If you’re bracing yourself for an article laden with technical jargon and an alphabet soup of acronyms, you can relax. 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 tools you use for customer relationship management.
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. 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.
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).
- 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, you need to have a proper system in place to manage your CRM database. 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
In this day and age when there are already dozens of customizable CRM software solutions available for use, there really aren’t a lot of benefits to building your own CRM database from scratch. This requires quite extensive knowledge in software engineering and a sizeable fund for servers and other necessary equipment.
Again, there are tons of options when it comes to CRM software. Solutions like Method:CRM even allow you to customize your CRM to fit your business’ needs and provide quick support when you and your team struggle with the software.
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. 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
Having your email integrated into your CRM makes tasks such as communicating with your customers or sharing data with your internal teams a breeze.
2. Calendar integration
Not only can you integrate your Gmail or Outlook to your CRM, you can also integrate your calendars. This is helpful as 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 digital 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.
So far CRM integration sounds great, but you must be wondering how to integrate your CRM with your sales team’s business software?
CRM integration can happen in multiple ways but the best way is to use an API.
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.
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 open source 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.
Using a CRM API, allows your employees to view information related to the sales process, marketing, and even billing within the 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 into one spot for you.
So, no matter which department your customer encounters, your employees will always have up-to-date information to better serve the customer’s needs.
As mentioned, 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 Survey Monkey and Typeform with the contact data in your CRM.
- 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 purchases and payments easily, while preventing the need for double data entry or file transfers/consolidation later on.
The roles of APIs in CRM integration
CRM integration relies on three API’s, each designed for a specific purpose:
- Systems APIs: these APIs pull data from specific systems. 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. 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.
Many 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. 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. 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.
Here are a few of the top benefits of creating an integrated CRM with an open 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.
- 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 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.
Looking for a CRM with an easy-to-use API? Method:CRM has you covered. Start your free trial today!