April 24, 2024

How to Build a Custom CRM Step-by-Step

Elena Pashkovskaya

Technical copywriter


Building Custom CRM System: A Detailed Guide

Elena Pashkovskaya

Technical copywriter


Building Custom CRM System: A Detailed Guide

With the growing importance of customer experience, CRM has become an indispensable tool for businesses of every size and industry to build customer-centric strategies. Despite the variety of ready-to-use solutions, some companies just do not have enough. Today, we'll explore custom CRM development opportunities and learn how they benefit your business. Stay tuned!

Key Takeaways

  • Custom CRM development suits businesses with unique sales processes, companies with integration issues with other custom software, and firms whose needs cannot be met through pre-built CRM features.
  • The key to custom CRM development is careful planning and feature prioritization. This will avoid repeating what has already been done and allow you to tailor the solution to your business.
  • Before starting the development process, you must conduct all the necessary evaluations and risk management. Keep in mind potential pitfalls, such as hidden costs, imprecise requirements, and over focusing on success evaluation criteria.
  • The cost of custom CRM development ranges from $50,000 to $100,000, depending on your team size and the project's features and integrations. The development time may take several months to over a year.

What is CRM?

A customer relationship management system (CRM) is software that helps businesses store and track all of their customer data in one place, analyze it, and make data-driven decisions. If your business interacts with customers in any way, a CRM system can be a valuable asset. It's particularly helpful for businesses with growing customer bases or complex sales processes.

CRM key features

CRM features include contact management, customer support, sales tracking, lead management, workflow optimization and more.
  1. Contact management: Store and organize all customer information in one place, including contact details, purchase history, communication records, and other relevant data.
  2. Sales tracking: Monitor leads as they progress through the sales funnel and manage opportunities.
  3. Task management: Track the team's activity, set reminders and alerts, organize tasks into projects, create and assign tasks, and indicate deadlines and priorities.
  4. Email marketing: Create email campaigns, automate email sequences, and segment your contacts based on behavior, demographics, or interests to send highly personalized emails.
  5. Customer support: Track service requests and communication history and offer features like self-service portals.
  6. Reporting and analytics: Generate reports and gain insights into customer interactions, sales capacity, and marketing effectiveness.
  7. Document management: Securely store and manage documents, enable easy sharing and collaboration, set permissions, and keep version control.
  8. Automation: Automatically generate documents based on specific sales process triggers, such as closing a deal or winning a new lead, and populate documents automatically with customer data stored in your CRM.

CRM modules

Pre-built and custom CRM software may include particular features and modules highlighting a business's operation areas. Consider the following modules if you decide whether to build a custom CRM.

Sales module: helps to manage the list of customers, enables account management, sales analytics, planning and forecasting;

Marketing module: carries out process streamlining and automation, marketing campaign management, customer segmentation, and analytics;

Customer support module: allows effective facilitation of customers' journeys when issues arise through the Help Desk, Knowledge Base, and service analytics.

CRM Typology: Why Choose Custom Software?

As you can see, CRMs can have quite diverse specializations. There is always room for considering options, so let's look deeper into the main types of CRM software.

Ready-to-use CRMs

Pre-made CRMs are developed by a third party and are available upon subscription. As a rule, CRM subscription cost depends on the number of users and the subscription plan. Their characteristics are:

  1. Out-of-box CRM's main advantage is that their maintenance and support are the vendor's responsibility, and you will not run additional expenses. Moreover, they are fast to implement and, as a rule, include onboarding materials.
  2. Pre-built software may lack customization opportunities, and you cannot influence updates or introduce new features. Nevertheless, pre-built CRMs usually have a free trial period, during which you can decide whether it is a suitable option for your business.
  3. They may have features you do not need and lack features you need, especially when your business specializes in a very specific niche. Vendors have control over the solution.

Prominent examples of ready-to-use CRMs include Salesforce Sales Cloud, Zoho CRM, Zendesk Sell, and Creatio CRM.

Customized CRM

Customized CRMs are somewhere between ready-made and custom solutions. They give more freedom for adjustments but have the same drawbacks as other third-party software.

  1. It is still an external solution where you can add several modules and change workflows.
  2. It is good for fast launch and has low maintenance expenses.
  3. It may still lack functionality, and the classical pay-per-user model may not suit medium and large businesses.

