If your business is like most modern businesses, you probably have all kinds of technologies and tools in place to help different teams operate. There’s a good chance that all of those individual tools are capturing and storing data about your prospect and customers. And if you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably interested in how you can integrate those tools to centralize your data, reduce friction in your business model, and inject efficiencies into your processes.
As the marketplace continues to shift toward a customer-centric operating model, your organization’s demand for connected systems that generate a complete view of the customer will continue to increase. In this Age of the Buyer, there are dozens of interaction points available to prospects and customers and the ability to capture and connect each one is paramount. In fact, 62.2% of respondents in a G2 Crowd survey indicated that integrating their data across multiple platforms was having an impact or high impact on their current business strategy.
So, what are the ways that a successful integration could be having such a positive impact for these companies and potentially yours?
- Delightful customer experiences that are seamless and free of friction (don’t make your processes their problem)
- Clear visibility into the performance of all channels to determine which are driving the most results (and trim the fat on those that aren’t driving shit)
- Ability to engage with prospects & customers on their terms without fragmenting the conversation across multiple points
- Line of sight to opportunities for upsell or resell based on a prospect or customer’s digital behavior
- Free up your time to focus on your most important initiatives by trading manual processes for automatic or instant integrations
Step 1: Establish the Why, What, Who and How
If you want to manage a dumpster fire for the next several months, disregard this completely. If you want to mitigate as much discomfort as possible, be as thorough as you can in defining these elements. This is the most important step in kicking off your HubSpot integration project.
WHY: this is the trigger or business pain point that initiated the discussion around need for an integration. This should serve as your compass for navigating all other decisions related to your integration project. If you start to veer off course with all the possibilities, lean on the answer to this to right yourself and your team.
- Are you trying to save time?
- Are you trying to reduce error?
- Are you trying to process orders faster?
- Are you trying to improve fulfillment?
- Are you trying to make more data-driven decisions?
- Are you trying to empower management with more intelligence?
WHAT: these are the specifics of what the integration needs to do, also known as business requirements, and defining them clearly is crucial. Lack of clarity around this step is probably the most common source of frustration resulting in project delays/setbacks, mismanaged expectations, and overspending. If you don’t know what the integration is supposed to do, how will you know if it’s done it or not?
WHO: this is the breakdown of individuals as they fit into the RACI model - that is, what role(s) in the organization are going to be Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed throughout the project. A critical set of information, this often gets overlooked to the detriment of the project’s success. Unclear expectations on this front leads to too many cooks in the kitchen which can quickly take an integration way off course. On the flip side, not getting enough input from the right individuals can result in an integration that doesn’t fully address the needs of the organization.
- Responsible: also known as The Doer, this is the person(s) who actually carries out the process or task assignment and is responsible for getting the job done
- Accountable: also known as Where the Buck Stops, this is the person who is ultimately accountable for the process or task being completed appropriately; the responsible person(s) are accountable to this person
- Consulted: these are the people who are In the Loop, but are not directly involved with carrying out the task; instead, they are consulted and may be a stakeholder or a subject matter expert
- Informed: those who receive output from the process or task; may simply have an organizational need to stay informed or in the picture
HOW: there are a lot of options out there when it comes to integrating tools and technologies ranging from simple DIY solutions to complex custom solutions. It will be difficult to determine what exactly you need at the outset of a project if you haven’t yet established what the integration itself needs to do and what technical resources you may have access to. If you haven’t yet figured out exactly what your integration needs to do and the technical resources you’ll need to make that happen, stop here.
Don’t give in to the temptation to jump to a solution without knowing what your problem really is.
What Are Your Options?
This type of integration is built/offered/maintained by one of the platforms in your integration equation. It’s typically free of charge or baked into the cost of ownership of the platform.
