Everything you need to know about custom CRM before you spend

From having to hire an in-house tech team to heightened flexibility and customisation, here is what you need to consider if you’re thinking of custom CRM.

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If your company has a complicated B2B sales process, or is lacking the sophisticated features required to address your operational needs, you may be thinking about creating a custom CRM.

In theory, there are many benefits, from flexibility, and avoiding the hefty monthly or annual subscription of legacy systems to your own personalised user interface.

However, the extensive costs and time needed to build a custom CRM is not to be taken lightly, nor is the continuous in-house software maintenance it might require. To help you decide if custom CRM is for you, we’ve created this thorough guide.

What is Custom CRM?

Custom CRM, also known as homegrown CRM, is a platform built from the ground up by in-house software developers or a contracted development team. Developed in-house or by an external team, these platforms are tailored precisely to a company’s needs. Unlike off-the-shelf options, custom CRMs eliminate unnecessary features, ensuring a streamlined interface that can enhance user efficiency.

As you have full control of how the CRM is designed, your business won’t need to worry about scalability or pay monthly or yearly subscriptions for an off-the-shelf solution. This approach to customer relationship management is particularly useful for companies that have very complex sales processes or highly trained in-house tech teams that are prepared to develop and upkeep the software.

Pros of Custom CRM

With the power to code your CRM software to your liking, or to avoid hefty per-seat subscription costs, custom CRM is synonymous with a handful of benefits. We’ve highlighted the most important ones below:

  • Improved flexibility and cost effectiveness → a custom CRM is only equipped with the features you actually need. This targeted approach enables you to get more value for your buck, particularly because you’re empowered to expand your features list should your team need new functionalities.
  • Enhanced scalability → off-the-shelf CRM platforms are known for their per-user pricing models, which can become a burden as your staff contingent grows. Some customisable CRMs only let you buy seats in broad ranges, which could potentially leave you wasting money for seats that aren’t used. Custom CRM doesn’t have this issue and you won’t spend more because there is a new hire who needs access to the system.
  • Personalisation for maximum control →  custom CRM gives you greater control over the software’s functions, features, user interface, and complete say over its features and capabilities. This empowers your sales team because they can request tailored features that will help them better qualify leads or import data.
  • Increased efficiency for complex sales models → for businesses with intricate sales models that defy conventional B2B structures, custom CRMs offer a lifeline. Whether dealing with a blend of B2B and B2C models or navigating a complex product offering, off-the-shelf systems may fall short. Custom CRMs step in to enhance efficiency, providing a tailored solution that caters precisely to the nuances of your sales model.
  • Bolstered data security security is paramount when handling customer data, and custom CRMs provide a solution that can be tailored to your business’s unique security requirements. Whether you need advanced encryption, multi-factor authentication, or region-specific data handling, a bespoke system ensures that your customer data is handled with the utmost security, safeguarding your business and while maintaining the trust of your customers.

Cons of Custom CRM

However, while you can control every aspect of your CRM, this doesn’t necessarily make it the golden solution for your customer relationship management needs. Here are some drawbacks to consider:

  • Higher initial cost: the upfront costs can be quite hefty because you’ll either have to hire the right software developers or outsource the project. Projecting the cost is also difficult, and this can rise to tens of thousands of pounds. You should only be committed to building a custom CRM if there really is no off-the-shelf solution that will satisfy the needs of your business.
  • Longer implementation time: a CRM system is not built overnight. While this happens, your team will still be using your old system. There will be a transition period from your old system to the new, which may take some getting used to. There are also no dedicated training resources for you to utilise – so learning a new platform can be tricky, even if it’s designed exclusively for your team.
  • Maintenance challenges: if you’re using a custom CRM, you’ll need to have access to a reliable team of IT experts in case anything goes wrong. This could translate into additional costs, which, overall, might detract from the benefit of having no monthly or annual subscription costs.
  • Integration issues: building a CRM system focused on your sales needs requires thorough consideration of its integration with your existing software infrastructure. Seamless data integration and ensuring compatibility with other tools is crucial. Overlooking this could slow down your operations, creating frustration amongst your team and a drop in profit.

