Does your company need a customized customer relationship management (CRM) system but lacks the knowledge to build it?
Although the CRM industry has numerous products, some businesses demand made-from-scratch software. The only problem? These businesses don’t know how to build it!
Hi, my name is AJ! I started Small Business Bonfire after selling my company for multiple seven figures.
My aim is to support small businesses by providing resources and actionable advice, helping them steer clear of the mistakes I made on my own journey.
Keep reading if you want to learn how to build a CRM system that meets the needs of your company and more!
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What is a Custom CRM?
A custom CRM (customer relationship management) system is a specialized software designed for your company’s needs.
It helps businesses manage interactions with current and potential customers, track data, and improve customer relationships.
For instance, a traditional CRM system keeps track of the following things:
- Who the customers are
- What customers have bought
- When customers make purchases
- How customers interact with the business.
What’s the difference between a regular and custom CRM?
When CRM software is customized, the business can make it work and design the interface precisely the way they want.
Therefore, teams can add any features, functions, or capabilities!
Although some ready-made CRM platforms allow customizations, there’s a limit.
With a custom CRM, the possibilities are endless.
Businesses can tailor their CRM to meet their unique needs and goals!
Why Build Custom CRM Software?
Is custom CRM software right for your business?
Building your own CRM software is beneficial, but it’s not for everyone.
Here are five compelling reasons some businesses should consider building custom CRM software!
The System is Tailored to Your Business
A custom CRM is designed specifically around your business model and processes.
Therefore, the CRM system aligns with the following aspects of your business:
- Specific needs
- Your team’s goals
- The ways of doing business
- Your preferred user interface
As a result of the CRM platform matching everything your business needs and wants, your entire company is more efficient!
As your business grows, a custom CRM can adapt and evolve with you.
That way, you and your team don’t have to go through the exhausting and expensive process of switching CRM systems.
For example, you can alter the following things when you build your own CRM system:
- Add new features
- Remove unnecessary functions
- Adjust functionalities to keep pace with your expansion
When browsing new CRM systems, looking for scalability features is crucial!
Custom CRM software can integrate seamlessly with your existing software and tools.
When a CRM system integrates third-party tools, it allows for a smooth data flow between systems, enhancing the following things:
- Operational effectiveness
- Team-wide communication
- Access to up-to-date data
It Gives Your Team a Competitive Advantage
Building your own CRM system can offer a competitive edge by providing unique features unavailable in off-the-shelf solutions!
Some examples of unique features could include the following:
- Advanced analytics
- Customer segmentation
- Specialized communication tools
Getting a competitive advantage is something every business strives for.
Therefore, if you can gain even a slight advantage over one of your competitors, it’s worth the effort to get there!
Enhanced Customer Experience
With a system designed around your customers’ needs and preferences, custom CRM software ultimately leads to a superior, more personalized customer experience.
Focusing on building an excellent customer experience is vital for several reasons, including the following:
- It fosters customer loyalty
- It enhances customer satisfaction
- It promotes word-of-mouth marketing (free advertising!)
Remember, one of the primary focuses of any CRM system is to build better customer relationships.
Building a custom CRM system is the best way for some companies to improve client experiences and relationships!
How to Build a CRM
Now that you understand the various benefits of building a custom CRM system, you’re likely wondering how to build one!
Fortunately, creating custom CRM software is more accessible than most small business owners assume.
Below, I’ve detailed the eight-step process for building the best custom CRM systems!
Step 1: Choose the CRM Type, Roles & Platform
The first step in custom CRM software development includes:
- Choosing the right type of system
- Determining user roles
- Selecting a platform
Answering these questions is integral to success.
For instance, choosing the best type of CRM system ensures it functions exactly how your team needs it to!
Types of CRM
There are three types of CRM systems, including the following:
Here’s what you need to know about each of these systems!
Operational CRM systems focus on automating and enhancing customer-facing and service-related operations within a business.
Operational CRM software is designed to streamline and simplify day-to-day tasks such as:
- Sales automation tasks
- Sending marketing-related messages
- Entering customer service data
This type of CRM creates a better workflow and increases efficiency, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.
An operational CRM system is a valuable tool for businesses looking to build stronger relationships with customers and improve their service delivery!
Analytical CRM systems focus on the analysis of customer data to drive strategic decision-making and management.
These solutions provide insights into customer behavior and preferences, enabling the business to anticipate customer needs and optimize marketing strategies!