- Consideration #1: these integrations tend to be highly contextual to the native system and suited well to handle basic processes and requirements; they don’t tend to be particularly deep in functionality
- Consideration #2: these integrations are typically supported by the parent platform, which can make troubleshooting less cumbersome
- Consideration #3: these integrations are typically not the focus of product development roadmaps or budget buckets, which can result in them being somewhat stagnant after their initial launch
Also known as Integration Platform as a Service tools, these platforms allow customers to drive the development and deployment of integrations without installing or managing any hardware or middleware. They often do not require advanced technical skills or backgrounds and feature easy-to-navigate interfaces. Some examples of these tools include: Zapier, Azuqua, IFTTT, BedrockData and Celigo.
- Consideration #1: there is usually a cost associated with these tools that should be carefully evaluated and accounted for over the life of the integration need.
- Consideration #2: improving existing connectors with more robust features as parent platforms build out their API functionalities is definitely a major focus of the product roadmap.
- Consideration #3: your abilities to transfer and transform data between platforms could be limited to the most common use cases that particular tool has developed for; if you’re using either of your systems in unique ways, it may be difficult to bend the iPaaS framework enough to accommodate your business requirements without completely breaking it.
In-house custom development:
Not all organizations have developers on staff, but if you do and they are available to you, keep these items in mind:
- Consideration #1: these resources typically have roles and responsibilities that support the business in more direct ways, either developing your brand’s software or serving your customers, and this kind of dev work will almost always be a competing priority.
- Consideration #2: chances are good that in-house developers don’t know HubSpot or the technologies you’re trying to integrate as well as other developers who work in these tech stacks all the time.
- Consideration #3: your developers will likely have a more immediate grasp of the specific challenges you’re trying to solve for and will be more familiar with the server environments needed to host the integration.
Outsourced custom development:
This kind of development exists in a variety of ways. There are shops out there that have dozens of developers on staff and skill sets that cover a wide range of languages and experience. There are other shops like ours that have a depth of experience in a few particular platforms and abilities to investigate new tools. And it goes without saying, the level of quality will vary greatly as well - you get what you pay for in this space.
- Consideration #1: there are loads of developers out there that have experience specifically in bending the framework of HubSpot and the tools you’re trying to integrate; they understand the nuances and limitations of whichever tool in a way that only comes from trying a million different things.
- Consideration #2: these developers are dedicated to your project because it is their primary role and responsibility to serve you, their customer.
- Consideration #3: while it may seem like a more expensive option, you have to carefully evaluate the opportunity costs of: less-delighted customers, wasted time, squandered resources, and operational inefficiencies against the other options - in-house developers, an integration tool, or not doing anything at all.
- Consideration #4: there are a lot of bad apples out there that present themselves as legit when, in reality, they're total hacks. Careful vetting for this option is especially crucial.
Step 2: Put Your Plan into Motion
Once you’ve established your path forward from Step 1, the rest of the project should be relatively easy to manage. Based on the option you go with, this step could vary greatly in execution. At a minimum, though, you’ll need to:
- Review the sync logic you documented in the template you downloaded and completed to verify it still checks out after you’ve had a chance to get some mental distance from the initial exercise.
- Determine which platform in your integration is going to be the system of record - it is critical to have a single source of truth that your team can default to if there are any discrepancies.
- Schedule a meeting to review the project plan with any others you plan to involve ensuring that all participants have a clear sense of their role and responsibilities.
Step 3: Clean Your Data
When you’re considering propagating your source data into HubSpot or vice versa, make sure it’s good data. It’s incredibly unlikely that spreading shitty data around the system is going to help you toward any of your objectives. This step should happen before you're actually moving anything besides test data between platforms. To that end:
- Clear out stale records. Seriously, do it. There is no sense in keeping completely inactive/incomplete contacts in the database “in case they come back.” If they want to re-find you, they will, and at that time they'll give you more accurate data.
- Eliminate duplicate records. Not all toolsets have the same ability to auto-deduplicate and the ones that do may base it on different unique identifiers. Get ahead of the data discrepancy mess by eliminating the potential for duplicates to get out of sync between platforms.
