How To Get Started Customizing Zoho CRM Without Creating A Mess That's Expensive To Fix Later

I get it. Sometimes you just don't have the budget to bring in an expert. 

However, there are mistakes many make at the beginning that wind up costing a lot of time and money to clean up later when they try to take advantage of some of the great Automation features in Zoho CRM and use it for more than just a digital rolodex.

I want to spare you that pain as much as possible. So when you do hire me or another Zoho Developer, we can spend less time (and your money) fixing broken stuff,  instead focus on adding awesome stuff that will make you money.

So, Here are a few tips to help you avoid some of those pitfalls. Some of these might seem basic, but these are based upon my real experiences helping customers fix poorly designed systems.

  1. If you can't yet afford a developer, try to invest some time in learning what you can so you can do things right yourself. Zoho has hundreds of help pages that can guide you. I've also created a more detailed guide for beginners (contact us for details), that goes beyond these basic. The more you can learn, the more you can do on your own properly. Try not to get in over your head - Sometimes it's more cost effective to let the experts build it with you, if you factor in the worth of your own time. 
  2. Use the correct field types. Don't just use Single Line Text Fields. Look at some of the other options and use what is appropriate. For instance, use Date type fields for Date data. This will become important later if you want to create reports or automations.
  3. Use Picklist fields for data you want to easily categorize for future reports or automation triggers. This is similar to above. If you have a field like status or product interest field, use a picklist field type, not a Single Line Text Field.  Users can type anything, including misspellings in Single Line fields. If you want report filters and groupings or automation triggers that will work when you design them in the future, use Pick List Field types.
  4. If you want to move data from Leads to Contacts, Accounts and Deals when they convert, use the same field names in each module. This will avoid later confusion and make it easier to set up your Lead Conversion Mapping (This moves data from the Leads module to the Contacts, Account, and/or Deals Modules when you hit the Convert button on a Lead Record). One of the best ways to do this, is to first plan out the fields you want and then make them in the Leads Module first. When you add a field to the Leads Module the first time, you will have the option to also create those fields in the other modules automatically!
  5. Don't Mess with creating multiple Layouts for your modules, unless you really know all the pros and cons. If you are new to Zoho CRM, just don't mess with them for now.
  6. Think through your main business processes at a basic level at least and then reflect that in the Status PickList field for that module. This will make setting up the powerful Blueprints feature so much easier later.
  7. Before you start adding fields, check out the existing ones to see if what you want is already there. This will avoid screen clutter and confusion.
  8. Install and use the Zoho Workdrive Extension from the Marketplace. This is usually preferable to using file-upload fields or the attachments section simply because it offers you so much more storage space. If you use those other methods and want to switch later, you will need a developer that knows how to write Deluge code, which will cost you.
  9. Is some of your data sensitive? You really should spend some time setting up your security policies, user groups, user profiles and then access rights for modules and fields. Also, keep in mind that Encrypted Fields are a field type you can add to a module. This will give you added protection in case your system is ever hacked. Do this in the beginning because when you get busy later, it's easy to keep putting it off.
  10. Before creating new modules, learn about the existing default modules. It's likely that what you want has already been anticipated. Besides, if you are thinking of creating modules you are really in a place where you should bring on a real Zoho Developer, or really take the time to become one yourself. It's a lot easier to design your data relationships right in the beginning than to have to move things around later.
  11. Don't get mesmerized by all the features and options. Just because it's there does not mean you need to be using it yet, or ever. Let your needs and business processes drive your customization. Keep things simple so you can stay productive and profitable. Set aside some of that profit to bring in a Zoho Developer later. Set aside some of that profit to bring in a Zoho Developer later. Set aside some of that profit to bring in a Zoho Developer later. 
  12. Mapping out your ideal business processes is more important than the technology you use to support them. Get a firm sense of these (what they are now and what you want them to be with the help of Zoho), and let the propeller-heads focus on translating those into the tech. When you bring in a Zoho Developer, they are going to start with getting you to document your business processes and needs in detail. The more of this you have worked out before-hand, the more time and money you will save yourself when you start to work with a Zoho expert.
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