Further, some features of analytical CRM include the following:
- Data mining
- Predictive modeling
- Customer segmentation
- Creating in-depths reports
By leveraging these tools, businesses can target their marketing efforts more effectively.
As a result of better communication with potential and existing customers, businesses improve customer retention and increase profitability!
Collaborative CRM systems focus on improving collaboration and communication within a business and with external partners.
This CRM system streamlines customer-related data and information sharing across different departments or teams.
Some features of a collaborative CRM system include the following:
- Interaction management
- Document sharing
- Partner relationship management
A collaborative CRM system makes collaborative efforts seamless, leading to a more consistent and personalized customer experience across all touchpoints.
User Roles of a CRM
When you add a new user to your CRM system, you must assign them a specific role.
For instance, these “roles” can include titles like:
- Sales rep
Each role you create has specific capabilities and rights, allowing them to perform necessary tasks.
Let’s take a CRM user with a manager role.
In this case, the CRM manager would have the following functions within your CRM system:
- View and manage their activities
- Manage other contacts
- View the directory of contacts
- Manage events, applications, documents, etc.
As you create your own CRM software, creating various templates for roles within your company is vital.
Further, it would help if you created access levels for each position in your company.
That way, employees only access the functions and data they need!
Decide the CRM Platforms You’ll Support
Deciding the CRM platforms you’ll support is crucial in building a custom CRM system.
This step involves selecting the platforms (like web, mobile, etc.) where your CRM system will operate.
As a result, you determine the accessibility and usability of your CRM solution for its users.
Step 2: Choose Your CRM Features
Step two is choosing your CRM features!
There are four types of CRM features, including the following:
- Critical features
- Main features
- Advanced features
- Niche features
When learning how to build a CRM system, choosing the right features is critical!
For instance, when your team has advanced features, they can do their jobs more efficiently and streamline business processes.
Here’s what you need to know about each type of feature.
Critical features are the essential functionalities a CRM system must have to effectively manage customer relationships and maximize the benefits of the software for the business!
Some examples of critical features might include the following:
- Contact management
- Interaction tracking
- Task management
These features are all vital for:
- Organizing and maintaining customer information
- Tracking previous and upcoming interactions
- Managing tasks related to customer service and sales
Your CRM software’s critical features should be things you can’t live without.
The main features of a CRM system are the additional functionalities that significantly enhance the software’s effectiveness and usability, going beyond the essential tasks.
These features are optional but provide valuable assistance in managing customer relationships and increasing sales efficiency.
Further, some examples of main features may include the following:
- Sales forecasting
- Email marketing integration
- Lead scoring
- Advanced analytics
Advanced features of CRM software refer to the sophisticated functionalities that provide users with in-depth insights, automation options, and extended capabilities to manage customer relationships effectively.
Further, these features are designed to empower businesses to optimize their sales, marketing, and customer service efforts.
Also, advanced features in a CRM system typically leverage advanced technology like machine learning or AI.
Some examples of advanced features may include the following:
- Artificial intelligence-driven insights
- Chatbot integration
- Predictive analytics
- Social media monitoring
- Advanced customization options
Niche features in CRM software refer to specialized functionalities tailored to meet:
- Unique business requirements
- Industry-specific demands
Additionally, teams design niche features to solve peculiar challenges in business processes.
These features are typically designed for a specific subset of users, enhancing the CRM’s adaptability to diverse business landscapes.
Lastly, some examples of niche features could include:
- Tools for real estate tracking in a CRM for realty businesses
- Integrations with eCommerce platforms for retail-oriented CRMs
Step 3: Calculate Your CRM Development Budget
Calculating a CRM software development budget is crucial so your company can stay within the budget of implementing new technology.
The primary factors that influence your CRM development budget include the following things:
- Number of roles: Different roles have different access to the CRM system.
- The number of functions: Ensure your CRM software performs how your team needs it to.
- Platform support: The more platform support your CRM system needs, the higher the final cost.
- Integrations and other software: Consider the cost of any third-party applications your team needs.
Custom CRM development is a lengthy and expensive process.
Creating an accurate budget is an excellent way to stay within your financial constraints.
Step 4: Choose a CRM Developer
Next, you and your team must decide who will develop your custom CRM software!
There are several options for CRM developers, including the following:
- In-house team
- On-shore subcontractors
- Off-shore subcontractors
- Development agencies
Here’s everything you need to know about each of these development options.
Hire an In-House Development Team
An in-house development team is a group of professionals your company employs.
