How to Build a CRM Solution for your Business from Scratch
Sticky notes. Spreadsheets. Text files... And how do you manage customer-related data?
Have you ever thought of custom CRM software development?
While the approaches mentioned might work during the first year after a company is established, it becomes tricky as time goes on. The number of files will grow exponentially along with the growth of your company. This is why you might want to build your own CRM.
So what is a CRM system?
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the process dedicated to managing a company’s relationships and interactions with all existing and potential customers.
Every dollar invested in CRM delivers nine dollars in profit, according to Nucleus Research. However, ResearchGate findings state that 70% of CRM implementations fail because the system used doesn’t meet business goals.
If you want to explore how to build a CRM system from scratch that will meet all your business requirements, this article provides the answers in great detail, namely:
- How MLSDev approaches custom CRM development
- Benefits when you create your own CRM software
- Basic and advanced functionality needed for building a CRM
- Breakdown of custom CRM development cost
- Services and phases involved in implementing CRM system from scratch
- How to build a CRM: Step-by-step instructions
- CRM system examples and their types
- Benefits of building a CRM from scratch
- Key steps to finding a reliable development vendor
Let’s dive right into the exhaustive guide explaining how to build a CRM that will become a valuable asset to your business.
MLSDev Expertise in Creating a CRM from Scratch
A custom CRM is a type of software developed from scratch based on specific business needs. The software is used to collect, store, manage, and analyze all data related to customer interactions.
MLSDev is a software development company that provides a full range of development services to clients from all over the world. Our professionals know how to build a CRM that will meet all of your business requirements and fit within your budget.
We’ve successfully developed internal CRMs for a few companies operating in different business industries.
Gopuff - on-demand delivery solution, listed among the top businesses in the USA. MLSDev helped the project grow from the initial idea to 200+ facilities in 500+ U.S. cities with 4,000 workers.
Aside from iOS and Android applications for end-users, our team helps to create back-office software for customer information management. Along with our client, we are constantly working on optimizing and automating goPuff’s internal processes.
As well, the MLSDev team has developed a dozen products within healthcare domains with a specific CRM system like Doctorate, Idana, etc.. These software collect, store, and provide patient information, which requires solid security methods. Thus, our healthcare app developers create custom healthcare software solutions that comply with medical standards.
You can check out case studies of the mentioned projects in our list of portfolios on our website.
Interested in creating a custom CRM tailored to your business needs?
Get in touch with us for a free consultation and project cost estimation for building a CRM. Our business analyst and software architect would be glad to discuss the details of CRM implementation.
Key Benefits of Creating a Custom CRM
A custom CRM is a type of software developed from scratch based on specific business needs versus free CRM software. The software is used to collect, store, manage, and analyze all data related to customer interactions.
There are a few signs that can direct you in creating your own CRM platform, namely:
1. Your organization needs a specific integration - existing CRM solutions interconnect with some popular networks, systems, and databases, but in many cases these cannot connect to the internal databases easily. This is especially the case inside industrial organizations, unique services, factories, B2C networks, and similar.
2. You want to add identity to the business - custom developed CRM can resemble business branding better than using a template. Communication and email via custom CRM would be more effective, and your team will stand out for building customer relationships.
3. You need to link all your departments - a custom CRM can integrate with all the departments on an operational level so that it boosts business efficiency.
The decision to create your own CRM can have a number of benefits for your customers.
Even though there are dozens of ready-to-use CRM systems with rich feature-sets, including HubSpot, Zoho, Salesforce, and Bitrix24, all of them have some drawbacks.
Let’s now review some of the most promising advantages and learn why ready-to-use solutions are not always the best choice.
So why does it make sense to opt for custom CRM software development?
1. Solution Tailored to Your Needs 100%
Custom web application development allows you to create custom solutions tailored to unique business requirements. Custom developed CRMs provide functionality and integrations specific to your company, and its objectives and needs.
For instance, ready-made CRM systems have typical features for departments like sales and marketing. Alternatively, a custom CRM can provide functionality for a specific department and have all the necessary integrations and analytics.
2. Centralized Data Aggregation and Editing
Custom CRM software development provides a way to store all your data in single centralized storage that communicates with different software and solutions.
Thanks to this benefit, employees won’t have problems with data transfer from one system to another or with data exchange between multiple departments.
3. Analytics about Customer Insights
Solutions tailored to your current and potential customers provide the fullest insights and a deeper understanding of your audience based on data collected by the sales, marketing, and customer support departments.
