Airtable is one of the most popular no-code tools – and for a good reason. The tool can be used to build almost anything… databases, backends for web apps, and project management tools..  But can it be used to build a CRM? And, most importantly, is an Airtable-based CRM a viable and practical option for your business?

After all, if you choose Airtable, you have to put in some time to plan and then develop the CRM. So why bother when you can just go ahead and buy a subscription or one of many CRM tools that the internet is full off? 

Especially that the competition is really fierce and CRM tools are available in all shapes, sizes, and price tags… 

On the other hand… could it be that when you have so many options, you don’t really have any?

In this article, I’m going to look into whether Airtable can be a viable choice for building a customer relationship management tool… and how to ensure that your Airtable development efforts turn out successful and the CRM meets your business needs. 

But first, let’s look at why your business needs a CRM in the first place. 

Why Does Your Business Need a CRM?

If you’re reading this article, you most likely either already have a CRM and are looking to change it or you understand the benefits of having a CRM in your business but don’t yet have one. But, in case you are on the line of whether you should get one, here are some benefits to having a CRM:

  • Gain control over your sales process. A CRM allows you to put all of your lead and customer data, including key stakeholder details, interactions, or lifetime value in a centralized database. This, in turn, helps you better manage your sales and customer relationships. And, let’s face it – the latter is one of the most important assets your business has.
  • Visualize the journey of every lead. With a well-designed CRM, you can have a clear overview of where each of the leads is in your lead pipeline. This, in turn, helps you identify bottlenecks, better plan follow-ups, and increase lead close rate. 
  • Build a single source of truth for your sales data. Data is key to optimizing your business processes. A CRM that allows you to collect plenty of lead and customer data can be used as a single source of truth for all your sales efforts. And, by integrating it with other tools, you can ensure data accuracy across your entire sales tech stack. 
  • Track key metrics and set better KPIs. Having consistent sales data allows you to eliminate guesswork, track key metrics, and make data-driven decisions. The better decisions you make, the more you can get out of every dollar that you invest in your sales.  
  • Automate some of your sales processes. Most modern CRM tools come with at least basic built-in automation features. And the more you can automate, the more your salespeople can focus on actual sales work and closing deals.

Of course, there are many more benefits to getting a CRM. And there’s plenty of research data to support their use. For example, according to Aberdeen’s group research in teams that put efforts into actually utilizing their CRMs 24% more sales reps achieved their individual quotas. On top of that, the “CRM-empowered” teams experienced a 23% higher lead conversion rate, on average. 

Considering all of the benefits, it’s no surprise that 91% of businesses employing 11 people or more use a CRM (however, the number goes down to 74% for smaller businesses). And while the latter still looks impressive, it also means that 1 in 4 businesses doesn’t use a CRM at all. And many of those that do, feel that they’re not doing it as effectively as they could. 

So, why do so many companies fail to choose or underutilize their CRMs?  

Why It’s So Hard to Choose a Good CRM?

There are many reasons why businesses fail to choose a CRM tool, pick the wrong one, or fail to get the most out of an existing CRM. Usually, such companies all fall into one of four broader categories: 

1. Nobody sees a need for a CRM

The first and most obvious reason is the lack of visible need for a CRM tool. Some businesses don’t use any customer relationship software and see it as an unnecessary investment. Others rely on simple spreadsheets. Some do it for years – in fact, many do a really good job with nothing more than just a spreadsheet.

But if they can do such a good job with simple spreadsheets, it often means they are very well organized and have excellent processes. So, if they can thrive with spreadsheets, just imagine what they could achieve if they got their hands on a CRM that offers proper automations and data visualizations.

2. Stakeholders don’t understand their needs

A CRM is one of the core tools in your business – and it definitely is a critical one for your sales team. Yet, many stakeholders don’t care to understand what features they need. 

Instead, they choose whatever’s cheaper, more popular, or has better marketing or reviews. They know they need a CRM tool, they pick what’s popular, and ask their sales team to adjust. As a result, the team has to adjust their processes to the tool – that’s not how it’s supposed to work. 

Sure, this might not be a problem if you don’t have any sales processes at all. But if you force your sales team to change their existing processes, you’ll cause friction. This, in turn, is one of the easiest ways to kill your sales team’s efficiency. 

3. The number of available options is too overwhelming

Another group includes teams that understand their needs, but somehow still haven’t picked a tool. Sometimes, such a situation can last for months or even years (especially if they’re already relying on spreadsheets, which serve as a very basic CRM. The cause?