Custom CRM development

Building your own CRM stands out in terms of tailored design and no subscription fees. It can provide the required security level and unquestioning regulatory compliance. Additionally, custom CRM:

  1. Provides all necessary features in line with your workflows and offers compatibility with different systems you already use.
  2. Is a scalable and flexible solution that may meet your business needs most precisely.
  3. Development takes more time and money compared to ready-to-use software.
  4. You'll be able to add users without additional expenses and provide the exact level of data security you need.
  5. Custom CRM development requires further maintenance and support, as you are responsible for the product.

Benefits of custom CRM development:

  • Customization and tailored workflows
  • Serving unique sales models
  • Personalized customer experience
  • Unlimited users
  • Better data management
  • Improved data security

Custom CRM drawbacks:

  • High upfront cost
  • May require a long time to build
  • Software maintenance and technical support is your responsibility
  • May lack documentation and staff training materials

Custom CRM Development Step-by-Step Guide

Custom CRM development process: define goals, decide on features, find a development company, design and develop, test, launch and maintain.

CRM software development process is more or less standard for different industries, whether it is custom real estate CRM software development, banking, e-commerce, education, retail, or agriculture, and includes six steps. Let's discover how to build a custom CRM for your business.

Step 1. Define goals

First, a custom CRM solution must be built. Will it profit your business? Do the benefits outweigh the expenses? Remember that not every company needs a custom solution, and in many cases, out-of-the-box software is enough, so carefully determine the pros and cons of both.

Solid reasons to build a custom CRM:

  1. The absence of crucial features in pre-built solutions
  2. No suitable CRM options for your business niche
  3. You are facing integration problems with other custom software

After all checks and estimations are made, it is time to begin the vast discussions. Cross-department collaboration, brainstorming, and consultations will help form business requirements, define precise goals, and determine what type of CRM you want. For example,  building a centralized system with advanced automation will help to cut costs, while CRM centered around thorough analytics is well suited for building data-driven strategies. At this step, you also determine what standards your CRM must meet, including security requirements, domain-related regulations, and quality conditions.

Common goals for building custom CRM software:

  • Improve communication between departments
  • Enhance customer experience
  • Increase customer retention
  • Refine lead management
  • Boost sales by streamlining internal processes
  • Automate routine tasks

Step 2. Decide on the features

When you decide that building a custom CRM is exactly what your company needs, and the main goals are defined, it is time to determine the features of your future software. At this step, you also formulate your project specifications.

A good starting point is to create a primary list of features. Then, narrow them down to must-haves and prioritize accordingly. Prioritizing can help you launch the product quicker, for example, in the form of an MVP with only core features included and then gradually adding the rest.

Another good point is to determine whether you want your custom CRM to be on-premises or cloud-based. 

  • The cloud-based solution allows data access from any device with an Internet connection. It removes the need to buy and maintain hardware, such as servers. 
  • On-premises CRM is installed on your company's servers, offering greater data protection while carrying greater IT infrastructure costs.

Several methodologies, such as the MoSCoW (Must Have, Should Have, Could Have, and Won't Have) approach, the Pareto principle, or the prioritization matrix, can facilitate choosing and prioritizing tasks.

A project specification is the result of this step, meaning you now have a plan on how you see your project, its features, user roles, user flow, wireframes, access levels, etc. Creating specifications gives the development team an understanding of the future product.

Step 3. Find a CRM development company

The right choice of software development partner lowers the risks of untimely project completion and budget overrun and ensures that your product is in safe hands. The key criteria for choosing a custom CRM development services provider are:

  • Level of expertise: Make sure the company has expertise in the technologies required for your project and the professional to carry out the work. The technologies include programming languages, frameworks, and databases.
  • Experience with similar projects: Look for a company with a strong portfolio of successful projects in your industry or with similar applications. Read client reviews to learn about the company's strengths and weaknesses and set realistic expectations.
  • Location: The region of the CRM software development company influences the final project's cost, communication style, team's cultural differences, and developers' English proficiency.
  • Scalability and future support: Ask in advance whether the company can provide ongoing support and maintenance as your software evolves. It is better to have the company that developed the CRM for maintenance and support, as they already know the product inside and out.

You will develop a project plan with the CRM software development company, which will be an initial roadmap for the project. It must include the project scope, timeline with key phases and milestones, resources needed, and risk management strategies.