4. CRM Ecosystem Scalability
A CRM created for a mid-sized company won’t be able to meet the demands of an enterprise business. Unlike out-of-the-box solutions, custom CRMs have only the features that your business needs. When your requirements change, you can easily add unique features needed for further business growth.
Custom CRM system provides unlimited opportunities for CRM customization and scaling when you need it and not when the vast majority of the audience of ready-made solutions requires it.
Main Disadvantages of Ready-Made CRM Solutions
The main drawbacks of ready-to-use CRM software include the following points:
- Insufficient integration – the inability to integrate the system into your business processes smoothly.
- Many additional fields – an overabundance of functionality creates a non-user-friendly interface with unnecessary fields, buttons, and other elements.
- Improper UI/UX design – ready-made CRMs have a design that you cannot change, even if your employees prefer something else.
- Difficult to stand out – template solutions fail to provide you with the necessary tools to create a unique solution software that will stand out on the market.
Types of CRM Software to Learn From
When deciding how to build a custom CRM application you need to understand the differences between key types of CRM solutions
1. Operational CRM
Operational CRM systems focus on marketing, sales, and service automation. The main goal is to assist a company in meeting short-term objectives, such as closing more deals, and attracting more leads and successfully converting them into customers. These systems provide access to customer contact details, sales, and communication histories.
Examples: HubSpot, Salesforce, Creatio.
2. Analytical CRM
Analytical CRMs usually work in tandem with operational systems, from which they get customer data for further analysis. Analytical CRMs are used to determine customer behavior and help decision-makers make better decisions for customer acquisition and retention.
Examples: Salesforce Einstein, HubSpot Marketing Hub, Zoho Analytics, Zendesk Explore, Mixpanel.
3. Strategic or Collaborative CRM
Collaborative customer relationship management systems aim to improve teamwork for better customer service, customer satisfaction, and retention. Communication with customers is synchronized and performed via phone calls, emails, websites, and social networks.
Examples: Microsoft Dynamics 365, SAP Business One (SAP Customer 360), Sugar CRM, Sage, CRM, Copper, Pipeliner CRM.
Custom CRM Development Based on User Type
Now you will learn how to build a CRM for three main types of users: sales team, marketers, and customer support.
1. Build a Custom CRM for the Sales Team
The sales team is usually made up of the main target users of a CRM system since they benefit from such a system the most. This kind of system is used to collect data on leads and customers and store it in the built-in CRM database system, and use it for sales process improvements.
These CRM database applications usually include the following features:
- Account management – customer information, such as their contact details, age, names, social media profiles, financial status, sales history, etc.
- Sale scheduling – sales managers develop sales plans based on data provided by marketers, such as current promotional events and special offers. Salespeople observe and use this data to create better offers and a sales process.
- Sales analytics – dashboards, statistics, tables, and diagrams providing insight into sales and allowing the sales department to compare based on the timeline, location, etc.
2. Build Your Own CRM System for Marketers
CRM systems are of high value for marketers, since they allow them to create promotional campaigns, set commercial goals, and study and analyze the results for better cooperation with the sales departments.
CRM software for marketers can include the following functionality:
- Promo and sales campaign management – the ability for marketers to create campaigns with multiple events inside a CRM and different types of marketing materials, such as invoices, marketing materials, etc. This kind of CRM system should also provide tools for communication between marketers.
- Exploring customer types – features designed for customer segmentation and finding the most profitable groups.
- Business performance analysis – analytics data on campaign results for better marketing operations and efforts in the future.
3. Build a Custom CRM System for Customer Support
Information about communication between customers and your support team provides insight into the most popular issues that occur, frequently asked questions, etc. This data allows for the optimization of the work of the customer support department by automating their work.
A customer support CRM can include the following functionality:
- Information base – articles answering the most frequently asked question and those providing assistance with frequently occurring issues.
- Customer support interface – a dedicated part of the CRM where the support team can view customer requests, prioritize them, and respond.
- Automated analytics – functionality collecting statistics about data requests, issues, and the efficiency of the customer support department.
How to Build a CRM from Scratch: Feature-Set
To create your own CRM, you first need to explore key features that you can use to equip your system.
Let’s review some must-have and advanced CRM system features that are mostly used when building a CRM.
