A Comprehensive Guide to Building DIY CRM Software
Learning how to build a custom CRM can be daunting. However, with proper planning and execution, DIY CRM software development is within reach.
Managing customer relationships well is central to the success of almost any business. Suppose your business tries to do this with old paper files or complicated spreadsheets. In that case, you may be looking for a way to increase your efficiency and reduce the number of opportunities that slip through the cracks in your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Suppose you use pre-packaged CRM systems that can’t meet your software requirements specifications. In that case, you may be looking for custom CRM solutions more suited to the particular needs of your business. In either case, a custom CRM system may be just what you need.
Watkyn specializes in custom CRM development, creating affordable solutions to our client’s needs.
In this article, we’ll explain:
What CRM software does and how it can increase your customer satisfaction and improve your bottom line;
When your business would benefit from building a custom CRM solution;
What to do before and after you build your own CRM;
The six steps to build a custom CRM system.
Understanding Customer Relationship Management Software
CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software is designed to help businesses manage and strengthen customer relationships. The main purpose of a CRM system is to provide a centralized platform for companies to store, organize, and analyze customer data. Doing so gives businesses a holistic view of their customers, which in turn helps them make informed decisions and deliver personalized experiences.
For example, get an email from a prospect. Your CRM platform will reveal if you or your colleagues have ever done any prospecting at that company before or had any contact with the person sending you a message. If so, this could be a gold mine of information before you start to write back. In marketing, if you’re about to launch a new skin-care product, the CRM can show you which customers have been interested in those products in the past. You’ll want to make sure they see the new product announcement.
The Function of CRM Software
CRM software also streamlines various customer-facing processes, such as sales, marketing, and customer service, ensuring a seamless and consistent customer experience across different touchpoints. Ultimately, the purpose of CRM software is to enhance customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention, thereby driving long-term profitability for the business.
It’s important to point out that CRMs aren’t only used by commercial businesses. Non-profit organizations and government units also use CRMs to keep up-to-date records about program participants, constituents, and community members.
The Benefits of CRM Software
Implementing CRM software offers several benefits to businesses. First and foremost, it improves efficiency and productivity by automating and integrating various business processes. This means that employees no longer need to spend excessive time on manual data entry or searching for information, allowing them to focus more on important tasks such as building customer relationships and closing deals.
Additionally, CRM software enables businesses to segment and target their customers based on various criteria such as demographics, purchase history, and preferences, allowing for highly targeted marketing campaigns. This helps businesses maximize their marketing efforts and generate higher-quality leads.
CRM software provides valuable insights and analytics on customer behavior, trends, and patterns, which can be used to make data-driven decisions and optimize business strategies. CRM software empowers businesses to understand better, engage, and serve their customers, improving customer satisfaction, increasing sales, and overall business growth.
CRMs also help non-profit organizations and governments to serve the public better. For example, a public health agency that wants to offer a summertime pool safety workshop for parents will be better able to reach people in the community if they know who has expressed an interest in such things in the past.
Custom CRM Solutions vs. Pre-packaged CRM Systems
It may be that off-the-shelf CRM software will meet your business’s needs, but a custom CRM system generally offers several advantages over off-the-shelf software packages. One of the main benefits is flexibility and customization. Build your own CRM software tailored specifically to meet your business’s unique needs and requirements.
For example, we built a custom CRM for a private equity company that needed a good way to keep track of potential investors, such as accredited individual investors and family offices. Any CRM could do that. But they also wanted to keep records of meetings and conversations with combinations of these prospective investors and see those notes in each prospect’s history without copying and re-entering the same information multiple times (which would probably never get done in practice). This required a custom CRM and allowed them to see patterns in relationships and interactions that helped them to reach the right investors aligned with the kind of fund they were offering.
