Pre-packaged CRMs make the software more accessible to smaller businesses, but it also leaves a lot of room for improvement if you have specialized needs. As affordable and convenient as cookie-cutter solutions are, creating a custom CRM solution may be just the thing you need to (finally) streamline customer relationship management across your entire business. While it may sound daunting at first, it’s not as difficult as it sounds—plus, this guide covers everything you need to know.
Top CRM Software Options
Since creating a CRM system from scratch isn’t viable for every business, many opt to start with CRM software and customize it to fit their needs. No CRM software works perfectly off the shelf, but our recommendations can provide a solid foundation for what you build:
- Monday Sales CRM – Best for most
- Salesforce – Best for fast-growth organizations
- HubSpot – Best free CRM software
- Zoho CRM – Best CRM for deeper visibility
- Freshsales Suite – Best automations for marketing and sales
- Salesflare – Best CRM for strictly focusing on sales
- EngageBay – Best all-in-one CRM suite for small business
- Streak – Best CRM for working 100% from within Gmail
For reviews and pricing, see our full reviews of the best CRM software.
Why Creating a CRM System Is Worth It
Ready-made CRMs are no doubt convenient, but they are built for broad audiences. Since the goal is to help most businesses, you end up with a wide range of features rather than tools tailored to you.
Building a CRM system from scratch can transform the way you manage customer relationships from start to finish.
You can customize your CRM however you’d like, with every feature you need—without the bloat of features you’re never going to use.
Data security is another standout benefit of custom CRMs. With your own CRM, you’ll no longer have to make compromises to satisfy a broad range of other businesses. You can say goodbye to vulnerable third-party plugins and outdated source code that leaves you vulnerable. Instead, you have free reign to implement the most sophisticated security protocols to make your system impenetrable.
While some pre-built CRMs have open APIs, custom solutions let you build out even the most advanced tool stacks that work how you work, even if you use outdated apps that current CRMs ignore.
A custom CRM also makes it easier to link multiple departments to one standardized system (regardless of how they work together) in ways you could never achieve with a cookie-cutter CRM.
With a custom solution, you can control every aspect of the customer relationship. This flexibility allows you to get creative with how you relate to your existing and potential customers, which you won’t be able to get with a system meant to work for the masses.
The Investment Needed To Create a Custom CRM System
The actual cost of creating a custom CRM depends on the complexity and the features you need. Typical fees range from $30,000 to upward of $600,000, depending on what you’re looking for. We know that’s a large range, but it truly depends on what you need.
Your development resources will also play a significant role in the total cost of creating a custom CRM. Generally, you’ll need to choose between using an in-house development team, freelance developers, or a full-service agency.
CRM development services have dev teams ready to turn your CRM goals into reality. However, there are dozens of other expenses to consider—developing software is only one piece of the puzzle.
Most CRM tools cover a combination of sales, marketing, and customer support. Most also have operational, analytical, and collaborative features that help your team work together, streamline operations, and deliver the customer data you have in a way that makes sense.
Here’s a closer look at some of the specific costs associated with building a custom CRM:
Sales automation helps improve your sales team’s efficiency. The typical CRM sales module has tools to record and manage the full list of current and potential customers. From talking to existing customers on the phone, sales calls, demos, cold outreach, closing deals, and tracking hot leads as they become customers are essential pieces of the sales workflow.
Common sales features that help with those tasks include:
Account Management – Has sections like Dashboard, Toolbar, Opportunities, Accounts, Tasks, Pipelines, Leads, and Contacts. This feature is the heart of the CRM software, allowing users to navigate different sections and functions. This feature costs between $35,000 and $40,000 and takes roughly three months to develop.
Sales Analytics – Helps reps to visualize sales trends. An advanced analytics section allows users to improve the data presentation by displaying data by location, timeline, color, or other filters. This section costs between $5000 and $10,000 and takes roughly two months to develop.
Sales Planning and Forecasting – Allows users to predict future sales and create sales plans. The section costs between $8000 and $15,000 and takes about two months.