This team is dedicated to handling your software development needs, including building a custom CRM system!
In-house development teams are beneficial to work with because they understand the following things about your business:
- Unique requirements
Because in-house teams understand your business deeply, they can work closely with different departments to ensure the CRM aligns with specific needs.
Also, their physical proximity allows for real-time communication, immediate feedback, and swift problem-solving.
Given their exclusive focus on your business, in-house development teams can develop a deep understanding of your customer relationships and processes to build a CRM that truly fits.
Therefore, an in-house team is an excellent option for building custom CRM software as they offer the following things:
- A high level of customization
- Fast, clear communication
- Unlimited edits and tweaks to the system
Hire On-Shore Subcontractors
On-shore subcontractors are third-party professionals or firms based within the same country as your business.
On-shore subcontractors specialize in custom software development, including CRM systems.
Also, they bring specific domain knowledge and technical expertise that can accelerate the development process and ensure high-quality results.
By understanding local business contexts, regulations, and culture, on-shore subcontractors can deliver a CRM system tailored to your specific needs and market!
Although on-shore subcontractor costs may be higher than off-shore alternatives, the following aspects make them a valuable choice:
- The convenience of working in the same time zone
- Ease of face-to-face meetings
- Fewer communication barriers
Therefore, on-shore subcontractors can be beneficial for businesses seeking to build their own CRM software with efficient communication and a deep understanding of the local business landscape.
Hire Off-Shore Subcontractors
Off-shore subcontractors are third-party professionals or firms based outside your home country.
By leveraging different time zones, off-shore subcontractors can keep your project moving round-the-clock, accelerating the development process!
Further, off-shore subcontractors often provide competitive prices due to lower operational and labor costs in their home countries, making them a cost-effective choice for businesses operating on a tight budget.
Despite potential challenges in communication and cultural differences, the following aspects make off-shore subcontractors a beneficial option for CRM development:
- The cost savings
- Broadened talent pool
- 24/7 productivity
Hire a Development Agency
A development agency is a third-party firm specializing in various aspects of software development, including designing and building custom CRM systems.
These agencies bring a diverse pool of experts to build CRM software that fits your needs.
This pool of experts includes individuals like:
- Software engineers
- Project managers
- Business analysts
Their extensive experience across multiple industries and their ability to scale resources according to project needs make them a beneficial choice for developing a CRM system!
Step 5: Get Design Approval
Approving the CRM software’s design means you and your team accept how it looks and functions.
Getting design approval is critical because it ensures the CRM’s design aligns with the company’s CRM requirements and expectations before moving forward to the development phase.
Further, by approving the design, stakeholders and business leaders confirm the following aspects of the CRM software:
- Aesthetic appeal
Also, when teams approve the design, it reduces the likelihood of costly changes during the development stage!
The design approval process facilitates a mutual understanding between the development team and stakeholders, setting a clear roadmap for the CRM system’s construction.
Therefore, design approval is crucial in custom CRM development, providing a green light to transform the conceptual design into a functional system!
Step 6: Team Testing
Team testing, an essential step in custom CRM development, involves the internal team rigorously examining the developed CRM system.
While testing out the CRM software, employees must look for any of the following things:
- Usability issues
- Missing features
Ideally, you and your team catch any errors or usability issues before officially launching the software.
By leveraging their detailed knowledge of the system’s requirements, the team can validate the CRM’s functionality, performance, and user-friendliness!
This process ensures the product works as intended and confirms it aligns perfectly with the organization’s needs.
Further, testing the CRM software allows teams to identify and address potential problems early, mitigating the risk of more significant issues post-deployment.
As you can see, team testing plays a crucial role in guaranteeing the custom-built CRM software’s quality, accuracy, and efficacy.
Step 7: Roll Out the Software
Rolling out the CRM software involves deploying and implementing the system across your organization.
Officially launching the customized software is a critical phase where the CRM moves from the development environment into actual use by your team members.
This stage is undoubtedly exciting, as you’ve been working on development for several months!
Still, there are several things to be cautious of during the launch phase.
For instance, during this stage, it’s crucial to ensure you train all users on how to use the system effectively.
Also, it’s vital to ensure proper support channels are in place to address potential issues or queries.
Data migration is another significant aspect to be aware of; ensure that existing customer data is accurately and securely transferred into the new system.
A successful CRM launch depends on the following things:
- Thorough planning
- Seamless communication
- Gradual deployment
Consider a phased rollout approach to address any hiccups on a smaller scale before full implementation, as some small businesses find this beneficial.
