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Maryna Medushevska
November 21, 2023

How to Build a Custom CRM: A Complete Guide to Types, Features, and Development

If you want to close sales faster, get more leads coming in, and better manage customers’ information, you need a CRM. If you also want to avoid the steep learning curve and overpaying for features you don’t use, a custom CRM is your choice.

This post will teach you how to build a CRM, what type suits your business better, what functionality makes up a CRM, and what features you can omit. We will also discuss how much it costs to build a CRM system.

First, let’s take a closer look at the difference between a custom CRM and a ready-made solution.

Why develop custom CRM software?

When you think of getting a CRM, there are three options: three options: an off-the-shelf platform, a pre-made customizable solution, and custom CRM development. What should you choose?

  • Off-the-shelf CRM platform 

This CRM system is ready to use straight away. You choose a pricing plan, get access to the platform, organize a training session for your team, and you’re good to go.

On the cons side, there might be features you’ll never use, and you won’t be able to add a lacking functionality. Also, since you pay for the number of seats, the price can be too high for a large team. Additionally, you might have scalability issues since most platforms limit the storage space.

If you manage to find an off-the-shelf CRM that meets all your business needs and solves your day-to-day challenges, no further research is needed.

  • Customizable CRM 

This is a pre-made infrastructure where you can add several modules and change workflows to your preference. It is quick to set up, can be tailored to your needs, and you don’t have to worry about maintenance or updates since it’s on the vendor.

On the other hand, the cost still grows with every new user, and you’re limited in the number of features you can add. Besides, building a feature requires some technical knowledge. You’ll need a developer’s help if you don’t have it.

This option is perfect for you if most of the provided customization is helpful for your business and you need a fast launch and a low development cost.

  • Custom CRM 

A custom solution is tailored to your business workflows and is highly compatible with your other tools. It will scale and adapt to your current business needs, and you can be sure of its security since you choose what to protect and how. You can also add more users without any additional cost.

Of course, you’ll have to pay for development before you can use the CRM. Also, custom software development takes time, and afterward, you’ll need a technical specialist to maintain the platform.

So, if you need a unique functionality set and are ready to invest resources into custom CRM development from scratch, it’s a good reason to think about how to build a CRM system from scratch.

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How to create a custom CRM step by step?

Like any software, a CRM has a development life cycle that is called to produce a high-quality product in a minimum of time. It might differ between developers, so this guide will guide you through the custom CRM development process as it is at Syndicode.

Here’s how to build CRM software from scratch:

  1. Clarify your goals for building a CRM and choose the CRM type
  2. Decide on features for CRM development
  3. Find a development partner
  4. Create a UI/UX design
  5. Release the CRM and ensure technical support.

Let’s look at each of these steps in detail.

1. Clarify your goals for CRM building

There are various ways how to build a CRM system, but to avoid spreading yourself too thin, you need to define the goals for your system. What specific benefits should it provide for your business, and how can it boost your profits? 

Here are some common objectives that organizations often establish for their custom CRM development projects:

  • Enhancing customer experience and satisfaction by providing better insights into customer preferences and behaviors;
  • Boosting sales and revenue by streamlining sales processes, tracking leads, and enabling more targeted marketing and sales efforts;
  • Improving customer retention strategies by identifying at-risk customers and reasons for churn;
  • Improving internal communication and collaboration by centralizing customer information, making it easily accessible to employees across departments;
  • Lead management and nurturing;
  • Automation of routine tasks, such as data entry and follow-up reminders to free up employees’ time for more strategic activities;
  • Protecting customer data and ensuring compliance with data protection regulations, such as GDPR;
  • Facilitating collaboration and information sharing with partners and distributors.

After you have identified and prioritized your goals for custom CRM development, you can choose the most suitable CRM type. 

Types of CRM software

Depending on the purpose of a CRM and its tools, there are three main categories.

  • Collaborative CRM

A collaborative CRM aims to improve teamwork and communication by creating a transparent data-sharing environment. You build your own CRM for internal purposes or external teams, for instance, partners. A collaborative platform is usually equipped with functionality for collective discussions, file sharing, and activity streaming.

  • Analytical CRM

The purpose of analytical CRM tools is to assist with planning. Such a platform provides insights, statistics, and analytical data. Hence, it should be able to collect and process various data from numerous sources and present it in real-time.

  • Operational CRM

This type of CRM focuses on automating and streamlining business processes. Its goal is to increase work efficiency. An operational platform commonly helps to process leads, generates automated messages to customers across channels, and sends follow-ups.

You can mix several types of CRMs in your solution or choose specific features.

