Credit card transactions showing CRM evolution in play, dramatizing the history of CRM in business.

CRM and Where It All Started With SaaS

14 min read
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Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is a popular type of business resource within the wider category of enterprise Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) options. 

Businesses use CRM in different ways. Some use it as part of a broader set of programs or as a standalone solution. Some CRM systems are accessed through the cloud, whereas others are held on-premises.

Either way, CRM represents a specific resource for businesses using new kinds of cutting-edge software to improve their operations.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The Genesis of CRM: Understand how CRM emerged as a concept, starting with the early days of customer databases and contact management systems. Discover how it has evolved into a comprehensive tool for managing customer relationships and driving business growth.

  2. The Rise of SaaS: Explore the advent of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and its significant impact on the CRM landscape. Learn how cloud-based CRM solutions have revolutionized accessibility, scalability, and affordability for businesses of all sizes.

  3. Enhanced Efficiency and Collaboration: Discover how CRM, as a SaaS solution, enables seamless collaboration and information sharing among teams. Experience the power of real-time data, integrated workflows, and streamlined processes, all contributing to increased productivity and efficiency.

  4. Scalability and Flexibility: Learn how SaaS-based CRM solutions offer scalability to accommodate the evolving needs of businesses. Easily scale up or down, customize features, and adapt CRM functionalities to match your specific requirements, all without the need for extensive IT infrastructure.

  5. Data Security and Accessibility: Gain insights into the robust security measures employed by reputable SaaS CRM providers. Learn about data encryption, regular backups, and secure access protocols that ensure the safety of your valuable customer data.

  6. Cost-Effectiveness: Explore the cost advantages of SaaS CRM solutions over traditional on-premises systems. Discover how subscription-based pricing models, reduced maintenance costs, and automatic software updates make SaaS CRM an affordable choice for businesses.

  7. Future Trends and Innovations: Stay ahead of the curve by understanding the emerging trends and innovations in the SaaS CRM space. From artificial intelligence and machine learning to advanced analytics and predictive insights, discover the exciting possibilities that lie ahead.

What Is CRM Within the Evolution of SaaS?

Customer relationship management tools store and manage information about a customer base to provide business insights and improve a company's relationship with its customers.

Broadly speaking, CRM is a way to promote closer relationships throughout the customer life cycle. Specifically, CRM houses certain data sets that salespeople and others can use to maintain customer relationships or establish touch points with customers or prospective customers.

CRM Evolution: CRM Dossier Designs

Many people speak about CRM tools as "putting a name with a face" and archiving a comprehensive set of data that helps identify a customer to people working inside a company.

In this dossier system, which is integral to CRM evolution, the CRM will typically have identifying information about the customer, along with data about that customer’s purchase history, preferences, past communications with the business, and other types of similar data.

Demographic data might also be included.

One of the most common ways to think about the history of CRM, and about using this data, involves a salesperson who might not remember much about the customer when it's time to call, email, or otherwise interact with that customer.

They access the CRM to get all of the relevant information, and using that information, they interact with the target customer more efficiently and profoundly. For example, that salesperson might reference the purchase history that's in the CRM if it's relevant to what the customer is doing in the present.

All of this creates a lot of new potential for businesses to reach customers and engage with them in better ways.

Benefits of a SaaS CRM System 

Many of the significant benefits of putting together a SaaS CRM system involve knowing more about customers and finding new ways to handle customer interactions.

There are two major ways this works:

  • Businesses use individual customer accounts to learn about a given customer.
  • Businesses use aggregated customer data to know an entire customer base or target audience.

Each approach has significant use cases for advertising, marketing, and sales conversion.

Another benefit of having one of these systems is the reputation it gives the business: many firms adopting CRM and embracing the evolution of CRM are seen as thought leaders in their industries.

Also, as mentioned, CRM can be integrated with other ERP software. The result is a “smart fabric” that works between a core data repository, middleware, and endpoint systems to drive better business intelligence.

Primary Uses of CRM

Regarding the evolution of SaaS and how it impacted CRM, here are some of the more popular use cases for this kind of enterprise technology.

Customer Tracking

One of the major uses of CRM (also central to CRM evolution) involves customer tracking. Companies can build a dossier with all sorts of information tracking individual customers. For example, the CRM account might have detailed information on attracting customers through beacons or other website tools. Certainly, the account can have a lot of detailed information about purchase history. If there are things that a customer has contributed to gamified environments, influencer platforms, or other extras, the CRM can archive that too. 

