How to Build a CRM: A Step-by-Step Guide

Starting a business is easy, but achieving success can be challenging. To run a successful business, you need the right mix of tools and solutions that set you apart from the competition. And because customers are the ones who will have the final word on whether your business is worth supporting, it's essential to focus your energies on connecting with them and giving them a positive experience. 

Why Your Company Needs CRM Software?

The best way to retain customers and grow sales is by prioritizing your customer experience (CX). This means investing in customer relationship management (CRM) software. A CRM lets you broaden your sales pipeline, learn more about your customers, and deliver more value to them over the entire customer life cycle. From sales and marketing to customer service, CRM software is an essential tool that will benefit several departments in your organization. 

The global CRM market is also projected to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12% between 2023 and 2030, according to a report from Fortune Business Insights. With so many companies taking advantage of the benefits offered by CRM software, you don’t want to get left behind.

Investing in CRM software is money well spent. Your return on investment (ROI) after adopting a CRM software will more than justify the money you spent on the adoption. According to a Nucleus Research report, the average ROI after implementing CRM software is $8.71 for every dollar spent! That’s nearly nine times the amount of returns compared to the initial investment, which is a strong argument in favor of using CRM software for your company. 

If you haven’t yet found CRM software for your business, then this article is the perfect starting point. We will make a case for why you should get CRM software, cover the steps to build a custom CRM, and look at some of the challenges you might face when adopting new CRM software. 

Let’s dive right in.

Building Your Own CRM: Worth It?

Now that you’re convinced about the need for a CRM platform at your business, the next step is deciding what kind of CRM software you want to work with. While many businesses choose to build custom CRMs, it’s not absolutely necessary to do so. You can also shop for an off-the-shelf solution to help manage customer relationships. 

Building a custom CRM platform requires time, money, patience, skill, and knowledge. Unless you have plenty of these resources to spare, it’s not advisable to take on the challenge of building a custom CRM for your business. 

Instead, it would be much wiser to evaluate the prepackaged software solutions to see which most closely matches your business needs. It will save your company the expense of designing the software while still bringing you the most desirable benefits of using CRM platforms. 

However, if you have an extremely specific list of requirements, investing in a custom CRM software for the long term would be better.

Let’s look at the options available for companies looking to implement a CRM platform. There are three main types of CRM software available today, and we shall examine each in turn.

1. Ready-Made CRM Platform

The first option is a ready-made, off-the-shelf CRM platform. There are dozens of these on the market, including extremely popular and widely used ones like Salesforce, Zoho CRM, or Freshsales Suite. 

The reason why these CRM software are so popular is because they are extremely convenient to begin using. You simply choose a pricing plan that works for you and train your team members to use the software. In just two simple steps, you’re ready to launch your new CRM and start reaping the benefits.

These ready-made CRM platforms come with a fixed list of features and a fixed amount of storage space. So unless the features list covers every single one of your business requirements, it’s not a good idea to go for a ready-made CRM software. They lack flexibility in terms of features and functionality, and the limited storage space makes scaling up operations tricky. 

Another drawback of ready-made CRM software is that they can often be unjustifiably expensive if you have a large team, because they usually charge per user license. 

Those who have found an effective CRM solution with ready-made platforms are lucky, but the rest of us need to keep looking for a more appropriate solution.

2. Custom CRM System

If you want to have more flexibility in terms of features and a greater degree of control over the functioning of your CRM platform, then you can opt to create a CRM that is customized to your specific needs. This is the smart option if you have a large team and complex requirements to meet with your CRM.

When you build a CRM from scratch, you can be sure that it will seamlessly integrate with your other business tools to deliver maximum value from its position. Other benefits of opting for a custom CRM system include being able to enforce more robust security measures, and being allowed to add more users at no extra cost. 

If you have the appetite to create custom-built software, you can address every single need you have, without spending money on extraneous features you never use. For many companies, regardless of size, a custom CRM system is the best fit.

3. Customizable CRM Software

Some companies are trapped in between ready-made CRM solutions that don’t have enough versatility and custom-built CRM platforms that take a long time to develop, What these companies need is a happy middle ground in the CRM market, where the available software is as easy to set up as its ready-made alternatives, but offers a level of flexibility closer to custom-built softwares. They will find what they are looking for is customizable CRM software. 

Despite the similar sounding names, there is a clear difference between custom-built and customizable CRM software. While the former is built entirely from scratch, the latter allows users to add or remove modules and workflows to the pre-existing CRM platform’s structure according to their needs. With custom-built software, no two solutions are identical, but with customizable software, the base product remains the same and only certain additional features and cosmetic elements change. 

If your company is looking for a level of customization in its CRM platform, but doesn’t want to invest the time and money that goes into developing a new software, customizable CRM solutions are your best bet.