CRM marketing tools exist to streamline, automate, and track marketing efforts as your business grows and your marketing activities expand to numerous channels or audiences. On a small scale, manual efforts do the trick. But those efforts will break down and become unfeasible as you grow—hence the importance of marketing CRMs.
Streamlining and automating marketing tasks helps save time while tracking and analyzing your efforts ensures you can continue doing what works with data-driven decisions.
Common marketing module features include:
Marketing Campaign Management – The center of managing marketing events. With campaign features, users can create and manage marketing events across multiple channels, assign tasks to team members, track the budget and ROI, centralize marketing materials, and analyze performance. The estimated cost for marketing campaign management is between $8,000 and $15,000 with an estimated four-month development time.
Customer Segmentation/Analysis – This allows for high-level categorization of customers based on purchases, preferences, world views, demographics, and behavior. Whether you want customers to segment themselves, automations that segment your audience as your list grows, manual segmenting, or a combination of them all, segmenting features can range drastically from simple to incredibly advanced. It can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 to develop from scratch and can take up to four months of dev time plus iterations before it’s fully functional.
Marketing Analytics – Offers crucial real-time analytics of all marketing campaigns. From tracking individual pieces of a campaign and entire campaigns to comparing performance across channels or targeted audiences and analyzing the budget, getting the data you need is crucial to continuous growth. Building an analytics platform from scratch can cost anywhere $5,000 and $10,000, with a time frame of about three months.
Customer Support Module
Any CRM system worth its salt must have a customer-facing function, namely, support or customer success representatives. This functionality ensures customer satisfaction. This module aggregates all customer phone calls, emails, tickets, and chats in a database for easy retrieval.
Typical sales modules features include:
Help Desk and Agent Console – Provides an easy interface where support agents view requests, assign tickets, prioritize tasks, redirect tasks, and so on. This feature takes about two months to develop and costs from $20,000 to $31,000.
Knowledge Base – Offers support agents all the information and resources they need to solve problems and perform their duties. The knowledge base contains all the critical information about the product or service. It costs about $5000 to $10,000 to develop.
Service Analytics –This mainly helps to keep track of how efficiently the support team solves problems. The tool also records statistics about client requests from all sources, including social media, chat, phone calls, and email. This tool costs about $7000 to $10,000 and takes about two months.
The modules mentioned above are the bare minimum you need for a functional CRM in the real sense. You can also expect additional costs for:
- Staff training
- Technical support
- System improvements and updates
As you can see, creating a CRM from scratch requires a sizable investment in time and money. We suggest that you take a look at our Best CRM Software Review post here. You might find ready-made software that solves your needs, with no need to reinvent the wheel.
In any case, most high-quality CRM software supports integrations to supplement any missing features and functions.
The steps to building your custom CRM include:
- Launching the preoperational stage
- Choosing a development partner
- Identifying your must-have features and functions
- Exploring your options and get a quote
- Getting the design approved
- Testing and quality assurance
- Rolling out the software
- Feature additions and updates
8 Steps to Creating a CRM System from Scratch
Once you’ve confirmed that a custom CRM is the only way to go, here is how you create the system step-by-step.
#1 – Launch the Preoperational Stage
The first step to building a CRM is to call a brainstorming meeting. Be sure to involve the sales, marketing, and customer service departments. The whole idea behind a CRM is to create cross-departmental synergy. Rather than have the different departments doing their own thing, a centralized system offers smooth transition throughout the sales funnel.
During this meeting, find out what the CRM requirements are. What do you want the CRM to do for your business? Come up with precise goals or assess the company’s current goals and how the CRM can help.
For example, if your primary goal is developing data-driven strategies, an analytical CRM makes sense. Alternatively, if your goal is to cut costs, a CRM heavy with automation is a great option.
Additionally, come up with the quality requirements for your CRM. You might be interested in software that meets ASTM, FDA, and ISO. Also, figure out the exact list of features you want from your CRM.
This is where involving the different departments comes in handy. Collect a list of task types from all departments and create a tree of functions.