Why Your Business Should Build a Custom CRM System
Businesses can choose which features and functionalities are most important for their operations and have the software developed accordingly. This ensures the software aligns perfectly with the business processes, making it more efficient and effective. Moreover, as business needs evolve, custom CRM software can be easily modified and updated to accommodate changes, providing ongoing value for the business. In contrast, off-the-shelf software packages typically offer a one-size-fits-all approach, limiting a business’s ability to fully customize and adapt the software to its specific needs and how they may change over time.
Another major benefit of custom CRM software is security and data privacy. When creating a CRM, businesses can have full control over their data and implement robust security measures to protect sensitive customer information. This level of control and customization provides peace of mind to business owners and executives, particularly those operating in industries with strict compliance and regulatory requirements.
Additionally, with custom CRM software, businesses can seamlessly integrate their data from various sources and systems, avoiding potential data silos, compatibility issues, and blind spots. This improves data accuracy and consistency and enhances reporting and analytics capabilities, enabling businesses to extract meaningful insights and make informed decisions. Custom CRM software offers businesses greater flexibility, customization, and control over their data, ensuring a custom solution that maximizes operational efficiency and security.
Things to Consider Before You Build a CRM From Scratch
Before you begin to create a custom CRM system, it’s vital to outline your business objectives, such as enhancing customer relations or boosting sales. Assess why an off-the-shelf CRM solution won’t suffice—whether it’s a lack of customization or cost concerns. Establish a budget to guide the complexity and features of your CRM. Compile a detailed list of software functionalities tailored to your business needs and user groups. Finally, ensure that the software developers you choose offer robust technical support for future troubleshooting.
How to Build a Custom CRM in 6 Steps
Building a custom CRM solution may seem daunting, but with the right approach, you can create your own CRM system that perfectly meets your business needs.
Step 1: Determining Which CRM Features You Need
As the actual custom CRM development begins, knowing what exactly you need the software to do is essential. To help you figure this out, review your notes from above, then ask yourself these questions:
- What do you want to achieve with your own CRM: Increased sales? Improved customer service? Better data analysis? All of the above?
- What are the key pain points in your current CRM system? What causes you to lose clients or miss out on new work opportunities?
- Who will be the key users of your CRM software? Will it be used by your sales reps? Customer support managers? Marketing team? All of them?
Using the answers to these questions, you can define the essential features of your custom CRM. Equally important, you can determine which features you don’t need (or don’t need yet). To get you started, here is a list of common CRM features:
Basic CRM Features
Contact Management: This allows storing customer contact information such as names, addresses, social media accounts, and phone numbers. It’s also useful for tracking customer interactions, such as phone calls, emails, and meetings.
Set Reminders & Notifications: Keep your team on track with reminders and notifications for important events, meetings, or deadlines. This can eliminate forgotten follow-ups and unkept promises to customers and prospects.
Editable Calendar: This enables team members to schedule meetings, set reminders, and organize their workdays more effectively.
Task Management: Allows users to create, assign, and manage tasks, helping to streamline work and increase collaboration and efficiency.
Customer Support: Helps your customer support managers efficiently handle customer complaints, requests, and inquiries.
Advanced CRM Features
Sales Process: Increases the sales team’s efficiency by managing the sales pipeline, tracking deals, and ensuring smooth progress from lead generation to closure.
Sales Forecasting: CRM can help sales reps predict future sales trends by analyzing historical sales data.
Commission Tracking: Nothing motivates a sales team like seeing their commissions add up and tracking their progress toward incentive goals.
Marketing Automation: Automate repetitive marketing tasks like email campaigns and social media posts.
Workflow Automation: Automates business processes, like lead management and deal review, saving time and reducing errors.
Third-Party Integration: Allows your CRM software to connect with other software your business uses, such as accounting software, enterprise resource planning software, or marketing tools.
Lead Management: Helps your sales team manage leads effectively by tracking and managing customer interactions from the first point of contact.
Project Management: Project management enables task organization, deadline setting, and progress tracking.
Account Management: Account management tools manage contact information, track interaction history, and organize customer data.
