CRM Integration: The Ultimate Guide for Small Business
This article is part of a larger series on CRM.
Turn your customer relationship management (CRM) software into a hub for sales, marketing, collaboration, and other activities through CRM integrations with the other apps for business use. In this article, we explore how CRM integrations work and dive into ways they can streamline your company’s customer management activities and workflows. We also discuss the seven most common integrations, including email, phone, and marketing automation.
What is CRM integration? A CRM integration connects your CRM system to another app, allowing data to flow between them in one or both directions. It improves productivity through workflow automations and by giving you and your team access to all the data (and often much of the functionality) of both systems in a single platform. In addition, an integration can eliminate the need to toggle back and forth between the two systems.
How CRM System Integration Works
Most CRMs have robust tools for contact management and helpful features like phone dialers and email or text marketing capabilities. However, some providers lock advanced tools behind higher-tier plans, requiring you to pay for more expensive packages with other features your team may not need. CRM integration tools address this issue by providing desired functionality through other apps, eliminating the need for your business to pay for unnecessary features.
CRM integrations also increase CRM adoption by connecting your CRM to other tools your team uses, such as QuickBooks, Trello, or Slack. Integrations allow the two software tools to communicate directly.
Data may flow one way or in both directions so that one tool automatically syncs with the other when you take actions. In some cases, it even allows users to access some or all the functionalities of both platforms from either platform.
Many business software platforms have already developed specific integrations (and vice versa) that are included in various subscription tiers and require little or no effort to set up. Alternatively, CRM integrations can be accomplished through an application programming interface (API) for custom integrations. A platform like Zapier may also act as an intermediary between the platforms to create the integration with “Zaps.”
Popular Types of CRM Integrations & Examples
Essential integrations help streamline and automate processes, save time, and reduce costs. They also help facilitate internal collaboration and data sharing, contribute to lead generation and nurturing efforts, and help businesses close deals faster. Since CRM systems are often first adopted for sales purposes, below we explore seven of the most useful CRM integration examples for sales teams:
1. Email Integration
Salespeople often use email as their primary channel of communication with customers. Many also rely on email marketing tactics like drip campaigns and newsletters to automatically nurture leads and move them through your sales pipeline.
Email integration lets you access your business contacts and emails without leaving your CRM software. It also allows you to use shared templates and behavior-based or timed email drip campaigns (also known as “sequences”) from your CRM, improving lead nurturing efforts.
Plus, many email marketing platforms enable you to build lead generation web forms and connect them to your social media channels or embed them into your website. As new leads subscribe to email updates, the integration automatically adds the new contacts to your CRM database for future manual and automated sales and marketing activities.
Click on the tabs below to see examples of email integrations of CRM apps:
Streak integrates seamlessly with Google Workspace apps that help you manage mass emails, track email engagement, and automatically categorize emails directly within your Gmail Inbox. Simply enable its browser extension so you can access your CRM system while using Gmail. For this reason, Streak is one of our top picks for the best Google CRMs.
HubSpot CRM integrates with Outlook and Microsoft Office 365 to let you log emails and monitor customers’ email interactions in real time. In addition, you can access email templates, triggered or timed email drip campaigns, and the meeting manager without leaving your email platform.
HubSpot is also well-known for its lead generation features, including website-embeddable lead capture forms and landing pages with web forms, all of which feed new leads into your CRM. Because of these capabilities, HubSpot CRM tops our list of the best CRMs for Outlook integration.
Daylite is a CRM platform specifically designed for Apple (iOS) devices like MacBooks, iPhones, and iPads. Its native integration with Apple’s ecosystem of apps, which includes Apple Mail, allows users to synchronize contacts, emails, tasks, and calendars. Learn more about why Daylite made our list of the best CRMs for Mac users.
2. Phone & SMS Integration
CRM integrations that connect your phone’s voice calling and short message service (SMS) texting give you two additional channels for engaging customers and leads. Phone integration allows you to make outbound calls, record phone conversations, and log phone calls within your CRM. SMS integration enables you to create and send text marketing campaigns and follow-ups with contacts via text messages.
