software backgroundbest ERP for small business

Is a Custom CRM Right for Your Business? Benefits and Drawbacks of Building a Tailor-Made System

By Anna BenzaquenPublished: 2/8/23

As a business owner, you have a lot to gain from investing in a CRM solution. However, there's no one-size-fits-all platform, and some organizations are so specific that they might not find a ready-made system that works well for them out of the box.

Enter the custom CRM option, giving you the opportunity to design and execute software from scratch, to fulfill your unique set of requisites. In this article, we’ll help you decide whether or not a custom CRM is the right choice for your business, and if not, which customizable software packages might be a better fit.

What is a custom CRM?

If a ready-made Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can be a potent all-in-one tool that automates all sales, marketing, and customer service, a custom CRM (or Homegrown CRM) solution is specially built from the ground up by in-house developers or a contracted development team to accommodate a unique business model.

This tailor-made system aims to streamline business processes to effectively manage the relationships with existing customers and potential clients, according to their specific necessities.

Customization can range from personalizing and updating the in-product terminology to much more advanced integration and development, such as workflows.Theoretically, the end product would be designed to the precise specifications of the company, increasing the efficiency of its users by including all the features the organization needs, none that it doesn’t.

7 benefits to create your own custom CRM

There are many good reasons to feel drawn towards the DIY route of building a custom CRM. Let’s take a look at some of the most important ones.

1. Tailored functionalities

You can choose which functions are essential to you and which you don’t need. As we’ll see later, customizing doesn’t necessarily equal full configuration or building from scratch. But if you need to change almost everything, a custom CRM is the best option. 

2. Integration with other systems

That means your custom CRM will be easily connected with another system, for example, your website or a third-party service, allowing you to exchange data seamlessly and improving the overall productivity of your business. 

3. Security of data

As tempting as out-of-the-box CRM software can be pricewise, they also present significant risks, like data breach. Custom CRM software are more likely to come with encryption. Plus, your company being the sole owner of all the data enables it to react to an attack.

4. Scalability

You need software that you can expand across all the units to improve your company’s workflow across all departments. A ready-made CRM won’t easily help you do that and come short when asked to perform anything new, bigger or specific. Custom CRM will allow you to adjust the system whenever and however you need, at no extra cost. 

5. Timesaving on mundane tasks

A customizable CRM can automate repetitive tasks such as form completion, basic approvals, and email marketing. This frees up employee time so they can focus on other tasks, such as responding to customer queries and sales.

6. Increased productivity

Features like automated project workflows and templates help to improve your team’s productivity and may result in increased profitability. Additionally, CRM can be customized to make internal communications more efficient, improving collaborations and projects.

7. More cost-effective than off-the-shelf CRM

Cheaper at first glance, a ready-made CRM actually comes with a host of hidden costs. For instance, know that you’re most likely to be charged for any version upgrade and every alteration to the system. Opting for a custom build might mean you stay in control of your budget, paying only for what you really need.

6 drawbacks to look into

Developing a customized CRM system also creates several challenges that a ready-made system doesn’t. Bear in mind these drawbacks before you consider making the investment.

1. Huge investments, long process

The cost of designing a custom CRM system is almost always higher than the cost of a subscription. Indeed, it’s a complex software build requiring a large amount of money to develop either in-house or by a development company. On top of that, it can take months to create tailored apps and systems, further delaying the implementation.

2. Maintenance and support

When subscribing to a pre-existing CRM program, developers take care of all maintenance aspects. A custom CRM will mean additional technical requirements and production costs. Another important aspect: hosting the CRM will cost extra and add its own set of support variables (bug reports, etc.).

3. Software updates

Updates will always have to be performed to keep your system working smoothly. Plus, you’ll want a CRM environment that grows along with your needs and client base. Any packaged CRM subscription will include regular updates. Custom CRM won’t, or at a very high cost. 

4. Training costs

Most off-the-shelf systems come with a large knowledge base. This isn’t the case with a custom solution. That means you’ll either need to create training material or pay the developers extra to do it for you.

5. Poor UX 

The best off-the-shelf CRM packages are built around a history of trial and error, user studies, and feedback. The result? Consistent aesthetics and usability. An in-house solution will make you go through your own trial and error. Is it really worth the trouble?

6. Reinventing the wheel?

Pre-built CRM are the result of tested and proven research and development and engineering expertise. And today, they offer many add-ons allowing you to get a customized feel. Spare yourself the unnecessary, and potentially superfluous, effort.

What are the best customizable CRM software solutions?

