How to Build a CRM: Guide for SMBs


Now that you understand the various benefits of building a custom CRM system, you’re likely wondering how to build one!

Fortunately, creating custom CRM software is more accessible than most small business owners assume. 

Below, I’ve detailed the eight-step process for building the best custom CRM systems! 

Step 1: Choose the CRM Type, Roles & Platform 

The first step in custom CRM software development includes:

  • Choosing the right type of system
  • Determining user roles
  • Selecting a platform

Answering these questions is integral to success. 

For instance, choosing the best type of CRM system ensures it functions exactly how your team needs it to! 

Types of CRM 

There are three types of CRM systems, including the following:

  • Operational
  • Analytical
  • Collaborative

Here’s what you need to know about each of these systems!

Operational CRM 

Operational CRM systems focus on automating and enhancing customer-facing and service-related operations within a business. 

Operational CRM software is designed to streamline and simplify day-to-day tasks such as: 

  • Sales automation tasks 
  • Sending marketing-related messages 
  • Entering customer service data 

This type of CRM creates a better workflow and increases efficiency, improving customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

An operational CRM system is a valuable tool for businesses looking to build stronger relationships with customers and improve their service delivery!

Analytical CRM 

Analytical CRM systems focus on the analysis of customer data to drive strategic decision-making and management. 

These solutions provide insights into customer behavior and preferences, enabling the business to anticipate customer needs and optimize marketing strategies!

Further, some features of analytical CRM include the following:

  • Data mining
  • Predictive modeling 
  • Customer segmentation
  • Creating in-depths reports 

By leveraging these tools, businesses can target their marketing efforts more effectively.

As a result of better communication with potential and existing customers, businesses improve customer retention and increase profitability!

Collaborative CRM 

Collaborative CRM systems focus on improving collaboration and communication within a business and with external partners. 

This CRM system streamlines customer-related data and information sharing across different departments or teams. 

Some features of a collaborative CRM system include the following:

  • Interaction management
  • Document sharing 
  • Partner relationship management

A collaborative CRM system makes collaborative efforts seamless, leading to a more consistent and personalized customer experience across all touchpoints.

User Roles of a CRM 

When you add a new user to your CRM system, you must assign them a specific role. 

For instance, these “roles” can include titles like: 

  • Sales rep 
  • Manager 
  • Head 
  • Executive 

Each role you create has specific capabilities and rights, allowing them to perform necessary tasks. 

Let’s take a CRM user with a manager role. 

In this case, the CRM manager would have the following functions within your CRM system: 

  • View and manage their activities 
  • Manage other contacts
  • View the directory of contacts 
  • Manage events, applications, documents, etc. 

As you create your own CRM software, creating various templates for roles within your company is vital. 

Further, it would help if you created access levels for each position in your company. 

That way, employees only access the functions and data they need!

Decide the CRM Platforms You’ll Support 

Deciding the CRM platforms you’ll support is crucial in building a custom CRM system. 

This step involves selecting the platforms (like web, mobile, etc.) where your CRM system will operate.

As a result, you determine the accessibility and usability of your CRM solution for its users.

Step 2: Choose Your CRM Features 

Step two is choosing your CRM features

There are four types of CRM features, including the following: 

  • Critical features 
  • Main features 
  • Advanced features 
  • Niche features

When learning how to build a CRM system, choosing the right features is critical! 

For instance, when your team has advanced features, they can do their jobs more efficiently and streamline business processes. 

Here’s what you need to know about each type of feature. 

Critical Features 

Critical features are the essential functionalities a CRM system must have to effectively manage customer relationships and maximize the benefits of the software for the business!

Some examples of critical features might include the following:

These features are all vital for:

  • Organizing and maintaining customer information
  • Tracking previous and upcoming interactions 
  • Managing tasks related to customer service and sales

Your CRM software’s critical features should be things you can’t live without. 

Main Features 

The main features of a CRM system are the additional functionalities that significantly enhance the software’s effectiveness and usability, going beyond the essential tasks. 

These features are optional but provide valuable assistance in managing customer relationships and increasing sales efficiency. 