Remember, the goal is to enhance customer relationships and streamline processes.
So, after launching your own CRM system, gather feedback regularly, make necessary adjustments, and always keep user needs at the forefront!
Step 8: Bug Fixes & Feature Ads
The final step in learning how to build a CRM system includes the following actions:
- Fixing any minor bugs in the system
- Monetizing your CRM platform with advertisements from outside companies
As you can imagine, bug fixes are crucial.
When you take the additional time to find and identify minor glitches in your system, it ensures your CRM runs smoothly and efficiently.
As a result, the CRM system you spent weeks building is a reliable tool for your team.
Unaddressed bugs could disrupt your business processes, leading to productivity loss and customer dissatisfaction!
In addition to fixing bugs and minor errors in your CRM software, it’s also an excellent idea to consider featuring ads on your website.
Featuring ads is beneficial for the following reasons:
- It allows you to monetize your website
- It allows you to promote other small businesses
- It makes your website more professional
- It can improve SEO in some instances
If you and your team elect to feature ads on your website, ensure you don’t overdo it.
Think about the websites that are simply overrun by third-party ads and pop-ups.
Most consumers stay away from these sites because it hinders the shopping experience.
Therefore, be cautious when determining how many ads will be on your website!
Tips for Building a CRM
Learning how to build a CRM system takes considerable time and effort.
Therefore, you’re likely looking for any and every piece of advice to make the process go smoother!
No worries; that’s why I’m here!
The two biggest pieces of advice I can offer include:
- Employee training is crucial.
- Your CRM WILL demand maintenance and tech support, so it’s best to prepare for that.
In this section, I’ll dive into these two pieces of advice further, ensuring you avoid the most common mistakes small business owners make!
Remember, Your Team Will Need CRM Training
Training your team on using the CRM system effectively is an essential step you cannot afford to skip!
A CRM system is a powerful tool, but only if your team knows how to use it.
Without proper training, your employees won’t be able to leverage the CRM to its full potential, which could lead to missed opportunities and inefficiencies.
Proper CRM training helps employees with the following things:
- Understand the nuances of the CRM system
- How to input customer data correctly
- How to interpret the data available
- How to execute tasks efficiently
Put simply, understanding custom CRM solutions enables teams to use the system optimally, resulting in:
- Increased productivity
- Better customer service
- Higher sales
On top of that, dedicating time to training employees ensures consistency in data handling across departments, which is crucial for maintaining the integrity of your CRM data!
Skipping CRM training could lead to severe consequences.
For example, if employees are unsure about how to use the system, they might input incorrect or inconsistent data, leading to:
- Inaccurate reporting
- Poor customer experiences
Also, employees might unknowingly misuse the CRM’s features, causing system errors that could disrupt operations.
Further, a lack of training could lead to resistance among your team members, as they might feel overwhelmed by the new system, lowering morale.
Skipping training could lead to a lower return on your CRM investment.
For instance, if your team is not using the CRM system to its full potential, you’re not getting the total value for your money!
Therefore, the CRM system might be underutilized because employees choose to revert to old systems and processes they’re more comfortable with.
In conclusion, proper CRM training is not just about teaching your team how to use a new tool.
Training is also about helping your team understand the value the CRM system brings to their roles and the organization.
Remember, ensuring the CRM becomes an integrated part of your operations is the primary goal, leading to better customer relationships and business growth.
Your CRM Will Need Maintenance & Support
Like any other technological system, a CRM system requires regular maintenance and support to perform at peak performance.
Think of it as a car; you wouldn’t drive your vehicle for years without servicing it, right?
The same logic applies to CRM software.
Maintenance and support are not afterthoughts but integral parts of how to build a CRM system!
Budgeting for maintenance and support is pivotal for several reasons.
Firstly, technology changes rapidly, and your CRM software needs regular updates to keep up.
These updates often include things like:
- New features
- Enhanced security measures
- Fixes for bugs discovered since the last release
Without regular updates, your system may become outdated and put the data it contains at risk!
Secondly, routine maintenance helps in keeping the system running smoothly.
Over time, your CRM system will accumulate customer data.
If unchecked, abundant data can lead to slower performance and reduced efficiency.
Therefore, regular maintenance helps clear out unnecessary data, preserving the system’s speed and efficiency.
Lastly, a sound support system means fewer disruptions.
Whenever an issue arises, having a dedicated support team means employees can address the problem promptly.