Targeted Marketing

CRM can also be used for targeted marketing and telemarketing that speaks to a particular customer. By using a range of demographic and identifying information from the database, marketing can be matched to a customer’s profile.

In considering CMR's utility for targeted marketing, it's also useful to think about cross-functional insights and reporting with CRM. Maybe the business has more than one department that's not integrated with another. The CRM can be the module that holds all of that aggregated information and breaks down the silos between those different environments.

Customer Automation

CRM can also be useful in customer automation processes. An automated process can check in with the CRM, get the required data, and use it to customize the ways that an automation engine accomplishes some kind of task. Through a process of applying automation in CRM evolution, engineers have found ways to really revolutionize how quickly and efficiently teams can navigate a sales funnel process. 

CRM and Talent Acquisition

This use for CRM doesn't really have to do with the customers at all.

By using CRM to develop good relationships with customers, businesses have found that it can also help source talent and recruit employees.

Easy application and interview tools are part of some vendor CRM products. These bring the same kinds of sophisticated relationship management to the employment process that others bring to customer relationships.

History of CRM: Where Did CRM Come From? 

Many experts would say customer relationship management basically emerged from a developing system of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software systems.

ERP is broader than just CRM — it encompasses all kinds of business software to handle product development, payroll, and much more. But CRM fits into that puzzle, too, and so people talk about CRM in the context of overall ERP packages for a business.

In some ways, modern CRM also emerged from SFA (salesforce automation) work.

The SalesForce cloud-based sales platform references this trend in literature talking about how active sales professionals saw the value of CRM evolution as those tools became available.

Some other sources contemplating the history of CRM talk about how the broader concept of CRM has been around longer than computers and how ancient societies practiced this kind of intelligence, albeit on paper. And then, with the development of the first mainframe machines, CRM went digital. Modern CRM, though, is predicated on the modern technologies that house big data and help with processes like lead generation.

What Led to the Evolution and Growth of CRM?

Many of the best new technologies that we've seen emerge over the last few decades have positively impacted CRM evolution and helped it grow and evolve within the ERP market.

One of the most commonly cited examples was the new idea, pioneered in the 1980s, that relational databases could be combined with marketing activities. This was one of the first iterations of the big data phenomenon, where businesses, over time, have used larger and larger data sets to do more with automated sales and call centers to act on the insights that the data brings. 

Database marketing was a key part of developing CRM solutions for businesses. Then, later, the cloud further revolutionized CRM and other tools by making available the idea of software as a service.

In many cases, the terms "cloud" and "software as a service" are rough synonyms for situations where vendors offer business technology through the internet. Instead of buying licenses out of a box and hosting everything on-site, companies leave the data in the vendor’s system and often pay for services on a subscription model.

People saw this type of service evolution as a key way to manage costs while also upgrading to more modern business operations.

A third advancement in the history of CRM had to do with something called data visualization.

The principle of data visualization holds that data is more digestible when it's in a visual dashboard than it is in a text-based Excel spreadsheet or other more basic structure.

Around the cloud era, the data sets that businesses used for CRM and more were getting bigger and bigger. It became harder and harder to read this data manually. Data visualization led to data dashboards that present all of the big data in easily understandable ways — with customizable visual charts and graphs and many different forms of detailed reporting.

All of these advances helped to promote newer and better types of CRM as this became more of an industry standard for businesses in an era of CRM evolution.

CRM Into the Future

As CRM continues to grow and evolve, people close to the industry are keeping an eye on the main ways vendors are likely to innovate.

One significant trend here is the move to integrate CRM more fully into a larger architecture. Although it's always been seen as a component of ERP, CRM has often been used as a standalone technology or at least one that doesn't readily communicate with other parts of the business architecture. Integration means breaking down the silos, streamlining better data handling workflows, and participating in a new approach to data called DataOps. A DataOps approach will fundamentally change how CRM works with other software packages. This goes along with the slightly more established concept of DevOps, which streamlines different kinds of software development, including CRM evolution and the development of CRM packages.

Another major innovation is the use of artificial intelligence. CRM systems are getting more automated, and with the ability to network with other components, artificial intelligence engines will have a more developed ecosystem in which to work. Artificial intelligence is surprising us with the ways that it can organize resources and use them to generate desired results with less human intervention.

