September 8, 2016

CRM Integration: Why It Matters

Recap: we’re talking about CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems this week. Yesterday’s post looked at hosted vs on premise systems.

We’re watching the Great British Bake Off on Wednesday evenings. The GBBO is an amateur baking competition, judged by cookery writer Mary Berry and baker Paul Hollywood.

So far this series there has been a lot of messing up and starting again. Gingerbread towers have fallen over. Botched cakes have been discarded into the bin.

Which is okay, because other than time the bakers have an unlimited supply of ingredients. There seems to be no limit to the availability of eggs, flour and sugar.

The competition would be very different if Mel and Sue announced, “on your marks, get set, BAKE…” and all the bakers ran out of the tent to go to Tesco.

When your internal systems don’t link up properly it feels like trying to bake a cake with none of the ingredients to hand.

Rather than eggs, flour and sugar, the ingredient your CRM system needs is data. So where are all the places that customer data can be found?

The main ones for me are:

  • In the heads of your customer-facing staff (especially the people who answer your phones)
  • Your accounting system
  • Your wesite or ecommerce store
  • Social media

There are other specific examples.

If you run events and use Eventbrite to manage bookings, then Eventbrite becomes another source of customer data.

If you put an SMS-response number on a direct mail ad (which might say ‘text HELLO to 07894561232), then your SMS system becomes another source of customer data.

Many companies are so used to re-keying data between systems they actually pay full time members of staff to maintain data quality.

I remember going to see a company years ago where orders placed in the CRM system would be manually re-entered into the accounting system by a lady in admin. The solution we were proposing would link up the client’s CRM and accounting system, eliminating hours of re-keying.

The client hesitated for a long time on the deal. It turned out much later on that he didn’t want to make his admin lady redundant.

The goal of a CRM system is to build a complete picture of a customer’s activity. I want to look at a customer’s contact record and see:

  • What they have bought, and how recently
  • How much they have spent with me in total
  • What communications they have been sent
  • Which emails they opened
  • Which emails they clicked on
  • What they are interested in (in my case, whether or not they consider themselves to be a writer)
  • What web pages that have looked at
  • Their social media activity on my pages

The parts of the customer picture that are important to me will not necessarily be the parts that are important to you.

I make heavy use of email, but don’t answer random inbound phone calls. So data from inbound calls isn’t something I need to get into Infusionsoft.

Quite often you will have a dominant system that contains the bulk of your customer data. My dominant system is Infusionsoft, so anything I buy now has to integrate with Infusinsoft or I won’t consider it.

For larger offline businesses the accouting system is often the dominant system, so the challenge becomes finding a CRM system that will integrate to your accounting system.

If you have multiple dominant systems, all hell breaks loose.

The dominant system is usually the one you cannot live without. The dominant system should usually be an ‘all-in-one’ package doing as much of what you need as possible, with specific applications linking in to it.

If the integration you’re looking for doesn’t exist it is sometimes possible to scope out a custom integration. Unless you are a developer, developing custom integrations will make you feel like a canary disappearing down a mine shaft.

Custom integration is always more complicated than you think it will be. This is the last option, not the first option.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.