CRM Integrations Explained in Plain English
PLUS HOW A GOOD INTEGRATION CAN ADD
REVENUE TO YOUR BOTTOM LINE
You probably never thought you’d grow up and discover that customer relationship management (and the CRM systems that make the job easier) is an important part of your life.
Neither did I.
But over the years of using a CRM in my business, I’ve learned that there are a number of ways in which CRM integrations can make your life easier… or break the bank, drive you and your team crazy, and muck things up.
In this guide, we’ll go over exactly what CRM integration means, how to do it right, and all of the ways you can leverage it to have a smoother running business.
Let’s dive in!
What exactly is CRM Integration, anyway?
Your CRM system is the main hub where you store all of the most important information about your customers and prospects.
... so a CRM integration is a way for a third party tool to pass data back to your CRM hub (and vice versa) so you can save time, automate, and serve your clients better.
Think of it like this:
CRM integration is when you add different spokes that connect back to your hub of information. In an ideal world, each integration enriches your understanding of your clients, and provides both you and them with a better experience.
PEELING BACK THE CURTAIN
How do CRM integrations typically work?
Sure, it's a little technical. But before you evaluate the different integrations, it helps to understand how a CRM integration works under the hood.
An API stands for Application Programming Interface, which is a fancy way of saying that one piece of software knows how to communicate directly with another.
The way built-in APIs set up your CRM’s integration is very direct, and leaves little room for error.
There’s no middle-man between your CRM and the serve you’re integrating with, and unless one company changes their APIs overnight (which is rare!) then this is the most stable form of integration.
A webhook is another jargon-y term, but it’s used when one service doesn’t have API access to another… but it does have a way to send data to it.
For example, your CRM might send a webhook to a 3rd party to pass updated contact information, like tags that have been applied or removed. The receiving web service knows exactly what to do with the data, since the webhook was sent following their parameters.
They’re also sometimes called “pings” or “HTTP Posts”, since that’s the mechanism under the hood that sends data through a browser call. (See how to use webhooks here)
I hesitate to include Zapier under types of CRM integrations. Zapier is a great service that can connect two different systems together, and can be super convenient to link up your tools. However, it might not be the best for time-sensitive data or private customer data.
The reason I bring this up is that a third-party tool like Zapier doesn't have full control over the other two endpoints, and you might experience delays or even outages from time to time.
This means that your data will be compromised and you might miss important notifications or updates, causing communication issues with your prospects and customers.
Custom Coded CRM Integrations
Another option that comes up often when there’s no direct CRM integration for the two systems to need is to “hire someone" to code a custom integration.
We have a term around here to describe this type of custom coded integration work: golden handcuffs.
First, you’ll pay a pretty penny to have custom development work done to integrate two systems.
Often, you’ll hire someone who has never coded this particular combination of platforms together (because if someone had done it before, it might be available as an integration product in the marketplace!).
Beyond the initial cost of custom-coding an integration comes the maintenance cost.
If you don’t keep the original developer on board after the integration is set up, finding someone else to work on it if things change or stop working will be expensive. And stressful, because again you’ll need to pay someone to come up to speed on the new code, too.
Yup, golden handcuffs - you’re fine with it while it works, but if you want to update or change things you’re stuck. Every move costs you more.
Should You Integrate Your CRM with Marketing Automation Software?
I’m about to dive into all of the different types of CRM integrations that could benefit your business tremendously, but before I get to that…
It’s important to note that not all CRMs have a great email marketing automation suite.
In fact, I suspect that most older and well established CRMs are lacking in the email marketing automation department.
If that’s the case, and you’re using a system that makes it really hard to do any type of customer and prospect segmentation or sophisticated email automation… you might need to integrate your CRM with a stand-alone email automation platform.
However, if you’re not tied to your existing CRM, I would strongly recommend taking a look at some more modern all-in-one style CRMs that include marketing automation at its’ core.
For example, you might realize that SalesForce doesn’t have the level of email marketing automation you need. Fair enough, this CRM was designed before automation was really “a thing”.
Making the decision to ditch your existing CRM or to integrate it with a best-in-class email marketing automation tool is a tough one.
I can’t make it for you, but know that if you feel stuck or stifled by the capabilities of your current CRM, it’s worth investigating the time and cost involved in doing a CRM migration.
17 CRM integrations that can benefit your business
Now let’s dive into the different types of CRM integrations that could save you time, money, and also help your business grow and scale more easily!
Remember, you don’t need ALL of these CRM integration options, just pick and choose the ones that make sense for your business model and team.
1. CRM Payment Integration
If your CRM system doesn’t have built-in payment processing capabilities, then you’ll want to integrate with a payment system.
That might be done through things like Stripe, PayPal, a WordPress subscription plugin, a 3rd party shopping cart, or other billing systems.
This one comes at the top of the list for a reason: without a payment integration, your business isn’t making money and it’s hard to keep track of which clients have paid and how much.
2. CRM Event Integration
If you run live or in-person events then having an event integration is going to save you a ton of headaches.
