Which would you prefer: one puppy, or a whole roomful of puppies? We bet you chose the latter. That’s because, although one puppy by itself is great, a whole collection of puppies together is infinitely better. As the saying goes: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The same goes for software (yes, we just equated puppies with software). Each piece of software you have (assuming you chose a good vendor) is powerful in its own right. But together, they create a centralized, cohesive system that benefits your entire business.
Customer relationship management software (CRM) is one of the most commonly used categories of business software. Therefore, CRM integration is one of the more important integrations for businesses of any kind. In light of this, we gathered a list of five CRM integrations that you’ll wish you put in place a long time ago.
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One of the most obvious, common and effective CRM integrations involves marketing automation. Every department likes streamlining their resources as much as possible. Integrating a marketing department’s two main software solutions does just that. It’s even more beneficial when you have multiple marketing automation platforms, such as a standard solution and an email marketing software such as Constant Contact.
CRM and marketing automation go together like peanut butter and jelly; they don’t provide redundant features, instead offering complementary capabilities. These two systems help not only your marketing department, but also your sales department, manage customers and leads.
Used alone, a CRM application keeps track of conversations and contacts with your customers and leads, while marketing automation software records their behavior in relation to your content. Used together, however, they optimize each other’s capabilities. A CRM and marketing automation integration automatically records when leads open and click specific marketing emails in both the CRM and marketing automation database.
No longer do your salespeople have to go to your marketers to get information on how qualified specific leads are. They can simply go to the CRM and check the information sent over by the marketing automation software. Qualifying leads doesn’t get much easier than that.
CRM systems are great for managing customer and lead data for salespeople and marketers alike. But what they’re not always as good at is analyzing the data. That functionality, however, is the bread and butter of business intelligence. We don’t need to go into a long spiel about the importance of using data — we’d just be preaching to the choir. But integrating your CRM with a BI solution makes data analysis a whole lot easier.
Visualizing data, creating ad hoc reports and finding hidden patterns in customer and lead behavior is all easy to do when you integrate these two applications. Although you could analyze your CRM data without integrating it into your BI solution, it’d take a whole lot longer. Doing so would involve manually entering all the data into the BI system, whereas integration automatically shares your CRM data with the BI for analysis. What would manually take upwards of several hours, instead takes seconds thanks to integration.
Enterprise Resource Planning
Integrating your CRM and ERP is another common business practice — and for good reason. ERPs centralize software for companies, making everything accessible for everybody. The customer data held within a CRM’s database is some of the most important data to a company, especially when said company is trying to grow. Therefore, this data should be easy to access for whoever needs it.
Nick Ismail at Information Age pointed out some of the advantages companies that integrate their CRM and ERP have over ones that don’t. First and foremost is the elimination of data entry and duplication. One of the biggest advantages of any integration is the sharing of data, which gets rid of manually entering data into a system. A benefit that’s not as well known, however, is that you avoid data duplication. When you have separate databases in a CRM and ERP, the risk always runs high that you’ll come across the same data points. When they’re integrated, however, the data automatically gets shared between the systems, so you never have to deal with duplicated, aka bad, data.
Ismail also discussed how CRM and ERP integration creates a more holistic view of your customers. A lone CRM provides the frontend information, such as sales and support history, but it doesn’t include information on backend information such as finance and invoice history that you’d find in an ERP solution. By combining these two types of data, you can get a 360 degree view of each and every customer. You can then use this additional information to discover insights you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to.
Using a CRM is all about optimizing your marketing efforts, so why not go the extra mile? Integrating your social media channels with your CRM helps track engagement and the customer journey, and you may even be able to find new leads.
As you probably know, continually engaging with your customers is key for long-term retention. When you integrate your social media channels with your CRM, you can find out which customers are continually engaging with your posts — and which aren’t. This works twofold: 1) you can identify your most engaged customers, who may be good prospects for upselling or cross-selling, and 2) you can identify your least engaged customers, whom you may want to offer an incentive of some kind to make sure they’re happy.
In addition, integration can automatically identify the people who aren’t customers, but continually engage with your content. These are the exact kinds of people that become highly qualified leads. By engaging, they’ve showed their interest in your company, so you know there’s a good chance they’d be interested in using your product or service. After completing a social media and CRM integration, you can let the automation processes discover leads for you.
An often overlooked benefit of social media and CRM integration is the ability to track the customer journey. By sharing data, you can discover insights on how a customer started as a Twitter follower, engaged with your content and eventually adopted your services. This lets you know what types of content are most effective, and therefore what you should produce more of. Alternatively, you may also discover that you generate very few customers from your social media channels. In which case, you learn that you need to improve your social media strategy. So no matter what, you’re learning something valuable about your marketing.
The benefits of integrating your CRM solution with your website mostly comes down to automation and reducing response times. One of your website’s biggest marketing benefits is the ability to generate leads through online forms when people want to download an offer or (even better!) want to get more information on your business. Normally, after someone fills out a form, you have to manually enter that information into your CRM system to start tracking them. This isn’t the case when you integrate, as this information is automatically added to that person’s profile, or a new profile is created, in your CRM database.
In addition, as Annertech describes, you can greatly reduce response time following a form submission. Following a form submission, whether it’s a request for a quote, a demo or simply a request for more information, a CRM integration automatically assigns the query to the right person or team. This allows your salespeople to follow up quickly, rather than waiting around for someone to comb through each form submission and then assign the follow up. A timely follow up can make up the difference between a lead converting or becoming a lost opportunity.
The Bottom Line
We know that software integration isn’t always the easiest thing in the world, but it’s well worth it. With more integration comes less manual work, along with more access for the people who could use the data. For CRM in particular, you can expand your CRM users from your marketing department to your salespeople and data analysts, getting more bang for your buck. The best part is: the systems we listed here aren’t the only great CRM integrations. Nor are the benefits we described the only benefits you get from these integrations. All it takes is a little research and a little creativity, and who knows what benefits you’ll reap from a CRM integration.