Step 4: Establish a User Acceptance Testing Group
A key step in launching a successful integration is dedicating the time necessary for a thorough testing phase. It's so critical that you really need to get ahead of it before the integration is ready to be tested. In these kinds of projects, it’s not uncommon to overlook or underestimate a piece of a requirement in the initial stage. In many ways, the requirements are somewhat built in a vacuum and you can’t truly understand them until you see them in action.
During this period, the integrated system should be run through the ringer to reveal any bugs or critical deficiencies. You’ll need to ensure you’ve chosen individuals for this team who will be detailed in their work, who will have a vested interest in the success of the project, and who will bring good energy to the exercise (versus a negative/complain-y attitude). Once you’ve selected your team, make sure to prepare them properly in terms of:
- Timing - give people plenty of time to block off their calendar for dedicated periods of testing
- Clear instruction and detail regarding the use cases they should be testing
- Expectations for documenting their feedback
Step 5: Create a Training Plan for Rollout
If you launch a new system without any kind of consideration for who will use it and how, your shiny new system is going to fail. During the project phase, you have an opportunity to position yourself for success by ensuring that the impacted team members are properly trained on any new processes and how their adoption (or lack thereof) will contribute to the overall success. As you draft your training plan, keep these key items in mind:
- Who needs to participate (end users, managers, trainers, etc.)?
- How much are you going to need to train on?
- Will you need to break up the training into small groups to accommodate differences in: role, region, skill level, etc.?
- Will you need to offer the training in a series to allow folks time to process and prevent overwhelming them?
- How will you proactively communicate your plan to them in a way that inspires buy-in and engagement?
- Will you need to provide any material takeaways or resources (guides, tutorial videos, knowledgebase articles, etc.)?
- What will your follow-up and accountability cadence look like to ensure adoption?
- How should end users channel their feedback or questions once they are live?
Step 6: Complete Thorough Testing Phase
Once your connected system is in a test-ready state, this one sort of goes without saying…
You’ve done ALL of this work to ensure your HubSpot integration project is successful, don’t blow it now by skimping on the work to be done during the testing phase.
Hold your testing group (even if that includes yourself, which it should) accountable to the expectations initially set. Competing priorities will come up, undoubtedly, but it’s important to keep everybody’s eyes on the prize.
Step 7: Establish Maintenance Plan
Regardless of the option you move forward with, it will be important to have a maintenance plan in place. Integrations can “break” due to a number of a reasons: changing business requirements, updates to the platforms involved, user error, etc. For the long-term success of your newly integrated system, it is critical to have a plan in place for:
- Who is in charge for staying on top of changes made to the tools involved and how those updates could impact the integration?
- Who should you contact if something appears “broken” and what is the channel for that communication?
- What are the potential ramifications of a “broken” integration and how will those be handled?
Step 8: Launch Training Program
Now that your integration has cleared all of the hurdles, it’s time to begin training your team on how to use the new system. How will the team members be able to demonstrate total mastery of the new system?
- Test their competency by in-person demo’s or screenshare walk-throughs
- Establish the systematic mechanisms that indicate usage and adoption and CHECK IN ON THEM
Get Your HubSpot Integration Off the Ground [Finally!]
It is a lot of work to outline all of the specifics of the work to be done around an integration, to manage a project through its completion, and to pull off the training for an entire team impacted by the integration. But here’s the thing - you’ve got at least two handfuls of people that can help you with this problem (that’s ten folks here at Rev).
We’ve completed dozens of custom HubSpot integrations that have *granted* us the opportunity to learn critical shit along the way. When it comes to centralizing your data, reducing friction in your business model, and injecting efficiencies into your processes, we can alleviate your technology headaches.
Don't forget that a great first step before you reach out to us would be completing the template as fully as you can to make sure that we better understand what you're trying to achieve.