CRM software first came on the scene in the 1990s. In the last 20-odd years, a lot has changed.

One of the biggest changes? The “verticalization of CRMs.”

More and more industry-specific CRMs have entered the market. These CRMs target companies in the real estate, automotive, manufacturing, and hospitality industries — just to name a few.

It may sound like having a CRM built specifically for your industry would be a perfect match.

After all, an industry-specific CRM would ideally…

  • Have all the processes and workflows you need built-in from the start
  • Account for the regulations and unique requirements of your industry

Ideally. But most of the time, using an industry-specific CRM leads to problems:

  • Industry CRMs often charge a premium for being “specialized” (even though their features aren’t really different from other CRMs)
  • Many sacrifice the quality of features for the specificity of features. They may have a few features that are nice for your industry, but the majority of features aren’t up to par.
  • Industry CRMs lack flexibility. They tend to force you to manage your contacts in one specific way – instead of using the method that makes the most sense for your business

What if I told you that you don’t need an industry-specific CRM?

What you actually need is a customizable CRM. A CRM that will adapt to your business and make it easier to do what you need to do, how and when you need to do it.

Advice for choosing a CRM — and for life. (via GIPHY)

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Keep reading to learn…

  • What an industry-specific CRM is
  • Who industry-specific CRMs are for
  • Whether you really need an industry-specific CRM

What is an industry-specific CRM?

An industry-specific CRM is CRM software built for and marketed to companies in a certain industry. They’re also called vertical CRMs since they’re focused on specific vertical markets.

Horizontal CRMs are more traditional CRM options. Horizontal CRMs can range from bare-bones systems to more advanced, fully customizable platforms.

Vertical CRMs come equipped with common industry workflows and processes in place, like:

  • Dealer management systems for the automotive industry
  • Listing management for real estate companies

For highly regulated industries, vertical CRMs often have built-in functions in place to make sure industry regulations are being met.

Who are industry-specific CRMs for?

Vertical CRMs are built with insider knowledge of your industry. They have the necessary processes and workflows already built-in to meet industry standards.

If you work in a heavily regulated industry, industry-specific CRMs help make sure you’re compliant.

Which industries have their own CRMs?

Nowadays, you can find a CRM built for pretty much any industry you can imagine.

Dog grooming CRM? It exists. Trust us. (via GIPHY)

Here are some of the most common industries with dedicated CRMs.

Industries that are highly regulated:

  • Healthcare
  • Insurance
  • Government agencies
  • Manufacturing
  • Mortgage lending

Industries with very specific processes and workflows (and lots of moving parts):

  • Hospitality
  • Construction
  • Consultants

Industries that involve managing a large workforce of agents or resellers, all of whom have their own listings, clients, and sales:

  • Real estate firms
  • Automotive sales
  • Franchise management

How does an industry-specific CRM meet those needs?

Built-in features like these are what make these CRMs… well… industry-specific:

  • Proposal management features: These tools make it easy to build and send proposals right from your CRM platform. You’ll find this feature in construction CRMs and consulting CRMs.
  • Dealer management system (DMS): Also called an auto dealership management system. This software lets automotive dealerships and equipment manufacturers manage listings, wholesale customers, and more. Any automotive CRM worth its salt has DMS as a main feature.
  • Listing management tools: If you work in real estate, you need to manage agents, listings, and leads. This keeps all listing and lead info in one place and helps automate the real estate management process. Real estate CRMs often integrate with listing management tools.
  • Electronic health record (EHR) system: Healthcare is one of the most regulated industries — after all, your doctor knows some personal stuff about you. EHR systems are built with these regulations and patient privacy in mind. Many healthcare and insurance CRMs integrate directly with EHRs to let you access patient information without violating policy (or privacy).

So, do you really need an industry-specific CRM?

Vertical CRMs are great for all of the reasons we just mentioned, but they have their limitations:

1. They’re often more expensive than horizontal CRMs. You pay extra for the industry expertise built into the platform. Most vertical CRMs have higher licensing fees than their generic counterparts.

2. They have generic workflows. This might sound counterintuitive since they aren’t “generic CRMs.” But many vertical CRMs assume one size fits all when it comes to your industry. These platforms offer fewer options for automations, custom fields, reporting, and displays.

