Getting Started with CRM Software: The Startup Founder’s Guide

Varunram Ganesh · March 6, 2024

Getting Started with CRM Software: The Startup Founder’s Guide article visual

If you feel like your organization is under greater pressure to perform for your customers, you’re not alone. In a 2022 report, Hubspot revealed that 88% of customer service leaders believe that customers have higher expectations today than in the past.

And unlike their corporate counterparts, startups often lack the employees and resources to manage these additional expectations.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software can help bridge this ever-widening gap. Although these tools focus on customer and lead management, many of them come with additional features to support everything from marketing to employee productivity.

Let’s look at how CRM help startups thrive in the face of increased customer demands.

Why does your startup need CRM software?

Investing in a CRM tool might not sound like a priority now, especially in comparison to high-level activities like building and scaling a product. It should be, though, since landing a new customer is four to seven times more expensive than retaining an existing one.

A CRM makes it easier to manage your customers’ needs so you can take care of them and your business.

There are many different CRM tools on the market today, and each one comes with a unique combination of features to tackle specific marketing, sales, and customer service problems. CRM software designed for startups brings the following benefits to your organization at an affordable price.

More efficient lead and customer management

CRM software uses data collection and contact management features to keep information about your customers and leads in one place. They’ll record a customer’s interactions with your company, collect their contact information from signup forms, and even scrape information from their public social media accounts.

CRMs then use these data points to build up comprehensive profiles of your leads and customers that you can review at any time. Marketing teams can increase conversion rates with targeted campaigns and ad copy. Sales teams can identify and prioritize new opportunities as they move through the pipeline.

CRMs also allow your marketing, sales, and customer service teams to manage and nurture these important relationships at scale. Greater visibility means that customer issues and complaints don’t fall through the cracks.

And by improving your customer experience, you increase your profits too: McKinsey research reveals that these efforts increase sales revenue by 2-7% and profitability by 1-2%.

Improved customer service

A CRM’s customer segmentation features allows customer service teams to personalize their interactions and treat each customer’s unique problems with the care they deserve.

This thoughtfulness gives growing startups more leeway when they make mistakes. Software provider Redpoint Global found that 49% of US consumers said they were more likely to buy from a brand that does personalization well — and that another 32% were willing to overlook a bad experience if they felt the company was trying to understand them as a customer.

A centralized database of contact information also allows anyone in your organization to look at a customer’s profile and learn what products or services they’ve purchased from your company, what conversations they’ve had with other team members, and what outstanding issues they need resolved. Each employee becomes empowered to serve your customers the best way they can.

Over time, this approach strengthens your customer experience from start to finish.

Increased productivity

Many CRMs also offer automation features for the busywork that takes more time than you’d like to admit — think sales follow up emails, contact creation, and data updates. These solutions free up your team to focus on the high-level tasks that AI and other tools simply can’t do.

And because most CRM tools connect with the tech you use in your business, they also cut down on the time you’d spend switching between platforms and manually inputting data.

This is especially helpful for startups looking to do more with less. With a CRM tool in your tech stack, you get higher returns on the investments you make in your people and your software.

Better business decisions

With the wealth of information they collect, CRMs help you make sense of your lead and customer data so you can make better business decisions.

The customer feedback you receive could be useful for product development teams prioritizing which features or products to work on next. Marketing data can show you which channels or strategies are bringing in more leads, so you can reallocate your funds and resources accordingly.

CRM reports also point out trends in your business you may not notice otherwise, allowing you to course-correct or capitalize on them immediately. And by monitoring how well your teams are able to support your customers and achieve your business goals, these tools give you greater transparency into the inner workings of your organization.

Five best practices to make the most of your CRM system

A new tool is an investment you make in the success of your team and your business. But the money you spend on CRM software won’t do your startup any good if your team can’t use it effectively.

So, here are some setup tips and best practices to help you make the most of your CRM.

Map your customer journey

Since CRM software is, at its core, a tool to help you manage your customer relationships, it’s crucial to learn how your company establishes and nurtures these relationships.

What kind of experience do people have as they discover your business, learn about you, buy from you, and become a customer? A customer journey map helps you visualize that.

To get started, answer the following questions:

  • How do customers find out about you?
  • How many times do you interact with a lead before they buy from you?
  • How do you know when a customer is interested? How do you know when they’re ready to buy?
  • How long does it usually take them to move through the sales funnel?
  • How do you close a sale?
  • What does a customer need after the sale is done?

Your answers will help you understand how people interact with your startup throughout the customer journey.

Define your sales pipeline and business processes

Now you’re going to do the same exercise you did in the previous section, but from your sales team’s point of view. Outlining this process will help you capture each step of your sales pipeline for your CRM.

When you define your sales pipeline, get as detailed as you can. Think about the information your sales team needs to move potential buyers from one deal stage to the next. For example, how do you qualify leads? What actions do your salespeople need to take after closing a deal?

