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

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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 useless features, 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 recall what CRM software is and why it is essential for all kinds of businesses. A customer relationship management (CRM) platform is a tool that stores data about all interactions between a company and its customers. It can also automate repetitive tasks, set reminders, and provide analytics. Usually, CRMs can expand their functionalities by integrating with other tools.

These simplify managing the company’s relationship with the current and potential customers. Marketers and salespeople have all the information they could collect about a particular customer in a single place and can personalize their interactions. Besides, automation takes away monotonous manual work leaving people with more time for being creative.

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

Is creating a custom CRM worth the effort?

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

Off-the-shelf CRM platforms are 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.

A customizable CRM 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.

A custom CRM 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.

Comparison of CRM implementation options
Off-the-shelf vs. customizable vs. custom-made CRM

Our expertise

The Syndicode team provides full-cycle development services to businesses in various industries. We research, design, and implement digital products with different functions, including CRMs. Among our recent projects is SwiftComply, a platform that connects waste management services providers with restaurants and helps them stay compliant with local regulations. Currently, there are over 100,000 restaurants in 450 cities using the platform.

As a part of the project, we built a CRM that allows service providers to manage their orders, create new offers, add and edit information about their business, review other providers and offers, and manage compliance reports.

The CRM is integrated with other SwiftComply products: the city services marketplace and a regulatory database. Users can also upload data about their customers from outside the SwiftComply platform. This way, the CRM can be used as an all-in-one place for customer management.

SwiftWorks: the provider’s dashboard
Service provider’s dashboard

What you should know before developing a custom CRM

Before you can start planning how to build a CRM, you should clearly understand what you want to develop and what it should do. If you miss this step, you risk ending up with a solution that doesn’t entirely fit into your business processes or is limited in adding the new functionality necessary to scale. Here are the main points to consider:

  • Business goals 

Figure out a CRM’s exact purpose: to increase revenue, cut operational expenses, provide data for polishing the company strategy, etc. Then, find out how exactly your goal can be achieved, for instance, by automating services. 

  • User groups

Break down all intended CRM users into groups by role to determine what functionality you should include. For example, a CRM may be used by sales, marketing, and support departments. This way, you can easily decide what information should be accessed by who.

  • Functional requirements

Look at your CRM from the user perspective and describe how users from each group can interact with the tool to reach their goals.

  • Quality requirements

Write down the principal characteristics of your intended CRM, such as work speed, security access, analytics, integration with other tools, adherence to certain standards, etc. Then, think about how you can evaluate if those requirements are met.

Critical considerations before building a CRM
Things to consider before building a CRM

Benefits of having a custom CRM

According to statistics, 91% of companies employing more than 11 people use a CRM. They also enjoy a 29% increase in sales and 41% more accurate reports thanks to the CRM tool adoption.

At the same time, a Forrester study claims that almost 60% of CRM users are unhappy with their current solution. This is because most pre-packaged customizable CRMs are bloated with features that provide too much unnecessary data and are just confusing.

If the following points are true for you, an off-the-shelf solution won’t fit your business requirements.

  • You need a high level of customization

Ready-made platforms offer standardized functions used by many organizations. Unfortunately, that makes it challenging to provide a more personalized experience since you do the same things your competitors do in the same way. 

  • You need specific integrations

Off-the-shelf tools are compatible with most email services and social media analytics tools. But if you use custom tools, one of the tips on how to build a CRM is to merge all your bespoke solutions. And that can only be done in a custom way.

  • No solution in the market can fully meet your needs

What works for many may not work for one. Therefore, you should opt for custom CRM development if you have unique ideas that cannot be implemented with standard tools and templates.

CRM usage statistics
Companies using CRM: statistics

How exactly do businesses benefit from using a CRM? Here are the main advantages of CRM software integration:

  • Custom CRM is tailored for your needs

You decide how to build your CRM and ensure it has everything for effective work in your niche. A custom CRM will only contain the requested features. It will also be designed to fit in your existing workflow, so you won’t have to reconstruct your business processes. 

