteed to become a huge problem when the company scales (and hopefully it will!). For example, HubSpot’s free CRM limits the number of email templates and documents that can be stored to just 5 per portal.

When it comes to sending communications and passing data back and forth between your free CRM and other business platforms, many paid CRMs limit the number of these API calls that can be made on a daily basis. Of course, this means that free CRMs keep an even tighter rein on the volume of users’ API calls.

Customization

Let’s be honest: rarely any out-of-the-box solution is the perfect fit for your business. You may be able to get close, but more often than not you will be forced to settle with “good enough.” Unless, that is, you customize it to fit your specific sales needs and requirements.

Many paid CRM providers offer assistance in the form of professional services teams when it comes to customizing their platform for customers’ specific needs. However, this is not the case when it comes to free CRM. If customization is even possible, it requires heavy coding that must be handled internally by clients’ own development teams. Of course, headcount and resources for these development teams are not free.

Support

Similar to free CRM’s inability to provide professional services, there is also typically a lack of support resources. If something goes wrong or clients have a question, they are directed to an online support community or collection of articles where they must search for and find answers on their own.

Or, as HubSpot puts it, “HubSpot CRM users have access to the HubSpot Community at community.hubspot.com for support. The mission of this inbound community is to provide users with a vibrant channel to ask questions, find answers, and engage with professionals from around the world about HubSpot software best practices.”

Contrast this to the dedicated account managers and 24/7 live support provided by many paid CRM providers, and it’s easy to see the extra time and resources that free CRM users must put into maintaining their solution of choice.

Your Free CRM Checklist

Unfortunately, many companies don’t realize the restrictions put in place by these free CRM providers until they actually encounter them , at which time they have already invested quite a bit of time and energy into the solution. If you’re currently evaluating a free CRM, be sure to ask these questions upfront to avoid issues down the road:

– Are there any data storage limitations?
– Is there an API available? Any pre-built integrations? Are API calls restricted?
– What are the customization options?
– Is there a professional services team?
– What kind of support resources are available?

Don’t Put Yourself in Danger

Choosing the right CRM for your business is critical, and shouldn’t be based on cost alone. To help you in your evaluation and ensure that you’re asking all the right questions, download our free guide, 7 Questions to Ask When Evaluating CRM. Or, check out our CRM Buyer’s Kit, a compilation of resources designed to help you compare and contrast vendor capabilities, prioritize features and so much more.

Related Articles

Exposing the Dirty Secret behind CRMs

Sales Software

Exposing the Dirty Secret behind CRMs

Despite the massive financial investments that companies are making in sales tools and CRMs, businesses are still struggling to get reps and managers alike to adopt them.

Rachel Serpa

Rachel Serpa

June 28, 2016

Uncovering the Hidden Costs of CRMs

Sales Software

Uncovering the Hidden Costs of CRMs

You’ve pumped your team up about getting this new and improved solution in place, but just a week into the implementation process, you hit your first roadblock: you have to pay extra for a sandbox environment!?

Rachel Serpa

Rachel Serpa

July 27, 2016

Subscribe to the Baseline Blog

Be the first to hear about product updates, as well as sales, productivity and CRM strategies.