2. Decide on CRM features

Despite varying by type and an owner’s requirements, certain features let a digital product fall into the CRM category. They are standard across solutions and are necessary to perform such functions as data organization and collecting contacts. These must-have features include:

  • Contact management
  • Interaction tracking
  • Lead management
  • Task management
  • Task automation
  • Analytics
  • Integrations

Depending on your focus, a custom CRM can have marketing, sales, customer support tools, or a combination of those. Below, we break down the main CRM features by modules so you can consider how to build a CRM application that makes the most sense for you.

Sales module

A CRM can have tools to improve your sales team’s efficiency. This is generally achieved by simplifying sales processes, centralizing operations, customer data accuracy improvement, identifying bottlenecks in the sales process, and shortening the overall sales cycle.

Standard sales features that help with those tasks are:

  • Dashboard allows you to get a quick overview of your company’s monthly sales results. There might be lists, graphs, charts, etc. You can also choose what metrics you want to track.
  • Toolbar helps navigate different sections and features of a CRM.
  • Opportunities show all the potential sales opportunities across the pipeline.
  • Pipeline view lets you see what stage each lead is at the moment and spot where you tend to lose customers.
  • Task feature enables you to track your team’s activity and plan communications beforehand.
  • Lead feature helps you score your leads and see what you can do to convert them into sales. 
  • Contacts section is where you can review individuals or company representatives who have already purchased goods or services from you.

Marketing module

A marketing CRM assists in tracking, streamlining, and automating marketing efforts through various channels and audiences. It contains tools that save time and help ensure your marketing team’s decisions are data-driven and reasonable.

Standard marketing features include:

  • Campaign management feature helps you predict sales outcomes by keeping track of customers and leads and monitoring their position in the marketing pipeline.
  • Social media integrations allow you to automate community outreach and blog posts by planning and scheduling your activities.
  • Analytics, also known as Data Manager in some CRMs, helps organize the incoming marketing data in a way that is easy to access and interpret.
  • Customizable templates speed up the creation of personalized emails. At the same time, a template ensures all your emails are branded and recognizable.
  • Segmentation feature lets you group leads and customers that share the same interests and target them with personalized messages.

Customer support module

A CRM can simplify data sharing between customer support agents, thus speeding up ticket processing and improving customer satisfaction. Also, CRM platforms for customer support often include automation tools and business analytics.

Typical support features are:

  • Agent dashboard presents an interface where customer support reps can review requests, assign tickets, prioritize and redirect tasks, etc.
  • Knowledge base stores all information about your company, processes, products, and services gathered in one place, helping solve issues more quickly.
  • Case reports are records of statistics about client requests, resolution times, customer satisfaction levels, and so on to help you evaluate the efficiency of your support effort.

These are the most common features based on our experience. Depending on your needs, your CRM may have different characteristics from those listed.

3. Find a development partner

Once you’ve figured out how to build a CRM, the next question is where to find a reliable tech partner. There are two options to consider: outsourcing or in-house development. Let’s briefly discuss each of these choices.

Outsourcing involves hiring external specialists who aren’t part of your full-time team to work on your CRM project. Depending on your needs, you can hire individual freelancers or a dedicated team

Outsourcing CRM development

Cost savingsLack of control over the development
Easy team scalabilityYou need to establish a trusting relationship with your outsourced partner
Access to a large pool of specialists

In-house development means you hire specialists to work long-term for your business, providing them with the necessary equipment and workspace. It often involves an additional tax burden.

In-house development model

Full controlHigher cost
Knowledge retentionChallenging talent acquisition and retention
Limited access to expertise

Read also: Team augmentation. Hiring talents efficiently in the age of recession

If you opt for outsourcing your CRM development, we recommend considering the following aspects. Evaluating a potential partner against this list will ensure a productive and smooth collaboration.

  • Niche expertise. The more experience the company has with building CRMs, the faster the development and the higher quality of the result will be. What’s more, by reviewing the company’s case studies, you can see the relevance of their work to your vision.
  • Client reviews. This is one more way to evaluate the potential partner’s approach to custom CRM development and whether their processes align with your plans. You can learn the company’s strengths and weaknesses from reviews and shape more realistic expectations. Read reviews on the company’s website and external platforms such as Clutch or GoodFirms.
  • Time zone. If you decide to outsource the CRM software development overseas, you should be aware of your and your partner’s differences in schedules. Any delays in communication will extend the development timeline and increase the cost.
  • Language proficiency. Most European countries have a good command of English and reasonable prices, making them attractive outsourcing partners. India and Asia are usually cheaper, but there might be a language barrier. We recommend arranging a meeting, online or offline, with your potential partner to ensure mutual understanding.

