If you choose a marketing automation solution with this feature, you have the option of CRM alignment without any integration at all, but it limits your ability for dynamic interaction. This option is best if you have a custom CRM, no API option, or a CRM that is not supported by your marketing automation tools with an out-of-the-box connection feature. Manually importing and exporting requires a CSV file to share your data between your CRM and your marketing automation system. Importing via the CSV file type saves you 60–80 hours of custom API development and still gives you the ability to report marketing campaign ROI. This basic connection, however, limits your ability to pass leads back and forth between systems in real time.
Manually importing data is also a great option to help keep your beginning marketing automation implementation simple while still achieving your goals regardless of whether your tool supports your CRM. Most CRM connections can easily be installed without a lot of IT support because the marketing automation system is ready “out of the box,” with connection features for nontechnical folks. This is the best of the three options when you can find it. However, the more customized your CRM needs to be, the less likely you are to find an out-of-the-box connection that works for your CRM. Check with your vendor to see whether this is an option for you.
An application programming interface (API) is developer-speak for a gateway that connects two software systems through a programming language. If you are not familiar with API programming, you need to find someone who is. This may be your IT team, or you may have to hire an outside consultant to help. Expect building out the API to take between 60 and 80 hours of custom work to integrate your solutions. This option is the best choice if you have a custom CRM and the resources to build the connections. Only about 10 percent of companies choose this route because of cost and complexities.