Basic Features for a Custom CRM Solution
The table below represents the basic functionality that you can use to build your own CRM based on your business requirements.
|Contact management||Allows you to keep all information on customers, including full name, email address, phone number, links to social media pages, etc. New contacts can be added to the CRM system manually or automatically.|
|Leads and deals||Management of all interactions with potential and current customers. The system allows you to track how each lead moved through the sales funnel from the first interaction to becoming your customer by signing a contract or purchasing a product.|
|Reminder settings||Built-in tool for setting automatic reminders for upcoming and recurring events, such as calls, meetings, follow-ups, etc. This feature guarantees that your employees won’t forget about it.|
|Calendar editing||Displays all planned events and activities. This feature provides insight into the workload of the sales department and allows users to schedule events, calls, etc. It can be integrated with Google Calendar for better synchronization between different calendars.|
|Task management||Overview of all the tasks in a dashboard and the ability to set up and edit tasks.|
|Report generation||Built-in functionality to generate reports for employees, departments, or clients. This feature can display data in different forms such as infographics, reports, graphs, etc.|
|Touchpoint tracking||Storage and management of the history of all interactions with a customer for better customer service.|
|Email marketing||Customer segmentation for targeting them with relevant emails designed for different groups of customers. Automatic sending of follow-ups, reminders, etc.|
|File sharing||Functionality designed to keep all the information at the same time and share it with the team based on the employees’ access levels. The history of all the work done in the document with names of editors and versions.|
|Pipeline view||The feature that helps keep track of all leads and customers. It provides information on which stage each lead reaches at that moment, e.g., new lead, contact made, qualified, or won.|
|Invoicing||Functionality allowing the user to create and send invoices to clients, track their statuses, and look up the history of all invoices.|
|Custom reports||The ability to create customized reports based on different factors, such as demographics, sales, lead types, etc.|
|Integration with social media||One of the key features today that allows you to track all mentions of your company on social media and provide timely feedback.|
|Mobile version||Mobile version of a CRM to allow sales representatives to perform work on-the-go.|
Advanced Custom CRM Functionality
Based on your request, you might also need to add some advanced functionality for building a CRM that will allow you to perform all the tasks more efficiently.
|Integration with third-parties||Integration with third-party services used by your company such as G Suite, Slack, Jira, etc.|
|Integration with internal software||Integration with other internal solutions, such as warehouse management systems, logistics management software, resource planning systems, etc.|
|Call center management||Automated tracking of all incoming and outgoing calls. This feature can also provide call recording.|
|Analytics and reports||Advanced analytics providing insight into the work of a sales department, performance, etc.|
|Business process automation||Automation of key processes such as notification, tasks distribution among employees based on predefined conditions, etc.|
|Tracking referrals||Tracking all the customers and leads that a company gets from referral programs.|
|Customer scoring||The feature that allows you to track the quality of leads based on predetermined metrics, such as age, geographics, income, behavior, etc.|
|Chatbots||Functionality designed to free employees from routine tasks such as answering frequently asked questions, onboarding, setting up reminders, etc.|
Custom CRM Development Cost
The cost of creating turnkey solutions depends on a number of factors. One of the main cost-forming aspects is how you decide on the vendor for custom CRM development.
Here are a few methods you can choose from:
- Work with freelancers
While this option might seem the most financially viable, it has a number of disadvantages. Freelancers don’t always provide the highest quality of development services and might even disappear without finishing the work. Thus, you would need to pay twice for the same work, which will be much more expensive than working with professional CRM developers.
- Address local IT firms
Working with companies from your location is suitable if you are ready to pay a higher price to be able to communicate with the team directly. For example, prices for software development services in the USA start at $100 per hour. Thus, the development cost might become twice as expensive compared to other locations.
- Outsource software development to Eastern Europe
Europe has long-since become a popular destination for offshore and nearshore software development outsourcing. Ukraine, in particular, offers a unique environment combining competitive prices with the strongest tech talents. If you decide to work with a company from Ukraine, you will get a high-quality product tailored to your specific business needs.
The custom web development cost for a CRM project can range from $60,000 up to $300,000 or even higher based on many factors, namely:
- Number and complexity of features
- Design complexity
- Uniqueness, number of supported platforms
- Vendor type, location, and rates you choose
The time needed to create your own CRM fluctuates between 3-6 months for a simple CRM system version, 4-9 months for a full product, and 9+ months for a large product for two or more supported platforms.
Get a full app development cost breakdown from industry leaders. Check out our article for details: How Much Does it Cost to Make an App?