4. Design the CRM system

Creating a UI/UX design for a custom CRM system comes with unique challenges and tasks due to diverse user groups and large volumes of data to manage. To ensure your CRM interface really facilitates user productivity, consider the following:

  • Identify the roles and responsibilities of different users of your CRM system;
  • Create user personas;
  • Organize data and functionalities logically;
  • Group related features and data to simplify navigation;
  • Create a design system to ensure consistency of elements throughout the CRM;
  • Prioritize data that users need to access frequently;
  • Provide customization options to enable users to tailor the CRM to their needs;
  • Incorporate onboarding tools, such as contextual help, tooltips, and user guides.

5. Delivery and support

Custom CRM projects generally follow the same software development process as other projects. However, as you move from planning and design to actual coding, there are important considerations to keep in mind:

  • Create a detailed technical specification outlining the system’s architecture, database design, data structures, and technologies to be used;
  • Plan for migrating data from existing systems to the new CRM;
  • Build the CRM system with scalability in mind to handle future increases in data and users;
  • Develop connectors and APIs to enable seamless integration with other software and tools;
  • Ensure the CRM system is responsive and accessible on different devices, such as desktops, tablets, and mobile phones;
  • Follow the software testing lifecycle to thoroughly test the code and identify and address bugs, performance issues, and usability problems;
  • Ensure that the code and the CRM system comply with relevant regulations, like GDPR;
  • Create documentation for developers, administrators, and end-users to understand and use the system effectively;
  • Plan the deployment process, including staging environments, user training, and rollback procedures in case of issues during release;
  • Be ready to provide post-launch support, addressing any issues, bugs, and user concerns that may arise after the CRM system is live.

Read also: How to choose the right tech stack for your project?

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CRM development challenges

Now that you know how to build a CRM from scratch, you might have noticed that these projects come with unique challenges. The primary sources of these challenges often include diverse user groups, customization needs, integrations, and industry regulations. 

Here are key points to consider when planning custom CRM development, along with some tips to make the process smoother:

  • Unclear business goals 

It’s essential to have a clear understanding of why you’re building a CRM. Without clear goals, you may struggle to define the necessary functionality, and your CRM may not align with your business needs, rendering it useless. 

Determine the specific purpose of the CRM, such as increasing revenue, reducing operational expenses, or providing data for refining your company’s strategy. Then, explore how the CRM can help achieve these goals, like through process automation.

  • Not creating user personas

Ambiguous user personas can make it challenging to tailor the CRM to the needs of different users. It can lead to a poor user experience, low adoption rates, and security risks from inadequate access control.

Divide all intended CRM users into role-based groups (e.g., sales, marketing, support) to determine what functionality is needed for each group. This way, you can ensure the right access to information.

  • Evaluating the success of a CRM system

Assessing the success of a custom CRM can be tricky as it’s largely subjective. Additionally, there’s no clear timeframe for success or failure. What’s more, you’re likely to face some resistance to change from users. 

To simplify this, focus on the primary characteristics that were a priority during development, such as work speed, security, analytics, integration, or adherence to standards. Then, choose criteria that reflect changes in these parameters and track how they evolve over time.

How much does it cost to build a CRM system?

In addition to finding out how to build a CRM, you’re probably curious about how much a CRM system costs. Custom CRM development cost primarily depends on the number of features you want and how complex they are.

Beyond development, there are other expenses, such as project management and quality assurance. These typically account for about 15-30% of the total CRM software development cost. 

However, investing in a capable project manager and a QA specialist can save you money in the long run. They help prevent scope creep and the need to redo faulty code, which can potentially be even more costly.

The cost of your development team can also vary based on their expertise and location. For example, a team from Eastern Europe will be roughly three times less expensive than U.S. engineers.

At Syndicode, custom CRM development typically ranges from $50,000 to $300,000. This is a wide range, so it’s best to reach out to our representatives to discuss your project specifics before we can provide you with an accurate estimate.

Our expertise

The Syndicode team offers full-cycle development services to businesses across various industries. We specialize in researching, designing, and implementing digital products with diverse functions, including creating CRMs from scratch. 

One of our recent projects, SwiftComply, is a platform that connects waste management service providers with restaurants, assisting them in maintaining compliance with local regulations. Currently, more than 100,000 restaurants in 450 cities use this platform.

As part of this project, we developed a CRM that empowers service providers to efficiently manage their orders, create new offers, update their business information, review other providers and offers, and oversee compliance reports. 

This CRM is seamlessly integrated with other SwiftComply products, including the city services marketplace and a regulatory database. Users also have the option to import customer data from external sources, making the CRM an all-in-one solution for effective customer management.

Summing up

A high-quality CRM made from scratch under your guidance can become the heart of your business. Now that you know how to create your own CRM, you can build a solution that returns at least $2.5 for each dollar spent on its development.

