Today you can integrate just about everything into your CRM. And the thinking goes that the more systems you can tie together, the better.
Sometimes integrations are a good idea, and sometimes they are absolutely essential. But in most cases, integrations cause more problems than they solve.
CRM Integration Thinking
The whole purpose of getting CRM software and automation tools is to automate things…right?
You just got your brand new CRM, and this time, you want to do it right. We all know that computers can do anything! And you have heard of other businesses automating just about everything when it comes to managing THEIR clients – so how about you?
Conventional wisdom says there should never be a manual process and you should never have to do any kind of double entry. For example, if you have two different software systems and you get a new client, you should not have to enter that client’s address twice. Your two systems should talk to each other and save you from duplicating your efforts.
Today you can find the software tools to do anything you can imagine. So if one of your software products doesn’t offer that certain functionality you need, there is another product that will. And with some effort, and tools like Zapier, Product A can talk to Product B, eliminating the need for manual intervention.
There is no reason you should ever have to do manual work if a computer can do it…right?
Reasons to Avoid Integrations
Yes, integrations are great in theory – but just because something CAN be integrated, doesn’t mean it SHOULD be integrated.
Here are some reasons when website CRM integrations are not such a great idea:
1. Time and Money
In most cases it takes time and costs money to build an integration. You might have to get a programmer involved, or you might have to get a smart person who can connect things together with Zapier. In either case, that takes time and money.
2. Embarrassing Errors
The good thing about building integrations is that once built, the systems you built will work the same way 100% of the time. The bad thing is that systems you built will work the same way 100% of the time.
Wait… how can that be a good thing AND a bad thing?
In most small businesses, 80% of your customers fit perfectly into your designed processes. You can outline the exact steps they will take from starting as a prospective customer to becoming a paying customer.
So you can build your integrations for these 80% of clients and things will go smoothly for them. But what about the other 20%? Invariably there is a small percentage of your customers who don’t follow your prescribed flow. For a variety of reasons, they go faster, or slower, or just different than the path you have designed for them.
There are many areas where your integrations can actually hurt your business.
Here are a few:
- Wrong contact classification: A step in your automated process asks your prospect to call you, or to take the next step in becoming a customer. The problem arises when they become a customer, but your systems still think they are a prospect.
In this case your integration makes you look silly, unorganized, and out of control – the exact opposite of what you were trying to achieve with the automation in the first place.
- Errors in your database: The client doesn’t follow your protocol perfectly, and syncing data gets confused. Now you have the wrong name or address or notes or to-dos for the client and again, it’s YOU who looks silly.
- Software changes: You build your automations and integrations and you nailed it. Everything is running perfectly and you even accounted for the exceptions. You have 5 software systems all talking to each other and you have eliminated most of the manual work you used to struggle with.
We know that software companies are constantly making changes and improving their products. After your well oiled machine is running for several months, 1 or 2 of the software companies make a change to the way they handle the data. Not a big change, and one that most people wouldn’t even notice or care about.
But for you, it breaks something in the middle of your integration.
It’s just a small change and you may not even notice it for weeks or months. But now your emails are going to the wrong people, or the wrong emails are being sent to the right people, or you are sending text messages out at midnight, or your sales people are no longer getting notified when hot leads come in.
And to complicate matters, the programmer you used to build the integrations is missing in action. It might just be a quick fix for her, but she is nowhere to be found and not returning your calls. So now you need to drop everything and rebuild all of your work from scratch with someone new.
Integrations are Easier Said than Done
People who are not technically inclined tend to think integrations are easy:
“Just zip into the code and pop it in there!”
It is never that quick or easy or cheap!
In most situations, you can build an integration that connects any piece of software to any other software. However to build an integration you either have to get a programmer involved or you can use a third-party tool like Zapier. In both cases there is thinking, designing and exception planning needed.
When you automate a process through an integration, it is going to work EXACTLY like it is programmed, every time. So you got to get this right.
(See embarrassing section above.)
Do You REALLY Need That Automation?
Many people think that everything is better when it is integrated. But what’s the point of integrating two software systems that perform completely different functions?
Does your CRM need to talk to your accounting system? Does your CRM need to talk to your social Media posting system? Maybe or maybe not. Consider WHY systems need to talk to each other before you jump to the conclusion that an integration is needed.
What if you have to do some double entry when you get a new client. Or you have to look in two different systems to get the entire picture of the client.
That added 3 minutes to the day of one of your team members making $20/hour. Is that few minutes a day worth all the trouble to build an automation or an integration?
(If it saves 3 minutes multiplied by 1,000 customers, then for sure you will want to look at automating that task or process.)
Are There any Scenarios Where CRM Automations and Integrations are a Good Idea?
Yes! Of Course! Definitely! Absolutely!
There are times when it totally makes sense to take the time to build a CRM integration. Here are some examples:
– When you have to do a manual process hundreds of times per day.
– When it costs more for a human to do something than it costs to build an integration.
– When a human forgetting something (like following up on a lead) will cost you dearly.
How to Prepare for an Integration
Do everything manually first. Get experience with how things are working by doing things manually. Learn what problems and exceptions arise and the best way to resolve these issues. Get it so dialed in that you have the manual process as streamlined as possible.THEN consider automation.
Map out EXACTLY how it should work. Include every possible detail and every possible exception. Assume the thing you don’t think will happen, will happen – because it will. And make sure that bad thing won’t cost you business.
DECIDE: Programmer or Zapier? If you have programmers on staff have them build your integrations. That way you can get exactly what you want and there is someone around to fix the code when it breaks.
And don’t even think about hiring a stranger off of UpWork or Fiver to build your integration. This is a recipe for disaster.
If you look around your office and don’t see any programmers, then go the Zapier route. Zapier will limit you in what you can do, but it is way easier to build and way easier to fix once it is built.
It is so common that a small business owner wants to integrate everything and do it now. Remember, just because something CAN be integrated, doesn’t mean it SHOULD be integrated. And if it SHOULD be integrated, that doesn’t mean it needs to be done on day one.