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Unlocking the power of customer relationship management (CRM) through application programming interfaces (APIs)

If you’re bracing yourself for an article laden with technical jargon and an alphabet soup of acronyms, you can relax. It might sound like a tall order, but we’re going to discuss CRM integration and API in terms that any business owner, or user of applications, can easily digest. 

A key problem in today’s business world is that most professionals need to learn how to use technology that is beyond common knowledge. Not being a programmer shouldn’t deter you from making educated decisions about the types of tools and products you use for customer relationship management.

Also keep in mind that there’s a long list of employees at your organization who don’t have programming backgrounds but need access to your systems. In fact, it’s important for those who work in various departments, including sales, customer service, and marketing, to be able to use and understand your company’s systems. As per our expertise, you shouldn’t need a translator to stay up to speed with the IT protocols used to access your information. 

Today, we will be explaining a few key terms that will lead to a more thorough understanding of APIs and how they can help you build an integrated CRM. 

Through the power of APIs, CRM users are able to automate workflows and spend more time with their clients as a result. Sending automated reports to contacts, for example, is just one of the services that a CRM can provide for you through an API. 

Our research indicates that even a single CRM tool that takes advantage of APIs is a welcome addition to your business, and will likely prove to be one of your most valuable business resources.

Let’s jump in!

What is CRM?

First thing’s first, CRM stands for customer relationship management. Properly managing your relationships with your customers can be done by creating a system using a number of strategies, tools, techniques, and software. 

The foundation of your CRM system will be your CRM database.

What is a CRM database?

A CRM database holds all of the customer’s information that you collect in your CRM system. This information may include:

  • Contact information (name, phone, email).
  • Activity records.
  • Important dates (date of first contact or recent visits).
  • Transactions.
  • Any other information that is relevant to your business.

This information will allow you to put out marketing campaigns, build relationships with your customers, and ultimately generate new revenue.

However, based on our firsthand experience, you need to have a proper system in place to manage your CRM database. Examples of CRM software solutions include Method:CRM, Salesforce, and Pipedrive. 

It’s important to note these software particularly for their API functionality. An API is a bridge between two endpoints. You make what’s called an API call to an external server, and then you can access information from there.

APIs allow you to integrate your CRM database with important data provided by your software partners, including cloud applications.

What’s great about APIs is that they can handle any data model. They use a JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) file format, which is easily read by humans and technology alike. 

Drawing from our experience, this means you don’t need to have a high-level knowledge base in programming to understand it.

The value of CRM systems becomes clear when you consider cases where your business has struggled with organization. 

No matter how simple your business model, there will be times you miss out on a deal that you should’ve closed. But you can save these kinds of deals with CRM tools like:

  • Automated emails.
  • Contact tracking.
  • API functionality.

For the remainder of this blog, let’s take a look at how having a proper CRM system in place can help you streamline your business. 

How to build a CRM database

When there are already dozens of customizable CRM software solutions, there aren’t a lot of benefits to an approach where you start from scratch. Our findings show that development of an entire CRM database requires extensive knowledge in software engineering and a sizable fund for servers and other necessary equipment. 

Again, there are tons of options when it comes to your CRM plan. Solutions like Method:CRM even allow you to customize your CRM to fit your business’ needs. Here’s a preview of how Method:CRM helps businesses like yours connect their data sources. 

As your CRM provider, Method gives support on an ongoing basis for when you or your team have issues with or questions about the software. 

Along with tracking your customer data, many solutions offer features that make your business operations more efficient, such as automated invoicing. 

Method:CRM is a great option if you’re a QuickBooks or Xero user looking for capabilities that go beyond a traditional CRM. 

Why use a CRM system?

An effective CRM system helps you better manage your relationships with both your current and potential customers. Choosing the right CRM platform allows you to store your customer’s data, monitor the entire sales process, manage email campaigns, and more.

CRM software consolidates your leads and customers’ information and allows you to make this information available to those in your company who need it. This can include transaction history, contact details, and any interactions you may have with your customers. 

Now that you’re caught up on what using a CRM involves, let’s take a look at CRM integration.

What is CRM integration?

Your company most likely uses various tools to keep your business running smoothly. However, it may become difficult to manage so many separate apps. Especially when they’re used by several teams. That’s where CRM integration comes in.

Essentially, CRM integration is the act of connecting CRM software to a third-party application. With CRM integration, you can connect each application that your business uses with your CRM platform.

Which CRM integrations are essential for your business?

Every business has different needs, and will therefore need different CRM integrations. Our research indicates that the goal of CRM integration is to:

  • Empower teams with data that updates in real-time.
  • Streamline communication within your company. 
  • Eliminate double data entry and admin work. 
  • Maximize productivity across your business. 

