Trello is primarily a project management software, but it can be easily customized for basic CRM functionality using its Kanban interface, custom fields, calendar, and Google Drive integrations. This allows businesses with simple sales processes to use Trello as a way to save money on CRM software.
However, while Trello is free to start using, it may not be the best long-term solution for your business. Customizations to the software, known as Power-Ups, which are needed to make customer relationship management (CRM) more efficient, can quickly eat into the potential cost savings. Therefore, it is a good idea to also consider other simple CRM alternatives before attempting to use Trello to manage your deals and contacts.
If you determine this software is still the best option for you, here are the four steps outlining how to set up and use Trello as a CRM:
1. Customize Trello to Fit Your Sales Needs
Setting up Trello as CRM software first requires understanding your basic sales process—the steps it takes to move someone from a contact to a customer for each of your products or services. This will define how you set up your sales pipeline and deal stages. Later, you’ll add your contacts, create pipelines and stages, set up teams, and invite users. If you have multiple sales and support users, be sure to include them in the process from the start.
Outline Your Sales Process
Write down the sequential steps in your sales process. These are the activities it takes to move someone from contact to customer. If you have multiple products or services with different steps in the process, create a pipeline, or “Trello board,” for each. A pipeline is a visual snapshot of your deals with the associated stages.
Here’s an example of a pipeline with stages for a company selling marketing services:
- Initial Source or Contact
- First Call
- Discovery Call
- Goal Setting
- Stakeholders Meeting
- Proposal Review
- Future Follow-up
If you need help outlining your sales process, our article on How to Create a Sales Process can provide you with additional tips and insights.
Create Pipelines, Stages, Deals & Contacts in Trello
What many CRMs call pipelines, stages, and deals and contacts, Trello refers to as boards, lists, and cards, respectively. This is displayed in the interface in Kanban format with drag-and-drop functionality. To complete this step, create a board (pipeline), then add your lists (stages), and in any list or stage, you can add cards that serve as a contact’s information (company name, contact name).
We recommend sticking to either company or contact name as the card’s name for consistency. You can always add more details in a card’s custom fields (we’ll explain how to do this in greater detail in our “Add CRM Integrations & Internal Customization Options” section below).
Plug in the deal steps from your sales process as Trello lists to create deal stages that form your overall pipeline. You can create multiple pipelines by creating multiple boards, which can then be assigned to teams as mentioned below under “Set Up Teams.”
Add Contacts & Companies
When using Trello as a CRM, contacts and companies are represented as a card. You can manually add them, or better yet, use third-party app Zapier to transfer contact information from Google Sheets, Evernote, Typeform, and Gmail, which will create new contact cards. In addition, you can use a company like Import2 to easily import CSV files into Trello.
Create Contact Records
Contact records, the standardized information you add to the cards for each of your contacts, are an important component of customer management no matter what type of CRM you use. You can manage contacts or companies using Trello cards, but try to pick one and stick with it for consistency. We’ll use a company card as an example to show the important features to consider when using Trello as your CRM.
Fill in the following fields on the Trello card:
- Card Title: Add the company name.
- Description: Add contact name and details such as email, phone, address, a brief description of how you connected with them, and any other high-level details that matter.
- Comments: This is where you should keep notes of conversations, add attachments, and copy team members to notify them as necessary.
Next, add to the card using the buttons found on the right-hand side of the card:
- Members: Invite relevant team members to the card for collaboration.
- Labels: These are color-coded ways to categorize leads for things such as lead source, urgency, or what they’re interested in.
- Checklist: Create a to-do list of items that need to be completed during the sales process, such as ask for a business plan, schedule a demo, do competitive research, and so on.
- Due Date: Add reminders for important tasks. You’ll be notified by email 24 hours before the task is due. The calendar Power-Up will give you a view of all of your tasks by week and month.
You can also elect to take additional actions:
- Share: Send a link to your card to multiple teammates.
- Watch: Clicking this feature will notify you when someone makes a change to the card.
- Custom Fields: See the above section on Power-Ups for details and use cases.
Set Up Teams
Teams are groupings of boards and people, and can include admins and regular team members with no limits to the number of teams or members per team. Creating teams is useful if you have multiple departments. For example, if you have inside and outside sales teams, you may want to create separate teams with different pipelines.
