The true cost of a CRM

Best Practices

The $45 billion CRM industry has tripled in size over the last decade. There are now thousands of CRM platforms to choose from. Because of this, finding the right solution can feel overwhelming. Many companies assume that filtering their options by advertised cost will help them narrow down the options that will best fit their needs.

Unfortunately, CRM cost is anything but straightforward. Although many CRM companies advertise specific price points, buyers frequently find that hidden costs billed by their chosen platform quickly exceed the front-facing fees. 

In this article, we’ll lay out the various costs involved in implementing a new CRM including ones that often occur immediately after signing a contract (surprise!) and those that remain hidden until users have no choice but to hand over their credit card or start their search from square one.


How much does a CRM cost?

The cost of CRM software varies widely and depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to:

  • Number of users
  • Number of contacts or customer data points
  • Complexity and number of add-ons
  • Advanced reporting and analytics functionality
  • Dashboard capability

CRM system subscription pricing – which is typically the number that’s advertised as the “cost” of the product – can range from the low double-digits to well over $100 a month per user.

Many providers scale their price based on your number of business users. These are the individuals in your organization that have access to the solution. For example, a Hubspot Professional plan for five users costs $450.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to CRM cost, though. There’s also the cost of implementation to consider, which for some legacy systems, can easily hit five or six digits (and immeasurable time and effort). 

It’s important to note that even CRM vendors that openly advertise all of their subscription and implementation costs often have substantial fees involved with customizing their platform to fit your business needs. These hidden fees can add up fast.

CRMs business models

All customer relationship management platforms have one thing in common: they bring efficiency to contact management. 

Beyond that, though, no two CRMs are exactly the same. Each and every platform is built differently and, therefore, determines its pricing plans by different metrics. 

Some CRM softwares charge clients per user. Some charge per user and per feature. 

Some charge a flat fee monthly, and some annually. Some even have a monthly or yearly retainer in addition to their SaaS subscription fees. 

And that’s just for the software package – implementation fees also vary widely and can easily exceed the cost of the platform itself.


CRM costs by company size

It’s hard to nail down an exact range of what a company can expect to spend on a CRM – some small businesses need a tremendous amount of customization, and some do fine with the basics until they achieve a certain level of growth. Some enterprise companies never explore beyond the surface level of their CRM, while others spend well into six figures customizing and building out their systems. 

It can be helpful to ask questions about this to your salesperson during the sales process. Can you see a timeline and a total cost of implementation for a company your size? Can you speak with a recently onboarded company about their experience?

Here are some CRM features you might expect to pay for based on your company size:


Small businesses (fewer than 20 licenses) run the gamut in terms of what they need from a CRM. While many opt to keep it simple during the startup phase, others choose to dive head-first into customizations and add-ons. 

SMBs can often expect to pay for at least the following features:

  • Data Integration 
  • Preferred Customizations
  • Email & Marketing Automation 
  • Ability to Create Landing Pages & Forms
  • Contact Management
  • Customer Interaction Tracking
  • Lead Management
  • Social Media Management

Mid-market CRM costs

Mid-size companies (21 – 100 user licenses) focus heavily on scaling, and need a CRM that can grow with them. 

  • Additional Data Migration
  • Intuitive Data Collection & Storage
  • Integrations into Inbox
  • Intuitive Mobile App
  • Data Integrity Guarantee
  • Customizable Objects/Fields
  • Project and Task Management
  • Ability to Transfer Deals to Project Management
  • Scalable User Base
  • Customer Segmentation

Mid-market companies can avoid department silos by adopting a platform that allows the marketing, customer success, and sales teams to have universal access to real-time data. 

Enterprise CRMs Costs

Large enterprise companies (100+ user licenses), no matter their level of customization, require a more flexible, sophisticated system to meet their needs at scale. 

  • Additional Data Migration
  • Workflow Consolidation
  • Mobile-First Format
  • Automated Data Entry 
  • Automatic Logging
  • Opportunity Management
  • Personalized Campaigns and Engagement stats
  • Lead Scoring 
  • Activity Management
  • Pipeline Views
  • Power Dialer
  • SMS and Call Management
  • Dynamic Forms
  • Granular Access Control
  • Single Sign On (SSO)

It’s important to remember that these are only guidelines. Company size can be an indicator of investment, but not always. CRM pricing depends more on the customization and needs of the business. 

The cost of legacy CRMs

Many companies adopt big-name platforms like Salesforce with the assumption that they’ll have more than what they need in terms of account management.

The truth, though, is that these legacy solutions are almost always overly complex. The quantity of features doesn’t necessarily correlate to their usefulness. Feature-heavy CRMs require heavy training and create ample room for error with their steep learning curve. 

Legacy CRM systems also almost always require a dedicated dev team to implement the product, and other third-party services to reach complete customization as the business grows. They are also known to gate-keep certain marketing automation features, APIs, and reasonable workflow storage behind their premium pricing tier.

