Building a CRM System for an Early-Stage Startup: My Step-by-Step Guide

Jonathan Canizales
Founder's Associate
Sales Operations

Managing customer relationships can be a daunting task, especially when sticky notes and spreadsheets no longer cut it. Recently, I built a simple yet powerful CRM system for an early stage start-up. This experience taught me valuable lessons that I want to share with anyone looking to build a CRM system of their own. So, if you're a startup founder or business professional seeking a more efficient way to handle your customer relationships, this blog post is here to give you an easy to follow and actionable step-by-step roadmap to streamline your own CRM system.

Step 1 - Identify the pain point:

The startup had reached a critical point where relying on spreadsheets and mental notes was no longer sufficient. Managing customer relationships had become a labour-intensive and time-consuming task. Ready to scale up, the startup was now seeking a CRM system capable of efficiently handling larger lead volumes with greater efficiency and automation.

Step 2 - Clarify your objective:

By pinpointing the pain point, I clarified my objective: automating and streamlining the startup's CRM processes to optimize time and resources. Recognizing your objective is crucial prior to developing processes as it ensures a clear focus on addressing the core issue rather than building overcomplicating processes.

Step 3 - Pick the right type of CRM system:

There are 3 types of CRM systems:


An analytical CRM system uses analytics and data  techniques to analyze customer data and derive meaningful insights. It helps businesses understand customer behavior, segment customers, predict outcomes, and optimize marketing strategies. By leveraging data-driven insights, an analytical CRM system enables organizations to make informed decisions and enhance customer relationships.


A collaborative CRM system focuses on facilitating collaboration and communication within an organization, as well as with external stakeholders. It enables teams to share customer information, collaborate on sales and service processes, and coordinate efforts to deliver a unified customer experience. By promoting collaboration and knowledge sharing, a collaborative CRM system enhances teamwork, strengthens customer relationships, and improves overall organizational efficiency.


An operational CRM system facilitates the management of customer interactions, sales processes, and service operations. It centralizes customer data, automates sales and marketing tasks, and supports customer service activities. With features such as contact management, sales automation, and customer support, an operational CRM system helps businesses streamline operations, improve customer service, and enhance sales performance.

Given the startup's priority of eliminating inefficiencies and maintaining momentum for growth, I chose an operational CRM system to focus on automation and streamlining the CRM process. This was to ensure that the business could move forward smoothly without being hindered by time-consuming and ineffective processes.

Tip 1: I learnt about the different types of CRM systems here:

Step 4 - Create a touchpoint map:

Using Miro, I created a visual map of all the touch-points where the startup could engage with potential leads. Within this map, I included two pieces of key information: where the touch-point was and what information was collected at the touch-point.

Here is an example of the startup's touchpoints and information collected:


  • Newsletter Signup Form
  • Website Application Form
  • Eventbrite Event Sign Ups
  • Contact Us Form
  • Online Partnership Portal
  • Calendly Bookings
  • Email Enquiries
  • and more…

Information collected at each touchpoint:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Company
  • and more…

This touchpoint map served two important purposes. Firstly, it ensured that all touchpoints were connected to the CRM - preventing any leakage (there's nothing worse than realising later on that contacts have been leaking out of your funnel and not getting to your CRM tool). Secondly, it provided a clear understanding of the information collected at each touchpoint. This knowledge was crucial when designing structure within the CRM tool and mapping data between different tools through automations. By having this map, the process of designing structure and transferring data later down the line became easier and more efficient.

Tip 2: Having a clear visualisation of data is powerful when it comes to segmenting contacts within the CRM tool. By keeping segmentation in mind from the start it becomes easier to personalize engagement with customers as you move forward!

Step 5 - Choose your tool:

My top tool picks were

  1. Folk
  2. Hubspot

When choosing a tool, my strategy focused on my objective and which tool could help me achieve it.

I identified three essential requirements based on my overall objective:

  • Integrability: The ability to integrate with many other tools for streamlining and automating operations.
  • Versatility: Since the startup operates in various areas like event planning, sales, partnerships, and investor outreach, I needed a tool that could cater to multiple use-cases.
  • Affordability: With scalability in mind, I sought a tool that would remain cost-effective regardless of scale and more specifically lead volume.

After thorough research, review crawling and testing it myself, I went with Folk. Upon reflection, my only gripe with Folk is automations only go one way; you can push data to Folk but you can't push data from Folk.

Tip 3: G2 and Product Hunt are my go to place to find real world, honest software reviews from people who are using these tools day to day.

Tip 4: If you go for Hubspot, don’t pay the upfront pricing, contact their sales department and negotiate hard! They are very open to negotiating which means regardless of size with a bit of back and forth you can get a great deal!

Step 6: Plan the CRM structure and automated data flow:

Again, I used Miro to map out the CRM tool structure and the information flow.

The CRM tool structure:

This is the design of the database itself such as, number of columns, column titles, types of contact tags, contact grouping etc.

I made this task quick and easy by utilizing the touchpoint map previously created in step 4. I used it to form groups that leads would be automatically assigned to based on the touchpoints they interacted with.

For this particular startup these groups included:

  • Experts/Advisory
  • Investors
  • Mailing List
  • Partnerships
  • Prospects
  • Other Relationships

With these groups laid out it becomes clear how engagement can be ultra-personalised based on the what type of group your lead has been pushed to!

Automated data flow:

This is a fancy way of saying that I documented every instance where an automation transferred information from point A to point B. For instance, when a lead completes a 'Register Interest Form' on the website, their information needs to be sent to the 'Mailing List' segment in the CRM tool. This automation takes information from a touchpoint to the CRM tool, I would not this down as: WIX → Zapier → Folk!

By writing and planning automations before implementing them, I was able to maintain a lean approach to avoid creating redundant connections between tools. This was crucial in preventing the automation setup from becoming overly complex and messy, which becomes a huge hindrance during the scaling process.

Tip 5: Zapier only allows 5 automations on the free plan so use them wisely!

Step 7 - Carry out end-to-end testing:

And with that, my work was complete! I published all the automations and proceeded to thoroughly test each information flow before handing over ownership to the startup!

And that wraps up my journey of building a CRM process. If you need to build a CRM system, I hope this guide has provided you with valuable insights and a clear starting point. If you are not at the stage where you need a CRM system, I hope this has given you some insight into the things I do day-to-day as a Founder’s Associate!

Remember, efficient CRM processes can be the backbone of successful customer engagement and business growth, so if you are not sure whether your CRM system is working for you or if you have any other questions drop me a message on Linkedin.

Happy building!

Jonathan Canizales
Founder's Associate
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