Should You Use a Custom CRM System?
Last Updated March 1, 2021 · Custom Software
Businesses have a lot of different ways to communicate with sales leads and existing customers. For example, you might use simple email and spreadsheets or complex off-the-shelf customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. Maybe it’s time your business had a custom CRM system? The right CRM solution depends on your specific requirements and the amount of time and money that you want to invest.
CRM solutions are essentially an umbrella term for a wide range of services, and if you only need one, an off-the-shelf CRM may be overkill. Let’s take a look at the origins and evolution of CRM solutions and when standard off-the-shelf CRM tools might not fit the bill.
The Evolution of CRM
Customer relationship management, or CRM, solutions began as glorified address books, enabling businesses to take and share notes about customers. Since these humble beginnings, CRM solutions have evolved to become complex software ecosystems. They are capable of handling everything from scoring sales leads to providing customer support via live chat.
In fact, one could argue that CRM solutions are actually a common name for a variety of disparate products. These products involve tracking sales leads or existing customers. Businesses can use individual solutions for email marketing, support desks, or sales funnels. Or they can leverage a CRM platform that brings them all together under the same data-sharing roof.
The most common CRM features include:
- Lead management to keep track of different sales leads and where they stand in the sales pipeline. This feature can also score lead quality to focus on what matters.
- Contact management to organize business contacts, take notes on interactions, and determine the best times and ways to reach them.
- Reporting and analytics to understand how many deals are in different stages of closing. This also lets you see where the likely pipeline stands at a given point in time.
- Automation tools to organize task lists and ensure timely follow-up on leads. You can also use marketing automation to automatically reach out to prospects.
The most popular CRM solutions include:
- HubSpot features everything from landing pages, contact management, email marketing, and live chat to predictive lead scoring and email sequences.
- Salesforce provides a CRM platform for marketing, sales, commerce, and customer service. It comes with a broad array of features and even more third-party plug-ins.
- ZohoCRM supports everything from sales meetings and presentations to collaboration with team members via common feeds.
While CRM solutions play an important role in many businesses, they are overkill for small to mid-sized companies that only require basic functionality. Modern CRM solutions take a significant amount of time and money to set up. They require employee training which might not be worth it if you only need basic functionality like tracking sales calls.
Why Use a Custom CRM System?
Customer relationship management software isn’t very complex on a technical level when it’s merely a glorified address book. Unless your business requires live chat, SEO tools, marketing automation, and other tools baked into off-the-shelf solutions, you may want to consider a custom CRM system to deliver only the functionality that you need.
There are several potential benefits:
- Cost: Custom software can be much cheaper than off-the-shelf CRM solutions over the long run. For example, a basic custom CRM tool might cost $1,000 to develop. Compared that to $50 per seat per month for a commercial CRM solution and savings happen quickly.
- Use: CRM solutions require diligent usage by employees in order to be useful. Off-the-shelf CRMs are typically very complicated to use. Custom CRM solutions can be built with simplicity in mind in order to maximize use.
- Customization: Custom software is inherently more customizable than off-the-shelf software—and the same is true for CRMs. If you use a custom ERP solution or require specific capabilities, custom software can integrate and provide the features you need.
- Compatibility: Off-the-shelf CRMs support many of the most common integrations, but if you use a legacy shopping cart or custom software, compatibility may be a big concern. Zapier may not always be an ideal hack to get them working.
Many software development firms are willing to build a custom CRM system, but if you already use a custom ERP solution, you may want to consider working with the same firm to ensure consistency between the two solutions. At Link Software, we provide a wide range of custom software services, including building ERP and CRM solutions.
When to Go Off-the-Shelf
Custom CRM systems may not be the answer if you require a lot of capabilities that typically fall under the CRM umbrella. For instance, if you use different software solutions for your support desk, lead generation and email marketing, it might make sense to use an all-in-one CRM solution that can bring everything under the same roof.
In addition, off-the-shelf CRM solutions can provide complex features that are challenging to implement in custom CRM software. Marketing automation, live chat, webinars, and lead scoring are all somewhat technical to implement. That makes it much cheaper to purchase as part of an off-the-shelf solution.
Off-the-shelf CRM providers also add new features and capabilities over time. You may not use all of these additions on a day-to-day basis. But there may be some useful tools that evolve over time and can improve your workflows. For example, the integration of machine learning could help lead scoring become more accurate over time.
The decision between different off-the-shelf CRM tools often comes down to cost and capabilities. You must ensure that the costs are reasonable given your organization size while making sure that the solution has all of the capabilities that you need. You may also want to double check that it supports integrations with your other key technologies.
The Bottom Line on CRM
Businesses use a lot of different tools to communicate with sales leads and existing customers. Customer relationship management (CRM) solutions have become some of the most popular. While off-the-shelf CRM solutions provide a lot of firepower, businesses looking for simpler functionality may want to consider less expensive custom solutions.
When deciding between off-the-shelf and custom CRM solutions, you should take into account your business requirements and budget. Custom solutions tend to be cheaper over the long run and provide greater flexibility. Off-the-shelf solutions may be ideal when you’re already using disparate solutions that could be consolidated under the same umbrella.
If you’re interested in a custom CRM system, contact us to learn how we can help build what you need at a fraction of the cost. Link Software has been creating custom software solutions for over a decade. We would love to help you with your next project.