Why Free CRM sounds great in theory but in the long run it could end up costing you.

The word ‘free’ has, perhaps, negative connotations, particularly connotations around quality. If you were getting married would you want to wear a ‘free’ suit or dress, or would you, correctly assume, that the quality of the product offered would be inferior to a product which you had invested in?  Could it in fact be a false economy? . In the world of technology even the open-source community of coders, who often give away excellent-quality software without charge, describe their philosophy as “free as in speech, not free as in beer.”

For similar reasons, “free” can be the most expensive word in business technology.

Why? Because the free part… isn’t the important part.

Whether wheelie bins, fighter jets, or an IT platform the real cost of a product isn’t in the hardware. Rather the cost, and therefore business value, stems from the services and support around the product. Without these helping hands, you could end up wasting time, and money, on a product that simply stands alone, in CRM terms on  a platform that’s one founder’s problem away from closedown.

So if you’re considering one of those free CRM systems, here are three questions to ask yourself before making a decision.

1. Does your choice of CRM have a pedigree?

What we mean when we label a CRM  “pedigree”, is does the free CRM have a known history in the market? Is it going to integrate  well with your other applications, is it free from show-stopping bugs, is there a large ecosystem of vendors and packages with a stake in its continued success?


2. Does it work as a business case?

A business case lives or dies on the invisible costs. Your people’s time is a cost. Your systems integration is a cost. To say nothing of the cost of the risks attached to the allure of that zero sticker price. (Software bugs, supplier failure, incompatibility with your other software.)


3. Can a costed CRM actually work out cheaper?

Forget those stories of £10,000-per-seat rollouts and lock-in contracts; some big-name CRM systems can be surprisingly flexible and low-cost. In addition many offer a range of payment options such as simple monthly subscriptions. Per person, even market-leading CRM systems can be extremely cost-effective.


Above all, of course, what your CRM system needs to sing is service: a reliable partner (or partners) to bed in your choice, make sure your KPIs are being met, and getting your people on board with the new way of doing things. An established partner can also supply the software itself as part of its agreement with you… sometimes for free! It’s the service you pay for, giving you the best of both worlds.



  • Free can be the priciest word in business
  • Free CRM might also be free of support, free of case studies and free of customer success stories
  • Paying for CRM service, support and training from a reputable partner can often reduce the price of the actual software close to free anyway


Now we’ve dealt with the cost side, take a look at boosting revenue – download our eGuide:The ultimate guide to: increasing sales performance