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Free CRM Software for Small Businesses

Learn how HubSpot, Salesforce Essentials, and ActiveCampaign’s offers stand up to Mailchimp’s free Marketing CRM to decide which service is best for you.

As your business grows, you need a place to manage what you know about your audience. Otherwise, contact details, behavioral data, and other relevant information can be hard to organize and cumbersome to use. That’s where customer relationship management (CRM) software comes in—it’s software that centralizes your audience data to help you better understand who you’re talking to and deepen your relationship with them.

Top companies like Salesforce and ActiveCampaign offer free trials of their CRMs, while Mailchimp offers a Marketing CRM as a feature of its Free plan.

Mailchimp’s Marketing CRM delivers value comparable to other top paid CRMs, but without the cost. Plus, the Free plan includes other vital marketing features—like a website builder, unlimited landing pages, email marketing, and much more—so you don’t just know your audience, you grow your audience. And with hundreds of integrations, you can seamlessly use Mailchimp with the apps and tools you already count on to run your business.

As you compare CRM software solutions, consider what your business needs now and what you may need in the future. The right CRM for your business offers all those features at a price you can afford.

Why do you need CRM software?

CRM software allows you to better manage your growing list of contacts by gathering information from your interactions with them into a central organization system. This data—and the many ways to sort and segment it—can then be used to improve your customer experience across the board, helping your business build loyalty and grow.

CRMs take what would be several different software programs and combine them into one platform. Many can collect customer preference and demographic data, organize your audience for easy reference, rank your contacts to show who are most likely to lead to conversions, and more.

Having all that information in one place helps you track your customers more effectively, making communication easier and saving you time. Instead of spreadsheets (or even old-school pen-and-paper lists), you have a robust database at your fingertips.

Because of the wealth of data CRMs provide and the array of functions they perform, they can be expensive. There are, however, a range of affordable and even free options for small businesses that can cover a small business owner’s needs.


Free vs. kind of free

Some companies only offer their CRM tools free for a limited trial period. Others, like HubSpot and Mailchimp, offer permanently free versions of their CRMs, with some caps on number of contacts and limitations on platform functionality.

For example, some free plans only allow a limited number of users to access the CRM. This may not be an issue when you’re just getting started, but that could change as your team expands.

In general, you’ll want to balance choosing a CRM system that can grow with your business against the cost so that you pay for what you really need.

Be sure to read the fine print on any free trial or free plan you consider. Keep in mind how long the trial period is, what the features are, and the needs of your business.

How Mailchimp compares to the top free CRMs

According to G2, the 3 top free CRM software tools are offered by:

  • HubSpot
  • Salesforce
  • ActiveCampaign

All 3 are highly rated and have tens of thousands of users. So what makes them stand apart, and how does Mailchimp compare?


HubSpot’s CRM offers a solid range of features that provide a good foundation for sales. Here’s what you can do:

  • Get a clear view of your sales funnel in an easy-to-understand dashboard
  • Track customer interactions automatically, whether they happen in an email, on social media, or on a call
  • See where you left off with a lead in a timeline of your interactions with them
  • Get unlimited users, data, and up to 1,000,000 contacts with no time limit or expiration date

HubSpot’s CRM is designed for sales, but it does have some marketing functionality. While Mailchimp’s Free marketing plan includes many of the same features, it’s a specialized marketing-focused CRM rather than a more traditional lead-generation CRM.

Here’s how HubSpot’s Free CRM plan compares to Mailchimp’s Free marketing plan.

Mailchimp vs. HubSpot CRM at a glance

HubSpot’s Free CRM planMailchimp’s Free marketing plan
Number of email marketing sends per month2,000 email marketing sends per month2,500 email marketing sends per month
IntegrationsIntegrates with over 150 appsIntegrates with over 250 apps
Import contacts from other locationsYesYes
Audience segmentationYesYes
Behavioral targeting and personalization toolsYesYes
Email marketingYesYes
Forms and landing pagesYesYes
Marketing automationNoYes
Social postingNoYes
Digital adsYesYes
Websites and domainsNoYes
Creative AssistantNoYes
Messenger integrationYesNo
Marketing calendarNoYes

HubSpot’s free CRM plan can serve as a jumping-off point, but to comprehensively cover your marketing needs, you may need to upgrade to their Marketing Hub Starter plan, which starts at $45/month. Their marketing automations are only available with a paid plan.

Mailchimp’s Free marketing plan, on the other hand, includes automation features that can help you take full advantage of the CRM. Mailchimp’s all-in-one Marketing Platform offers automations that send messages based on customer behaviors that are paired with the CRM’s audience segmentation feature.

Salesforce Essentials

Salesforce is a popular CRM platform whose enterprise software integrates with Mailchimp. Those just starting out won’t be looking at enterprise options, but Salesforce does offer a 14-day free trial of their Salesforce Essentials CRM. After the 14-day trial, pricing starts at $25/month per user for up to 10 users.

Both platforms function across iOS, Windows, and Android, and both offer an expansive feature set. However, Salesforce does not offer a permanently free plan. The limited 14-day free trial of their Essentials CRM service is available only for new customers.

