Build or Buy? How to customize CRM


Should you build custom CRM software, customize a general app to act like a CRM, or buy a customizable CRM? We’ll explore those options in this blog post.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is an ideal tool for tracking, organizing, and analyzing customer data. It gives companies the ability to view valuable customer data—such as purchase history, sales interactions, communications, and shopping behaviors—in one convenient platform. Some prime CRM software example uses include CRM software for insurance, CRM software for manufacturing, and CRM software for healthcare. Businesses of all sizes use a CRM, from small to medium sized businesses to larger businesses and enterprises.

Having a robust CRM system in place can improve the customer experience, increase productivity, and even boost sales. However, it’s important to note that not all businesses are the same. In fact, businesses vary in size, scope, and function as well as goals, objectives, and strategies.

This factor means that CRM software cannot be a one-size-fits-all platform, because what works for one company may not work for another, so we look to customize CRM. Customized CRM solutions are a necessity for start-up, small, mid-sized, and large businesses.

Benefits of customized CRM software

When your CRM is customized to your business, it makes life easy for your team. There are some benefits, as listed below:

Personalized customer experience: Customized CRM solutions allow your company to collect and manage the specific data it needs to gain valuable customer insights and to provide each client with a personalized customer experience. This improves insight into the customer journey of potential customers and therefore improves customer satisfaction.

Cost efficiency: Standard CRM software can be cumbersome and costly. In many cases, you end up paying for extra services and features you never use. With customized CRM solutions, you only pay for what you need.

Flexibility: Customized CRM software gives you the ability to make changes to the software to easily scale up or down as your needs change. A customized user interface that is flexible and fits your team is a huge asset. Plus, the ability to create seamless integrations makes the platform adhere to your full business.

Optimal performance: Having a CRM built to your company’s unique specifications can maximize its use and increase its overall performance.

Improve rep performance: When your CRM can follow your business processes and automate a wide range of repetitive tasks, your sales reps save time. Customizable solutions like a sales pipeline that is a customizable pipeline can improve business performance. A CRM that maps out the sales process and sales cycle helps reps do their job. Futher, custom reports from your CRM can allow you to get actionable insights and make informed decisions. 

Open source CRM solutions

Open source CRM solutions allow for maximum customization. With the right platform, you can modify everything from fields and templates to dashboards and reports. Open source CRMs typically offer robust integration options. For example, Insightly’s software integrates with over 2,000 business tools, including Asana, Slack, Zoho Invoice, Zoho Creator, and Zoho Mail. With this level of customization, you can build a CRM platform that meets all your business needs.

On the flip side, you’ll need to constantly be working on your customized CRM software as your business grows and your needs change. This can be costly as well. If one or two key people leave your organization, they may take all of the technical information about building and operating the CRM with them, leaving your organization with a costly problem. 

Customizable CRM Open Source

Computer screens that are clear

Open Source CRM software options provide the greatest level of customization. If your company is looking to invest in CRM software or you’re not happy with your current CRM offerings, customizable open source CRM platforms may be the ideal solution for you.

What is an open source CRM?

Open source CRM is customer relationship management software with source code that is made publicly available to allow users and development teams to modify and manipulate it. These customizable CRM open source platforms allow companies to adjust the original CRM software to better align its features and performance with company goals, business practices, and sales processes.

Many open source CRM platforms use hosting services such as Github, but there are some self-hosting CRM open source options available. Popular open source CRMs using GibHub include SuiteCRM, and SugarCRM open source platforms.  

Developers can use programming languages such as Java, Python, and PHP to modify various elements of these open source software platforms. For example, SugarCRM and SuiteCRM are open source CRMs in PHP.

Some open source CRMs are already well developed and high functioning. These factors make it easy to customize the platform to meet your needs. However, if work needs to be done on your open source CRM, you’ll need to divert resources to address it, pulling valuable brain power away from supporting and selling your product. This may not add up in the long run, since the minimal savings on an open source CRM can be overcome by winning one large deal for your company.

Build a Custom CRM

Building a custom CRM platform from scratch can be quite costly and time-consuming. Alternatively, you can use open source CRM platforms that are both affordable and easy to customize.

The first step to building a custom CRM is to determine what CRM development tools are right for your company. For instance, you can select the programming language that best meets your needs, such as Python or PHP. If you operate a small business, you may be able to use Google Sheets or Excel to build a custom CRM. However, it’s important to realize the limitations of these options.

There are plenty of online tutorials about how to build a CRM with Google Sheets or how to make your own CRM with Excel. Since this method uses spreadsheets already in place, setup is minimal. In fact, using these types of platforms may allow you to build a customized CRM-type layout on your spreadsheets without any coding.

It’s important to note that some of the key benefits of commercially available CRMs are lacking here, like workflow automation, lead routing, and email functions. These are really more like contact management systems vs. true CRMs

If, however, you need more advanced customization, coding may be required. Continue reading to learn more about how to build a CRM with Python and how to develop CRM software in Java.