Out-of-the-box CRM? Custom system? It doesn’t have to be either/or, there is a middle ground: customizable CRM solutions. Read on to discover our top 5.

The software are classified by alphabetical order.

1) HubSpot CRM


Aimed at growing small and large eCommerce businesses alike, HubSpot CRM all-in-one marketing platform allows teams to better manage their contacts and increase productivity and performance. 

As one of the most feature-rich free plans, HubSpot offers dozens of integration possibilities and custom objects – structures for storing types of data that differ with the system's standard features. Those make for complete flexibility and control to match your CRM data to your business.

Popular Features

  • Website builder: easy-to-use drag-and-drop editor
  • Meeting scheduler: linked to your email and website
  • Live Chat: connect with visitors in real time
  • Blog software: tools to create great content
  • Landing page builder: generates leads
  • Ads Software: using CRM data, creates targeted ad campaigns and insights
  • Help Desk & Ticketing: centralize all customer requests in one place

2) Nutshell


Nutshell is a cloud-based CRM software designed for small businesses. Easy to set up, it allows users to work with sales force automation and contact management apps, as well as pipeline and task management, email tracking, note-taking, and forecasting.

This intuitive and effective tool lets you customize your data processing experience to your own specs, optimizing your business by focusing on building strong customer relationships.

Key Features

  • Custom fields for leads, companies and people
  • Email sync with Google Apps / Gmail and Office / Outlook
  • Customizable sales pipelines
  • Drag and drop board view
  • Custom activity, sales funnel, sales and forecasting reports
  • Custom reporting for lead Generation sources
  • Custom shareable email templates
  • Custom automated lead assignment
  • Guided sales process builder

+200 reviews

Complete CRM & Sales Automation Platform
Learn more about Nutshell

3) Pipedrive


Pipedrive is a sales-focused CRM platform, focusing on tools for pipeline, deal and leads management. Its built-in scheduler includes video conferencing, email features, and SmartDocs tool for sending quotes and proposals.

Customization-wise, users can alter data fields, email templates, product catalogs, and dashboard layout. But the stand-out feature is the customizable pipelines, allowing users to account for the unique stages, conversion probabilities.

Key Features

  • Workflow Automation
  • Email customization:  generating and managing email templates
  • Pipeline customization: customizable steps and conversion probabilities
  • Data field customization: users can mark fields as important or required
  • Customizable teams:  monitor and compare team performance
  • Custom reports:  monitoring activity for calls made, emails sent, and appointments made

+200 reviews

Maximize your sales efficiency
Learn more about Pipedrive

4) Salesforce


If you’re looking for a highly customizable CRM, Salesforce might be the right option. It offers extensive system customization tools with a Process Builder for automating and managing business processes.

Between its own features and apps, great on their own, customization options and both internal ecosystem and third-party AppExchange, the sky’s pretty much the limit when it comes to creating a bespoke platform to complement the strategy of your business.

Key features

  • Third-party systems integrations (ERP, intranets, social media, E-commerce platforms, accounting software, computer telephony, email, etc.)
  • Custom themes for a unique look and feel
  • Customized page layouts according to various workflows
  • Add and alter fields, objects, object relationships, tabs, or apps within a system
  • Enhanced and customized automation
  • Fundamental automation: creating workflow rules and approval processes
  • Apps creation using a no-code interface 

5) Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM

Ideal for small to medium-sized teams, Zoho CRM is an affordable, flexible and extensively customizable CRM giving you the freedom to deploy CRM in a way that suits your unique and ever-changing business requirements.

On top of combining sales, marketing, help desk, and other channels into one platform, the platform offers add-on suites: finance, custom apps, forms and many more, for integration.

Key features

  • Canvas builder: a drag-and-drop interface editor
  • Zia: an AI-powered analytics engine
  • Zoho Motivator: integrated gamification features
  • Wizards: a fully customizable decision tree for gathering information
  • 360-degree view for contacts: all activities and touchpoints related to a person
  • Leads module: qualifying profiles from sources such as trade shows, campaigns, etc.
  • Comprehensive reporting features in a wide range of views

Custom CRM, our takeaways

When it comes to CRMs, the concepts of ready and custom aren't always mutually exclusive, but ultimately, creating a custom CRM won't be right for every business as it’s a massive up-front investment which takes considerable effort and time to plan, construct, and launch.

However, keep in mind that your CRM application should work like your business works. That’s why building or customizing a successful CRM tool is also about having a plan and a clear vision in place, so you can systemize your process accordingly, and work on your buyer journey or researching information about prospects, knowing that your CRM will capture this value and help you transform it into growth.

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