by Kristine Colosimo
According to Forbes, the average small business owner is online for four hours a day. Sixty-five percent of those small business owners are using that time conducting back office work such as bookkeeping, generating invoices, or accepting payments for their business. Fifty-eight percent are using the time managing relationships with existing customers while 48 percent are communicating with employees and business owners—both front end operations. What if all of these tasks practically took care of themselves? When you connect your cloud apps via integration, you'll see marked improvements in your daily workflow and those improvements are sure to trickle into to your revenue stream.
Integration simply means that your apps can share data. For example, the data that comes out of Infusionsoft may not be perfectly formatted for QuickBooks and vice versa—integration solves this roadblock and takes actions to keep your data between the two apps in-sync. Here are five ways that connecting the business apps you use every day will make all the difference:
No more end-of-month or end-of-tax-season woes
The end of the month is a dreaded time for most small businesses because it means reconciling all of your expenses and sales. This can take hours—especially if you're on a paper system. By using a CRM cloud app or an online Point of Sale (POS) all of your data will be waiting for you. However, if your sales aren't integrated with your accounting you'll have to export the data, manually fix the formatting for your accounting app, and then upload the data. This can waste hours of your time and is a tedious activity—especially when it feels like there already aren't enough hours in a day. When the front and back end of your business can communicate, there's no need to spend time reconciling your accounts. With a truly comprehensive integration, all data, including your historical data, is working for you.
If your business utilizes invoices for services rendered, then the creation of each invoice can also be a time suck. Manually entering your client's information into each invoice when a project finishes can be completely avoided with integration. By connecting your CRM to your accounting app, you can automatically send out invoices with the customer information correctly inserted. Besides time saved, nothing is more embarrassing than spelling a client's name incorrectly or forgetting to send the invoice in a timely manner—two problems eradicated with automation.
A faster sales cycle
You can speed up your sales cycle simply by syncing your sales leads with your customer support app. With updated information on your customers in both your CRM and ticketing system, you’ll have accelerated insights on your customers all in one place. So, when your support team looks up a customer, they'll have a full view of their account allowing them to resolve issues faster. You’ll save time that would have gone to manual data entry between your apps, and your customer service will always be informed.
Better marketing with advanced reports in a click
Good marketing relies on understanding your customers and their spending habits. In order to do this, you need comprehensive reports and the ability to segment your marketing efforts. By connecting your CRM to your marketing automation tool or e-commerce platform, your segmentation abilities soar. Because a record of each purchase can sync into the customer's profile in your CRM, you'll be able to target them when they would be most interested. No more generic emails that potentially drive customers to unsubscribe.
Your marketing can improve by integrating other apps together as well. Event management, fundraising, and customer service apps can connect with your CRM and marketing apps to keep your leads in sync and prevent mistakes like sending a customer the same email twice because they are on two lists. Integration keeps all of your data error and duplicates free, making your reports more accurate in the process. It also updates in real time so you can have an up to date report right when you need it—no need to stop what you're doing and upload a CSV file in order to see an accurate representation of the present.
More time to make relationships and grow your business
Many small businesses rely on maintaining a good relationship with customers and clients, but building these relationships takes time and consistency. Integrations between your apps work even while you sleep, freeing up time you would have spent on manual data entry to get off of your computer and further into your industry.
But it's not just about getting rid of boring manual data entry because integration truly enhances your operations and ups productivity, something small businesses clearly need. In 2015, Forbes found that the four highest priorities for small businesses were cloud computing, social media, mobility solutions, and collaboration. For a small- to medium-sized team, these priorities can't be attended to until the essential tasks like accounting and customer management are addressed. Integration lets you set up once, and rest easy knowing your data is syncing and updating continuously in the background.
What are your priorities for 2016? If it's cutting out the most tedious, time-consuming parts of the business leaves more time to focus on what's important to you, then integration is something worth exploring.
Kristine Colosimo is an integration evangelist and writer for Workato. Workato began when a group of early integration experts came together to create a no-code integration service with vast enterprise capabilities at a low price for small business users.