Just like an explorer needs a compass to point them north, a business owner needs a single source of truth (SSOT) to consolidate data.

No matter the size of a business,  having a single source of truth is invaluable. Reliable and clear data keeps you on the right path, working efficiently with a 360-degree view of your customer data, and able to pivot based on data-driven decisions.

One of the most effective ways to achieve this is with small business integration, and you need it earlier than you might think. With data centralization and integration in place, you build the foundations for efficient operations and streamlined growth in your business. In short: if you use multiple apps, now is the time to integrate them.

Integration Solves Common Data Challenges for Small Businesses

There's a handful of common data challenges that many small business owners run into. According to Experian, although 83% of organizations see data as an integral part of forming a business strategy, they also believe an average of 30% of their data is inaccurate.

One barrier to finding and maintaining data integrity is the huge number of apps every business uses. A comprehensive app stack is a powerful asset for any business, and it can level the playing field between SMEs and enterprises. But each new system brings more complexity, and as a business scales they typically adopt even more applications.

Blissfully estimates that the number of tools a business uses nearly doubles as they move from 0-50 and 51-100 employees. Each app has its own unique database, with data arriving from countless different sources and in many formats.

To achieve a single source of truth in a small business, integration between these otherwise disconnected systems is crucial.

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Graphic with the average number of apps used by small businessesA Software Integration Strategy for Small Businesses

A simple definition of integration is that it connects separate pieces of software to unify and enrich the data in every app. This is a great way for organizations to improve their data quality, fix cost and efficiency sinks, and access other benefits for productivity and collaboration.

With an effective integration strategy, small businesses can:

  • Maintain reliable and up-to-date information in every app
  • Eliminate silos between departments and increase transparency and collaboration
  • Reduce manual work and avoid updating the same data in multiple apps
  • Get in the best position to grow and thrive long-term

For the best results, a small businesses integration strategy consists of:

  1. Centralizing contact data from different sources into one place (usually a CRM) for a single source of truth for every contact record.
  2. Syncing accurate data two-ways with the right apps, such as an email marketing system, automation app, or customer support software to streamline specific business processes.

How to Implement Integrations in Your Small Business

The most popular and effective ways to integrate your small business's apps are with:

  • Native integrations offered by the apps you're using.
  • An iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) to synchronize the right data everywhere using one tool.

Native integrations are the quickest to set up. They're usually easy to access in each SaaS app's integration marketplace and only require a couple of clicks to get going.

However, choosing an iPaaS has several advantages, especially if you're taking a longer-term view. Usually, these third-party services have many more options to connect your applications. Also, you can manage all of your integrations in one place and create a valuable single source of truth with a two-way sync between apps that updates in real-time.

What to Keep In Mind as Your Integrate Your Small Business

Get a bird's eye view of your tech stack.

An interesting way to get a glimpse of other companies' tech stacks is checking out the annual MarTech Stackies Awards. One of the winners in 2019 was Airstream, the iconic American RV brand.

In their award-winning deck with a fantastic adventure theme, each tree represents a marketing tool in their stack and the size varies by the amount of interaction with each platform. The categories are clustered as camping destinations on the map, including "Engagement Forest" and "Measure Meadow."

Representation of the type of apps a small business needs

Airstream's stack is a great source of inspiration for your own, but what's even more interesting is what the team learned while compiling their entry for the Stackies.

Digital Marketing Director Dustin Clark shared that during their creative processes and stack analysis, they recognized just how important it is to "adopt connectors — systems to move data from one system or another to consolidate sources to get better data.”

He advises other businesses: "Start with cleaning up your analytics and implementing those technology connectors...this will help stakeholders see the value of their efforts."

As you plan your small business integration strategy, look at your stack from a bird's eye view. You can even map it out like the Airstream entry for the Stackies and visualize every app you're using. Once you're clear on your key apps, it's easiest to understand where the integrations need to be.

Remove the subjectivity.

In an article by The Economist, there's a great quote from Mike Potter, the chief technology officer of Qlik: "We think data are objective, but they are actually as interpretable as Shakespeare."

In your organization, your task is to remove the subjectivity (and scope for debate and long-form essays) by choosing one version of the truth and syncing it everywhere. You can achieve this with an iPaaS that enables:

  • Clear processes for how you collect and store data, such as first name and last name versus full name.
  • Defined "if-this-then-that" actions in your syncs. For instance, IF a new contact enters the CRM, THEN sync it with the email marketing app.
  • Clarity on which app has the authoritative data and should "win" a sync if the data is different between apps.
  • Custom field mapping to match up exactly the right data between apps in a standardized way, especially if the properties have different names (such as "Company Name" versus "Business Name").

The Top 3 Integrations a Small Business Needs

When you're getting started with small business integration, the trick is to keep things simple. The most effective integrations are the ones that enrich and streamline the data in the tools you use every day. For many small businesses, this will include your CRM.

You can think of your CRM as the center stage for all of your customer data and sales activities, and integrations as the supporting cast making your central software even more powerful.

To get started, here are three simple integrations with your CRM for impactful results.

1. Email marketing and CRM integrations enable greater segmentation and a cleaner mailing list.

One of the most common challenges for small businesses is building and maintaining an email list. Part of the struggle is that every email list needs constant upkeep, engagement, and pruning to reduce the impact of customer data deteriorating by at least 30% every year (and up to 70% in B2B markets).

Integration helps to keep your email list fresh by ensuring the right contacts are opted in — and out. The best results are when you have a two-way sync between your email tool and CRM that keeps both sides of the sync up-to-date and reliable.

2. Customer support and CRM integrations enable consistent interactions and a 360-degree customer view.

In a report by Dun & Bradstreet, nearly 20% of businesses said they have lost a customer due to using incomplete or inaccurate information about them. Similarly, Zendesk has found that 87% of consumers believe companies need to provide a more consistent customer experience.

It's crucial that any customer-facing employees in your business have a high-def view of every contact. Integrating your customer support and CRM systems enables you to have more the most data at your fingertips when a customer calls and expects you to know exactly what their last interaction with your business was about.

3. Phone contacts and CRM integrations let you know exactly who is calling.

If you pick up your phone and have no idea if it's a client calling because everything's in your CRM, it's time to integrate your contacts app and CRM. With a two-way iPaaS sync, you can fix the opposite problem too: your phone filling up with important client numbers you haven't moved into your CRM.

Small Businesses Need Integration Earlier Than You Think

Software integration isn't just for the big corporations or when your business reaches a certain team size or complexity. As soon as you start using multiple apps that handle the same data — whether that's email addresses, company details, or anything else — it becomes relevant.

It also pays to start integrating your apps as early as possible in your business's lifetime. Connecting your stack and enabling reliable data to flow throughout your organization gives your small business the framework to thrive long term, whether you want to stay small or scale.

Remember, data is only becoming more important, and the best way to take control of your small business data is with a strong network of reliable and integrated data with a single source of truth.

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Originally published Jul 10, 2020 8:23:28 AM, updated July 10 2020

Topics:

Integrations