Invite Team Users
Invite as many people to a team or board as you need. You can do this at the team, board, and card level. There’s also an option to make a board private by board members (available to team members) or public, which makes it available (view only) to anyone who finds it on the internet. Here’s an example of a public Trello board.
2. Add Integrations & Internal Customization Options
Along with internal customization options, Trello provides dozens of integrations with third-party apps for sales, marketing, project management, human resources (HR), analytics, and more. Trello collectively calls these Power-Ups. The free version allows only one integration, but the two paid plans ($9.99 per user, per month and $20.83 per user, per month) allow unlimited Power-Ups.
In addition, integrations with third-party software often require a separate login and, in some cases, a paid subscription. In comparison, a CRM like Pipedrive includes the same Kanban-style visualization and drag-and-drop style interface as Trello, but also comes with CRM functionality built in, making it a simplified alternative to integrating a bunch of Power-Ups. Pipedrive also lets you try it out, risk-free for 14 days, to see if it is a solution for you.
However, here are some of the most useful options enabled by Trello integrations:
Schedule With the Calendar
The calendar Power-Up lets you easily manage weekly and monthly cards by dragging and dropping them to the calendar to automatically update due dates. You can also filter cards by due dates, see completed tasks, and export the calendar to third-party apps. The calendar is also supported in the mobile app.
Create Custom Fields
To use Trello as a CRM, you’ll likely want to add the custom fields Power-Up, which lets you add data fields and other CRM-related functionality to cards. Once added and populated, the fields will appear within each card and on the card within the board for a quick view of multiple deal details.
Here are the custom field options and some ways you might use them in your sales process:
- Checkbox: Create tasks associated with moving a prospect through the sales process such as “sent capabilities deck,” “create demo account,” “sent case studies,” “met stakeholders,” and so on. These will serve as reminders for the actions usually associated with closing a deal.
- Date: Set time and date reminders for tasks, estimated closing dates, contact dates, campaign dates, and whatever else is important in the sales process. Add multiple calendars to one card.
- Drop-down: Use a drop-down menu to create options for important items such as industry, SKUs, types of product or service, and win probability.
- Number: Use for deal size, account number, order number, or any other significant numerical value.
- Text: Add contact name, company, location, and other important deal identifiers.
Add Google Drive
The integration with Google Drive gives you additional flexibility and saves time because the link is included in each card for easy access. You can search and attach files with a few clicks. You’ll also see real-time previews for Google Drive files attached to cards. Though there are limits to attachment size in each of the plans (10MB and 250MB), this is an easy way to connect larger files such as presentations and proposals for quick retrieval.
Connect Other Tools
There are dozens of other Power-Up options such as Slack, Survey Monkey, Twitter, and Wistia, all with varying degrees of functionality once connected. With Twitter, for example, you can attach tweets to cards; with Slack, you can share information by sending Trello cards to Slack channels or individuals and attach those conversations to cards. When integrated with Mailchimp, you can add templates and campaigns to cards, and see campaign data within those cards.
Most of Trello’s Power-Up options come from third-party applications. However, they do have an in-house option called Butler, which automates many of the tasks in boards and cards, using customized triggers and results to smooth your workflow within Trello.
Some common Butler functionality includes things like automatically creating new cards when certain tasks are performed, offering to automatically add tasks to a calendar from cards, and alerting team members if cards that meet certain criteria are created. Check out Medium’s helpful guide, “How to Use Butler,” to give you an idea of the Power-Up’s capabilities when combined with Trello’s native functionality.
Download the Mobile App
Download the mobile app to work wherever you are. Here are some of the things you can do on the go: create boards, rearrange workflows, assign cards to members, add card details, and add pictures to cards. Even if you’re offline, all changes you make will be synced once you’re connected again.
3. Manage Your Sales Process
The simplicity of the Trello CRM makes it easy to manage your sales pipeline(s). Contacts can be added using a number of third-party forms (Power-Ups) and customized with various data fields to provide the context you’ll need as you move them through the sales funnel. This is done by simply dragging and dropping a contact or company from one to stage to the next within the pipeline.