Often, one of the reasons behind this indecisiveness is… the abundance of CRM solutions in the market. Surprisingly, the number of CRM tools makes it even harder to pick the one. As a result, teams get stuck with whatever solution they’re using. 

4. The team is too reliant on an existing system.

Lastly, many small businesses, especially those that have been in business for 10, 20, or 30 years use legacy CRM systems. Often, they don’t switch because, even though the needs changed, decision-makers themselves don’t see the need to invest in a new system. 

The problem is that while those legacy tools allow storing contacts, their features rarely go beyond that. Most of the time, they lack the integration, automation, and collaboration features that modern CRMs have. This means that even though a business is using a CRM, its sales processes are still far from efficient.

A visualization of an outdated CRM developed in the 90s

Of course, neither of the above four reasons explains why you should choose Airtable and not one of the many other CRM tools. 

So, let’s dive right into the benefits of using Airtable as a CRM.

Why Choose Airtable as Your CRM?

Why Airtable? If you’re reading this article, I assume you are at least familiar with the platform, and are considering Airtable among other options. So, let’s look at the benefits of using Airtable as your CRM:

  • Ease of use for non-technical salespeople or business owners

As a business owner or a sales person, you don’t want to focus on the technical side of things. You want a system that helps you get the work done. You want easy access to your leads, customers, and interactions with them. You want to track key metrics and see whether you or your team hit their sales goals. 

The good news? You can get all of that with Airtable.

What’s more, you get a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing “how” you want to achieve all those things. All you need is to understand your needs and someone who can take them, and build a CRM that meets them. 

  • Flexibility and customizability 

When it comes to flexibility and customizability, no SaaS CRM beats Airtable. The platform gives you all three core elements that you need to build a fully-fledged CRM: a database, automations, and interfaces. 

Thanks to that, switching to a well-designed Airtable-based CRM may not only simplify your operations but also transform how you engage with every customer. This, in turn, can dramatically boost your sales team’s efficiency and customer satisfaction rates. 

A quote emphasizing one of the key benefits to using Airtable as a CRM

Sure, there are some limitations. First, the interfaces are not custom-coded, and you have to rely on pre-made elements, which means your CRM app will never be fully custom-made. 

Moreover, the types of data fields in the bases are limited (still, there are plenty). However, it’s usually more than what most CRM tools offer. Sure, you can’t achieve everything – but the only tool that could beat Airtable’s flexibility is a custom-coded one. 

  • Excellent integration capabilities

Airtable boasts an excellent API that allows you to integrate it with thousands of other tools. And if you don’t want to play with API requests yourself, you can leverage Airtable’s excellent integrations with platforms such as Zapier or Make. 

This allows you to build complex workflows and automate many manual sales tasks. For example, you could leverage Zapier LinkedIn integration to send leads straight to your Airtable database. Or, if you’re collecting payments, you could integrate Stripe with Zapier to send payment data to your Airtable CRM. 

And if you choose Make, you can build even more complex scenarios. As you can see in the screenshot below, you can build very robust data-handling workflows with ease: 

A screenshot of a robust Make backend handling Airtable CRM automations
  • Ease of building external views for stakeholders

One of the great things about Airtable is that you can build various views for different collaborators. The drawback is that if you want to have any views that are available to external stakeholders, they all need to be added to your workspace. 

The more users you add, the more the cost of your Airtable workspace adds up. Moreover, if you want to limit what those stakeholders can access, you might be forced to build separate interfaces for each of them. 

But, here’s where Airtable’s integration capabilities come in.

On top of platforms such as Zapier or Make that allow you to automate Airtable processes, the platform can be used as a database for a low-code web CRM app. 

By integrating it with a UI builder such as Softr, you can build a CRM that’s easily accessible by multiple stakeholders. But a UI is just one piece of the puzzle. Another great benefit to using Softr for your Airtable CRM is Softr’s excellent permission control feature. Thanks to it, you can easily see what data and which pages are accessible to different user groups.

A screenshot of Softr, a low-code UI tool, homepage hero section
  • Spreadsheet-like experience

The last benefit will not appeal to most people – but it’s here for all those who manage their CRM using spreadsheets. At its core, Airtable feels like a more advanced spreadsheet alternative. 

This spreadsheet-like experience makes it an excellent tool for all those who are used to tracking leads and customers using Excel or Google Sheets. 