Custom CRM Builder

Computer code to build a customized CRM

Below is a look at several custom CRM development techniques you can use.  

Build a CRM with Python

Python is one of the most popular programming languages used to develop CRM platforms. It utilizes simple syntax and allows for the reuse of templates and modules. Most importantly, there is already a large library of CRM Python tools available that can be integrated into your CRM software. This will require a developer or a team of developers and likely several months to years to complete. 

How to develop CRM software in Java

Java is another programming language used to develop CRM platforms. While not as popular as Python, with the right coding team, you can build an efficient custom CRM platform. Building a CRM with Java will also require a developer or a team of developers and likely several months to years to complete. 

Build CRM with Google Sheets

It’s possible for small business owners to build a CRM-like sheet with Google Sheets. However, once your business begins to grow, you will need to expand into a more comprehensive CRM. To use Google Sheets, you must use different worksheets for sales, customer relations, and marketing. You’ll miss out on key features of a CRM like workflow automation, lead routing, and email sending.

Build a Caspio CRM

Caspio CRM allows you to build a custom CRM with no coding requirements. This is good for companies that lack a development team or who don’t require high-level customization. Its drag and drop CRM builder makes it easy to customize the platform to meet your needs. Here again you’ll need a dedicated team member or members, plus you’ll miss out on key features that improve efficiency for sales teams, like workflow automation, lead routing, and email management. 

Zoho CRM Customization

Zoho is a CRM platform that offers a low-code way to build customized CRMs. While the Zoho CRM architecture is primarily built  for the sales industry, its ability to be customized can make it a good option for nearly all sectors, including healthcare, finance, and insurance.

Customized Zoho CRM layouts allow you to add, remove, or modify fields, actions, and settings by using the page layout editor. Other Zoho CRM customization options include building custom modules, lists, fields, sections, and reports. 

Zoho offers a variety of Zoho CRM tutorial PDFs and Zoho CRM guides to help you through the customization process. Online support and forums can also provide the answers you need to ensure the success of your customization process.

Zoho CRM pricing includes a free version, as well as Basic, Standard, and Professional levels. 

Insightly’s pricing is competitive with Zoho, however with Zoho, no direct support is available, so one person in your organization will likely need to become an expert quickly or you’ll need an outside consultant. The integration process is complex with Zoho, vs. simple with Insightly thanks to AppConnect, Insightly’s low-code/no-code integration application. For these reasons, Insightly is a better fit for most businesses.

Custom CRM vs. Salesforce

Legacy CRM platforms such as Salesforce tend to take a one-size-fits-all approach. While you are able to customize some features, overall customization is limited. When you choose to customize Salesforce, be ready to pay for an expensive integration firm or hire additional Salesforce admins on your team. Creating and maintaining integrations (which often break when updates are pushed by either vendor) is difficult and time consuming. Additionally, these legacy platforms tend to be quite expensive and run on a subscription basis. 

Build a CRM with Insightly

Insightly is a modern, unified CRM platform that allows you to merge your marketing, sales, and customer relationship data into one easy-to-use platform. While Insightly already offers a well-developed platform that makes customization quick and easy, it allows users to customize functionalities to meet the company’s specific needs. Custom objects, custom fields and customized reporting are simple within Insightly, and won’t require an expensive firm or admin to execute.

If Salesforce is failing to meet the needs of your company, you’ll be happy to know that migrating your data from Salesforce into the Insightly platform is quick and easy. In fact, it only requires five steps:

  • Assess your CRM needs.
  • Clean and structure your CRM data.
  • Define your unique roles and permissions.
  • Migrate data from Salesforce to Insightly.
  • Review data to ensure a successful transfer.

Cost savings start immediately as the total cost of ownership of Salesforce is much higher than that of Insightly, a modern CRM.

Make your own CRM with Excel?

If you’re a small business owner, a simple Excel spreadsheet may be enough to manage customer data, sales information, and marketing data. However, as your business grows, Excel will quickly become too cumbersome and hinder your ability to provide a cohesive customer experience. 

Before you make your own CRM with Excel, you must determine the data you want to collect and store. With Excel, you will need to develop a separate spreadsheet to track different functions, such as sales, customer data, and marketing. However, you can create reports, graphs, and charts by pulling data from multiple sheets. Once you know what kind of data you want to collect, you can search for an Excel CRM template online.

While you can make your own Excel spreadsheet, you can save time and hassle by using a real CRM for free. Insightly is free forever for up to 2 users, so you can start your business in a CRM that will grow with you as your enterprise expands. 

In short, there’s no need to stymie your growth with a tool that’s not made to be a CRM; start with Insightly for free. 

Contact Insightly to learn more about building custom CRMs.

Start with Insightly for free

Get started with a free trial of Insightly CRM today, or request a personalized demo to see how our solution can help your company achieve its business goals. Once your free trial ends, you can choose to stay with a free account for up to 2 users, or explore the features of Plus, Professional and Enterprise accounts. 

Additional helpful links

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