How To Build A Custom CRM And Make It Thrive

・9 min read
How To Build A Custom CRM And Make It Thrive

Behind any successful business, there are loyal customers. It is crucial to foster relationships with customers, however, simple tools like spreadsheets may not always be enough. Over time, the amount of data may exceed the capabilities of Google Sheets or Excel. This is where Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems become a necessity.

A Customer Relationship Management system is an app that stores, organizes and maintains customer contact information, accounts, sales opportunities, leads etc. Most often, this type of information is stored in the cloud database in order to be accessible by sales, marketing, finance, operations and logistic departments in real-time and on any device.

Who needs a custom CRM?

Generally speaking, there are 5 types of Customer Relationship Management systems. They are:

  1. Operational - helping to better manage the business based on customer data eg. Hubspot and Salesforce
  2. Analytical - allows data visualization, giving a better insight about customers, their interactions and future possibilities eg. Zoho Analytics or Wave: Salesforce Analytics Cloud
  3. Collaborative - helps to interact with vendors and distributors based on shared customer data eg. Pipedrive or Copper
  4. Campaign management - a mix of analytical and operational CRMs helping to run sales and marketing campaigns eg. ActiveCampaign
  5. Strategic - gives information about customers and market trends for better business decisions

There are lots of solutions on the market, but sometimes none of them meets the specific needs of your business. Commercial CRM systems usually have a limited set of features and make you dependent on external software support. They can also be quite expensive.

To help you avoid mistakes of choosing the wrong software, here are some signs that you need a custom CRM:

  • You need specific integrations - the more extraordinary tools your team uses the harder it will be to find a solution that integrates with them. Specifically large industrial companies, factories, B2C networks and startups with a unique idea will find it hard to use pre-built solutions.
  • You don’t want to spend money on unnecessary functions - read-made CRM software does not give you more than 4 features. However, those features are targeted at various businesses and even if you need just one of them, you will have to pay for them all.
  • You need an identity - commercial CRM software is a template. The UX and UI design cannot be customized. What is more, communication with customers via emails and messages may become too standardized and will make you look like your competitors who use the same system.

Benefits of CRM - Why does your business need it?

The first question to answer is why do you need to build a custom CRM? There are a couple of reasons why companies pick custom development instead of turnkey solutions. They are:

  1. Scalability - CRM can be a standalone software or become a base for your enterprise software. It can be used to build additional applications for different departments while using a single database. With turnkey solutions, you will have to find a vendor with API open for developers and pay for every user in the system and any additional program you add.
  2. Business improvement and customization - you can improve your business by using a custom CRM as you can integrate numerous platforms for different departments. Apart from that, the system can automate marketing, analytics, sales, customer support, billing and delivery. Out-of-the-box solutions are usually designed for specific departments while with custom-made CRM you can choose what departments to focus on.
  3. Analytics - CRM can explore your customers’ insights. Although ready-made solutions will allow you to filter out data like geography, age or order quantity, but if you need a combination of filter or features a custom-built is the way to go.
  4. Workflow automation - custom CRM can automate marketing, analytics, sales, customer support, delivery notification and billing tasks, which will save you time and money. Keep in mind that some kinds of automation are not possible in the case of packaged solutions.

What are the key features of CRM systems

Some features of a custom CRM will be completely dependent on the needs of your company. However, we can distinguish some basic features that are common in those systems.

Basic features - features that will help you manage simple tasks, make changes in the calendar, save important dates and events, generate reports on the work done.

  1. task management
  2. reminders
  3. calendar
  4. report generator
  5. contacts management

However, for some businesses, the features mentioned above will not be enough. Here are some other functions to consider while building a custom C

  1. email marketing - allows fast communication with every customer, can easily be automated
  2. file-sharing - helps to keep all the documentation in one place
  3. custom reports - some departments can benefit from data like demographics, sales and type of leads
  4. integration with social media - businesses can make use of social media integration to track mentions and measure the interest in their brand
  5. invoicing - sales-oriented custom CRM can be integrated with third-party tools for accounting, payments etc.
  6. mobile version - consider building a CRM software with support for smartphones. It will be especially useful for sales representatives to deal with businesses anytime and anywhere
  7. pipeline view - this feature allows tracking sales processes (new leads, contact made etc). You will be able to spot the stage where you lose the most customers

