It’s chock-full of interesting findings that reinforce the improved performance and greater return on marketing dollars achieved by those marketing teams who excel at inbound. This year’s study delves deeper into the emergence of inbound as a sales strategy, which in turn heightens the importance of alignment between marketing and sales teams.
At Bedrock Data our laser focus is SaaS integrations, sothis finding from the 4,500 surveyed captured our attention:
The #1 challenge with using your CRM system is lack of integration with other tools
(tied with manual data entry at 17% of respondents)(Graphic from State of Inbound 2016)
CRM systems are the backbone of sales organizations, and today they are just as much a critical system for marketing success, since the leads marketing creates rely on execution in the CRM system to convert into opportunities and dollars. Sales and marketing revenue teams need closed loop reporting from their CRM to help make better investment decisions.
The CRM integration here refers to alignment with one or more other business systems including:
- Marketing automation
- Lead sources using third party tools such as webinars, events or list data
- Specialized sales tools such as power dialers
- Support and customer success
- Finance & billing
- SaaS Products
What options do businesses have for addressing this challenge, and integrating one or more of these systems with CRM? Let’s take a look at four options.
#1 - Native Connectors
SaaS software vendors tend to choose one, or maybe two, native connectors to develop, using their most popular integrated system pairing.
The advantage of a native connector is it’s free, or, more precisely, it’s included in the licensing cost of one of the systems.
Native connectors typically leverage an iFrame as part of the solution to display a frame of data to users of the integrated system. This isn’t ideal for a couple reasons: The users of the integrated system (usually the CRM) will typically be reluctant to adopt yet another interface embedded inside the interface of the CRM system they are used to.
And if the iFrame is done in lieu of exchanging data between the two systems, then the integrated system will lack the underlying data for its own reporting. In a typical integration both systems will need to provide reporting to their users, so it’s important that data is aligned between the two systems and not just “framed in”.
Another consideration is that native connectors usually go very long periods of time without being evolved by the software vendors, due to competing engineering priorities vs. new system features. Integrations are only relevant to a sub-set of a software company's user base (those who are also users of the complimentary system), while core product functionailty is used by 100% of the user base, so core functionality development will usually win out. In fact, Pardot recently announced they are dropping three of their native integrations due to competing engineering priorities.
Cons: Often lack engineering support; iFrame user experience has adoption challenges; iFrame often means less data is exchanged between the systems which inhibits reporting
#2 - Custom, Manual Integration
You have the option to hire a systems integrator or secure an internal team of engineering resources to custom code an integration between the APIs of two systems.
There are numerous issues with this approach – that go beyond even the time and cost of the development. There is risk that the project isn’t ever completed due to the specific requirements of APIs and the standards companies maintain around their APIs. The API specs for Force.com, for example, consist of over 500 pages of documentation! There is nothing easy about that.
What’s worse, if the project is delivered, it’s never truly complete as the data flow between the systems needs to be monitored and engineers will need to be available to troubleshoot issues. Plus, as business requirements evolve, engineering teams need to be at work again to further expand the APIs and data workflows to meet new requirements.
The question to ask yourself here is – do you have a team that’s available to develop and support these integrations? We are talking about a significant commitment in terms of dollars for a third party firm, or internal resources.
Pros: Shape to meet your requirements
Cons: Expensive; time consuming and resource intensive; significant IT project risk; requires ongoing management and troubleshooting; requires ongoing engineering resources to evolve
#3 - Point-to-Point Integration (Moving Data from System A to System B)
Point-to-Point Integration serve a specific simple use case well, but the needs of most CRM integrations extend beyond this simple use case.
A point-to-point integration is useful when you need to get a data record from one system to another, and the first system has no need to continue to maintain a continuous integration with that data record in the receiving system.
It’s a one-time push of data. That’s it.
The reason this falls short for most CRM integrations is the CRM system needs to maintain alignment with the integrated system. In the case of a Marketing Automation and CRM integration, for example, for a given lead or customer, both the sales team and marketing team are continuously engaging with and interacting with that customer, and data is being constantly added and changing. A website and a sales rep are learning more about that prospect through additional engagement, this requires updates to the aligned records in both systems.
A point-to-point integration of a CRM and Marketing Automation would be clunky, confusing and highly prone to duplicates.
Zapier, a popular point-to-point vendor, offers a clear warning of this scenario on the Common Problems page of its website, where they spell out these pitfalls of using Zapier:
Zapier does not support two-way syncing right now, for any App. This extends to the idea of keeping records up to date after the initial Trigger and Action occurs (it is not currently supported). Think of Zaps like one-way, one-time actions.
Cons: Cause duplicates and messy data, due to lack of support for data updates or bidirectional synchronization; will further break down for 3+ system integration requirements due to inability to update data
#4 - Bidirectional Synchronization Product
A bi-directional synchronization product (like Bedrock Data) helps you dodge the issues from the first three alternatives.
Vs. Native Connectors
- Supports a much wider range of system combinations
- Significant engineering resources are committed to continually evolve the product
- Data is aligned between both systems which means reporting can be done from either system
Vs. Manual Integrations
- Significant less time, cost and risk to setup
- Don’t need to take on the time or cost of managing, troubleshooting and evolving the integrations
Vs. Point-to-Point integrations
- Bi-directional synchronization ensures maximum data quality without creating duplicates between systems or misaligned data
- Aligned data means there is accurate reporting out of both systems to keep those teams aligned
If you are part of the 17% whose lack of CRM integration is their #1 challenge let us know if you’d like to take a look at Bedrock Data to experience the power of bidirectional synchronization.
Let’s get these CRM integrations straightened out so that by the time Inbound 2017 comes around, it’s no longer the top challenge on the list!
To download the full State of Inbound 2016 Report, visit the State of Inbound 2016 Microsite.