May 8, 2024

How to use Gmail as a CRM

Discover folk - the CRM for people-powered businesses

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are essential for tracking interactions with clients, managing business relationships and storing customer information. But even though there are plenty of CRM solutions available, small businesses and freelancers might prefer a more streamlined and cost-effective approach.

Using Gmail as your CRM can be a costs-effective way to manage your customer relationships directly from your inbox. Here's a practical guide on how to transform your Gmail into an effective CRM as well as some alternatives.

Is Gmail effective an CRM?

If your business is not ready to scale up, using Gmail as a basic CRM system can be a useful way to get you started. As for why you might consider it, there are a few reasons including:

  1. Cost-effective: For small businesses or individuals already using Gmail, there's no additional cost involved.
  2. Familiar Interface: Most users are already familiar with Gmail’s interface, reducing the learning curve.
  3. Integration: Gmail easily integrates with other Google apps and many third-party tools, enhancing functionality.

The main drawback of adopting a Gmail CRM system is having to manually do things that a traditional CRM will help you automate, saving you time. We go into more detail about the pros and cons later on.

How to set up your Gmail for CRM use

Wondering how you can make the most of your Gmail account? While it might not be a powerful CRM, there are still some basic things that it can help with. We've pulled together a step by step guide to show you how to make the most of it.

Step 1: Organize your inbox using labels and filters

Use Gmail’s labeling system to tag emails based on client names or stages in the sales process such as lead, in negotiation, closed. Set up filters to automatically label incoming emails based on the sender or keywords.

Step 2: Use a stars and flags system

Use the star system to prioritize urgent interactions. For example, use a star for urgent customer requests. You can also flag emails that you might want to review later if you're on the go.

Step 3: Enhance with Google Contacts

Keep detailed records in Google Contacts. When you receive an email, add the sender to Google Contacts and include notes about each interaction, which can be invaluable for maintaining personalized communication. You can access notes by going into a contact's profile and clicking edit on the top right and scrolling down.

Step 4: Make use of Google tasks and Calendar

Make the most of your Google Workspace account by using Gmail integrations.

  • Google Tasks: Create tasks directly from emails for follow-ups. This can help ensure no customer query or follow-up is missed.
  • Google Calendar: Use Google Calendar to schedule meetings and calls directly from emails. Set reminders and invite customers to events, keeping all stakeholders informed.

Step 5: Regularly update and backup your contact information

Regularly update contact information and interaction logs. Also, consider backing up your Gmail data to avoid losing important information.

Pros and cons of using Gmail as a CRM

If you're not ready to use dedicated CRM software, there are still some pros and cons of making the most of your Gmail inbox.


  • Low cost and easy to start.
  • Seamless integration with other Google services.
  • A familiar interface that reduces training time.


  • Clunky user experience. Makes it harder to share contact information with your team.
  • Lacks some advanced CRM features like detailed reporting and customer segmentation.
  • Can become cluttered if not well-organized.
  • Dependent on third-party Gmail integration for full CRM functionality.

However, you may find that this is more of a short term alternative.

Alternative CRM systems

Once you're ready to upgrade to a shiny new CRM system, we shortlisted some of the best CRM below that can scale with you and won't break the bank.

1. folk

Best for: all-in-one CRM that supports Gmail users and Microsoft Outlook

As a small business, you might be looking for a CRM that can support multiple business functions to create one source of truth and give teams easy access. From sales teams to customer service, marketing and fundraising – folk is highly customizable and can support your teams and create one source of truth for them to collaborate from. It can also support multiple email client.


Key features

  • folk X Chrome extension: Say hello to workflow automation with folk X. It's free on the Chrome web store and can import search lists from LinkedIn directly into folk, give you access to email templates without leaving the page, and save individual profile information on most social media platforms.
  • Contact management and pipeline management:  Create and build multiple contact lists that can house different contact data fields including customer data, and highlight where they are in your sales processes. Keep them organized with custom fields.
  • Contact sync and enrichment:  Supports contact sync across multiple email providers including Gmail, Google Contacts, Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook and more. folk's 1-click enrichment feature can make sure you've got the latest contact information. Handy for email management and email tracking to make sure everything is up to date.
  • Email campaigns and sequences: If you're just getting started with bulk emails campaigns, you can choose from a vast email number of email templates available.
  • AI support: Get AI support to save time sending personalized emails to multiple recipients through 'Magic Field'.
  • Notes and reminders: Create collaborative notes with your team that are easily accessible. Avoid doubling up and create one source of truth.
  • Integrations: Like the best CRMs out there, folk gives you access to third party applications
1-click contact enrichment with folk
folk's contact enrichment feature

2. HubSpot CRM

Best for:  free forever plan

HubSpot is a go to for a lot of small businesses. However, even though it's a free CRM, some of its main drawbacks such as the inability to scale with you and the time it takes to understand its basic CRM tools can be deal breaker for many.

HubSpot CRM

Key features

  • Feature rich: HubSpot is among the most mature CRMs in the market so they have a vast integration library and basic CRM features.
  • Contact Management: Create contact records, log sales activities and review previous interactions. 
  • Email marketing: A/B test subject lines, create and design email campaigns from your CRM. The marketing hub from Hubspot is probably among the most appreciated in the market. 
  • Community access: For support and general enquiries.

3. Copper CRM

Best for: Gmail users

Copper CRM is a CRM that lives in your Gmail emails hub. Expect a live activity feed of every interaction on your contacts’ profiles. Its contact management features is rather limiting.

Copper CRM

Key features

  • Workflow automation: Design workflows to automate repetitive tasks and get notifications when something needs to be done.
  • Lead management: Build a repeatable lead qualification process. 
  • Contact management: Categorize contacts by type.
  • Google workspace CRM: Get access to G suite through a Google integration that suggests file attachments based on email activity.


Even though using Google workspace tools can be a budget friendly way to get started with basic CRM needs, we hope the list has proven that fully integrating gmail into your CRM is do-able on a budget. Budget friendly doesn't have to mean limited access to the features that will support your team and help your business grow. Try folk today, free.

More resources

Whether you're just getting started or looking for ways to level up your tech stack and business development strategy, we've got more resources for you: