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How to build a custom CRM software: a complete guide

How to build a custom CRM software: a complete guide
What to consider while developing a well-tailored CRM for your business needs and wants
Oleksandr Bachynskyi
Oleksandr Bachynskyi
Chief Technology Officer
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Once your business starts expanding, one of the wisest things to do is to facilitate such progress. In most cases, it’s all about finding the right people, establishing the right processes, and introducing the right tools to grow sensibly and efficiently.

And when it comes to optimizing your company’s workflow and boosting sales, most managers think of a better CRM.

Having a CRM is not a fad or a tribute to a business trend. It is one of the most expanding software in the world market. And the reason is the value it brings to companies of different sizes and specialties in diverse industries.

This article will help you understand the benefits of a CRM for your company, the difference between the turnkey and custom solutions, their functionality as well as steps you need to take on the way to creating a game-changing solution fitted precisely to your requirements.

Why your company needs a CRM

In a nutshell, the main tasks of a CRM are to collect, organize, and manage every and any customer-related data. It certainly isn’t a magic wand for any business (though what it does is really close to working magic with optimizing processes and driving potential).

To make the benefits of introducing a CRM into your workflow even more transparent in terms of statistics, we’ve prepared some relatable data for you to review.

CRM statistics to know in 2022

Thus, most companies of different sizes and industries successfully launch a CRM as a tool to improve customer service, communication, and internal business relationships. Yet, once business owners realize they do need a CRM for any or all of these goals, the next obligatory step is to decide whether you need a custom CRM or maybe, you can do with a ready-made solution.

One of the most widespread superstitions that prevent business owners from developing a custom CRM is that they suppose a custom CRM is just a more expensive and elaborate option compared to a similar turnkey solution. Actually, it IS just a superstition. It may sound cliche that a custom CRM always fits your business perfectly. Yet, that IS the real deal. And here’s why:

  1. A custom CRM is more user-friendly and tuned to meet your business’, employees’, and customers’ requirements.
  2. Unique tools, workflows tailored per your business-specific needs, additional features, and functions are not as lengthy (if not impossible) issues as they may appear with ready-made solutions in the market.
  3. You pay for exactly what you need. No additional payments, subscriptions, or extra complexity in terms of package prices that may include lots of unnecessary functions and lack what matters to you.
  4. Integrations with third-party services, internal business tools, and operations are carefully managed and don’t interfere with the existing workflows.
  5. You are no longer bothered with the issue of your data security as you don’t rely on any other services.
  6. A custom CRM is fully scalable with no threat to its reliability. Additional features or brand-new modules to fit emerging business needs may be easily implemented and altered as your business grows. As opposed to the ever-changing releases of turnkey solutions that may affect the whole ecosystem of your CRM within their platform.
  7. Last but not least, only a custom CRM can help you stand out, show your business identity, and achieve strong brand recognition.
Pros of custom CRM development

Thus, even when the turnkey solution seems tempting due to its instant availability, always bear in mind that all its pros come with a lack of customization, challenges of introducing specific integrations, as well as the abundance of unnecessary, yet costly, functions. Well, the question is if, under such circumstances, they are solutions at all?

Ready-made platforms appeal to large businesses ready to pay for eliminating all drawbacks in exchange for stress-free adaptation to their needs. At the same time, it’s much more reasonable for mid-size companies to pay for perfect well-tailored CRMs rather than adjusting the imperfect existing ones.

Misconceptions of ready-made solutions to let go of

While ready-made CRMs make it seem relatively easy to adopt and navigate, let us show you why we advocate custom development so much. With turnkey solutions, it is certainly not “one size fits all requirements”, but rather “one size fits none (at least, instantly)”.

Reason 1. A ready-made solution is not as quick to select and implement as the marketing campaigns make it appear. Rough calculations bring us to the average result of:

11 weeks for vendor selection +

1-2 weeks for implementation: data migration, customization, integration +

8 hours + 1 hour/employee for current and new employee training and technical support +

and that brings us to… Wait, what if you have a team of 50+ employees and advanced functionality? Well, in this case, you have to add more and more hours. And hopefully, it won’t take much to re-upload data and re-start running the whole system in case of new releases (which are sure to happen). That’s some maths you can’t ignore.

By the way, this time can be efficiently spent on a good quality MVP. To be more specific, a thorough discovery phase with a BA and tech experts will take about 4 weeks, and the follow-up UI and development will be about 12 weeks long. So, in 4 months you will already have a CRM tailored to your business specifics and requirements fit for trouble-free scaling.

Reason 2. It’s never a LOT cheaper than you expect. Surely, there are some freemiums you are tempted to try. Yet, they are not good enough for those who take their business seriously, and with time, you will still need more functionality, more users, and, thus, will eventually have to pay for any decent subscription plan.