Get a full app development cost breakdown from industry leaders. Check out our article for details: How Much Does it Cost to Make an App?
So, how much does it cost to build a CRM system?
Take a look at the table below providing a CRM cost and timeline breakdown based on development stages and product volume.
|Basic CRM version (minimum feature set, 1 platform)||Full СRM software (more features and more complex design, 1 platform)||Large product (complex design, development, and support, 2+ platforms)|
|Time||~3-6 months||~4-9 months||9+ months|
Please note that custom CRM software price is calculated based on the average rate of $40 in Ukraine.
Want to know how much it will cost to build a CRM tailored to your business needs?
Get in touch with the MLSDev team for some project discussion. Based on the inputs from your side, our team will calculate the cost and timeline to build your own CRM.
How to Build a CRM from Scratch: Services and Processes
The process for creating a custom CRM consists of two main stages:
- Discovery – an exploration of market possibilities, competitors, and overall project planning with a project mind map, functional specifications, and product backlog
- Development – all tasks associated when you develop a CRM software and database.
Let’s explore the main stages of providing custom software development services to identify the technology stack, development team, process, and cost for your business specifically.
1. Discovery Stage
The discovery stage of CRM software development is divided into two substages: business analysis and UX/UI design.
Business Analysis is required for thorough market research of existing CRM solutions and their features to learn from. The greatest value from the business analysis is product backlog and functional specifications creation. This can be compared with the architecture plan of building a house by listing all minor details and specifications used in the next phase.
The deliverables of business analysis include:
- Market analysis (on demand)
- Competitor analysis (on demand)
- Concept mind map creation
- Documentation of functional specifications
- Product backlog
UX/UI Design is dedicated to creating the logic for user interaction (UX) and for creating the user interface and CRM design. The main deliverables of this stage include:
- UX - user experience (wireframes)
- UI - user interface (mockups)
- Branding elements (e.g. logo)
- Animations and illustrations
2. Development Stage
At this stage, the development of the actual CRM software is performed. The development team starts at the early planning stage to define the whole scope of work, create the project’s specifications, and set a timeline.
Coding – building a CRM’s code base, i.e., its backend and frontend parts, as well as integration of third-party services and solutions.
Below is a table presenting technologies used to build software on different platforms (Web, iOS, Android).
|Web front-end||Web back-end|
Frameworks: Angular, React, Vue, TypeScript
Markup languages: HTML5, CSS3
Frameworks: Ruby on Rails
Alternative languages: Python, PHP, Java
|Web servers||Nginx (preferred), APACHE|
|Cloud server platforms||Amazon Web Services (AWS, EC2, S3, etc.)|
|Programming languages||Kotlin (recommended), Java||Swift (recommended), Objective-C|
|Software Development Kit||Android SDK
Toolkit: Android Studio, Android Developer Tools
|iOS SDK, Cocoa Touch
Toolkit: Apple Xcode
Below, you can see a table describing some valuable integration and third-party APIs that you might use to build your own CRM.
|MailChimp||Automated email marketing service|
|Google services (Gmail, Google Drive)||Social login with Google. Storage of files on Google Drive|
|Dropbox||Cloud storage of data|
|Google’s Calendar REST API||Calendar-like board with all department’s to-dos and processes synchronized with Google Calendar|
|Eventful API||Calendar board with all planned events inside and outside a company|
|Microsoft’s Outlook Calendar API||Access to events, calendars, and other calendar group data|
|Zapier API||Automated workflow creation between popular solutions like Gmail, Slack, etc.|
|PandaDoc API||Document automation software to e-sign proposals, quotes, and contracts|
|Google Analytics||Collection and interpretation of analytics data on all leads|
|Kixie||One-click phone service for sales teams|
QA, Testing, & Deployment – a service of high importance that allows developers to check functionality, performance, and security. This stage can include functional testing, security and access control testing, performance and load testing, usability testing, and other types of QA services.
Ongoing Software Support & Development – ongoing work on the solution’s functionality, improvements to its security and performance.
Continue reading the article to learn how to build a CRM step-by-step with deep insight into each stage.
8 Key Considerations & Steps for Building a Custom CRM
Before you create your own CRM, you need to first identify your business goals, decide on the use of innovative technologies, and supported platforms.
First you need to identify your business goals and decide on using innovative technologies and supported platforms.
1. Define Commercial Goals
What are your objectives for creating your own CRM?
