Technology integrations are a common part of product development strategy in the modern era. By building an integration, you can provide a more user friendly experience for your customer base.
However, most companies focus their integration strategy solely on the product benefits and don't take into account the company-wide potential. From sales and marketing to customer satisfaction and retention, everyone can get a piece of the action.
In this blog post we’ll dive a little deeper into the rise of integrations as a product strategy. Then we'll show how integrations can have a major impact on not only product, but marketing, sales, and customer success teams as well.
C-suite, take notice – we’ll wrap up with a summation of the massive company-wide benefits at the end. Plus, who should take the reins.
- Why integrations are important
- How integrations benefit product teams
- How integrations benefit marketing teams
- How integrations benefit sales teams
- How integrations benefit customer success
- Big picture value for the C-suite and investors
- Who should own an integration strategy?
- Where should you start?
Businesses today use an average of 80 different SaaS apps, according to a Better Cloud survey. That’s 5x more than just three years ago.
Rather than dozens of siloed products, people now expect their tech stack to be an integrated, multi–system architecture. In other words, people are now using multiple tools for their workflow, but expect to have an experience akin to using one end-to-end tool.
By doing this they can leverage best-in-class tech without sacrificing the workflow and data continuity of being in one system.
Most software (yes, probably yours) absolutely needs to be integrated with your customers’ other tools, or risk losing out to competitors who are.
Let’s look at an example.
Partner Fleet integrates with SalesForce. That means all leads collected in the Partner Fleet marketplace can be automatically added to a Salesforce account.
Sales teams who use Salesforce can access leads collected from their Partner Fleet marketplace without signing into their Partner Fleet account. They don’t even need to ping their partnership team.
They can quickly respond to new lead requests directly from Salesforce – which they use every day.
Plus, with no need for data entry, the process of transferring leads is easier and reduces human error.
No-brainer for the customer, right?
But for companies like Partner Fleet, having an integration with Salesforce is strategic.
When you integrate into another tool, you have co-marketing opportunities, competitive advantage, and are also likely listed in their app marketplace which is a passive way to drive leads for your business.
It seems obvious that businesses would double down on product integrations right? Unfortunately, no. For most businesses, integrations still remain an afterthought. A reactive measure in response to customer requests.
This is largely due to the heavy engineering lift required to deliver these product integrations, but with the onset of embedded iPaaS solutions, SaaS companies are now able to take a more proactive approach to their integration strategy.
If you’re looking to turn a reactive integrations process into a full-on company-wide strategy, let’s take it department-by-department and show how integrations can benefit your product, marketing, sales, and customer success teams. And, at the end of the day, who should own the strategy.
Let us begin with the team that’s responsible for implementing integrations – the product team.
In addition to building the integration, product teams should take a step back and strategize. That way, they can prioritize an integration strategy that reduces overall development time, fulfills customer requests, and can even direct the essential goals of the company.
When to build integrations vs features
There are two facets to this.
The first is a simple approach to integrate versus build – solving customer requests one-by-one.
If your customers want a feature that would take a lot of your dev time to build, you can choose to integrate with a tool with that functionality instead. You can deliver on features faster and utilize integrations strategically to save time and money (and test the popularity of features).
But take a step back from the one-by-one approach to see the bigger picture – do you want to be an all-in-one tool? Or, do you want to be a best-in-class tool, integrated in an ecosystem of other software necessary for a modern workflow.
With all-in-one, you can say you do everything, but the reality is you become a jack of all trades, master of none. You develop to check the feature box, but usually sacrifice depth and user experience in favor of breadth. This leaves customers unsatisfied with their experience.
The alternative is integrated, best-in-class. You focus on a smaller core product, and integrate with other products to fill in feature gaps or solve functionality needs that fall just outside your core product scope. This requires building the integrations, and associated partnerships to adequately fulfill customer needs.
As a product team, and a company, you need to decide which path to go down. Either way, strategic integrations are bound to fit somewhere.
Integrations to fulfill customer requests
Product teams are often wrapped into pending deals and asked about product functionality. They can use integrations to respond quickly to feature requests (and help make the sale).
A robust integration ecosystem can be invaluable in these situations. If you already have most of the integrations that prospects and customers want, the product team doesn’t even have to build new ones to help deals go through.
By establishing a strong integration strategy, product teams can play a critical role in supporting sales and driving business outcomes.
Whether your marketing team is involved in integrations may depend on the structure of your business. But integrations can be a powerful marketing tool, and shouldn’t be overlooked in go-to-market strategies and marketing campaigns.
Marketing teams should be involved in integration decisions, and have a seat at the table early to best leverage the partnership.
Use integrations in your marketing
Did you know that integrations are the #3 consideration for SaaS buyers? For martech buyers, integrations are #1.
That means your integrations are important to your buyers – how many and which ones you have. Your marketing team should leverage them at every chance.
Make your integrations easily discoverable on your website and when people search for them online. Align yourself with well-known brands that you integrate with. Make sure you show up in searches for, say, “[X category] that integrates with Salesforce.”
Add integration graphics to your promotional materials, landing pages, and lead nurture emails. Create integration case studies and promote your integrations on social media, too.
Calendly did this when they launched an integration with HubSpot.
HubSpot is one of the most popular CRM solutions in the world with hundreds of thousands of users. When they built this integration, Calendly made a big deal about marketing it to potential customers, detailing the value customers would get by connecting the two.
They marketed it directly to the customers of HubSpot, giving these prospects a compelling reason to check out their tool and test the power of the combined solutions.
Take a tip from Calendly: Your buyers are interested in the ways you integrate with their current tech stack. Using your integrations in your marketing can be a successful way to get new leads and customers.
Co-market with integration partners
The most powerful way your marketing team can leverage integrations is through the partnerships built alongside them. Depending on your agreement, you can likely tap into your integration partners' customer base via co-marketing activities.
Plan co-webinars, shared and exchanged blog posts, and hosting or sponsoring in-person events together. Let customers know that their tech stack will be stronger when they use your products together, beautifully integrated.
You both benefit by combining your customer and prospect database, doubling the reach of any marketing campaigns that you launch together.
This results in deeper market penetration and drives more eyes to your solution.
Sales teams are typically focused on one thing: net new revenue for the business. Integrations can achieve this through qualified lead generation, go to market data, and higher close rates.
When you integrate into a software solution you are also listed in their integration marketplace. After all, 86% of the top 100 SaaS companies in the world now have a public integration marketplace – and many others are following suit.
(If you or your partners don't have a publicly accessible integration marketplace, we can help.)
Being added to these marketplaces gives you free exposure to the customers of your integration partners. They can sign up for a demo or trial of your software on the marketplace – and these leads generated from your tech partners are some of the best.
Why? They have a higher likelihood to convert.
Sales reps can start the conversation by talking about the integration you have with the sourcing partner. and explain the benefits the customer is likely to receive from tying both solutions together.
In fact, Otka found that their tech partners helped sales reps drive 50% better conversions.
Integrations are rising in popularity for what buyers consider when deciding on a new software product for their company.
It makes sense right?
Tools that don't seamlessly fit into your current tech stack create manual workflows that waste time and money.
The more integrations you have in your ecosystem, the easier it is for your sales team to move to the next step of winning the sale.
Go to market data
An additional benefit to the sales team revolves around the go to market data they can access
from integrating and then partnering with other software organizations.
Account mapping tools like Crossbeam and Reveal give account executives access to the CRM data of their integration partners. This data opens up a wealth of opportunities such as co-selling joint solutions directly to customers and getting warm introductions from partners to prospective accounts.
Your support team has the goal of making your customers successful, and they are often on the front lines of feature requests and functionality.
The success of your customers is directly tied to the growth of your company. Satisfied customers sing your praises, write reviews, and refer new leads. Unsatisfied customers churn.
Both the success of your customers and your customer success (or support) team can benefit from your integrations.
If your product is sticky, it means it's harder to rip and replace. It’s more difficult for customers to jump to a competitor.
Do you know what adds to product stickiness? Yeah, you guessed it, integrations.
To explain this, let’s look at an example:
Company A, is a marketing automation company that has a robust integration into the CRM of the current customer, allowing for seamless data transfer.
Company B, is a marketing automation company that does not. The customer has to manually transfer data back and forth.
If the customer in this example decided to look at other options in the market, which solution is going to be harder to rip and replace?
Replacing Company A would involve disconnecting the integration, mapping the automated process, and setting up a new integration or process with their new solution.
Replacing Company B, would simply require purchasing a new tool and starting to use it.
This example above is more than just conjecture. In fact, Freshworks found that their customers are 30% less likely to churn when they’ve adopted one integration (compared to 0) and 60-80% less likely to churn when they’ve adopted five integrations or more.
Additionally Typeform completed a churn analysis and found that customers with at least two active integrations had a 14% higher retention rate
Increased product use and adoption
Let’s say your product is a data hub, like a CRM. The more integrations you add to bring data into your platform, the longer your customers will spend on your platform.
Undistracted, they’ll be able to spend time doing what they need to do (connecting with customers and prospects) and, ultimately, drive better results. Better results = happier customers.
Let’s say your platform is a data collection tool, like a form and survey builder. Your integrations likely send data to the CRM hubs. Your customers will spend less time on laborious manual tasks (downloading leads and call data).
When they are on your platform, your customers are using it in the best way – analyzing stats, creating forms and surveys, and updating copy. Since they’re using the best part of your tool and not doing an annoying task, they’ll create a great association, making them want to use your tool more.
Happier customers and longer LTVs improve the results from your customer success team and are better for revenue overall.
When you add up the benefits to product, marketing, sales, and customer success, an effective integrations strategy provides immense value overall.
Without knowing the precise numbers of your company, let me sum up all the benefits (you can add your numbers in later).
Each integration can drive leads and conversions from:
- Buyers searching for a solution like yours that fits in their tech stack (and this is a key consideration)
- Co-marketing with tech partners
- Your listing on your tech partners’ marketplace
- Data from account mapping tools
- Sales enablement and buyer behavior
- Co-selling with your partners
Multiply that by all the integrations in your ecosystem, and building new ones are bound to make it to the front lines of your growth strategy.
Integrations are great for current customers for two main reasons: they make customers happier and they make it harder for customers to switch to another tool (aka increased stickiness).
For the bottom line, these two factors result in:
- Reduced churn
- More referrals from satisfied customers
- Higher lifetime values
- Positive sentiment (reviews, testimonials, and case studies)
- Increased product adoption which leads to upgrades and upsells
Often we forget to calculate the actual value of making our customers happy. But it can add up to as much as – or much more than – new revenue.
At the very least, when you consider integrations instead of building in-house features, you save hours of valuable developer time. And you can show you’re releasing features faster.
But at the highest level of an integration strategy – an ecosystem – you can truly focus your product and developer time on making your solution best-in-class, with integrations that create a complete workflow for your customers.
That’s a management-level decision, the benefits of which trickle down to all other departments.
So, who should own the integrations strategy all up?
With so many key stakeholders influenced, the correct answer is everyone.
Every team has a responsibility to make integrations work as a holistic company strategy.
- C-suite to lead strategic decision making and direction
- Product, to intake feedback, scope out solutions and create the integrations
- Marketing, to promote integrations to the general market
- Sales, to deliver customer feedback to help craft integration strategy
- Customer Success, to push integration usage and increase adoption
There is, however, a need for someone to quarterback this endeavor. In most organizations, this comes down to the partnership team.
A technology partner manager is able to take all of the above, and create a coherent strategy to ensure value is delivered across your organization.
If you don't have a partnerships team, you can still be successful, it just takes a more team-led strategy.
Whether you're in product, marketing, sales, support, partnerships, or even management, consider how your integrations can support your goals. Learn about the integrations you currently have and find ways to leverage them to your advantage. And take a holistic view of your company to see how you can support other teams.