Further, some examples of main features may include the following: 

  • Sales forecasting
  • Email marketing integration
  • Lead scoring
  • Advanced analytics

Advanced Features 

Advanced features of CRM software refer to the sophisticated functionalities that provide users with in-depth insights, automation options, and extended capabilities to manage customer relationships effectively. 

Further, these features are designed to empower businesses to optimize their sales, marketing, and customer service efforts.

Also, advanced features in a CRM system typically leverage advanced technology like machine learning or AI. 

Some examples of advanced features may include the following: 

  • Artificial intelligence-driven insights
  • Chatbot integration
  • Predictive analytics
  • Social media monitoring 
  • Advanced customization options

Niche Features 

Niche features in CRM software refer to specialized functionalities tailored to meet:

  • Unique business requirements
  • Industry-specific demands

Additionally, teams design niche features to solve peculiar challenges in business processes. 

These features are typically designed for a specific subset of users, enhancing the CRM’s adaptability to diverse business landscapes. 

Lastly, some examples of niche features could include: 

  • Tools for real estate tracking in a CRM for realty businesses 
  • Integrations with eCommerce platforms for retail-oriented CRMs

Step 3: Calculate Your CRM Development Budget

Calculating a CRM software development budget is crucial so your company can stay within the budget of implementing new technology. 

The primary factors that influence your CRM development budget include the following things: 

  • Number of roles: Different roles have different access to the CRM system.
  • The number of functions: Ensure your CRM software performs how your team needs it to.
  • Platform support: The more platform support your CRM system needs, the higher the final cost. 
  • Integrations and other software: Consider the cost of any third-party applications your team needs. 

Custom CRM development is a lengthy and expensive process. 

Creating an accurate budget is an excellent way to stay within your financial constraints. 

Step 4: Choose a CRM Developer 

Next, you and your team must decide who will develop your custom CRM software!

There are several options for CRM developers, including the following: 

  • In-house team 
  • On-shore subcontractors 
  • Off-shore subcontractors
  • Development agencies 

Here’s everything you need to know about each of these development options. 

Hire an In-House Development Team 

An in-house development team is a group of professionals your company employs. 

This team is dedicated to handling your software development needs, including building a custom CRM system!

In-house development teams are beneficial to work with because they understand the following things about your business:

  • Unique requirements
  • Culture 
  • Values

Because in-house teams understand your business deeply, they can work closely with different departments to ensure the CRM aligns with specific needs. 

Also, their physical proximity allows for real-time communication, immediate feedback, and swift problem-solving. 

Given their exclusive focus on your business, in-house development teams can develop a deep understanding of your customer relationships and processes to build a CRM that truly fits. 

Therefore, an in-house team is an excellent option for building custom CRM software as they offer the following things:

  • Precision
  • Agility 
  • A high level of customization
  • Fast, clear communication 
  • Unlimited edits and tweaks to the system

Hire On-Shore Subcontractors 

On-shore subcontractors are third-party professionals or firms based within the same country as your business.

On-shore subcontractors specialize in custom software development, including CRM systems. 

Also, they bring specific domain knowledge and technical expertise that can accelerate the development process and ensure high-quality results. 

By understanding local business contexts, regulations, and culture, on-shore subcontractors can deliver a CRM system tailored to your specific needs and market! 

Although on-shore subcontractor costs may be higher than off-shore alternatives, the following aspects make them a valuable choice:

  • The convenience of working in the same time zone
  • Ease of face-to-face meetings 
  • Fewer communication barriers 

Therefore, on-shore subcontractors can be beneficial for businesses seeking to build their own CRM software with efficient communication and a deep understanding of the local business landscape.

Hire Off-Shore Subcontractors 

Off-shore subcontractors are third-party professionals or firms based outside your home country. 

By leveraging different time zones, off-shore subcontractors can keep your project moving round-the-clock, accelerating the development process!

Further, off-shore subcontractors often provide competitive prices due to lower operational and labor costs in their home countries, making them a cost-effective choice for businesses operating on a tight budget. 