Building your own CRM delivers a number of benefits, such as automation of internal operations, better work by the sales team, and integration with marketing and other departments.
For some companies, customizable CRM software is required to automate processes and reduce costs, while for others it can help create a better strategy based on advanced analytics.
SaaS CRM vs. Internal Software: If you consider building a CRM with the intention to turn your custom-built CRM into software as a service, you should start preparing a tech background and monetization strategy for this from the very first iteration of product development.
2. Finalize CRM Roles
The creation of the CRM user roles helps you eliminate risks and data breaches. Every user group, which usually includes sales, support, and marketing, can have different types of access based on their roles.
3. Check Out Legal Restrictions
While you decide how you want to create your own CRM, make sure that your software won’t infringe on data and privacy protection policies. Depending on the industry you are operating in, you might not be able to collect some types of data on your customers and even employees.
Legal restrictions should be considered before you start the development of web CRM software since they can influence the final set of features and their logic.
4. Decide on the Supported Platforms
Depending on what your business dictates, you might need to create a few versions of your solution, including a web version of the CRM and its iOS and Android versions.
Note: The more platforms you want to target, the more time and money it will take to develop a CRM.
5. Specify Functional & CRM Software Requirements
While you are considering how to build a CRM, create Functional Requirements (FRS) and Software Requirement Specifications (SRS).
These documents are created based on the different types of users that will be using your solution. Specify how they will interact with the CRM, describe how the system will assist them in performing their tasks, and decide what features should be created for each company’s department.
Try to look at your custom CRM software from the perspective of its end users; understand their pains, and how the system will solve them while meeting all your commercial goals. Software development vendors will help you structure all the collected information and turn it into FRS and SRS documents.
6. Staff Training Considerations
While you are developing your solution, you need to decide on staff training. Your employees need to understand how the system works and how they can use its features in their work.
You can either rely on your internal department to create user documentation or ask the development company to create training materials. A possible solution includes in-software onboarding to help employees get a better grasp of the main functionality.
7. Thoughts about Service Support and Improvement
It is safe to say that it’s impossible to release a bugless solution. After your CRM is released, there might be some issues that emerge that will require fixing. If you decide to work with a software development company, find out if they provide support services. They would be able to fix any issues the fastest since they designed and developed the system and know all its ins and outs.
8. Usage of Artificial Intelligence in Future Versions
The ability to use a CRM for predictive analytics can turn said system into a valuable addition to your working tools. The introduction of Artificial Intelligence will allow you to automate the collection and analysis of huge amounts of customer data to identify possible outcomes.
Artificial intelligence integration into a CRM allows you to save hundreds of hours on manual data analysis and prediction creation.
How to Find the Perfect IT Partner to Build your Own CRM Software
Now you know how to build a custom CRM for your business.
You will need to find and hire CRM developers to turn your software idea into a real product. The following checklist will help you make the right choice:
- Pay attention to the questions asked
If you get in touch with a development company and they provide you with a CRM system cost right away, it shows their incompetence. IT vendors shouldn’t be able to provide the final custom CRM cost until they know how to build a CRM for your business needs. That’s why they should ask you a lot of questions about your company, business processes, and commercial goals.
- Check the portfolio
While a company’s portfolio might not include a CRM system example, you can check other projects. Evaluate their complexity to know whether the company will be able to deliver a full-fledged CRM system.
- Check reviews
Current and former clients are a great source of the most valuable information when planning a CRM system from scratch. You can use platforms like Clutch to check out what others are saying about the company that has attracted your interest. You can take the vendor research a step further and get in touch with the vendor’s clients to get the information from the primary source.
- Choose a geographical region
If you are looking for technical expertise combined with affordable development prices, Eastern Europe is a great place to start searching for a development team. For example, companies from Ukraine are well-known for providing top talent and the ability to find even the rarest specialists, such as AI and machine learning developers. You can hire a dedicated development team to work on your product exclusively.
- Get in touch with prospects
Speak personally with your future team to understand all the internal processes. Pay attention to any cultural differences that might cause problems during future cooperation.
- Ask the right questions
Learn what services the company provides, and whether they can help you with business analysis, UX/UI design, development, support and team onboarding.
Need help with building your own CRM?
We have a deep knowledge of how to create a CRM that will automate all key business processes and meet all your commercial goals. Get in touch with us to talk about your project and receive a free initial estimate for your solution.