What is best for Your Business – Horizontal or Vertical CRM?


CEO, Commence Corporation

Most businesses today, large or small, are trying to address the same business challenges: reduce cost, improve employee productivity, and increase profits.  CRM software has been hyped as the answer to this challenge, and it seems companies have bought into the concept based on the continued growth of this industry.  CRM comes in all shapes and sizes from free offerings to expensive solutions specifically designed to fit a specific industry segment.  How can you determine which CRM solution is best suited for your business?  Perhaps it is best to start with what you are trying to achieve.  While most companies focus their energy on a feature and function comparison it is just as important to determine which type of CRM solution may best serve your business. There are two types of CRM software:

  • Horizontal CRM products
  • Vertical based CRM solutions

Horizontal CRM products

Designed to address the core requirements of companies across multiple industries

The CRM manufacturers that offer these products are looking to sell their solution to as many companies as possible regardless of industry.  What you will find here is a myriad of low cost programs that offer basic functionality, and expensive programs with expanded features that you can customize to your requirements.

It is important to note that because horizontal solutions are designed for the masses, customization can be costly if you need to address internal business processes (often referred to as workflow).  While the lower cost solutions offer minimal customization, some very good middle-market and enterprise level products support this.

I refer to horizontal CRM products as “an inch deep and a mile wide” which means the good ones have a ton of features, but very few have been designed to address industry specific requirements.  These products are good at automating generic requirements for contact management, sales, marketing, and customer service.

Vertical based CRM solutions

Designed to address industry-specific requirements


You will find vertical solutions in finance, construction, health care, manufacturing, and transportation industries for example.  These products are often quite expensive, but typically include built-in workflow processes, rules, and best practices for your specific industry.  Everything from the screen design to the product’s nomenclature is industry specific.

These products are “a mile deep, but only an inch wide” which means they will have functionality specific to your business, but may not be as comprehensive in other areas. One of the advantages of selecting a vertical based solution is that you may not require extensive customization; however, every business is different so some tailoring may be required.

If your business objective is to manage accounts and contacts more efficiently, improve your sales effectiveness, and provide better customer service then a quality horizontal CRM solution will serve you well.

If however, you are seeking a solution where you need to automate specific internal business processes – a vertical industry-based solution may be a better choice.

Images by Simon Howden/freedigitalphotos.net

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