Custom CRM vs Customisable CRM

While utilising a custom CRM might sound alluring, choosing an off-the-shelf solution can still be a better overall choice for your business. Here are the main differences between the two and which type of companies are better suited for each.

Customisable CRM

A customisable CRM is an off-the-shelf software tool that provides users with the flexibility to tailor certain aspects to fit their specific needs. You might already recognise some of the more popular ones, including HubSpot, Zendesk, or Salesforce. This option is most suitable for businesses that want a quick setup and don’t need extensive customisation to fulfil their CRM needs.

Even though these products are “off the shelf”, there’s a huge amount of clever customisation you can do. Many have their own built-in customer service AI chatbot tools, too. These, too, can be customised to deal with the particular types of client or customer queries you may face.

However, it’s important to note that although customisable CRMs are advertised as ready-to-go, it may fall short for businesses with highly specific requirements. This is because of their mass-market design, which often pushes businesses to find workarounds for scenarios not catered to by the default settings.

Custom CRM

A custom CRM is built from the ground up to precisely match an organisation’s unique requirements. This translates into either hiring a qualified in-house development team or outsourcing the project to a specialised company.

Custom CRM is the ideal option for businesses that run into severe limitations with off-the-shelf solutions, specifically those with complex and lengthy sales processes that aren’t adequately addressed by customisable CRMs. Custom CRMs are a strategic investment for organisations willing to allocate the necessary budget for tailored development.

How have SMEs implemented Custom CRM?

If you’re thinking of utilising a custom CRM solution but are not fully convinced, here are two case studies that could inspire you:


MoneyNotSleep, a financial media house catering to part-time traders, faced significant hurdles as its business grew after its launch in 2020. Managing fragmented data stored in Excel became a bottleneck, hindering the ability to track leads and deals effectively. This led to a noticeable impact on sales performance and overall growth. Recognising the need for a comprehensive solution, MoneyNotSleep reevaluated its technology strategy and decided to develop a custom CRM.

The custom CRM addressed their challenges by streamlining data importing, especially from external sources like Leads databases. This improved data organisation and facilitated seamless collaboration among team members, enhancing internal communication. As a result, sales representatives were no longer missing crucial information, and the company experienced significant growth.


Pro.con, a mobile communication company, outsourced its CRM development to Apiko, aiming to build highly functional B2B sales management software. Despite having a functional CRM system, Pro.con sought to scale its sales features and transform the platform into a robust B2B solution.

With the help of a custom CRM, Pro.con successfully developed specialised B2B sales management software that is tailored for network operators and distributors. This bespoke solution met their unique requirements but also provided the scalability needed for future growth. The result was a streamlined and efficient B2B sales process, showcasing how custom CRM solutions can be instrumental in elevating businesses.


While a custom CRM might not be for everyone, if your organisation does have a genuine need for it, it can supercharge your sales team’s power to secure deals. Keep in mind that legacy CRM systems still have ample room for customisation – if your organisation can’t afford the cost of a custom CRM, you can always get in touch with your provider’s sales team to discuss integrating the features you’re lacking.

Ensure that when choosing between a custom or customisable CRM, you’re fully aware of the dimensions of the operational issues your sales team is facing and whether the root of the problem lies in your software or in the way your team works or collaborates. No software will replace a weak sales team, after all.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the key to customer retention?
    One of the most important factors is to acknowledge and reward your loyal customers, this can include exclusive discounts or early-bird access to new products.
  • What makes a loyal customer?
    A loyal customer is someone who keeps returning to your brand despite having other viable options in the market. This is because they associate your brand with positive experiences, like high quality customer service, feeling connected to your mission and values, or robust products and services.
  • What makes a good CRM system?
    A good CRM should come equipped with workflow automation. It should help your business automate repetitive tasks and streamline processes.
Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).

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