Despite potential challenges in communication and cultural differences, the following aspects make off-shore subcontractors a beneficial option for CRM development: 

  • The cost savings
  • Broadened talent pool 
  • 24/7 productivity 

Hire a Development Agency 

A development agency is a third-party firm specializing in various aspects of software development, including designing and building custom CRM systems. 

These agencies bring a diverse pool of experts to build CRM software that fits your needs.

This pool of experts includes individuals like: 

  • Software engineers
  • Designers
  • Project managers
  • Business analysts

Their extensive experience across multiple industries and their ability to scale resources according to project needs make them a beneficial choice for developing a CRM system!

Step 5: Get Design Approval 

Approving the CRM software’s design means you and your team accept how it looks and functions. 

Getting design approval is critical because it ensures the CRM’s design aligns with the company’s CRM requirements and expectations before moving forward to the development phase. 

Further, by approving the design, stakeholders and business leaders confirm the following aspects of the CRM software: 

  • Usability
  • Functionality 
  • Aesthetic appeal

Also, when teams approve the design, it reduces the likelihood of costly changes during the development stage!

The design approval process facilitates a mutual understanding between the development team and stakeholders, setting a clear roadmap for the CRM system’s construction. 

Therefore, design approval is crucial in custom CRM development, providing a green light to transform the conceptual design into a functional system!

Step 6: Team Testing 

Team testing, an essential step in custom CRM development, involves the internal team rigorously examining the developed CRM system.

While testing out the CRM software, employees must look for any of the following things: 

  • Bugs
  • Errors
  • Usability issues 
  • Missing features 

Ideally, you and your team catch any errors or usability issues before officially launching the software. 

By leveraging their detailed knowledge of the system’s requirements, the team can validate the CRM’s functionality, performance, and user-friendliness!

This process ensures the product works as intended and confirms it aligns perfectly with the organization’s needs. 

Further, testing the CRM software allows teams to identify and address potential problems early, mitigating the risk of more significant issues post-deployment. 

As you can see, team testing plays a crucial role in guaranteeing the custom-built CRM software’s quality, accuracy, and efficacy.

Step 7: Roll Out the Software 

Rolling out the CRM software involves deploying and implementing the system across your organization. 

Officially launching the customized software is a critical phase where the CRM moves from the development environment into actual use by your team members.

This stage is undoubtedly exciting, as you’ve been working on development for several months!

Still, there are several things to be cautious of during the launch phase. 

For instance, during this stage, it’s crucial to ensure you train all users on how to use the system effectively.

Also, it’s vital to ensure proper support channels are in place to address potential issues or queries. 

Data migration is another significant aspect to be aware of; ensure that existing customer data is accurately and securely transferred into the new system. 

A successful CRM launch depends on the following things:

  • Thorough planning
  • Seamless communication 
  • Gradual deployment 

Consider a phased rollout approach to address any hiccups on a smaller scale before full implementation, as some small businesses find this beneficial. 

Remember, the goal is to enhance customer relationships and streamline processes.

So, after launching your own CRM system, gather feedback regularly, make necessary adjustments, and always keep user needs at the forefront!

Step 8: Bug Fixes & Feature Ads 

The final step in learning how to build a CRM system includes the following actions: 

  • Fixing any minor bugs in the system
  • Monetizing your CRM platform with advertisements from outside companies

As you can imagine, bug fixes are crucial. 

When you take the additional time to find and identify minor glitches in your system, it ensures your CRM runs smoothly and efficiently.

As a result, the CRM system you spent weeks building is a reliable tool for your team. 

Unaddressed bugs could disrupt your business processes, leading to productivity loss and customer dissatisfaction!

In addition to fixing bugs and minor errors in your CRM software, it’s also an excellent idea to consider featuring ads on your website. 

Featuring ads is beneficial for the following reasons: 

  • It allows you to monetize your website 
  • It allows you to promote other small businesses 
  • It makes your website more professional 
  • It can improve SEO in some instances 

If you and your team elect to feature ads on your website, ensure you don’t overdo it. 

Think about the websites that are simply overrun by third-party ads and pop-ups. 

Most consumers stay away from these sites because it hinders the shopping experience. 

Therefore, be cautious when determining how many ads will be on your website! 



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