Add New Contacts Automatically
To add new contacts automatically, you can use third-party app Zapier to connect your website forms to Trello, sending form information right into your board. You can use this connection with Google Forms, JotForm, Typeform, and other supported tools. In addition, the Gmail add-on lets you add contact cards to Trello from your inbox with one click.
Subject lines become cards; titles and email bodies are added as card descriptions. You’ll want to change these to either the company or contact name—whichever system you decided on beforehand.
Archive, Search, Restore & Move Cards (Deals)
If you want to save a deal for future follow-up, you have a couple of options: create a stage in the pipeline for future follow-up or archive the card (it will remain archived indefinitely). You can retrieve it any time by going to the board menu, clicking “More,” finding the card, and clicking “Send to Board.”
If you need to move a deal to another pipeline, click the context menu in the top right of the deal (or card) and select “Move.” This will pull up a list of the pipelines and deal stages that you can pick to move the deal to. You can also move the card while you’re in it by clicking on “Move” in the bottom right corner and following the same steps.
Add a Resources List
Use the first list as a place to store resources such as case studies, pricing decks, capabilities, email templates, marketing collateral, and other often referenced items. This makes it easy to attach and send right from your board.
4. Master Advanced Trello CRM Features
To become a power Trello CRM user, you’ll need to learn all the advanced features, shortcuts, and actions that will save you time and improve your overall efficiency. These are things like drag-and-drop capabilities, keyboard shortcuts, and mentions.
Here are some advanced features that can help improve efficiency:
To see all shortcuts, press Shift + ? while in Trello. Here are a few of the highlights to make actions a little easier:
- Boards Menu: Press “b” to open the boards menu
- Due Date: Press “d” to open the due date picker for a card
- Open Card: Press “enter” to open the currently selected card
- Insert New Card: Press “n” to open a pop-over that lets you add a card
- Edit Title: While viewing a card, press “t” to edit the title
- Quick Edits: While hovering over a card, press “e” to open up Quick Edits for changing labels, members, and due dates
To alert a teammate to an item in a card’s comments, type “@” followed by the first few letters of their name, and it will auto-populate their name. That person will receive an email notification with a link to the card. They must be a member of the board to get the notification.
Drag & Drop
From your desktop, you can drag and drop multiple files to a card to upload them. In addition, you can drag images from other sites to cards. Keep in mind that there’s a 10MB attachment limit for the free plan and 250MB limit for the business and gold plans.
Create Multiple Cards
To simplify the process of creating multiple cards (contacts or companies) at once, you can copy a spreadsheet column or line-separated list from a document, paste it into the card, and click on submit. It will then create a new card for each line in the list. In the below example, I copied names from a Google Sheet and pasted them into a card, instantly creating six separate contact records.
The Trello home view provides the 30,000-foot view of what’s happening with teams, boards, and cards. “Up next” shows cards that have upcoming due dates and those recently overdue, as well as active conversations that require your reply. “Team highlights” show all conversations from your boards so you can stay updated. You can go to any card in the home view by clicking on its title.
Reporting With Trello
There are currently no native reporting tools in the Trello CRM. However, depending on the metrics you are trying to track, there are a few ways to get insights into how you’re using the platform with Power-Ups. By using a time tracker such as TimeCamp, you’ll know how long you’re spending on each contact or deal. The Card Aging app will show cards in various visual states (e.g., fading out, looking aged) depending on the last time they were touched.
If you’re working within an Agile framework, there are multiple helpful Power-Ups that can give you visual representations of your progress. My favorite in this category is Agile Metrics by Screenful.
There’s also a Chrome extension called Original Card Counter that shows the number of cards in every list. This is a small but helpful function that can provide an at-a-glance count of the number of deals you or your team have working.
What Else Can Trello Do for My Business?
There are many sales-related options for how to use Trello besides strictly managing a pipeline. You can create a centralized resource for your sales team, onboard customers and employees, and collaborate with customers on topics that are important to them and your business.
Here are some related ways to use Trello:
Sales Team Resources
Create a board that houses all of your sales-related resources that your team can access easily. Some examples of resources to create as tasks include:
- Contact information for individuals or teams
- Talking points
- Sales scripts
- Case studies
- Sales email templates
- Support frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- Marketing resources
Customer & Employee Onboarding
Boards for onboarding customers and employees can be set up similar to a sales pipeline with different stages and steps within each stage as part of an overall linear process, e.g., 60-day training and onboarding for a new salesperson and a two-week customer onboarding process. All applicable team members will have access to the boards and always know what’s going on.