#2 – Choose a Development Partner
There is a reason why market-ready CRMs exist. You might have the best development team in your industry, but its efforts are better geared towards its core functions.
To create a custom CRM that justifies its time, cost, and effort, you want to work with industry experts. Some of the factors to consider when choosing your development partner include their portfolio, industry experience, and previous client reviews.
We highly recommend ScienceSoft, a leading IT consulting and software development service provider.
ScienceSoft has more than 15 years of experience creating custom CRM in a wide range of industries, including retail, manufacturing, healthcare, finance, professional services, telecoms, and more.
This software development provider can add custom features and modules to your CRM, across categories like:
- Lead capture
- Field service
- Customer support
- Call center
- CPQ and billing
- Order fulfillment
- Customer feedback management
Additionally, ScienceSoft partners with leading CRM vendors, including Microsoft and Salesforce.
Once you have a clear view of what you want from your CRM platform and have identified a development partner, it’s time to leap. Getting in touch will most likely result in an initial consultation.
You probably won’t get a quote right off the bat. A sales rep will first discuss your requirements for the CRM software. You’ll receive a detailed questionnaire to help the development partner get an accurate sense of what you are looking for.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and for clarification during this stage. Keep an open line of communication with stakeholders and your sales, marketing, and customer service teams. Brief them on your discussions with the development partner as it unfolds. This step ensures the CRM solution satisfies all departments’ requirements.
#3 – Identify Your Must-Have Features and Functions
Depending on the complexity, it could take upwards of 12 to 18 months or longer for your entire CRM to be built from scratch. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some working components built in the next three to six months.
Start by creating a list of all the features that you want in your final product. Then narrow that list down to the non-negotiables that need to be prioritized.
For example, you may ultimately want to use your CRM for customer support. However, your team may already be using another customer service software that’s getting the job done. So it won’t make sense to build this first.
You might want to start with something that your existing CRM doesn’t offer or a feature that’s considered an essential building block for the rest of the platform—like a customer database.
This step will look a little bit different for everyone, and it all depends on your goals, timeline, and budget.
But the idea here is to prepare yourself for a more educated discussion with your software partner in the coming stages. If you know what you want, it ensures that everyone is on the same page.
It’s smarter and more cost-effective to start with a functional MVP (minimum viable product) before adding all of the bells and whistles.
#4 – Explore Your Options and Get a Quote
Keep an open mind in the preliminary discussions with your development partner. It may turn out that you don’t need to build a CRM from scratch. Unless you serve a very specific niche or have precise needs, you could probably get away with customizing an existing platform.
This option is the sweet spot between off-the-shelf software and building the software from scratch. With customization, the framework for the software already exists. All you have to do is tack on the software modules you need.
These modules may include productivity, performance monitoring, or custom KPI creation and tracking. These highly customizable modules adapt to your business processes rather than forcing your business to adapt to the software.
This second option can save you plenty of time and money on your software development. Your development partner should guide you through this process.
You can estimate your price faster by going through ScienceSoft’s cost calculator for CRM development.
This simple tool walks you through different questions about your business, industry, and CRM needs. It asks you about the types of features you want to have, required integrations, and what types of customers you’re working with.
Based on your responses to each question, the calculator will estimate your costs.
Capabilities of a custom CRM from ScienceSoft include:
- Sales pipeline automation
- Lead and opportunity management
- AI-powered sales intelligence
- Customer segmentaiton
- Customer sentiment analysis
- Customer service automation
- CRM integration
- Customer and partner management functionality
- CRM data analytics
- Company-specific features
- Enterprise-wide CRM-based collaboration apps
- Marketing automation
For reference, custom CRMs from ScienceSoft start at $15,000 for ten employees. Custom CRMs for more than 1,000 employees start around $250,000.
If you choose to go with a different developer, make sure they have features and services that fit within your budget.
Payment terms vary for each vendor. But try to set up installments based on deliverables. This can help reduce the burden of payment without draining your cash.