Like other kinds of software as a service, CRM is an elastic and dynamic way to provide businesses with the capabilities they need to compete.

What Are the Stages of a Customer Relationship?

Business professionals can characterize the stages of a customer relationship in many different ways.

One model is to talk about a series of steps, like exploration – purchase – adoption – retention – expansion, where in the early stages, somebody is looking at a product or service. There is a fulcrum event where a purchase happens, and then in the later stages, the company continues to follow up to develop that relationship further.

There's also a somewhat more ambiguous set of identifiers that people often mention, called meet, know, trust, agree. These relate to helping businesses and their customers develop those relationships emotionally.

Some of these structures might be more simple, like a threefold sequence for awareness, delivery, and follow-up. 

In any case, the early stages of a customer relationship or sales funnel occur before a purchase is made. The latter stages occur after purchasing and are oriented toward additional purchases and a deepening of a superficial customer relationship.

The old adage of the used-car salesman applies to the CRM concept: “You don't sell someone a car; you sell them five cars over 20 years.”

With that in mind, the technologies are always improving, and CRM vendors are finding new ways to help businesses accomplish their goals with more features and capabilities.

FiveCRM Business Systems

The cutting-edge features of FiveCRM software help establish capabilities for businesses in some specific use cases. One of these is sales efficiency: refining workflows to focus on what’s important and what leads to conversion. Another related use case involves lead generation and, after that, lead management. There’s also a focus on account management with sufficient analytics to improve how the business handles its customer base through CRM.

Talk to FiveCRM at to get a demo of the product and understand how to ramp up for modern CRM that will supercharge your business.


Q: What is CRM, and how does it relate to SaaS?

A: CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, which refers to the practices, strategies, and technologies used to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle. SaaS, on the other hand, stands for Software-as-a-Service, which is a cloud-based software delivery model. CRM and SaaS are closely related as SaaS has transformed CRM into a flexible, accessible, and scalable solution delivered over the cloud.

Q: What are the advantages of using a SaaS-based CRM?

A: SaaS-based CRM offers several advantages, including:

  • Accessibility: Access your CRM data and tools from anywhere, at any time, as long as you have an internet connection.
  • Scalability: Easily scale up or down your CRM resources based on your business needs without the hassle of managing physical infrastructure.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Avoid high upfront costs associated with traditional CRM systems and pay a subscription-based fee that includes maintenance and updates.
  • Collaboration: Enable seamless collaboration and information sharing among teams, leading to better customer service and improved efficiency.
  • Automatic updates: Enjoy the benefit of automatic software updates, ensuring that you always have access to the latest features and enhancements.

Q: How secure is SaaS CRM?

A: Reputable SaaS CRM providers prioritize data security and implement robust measures to protect customer data. This includes data encryption, regular backups, secure access protocols, and adherence to industry-standard security practices. It is essential to choose a trusted CRM provider with a strong track record of data security.

Q: Can SaaS CRM be customized to match specific business requirements?

A: Yes, SaaS CRM solutions can be customized to align with specific business requirements. Most providers offer configurable options and flexible features that allow you to tailor the CRM system to your organization's unique processes and workflows.

Q: What happens to my data if I switch CRM providers or decide to discontinue using SaaS CRM?

A: When switching CRM providers or discontinuing SaaS CRM, reputable providers typically offer data export options to ensure you retain ownership of your data. Make sure to discuss data migration and export capabilities with your new CRM provider to ensure a smooth transition.

Q: How can SaaS CRM help improve customer relationships?

A: SaaS CRM provides a centralized platform to store and manage customer data, enabling businesses to gain deeper insights into customer behavior, preferences, and interactions. With this information at hand, businesses can personalize customer experiences, provide timely support, and nurture long-lasting relationships.

Q: Can SaaS CRM integrate with other business systems?

A: Yes, SaaS CRM solutions often offer integration capabilities to connect with other business systems such as marketing automation tools, email platforms, e-commerce platforms, and more. Integrations streamline data exchange, enhance productivity, and provide a holistic view of customer interactions.

Michael King says...

"I can’t think of a time where a client has requested something that we weren’t able to do with FiveCRM. Unlike most systems, it has a lot of flexibility."

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Managing Director, Senior Response


“Each client, and each of their campaigns, has its own unique specifications. We essentially needed to set up mini CRMs on one platform to meet those requirements.”

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Operations Director, Team Telemarketing

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