Businesses that can gain an advantage over their competitors stand a much better chance of long-term success. Where these advantages can come from is a matter of diligence, circumstance, and creativity. You can’t control all the factors, so it’s critical to optimize the factors that you do control.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is one of these factors. In fact, these days CRM is an increasingly standard business practice: Good CRM is a way of doing more with existing customers and leads by understanding and managing your sales funnel better, and by optimizing and automating your company’s customer-related workflows.
While there is a genuine trend in the business world toward improved CRM, the quality of services delivered by prefabricated, “off-the-shelf” CRM providers is often mixed. Like other transformative tech trends, it’s all too easy to spend lots of money on solutions without getting much benefit in return.
So when is it worth it to go with a custom-built CRM system? Going custom may be a better choice than you realize!
The Problems with Prefab CRM Systems
Like search engine optimization, customer relationship management is one of those capabilities that’s critical for success but usually doesn’t make sense for a business to develop in-house itself. Instead, many businesses go with third-party CRM systems. It’s a growing industry, and you’ve probably seen some of the ads lately for various CRM software providers.
But these prefab CRM systems struggle to justify their cost-effectiveness:
- They often don’t do what you need them to do while simultaneously wasting your dollars with features that you don’t need.
- They struggle to accommodate complex or unusual business models with unconventional workflows.
- They tend to charge more money for additional user access, which is a major downside for businesses that need access for many users.
- They are limited in their integrations with other systems.
- They may be unable to accommodate new needs from you in the future.
These downsides are mainly because good CRM is highly business-specific, but also because prefab CRM is a “Wild West” at the moment. There are lots of new providers in the space, and you don’t really know what you’re getting until you’ve already paid for it.
When Is Going Custom Worth the Cost?
It costs good money to build a high-quality bespoke CRM system—typically four to six figures. The more functionality you need, the more the price tag goes up. There is no getting around that. The good news is that you will begin saving money immediately on platform subscription costs with a prefab CRM service, and you are likely to yield further returns in the form of superior business performance made possible by your custom CRM system.
Nevertheless, major up-front costs are a critical strategic decision for any business and you will have to do your due diligence on a thorough cost-benefit analysis to determine whether the ROI of going custom is a sound use of your budget.
Not everyone needs to go with a custom system; sometimes a prefab solution will get the job done. But there are some excellent indicators that custom CRM could be right for your business.
1. You Have a Complex or Unusual Business Model
Prefab CRM systems cater to the most common business models. That makes sense for them, but it leaves many unique businesses behind.
Here are some instances where a custom CRM would probably be a better fit for your company:
- You have unusual or extensive lead generation or contract negotiation processes.
- You have a very large, complex sales process and a highly-specialized sales strategy.
- You sell products and services at the same time or sell different categories of products or services to different markets.
- You sell unusual products or services for which sales growth requires different best practices.
- You have unusual payment arrangements or commission practices with your customers, workforce, or others.
- You have complicated or unusual relationships with your vendors and suppliers.
For a custom-built CRM system, interfacing with these unique needs is effortless: It’s built into the software right from the beginning. You will be able to get your CRM workflow controls exactly how you want them and save lots of time down the road on inefficiencies caused by using a poor-fitting prefab CRM system.
2. You Need Specific Integrations with Other Systems
Many prefab CRM systems boast of their ability to be integrated with other systems, like Google and Microsoft productivity services, social media platforms, Dropbox, Slack, etc. So, for instance, a prefab CRM might make it easy for you to use Instagram Stories polls to easily build engagement and help maintain brand awareness.
This is great, but is it enough? If your company uses systems that the prefab solutions don’t have integrations with, then you’re out of luck—even though these integrations can be one of the single most critical benefits of using a CRM system at all.
If you need integrations that the prefab providers don’t offer, you probably need to go custom.
3. You Need Lots of People to Be Able to Use Your CRM System
One of the ways prefab CRM providers upsell their services is by limiting the number of users in your organization (or among your vendors and contractors) who can create accounts on your system. If a higher-access option is available at all, it’ll cost more money.
This means that if you have a company structure where you want many people to be able to use your CRM system, you are probably better off going with a custom-built CRM solution. A custom-built system won’t have meaningful access control limits, and it naturally lends itself to collaborative workflows in ways that prefab CRM systems cannot compete with.
4. You Anticipate Future Custom Functionality Needs
Maybe a prefab CRM system will serve your needs today, but what about the future? If any of the issues described above are plausible hurdles that could arise down the road, you might find yourself having to start all over again with your CRM strategy by hiring an agency to build a custom system—when you could have done it today for less.
By building a custom CRM system, you can make it scalable, updatable, and expandable in the ways that you are likely to need in the future.
This way, you can also put off some of the custom development costs down the road, by saving the development of specific features that aren’t needed yet, while still remaining confident that your existing CRM will have space for those features when the time comes.
Invest in the Success of Your Company by Choosing the Right Solutions
Prefab CRM isn’t all bad—it works well for some companies. But it’s important to take a hard look at the actual value that these solutions would deliver to your company. Should you go custom? Well, does this sound like your company:
- You value solutions that fit the problem well.
- You value engaging with your customers in an informed and optimal way.
- You want the analytical and workflow management power of good customer relations management.
If so, then a custom-built CRM system might be the right call.