I'd say that there's no question that every business needs some kind of CRM when starting out. I've designed my own using C# and T-SQL. But at the end of the day, there are a ton of free solutions out there (just google and check out your options). I have a reselling account through both Site5 and HostGator. Both offer a free license for ClientExec, which is quite useful for web hosting clients.
You can also try Freshbooks, which is mostly for invoicing, but I'm guessing they have some kind of add-on for CRM functionality.
To save costs, instead of looking for a one size fits all solution, bunch up free ones that have all of the functionalities you're looking for.
Example of a Ticketing platform: http://www.phptickets.org/ In my case, I really need the CRM to do a few things:
1. History of client purchases
2. Ability to send out invoices automatically
3. Database that allows for segmentation (to target clients effectively)
4. Issue management - Support/Customer service tickets (because some of them are billable)
Hope this helps!
You should have a CRM if you will have clients or you will be selling / prospecting for clients ;) - so yes.
We currently use Highrise for leads / prospects... but thinking of moving to Fat Free as it actually has some features I want that Highrise doesn't have. Plus it's $0/mo. We use Redmine.org (open source / free) for project / task management. And Freshbooks for billing and Wave Accounting for accounting. SO - a couple systems. But they all have API's and can be interconnected if you feel like writing a little code. Some play nice out of the box.
As usually, it depends of manu things but 2 most important are - number of clients and a budget :)
You can always start with couple of free solutions and when your job gets bigger you can find some payed solution and switch to it (by that time your job should cover the costs of that software).
For example, we use Highrise for contact management, Libre office for invoices (ex OpenOffice.org), MailChimp for mailing to our customers, Google Calendar for apointments (best calendar of all calendars I've ever used), BaseCampo for project management (now swithcing to Trello) and PostBox desktop app for mailing and that covered our basic needs so far.
IMO it is not great startup solution for my firm (I use 4-5 apps and that can be much time consuming), but for now it is ok until I find (or build) some "startup app" with basic crm and billing needs (and of course not $50+ per month :))
Yes and no. If you can certainly benefit from a streamlined structure and managing customers due to the number of volume you have, then yes.
If you are just starting out and have a few customers or prospects, it is an overhead. you can do away with just using gmail.
Like Others say,
Yes It's very important for every organization, but I would pick the free choice due to my startup size !!