Background on Sparkrock
Zak: Can you start by telling us about Sparkrock and what the company does?
Melissa: We are a software specializing in serving the back office for nonprofits, covering finance, HR, employee scheduling and payroll. Our mission is to reduce administrative burden for these nonprofits, who are typically starving around process and technology, so that they can focus on their missions as nonprofits. Our technology is built and customized around the Microsoft Dynamics platform.
Zak: What businesses and people do you target?
Melissa: We serve all nonprofits, but tend to specialize in human services and K-12 school boards. We are typically targeting heads of finance and HR, as well as executive directors.
Zak: As Director of Marketing, what are your key areas of focus and responsibility?
Melissa: Lead generation is a key area, working with our sales team to build pipeline. Another key area is awareness.
We just rebranded the company in the past year, and since we are a Canadian company expanding to the US market, raising the overall awareness of Sparkrock is a key objective.
Zak: Rebranding projects are always interesting. What was the main driver for you in rebranding?
Melissa: As we prepared for US expansion, it made us stop and think about our name and brand. Our original name, Altus Dynamics - wasn’t that unique and didn’t have significant meaning to our market or our product.
This time, we wanted something that would stand out more and be more memorable - something that evoked a product, and not a services organization. We chose Sparkrock as a combination of the ‘spark’ that our customers, Nonprofits, bring to the world, and the ‘rock’ as the solid software foundation that we provide. Sparkrock is what you get when you bring them together.
Sales & Marketing Approach: Move to Account Based Marketing
Zak: You mentioned lead generation as a primary objective for marketing. What has been your approach for generating demand?
Melissa: When I joined a couple years ago, our initial focus was to ramp inbound marketing. We setup our marketing automation system and processes, we’ve built out content, created thought leadership and focussed on SEO.
Recently we’ve coupled that with an account-based marketing focus. We have a tightly defined addressable market, as within the nonprofit sector you need to have an operating budget of at least $10 million annually for Sparkrock to be a strong fit.
Zak: We’re hearing that from a lot of customers. What are some of the components of your account-based marketing?
Melissa: We’ve built out a target account list and our programs are now more focussed on reaching and engaging the key contacts at those accounts. Some of the ways we are doing that are through content, events, webinars & online advertising, all in conjunction with BDR outreach.
Sales & Marketing Software: Starts with Microsoft Dynamics
Zak: Can you walk us through what sales & marketing systems you are using to support your demand generation?
Melissa: Our tech foundation is Microsoft, since we’re a Microsoft partner. So we use Microsoft Dynamics 365 as our CRM.
Shortly before I started, the company brought on HubSpot as its marketing software, and I joined as we were implementing it. Prior to this, we were using a marketing software native to Microsoft CRM, but it wasn’t a robust enough marketing tool. The company decided to invest in HubSpot to be able to execute more inbound marketing and lead nurturing, and when we re-branded we also moved our website to HubSpot as our CMS.
Zak: As you rolled out HubSpot, how did your company think about the need for HubSpot and Microsoft Dynamics to be integrated?
Melissa: We knew integration was a must-have. All of our customer data lives in CRM, and it’s what our sales team. professional services team and customer success team are using throughout the day. Most of our company is entrenched in CRM. We knew that we wanted our marketing team to be living in HubSpot, but we needed a way to automatically remain in sync with the rest of company and data in Dynamics.
Integrating HubSpot and Microsoft Dynamics
Zak: How did you approach the HubSpot and Microsoft Dynamics integration?
Melissa: We had a license for a tool called Scribe that we thought might be able to do the job. The issue though was it was a very technical tool and the IT team member who was managing it left our company. The integration ended up breaking, and we just didn't have an easy way to get it working.
So for a period of time we were doing things manually, and that didn’t work either. We would pull lists of leads and send them to salespeople. That didn’t work because we realized our sales team is in the CRM, and not looking at spreadsheets. We also needed to pull data from Dynamics every time we wanted to do something like our customer newsletter. It was a headache and a lot of work.
Instead of going back to Scribe - since we didn’t have a technical resource to manage it - we took a fresh look at it and we found you guys at Bedrock Data. The pairing of on-boarding services and a tool that marketers can use was the right fit for us. So we said - ‘yes we need to do this.’
And it turned out to be a great fit - because your team provided us the on-boarding support to get up and running quickly - and we have a system we can use ourselves to make changes. We can go in and add a new field ourselves.
Zak: How have you set up the integration?
Melissa: Our marketing team works closely with our BDR team in generating new opportunities. That process runs entirely through HubSpot. We capture and manage leads, and do nurturing.
The BDR is responsible for creating an deal - which is done in HubSpot CRM. The threshold for creating an deal is someone that is BANT qualified to likely become a customer within six months - yes, we have a long sales process.
Bedrock Data takes that deal created in HubSpot, and pushes it over to Microsoft Dynamics and creates an opportunity there for the sales rep to work. It brings over the account, contact and opportunity information such as the stage and amount. And it ensures they are all matched up correctly when they get created and updated in Dynamics.
So it really is the bridge between our marketing and BDR teams and our sales teams.
Zak: What happens as sales advances the opportunity?
Melissa: We sync those updates back to HubSpot. We have a nice clean view on the HubSpot dashboard to see the opportunity and their status. So sales gets to use Dynamics, marketing gets to use HubSpot, and everyone is happy.
Zak: What are some of the other use cases for your integration?
Melissa: We also bring over our customer and account data from Dynamics to HubSpot, and use HubSpot’s Smartlists to segment. So we no longer need to deal with exporting and uploading lists, and we have the confidence to know our customer data in HubSpot is accurate and up to date.
The on-boarding team helped us think about other data we could bring over from Dynamics and use in HubSpot. We realized we could bring over product data - so we now know what products customers own, and we can do segmentation based on upsell or cross sell opportunities. We can also segment for communications around training based on customers using specific products.
There’s also a customer score value that we bring over, that we use for our advocacy and incentives program.
Zak: How would you characterize what Bedrock Data is doing for you on an ongoing basis for the HubSpot & Dynamics integration?
Melissa: It’s the connection between sales & marketing. We’re a slim team, and no one has time for data re-entry. Not having to manually enter data when the pass off happens is so key.
Bedrock Data lets marketing and BDRs work in HubSpot, and Sales work in Dynamics. But we are able to work effectively together because the data is in sync across the systems.