Advanced features - perfect for large businesses and enterprises

  1. third-party integrations - GetApp Lab found out that 62% of SMBs would like to integrate Google Apps with their CRMs
  2. chatbots - chatbots are perfect for answering FAQs, setting up reminders, organizing meetings with colleagues and onboarding new employees
  3. customer scoring - scoring systems help sales representatives to prioritize their tasks and sell more
  4. call centre management - a good feature for companies with lots of incoming or outcoming calls
  5. tracking referrals - track performance of referral programs from your CRM system

Customer relationship management software performs a mixture of features and covers most of the issues sales team, marketers and customer support managers come across. A system dedicated to a particular team will differ in features, for example:

CRM for sales teams

  1. account management - gives the ability to add customer details like names, age, contact number and find this information using filters
  2. sales scheduling - helps to develop promotional events, maintain offers, manage sales calendar, set commercial goals
  3. sales analytics with filters - system dashboard with tables, statistics and diagrams allows comparing the data from different timelines and locations
  4. automated lead management - record online behaviour, export user data from open sources

CRM for marketers

  1. campaign management - develop, calculate and run marketing campaigns
  2. exploring customer types - collects information about the audience in order to divide it into segments and adjust portraits of the target audience
  3. performance analysis - helps to understand which customers were attracted through ads and recommendations

CRM for customer support

  1. informational base - providing inventory with a search engine
  2. customer support interface - the system collects requests and proceeds them to narrows specialists
  3. automated analytics - the tool works with mail, calls and correspondence

What to keep in mind: Steps of the development

It should not be a surprise that just like in any development, the process of development of a custom CRM also consists of 5 steps:

  1. Define your goal - determine your target audience and their problems you want to address. Think about the layout and functionalities of the platform.
  2. Create an MVP - building an MVP is the best way to gather feedback from the potential customers early on. Read more about the benefits of having an MVP in Why MVP Development Should Be Outsourced.
  3. Design - create an outstanding design keeping in mind who will use your product. Platforms for marketers or sales teams will look slightly different as they incorporate different functions.
  4. Finishing development - implement the feedback gathered during the MVP stage. Ensure cross-device functionality and mobile-friendliness.
  5. Test and launch - always test your product before launching to pick up on any bugs and errors.

Those steps are not anything new, but let me redirect your focus on one more thing connected to the development of a custom CRM software: empty and full-box CRM. An empty-box CRM does not have any special capabilities which mean that the employees will have to manually enter the data gathered. This can be a very tedious task, especially for sales executives. To get rid of this problem CRM providers like Lithium, Salesforce or Nimble introduced deep integration with social services. This is very useful in a CRM system.

What about artificial intelligence? How can you implement it in your platform? Artificial intelligence will help make your system predictive, which will in return bring benefits for your business. Features such as behaviour-based lead scoring, easy email marketing systems or AI-powered campaign reports are just a few of the ways to improve your software further.

Internal or SaaS platform?

This is another big decision to be made when creating a CRM system - to use it only internally or transform it into a SaaS platform. If you decide to with SaaS make sure you develop a scalable and flexible architecture from the very beginning.

How to Choose Your Technology Partner to Create a Custom CRM?

Choosing a partner to build your own CRM software requires as much work as market research and validating your idea does. When looking at potential vendors review testimonials, portfolios and blogs. Take into consideration different approaches like price-oriented or management-oriented as well as security matters. More on that in the article How To Choose A Custom Software Development Company.

When you finally narrow down your choices and schedule calls to talk in more detail about your possible collaboration, there are a few questions you should ask the vendor like technology stack or what they use to communicate. We gathered some of the most important questions in the post 10 Questions You Should Ask A Software Outsourcing Company.

Summary

Developing a successful, fully-fledged custom CRM system is a complex project. Before doing so, you should think about what you will use it for, what are the basic and advanced features you need or whether you want it to be an internal tool or a SaaS platform.

To create a thriving CRM, look for professional development companies with experience in creating such platforms like Selleo. By working with us you ensure a start to finish support from a team of programming specialists, graphic designers and QA masters.

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