A screenshot of an Airtable deal table

To get started, all you need to do is import your data from Google Sheets to Airtable and build on that. Sure, you might have to edit certain formulas, especially if your CRM goes beyond simple data storage.

However, once you migrate and start using the platform, you might discover (in fact, you probably will) that certain Airtable features greatly empower your CRM. 

Speaking of starting… let’s see some of the high-level steps you need to follow to turn your Airtable database into a CRM. 

How to Turn Airtable Into a CRM (A High-Level Overview)

Now, let’s take a quick look at how you can turn Airtable into a CRM. Of course, the below is a very high-level overview. To go into the details, I’d have to understand your business and customers. 

Then, I’d have to get to know things such as where you find new customers, what are the usual interactions, and how long it takes you to close a deal. 

But, the usual development process follows the below steps: 

1. Assess Your Needs

Whether it’s an Airtable CRM or a custom-coded app, every development process starts with the same step: Honest assessment of your needs. Why?

Your needs will impact all of the elements of your future CRM.

The better you can understand them, the faster you can get to where you want to be. Even more importantly, the better you know what you need the less time you will spend on developing things you don’t need. 

And, most importantly, the better you map your needs, the higher the chance that the tool will actually meet them and, in turn, help you achieve better business results. 

2. Initial Database Design: Mapping Out the Data

First, you want to identify essential data fields. These include:

  • Account details (company name, address, size, links to contacts, invoice details, accounting email address). 
  • Contact details (name, phone numbers, email, position, are they a decision-maker)
  • Opportunities (name, value, probabilities, open and close dates, stages, assignees, linked activities)
  • Interactions/activities (dates, types, length, outcome)
  • Sales (dates, values) 

Some fields, such as notes or date added can be used in almost every table. And, don’t forget about “technical” fields such as linked records and (sometimes) automation flow control (to mark certain automations as completed), or lookups. 

A screenshot of sample Airtable CRM column names with blurred out sales data

Keep in mind, though, that the exact data fields will depend on your business, offer, and sales process. Often, you may want to utilize multiple custom fields for customer preferences or order customization. But, the above example should be enough to establish a database for a simple Airtable-based CRM.

3. Plan How to Link Airtable Tables

Next, you want to look at all the data fields that you’ve just listed and assign them to different tables. Once that’s done, you need to decide how to link the fields most efficiently to avoid duplicate links, which might lead to inaccurate views and automation errors. 

In some cases, you may also want to start thinking about how to automate the process of creating those links – but, as there’s a lot more you may want to automate, we’ll get to it in one of the next steps. 

4. Think of Filters and Permissions

Once you have all the data and linked records, it’s time to plan filters and permissions. Think of all the people who are going to use the system. What are their goals? How can you make achieving them easier? 

Knowing your Airtable filters and permissions can also help you choose the right view – which is the next step in Airtable CRM development. 

5. Choose How Users Will View the Data

Now, it’s time to choose how users will view the data. In general, there are four different approaches that you can choose:

  • Stick to a spreadsheet-like view (called a grid view in Airtable).

This is useful especially if you’re used to working with Google Sheets or Excel spreadsheets. Of course, you can still create multiple grid views for a single table. This approach allows you to jump between key data in a click of a button. Here’s a very simple example:

A screenshot of sample Airtable grid views in a CRM
  • Use different Airtable “classic” views. 

You can choose between calendar, gallery, kanban, timeline, list, and Gantt views. You can also leverage form views to let external stakeholders add data to your Airtable tables. 

But, the two views most useful in a CRM are the calendar and kanban view. The latter can be used to track your leads through the different stages of your sales funnel. 

A screenshot of built-in Airtable view types
  • Leverage Airtable interfaces. 

The third option gives you access to more advanced views such as individual record views or better list views. You can create different interfaces for different users, which gives you more control over the type of data available to stakeholders. 

Lastly, you can also connect your interface buttons with Airtable automations, allowing you to trigger workflows with a simple click. 

A screenshot of a sample Airtable CRM page showing a list of interactions
  • Connect a Third-Party Solution such as Softr

The last option may seem like an unnecessary hassle and expense – but it comes in handy in several situations. 

First, a Softr-like-solution is a must if you work with multiple external stakeholders with different access levels and don’t want to keep cloning the interfaces. It’s also an excellent choice if you want to merge your Airtable CRM with a customer portal. 