Click on the tabs below to see some examples of the best CRM integration capabilities for voice calling and SMS texting:
You can integrate RingCentral with Salesflare via a Zapier “Zap” to synchronize your contacts between the two apps. This connection also enables you to make calls directly from your CRM system, log calls and notes, and set triggers and actions. For example, you can trigger a follow-up task in Salesflare whenever you miss a call in RingCentral.
When you integrate Nextiva with HubSpot CRM, you can view a prospect’s or customer’s information and interaction history with your company before you make a call. In addition, HubSpot makes it easier for you to track contact interaction history by automatically logging all calls as activities in the contact records.
Some mobile CRM apps automatically integrate with your phone’s calling and text messaging features. This type of integration helps salespeople who are constantly working in the field as well as remote customer support staff and distributed teams. If you are looking for CRMs for use cases like these, check out our top picks for the best mobile CRM apps.
Bitrix24 is a CRM solution with advanced tools for managing leads and pipelines, segmenting leads and customers, and connecting with contacts through messaging platforms. In addition, it offers free integrations with SMS and messaging apps like Instagram, Slack, Viber, and Telegram. This integration allows you to send messages to clients, route conversations, and use canned replies from within your CRM solution.
3. Social Media Integration
Integrating your CRM with your social media platforms enables you to manage posts and comments and track social engagement directly through your CRM platform. It also automates notifications, which allows you to respond faster to your customers and leads when they reach out to you via social networks.
Click on the tabs below to see some of the best social media integrations for CRMs:
Agile CRM offers the capability to manage your Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts within the platform. Its social listening features also provide you with insights into topics that customers and industry influencers are talking about. These features are among the reasons why it is included in our top picks for the best CRMs that integrate with Facebook.
4. Marketing Automation Integration
CRM integration with marketing automation software allows you to easily monitor the status of leads and manage activities in your sales pipeline. You can even set up triggered marketing actions based on customer activity recorded in your CRM. For example, when a contact subscribes to one of your emails, the CRM tells your email marketing tool to start sending a series of drip marketing emails to the new prospect.
Salesforce & Mailchimp Integration
The two-way integration between Salesforce and Mailchimp lets you sync contacts between the two apps. You can automatically save Mailchimp subscribers as Salesforce leads, send targeted emails to various lead lists, and view marketing campaigns and reports in Salesforce.
Not a Salesforce user? Discover other CRM providers that integrate well with Mailchimp by reading our guide to the best CRMs for Mailchimp users.
5. Collaboration Integrations
Not all CRM providers have native team communication tools for sending emails automatically, assigning tasks and goals, collaborating, or notifying teammates of updates. If you don’t have these CRM features, you can integrate your CRM software with your favorite collaboration apps. This increases productivity and efficiency by reducing the need to manually send messages and updates across the team.
Click on the tabs below to see examples of CRM integrations with various team collaboration software:
Salesforce’s integration with Slack allows you to access CRM contact records and share them via the Slack team collaboration tool. You can also share messages both ways between Salesforce Chatter and your Slack channels. In addition, you can set up Slack alerts to get notifications whenever changes are made to your Salesforce records. Salesforce is featured in our top choices for the best CRMs that integrate with Slack.
Trello is a Kanban-style collaboration tool that enables users to create and share projects with one another. You can integrate it with Pipedrive to automate the creation of Trello cards as deals move through your sales pipeline. This integration also allows you to sync deal records directly from your CRM.
Did you know Trello can function as a CRM with just a few customizations? Learn how by following our step-by-step guide on how to use Trello as a CRM.
6. Ecommerce Integration
Integrating CRMs with ecommerce platforms creates a smoother sales process by automatically syncing contacts, products, and orders between the two platforms. If you are looking for the right CRM to use for your online store, check out our top picks for the best ecommerce CRM software.
Click on the tabs below to see some of the most robust ecommerce-CRM integrations:
HubSpot CRM offers ecommerce plugins that synchronize data with ecommerce programs like Shopify. They also let you manage contacts, products, and orders from within your CRM. Moreover, this integration allows you to automate ecommerce marketing campaigns for customers, abandoned carts, and re-engagement. HubSpot CRM is one of the best CRMs for Shopify sellers.