Having run events myself for many years, I understand how important this integration is and how it can help you sell more event tickets and also make sure people show up to your event!
3. CRM Booking & Scheduling Integration
Another common CRM integration that can add dollars to your bottom line is your booking and scheduling system.
Maybe you need to book consulting calls, pre-sale meetings, or in-person appointments. Having this data in your CRM helps you stay on top of leads and customers, and can even make sure people show up for their appointments!
If you already have a scheduling tool, then you might do a search to see if there’s already an integration for your CRM.
You might also look at your specific business niche, for example the
Mind Body platform is great for fitness class booking.
4. CRM Customer Support Integration
If you run a higher volume business, you likely have a customer support system already. Being able to integrate your CRM with your customer support data makes answering questions easier, because you have all of the data you need right at your fingertips.
So instead of treating every customer as a stranger, you know exactly how long they’ve been doing business with you, and what actions they’ve taken recently.
Some customer support integration options for your CRM include: HelpScout, Kayako which also includes live chat, and the ever-popular CRM integrated ZenDesk. Of course if you prefer to integrate with Gmail there are options for that too.
5. CRM Accounting Integration
Every business needs to pay taxes and keep up with their book keeping, so your CRM should integrate with your account systems.
Or your CRM might offer these integrations out of the box.
6. CRM Membership Integration
If you run a membership focused business, then you’ll want to find a CRM integration for managing members and their access.
Depending on your membership site model, you might opt for a hosted membership platform or run your own membership on a content management system like WordPress.
The key thing to keep in mind when it comes to choosing a membership solution is whether the CRM integration is one way or if it can allow your members to update their information in your CRM themselves, too.
Take a look at how AccessAlly handles CRM integration for membership sites here.
7. CRM Social Integration
Every business is on social media these days (whether you want to be or not!). So being able to pull in your company’s social media integrations and match these back to your prospects and customers means you can make better decisions.
There are also social listening and social campaign focused tools like Sprout Social that are worth checking out.
8. CRM Analytics Integration
This is a big CRM integration that many businesses overlook, but it can make or break your marketing budget if you’re not tracking the right metrics.
Of course, depending on what other systems you’re already integrating with, you might have built-in metrics too.
9. CRM LMS Integration
When it comes to adding a Learning Management System (LMS) component to your business, whether it’s to train your own team internally or to sell courses online… you need to make sure it works with your existing CRM.
Some CRMs have more LMS integrations than others, so this is where doing your research and comparing CRMs before you settle comes in. If you're planning to use a WordPress LMS plugin, you've got to think about what's most important to sync between the two systems.
10. CRM Voice & SMS Integration
Let’s face it, email isn’t the only form of business communication… these days voice and text messaging are just as important and effective.
At this point in our CRM integration list, I would like to diffuse your overwhelm… you don’t need to add ALL of these integrations to your business.
In fact, I would recommend only adding one new CRM integration at a time and really mastering it before adding another one. That way, you’re going to maximize your investment and make the most of what you already have before spending another dime.
11. CRM Shipping Integration
If you run a retail business or you need to ship things like marketing materials, gifts, or other items in the mail then having a shipping integration is going to make your life so much easier.
You’ve also got fulfillment services like eFulfillment, that come with built-in CRM integrations at no additional costs.
If you have already a shipping provider, then do some research to see if there’s an existing integration you can tap into.
12. CRM Advertising Integration
If you’re doing any form of online advertising, like on Google AdWords, YouTube, Facebook, or other platforms - then knowing how your advertising dollars convert to sales in your CRM is key.
There are some great ways to connect your CRM data back into your advertising suite. For example, with Ontraport you can automatically tell your Facebook Ads account when someone purchase, so you don’t need to continue to spend your ad budget promoting to this customer.
Since every business leverages advertising in different ways, you’ll want to do a little more research to make the best decision here.
13. CRM Legal & Contracts Integration
If you need clients to sign contracts in order to close deals, then integrating your CRM with a legal or digital signature system will cut down on all the manual work.
In terms of supported CRM integrations, Hello Sign has the clear advantage in this race. But it’s also worth checking with your existing CRM because they might have a built-in digital signature system, too.
14. CRM Live Chat Integration
Live chat is all the rage, because prospects and customers want instant answers and they’re used to messaging with friends and family.
There’s no lack of live chat options, both built-into CRM systems themselves, as well as add-on solutions that might also come with your customer support tool.
This type of CRM integration is only worth considering if you have the man or woman-power to dedicate to it. You’ll need someone who is available to field questions and answer live chat requests, which might take additional resources away from other tasks.
15. CRM Landing Page Integration
How do you get people “into” your CRM in the first place? Most likely they’re joining your world by opting into your email marketing platform through a landing page.
Some CRMs come with built-in landing page builders, while others choose to integrate with other landing page options instead.
16. CRM Survey Integration
Gathering more insights from your prospects and customers can make you a smarter business person. But if all of the quiz and survey data you collect stays in its own silo, then you won’t benefit as much from it.
To make the most of your surveys and quizzes, consider adding a CRM integration.