Below are examples of three common software integrations to help you connect your CRM with your other business processes.

1. Email integrations

Based on our firsthand experience, having your email integrated into your CRM makes tasks such as communicating with your customers or sharing analytics with your internal teams a breeze. 

For example, a QuickBooks CRM such as Method lets you manage leads directly from your Gmail or Outlook to better enable email marketing and make sure that you never miss important notifications.

2. Calendar integration

Not only can you integrate your Gmail or Outlook to your CRM, you can also integrate your calendars. After putting it to the test, this type of CRM integration ensures you never schedule a call with a sales prospect in your CRM and forget to add it to your Google Calendar for example.

Syncing your web-based calendar with your CRM will help you stay up to date with all of your key tasks in one spot. 

3. Connector integration

Don’t worry if your current CRM can’t integrate directly with one of your favorite tools. Luckily, there is a solution to that.

A connector enables your business to integrate directly to the APIs of the apps that you want to use, making almost all third-party integrations possible. 

Zapier, for example, allows you to instantly connect a CRM such as Method to over 3000 apps to help you automate your work.

Some connectors even allow you to integrate an entire software suite that you couldn’t otherwise.

So far CRM integration sounds great, but you must be wondering how to integrate your CRM with your sales team’s business software?

In this day and age CRM integration can happen in multiple ways, but the best way is to use an API. Our research indicates that many SaaS (software-as-a-service) providers use APIs to communicate with other digital platforms. 

Some of these integrations are blocked by API gateways that you need to request access to. Once you receive a response with the key, you can configure your CRM’s API to communicate with the platform.

What is a CRM programmer?

A CRM programmer (or developer) is someone who specializes in designing and developing CRM software for companies to use. Developers build the systems that help businesses boost customer relations – and, in turn, sales – but they do not have much of a hand in how these businesses utilize the software to achieve their goals. 

In short, CRM programmers design the systems and write the code but leave the rest to the users. Of course, developers also improve these tools and get rid of any features or bugs that might cause problems for users. 

CRM developer vs CRM consultant

Whereas a developer develops the solution, the consultant helps users figure out the best way to utilize their tools and implement the system in their business. It is the consultant’s job to make sure that the user understands the functions (and potential) of the service.

What is a CRM API?

API stands for application programming interface.

In short, the API is a set of programming protocols and tools that specify how your CRM can interact with other software programs. They can be written in any programming language.

If you’re working with an integrated CRM system (for example, one that integrates with your accounting software), the CRM API is what gives you this centralized access to the different applications you use to run your business.

If you’re using a CRM with an API, a developer can also use the API to integrate other programs and applications with your CRM, even if the CRM vendor does not offer these integrations out of the box. 

Our investigation demonstrated that this adaptability is why CRM service providers with an API tend to be more popular.

Using a CRM API allows your employees to view information related to the sales process, marketing, and even billing within your CRM, without having to open multiple programs.

An accessible CRM API allows your company to build an integrated CRM system that encompasses all of the web and desktop applications needed for day-to-day business.

This means that all of the information available in every database is synced via the cloud into one spot for you. This eliminates issues of multiple data sources and ensures that your business resources remain easily accessible in a single hub.

So, no matter which department your customer encounters, your employees will always have up-to-date information to better serve the customer’s needs. 

This ensures your employees are on the same level of understanding about your business regardless of any recent changes.

Through our practical knowledge, a good integrated CRM also reduces the need to call IT services. It automates your business processes, so there’s little room for human error or confusion. 

So, with each automated process, IT support becomes less about technologically educating your employees, and more about running your business more efficiently.

As mentioned, our findings show that three of the most common software integrations include email, calendar, and connector integrations. Here are a few more examples of common CRM integration tools:

  • Social media integrations that allow businesses to automate posts, communicate with followers, and collect insights from user activity. These integrations usually connect platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to your CRM.
  • Forms and data collection integrations that sync data gained from survey tools like SurveyMonkey and Typeform with the contact data in your CRM. For example, partner surveys you conduct will sync to your CRM so you have a consolidated look at your most valued relationships.
  • Communication integrations that connect CRMs with team communication apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom.
  • Ecommerce integrations that connect your CRM to your shopping platforms like Shopify and/or your online payments managers like Stripe. 

With these integrations, you get a clearer picture of customer behavior and can track payments and purchases of your products easily. All while preventing the need for double data entry or file transfers/consolidation later on.

