According to market research by Gartner, CRM (customer relationship management) software, is the fastest-growing sector of enterprise software. Although Salesforce has the largest market share at 19.5%, more small and mid-sized businesses are choosing to build their own custom CRM software instead of using an existing platform.

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the steps of building a CRM platform designed specifically for your business.

Why build a CRM?

First, why build a CRM of your own when you could just use a pre-built one? As we’ve looked at in an earlier blog post, there are several benefits to using a custom CRM.

The most important is that it will be tailored to your business or industry. There are no unnecessary tools to distract or confuse your employees and slow the system down. A streamlined CRM is easier to roll out and get your team to use efficiently.

Next, you can use the same platform as your business grows, integrating it with other tools and building additional apps for specific departments. Everything will rely on the same API, so all of your teams will have real-time access to your company’s data.

And finally, it may turn out to be the most cost-effective option. Out-of-the box CRMs have a lower up-front cost, but their subscription fees can add up over the long run.

With a custom CRM, you’ll be making a larger investment, but once it’s built, it’s yours, and you aren’t locked in to a per-user pricing structure as your company grows.

These are just a few reasons to build a CRM from the ground up. But building a custom CRM takes time and attention, so it’s important to plan ahead and do it right.

Steps to building a CRM that works for your business:

While a developer can help you through the process, many of the choices you have to make are still in your hands. From development to rollout, here are several steps that you can take to ensure that the process runs smoothly:

Determine your goals.

The first step to building a custom CRM is to do some research into what you want out of the platform. If you haven’t used a CRM before, sign up for a free trial of an existing platform and take it for a test drive. What works and what doesn’t?

The great thing about building a CRM is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Many existing platforms will have some of the tools you need, just not in the right combination for your business. You get to pick and choose what you want to include.

Do you want to automate your sales pipeline? Improve communication between teams? Use sales forecasting to better compete with your rivals? The features you need in your CRM will depend on your industry and your company’s sales strategies.

Determine what goals your CRM is expected to meet, and that will go a long way toward determining what type of CRM you need and which features to focus on.

Additionally, decide what a successful rollout will look like for your bottom line. Will you see an increase in revenue? Higher conversion or retention rates?

Run a risk assessment and calculate your projected ROI. This will help you determine how much you can afford to invest in CRM development.

Be as specific as possible so that you can look back on your goals and see whether or not you’ve met them, or if you need to make further changes to your CRM platform.

Keep your customer’s needs front and center.

Next, think about your CRM from your customer’s point of view. While they may never see the CRM’s inner workings or even realize it exists, they’ll still be interacting with it on a regular basis any time they communicate with your sales or support teams.

One of your objectives should be to streamline the customer experience by listening to their needs and providing quality customer support with a personalized touch.

For example, one of the biggest pain points that customers encounter is having to tell their story to multiple support reps in order to get their problem addressed.

A CRM can help you avoid this problem by compiling your customer’s purchase and support history into a single profile. Now, every sales or support rep who speaks to a customer can easily look back on their previous conversations for context.

Another important component of a customer-centric CRM is channel management. This refers to the tools you use to engage with customers on multiple channels.

If your company receives support requests on Twitter, for example, you can respond to them directly using your CRM’s social media integrations, without the customer noticing any delays or inconsistencies in their interaction.

From automated chatbots to customer satisfaction surveys, there are dozens of ways to prioritize the customer experience within your CRM. Putting yourself in their shoes can help you decide which features to incorporate into the platform.

Talk with your employees about what they need from a CRM.

In addition to the customer experience, your employees’ user experience is important too. After all, they’re the ones who will be using the platform the most.

The biggest hurdle to CRM implementation is a lack of employee adoption. If your CRM doesn’t actually address any of their problems or make their workflow easier, then they won’t have much incentive to use it.

Instead of springing a new CRM on them unexpectedly, talk to them about what they’d like to see in the software.

While some features are included standard in most CRMs, such as a contact database, others are optional. An inside sales team might benefit from a sales dialer, while a field sales team might prefer a location-based app with geofencing.

You can also incorporate lead scoring and lead distribution for your sales managers, as well as roles and access levels to ensure that your employees only have access to the data that’s appropriate for their job level or department.

Understanding what your managers and employees need from a CRM is key to getting full buy-in from all of the major players who will be using it.

Roll it out in stages.

Once your CRM is built, it’s time to put your implementation strategy into practice. You can’t expect your team to learn a new platform overnight, so roll it out in stages.

Depending on the size and complexity of your business, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year to get everyone on board.

Form a team to take charge of the rollout and create a training schedule. If you need to, hire an experienced facilitator to deliver face-to-face training.

You can also create video tutorials, an online knowledge base, and self-guided lessons. Remember, any subsequent employees you hire will have to learn the software too, so the resources you invest in now will continue to be relevant in the future.

Start by implementing the core features of your CRM, then roll out additional apps and integrations later. Don’t overwhelm your employees with too many features all at once, and make sure that your training is tailored to each department.

Have a backup plan ready when you go live, so your operations don’t grind to a halt if you face unexpected technical difficulties. This can include having additional staff on hand to deal with any down time or customer complaints.

Get everything synced to your CRM.

Part of your rollout process will include data migration. This process will vary depending on whether you’re migrating from a different CRM, or directly from Excel spreadsheets.

Before you start, create backups of your data. Then, decide what you need to migrate to the new system. This is a great opportunity to clean up your data, for example, filling out missing information and removing duplicate records.

Your new system may have different fields and formats than your old one, so you may have to reformat some data to ensure it’s still readable and accessible.

Also, consider removing data you don’t need any more, for example, records that have been inactive for many years.

Your CRM should have automatic data entry capabilities, but take some time to review how it’s working before relying on it completely.

Track your progress and institute changes when needed.

Finally, be prepared to make changes to your system as you go along. From a technical perspective, be sure to monitor the system for network speed and reliability. If changes are needed, schedule downtime in advance to avoid disruption.

From a personnel perspective, ask your team leaders how the rollout is going. Are your employees adjusting to the new system, or are they still using the old one because it’s more familiar and comfortable? Review their progress with weekly meetings.

If they aren’t adapting to it quickly enough, assess whether additional training is needed, or whether you can shut down the old system to avoid reliance on it.

And of course, view your sales figures and other internal reports. You’ll be able to see which of your departments are benefiting from the rollout, and which are not. Use this data to decide which apps or integrations to add to your CRM in the future.

Get the right developer to help you build your CRM.

Building a custom CRM takes a little more foresight than using an existing one, but you don’t have to do it alone. The developers at Zibtek will guide you through every step of the process, from deciding what tools to incorporate into your custom CRM, to helping you plan for a smooth data migration and successful rollout.

You’ll get personalized support as you transition to a cloud-based CRM, as well as the option of ongoing maintenance and consulting services.

Reach out to the team at Zibtek to schedule a custom CRM consultation today!