Since you decide on the design, a custom CRM will have a familiar and intuitive interface. So, the learning curve will be short, and you’ll save on staff training.

  • Custom CRM grows alongside your business

You can build your own CRM to become a base for your other business software. This way, all your company departments will have their own focused and convenient tool with a centralized database. 

The advantage of a custom CRM is that you don’t have to ensure all your software providers have an API open for developers so that they can connect it with your CRM. By building a custom platform, you can have a custom API and integrate all your favorite tools.

  • With a custom CRM, you pay for what you use

Off-the-shelf solutions are usually aimed for use by a specific department. With custom CRM development, you decide what to focus on. You can tailor it to customer support with just a few features for marketing and sales or incorporate it into all your departments evenly.

Deciding how to build a CRM application, you can opt for versions, introduce some elements, work with them, and then scale or change them.

  • Custom CRM gives you complete control over your business

You can request monitoring functionality in your custom CRM and see what happens in your company in real time. You can automate any stage of your target audience’s customer journey and save money. You can choose a unique combination of filters and features to explore your customers’ insights.

Besides all that, a CRM built for you will allow you to work with documents in the format that is already accepted and deemed comfortable in your company.

Gain a competitive advantage with a custom CRM
Syndicode builds unique solutions from scratch

How to build a CRM from scratch step by step

As you’ve realized that you need a bespoke solution, it’s time to learn how to build a CRM from scratch. Like any software, a CRM has a development life cycle that is called to produce a high-quality product in a minimum of time.

Each stage of a custom CRM development process involves current problem identification, work planning, and execution. To fast-start the CRM development and minimize internal and external risks, the CRM SDLC starts with a discovery phase.

1. Discovery phase

The discovery stage aims to find the best concept for your idea implementation. It involves the visualization of your strategy and business goals, creating a conceptual model, planning the interactions between the system and external factors (integrations), and breaking down the functionality of a CRM into smaller tasks.

During the discovery, the development team finds out and clarifies the following:

  • The purpose of a CRM
  • The intended CRM type
  • Legal and security requirements
  • User roles

Since CRM is a complex system, you might also need to think through the interactions between the system roles and their relationship to each other and the system. 

As a result of the discovery phase, you will have a CRM requirement specification, a list of relevant technical stacks, and a project timeline describing how to build your CRM and how much time is necessary for custom CRM development.

Speaking of how long CRM building may take, it is hard to give any estimates since they vary depending on how complex your CRM will be. But, a custom solution built from scratch generally takes a minimum of 1,000+ hours.

Types of CRM software

Depending on the purpose of a CRM and the tools it has, 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 certain features.

Main CRM types
CRM types

2. Design phase

At this stage, the CRM design is created and tested for usability. At Syndicode, the design process starts with brainstorming the most effective UI/UX flows based on previously created user personas, use cases, and competitor research. Then, for the best variant, we make an interactive prototype and test it with the help of a focus group.

After successful prototype testing, a designer prepares a visual concept using your brand guidelines. Upon your approval, the complete graphic design is made and transferred to developers along with the design library.

3. Development phase

Developers choose the most appropriate tech stack based on their previous experience, set up an environment, and start coding. By this time, the list of features to be implemented is ready, and there is a detailed development plan.

In addition, if the QA team wasn’t involved since the discovery phase, they step in now and check project specifications and other documentation for testability. They also get prepared for code testing.

The Syndicode team follows the agile approach to development, planning, building, and testing CRM modules in iterations. We found this approach more effective for large projects since it helps us spot and fix defects early, so they don’t pile up. We also save time this way since the product comes out with quality built-in, and we don’t have to worry about bugs hidden deep in the CRM’s structure.

Key features of a CRM

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 features include:

  • Contact management
  • Interactions tracking
  • Lead management
  • Tasks management
  • Tasks automation
  • Analytics
  • Integrations

Depending on your focus, a 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

In a dashboard, you can 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

This feature helps navigate different sections and features of a CRM.