The roles of APIs in CRM integration

Based on our observations, CRM integration relies on three APIs, each designed for a specific purpose:

  • Systems APIs: These APIs pull data from specific systems within a given IT infrastructure. For example, if you are shipping something to a customer, to provide them with a shipping date, you can use a system API to access the information from a shipping company like UPS.
  • Process APIs: Process APIs combine system APIs. This means multiple sources of information such as that from delivery and toll tracking companies can be added to your CRM for a specific business purpose. In this case, the purpose is to allow the customer to keep track of their package.
  • Experience APIs: Experience APIs use multiple APIs to improve the experience for end-users of the applications you use. For example, when your sales rep can see all of a customer’s history with your company in your CRM. This will help your sales reps better understand the customer’s needs and provide customized assistance.

Now that you have a better understanding of API’s and their role in CRM integration, we can tie it all together.

How integration can improve the flow of your CRM system

A CRM allows your employees to gain a 360-degree view of every lead and customer. 

While originally developed as a sales and marketing tool, CRM software has become integral to the overall health of businesses. Drawing from experience, this means that a CRM can affect the performance of your business, especially of your sales team.

How CRM Integration can improve sales performance

In the past, the initial problem with CRM systems was the usability. 

Our research indicates that any systems were designed in a way that made them less than user-friendly. So, marketing and sales professionals found themselves needing advanced technical knowledge to use the information efficiently.

To make things worse, these software options operated in their own isolated realm. So, the information in your CRM was locked in that application unless it was imported to another file or system. On a data island of its own, there were many, manual steps to move CRM data, format it, and use it in other areas of the business.

For instance, your accounting department might have used a program like QuickBooks, while marketing and customer service used a CRM.

With each department using different programs, there was redundancy in inputting information and a higher probability of errors. Through our practical knowledge , you also run the risk of multiple people having bits of information on your customers, but none having the full picture.

It wasn’t uncommon for the sales team to speak to one person at a company while the billing department spoke to another. Meanwhile, none of the information gathered ever traveled between departments.

For your employees, gathering all your customer information in one system means they can access everything they need in real time. And drawing from our experience, this is great as it prevents mistakes and missteps in communication — leading to better overall sales performance. 

Better yet, customer service becomes more intuitive and satisfactory for your buyers.

The takeaway: CRM APIs strengthen your business

By connecting each of your applications to your CRM platform, you enable data to easily flow between them. An integrated CRM results in an automated workflow that helps your business grow while also saving time and money. 

Based on our observations, here are a few of the top benefits of creating an integrated CRM with an API:

  • Reduced errors: An integrated system means there will be fewer data entry mistakes because the information is located in one database. If there is a clerical error, any employee who accesses the file can correct it so the same error won’t keep popping up in other departments.
  • Increased efficiency: An integrated system streamlines your workflow across all departments. It eliminates the need to access multiple programs to get a full picture of the project at hand. Also, sending documents to clients, for example, is a time-consuming office task that you can fully automate with an integrated CRM.
  • Improved employee satisfaction: Upgrading to a more integrated and user-friendly CRM means that your team will experience fewer frustrations during the workday.
  • Streamlined employee training: Training your employees is one of the costliest investments your company makes. If all employees are using the same interface, it’s easier for them to master the system efficiently.

The long story short, is that whether you’re a small business or large corporation, our findings show that CRM integrations are an effective way to increase your productivity and profitability.

If you’re considering an upgrade to your current CRM system, think about how easily your key applications will integrate with any new system before finalizing the implementation. 

When you make a change to your CRM system, make sure to address the shortcomings of its current state, and what additional services or features you’d like. 

Many CRM software companies employ agents who will help you personalize your system, often with the help of APIs. Our research indicates that the price of this agent service varies, but some CRM companies offer a free consultation with an agent when you first get started.

What is CRM API FAQs

How is CRM API different from other CRM solutions?

A CRM API is different from other CRM solutions because an API enables direct communication between your CRM system and other platforms. 

This means that through an API, your CRM system can immediately access information from sources external to your personal servers.

How scalable is CRM API?

Scalability in an API refers to the volume of calls it can handle without negatively affecting the performance of your application. Based on our observations, it depends on your API infrastructure. Generally, a CRM API is quite scalable. 

Drawing from our experience, with any good CRM API, you can implement plenty of integrations without worrying about overloading your Central Processing Unit (CPU).

How does the CRM API work?

A CRM API works as a bridge between your CRM system and other platforms. It uses something called a JSON data format, which is easy for humans to read and write.

A CRM API lets developers build external tools that can directly access your CRM of choice. It allows you to integrate third-party applications into your CRM and centralize your work processes.

Looking for a CRM with an easy-to-use API? Method:CRM has you covered. Start your free trial today!

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