Within the first few years, business owners don’t generally expect too many customers. So Google Sheets, Excel, or sticky notes may be quite sufficient for collecting and managing customer data. Yet as a business grows and more customers come, it becomes difficult to manage all the data. Businesses, therefore, start looking for a new scalable solution: a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
What is CRM? What types of CRM software are there? When should you go with a custom CRM system ― and when shouldn’t? Read on to find answers to these questions and more.
What is CRM software?
For those who prefer slides to blogs, here’s our presentation:
A customer relationship management system enables businesses to arrange, optimize, and synchronize all customer interactions and analyze data throughout the customer lifecycle. The purpose is to enhance customer service, better understand customers, and improve internal processes.
A typical CRM lets you track the following figures:
Today, CRM is a must, not a luxury. The question is ─ should you build a CRM from scratch to meet your specific business needs? Or use a ready-made solution?
With so many ready-made CRM solutions available, you might be a little hesitant to opt for custom development.
At Steelkiwi, we believe there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to automating customer interactions. All companies are unique and have different needs. With ready-made products, you don’t always get precisely what you want, as they focus on covering the needs of a wide audience. On the other hand, a custom CRM is designed for your specific requirements. You can choose what processes to automate and what departments to grant access to what information.
Since CRM systems contain sensitive data such as customer information, details on transactions, and reports, it’s also important to ensure information security and confidentiality.
With custom development, you can craft your CRM with security in mind from the beginning using different mechanisms to keep your system safe. What’s more, custom CRM software is more flexible and scalable than off-the-shelf solutions.
To sum up, a custom CRM:
- caters to your specific needs
- are stable, secure, flexible, and scalable
- can harmonize information across different departments, improving collaboration between them
Before building a CRM system, there are some crucial decisions to make. Below, we provide a five-step guide on how to build custom CRM software so you can make the right choices from the start and avoid costly mistakes.
#1 Goals for developing a CRM
You should start by defining your business goals for creating a CRM platform and prioritizing these goals. This will help you decide on your CRM system design and features that are best suited to your business needs. Your goals in developing a CRM can vary depending on the specifiсs of your business and industry, and may include:
- Storing and managing customer data in a single place
- Improving customer satisfaction and loyalty
- Optimizing marketing and sales processes
- Maximizing ROI
- Improving internal communication
- Getting valuable and detailed insights into customer behavior
- Managing leads
- Managing the customer base
- Optimizing customer service
- Easily navigating lots of customer data
- Generating reports to evaluate sales and marketing performance
#2 Types of CRM systems
Once you’ve determined your goals for CRM software development, decide on the type of CRM solution you need. There are three types of CRM solutions: operational, analytical, and collaborative. Each is designed for a different purpose.
An operational CRM system is designed to automate marketing, sales, and service processes. With an operational CRM, you can close more deals, effectively generate leads and convert them into customers, and access customer data like contact details, sales history, and communication history.
Analytical CRM systems help businesses effectively manage customer data and customer acquisition and retention processes. An analytical CRM gives you insights into customer data from different channels so you can see common issues that your customers are facing and discover the effectiveness of your marketing and sales strategies.
A collaborative CRM system, also known as a strategic CRM, focuses on improving teamwork, developing better customer service, and increasing customer satisfaction and retention. With a collaborative CRM, communication with customers is synchronized across different communication channels such as email, phone, and social networking platforms.
As you’re likely to have multiple employees using your CRM for different purposes, we suggest adding user roles and permissions. You can include user roles such as C-level executive, marketing representative, sales representative, and customer representative.
Each user role will grant access to certain functionality. For example, your sales team can have permission to track customer interactions, update contact lists, create tasks and schedule follow-up reminders, and create contracts and invoices, while C-level executives can be allowed to keep track of sales and marketing metrics like cost per lead (CPL) and cost per acquisition (CPA) to measure team performance.
Another important step is defining features to include in your CRM. Your decision should be driven by your goals, meaning you should focus on the functionality that will best meet your business needs. Although some functionality is appropriate only for some CRMs, other features appear in nearly every CRM system. Below, we list some of the core features of any CRM.
This is the main feature of a CRM system, allowing you to store important data about your customers such as names, email addresses, and social media profile links. There are two ways to collect contact details: manually or automatically via social profiles, email signatures, or email services.
Your CRM should make it easier for you to track your prospective clients. You should be able to see all leads, add information about them, and monitor their activities from first contact to quote to contract.
Your CRM should enable you to set and schedule tasks like follow-ups, meetings, calls, and deadlines and set reminders for your upcoming activities so you don’t miss anything. You can also consider implementing a feature for assigning tasks to other employees or assigning multiple employees to the same task.
To monitor your performance, you can implement a dashboard feature. This will allow you to have an overview of your progress and to-do list. You can consider adding filters (e.g. task, communication channel, time period) so you can find the data you need. There are different ways of visualizing data on dashboards, including with charts, diagrams, tables, and circles.