  • Opportunities

Here you can review all the potential sales opportunities across the pipeline.

  • Pipelines

With a pipeline view, you can see what stage each lead is at the moment and spot where you tend to lose customers.

  • Tasks

With the tasks feature, you can track your team’s activity and plan communications beforehand.

  • Leads

The leads feature helps you score your leads and see what you can do to convert them into sales. 

  • Contacts 

Here you can review individuals or company representatives who 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

This feature helps you make predictions about sales outcomes by keeping track of customers and leads and monitoring their position in the marketing pipeline.

  • Social media integrations

Social integrations allow you to automate community outreach and blog posts by planning and scheduling your activities.

  • Analytics

In some CRMs, this feature is called Data Manager and helps organize the incoming marketing data in a way that is easy to access and interpret.

  • Customizable templates

Using templates speeds up the creation of personalized emails. At the same time, a template ensures all your emails are branded and recognizable.

  • Segmentation

This 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

This feature presents an interface where customer support reps can review requests, assign tickets, prioritize and redirect tasks, etc.

  • Knowledge base

Having all information about your company, processes, products, and services gathered in one place helps solve issues more quickly.

  • Case reports

Recording statistics about client requests, resolution times, customer satisfaction levels, and so on will 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.

Main CRM parts
CRM modules

4. Testing phase

After all the CRM components are ready, they are tested as a system to ensure that different parts work together seamlessly. The testing phase also helps to reduce the number of bugs and glitches that may appear as separate features start working as a whole.

At this step, testers check if the system meets all the requirements previously defined in the SRS document. If there is a defect, it is logged, fixed, and the system is retested again until it meets the standard.

5. Delivery and support

After all the system parts have been developed and assembled, we test the overall product’s quality and prepare it for delivery. Finally, the development team assembles the project’s documentation to transfer it to the client. Syndicode clients get all the intellectual property rights, source code, and associated accounts.

After a CRM goes live, there starts the post-release maintenance stage. It involves gathering user feedback and making polishing touches to the product. At Syndicode, you get an engineer to perform on-demand fixes for 30 days after the product launch. Later, we offer ongoing maintenance services by the time and material model.

CRM SDLC
CRM development life cycle
Get a purpose-built CRM
We build light and powerful solutions that only contain the features you use

How to find a development partner?

After you find out how to build a CRM, the next question is where to find a reliable tech partner. As an experienced software development company, we recommend you consider the following things to ensure pleasant and fruitful cooperation:

  • 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 that you have a call with your potential partner to ensure mutual understanding.

How much does it cost to build a CRM system?

Apart from searching for how to build a CRM, you probably wonder how much does a CRM system cost? The cost of developing a CRM largely depends on the number of features you want included and their complexity. For example, some CRMs are tailored for a specific department, while others serve as a hub connecting all company teams and sometimes customers.

Some CRMs provide basic tools for sales, marketing, and support, including advanced operational, collaborative, and analytical tools. In each of these cases, the price will be different.

Besides the development, there are other costs such as project management and QA. These generally cost about 15-30% of the CRM software development cost. However, a good project manager guarantees timely project completion and even resource allocation. And QA is indispensable if you want a reliable product that works well under all conditions.

Your development team’s rates can also differ depending on their expertise and geographical location. Thus, a team from Eastern Europe will cost you 3 times less than US engineers.

In Syndicode, the typical custom CRM development cost ranges from $50,000 to $300,000. That’s a large range, so you have to get in touch with our representatives to discuss your idea before we can give you a precise estimate.

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 guaranteed? 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.

FAQ

  • 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. A 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.

  • A customer relationship management platform centralizes all the activities, technologies, and strategies a company uses to manage its customer interactions. Business owners who search how to build a CRM 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.

  • Answering how to build a custom 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 in the form of libraries or preset tools. And 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.

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