On top of that, most legacy CRM companies offer only multi-year contracts. This lock-in often creates a sunk-cost fallacy in companies who aren’t getting what they need out of their legacy system but are reluctant to start the search process from scratch. 

Even for companies that are in it for the long haul, the costs of implementing new capabilities and add-ons as the business grows can be a massive, ongoing budget hit.


Hidden CRM costs

Although the sheer number of choices can feel overwhelming, choosing the right system is actually the easy part – the implementation and integration processes are often surprisingly expensive, complex, and time-consuming.

The surprise and hidden costs (of both time and money) involved in setting up their new system often leave users wondering if the CRM really improved their business. 

Indeed the biggest cost can be a failed implementation where the system was purchased but was not properly configured and adopted and therefore just accumulated dust. 

If you’re shopping for a new CRM system, it’s important to fully understand the full scope of cost and fees involved with using the CRM in a way that works for your needs. 

Setup and implementation costs

The setup and implementation costs for CRMs can vary. Modern, intuitive platforms will be easier and more cost effective, while legacy systems (e.g. Salesforce) can be quite expensive. It’s important that potential buyers fully understand the upfront and post-purchase costs involved in the process. The following questions will help CRM shoppers screen potential vendors and weigh the various costs involved.

  • How long will implementation take? 
  • How many support staff are needed for the process? What hourly rate does your staff receive for implementation development? 
  • Are there fees involved with transferring data from a previous system or inputting data into the new one?
  • Is there a minimum number of users allowed? A maximum? What are the fees for exceeding the maximum number of users? 
  • Is the subscription fee based on number of users, or number of employees? 

Ultimately, the specifics of your CRM implementation will vary according to your unique business needs. The important part is asking the right pre-purchase questions to get a full understanding of the scope of the project.  

CRM integrations costs

If you have additional softwares that you’re hoping to integrate into the new CRM, you’re likely to face fees for that, as well. For modern platforms, this can be a few simple steps; for legacy platforms, it can take a whole team. Be sure to clarify how these fees are calculated – some will ask for a large, one-time fee, and others may make you pay per integration.


CRM training costs

The second-highest leading cause of failure to adopt a new CRM system is lack of sufficient training, with most employees reporting the systems are far too difficult to learn on their own. 

Consider the costs involved in learning this new system. Not only will you pay for the trainers, but you’ll also be asking your employees to pause their revenue-generating tasks to attend long training sessions. The more complex your system is, the more training will be required and the longer it will take, so this is another reason to do some research. Ask your rep to put you in touch with current customers so you can discover how long it took for them to be working as a team in the CRM.

CRM support costs

No matter how carefully you implement your new system, or how thoroughly you train your employees on its specifics, you’re likely to encounter a few issues as you get the system up and running. 

As you choose your new system, be sure to understand their support program. How readily available are support agents? How much and when will you be charged for consulting with them? Are there phone and email options?

CRM add-ons costs

All CRMs offer add-ons, but most don’t advertise how necessary they are for full functionality. Even Enterprise or Premium subscriptions often require users to add on or build out new features to access specific integrations, analytics, reporting, or intelligence-based features. Unfortunately, these are often advertised during the sales process, but hidden behind a paywall after purchase. 

You’ll be frustrated to hear, “you didn’t select that option, would you like to add it on?”

Be sure to understand exactly which apps and custom features are included in the advertised fee, and what additional fees are involved in complete customization.


The cost of using the wrong CRM solution 

It should be clear by now that choosing the wrong CRM system will cost a ton of cash – even choosing the right system will impact your bottom line! 

There are also many significant and less tangible costs involved with not finding the perfect fit. 

First and foremost, the wrong CRM is highly likely to discourage adoption altogether. In fact, lack of user adoption is responsible for 70% of failed CRM projects.

Even for companies who have success in onboarding their employees, the risk of a poor UX or slow processing times is high. Despite their multitude of features, most big-box CRM systems are clunky and difficult to run once the add-ons and customizations are fully built. 

At the end of the day, one of the most significant costs of a poor-fit CRM is time. It takes a tremendous amount of resources to get a new system up and running, and the lost-time consequences of investing those resources into a poor fit can be devastating. 

Insightly is a deeply integrated unified CRM with transparent pricing

If you’re looking for an affordable, modern CRM with a unified database to build lasting customer relationships, check out Insightly. With Insightly’s robust CRM, you’ll get all the tools you need to run your business and great support to make it happen. Add on the Insightly Marketing and Insightly Service apps, and you’ll align your teams, deliver world class experiences, and drive growth. Choose AppConnect, and every tool you need to run your business will be connected with no-code/low-code integrations.

With one-click data migration and superior customer support, you can switch from your current provider in under two hours. 

Find out how much you can save by choosing (or switching to) Insightly by using a CRM costs calculator.