What concerns the latter, it’s not just about the package price. One of the estimations shows that the cost of internal power you’re sure to spend on selection, implementation, training, and business dependency is about $7 thousand + you will need another $10 thousand for similar tasks executed by the vendor consultants (and you WILL need them for proper CRM customization and operation).

And that takes us to a total of $17 thousand + yearly subscription fee over and over again (which may be multiplied once your team consists of over 10 employees and will eventually total up quite close to the price of a custom CRM with basic functionality with great scaling prospects that can be developed precisely for your team with no fuss about additional training or maintenance for your team).

In any case, when choosing between a custom CRM and ready-made solutions, always consider the scale of your business, budget, timelines, requirements, tasks, and goals as well as a long-term business strategy. Once you’ve assessed all these aspects, decide which solution covers them all more efficiently and makes its cost worthwhile.

Custom CRM system functionality

Most articles on CRM development distinguish three main types of CRM software: operational, analytical, and collaborative (and the names speak for themselves). Yet, choosing the CRM by its type is quite irrelevant. What matters more is the functionality you are looking for (which, in fact, may incorporate all the types mentioned).

Building a CRM from scratch fitted exactly for your company’s needs requires a very precise definition of its functionality. Surely, it is a matter of peculiar business requirements and individual parameters. Yet, our experience in the field of custom CRM software development prompts that there are three major function clusters you have to consider while deciding on a range of functions your custom CRM should have.

The universal nature of all the functions described below is that their application is predefined by the key tasks and challenges they are to solve, automate, or improve.

  1. Core functions are those that are usually fundamental to any and every CRM irrespective of further specifications or industry.
Authentication to the system to identify CRM users
User & access management to provide data access permissions to different departments within one company and ensure smooth application of the CRM by multiple users
Contact management to store all the customer information (e.g. names, phone numbers, social media pages, and e-mail addresses) with the manual or automatic completion of new customer details
Lead & deal management to manage all possible interactions with existing or potential customers and to track the movement of each lead through the sales funnel
Pipeline view / Dashboard to visualize sales processes on a single dashboard, to track customers, leads and their status, to optimize sales
Tasks management to view, set up, and edit tasks
Activity updates (audit log) to track changes within accounts
Basic reports&exports to monitor employees’ work, to generate standard reports in graphs/reports/infographics for internal or external purposes

2. Additional functions solve business-specific tasks and meet extra requirements on top of the previous cluster that forms the background of any CRM.

Calendar view & events management to schedule and display planned events, calls, or other activities
Reminders & notifications to set automatic reminders for recurring or upcoming events
Contract management to create, execute, terminate or renew contracts within the existing CRM software
Invoicing to enable users create and send invoices to the clients; to incorporate the options of invoice history, invoice shipping, or invoice status tracking
Files management to manage files, reports, varied data for better cooperation of separate departments or multiple users based on the access levels; to keep track of all changes made in certain documents with the history of version and authors of such alterations
Communication tools (chatbot, in-app messenger) to reduce the number of routine tasks such as answering the FAQs, processing incoming requests, resolving simple client issues; to facilitate smooth and quick in-app communication among employees and different departments
Entity hierarchy to manage complex types of users, to engage affiliates or branches into the customer profiles
Segmentation / Categories management to structure business processes, to ensure procurement and segment products into groups for better business efficiency; to provide continual analysis of trends, demands, risks and supply changes
Custom reports to use advanced analytics for better insight into the workflow and workload of different departments
Enhanced user management to manage user access in a more detailed manner: to modify, assign, search and navigate user roles per entity, to grant permission to specific modules/features
Integrations with third parties and internal ecosystem to integrate third-party services and existing internal software (e.g. warehouse management or resource planning systems, logistics or human resource management solutions)

3. Advanced functionality you should consider for developing a truly enhanced CRM with better performance and analytical features.

Predictive analytics to engage AI features, customer scoring, risk assessment
CPQ (configure price quote ) to use collected and analytical data to accurately define the price of goods (proposal) taking into consideration a range of relevant variables
Sales and marketing module to enable and speed up personalized email marketing, content management, creating, launching, and editing campaigns, customer engagement and support; to analyze the results of marketing activities and use them for sales enhancement
Business process/custom workflow automation to make business-related processes and workflows faster and more efficient for the whole team; to introduce custom objects if necessary and customize any workflow
White labeling & robust customization to produce generic software if CRM is not only for internal usage but will be positioned as a third-party service

The rational combination of functions essential to your CRM will enable workflow automation and optimization, generate an increase in your team’s productivity and boost sales.

Custom CRM cost breakdown

The following hour distribution will help you figure out the answer to the most anticipated issue: the cost of custom CRM software. Since rates may vary depending on the geographical region, the level of expertise, or the type of vendor, we suppose the average number of hours spent on every function development can come in more handy in such rough calculations.

