What does the CRM acronym mean and what’s the definition in 2023?

What’s the simple definition of CRM?

If you’re in tech or marketing, you probably hear the term CRM all the time. But you might be wondering, what does CRM stand for?

The acronym CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management (CRM). People broadly refer to a CRM as a business software system for managing your company’s customers, relationships, interactions, and data.

Definition of CRM - Customer Relationship Management.
CRM definition by Winnona Partners

The evolution of CRM meaning

Traditionally, the main goal of customer relationship management is to organize your client outreach and communication, and use analytics to assess your process.

The concept of customer relationship management emerged in the 1980s. At that time, companies sought to measure customer satisfaction with annual feedback surveys or in-person interviews.

In the 1990s, more companies began seeing the value of offering perks or discounts based on customer information they collected. As a result, these companies experienced a higher volume of repeat sales and recurring customers.

As the industry advanced, different types of customer relationship management systems and strategies came about. Simply put, CRMs are valuable for managing customer interaction.

The three common types of CRMs include: operational, analytical, and collaborative.

Defining CRM in 2023

However, in recent years, CRM tools have evolved to become much more than just customer outreach platforms. Businesses may start with a hodgepodge of services like Gmail, an Excel spreadsheet, and some form of social media outreach.

Example of a modern customer relationship management system on laptop
Modern CRM Example

In 2023, the trend is to combine all of these business processes into one powerful customer relationship management software system. You can achieve this by using a CRM enterprise company such as Salesforce or HubSpot, or by developing your own CRM software system.

It’s important to note that companies are continually redefining the term CRM in significant ways. Most recently, people are incorporating the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning models into their CRMs to gain better insights, speed, and functionality.

Here’s some of the most popular custom CRM features we build for small businesses in 2023:

  • Sort, filter, and search for any employee or customer
  • Contact management
  • Easily manage employee tasks
  • Schedule notification reminders
  • Assist marketing efforts
  • Shorten sales cycles
  • Integrate and streamline scheduling procedures
  • Generate forms and auto-fill PDF fields
  • Automate complex business processes all in one place
  • Collect and organize customer data
  • Improve customer experiences

These are just some of the popular custom CRM solutions we implement when building a system from scratch. This high level of CRM customization can help your sales team, marketers, finance team, and management alike!

In conclusion, the term CRM has a broad definition. In 2023, the acronym CRM can mean different things depending on who you’re talking to.

What are some Customer Relationship Management system options?

Ready CRMs – Enterprise SaaS

Companies like Salesforce, HubSpot, and Monday are some of the most popular “out of the box” enterprise SaaS platforms. People also refer to these as “Ready CRMs” or “General Purpose CRMs”.

Ready CRMs are subscription based, meaning they charge annual or monthly fees based on various factors and tiers of service.

Common Enterprise SaaS Limitations

Although an initial enterprise account fee might be low, the cost scales dramatically over time.

Here’s some of the limits that can increase your monthly cost when using an enterprise SaaS system:

  • The number of users per account
  • Access to certain types of services and features
  • The amount of data you need to extract every month
  • How often you need to use certain features each month

Therefore, it’s easy to imagine how many companies end up paying several thousand dollars per month to use systems like Salesforce or HubSpot.

Industry-Specific CRMs

Alternatively, some businesses opt to use an industry-specific CRM rather than using a ready CRM option like those listed above.

Niche industries like real estate, healthcare, and insurance brokers like to use industry-specific CRMs. Check out our full list of industry-specific CRMs for more information..

These white label options might be beneficial if you’re a small branch in an industry with a well-defined customer acquisition and workflow.

Custom CRM Development

Finally, other companies like to develop their own custom CRM system from scratch.

Developing your own CRM software system may cost more upfront, but in the long run you can save money by avoiding expensive monthly or annual fees.

You can learn even more in our related article: Custom CRM Development for Businesses: The Essential Guide

CRM example on laptop computer made by Winnona Partners

Moreover, with a custom system you can build the technology to fit your exact business process and customer needs. As a result, you’ll have a streamlined, personalized, and scalable system automating your business process.


After reading this article, you now know that the CRM acronym stands for customer relationship management system. If you want to find out if developing your own CRM platform is right for you, we’ll be happy to help you!

To find out more about the custom software development process, contact us today.

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By Jonathan Richter

Jonathan is CEO of Winnona Partners, a custom software development company that specializes in helping business owners navigate the digital transformation process. He's also a classical guitarist, and has studied Chinese language, music and culture extensively. Learn more at https://www.winnonapartners.com

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