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Should you build your own CRM?

Through our years of experience, we’ve seen (and offered) plenty of advice to prospective CRM users. But perhaps the daftest suggestion we’ve seen is that you should attempt to build your own CRM system.

To that end, we’ll present the alternative opinion — that it’s always best to purchase a fully-fledged CRM that’s been built out with the advanced functionality you require, and will be user-friendly for your staff.

Not only does the advice to create your own CRM pop up on various tech publications around the web, but we also occasionally get asked by customers, especially those who have already developed an in-house application and are reflecting on the “build vs buy” debate. It’s certainly worthy of your consideration — particularly when you’ve invested in development and you’re wondering if it’s too late to go back.

So is it a good idea to build your own CRM?

On the face of it, adding some bells and whistles to your existing application to give your sales team some CRM functionality can’t be that complex, right? “Surely, we just need some fields to track activities, the value of potential sales, and maybe some notes. In principle, that sounds fairly simple, so why would I invest in a commercial CRM?”

You might think you don’t need all the features that a commercial CRM platform offers, but you would be surprised how quickly your users will demand new functionality — especially if they’ve used commercial CRM systems before. And as 79% of businesses use a CRM, this is fairly likely.

Looking at the bigger picture

Let’s take a step back and ask: Why are you investing in CRM in the first place? Typically, it’s for the following reasons:

  • Increasing revenues, by improving sales and marketing execution.
  • Reducing operational costs, by streamlining business processes.
  • Improving your customer services and the customer experience.
  • Tracking key performance indicators, so you can measure progress and make better business decisions.


If you really want to deliver these benefits, you need a solution that enables your staff to be more effective, not less. Let’s look at some of the common requirements and requests we see from clients in nearly all implementations:

  • Email Integration: We want to be able to send emails from Outlook (or Gmail) and have these stored in CRM, and it would be nice if we could synchronize contacts, meetings and tasks.
  • Email Marketing: We want to send marketing emails to all our prospects and customers; it would be good if we could integrate our CRM with an email marketing tool. Actually it would be cool if the data synchronized automatically and opt-outs were managed correctly. Thinking about it, can we track opens/clicks and bounces in the CRM so that our sales executives know which leads to follow-up?
  • Import Tools: We need to import lists of contacts from Excel, so we need an import tool for the marketing department that doesn’t require them to write SQL. Also, can your import tool manage duplicates?
  • Reporting: We would really like to report on CRM data, so do you have a reporting engine that can be used by non-technical personnel? Some of our users want pictures, so what about charts? It would also be nice if we can export the data to Excel, but I need some security controls on that, because I don’t want a salesperson downloading our entire customer base.
  • Quoting: The sales executives say they would be much more productive if they could generate quotes directly from the CRM, can you do this?

Hopefully you get the idea. Once you begin to look at how you can really improve the effectiveness of your business, the ‘basic’ CRM requirement quickly becomes much more complex. And developing even these simple features is very expensive, not to mention the fact that your developers are unlikely to be CRM experts. All in, it’s usually wisest to buy and not attempt to build your own CRM.


Workbooks could transform your business

If you’re still not convinced you shouldn’t develop your own CRM system, then think about some of the more advanced features you are likely to want:

  • A mobile app for staff on the road
  • Workflows to automate common tasks
  • Multi-currency and exchange rates
  • Order processing & invoicing
  • Advanced security rules
  • Dashboards
  • Social media integration

Workbooks offers a comprehensive suite of CRM features that could unify your sales, marketing, and customer service teams — without the demands of a complex development cycle to produce an in-house tool.

Lastly, it’s worth thinking about how much you can afford to invest if you do decide to build, you’ll need a considerable budget of your own.

Ultimately, choosing a commercial CRM solution and integrating it into your in-house application will not only be a lot less expensive, but will deliver a better outcome too. Learn more about our dedicated CRM platform here.


About the Author: John Cheney

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A Software-as-a-Service pioneer, John Cheney launched one of the first SaaS companies back in the late 1990s. He is a successful entrepreneur with over thirty years experience in the IT industry; twenty of which have been running IT companies in Europe and North America.