Authentication to the system 82 hours
User & access management 121 hours
Contact management 139 hours
Lead & deal management 165 hours
Pipeline view / Dashboard 69 hours
Tasks management 90 hours
Activity updates (audit log) 54 hours
Basic reports generation 74 hours
Calendar view & events management 395 hours
Reminders & notifications 73 hours
Contract management 94 hours
Invoicing 102 hours
Files management 47 hours
Communication tools (chatbot, in-app messenger) 90 hours
Entity hierarchy 54 hours
Segmentation / Categories management 41 hours
Custom reports 145 hours
Enhanced user management 145 hours
Integrations with third parties and internal ecosystem 40 hours

When it comes to final cost calculations, it does work like A+B+C. Yet, when you need to figure out the overall duration of the project, bear in mind that many processes can run simultaneously. So, without further ado, let’s look at some total numbers.

Predictive analytics 295 hours
CPQ (configure, price, quote) 165 hours
Sales and marketing module 300 hours
Business process/custom workflow automation 150 hours
White labeling & robust customization 310 hours

In general, a custom CRM of basic functionality may cost about $40 thousand and take 4 months of Linkup Studio’s teamwork. To compare, the price of a CRM with advanced functionality may reach up to $101 thousand and we will deliver it in 10 months.

It goes without saying that prices vary a lot. As many companies as many ideas concerning what your CRM would cost and be like. And you already know what mostly affects their range is your vendor’s level of expertise, the composition of the team, and your expectations of the project.

As one of the long-term players in this field, may we just warn you about being seduced by the lowest numbers and absolute promises as those often include pitfalls like lack of experience, low quality, hidden costs in the long run, or inaccurate execution of the tasks.

In a nutshell, no final numbers - either costs or timelines - can be drawn up right from the start.

A good development partner will notify you that to give at least a rough estimate of a particular solution (or, even better, calculate the budget as accurately as possible), you and your tech team have to understand every little detail about it: the number and complexity of functions and features, business requirements, the timeline, design specifications, the tech stack and the number of integrations and supported platforms planned, etc. Thus, the exact budget and process breakdown come with thorough understanding and a little patience.

Steps to create your custom CRM

At this point, you already know what you need and how you want it. So, you are ready to study how to draw a detailed roadmap of how to get there. The matter is that CRM development is complex and challenging enough at its core. Thus, to get the very solution you have in mind, you have to be very persistent and scrupulous in planning your development process.

Let’s dive into the specifics and study the real case. For instance, the stages of custom CRM development at Linkup Studio include the following:

Stage 1. Discovery

This initial step includes thorough business analysis. It’s all about defining requirements, project vision, and user flows.

During the discovery stage we:

  • determine the scope of project use (internal business software or third-party service platform)
  • analyze alternative options
  • build wireframes and define the style issues of the future CRM
  • discuss the transition plan and data preparation if our customer already has any existing internal systems for client relationship management
  • define the scope of an MVP or a full product development cycle
  • estimate and build a development plan based on the budget available and the client’s needs and wants

Stage 2. UI & Development

This is the very time to work in iterations and sprints simultaneously in implementing both design and development tasks. Such an agile approach provides much-needed flexibility and enables faster product releases. What also matters at this point is that we have demo sessions, receive immediate feedback, and plan the teamwork accordingly.

Stage 3. Support

Since LinkUp Studio is a results-oriented company, the service you get as a client doesn’t stop with deployment. Once the phase of active development is over, we aim to keep the same project members working on your support team. This ensures smooth CRM operation and quick fixes. If necessary, we bring the BA once again for new functionality or scalability planning.

All the possible actions are analyzed in terms of affecting the system as a whole. And only after careful considerations alterations are introduced. Surely, this is a preferable scheme and it may be adapted to meet any specific client’s needs.

In addition, here’s a shortlist of the things you (and your tech partner) should never underestimate:

questions to consider while building a CRM

Planning to build custom CRM software?

With all that in mind, now you are fully prepared to work out your own way of choosing a robust CRM for your company. Whether you are thinking of expanding or optimizing your existing business processes, a reliable and scalable, secure and compatible, convenient and cost-efficient CRM with minimal onboarding time and functionality tailored to your needs is always a good idea. Is it possible?

A custom CRM is undoubtedly a complicated, yet extremely effective solution for your business that makes it possible to automate work processes significantly as well as stay ahead of the competitors.

To create a tailored CRM, a business owner has to decide on lots of aspects related to its development and implementation. However, the main focus should be on reaching business goals, strategy implementation, and the development of your company.

In case you opt for a custom CRM, one of the most significant issues is to find a proper software development partner that would both have relevant experience and be reliable enough to trust with your business growth.

Since Linkup has the relevant expertise in the field of custom CRM development, we are here to help you, guide you through all the necessary steps, and give proper tips on how to make the whole process more efficient and worthwhile.

Feel free to contact us to discuss your ideas for building or improving a CRM for your business with our team of professionals.

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Oleksandr Bachynskyi
Oleksandr Bachynskyi
Chief Technology Officer
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