One way to increase customer satisfaction and reduce churn is to create a board for product feedback. For example, create a board for feature requests where you show features you’re currently working on and invite customers to request their own. The board can be made public, comments can be collected, and customers can provide feedback on early releases or ideas.
Top Alternatives to Using Trello as a CRM
If using Trello as a CRM doesn’t quite fit your needs, here are some alternatives. You can read more about these options by visiting our article on the Best Simple CRM Systems.
(Best Overall) Teams wanting an intuitive, easy-to-use CRM with built-in calling
Small businesses needing a CRM with built-in marketing and service desk capabilities
Companies requiring simple pricing and easy-to-use core CRM tools
Organizations wanting a CRM with an emphasis on visual sales management tools
Businesses wanting a free, no-frills CRM with basic features for unlimited users
Teams looking for a CRM with gamification tools to increase user engagement
Trello as a CRM FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about using Trello as a CRM:
What’s the right Trello plan for me?
This all depends on the complexity of your business, the size of your team, and the sophistication of your pipeline. Trello offers a great free plan to get you started on the platform, where you get unlimited boards, lists, and cards. However, you’re limited to one Power-Up, you can only create 10 shared team boards (challenging if you’ve got multiple products, each with their own pipeline), and your file attachment size is capped at 10MB.
The next step up is Trello Gold; this plan is $5 per month (or $45 annually) and expands to three Power-Ups per board, significant latitude as far as visual customization of the interface, and some automation options to help improve your workflow.
Most businesses settle on the third tier, Business Class. For $12.50 per month (or $119.88 per year), you get all the features of the Gold plan plus unlimited team boards, great team board templates to get you started, unlimited Power-Ups, custom fields (essential for making this a CRM platform you’ll actually get something out of), the calendar view, and all the integrations with third-party apps through Zapier.
Pro tip: Since Business Class is relatively inexpensive, start there with a monthly subscription. If you find yourself not using all the features, evaluate what you do use and see if what you need is offered in the Gold plan. With no contract or commitment beyond month-to-month, you really can experiment to find the best plan for you and your business.
Do I have to have a team to use Business Class?
No, definitely not. Many solo operators choose business class because of the unlimited Power-Ups and helpful slate of integrations.
Does Trello work offline?
Yes. If you’re working on an airplane or somewhere you can’t connect to the internet, you can use Trello’s native Mac OS app, their mobile app, or the Windows 10 app to work in the Trello framework. As soon as your device is connected to the internet, Trello will sync across all devices to reflect the changes you made.
My team isn’t checking Trello regularly. Any tips on improving buy-in?
For team members who are used to a more traditional CRM, Trello can be a little bit of an adjustment. The best way to keep team members engaged is to activate the card tagging and sharing notifications. That way, if you tag a team member on a card, they’ll get an email alerting them as such, thereby prompting them to log on and see what they’ve been assigned.
Also, Business Class users can activate the Observer feature for boards, lists, and cards, notifying managers of activity. This is a great way for managers to keep track of their team’s activity in the platform, especially early on in the adoption of Trello as a CRM.
Can I send an email to a Trello board?
Yes. Each Trello board has a unique email address. This is a handy feature if you are in a situation where you have important client information that needs recording but you can’t get access to Trello.
It may not be a full-featured CRM, but setting up and using Trello as a CRM is easy once you’ve outlined your sales process. From there, you can create multiple pipelines and easily add both new and existing clients with custom fields. The capabilities aren’t limited to just the CRM as you can also create boards for onboarding and customer collaboration, and well as use it as a sales resource.
However, if you are looking for a more full-featured CRM for project management, consider Pipedrive. Pipedrive offers the same easy to use, drag-and-drop-style interface, but offers fuller reporting functionality as well as the ability to manage product pricing with the tool. Best of all, Pipedrive comes with a built-in Trello integration, giving you the best of both worlds. You can sign up today to get started with a risk-free 14-day trial by visiting their website.