How to build a CRM that will improve your business performance? You have to define a clear purpose for creating a CRM and what it should do. Then, an experienced tech partner can help you develop your idea into a working product.

At Syndicode, we provide full-cycle custom CRM development services, assisting clients with market research, conceptualizing, validating, and, of course, implementing their ideas into reality.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does it take to create a CRM? Arrow right

    Custom CRM development generally takes about 1,000–5,000 hours to complete from scratch. It is hard to give more precise estimates because a CRM is a complex system that usually has many tools and third-party integrations. Custom CRM software for business tops all that with a unique functionality set or complex integrations that require bespoke solutions to operate as intended. Therefore, developing from scratch usually takes longer than adjusting a customizable CRM. You can get an individual estimate for your idea after it’s decided how to build your CRM, the tech stack is chosen, and the development team is assembled.

  • Why is CRM important to businesses today? Arrow right

    What is a CRM software? It is a customer relationship management platform that centralizes all the activities, technologies, and strategies a company uses to manage its customer interactions. Business owners who search how to build a CRM application expect to get a solution that helps to find data quickly to use it for attracting leads, closing sales, providing customer support, and much more. Custom CRM solutions provide a more convenient interface compared to off-the-shelf products. They also have only the necessary features that can be unique in functionality or implementation.

  • Which technology stack would you suggest to develop a custom CRM? Arrow right

    Answering how to build a CRM, we should consider that a CRM is a complex system with many tools and third-party integrations. It should be able to grow along with your business, expanding its feature list to meet the growing demand. Therefore, a technology stack should support a sophisticated hierarchy and provide an opportunity to make tweaks here and there without having to rewrite the entire code. Moreover, it should provide means for speedy custom CRM development through libraries or preset tools. Finally, a good tech stack should allow you to roll out a feature as soon as it’s ready to see if it works and not go back to it later. Considering all the requirements, our choice falls on Ruby on Rails. It is quick, versatile, full-stack, and has security features built-in. Due to its popularity, you won’t have trouble finding a team to work on your project if the previous one is unavailable.

  • What kind of technical expertise is required to build a custom CRM? Arrow right

    When deciding how to build a CRM, it’s essential to assemble a cross-functional team with skills to address all aspects of custom CRM software development, from coding and design to security and data management. Depending on your project’s scope and specific requirements, you may need the following specialists: Software developers who will write the code that makes up the CRM system; Database administrators with expertise in database management systems; UX/UI designers to create an intuitive and visually appealing interface; System architects to design the overall architecture of the CRM system; Integration specialists to connect the CRM system with other software and services; Security experts to ensure that the CRM system is secure and that sensitive customer data is protected; Project managers to oversee the CRM development process, ensuring that it stays on track, within budget, and meets deadlines; Quality Assurance (QA) specialists to prevent, identify, and report bugs, performance issues, and usability problems; DevOps engineers to manage the deployment, continuous integration, and continuous delivery of the CRM system; Mobile app developers if the CRM system requires mobile access; Data analysts and Business Intelligence specialists to analyze CRM data and derive actionable insights, helping organizations make informed decisions regarding the development; Technical support and maintenance specialists to ensure system stability after the CRM system is deployed; Compliance specialists to ensure that the CRM system adheres to legal and industry standards.

  • Can I build a CRM in-house, or should I hire external developers? Arrow right

    Whether to build your own CRM system in-house or hire external developers depends on your resources, budget, and project requirements. Thus, building in-house gives you more control over the development process, cost, and information security but requires having a team with relevant expertise and domain knowledge. Outsourcing provides you with access to specialized skills and experience in custom CRM development and offers scalability. However, you must ensure that the outsourcing provider follows strict security practices to protect customer data.

  • How difficult is it to build a custom CRM? Arrow right

    Overall, creating a CRM system isn’t inherently difficult, but it can get complex based on the organization’s specific needs. When an organization chooses custom CRM development, it’s because their business processes and workflows are unique and not served by off-the-shelf solutions. The main challenge here is striking a balance between custom features and standard tools. However, excessive customization can bring complexity, maintenance issues, and impede system upgrades. Successful CRM development requires meticulous planning, defined project goals, a clear scope, and a capable development team.

  • How to choose between a custom CRM and off-the-shelf software for business? Arrow right

    Deciding between a custom CRM and off-the-shelf software hinges on your particular business needs, budget, and project demands. Custom CRM development offers specialized features that you won’t get from off-the-shelf software. It can smoothly work with your existing tools and is perfect for meeting strict regulations. However, custom CRM requires a significant initial investment and takes time to develop, while a ready-made solution is usually ready to use right away.