January 4, 2018

When Does Custom CRM Development Make Sense?

Jason Martin
Managing Partner

Existing CRM vs. Custom CRM Development

Regardless of what you determine as your organization’s greatest asset, one fact stands for all businesses – without your customers, you wouldn’t be in business in the first place. Investing in your customer base is one of the best investments you can make.

The more you know about your customers and prospects, the better you’ll be able to serve them and meet their needs. That’s why a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has become a critical investment for successful organizations. Studies show that CRM users receive a 5x-8x return on their investment, which makes perfect sense – of course an investment in your customer base and their relationship with your sales team will pay off! The CRM acts as a great database and management tool for doing this.

There are many options for organizations looking to invest in a CRM solution, but ultimately it comes down to if you would rather build your own custom CRM solution or work with an existing SaaS CRM vendor.

Depending on your needs, either option could make sense. Let’s look at some key factors.

Customizing your CRM

You’ll want a solution that’s customized for your organizational needs and structure. Every business has its own workflows and data models, and a CRM will be much more effective when it integrates with the unique aspects of your business. Do you want a solution that is developed specifically for these characteristics (custom built CRM) or one that is developed for the mass market and tweaked for your organization (vendor CRM)?

There are some incredible products on the market today that are highly customizable and agile (salesforce is by far the leader here) and can do a great job. However, they’ll never be built from the ground up specifically for your organization. You’ll have to work backwards from a product that was designed to appeal to the mass market, not your niche of business. Still, there are some pretty cool things you can do if you were to go with Salesforce, and you should definitely look to invest in developing custom Salesforce models.

For organizations with unique or out of the ordinary data models and workflows, building a custom CRM from the ground up makes sense.

Cost of CRM Solutions

Since each option provides customization features, the decision could come down to the cost investment that each will require.

CRM vendors are very stubborn with their per-user subscription model – which is great for them, but not so much for your wallet (SalesForce ranges from $25-$300 per user). You’ll be chained down to that yearly renewal fee if you want to continue using your CRM. The per-user model is also inefficient for businesses because many users only need occasional access, while other employees who are more involved in sales will be using it frequently. Once again, businesses have to decide between over-paying for more features than they need or cutting out some capabilities to save cash.

Of course, developing a custom CRM is also pricey, especially up front. The good part is that you’ll be able to build exactly what you need. You won’t need to spend a dime on features that you won’t use, and you can double down on the areas that you know will provide a great ROI. You’ll also never have to worry about employee access or expensive license fees. You made it, and everyone in your organization can have access to it if you wish.

There will be other variable costs associated with both options. CRM vendors come in consulting fees and some maintenance costs, while custom CRM’s tend to require more maintenance.  

Risk Factors

All software investments comes with risk.

For out-of-the-box SaaS CRMs, your company will be the one that suffers when things go wrong, but the vendor will also be responsible for helping you get back on your feet and keep things running smoothly. That’s the advantage of working with a big-time vendor, like SalesForce. They have entire teams who know the software in and out and will be able to help you troubleshoot and keep things running. The risk for this type of investment is considerably less.

Custom software has its own risks. Whether you develop your own software or have someone else develop it, you’ll want to make sure that it’s built in a way and framework that is efficient and that there is a network of people who understand it and can consult with you about it (the Django Framework, for example. It’s ridiculously fast and efficient). Poorly built software could result in years of headache and costly maintenance/repair.

So Who Should Customize Their Own CRM?

Trick question – everyone should customize their own CRM! Whether you choose to work with a vendor or you go with custom CRM development from the ground up, you need something that’s designed specifically to contain the data you need and integrate well with your business processes.

You can work with an existing solution or, for maximum customization, build your own! The important thing is that your CRM is molded to your business and your business doesn’t have to mold to your CRM. The decision might ultimately come down to the cost of investment and risk.

At AppEvolve, we’re a highly experienced software development team with a passion for creating web applications. We are one of the few software companies that focus on building apps using python programming with the django framework and fully integrating them into Salesforce, if you choose to keep that as your primary database. We work with companies that have apps built with django, new startups, and businesses who use Salesforce. We can help you build your own CRM or customize your Salesforce deployment to exactly what you need.

An investment in your customer base is the most important investment you can make, so make sure it’s perfect for your business! It’ll pay out in spades later.

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