Bespoke or off the shelf CRM?

Post by 
Phil Holt
Last Updated: 
December 18, 2021

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) provides a hub for all the activities, strategies, and technologies that a business may use to manage interaction with current and potential customers. Its core purpose is to simplify work processes and boost productivity with effective online integrations. For a membership marketing website or portal, a CRM is essential to assist the customer journey and ensure it runs as smooth as possible, from sales funnel entry to customer renewals.

Time and money are critical for any business so when it comes to choosing the best CRM for your goals, it is tempting to get one that is available immediately off the shelf. A ready-made product, used by many with certified reviews and developer support sounds great, and with a clear monthly fee you can add to your business plan. However, a long-term strategy may be better steered towards a bespoke solution, which is custom-built with your individual needs in mind.

CRM Staff Perceptions

When tasked with researching web firms to shortlist for upgrading a membership website, your head may be full of doubts in terms and you will mostly be concerned with doing the right thing. You may be reluctant to take risks and only want to work with people you can trust, whilst keeping your colleagues happy too.

There is often the perception that a membership portal is just another website. However, it should be considered as a mission-critical web application that is at the core of the organisations business. Budget planning for this can often be unrealistic and risks are not fully understood. Therefore, the standard approach will be to look for a generalist web designer for a WordPress build, which may fit the budget but not necessarily meet all your requirements.

CRM Discovery Sessions

With lack of planning and transparency at the outset, the web project can start on the wrong foot. Discovery sessions are a must, where assumptions and expectations can be fully explored, and costs nailed down. A discovery session can be a solid method to kick start your web project.

WordPress is best known, so this gets serious consideration, but what about other solutions that offer more ‘out of the box’? Some of Web Foundry’s most successful projects have used Joomla, which requires fewer plugins than WordPress to achieve features that are usually important to membership organisations - such as Access Controls and therefore presents less of an attack vector to hackers.

There are also more modern, SaaS systems, such as Webflow, which Web Foundry is now using in combination with other online services, such as Memberstack to achieve higher levels of design uniqueness, performance, and flexibility at a lower cost. Zapier and Airtable can be combined to add further customisation and marketing automation.

CRM Budget

It is important to build in contingency and be realistic about levels of customisations. Features must add value and you should be careful not to specify complex features, which are difficult to implement and costly to maintain, yet provide little value to the end-user. The focus should be more on the end-user member and less of the admin functions, which in our experience is where most budget seems to gravitate.

Hosting performance and reliable tech support that is on hand when you need it are also major factors. There are costs to update and replace website plugins and the stability of the technology you are using should be considered, as well as where it is in the lifespan/roadmap provided by the vendor. Do your homework and due diligence before deciding on an effective CRM for your needs.

Web Foundry has been building bespoke membership portals for over 10 years and have used various technical approaches over that period.

We simplified membership processes for a not-for-profit association using Joomla CMS.

Check out our membership case studies.

As your company grows and changes, so can your bespoke CRM. Custom-built from the ground up, your business needs are in mind from the start.

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