Not sure which features you need or need more information about what they do? The experienced professionals at Watkyn would be happy to guide you through this discovery phase of your project. Explore our Custom CRM development services to discover software features tailored to your industry.
Step 2: Designing the CRM User Experience
After defining your CRM system’s features, the next step is to think through the user experience. To help you do this, begin by asking yourself questions like these:
How will users spend most of their time in the CRM? What sorts of things will they need to do? Will it be different for different kinds of users?
What is the natural or logical sequence of steps users should take to do what they need to do in the CRM?
Do you want users to follow specific instructions about accomplishing something, or would it be better if different people could find and follow their preferred way of getting things done in the system?
What software does your team use regularly and find intuitive or user-friendly?
What devices will be used to access the CRM (desktop, tablet, mobile)?
What level of complexity can your users tolerate? How much training are you able/willing to give them, and are they ready to receive?
Do your users have specific accessibility requirements?
Do you have preferred colors, layouts, or branding that should be incorporated?
Which and how much information should be available at a glance on the dashboard?
What other data visualizations or reporting capabilities will you need?
What are your preferences for navigation (MenuBar, SideBar, Breadcrumbs, etc.)?
How important is collaboration within the CRM system?
Remember: the design should be user-friendly and intuitive to enhance your in-house development team’s productivity. Here, the experts at Watkyn can help you define your needs.
Step 3. Building Your CRM Software MVP
Once you have completed the design steps, it is time to create the first version of your custom CRM software. To do that, software developers transform your list of desired functionalities and user interface requirements into a Minimally Viable Product (MVP). First, they conduct thorough research to understand the overall context of your needs and ascertain how they align with your business objectives. Next, they break down those requirements into actionable tasks in a process known as backlog creation. Then, they prioritize tasks based on their potential to deliver value and start the development process following an iterative methodology that includes designing, coding, testing, and refining each function until it meets the defined acceptance criteria. During this process, continual feedback is considered to ensure alignment with the users’ needs and expectations. In the case of user interface requirements, developers provide a design that is intuitive and user-friendly, maintaining a balance between aesthetic appeal and functionality. The result of this stage of custom CRM development is the MVP — the first working version of the product with enough features to accomplish what you need from your custom CRM software.
Step 4. Moving the CRM Software into a Live Environment
Once the MVP has been built and it passes all its tests, it’s time to deploy it. The first step involves environment setup and configuration, ensuring the hosting server or platform, network settings, and security protocols are properly established. Once this is ready, developers transfer the developed software to the selected environment. Before the software goes live, more testing is done in the deployment environment to ensure all functionalities work correctly and to identify and resolve possible issues that might have been missed in the development phase. Data migration may also occur, especially if the new software replaces an older system. Once the developers and clients are confident about the system’s functioning, the software is live for end-users.
Step 5. Equipping Users with the Necessary Skills to Use Your CRM Software
A new CRM system can significantly change business processes, so you must equip your team with the necessary skills to handle the changes. Provide comprehensive training sessions to your employees to familiarize them with the new CRM software and CRM platform to ensure a smooth transition. This task typically begins with a tailored training program that highlights the features and benefits of the new CRM and is designed to align with the workflows and needs of the specific user roles within the organization. This program can include workshops, instructional videos, written guides, webinars, and one-on-one sessions. Typically, a “train the trainer” approach is used, where designated team leaders or super-users are trained first so they can then assist in training the rest of the staff. This ensures that there is always knowledgeable support available in-house. Additionally, training often uses real-time use cases to provide practical context.
The training doesn’t just stop after deployment; continual education should be offered as new features roll out or refresher courses to ensure the CRM is fully utilized. At Watkyn, our mission is to deliver valuable custom software solutions our customers love to use daily. Our team will build a CRM and then provide the training and documentation you need – resources that offer practical explanations to your regular employees and technical details for those who need them.
