How to Build a Custom CRM for Your Business

It’s no wonder why businesses opt for custom software development. The perks are obvious: you get an app that follows your requirements to a T, meeting all of your business needs. But that’s not always the story.

The thing is, the final product will be only as good as your vision of it. If you omit some key details or set unrealistic goals, your custom CRM will probably turn out to be a waste of time and money. And it won’t be your development partner’s fault.

So, let’s take a deep dive into the 9 preparatory steps you need to take to avoid that scenario.

Pinpoint Why You Need a Custom Solution

Before you rush into writing down your vision of the future CRM, make sure you really need a custom one instead of an off-the-shelf solution. Here are 5 typical signs that custom development is the way to go in your particular case:

  1. You’ve already had a bad experience with off-the-shelf CRMs.
  2. You don’t want to waste money on features you won’t use.
  3. You want your CRM to work seamlessly with other tools that make up your corporate software ecosystem.
  4. You need a particular set of features that’s hard to find in ready-to-use CRMs.
  5. You want the application to reflect your brand identity and be unique.

If one or more of these signs hit close to home, you’re on the right path. Custom CRM software development will help you achieve your goals in a more efficient way than any off-the-shelf solution can. All you need to do is to have your requirements clear and no detail overlooked.

Establish Your Goals

First, go through the long-term business goals you’ve already set for your enterprise. Which ones can you achieve faster with a custom CRM? How?

The answers to the “how?” questions will make up your development goals, essentially. In other words, they’ll show you what you can aim to achieve through developing a custom CRM.

If you feel stuck or need some inspiration here, here are the four most common goals businesses have:

  • increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty;
  • increasing the ROI on marketing campaigns;
  • reducing the customer acquisition costs;
  • gathering more data on customer behavior to gain valuable insights.

Do Your Research on the Legal Restrictions

As much as you’d like it to be otherwise, you’re bound by certain regulations when it comes to custom CRM development. For starters, any CRM works with tons of personal data. Your jurisdiction is likely to have laws regulating its collection, processing, and storage. Think the GDPR in the EU or CCPA in California.

Apart from these regulations, your industry might be heavily regulated, too. For example, if your business works in the healthcare sector in the U.S., you’ll need to abide by HIPAA. Other highly-regulated industries typically include finances and banking, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications.

Figure Out Which CRM Type Fits Your Goals the Best

There are three basic types of custom CRM solutions. Let’s break them down:

  1. Operational. Operational CRMs are designed to automate processes. As a result, your employees’ productivity and efficiency increase.
  2. Analytical. These CRMs are created to keep track of customer data. Thanks to it, you’ll gain insights into who they are, why they choose you, and why (or why not) they return.
  3. Collaborative (also known as strategic). A collaborative CRM aims to improve collaboration within your organization by making information sharing effortless. As a byproduct, your customer satisfaction and retention rates will also improve.

How do you choose one over the others? Go back to your goals and see which type matches them the best.

Prepare the Feature List

It’s best to divide your desired features into two categories: must-haves and good-to-haves. This way, if you find out your ideal feature list would triple your budget, you can focus on the must-haves only.

As for which features a CRM typically includes, here are 4 core ones you should consider:

  1. Contact management – for storing and processing all information on your existing customers.
  2. Lead management – for tracking down all of your leads and your communication with them.
  3. Task management – for scheduling tasks and managing the team’s workload.
  4. Dashboards, analytics, and reports – for tracking your employees’ performance and gaining insights into your customers.

There are also 8 advanced features that your team can find useful:

  1. Mobile version of the app
  2. Pipeline view
  3. Invoicing
  4. Calendar view and reminders
  5. File sharing
  6. Chatbots
  7. Referral tracking
  8. Predictive analytics

Now, see what tools your team already uses in their work. You might want to integrate your CRM with some of them, like:

  • Cloud storage (e.g. Dropbox)
  • Messengers (e.g. Slack)
  • Project management tools (e.g. Trello)
  • Social networks (e.g. Facebook)

Think Through the Security Aspects

Any CRM handles tons of personal and corporate data. So, you need to make it a priority to keep all of that data safe and sound. Here are 4 security features typical for custom CRM solutions:

  • data encryption;
  • multi-factor authentication;
  • password requirements towards its strength and regular change;
  • cyberattack prevention measures.

Design the Access Level & User Role System

Access levels and user roles are, technically speaking, a security feature, but they deserve their own section. That’s because designing this system is rarely a piece of cake.

You need to make sure that everyone will have access to everything they might need. At the same time, you have to balance it with avoiding unauthorized access and mitigating the risk of data theft.

Here are 3 questions you should ask yourself to have the access levels and user roles figured out:

  • Who will use your CRM? These groups will be the user roles.
  • What features will they need access to? These will be role-based permissions.
  • What information will they need access to? Determine read and write permissions.

Settle on Your Budget

It’s no secret: CRM custom solutions can be costly. “But how costly?”, you might ask. Unfortunately, there’s no telling right now: it all depends on the features and integrations you want as well as on where your development partner is located.

Yet, you can still estimate your budget. You just need to do your research on:

  • how long it takes to build a specific module or feature you want;
  • how much do developers and other specialists charge per hour for this kind of work.

Remember to take into account the preparatory stage (it’s typically around 40 hours). Plus, keep in mind that you’ll need someone to maintain and update your CRM – and that costs money, too.

Find the Right Development Partner

This topic deserves its long-read, so let’s cover only the basics. Here are 5 things you should consider when choosing your development partner:

  1. Questionnaire. Do the company representatives send you one? Is it detailed enough?
  2. Portfolio. Has the company already worked on CRMs similar to yours?
  3. Reviews. What do former clients say about the company on Clutch and GoodFirms?
  4. Industry. Does the company specialize in building custom CRM software solutions for your industry?
  5. Transparency. Is the pricing clear? Can you be sure there won’t be any surprise bills?

Final Thoughts

Although these preparatory steps are a major part of the journey, don’t expect to lay back and relax once you sign the contract with the development company.

You’ll need to keep your hand on the pulse and check in with them regularly to make sure everything is going smoothly. You’ll need to keep track of deadlines and the developers’ progress. Also, you’ll need to provide feedback in case something doesn’t live up to your expectations or standards.