You Are Now a Record in My CRM

Yeah. All this time Solspace has grown strictly by word of mouth. I didn't even use the word 'lead' until January of 2015. Up to that point I just thought sales and marketing was icky. Specifically, I did not want to do sales and markety things to clients, new or old. Somehow I had convinced myself that sales and marketing were slippery arts. But I know now that I was working from a place of fear and anxiety rather than actually being informed and adult about running my business.

One thing I have become convinced of is the importance of taking control of one's sales pipeline. It's there whether you like it or not, whether you are exerting influence over it or not; either that or you are out of business and just haven't had the electricity shut off on you yet.

A critical part of taking control of your sales pipeline is managing incoming business with some sort of a system. You can use note cards, popsicle sticks or carrier pigeons if you prefer, or you can use modern day CRM software.

For several years now we have offered a specialized service in integrating ExpressionEngine, which is one of our preferred CMS systems, with Salesforce, a well known and widely adopted CRM. You can learn more about the service here. It's one of my favorites since it taps into backend API integration work which my team and I really enjoy.

So for a few years we have been integrating Salesforce with ExpressionEngine for people. Some people manage their relationships with companies and the contacts at those companies within their CRM. Then they map that data back to EE and do creative stuff with the business logic there. Some people have us connect EE to Salesforce so that they can run a membership oriented website, providing members with access to content if they are paying customers. Some clients have had us integrate EE / SF and an e-commerce system so that they and their staffs can track revenue and work with customers on upsell and remarketing opportunities. For the sake of this blog post though, I'll talk about how you can integrate your website's CMS with your CRM for the purpose of capturing and cultivating incoming leads.

There is a large Fortune 500 media and marketing solutions company that had us integrate 23 of their EE sites with their Salesforce platform. Potential customers would come to these websites, learn about the services, and then submit to a contact form if they were interested in talking to someone further. These contact forms, there were several customized for specific purposes, were run by our Freeform module. Our CRM add-on for EE integrates with Freeform. When a form submission goes through, the fields are mapped to the Salesforce lead object and its fields, both custom and native, and the data is sent up to Salesforce in real time. Of course an email notification with the link to the newly created Salesforce record is provided and sent to appropriate staff depending on the market that the customer is engaging with. From that point, sales staff can connect with that customer lead, tell them more about the services available, qualify them as a viable client and continue with the sales process. The process is tracked in the CRM so that management can watch the pipeline and flow of work. Team members can work together cultivating leads and the business flourishes in an orderly manner.

Enough of watching this go on over the years proved to me the efficacy of integrating with a CRM. We of course use our Freeform add-on and I knew that the integration would be pretty simple. I'm cheap, though. So when I saw that Hubspot was offering their CRM for free, I had to try it out. I didn't think that my own little team needed the full firehose of functionality that Salesforce offers, though I do see it as a strong platform. Additionally, Hubspot offers a number of other marketing tools that I might want to tinker with one day. Their CRM of course has an API that is pretty clean and approachable. I found a nice little PHP library that already handled the usually knotty problem of connecting to an API and doing stuff. I spun up a new EE add-on using some quick build tools we've developed internally to save time and enhance quality / stability. I then tied the API library into our own EE module structure. Next I created what we call a CRUD script. This is just a quick little proof of concept that lets us validate that we can successfully connect to an API such as that for Hubspot. In this CRUD script we make sure that we can Create, Read, Update and Delete stuff. Once that was validated I was able to tie Freeform into the Hubspot CRM. Now if you post a request to one of our contact forms, you get turned into a lead in the Hubspot CRM and a notification goes out to someone smart and friendly who can contact you and talk with you about your web problems.

Sorry for turning you into a lead. No disrespect is intended. We still think you are a warm, fuzzy human with needs and wants and worries just like the rest of us. We just need some way to keep track of the conversations we've had with you so that we can make sure to follow up when we say we will, deliver a proposal to you when promised and generally maintain a positive and professional connection to you and your organization. We also need to track our sales pipeline so that when you ask if we have time to do your project starting a month from now, we can give you a real answer instead of a hope and a prayer.

So what's it like once you submit our contact form and land in our CRM? Well, we attach notes and thoughts and tasks to the record we have for you. We make sure we capture relevant notes, concerns and promises so that if your primary contact at Solspace gets hit by a beer truck someone else can come along and pick up right where things left off. Yes, someone on the team last year was sort of figuratively hit by a beer truck. We scrambled because we had no CRM. Bad boss!!

So you're a record in our CRM now. You're still a human as far as we are concerned. We just have you organized so that we can serve you better. When we have a first conversation with you we put you into the sales pipeline and attach a dollar figure to your first project. This helps us gauge our own staffing and do some planning. As we talk further and learn more about what you need help with, what problems you need solved, we move you further down the pipeline. Which is to say, we find ways to express within a system, what resources we think you will need from us, when you will need them, how much you will need, whom we will be working with on your side to do stuff, etc.

All these years I feared doing this. I didn't want to turn you into a number, into an object. But what I know now is that when I do put our communications with you into a system, into a program, my team and I can treat you with a great deal more respect and humanity. We are much better positioned to treat your time with respect and remember what we had promised you. I apologize for the last 15 years. I should have gotten these ducks in a row a long time ago. And if you are a web design or web dev shop owner and haven't done this, it's high time you learn from my mistakes!

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