Step 6. Ensuring Continuous Improvement and Upgrades to Your CRM Software
While your employees and customers begin to enjoy all the benefits of your custom CRM software, the work of maintenance and improvement gets underway. Ideas for new functionalities and reports will naturally occur to your employees as they use the software in the specific context of their roles. With an off-the-shelf product, you may have to wait for many businesses to request a similar improvement before the developer makes the upgrade—and then it may not be just what you need. However, with a custom CRM solution from Watkyn, you work directly with our developers to make the change quickly and exactly to your specifications. You can move from deploying the necessary functions to adding the nice-to-haves as soon as you like and adapting old features to new developments in your business.
Next Steps After Building Your Own CRM Platform
Once you build a CRM system, it is just the beginning of an ongoing process. The business world is always shifting, and your custom CRM solution needs to be agile enough to adapt to new challenges and opportunities.
It’s essential to keep an open line of communication with your development collaborator, such as Watkyn. Although you might have internal staff who can manage the software, the expertise that CRM developers bring to the table is indispensable.
This ensures your CRM continually adapts its features and workflows to meet emerging business needs. Watkyn can also guide you in implementing enhancements that align with your company’s digital transformation.
Regular consultations with your development partner are advisable. They can offer valuable perspectives that you might not have considered. Challenges are inevitable, and your custom CRM may not have solutions for all of them right out of the gate. Watkyn can assist you in identifying areas for improvement and make minor and significant adjustments to your CRM system accordingly.
By taking these next steps, you ensure that your investment in building a custom CRM remains aligned with your current and future business objectives.
Custom CRM Development FAQs
A custom CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is a tailor-made software solution to help an organization interact with and meet the needs of its current and prospective customers (leads) better. It includes at least a database of customers, prospects, and sales activities and may include many more features like tasks and reminders, sales pipeline management, and commission tracking. Unlike off-the-shelf software, it offers the flexibility to adapt to your business processes, allowing for a more efficient and streamlined operation.
With custom solutions for CRM building, you can have a system that perfectly aligns with your business goals and objectives. You can choose the features that are most relevant to your operations, hence making the system more efficient. It allows for greater scalability, providing your business the room it needs to grow.
The cost to build your own custom CRM varies based on software vendors, project complexity, the number of features required, and the custom software development team you engage. It could range anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
At Watkyn, we will work with you to create a solution that meets your needs and your budget. It’s reasonable to expect a custom CRM development project to cost between about $7,500 and $40,000 for development.
The timeframe for building your own custom CRM depends on the scope of the project, the complexity of the features to be developed, the speed of the development team—and how quickly you need it in place. On average, it could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. At Watkyn, we specialize in rapid application development (RAD) and will work energetically to finish your project as soon as possible. In the simplest cases, this can be as little as a few days.
Switching to a custom CRM is a process that requires planning and adaptation, but it’s not overly challenging. With the right development team and proper employee training, businesses can make the transition smoothly.
While implementing a custom CRM does require some level of involvement from your team, a good development team will ensure the process is as non-disruptive as possible. Additionally, the long-term benefits of a custom CRM far outweigh the temporary transition period.
A custom CRM is usually more secure than a pre-packaged CRM system because it can be tailored to the unique security needs of your business. The development team can build enhanced security features and comply with specific industry standards.
Yes, a custom CRM is a scalable solution, meaning it can start with basic functionalities and grow with your business over time. This approach makes it affordable for small businesses and ensures that you only pay for what you need.
Custom CRM Solutions: Transforming Your Customer Relationships, One Interaction at a Time
By investing in custom CRM development, you’re prioritizing your customer management and setting your business up for long-term success. Having designed and developed CRM systems for multiple industries, Watkyn is an experienced CRM partner you can trust.
Your own CRM software gives you the power to automate tasks, gather insightful data, and make informed decisions that drive business growth. It’s time to take a step towards a more personalized and efficient customer relationship management experience.
Improve profitability and customer satisfaction with Watkyn’s custom CRM-building services.