After all, what’s a better choice to build a customer portal than a web app builder? In this case, a Softr-based web app might be the most appropriate choice for your business. 

6. List Down (and Build) Automation Workflows

Once you have the data and the design, it’s time to start automating certain processes. The foundational automations that you need include automated follow-ups, notifications, and reminders. But, the better you understand your needs (see #1), the more unnecessary mundane tasks you can get rid of. 

When planning your automations, don’t forget that you don’t have to stick to the built-in Airtable automations. To take your Airtable CRM automations to the next level, don’t hesitate to leverage tools such as Make or Zapier. 

A great example is a Gmail Zapier integration that allows you to send customized email notifications straight from your Airtable-based CRM. Please note that Airtable can do that on its own, but there are certain benefits to using third-party email providers. 

In fact, in many Airtable development projects, some of the Airtable automation workflows are simple, two-step webhook requests that send data to Make for further processing. Make or Zapier are also crucial if you want to transfer data between Airtable and most email, customer, or automate accounting with Xero and Zapier

7. Test the CRM

Once you build it, it’s time for a test. Obviously, you should plan tests of all individual elements, as well as periodic tests after each development phase. But, it’s one thing to test a Make workflow separately and do that once it’s connected to a system. 

After all, if you want to get the most out of business automation, your CRM will be connected to at least a few different workflows. And some of them might trigger one another which, unless planned correctly, could lead to automation errors. 

What’s important is that testing might sound like the last step but it never is. If you want to make your Airtable CRM a success, there’s one more thing you need to do. 

8. Plan Maintenance and Upgrades

Now, we’re almost done. The last step is to plan future maintenance and upgrades. Why is it critical? First, it’s very hard to build a system that will suit all your needs out of the box. 

The more you use the system, the more you will want to change it. And, since you built it with Airtable, you get the flexibility and customizability to adjust the system to your needs – not the other way around.

Another reason why you need to think about updates is that your tech stack will change. Many tools will evolve, releasing new functionalities and getting rid of some of the old ones. This includes Airtable. Any time this happens, you want to check if the changes can make your CRM better, and implement them as soon as possible. 

Of course, this works the other way around. If your CRM is leveraging multiple third-party tools and integrations, you want to keep an eye on whether they didn’t make changes to their API that would force you to adjust your automation workflows. 

Alternatives to an Airtable-based CRM

And what if you are still not convinced? Thankfully, the Internet is full of different SaaS CRM solutions that you can choose for your business. Some of them, such as Hubspot, come with great marketing automation capabilities. Others, such as Monday, are a mix of PM and CRM tools. 

The last category covers tools such as Pipedrive, which are “true” CRMs and give you everything you need to start managing your leads and clients out of the box. These tools are an excellent choice for both growing and established sales teams. 

Most of them come with built-in automations and their capabilities can be further expanded with Make or Zapier (see how to Automate Pipedrive with Zapier). So, where’s the catch? 

Even though they offer certain customization capabilities, it’s you who has to adjust to their UI and UX – not the other way around. Moreover, even though they offer automations, they are often significantly limited. 

Sure, most CRM tools offer built-in workflow editors. But if you really want to leverage automation, to take your business to the next level, you still want to connect them to external platforms such as Make or Zapier anyway. 

So, why adjust to a tool when you can build one with low-code (and are free to expand it as your needs and processes change and mature)? 

Start Building Your Airtable CRM

As you can see, Airtable is an excellent choice for a small and medium business CRM that want to manage their leads and clients effectively. While it cannot be as customized as a custom-coded solution, it still beats any popular CRM tool hands down. If you do the groundwork and understand your needs, you get plenty for the money that you invest in it.

And, depending on those needs, you can start small and build on that. Every Airtable paid plan gives you access to a database, multiple different views, interfaces, and automations. Which is everything you need to effectively manage leads. Sure, it takes more time to build a fully-functional tool compared to just signing up with a popular CRM tool. 

But once you have an Airtable-based CRM up and running, it will pay you back – and more – with all the time you save on managing leads and customers in an efficient and convenient way.

Ready to build your own Airtable CRM? Want to discuss your Airtable CRM needs or got automation questions? Schedule a discovery call and let’s see if we’re a good fit.

Jacek Piotrowski
Jacek Piotrowski

Hey, I’m Jacek. I’m the founder and Chief Automator at

I’m on a mission to help you use automation to reclaim your time and achieve more in your business.

You can find out more about me – and why I started Clickleo – over on this page


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