The Art of Integration
I use a number of third party software as a service (SaaS) products in my business, but something I always ask before I signup for a product is:
“Will it integrate?”
What do I mean by integration? I mean can I collect data once and then have it passed between all solutions. The idea of re-keying data to make the various systems of your business it time consuming and for me deadly boring, I want to integrate WordPress with these systems.
Rather than creating a bunch of new tasks to manage your shiny new SaaS I suggest you check out any integrations they have on offer before taking he plunge with the new tool.
Most of the popular software as a service providers understand their system will not solve everyone’s so they will provide a number if integration with other solutions where data can be freely shared and not re-keyed.
To give you a feel for integration here is how I use it across the services in my business.
I use mailchimp as my email service provider, I want to capture leads directly from my website without keying them in and I also want to capture details from my contact forms.
Mailchimp of course provides signup form code to add to your site, but there are also a host of plugins such as this one to integrate with your site.
I don’t use this plugin, I use gravity forms (see below).
I never have to key in email addresses into Mailchimp because of these integrations.
This is at the core of my business it allows me to send out estimates and invoices, it tracks all important financial information for me It allows me to record expenses and produce reports I use to create my accounts.
The idea of typing in client details every-time I have a new request for work does not appeal, so I found an integration with Gravity forms that allow me to capture potential customer information from that form and pass it directly to Freshbooks creating a new client entry and a new blank estimate which I can fill in and send to the client.
This may not sound much but please bare in mind I’ve sent out thousands of quotes over the years, and multiplying five minutes for each quote by thousands is hundreds of hours saved.
I can also push data from Freshbooks into mail chimp and basecamp for cross integration too.
Freshbooks has a huge number of other integrations, check them out over at freshbooks.com
I use Basecamp to manage all of my projects, a new request is sent automatically into basecamp using their email integration (sent from gravity forms) so a new entry for a potential project is created, if that project comes to fruition I can simply move the project details into it’s own project at the click of a button and add additional information for me or my team to work from.
No re-keying and all details kept in once place.
Checkout Basecamp they are the “Daddy” of integration and have a huge number of add-ons as they call them.
This is a new product I’m using as my customer relationship management software. In it I keep all details of my clients and I use it to follow up and keep in contact with people.
It’s a great system for keeping in touch and generating new business (I’m pretty new to CRM systems and this has helped me to book myself solid recently).
Contactually links to mailchimp, I can import Freshbooks from CSV exports (not a direct integration but it’s a new SaaS and they are developing it well) and most importantly it connects to my primary email system Gmail and pulls in details of everyone I have contacted so I can tag and categories the email addresses.
If I had to do any of this manually by typing in email addresses (which some CRMs ask you to do) I would not have adopted it.
The fact I have all my email addresses bucketed and ready for use without typing in addresses has saved me hundreds of hours, and lets be honest here I would have done the first fifty then gotten bored and given up, another tool unused – well done contactually.
Check out Contactually
Not necessarily a product, but Gravity forms and their understanding of the need to integrate is at the heart of everything I do, even the signup form in my sidebar is a gravity form er form pretending to be a signup graphic.
If you request WordPress technical support from me, you will be sending your details via GF this send to Basecamp, Freshbooks and adds you to a Mailchimp list.
You need to buy the developers edition of Gravity Forms to take advantage of these add-ons but the investment of $150 a number of years ago has saved me hundreds of hours in lost time re-keying data.
There Is Always The API
Most of the good SaaS systems have an API of application programming interface. Using this there is always the chance you could write your own integration if one does not exists off the shelf, or if you have a particular requirement.
This is something I have done for my clients in the past.
How are you integrating WordPress with the software tools that power your business? Let talk about it in the comments. Are you struggling with an integration, perhaps I can help I’ll answer your questions in the comments.
I’m a huge believer in working smarter, I want to automate before I do it myself or ask a member of ,my team to do it. I advise you learn the art of integration for your own systems.