Seven Steps in Creating a CRM from Scratch

If you’ve scanned all the CRM software available in the market and not found one that matches your needs, there’s no need to fret. You can build a custom CRM software for your business, no matter the size of your company. Many small businesses have turned to CRM solutions to improve their performance, with a Grand View Research market report saying that 91% of all businesses with 10 or more employees have already invested in CRM software

If you approach the project with a well-planned strategy, then building a CRM doesn’t have to be a daunting task that drains your company’s resources. Instead of a burden, your custom CRM software can empower your employees to perform at a higher level. 

Here’s how to approach the task of creating a CRM that is tailor-made for your company, laid out step-by-step.

1. Pre-Operational Stage

The first stage of building your own CRM platform is the most important, even though it might seem like it’s the stage where the least work gets done. This is the point where you need to clearly state the purpose of your CRM platform. That means listing the goals you wish to achieve by using the CRM platform, the users who will benefit from its adoption, and the specific benefits it will grant your business.

For example, some pre operational goals you can set for your custom-built CRM platform include:

  • Streamlining sales processes and boosting sales numbers
  • Increasing customer retention rate by identifying reasons for customer churn
  • More productive lead generation and more efficient lead management
  • Improving CX and raising the overall customer satisfaction rating of your company

As you can see, CRM systems are very versatile tools that can be put to various uses. Depending on the use case for your CRM platform, you will then be able to decide what type of CRM software you wish to implement. There are three main categories of CRM software, each with its own dedicated purpose. Let’s look at each type of CRM platform, and how they can be used.

  • Collaborative CRM System: Improves teamwork and communication within your company by promoting clear and transparent data exchanges. These types of CRM platforms have features like collective communication channels, file sharing capabilities, and activity streaming functions. 
  • Analytical CRM System: As the name implies, these types of CRMs help with making plans and drawing insights based on customer and sales data. These types of CRM platforms must have analytical processing capabilities and data mining functions.
  • Operational CRM system: This type of CRM platform is designed to make business processes run smoothly. They increase employees’ work efficiency by automating important but time-consuming marketing and customer service tasks, like lead generation or sending follow-up emails to customers.

Each type of CRM platform serves a different purpose. Still, it’s important to remember that it’s possible for a single platform to cover all these bases when you are building a CRM from scratch. You can mix-and-match different features and create a comprehensive CRM solution for your business.

2. Choosing a Development Partner

Once you have a clear vision of what you want your custom CRM software to look like, you can move on to the next step. This involves finding the right partners that will develop the software with you. At this stage, there are two options available to you. Either you go for in-house development, or you decide to rely on outsourcing the software development task to a qualified third-party.

In-house development can be tricky, especially if you don’t already have the right developers and software engineers on your payroll. While you get full control over the software development life cycle (SDLC), it comes at a high cost, which can also possibly include the cost of hiring new developers.

On the other hand, outsourced development grants you access to a pool of specialists who are well-qualified to help you design a company CRM platform. You can scale up the size of the team if you need to without having to worry about making new hires while outsourcing the CRM platform’s development. From their turnaround time to the quality of their work, third-party developers can add great value to your CRM solution’s SDLC.

If you’re convinced about hiring the services of an outsourced, third-party software developer for your custom CRM platform, then ensure you choose the right one. The development partner you decide to work with should have previous experience in building CRM software for your industry. Look at their past projects and go over reviews from earlier customers to get an idea of the quality of work they create.

3. Choosing Your CRM’s Features

Now that you have your development partner by your side, your custom-built CRM software will start to take real shape. This is the point where you meet with your software developer, and finalize the list of features to be included in the final product. The features list doesn’t have to be exhaustive. Make sure to review different combinations of features to see which ones will lead to a minimum viable product (MVP) that satisfies your company’s needs. 

Your final list of CRM software features depends on several factors: the nature of your industry, the size of your company, and the tools that are already in your technology stack. Because of these variables, no two custom-built CRM platforms are exactly the same. However, here is a short list of some commonly found features that are often included when building your own CRM software:

  • Contact management
  • Interaction tracker
  • Email marketing
  • Scheduled reminders
  • Sales automation

This list is not a complete features list by any means. Every CRM platform has up to three different modules, each with its own suite of features. The three main modules of a CRM platform are the sales, marketing, and customer support modules. When building your own CRM solution, you can pick and choose which modules you would like to include in your software, and to what extent.

4. Calculating Costs

Once you’ve created a shortlist of features and modules you want in your CRM platform, calculating the total cost of the project becomes much simpler. With clear deliverables and a framework to operate within, your software development partner will be able to provide a transparent quote with no hidden costs. 

Depending on how far you are willing to stretch your budget, you may even be able to include a few additional features at this stage. Alternatively, you might find the costs are rising too high, and will have to decide which features to forgo while developing the CRM software.