Industry-specific CRMs tend to have everything built out in super-specific ways with limited (if any!) options to customize it for your business.

This is the kind of sarcasm I need when talking about industry-specific CRMs. (via GIPHY)

3. They offer limited user roles. Does your company follow the exact same organizational structure as every other company in your industry? No way!

But industry-specific CRMs often treat user roles like every company has exactly the same job titles and needs exactly the same levels of access. This makes it harder to give the right people on your team access to the information they need.

So, what’s the better alternative? You don’t need an industry-specific CRM, you need a flexible CRM.

Automate your workflows — not some generic version of what the CRM company thinks you do

You know your company best. You shouldn’t have to change your day-to-day workflows to fit the mold of some way-too-specific industry CRM.

A truly customizable CRM lets you build automations that reflect your business’s workflows — not the other way around.

One great way to make your CRM your own? Custom fields. Custom fields store and represent contact data within a contact record. These fields let you build your workflows around the information that matters most for your business, including:

  • Type of pet contacts own
  • Twitter handle
  • Birthday
  • Number of siblings
  • Favorite ice cream flavor
  • Pretty much anything you can possibly think of!

If used correctly, custom fields can help you target contacts and customize their experience with your company, from first touch to close.

In ActiveCampaign, you can automatically change a custom field within an automation.

ActiveCampaign lets you use custom fields, lists, and tags to segment contacts and create personalized automations.

You can also use the “Field Changes” trigger to start an automation whenever a custom deal field changes.

Learn more about custom fields in this blog post.

Work smarter (not harder) with sales automations

Sales automations can stop sales tasks from piling up or falling through the cracks. Assign tasks and distribute leads to your sales team based on what’s important to your business — not a generic industry standard.

In this automation, an ActiveCampaign user chooses to assign tasks to their sales team based on deal value.

If the deal value is above $500, the CRM will automatically assign a task for a salesperson to call the lead. If the deal value is below $500, the lead will automatically be entered into a nurture campaign.

ActiveCampaign lets you automatically assign leads to different sales team members based on:

  • A round robin format
  • Lead score
  • Win probability
  • Territory
  • Deal value
  • Any custom field you want!

Let’s say you distribute leads based on company size. Here’s how automatic lead distribution works:

  1. A lead submits a form on your website requesting more information about your company
  2. In the form, you collect information on business size. This lead’s company has 20 employees.
  3. Your CRM automatically assigns this new lead to Salesperson B, who works with companies who have between 0 and 30 employees
  4. Salesperson B receives a notification and a task assignment to follow-up with the lead with a phone call

With the right CRM, you can also automate lead scoring. When it comes to lead scoring, most industry-specific CRMs are seriously lacking.

Lead scoring helps you prioritize leads based on:

  • How likely they are to close
  • How much they’re likely to spend
  • How quickly they’re likely to close

With ActiveCampaign, you can score leads based on pretty much anything, including:

  • Any contact field (including custom fields!)
  • Email behavior (opens, clicks, forwards, replies, etc.)
  • Website behavior (pages visited, time on page, etc.
  • Form submissions

Increase or decrease lead scores based on how important you rank each activity.

Almost-endless options for custom automations mean you can adapt lead scoring to your processes and people. Nothing generic about it.

Even more (customizable) features to explore

Migration services: Looking for a better horizontal CRM? Already using a vertical CRM, but ready to switch? Migration services make it easy to move over from your current CRM to one that better fits your needs.

If you’re moving over from an industry-specific CRM, you can migrate all of your workflows, contacts, and custom fields — even if your new CRM is “generic.”

Integration options: Sure, some industry-specific CRMs have built-in tools for proposal creation or dealer management. But do they give you access to every tool you need?

Choose a CRM that integrates with all of the tools you already use — and helps you discover new ones in just a few clicks. For instance, ActiveCampaign integrates with over 250 apps to make sure you have everything you need at your fingertips.

Conclusion: Do you need an industry-specific CRM?

It comes down to this: The right CRM for your business is the one that lets you automate and customize pretty much everything. Your CRM system should save you time and make your job easier — not tell you how to run your business.