Step 4. Design and development

At this step, you approve the design provided by the development team and check whether it aligns with the project's goals and the general vision of the product. You can make changes until reaching an agreement, as it is easier to foresee the details on paper that make changes during the development process.

Other custom CRM development activities include:

  • Frontend and backend development.
  • Integrations with other business solutions.
  • APIs and connectors development for smooth integration with other software.
  • Preparation of data from existing systems for seamless migration to your custom CRM. It includes removing duplicates, choosing what data to migrate, and removing errors and inconsistencies.
  • Implementing advanced security measures, such as access control, data encryption and secure authentication. You can also consider using data backup strategies to keep information safe.

Step 5. Testing and QA

Testing and quality assurance ensure that the system works as it is supposed to and that the code is error-free. At this stage, the team ensures CRM compliance with relevant regulations, tests CRM's responsiveness on different platforms, screens, and devices, conducts security testing to find vulnerabilities, and looks for bugs, performance, and usability issues.

Step 6. Launching and maintenance

Release preparation includes planning the deployment process, staging the environments, and rollback procedures. At this stage, the team develops the product's documentation for programmers, administrators, and users and provides custom CRM onboarding.

After the initial launch, the team's maintenance work involves finding and fixing bugs, rolling out updates to keep pace with technology developments, introducing new features, and conducting regular security audits. Remember to ask the custom software development company about the program's maintenance and support at the preparation stage.

Custom CRM Development Challenges

The custom CRM development process and even the planning stage are not that nice and easy. What can hamper the process, and how can you avoid the common pitfalls?

Vague requirements

To avoid struggling with unclear goals and requirements that may delay the development process and, therefore, launch and define everything before the beginning of the product building. It will help you create the exact product that your business needs.

CRM success evaluation

CRM systems have no clear timeframe for assessing success or failure, making it hard to pinpoint a single metric for success in measuring CRM impact. While short-term metrics may not fully capture this holistic impact, low user adoption can also make tracking improvements in sales pipeline management, lead nurturing, or customer service interactions difficult.

Hidden costs

Custom CRM software development encompasses costs that are not directly connected with the development process but are nevertheless necessary and unavoidable, including staff training, maintenance, and updates.

Pre-built solutions usually include some training materials, such as manuals, videos and tutorials, FAQs, and articles. However, when building custom CRM solutions, you or your developers may miss the onboarding procedure, resulting in creating manuals on your own or making additional requests to the development team.

As the owner of your custom CRM software, you are solely responsible for its maintenance and updates. You need to hire support personnel to deliver updates and additional features in a timely manner, ensuring your CRM runs smoothly.

While ready-to-use CRMs have numerous tiers of support, tech support is usually an additional service delivered by software development providers for custom CRMs.

Custom CRM Development Cost

The cost of custom CRM development varies greatly, starting at $50,000 and ending at hundreds of thousands. Now, we'll examine the CRM building cost, checking the main factors to consider.

First, consider the project's scale and the number of features and integrations you need for the business. The more complex the requirements, the more time and cost it will take to build them.

Second, choose the location of the development. Despite the unquestionable advantages of in-house teams, such as full control over the project, outsourcing developers is a more cost-effective solution. It enables access to the world talent pool. A reliable software development partner can deliver full-fledged quality solutions faster using cutting-edge technologies.

Third, calculate the cost for additional services, ongoing technical support, and updates development. Sometimes, special staff training is also needed to introduce new CRM functionalities.

Summing up

Custom CRM benefits are: meeting business needs, improving data security, and tailoring workflows. Ready-made CRMs are fast to deploy, are time-tested software and is affordable option for small business.

Integrating CRM into your store is not just an option, it’s a necessity if you want your store to operate smoothly and efficiently. Consider the latest CRM market facts and figures:

  • The CRM software market shows continuous growth with an annual growth rate of 10.59% in 2024-2028.
  • Companies are increasingly prioritizing understanding customer behavior and preferences to drive market growth. This is fuelling the demand for CRM software and encouraging brands to adopt CRM strategies for real-time, exceptional service.
  • Successful CRM introduction can increase sales by up to 29% and business sales productivity by 34%.

Custom CRM may be a great option if your business needs domain-specific software and has unique processes. Still, it requires careful planning and precise requirements. Only then it can bring improved customization, security, and better data management.

If you are considering building a custom CRM, NEKLO is ready to help. Contact us for a free consultation and estimation on your project.