5. Designing UI/UX

There’s no point in spending money on creating a comprehensive, bespoke CRM solution for your company if your employees are unable to use it. Choosing a list of features especially because they will help employees fulfill their roles is only the start. You also need to house those features in a user-friendly CRM software. 

Your CRM software’s user interface and user experience (UI/UX) are a critical component of its ultimate success. A poorly designed UI/UX will drive users away, preventing them from accessing the many benefits of your CRM software. While functionality is a top priority when building a CRM from scratch, aesthetic appeal and ease-of-use should never be overlooked either.

6. Testing and Quality Assurance

Now that your CRM software’s features and design have been finalized, the only thing left to do is make sure the software is working as intended. Before you launch your CRM solution, you need to conduct strict testing to identify bugs and glitches in the code. Software testers play an important role in any development team, and the ones working on your CRM platform will be the ones who ensure every feature is functioning the way it should.

7. Launch and Support

After completing every step mentioned above, you’re finally ready to launch your new CRM. This is a landmark moment for your company, and to ensure your launch goes well, you must work with your development partner and create a clear strategy for migrating data from existing systems into the new CRM. 

Remember, your CRM platform is software, and software tends to become outdated within a few months. That’s why, like every other software product owner, you will now have to provide ongoing support to your CRM platform’s users. This includes regular security updates to protect data stored on the CRM platform, new features that users have been asking for, or simply routine updates to improve the quality of UX on the platform. As long as your CRM platform is in use, you will have to keep supporting the users with regular software patches.

By following the seven steps listed above, you will see that creating your own CRM system isn’t as complicated as it seemed when you first considered the notion.

Challenges in Developing a CRM Platform

It’s extremely clear that adopting a CRM platform can do wonders for your business in many key areas like sales figures and customer satisfaction. These are good enough reasons to create your own CRM. While the end result will be beneficial for your organization, it’s quite likely that you will encounter some challenges along the way.

Here are four major obstacles to achieving runaway success with your new CRM software.

1. Difficult to Implement

CRM software is a relatively new entrant in the field of business tools. As such, there is a prevalent resistance toward its adoption among professionals, particularly salespeople. A HubSpot survey found that 50% of all sales managers say a CRM is too difficult to implement in their organization.

2. Partial Adoption

Carrying on from the previous point, incomplete adoption of CRM platforms across the company can also lead to poor results. All the stakeholders need to be using the CRM for it to deliver maximum value. If a portion of the employees do not use the CRM platform, the other half who do will find it extremely difficult to communicate and share important information.

3. Manual Data Entry

The number one issue with CRM platforms is that manual data entry is extremely painstaking and has a high chance of errors. However, today’s generation of smart, artificial intelligence- (AI-) enhanced CRM softwares are able to automate those tasks, bypassing the loudest complaint against CRM platforms.

4. Calculating the Success of a CRM

Because a custom-built CRM platform is built at great expense, it’s only natural that you want to be able to measure its performance. This can be complicated, since certain aspects of a CRM’s performance are subjective. Also, your ability to measure the CRM platform’s success is tied to how clearly you stated your goals at the beginning of the SDLC. Only when you have a clearly marked frame of reference will you be able to judge the performance of your CRM system. 

Another important prerequisite to calculating the success of your CRM platform is defining user personas and mapping their journeys during the pre-operational stage. This allows you to compare the actual user experience to your theoretical user journey and identify areas where your CRM platform’s performance can be improved.

By working closely with your development partner and encouraging wholehearted participation from every other stakeholder, you can overcome most of the common challenges in developing a CRM platform.

How Much Does it Cost to Build a CRM System?

A custom CRM system is an investment in your company’s future. It’s a solution that can scale with your company as it grows, enabling you to deliver a high level of customer service and employee productivity through your operations. 

With the high ROI rates seen with CRM platforms, you can be sure you will get your money’s worth from your custom-built CRM system. This raises an important question— how much will it cost you to build your own CRM platform?

At the risk of sounding vague, there is no definitive answer for that question. 

The total cost of building your own CRM software can range from anything between $50,000 to $500,000. There are a number of factors at play that influence the cost of your CRM software. These include:

  • Number of core, standard, and extra features in your CRM platform
  • Number of roles who will access the CRM platform
  • Size of your development team
  • Expertise level of your development team
  • Additional expenses beyond development, like project management and quality assurance

When working with third-party developers, you will get a more accurate quote after arriving at an MVP for your CRM software.

Wrapping Up

If you’re ready to enjoy greater employee productivity, higher customer satisfaction, and steady sales growth, then it’s time to invest in a CRM platform for your business. Intellectsoft is an end-to-end software development company with years of experience designing CRM solutions for companies of all sizes. Whether you are simply migrating to a new platform or developing a CRM system from scratch, the experts at Intellectsoft will be able to guide you every step of the way.

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