February 19, 2015

Should You Build Your Own CRM?

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Tags: CRM

This is a guest contribution from John Cheney, CEO of Workbooks CRM Online Ltd. Workbooks delivers out-of-the-box CRM and business applications to mid-market companies.

I recently came across this blog post which suggested you should build your own CRM system. Frankly, I thought it was just daft advice, so I’d like to offer a different opinion.

It’s also a question which occasionally comes up from prospective customers, especially those who already developed their own in-house application and are looking for the pros and cons of ‘build versus buy’.

So is it a good idea? On the face of it, adding a few fields 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 ‘we 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.

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;
  • Tracking key performance indicators, so you can measure progress and make better business decisions.

If you really want to deliver these benefits you need to deliver a solution which enables your staff to be more effective, not less. Let’s look at some of the common requirements 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 synchronise contacts, meetings and tasks. By the way, we are moving from Outlook 2007 to Office365, so you need to support all these environments.
  • 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 our email marketing tool. Actually it would be cool if the data synchronised automatically and opt-outs were managed correctly. Thinking about it, can we track open/clicks and bounces in the CRM so the sales executives know which people to follow-up?
  • Import Tools: We need to import lists of contacts from Excel, so we need an import tool that the marketing folks can use, that doesn’t require them to write SQL. Also, can your import tool manage duplicates?
  • Reporting: We would really like reports on the CRM data, so do you have a reporting engine, which can be used by non-technical people? 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 becomes much more complex. Developing even these basic features is expensive, not to mention the fact that your developers are unlikely to be CRM experts.

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

  • A Mobile App for people on the road;
  • Workflows to automate common tasks;
  • Multi-currency and Exchange rates;
  • Order Processing & Invoicing;
  • Advanced Security rules;
  • Dashboards;
  • Social Media Integration.

Lastly, you should know we have invested $10m in developing our core CRM platform at Workbooks. So choosing a commercial CRM solution and integrating it into your in-house application will not only be a lot less expensive, but will likely deliver a better outcome.