You’ll do the same with all the other teams that will use the CRM to manage their activities. Don’t forget to define when and how contacts should be handed off to another team — like from marketing to sales and from sales to customer support, for instance.

Set up custom workflows and automation sequences

Once you know what your customer journey and your sales pipeline look like, you can customize your CRM workflows and automations to reflect how your business manages these processes.

Keep your workflows as simple as possible. The more complicated these processes get, the harder it will be for your team to follow through with them — and the more money you’ll lose as a result. According to Validity’s 2022 State of Data Health survey, 44% of businesses lose over 10% in annual revenue because of low-quality CRM data.

Make it easier for teams to adopt these new workflows by asking for their input and feedback. They may have additional insights to share or experiences with issues you’ll need to take into account.

Also, don’t forget to test your workflows before they go live. Incorrect workflows can cause bottlenecks in your operations, while automations that misfire might confuse or irritate customers.

If your CRM doesn’t offer testing features in-app, ask team members to go through the workflows themselves. You can test whether your lead generation form works, for example, by filling it out and checking whether you received the correct email from marketing.

Integrate your CRM tool with your tech stack

Integrating your CRM with the other tools your organization uses means that your CRM will be able to pull information from those programs and vice versa. Many CRM tools offer integrations with:

  • Analytics software
  • Accounting software
  • Communication tools
  • Email marketing software
  • Lead generation platforms
  • Project management tools
  • Social media management apps

Ideally, you want to choose a CRM that integrates with the software you already use. Platforms that don’t have a lot of integrations already built in can still connect with your tech through tools like Zapier, which connects two or more apps like a native integration would.

Develop a training program for your employees

If you want to make sure employees adopt your CRM into their day-to-day activities, you’ll need to teach them how to use the software. Schedule mandatory onboarding and training sessions for all employees that will be using the platform. If they’re available, take advantage of any training programs your CRM provider offers too.

You may also want to gamify the process or offer other incentives to encourage employees to complete their training modules and use the platform in their day-to-day work.

After the initial training is complete, hold additional sessions throughout the year to educate employees on new and updated features that will change how they use the CRM.

The top three CRM tools for startups

Keep reading for three of the most popular CRMs used by startups today, along with information on their features and pricing to help you decide if they’re a good fit for your organization.


Hubspot’s CRM software is designed for organizations of all sizes, from startups and small businesses to large enterprises. It’s a popular CRM platform for small and mid-sized businesses too, as it offers a free pricing tier with basic functionalities like user management, email reply tracking, a team email inbox, and a mobile app.

However, if you want your CRM to pull more weight in your organization, you’ll probably need to upgrade to one of the paid plans. This will give you access to features like email health insights, required form fields, expanded email automation actions, and collaboration tools.


  • Free: $0
  • Starter: $30/month, billed monthly
  • Professional: $1,600/month, billed annually
  • Enterprise: $5,000/month, billed annually


Salesforce is another big player in the CRM market. It offers a range of plans to support the needs of your business, no matter its size.

The Salesforce Starter Suite plan in particular is designed with startups and small businesses in mind. Don’t let its affordable price put you on guard: It still offers useful CRM features like contact management, email integration, and automated activity capturing.

Although the company’s other CRM offerings may be out of budget for startups getting off the ground, the larger range of options (compared to Hubspot and monday) allows growing businesses to choose a plan with the features they need — and nothing more.


  • Starter Suite: $25/user/month, billed monthly or annually
  • Professional: $80/user/month, billed annually
  • Enterprise: $165/user/month, billed annually
  • Unlimited: $330/user/month, billed annually
  • Unlimited+: $500/user/month, billed annually


monday bills itself as a work operating system, combining some of the best aspects of a project management tool and CRM software.

Like Hubspot, monday offers a free forever pricing tier with basic features. However, this plan doesn’t come with the features you might typically expect from a CRM. You’ll find these functionalities — including automation workflows and integrations — in monday’s Standard, Pro, and Enterprise plans instead.

Note that, unlike the other solutions in this list, all of monday’s paid plans require a three seat minimum, which may make this a dealbreaker for one- or two-person teams.

But if you’re looking for a tool that offers CRM and work collaboration functionalities (and if you’re willing to pay for these premium features), monday may be the right choice for you.


  • Free: $0
  • Basic: $27/month minimum, billed annually
  • Standard: $36/month minimum, billed annually
  • Pro: $57/month minimum, billed annually
  • Enterprise: Contact sales for a quote

Choose fast-growth tools for fast-growth teams

Startups regularly deal with periods of quick growth — and all the challenges that come with it — so they require tools that can easily adapt to this. Choosing a CRM software with strong automation and integration features helps keep your business running as usual, no matter which way the wind blows.

When your team experiences fast growth, consider using a tool like Warp to stabilize your payroll and benefits operations too. Sign up for a demo today to see if Warp is right for your business.

Start paying your team with Warp today.

Payroll, compliance, benefits & HR all in one place.