With Salesforce Essentials you can:

  • Import your data and set up your CRM with in-app help
  • Track your contacts and deals in one place
  • Integrate with apps you already use

Mailchimp vs. Salesforce CRM at a glance

Salesforce Essentials PlanMailchimp’s Free marketing plan
PriceStarts at $25/month per user for up to 10 users (after a 14-day free trial)Free
Number of email marketing sends per month200 bulk email sends daily2,500 email marketing sends per month
IntegrationsIntegrates with over 5,000 appsIntegrates with over 250 apps
Import contacts from other locationsYesYes
Audience segmentationYesYes
Behavioral targeting and personalization toolsNo; available with an upgraded plan starting at $400/monthYes
Email marketingBulk email only; personalized email marketing available with with an upgraded plan starting at $400/monthYes
Forms and landing pagesNo; content creation available with an upgraded plan starting at $400/monthYes
Marketing automationNo; marketing automation available with the Growth plan, starting at $1,250/monthYes
Social postingNo; social posting available with Basic Social Studio plan, starting at $1,000/monthYes
Digital adsNo; digital ads available with Professional Advertising Studio plan, starting at $2,000/monthYes
Websites and domainsNoYes
Creative AssistantNoYes
SurveysNo; available in Enterprise plan, starting at $150/monthYes
Messenger integrationNo; available with Digital Engagement plan, starting at $75/monthNo
Marketing calendarNo; available with the Growth plan, starting at $1,250/monthYes

Salesforce offers powerful CRM features, but to do your marketing within the same platform, the plans are expensive and complex.

On the other hand, Mailchimp offers straightforward pricing, including a permanently Free marketing plan with features that allow you to capture what you know about your audience and act on that knowledge. That way, your marketing is streamlined, targeted, and customer-centric.


ActiveCampaign is known for its automation features, which combine elements of email marketing, CRM, and machine learning to reach customers more effectively. There is no permanently free plan for ActiveCampaign’s CRM platform, but there is a 14-day trial.

During the free trial, users will have access to all the features available in ActiveCampaign’s Lite plan. After the trial, the Lite plan begins at $45/month.

With ActiveCampaign’s Lite plan, you can:

  • Build and send emails using a drag-and-drop designer
  • Automate your marketing to reach customers based on actions they’ve taken (or haven’t)
  • Design and publish landing pages to get your message out and build your audience

Mailchimp vs. ActiveCampaign CRM at a glance

ActiveCampaign’s Lite PlanMailchimp’s Free marketing plan
Price$45/month (after a 14-day free trial)Free
Number of email marketing sends per monthUnlimited; additional fees apply for more than 2500 contacts2,500 email marketing sends per month for up to 500 contacts
IntegrationsIntegrates with over 350 appsIntegrates with over 250 apps
Import contacts from other locationsYesYes
Audience segmentationYesYes
Behavioral targeting and personalization toolsYesYes
Email marketingYesYes
Forms and landing pagesNoYes
Marketing automationYesYes
Social postingOptional - paidYes
Digital adsOptional - paidOptional - paid
Websites and domainsNoYes
Creative AssistantNoYes
Marketing calendarNoYes

ActiveCampaign offers an impressive feature set, but those features are not available for free after the trial period. The Professional plan starts at $129/month if paid annually. They offer a more affordable plan, the Lite plan, currently $9/month if paid annually, but it offers fewer of the features detailed above.

Mailchimp offers most of these features in the Free plan. A website builder, automations, email marketing, and analytics are all included. Free plan users also get features like regular reports and even a subject line helper for emails.


Why choose Mailchimp for your CRM?

While there are some excellent paid options out there, many CRM platforms for small businesses don’t offer a plan that’s truly free. Free trials can be great for figuring out whether you like a certain software, but they can have limitations and restricted capabilities.

For small businesses, every dollar counts. You’re constantly trying to find the best value and capitalize on it, and Mailchimp’s marketing CRM offers that in its Free marketing plan. Plus, you can count on using it in your day-to-day operations without worrying about a free trial expiring. You can upgrade to a paid plan when your business requires more advanced features. Mailchimp is designed to grow with you.

With Mailchimp’s Free marketing plan, you can:

  • View what you need to know at a glance in your audience dashboard
  • Get an in-depth view of each person in your audience using contact profiles
  • Easily sort your audience into segments based on what you know about them using tags
  • Organize your audience for more effective targeting through segmentation
  • See how your audience interacts with your brand (and put that knowledge to use) with behavioral targeting—for example, you can create relevant campaigns to follow up based on how users engage with your website

Mailchimp’s Free plan users also get access to customer feedback tools that provide valuable insights. The plan’s surveys let you get the information you need for smarter marketing campaigns, and custom signup forms make it easy to build your subscriber list.

You can also build websites and unlimited shoppable landing pages with the Free marketing plan, which are perfect for product launches, promotions, or signups. You’ll even get access to marketing automation tools that make it simple to keep in touch with your customers through automatic birthday emails, welcome emails, or product recommendations.

Sign up for Mailchimp’s Free marketing plan today and use it for as long as you want. When you’re ready, you can explore the other plans Mailchimp offers and see which one is right to take your business to the next level.

Organize your audience and gain useful insights

Mailchimp’s Free plan has the CRM that grows with you.

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