You can even match the payments against the timeline to help you budget accordingly. For example, let’s say you’re starting the project in the middle of the year, and you know it’s going to take at least 12 months. Depending on your budget, cash flow, and accounting system, you may want the bulk of the payments to be made during this calendar year as opposed to next year.
It’s better to plan for all of this in the early stages so you can set expectations with your software partner.
#5 – Get the Design Approved
After the initial consultation with your developer, they’ll likely provide you with some wireframes and mockups before the build starts. This is an opportunity for you to make sure your initial ask aligns with the proposal.
You should have a reasonably accurate estimate of how long the development will take and how much it costs.
Meet with stakeholders and teams to approve the final design and timeline. Software that everyone agrees with is much easier to deploy when the time comes.
Plus, it’s much easier to make changes now while everything is still on paper. Making adjustments after the custom coding starts can extend the development timeline and ultimately cost more money.
If everything looks good, give your development partner the go-ahead. A good partner will keep you updated every step of the way.
By choosing ScienceSoft, you don’t have to worry about the technical aspects like coding, development environments, and so on. The developer takes care of all this for you.
#6 – Testing and Quality Assurance
In-depth testing and QA are two of the most important steps of this entire process. While you’re likely excited and eager to launch your new CRM, deploying it before the bugs have been worked out can do more harm than good.
You’ll be much better off just sticking with your existing CRM for another week or so until the new software has been tested thoroughly—because once it’s officially deployed, there’s really no turning back.
If you’re using ScienceSoft for development, it makes sense to let them take charge of the QA and testing. They offer a range of different services here, including:
- Performance testing
- Usability testing
- Security testing
- Functional testing
- Test automation
- QA consulting
- QA outsourcing
It’s a big plus to have a development partner that lets you in on the quality assurance and testing of your custom software. While a good developer will be diligent about rooting out bugs, only your staff can truly put your custom CRM through its paces.
#7 – Roll Out the Software
Once everything is ready, it’s time to deploy your custom CRM software.
Your development partner should support you every step of the way, including data migration to the new platform and training programs for your employees and team members.
It’s at this stage where ongoing support is of paramount importance. While the preliminary rounds of testing and QA have already been completed, you should still anticipate a few speed jumps during the rollout. This is normal for any custom software, including a CRM.
CRM software is necessarily intricate, and it will take weeks or months to stress test every element of it that you and your team will touch. Make sure you have a plan for emergent issues and a partner who will be quick to build patches and fixes.
The last thing you want is for an issue to slow down or disrupt a business process.
#8 – Feature Additions and Updates
All software needs to be updated to perform at a high level. Even the best CRM systems on the market roll out new features or updates on a regular basis.
Some of you might roll out your software in stages. But you won’t immediately know what changes need to be made until your team actually starts using it.
For example, you might find out that there’s a design flaw with the sales pipeline that forces users to jump between multiple screens to see the status of a new lead. Or maybe a key button isn’t on a top-level navigation menu, so users have to make three extra clicks to get to their most-used interface.
Beyond user preferences, you can also set up a bug tracking system for any glitches or problems that need to be fixed immediately.
You might also look to add a new AI API or something else that wasn’t available during the initial build of your CRM.
Regardless of the changes, you should always be looking for ways to improve your system. Asking your team for feedback is a great approach, as they’re the ones using the tool the most on a day-to-day basis.
Expanding Your Knowledge: Creating a CRM System
Deploying your new CRM software isn’t the end of the road. With business environments constantly changing, it’s only natural that your CRM system will need to evolve over time.
Some of you may have internal IT staff that’s capable of supporting the software post-launch, but it’s still important to maintain an ongoing relationship with your development partner. They’ll have the most intimate knowledge about the software, and you won’t have to pull your IT team away from their core job responsibilities.
ScienceSoft offers support and evolution to continually fine-tune your CRM’s features and processes to keep up with emerging user needs, and we recommend using partners who provide this level of service.
Scheduling periodic consultations with your development partner can also address any challenges you encounter while using the new software. Your development partner can help you figure out ways to improve the software and handle any minor or significant changes to your CRM system.