Addressing problems immediately reduces downtime and ensures your business processes operate seamlessly.
Now, what does excellent CRM maintenance look like?
Excellent CRM maintenance has the following attributes:
Essentially, comprehensive maintenance covers all aspects of the system, from the software itself to its integration with other methods!
Proactive maintenance involves regularly checking the CRM system for potential issues and addressing them before they become real problems.
Regular check-ups might include tasks like:
- Checking for system updates
- Performing regular data clean-ups
- Managing user access levels
Being user-focused means recognizing the CRM system is a tool for your team.
So, maintenance should always consider the end user’s experience.
For example, scheduling maintenance during off-peak hours can minimize disruptions for your team.
In conclusion, budgeting for maintenance and support is critical to managing CRM software.
Regular maintenance ensures your CRM stays up-to-date, runs smoothly, and continues to be a valuable tool for your team.
Remember, a well-maintained CRM system can lead to the following things:
- Improved customer relationships
- Better business insights
- Business growth
Therefore, paying for maintenance and support is an investment in the future of your business!
How Difficult is it To Build a CRM?
Building a CRM system from scratch can be a complex endeavor, especially without prior experience in software development.
Still, the difficulty level largely depends on the unique needs of your business and the complexity of the features you want to include.
At its core, a CRM is a database that helps manage customer interactions.
So, building a CRM system from scratch requires a solid understanding of the following things:
- Data structures
- The ability to integrate this data with other business processes
- A high level of coding proficiency
- Software architecture
- Knowledge of relevant technologies
Also, CRM software involves an intuitive user interface that can vary in complexity.
For a user-friendly experience, you need a deep understanding of UI/UX principles and the ability to implement them effectively.
This, again, requires specific skill sets and experience!
Further, security is paramount in CRM systems as they handle sensitive customer data.
Therefore, implementing robust security measures to protect this data is neither easy nor unimportant.
Finally, testing and debugging CRM software can be time-consuming and complicated.
Debugging complex systems requires the following things:
- A keen eye for detail
- A deep understanding of the system
In short, while building a CRM system from scratch can provide tailored functionality to meet your specific needs, it can be a difficult and time-consuming process requiring various technical skills.
As a result, most businesses opt for ready-made CRM solutions or hire dedicated teams to build custom CRM systems!
How Much Does it Cost to Build a CRM System?
The cost of custom CRM development varies based on several factors, including the following:
- Whether on-shore or off-shore agencies build the system
- The software’s features and functionalities
- The number of people who will use the system
- The company’s budget
- Number of workflows within the system
Still, most companies that build their own CRM wind up paying over $100,000 to create the system from scratch.
Compared to off-the-shelf or ready-made CRM platforms, custom systems cost significantly more.
Some ready-made CRM tools are even free (although they are primarily designed for smaller businesses that don’t have complex systems).
However, if $100,000 is outside your price range, considering a ready-made CRM system isn’t a bad idea.
Most CRM providers offer various customizations, allowing you to make the system special to your company.
On top of that, third-party integrations provide another level of customization that users experience in a custom-made system.
How Long Does it Take to Build a CRM System?
The time required to build a CRM system can vary greatly depending on several factors.
Generally, the timeline could span anywhere from a few months to over a year for a custom CRM system developed from scratch.
Key factors that impact this timeline include the following things:
- The complexity of required features.
- The experience level of your development team.
- The size of the customer database you need to manage.
Further, simple CRM systems with basic functionalities like contact management, task tracking, and a dashboard for metrics may take a few months to develop.
However, the development process could take a year or more if your business requires a more intricate system with advanced features like:
- Sales forecasting
- Personalized customer communication
- Third-party integration
- Automated marketing features
Furthermore, the size and skill level of the development team also significantly impact the timeline.
A small team or single developer will take longer than a larger, experienced development team.
Lastly, the volume of data your CRM needs to manage can extend the timeline.
More extensive databases require more robust systems and, therefore, more time to build and properly test.
Therefore, while building a CRM allows customization to fit your specific business needs, it’s essential to consider these factors in your project timeline.
Final Thoughts on Building a Custom CRM System
There’s everything you need to know about custom CRM software!
Building CRM platforms from scratch can cost over $100,000 and take a year or longer to implement (for advanced, complex systems).
However, a customized platform offers better customer experiences, more efficient employees, and tools that meet your business’s needs.
What features will your company include in its customized CRM platform? Let us know in the comments section!