The integration between Salesforce and Magento allows you to automatically sync data, such as customer records, product categories, and orders. This real-time synchronization streamlines inventory tracking as well as customer record and order management since the CRM is automatically updated when changes are made in Magento.
7. Accounting Integration
Integrating CRM software with small business accounting software enables bookkeepers and accountants to keep track of bills and invoices for each customer or company. Users can manage payments and accurately record revenue sources from within the CRM platform, which saves time and eliminates human error in manually uploading financial data.
Click on the tabs below to see some of the most beneficial CRM and accounting integration examples:
Method:CRM has comprehensive billing tools that give customers access to self-service customer portals and payment gateways. It streamlines billing, invoicing, and payment processes. The integration with QuickBooks allows customers to view estimates and pay invoices via customer portals synced to both apps. In fact, Method:CRM is on our list of the best QuickBooks CRM options.
HubSpot’s integration with Xero provides end-to-end visibility into your customers’ invoicing and payment activities. The integration lets you send invoices and record payments directly from your HubSpot CRM dashboard. You can also view the month-to-month sales performance vis-a-vis the money coming into your business. Check out our guide on the best Xero CRM integrations.
Advantages & Disadvantages of CRM Integration
CRM integrations provide a plethora of advantages for streamlining businesses and sales processes. However, there are potential drawbacks that keep some companies from using them. We’ve listed some of the top pros and cons to help you decide whether to integrate your CRM with one or more of the other software tools your business uses.
Advantages of CRM Integration
- More accurate data and less manual entry: Integrated systems increase data accuracy and reduce the risk of mistakes by syncing and centralizing records. This reduces or even eliminates the need for manual or multiple data entry points. Plus, fixed errors will update across all platforms in real time.
- Increased efficiency: Connecting systems across departments eliminates the need to access several programs to manage all project areas. For example, integrating accounting tools with your sales CRM enables you to automatically generate and send invoices to customers when projects are marked complete.
- Reduced training time and costs: Training employees to use your CRM and other software can be expensive and time-consuming. When employees use interconnected systems and can use the tool they are most familiar, it streamlines training. Shared knowledge also makes sales training faster and more efficient, and letting your team members use their preferred interface increases adoption.
- Optimized marketing and sales efforts: Integrations provide detailed insight into customers’ spending habits and online activities so your sales reps can go into conversations knowing more about them. You can also deploy highly targeted automated marketing campaigns based on customer profiles, behavioral triggers, and CRM features like tags and lead scoring.
- Opportunities to boost revenue: A centralized database indicates what else customers may want or need based on what they have already purchased. This creates opportunities to increase revenue through upselling as well as cross-selling by sales reps and through marketing automation.
Disadvantages of CRM Integration
- Added costs: Integration needs tend to pop up over time as your business grows and shifts, leaving you with surprise costs. The more well-defined your sales process, the better you can accurately budget for needed CRM integrations.
- Data mapping issues: One of the more common challenges with integrating a CRM with external software is the mismatch between data field names and types, as they vary from app to app. For example, Salesforce permits a single address field, while other business apps may have two fields for this entry, causing an inaccurate syncing of data.
- Information and options overload: With so many apps to choose from, it can be overwhelming to pick the best providers for your business. While integrations expand CRM functionality, they don’t always simplify things.
- Loss of human touch: CRMs can automate many different types of business processes, including communication. While this streamlines transactions and processes, some clients still prefer human interaction, and some customer support and service issues are best handled person-to-person.
- Data privacy and security risks: Whenever you use a third-party provider for integrations, there is the risk of sensitive data being used for fraud or vulnerable to data breaches. It’s vital to prioritize data security when choosing software, including measures to prevent unauthorized access and ensure both at-rest and in-transit data encryption.
CRM integration services play a huge part in connecting the various software tools your company uses to streamline your business processes—giving you an integrated CRM. Plus, integrations can help your business save money by providing the functionality you need rather than upgrading to more expensive CRM providers or plans.
When choosing various software, look for providers that integrate with your CRM and the other tools that keep your business running smoothly, effectively, and securely. This can help you manage your customer data in a centralized and seamless manner.
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