Multi-device support is becoming a necessity. Users can access, edit, and add new information anywhere anytime via a mobile device. There are two ways to implement this: You can create a native app (for iOS, Android, or both), but it’ll cost you. Or you can build a website that works on any mobile device and pay less for development. Yet it can be quite challenging to use some functionality like reports on a mobile website.
Nice-to-have CRM features
These aren’t the only features you can include in your CRM system. Below, we describe features that can be useful for some CRM systems (or that you may want to include later on).
|Invoicing||This feature gives you the possibility to generate invoices, send them to your clients, and track their status (paid, overdue, etc.).|
|Third-party integrations||If you use different third-party apps (including analytical tools such as Google Analytics), consider integrating them into your CRM system. This will help you work faster and smoother.|
|File storage and sharing||This feature allows you to store all files in a single place and share them among departments.|
|Pipeline view||To better understand your sales process and see the stages at which your leads and deals are (qualified lead, contact made, proposal presented, quote sent, in negotiation), include a pipeline view.|
|Referral tracking||This feature enables you to track referred leads that eventually turned into paying customers.|
|Chatbot||A chat bot allows your team to concentrate on customer inquiries that require urgent attention. Chatbots can respond immediately to a customer’s questions and are available around the clock.|
|Custom reports||You can create custom filters to get insights that are valuable for your specific processes.|
|Sales forecasting||With this functionality, you can predict sales based on prospective deals. This will help you better understand your sales performance and be prepared for worst-case scenarios.|
#5 Internal software or SaaS platform?
Another big decision to make is whether to build a CRM system for internal use only or transform it into a SaaS app later on. If you decide to go with the latter, make sure you develop a scalable and flexible architecture from the very beginning. Changes in software architecture can cause much pain and cost you an arm and a leg.
Custom CRM development costs at Steelkiwi
It’s difficult to say precisely how much your CRM development will cost. It largely depends on the complexity of the project and the number of hours spent crafting it and can vary greatly, from $5,000 to $50,000 or more.
You’re welcome to message our sales representatives if you’re looking for CRM developers, want to request a rough estimate for your CRM project, or have any questions about how to create a CRM.
Meanwhile, we suggest that you read the following articles to understand what influences the cost of development and discover the approximate time required for developing your project by calculating the number of hours for implementing each individual feature:
How to find and hire a CRM software development company?
Hiring custom CRM developers can be a real challenge. Bad hires, especially for key positions, will cost you. If you choose the wrong CRM engineers, you won’t just lose money, but you may find yourself with undesired consequences such as contract problems or architectural issues.
Here are a few practical tips on how to hire the right CRM development team and avoid costly mistakes:
- Accurately define hiring requirements (including roles and duties you’re recruiting for). By doing so, you’ll save precious time and filter out those who aren’t a good fit.
- Don’t rush hiring decisions. A fast hire won’t save you time if it’s the wrong person. In addition to losing money, you’ll waste time and your team's energy. Generate a consistent and proper flow of candidates to compare them and find the top talent.
- Recruit diverse candidates. Diversity can drive innovation, growth, and financial performance. Therefore, we suggest you increase diversity in your candidate sourcing. Clementine CEO — Emmanuel Stanislas — says that “even if you have a clear vision of your ideal candidates, you should stay open to divergent ones.
Now that you know general tips for hiring the tech talent, let’s look at how you can differentiate the great CRM developers from the rest.
#1 Check out portfolio of CRM-related projects
Real-life projects will tell you lots about a developer’s expertise. They let you see if they have the skills you’re after. If a developer has already built successful CRM solutions similar to yours, they should be able to deliver high-quality CRM development services for you too.
Typically, freelance marketplaces offer you to view a developer’s portfolio on their profile. As for software development agencies, they usually have websites where you can learn about their expertise and experience through case studies and sales pages. Pay attention to details such as a product’s features, design, navigation. And technology stack.
#2 Find real feedback from past clients
Customer reviews are the best indicator of a developer’s success. Get to know if a freelancer or agency met the expectations of previous clients in terms of communication, development, and more.
Platforms like Clutch, GoodFirms, TopTal, Upwork, and PeoplePerHour show project feedback from actual clients. This can provide you with an idea of developers’ performance on past projects.
#3 Pay special attention to a candidate’s technical proficiency and soft skills
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to several companies or developers, interview your picks to assess soft and technical skills so you can understand who’s right for the position.
Steelkiwi’s advice: If you aren’t tech-savvy, it can be tough to properly evaluate a developer’s technical competence. Therefore, we suggest you leave a technical interview to a technical consultant.
Useful links for building a CRM from scratch
To provide a fuller picture of how to build CRM software, read the sources below: