A typical small-mid sized company (less than 50 employees) uses 16 SaaS apps on average, with that number sky-rocketing to more than 100 unique SaaS apps for larger companies (over 1,000 employees).
With so many different SaaS apps being used in parallel, companies need each app to integrate with the rest of their SaaS stack. If data in one app isn’t synced to the other (and viceversa), it can be a huge blocker to using the SaaS app.
The necessity of integrating with your customer’s SaaS stack is not new - the B2B SaaS industry as a whole has tried many different approaches to solve this. Let’s go through some of the current solutions.
Some companies tackle data consistency between SaaS apps by allowing their users to import and export spreadsheets (CSVs, Excel files, Google Sheets, etc.) directly through their B2B SaaS product.
For example, if you were building an email marketing tool for running cold email campaigns, offering users the option to upload an Excel file of contacts (containing the names, emails, and other fields) would be a relatively straight-forward experience to import the data. However, this approach can have significant drawbacks.
Static Documents = Bad
The first (and largest) drawback of having your users upload a file is that it is a static document.
Once the customer uploads the document, they will have to upload a new document every time they want to import more contacts.
Imagine a user of this cold email campaign tool wants to put leads from a form on their website into their cold email campaign. This would mean that the user would need to manually export the form submissions and then upload it to your system every day. Not only is this a cumbersome experience, but it can result in missing data.
Mapping files is not easy
Secondly, mapping the data can bring up all kinds of issues.
If every single one of your users was importing spreadsheets that look exactly the same, then mapping the data is straightforward. Your users will map once, and that’s it. Great in theory, hard in practice.
The issue becomes apparent when your tool needs to collect CSVs from multiple different systems, or even scarier, hand-created documents. In this situation, your product will need to validate the data to prevent issues. However, customers will demand help understanding why their spreadsheets are invalid. Whether it’s because of a typo in their spreadsheet or incorrectly formatted data (think dates, phone numbers, etc.) your team will be forced to assist customers in importing their data.
This creates lots of work for everyone involved. Let’s look at a better option for both your product team and your customers.
There are some SaaS apps that take it a step further with native integrations. These SaaS apps connect directly to their users other SaaS apps to import data so you and your customers don’t have to go through the manual process described above.
This eliminates the issue of data being consistently out of date due to the manual import process. Once the connection is established, the data can automatically flow from the original system so that it never has to be manually updated.
If we go back to the example of the email marketing tool, you could allow your users to link their CRMs like Salesforce, HubSpot, Pipedrive or others to pull in contacts and lead information. Instead of uploading an Excel file and mapping the data, they simply connect their CRM system once and can start sending emails to their potential customers immediately.
While this is definitely a better experience than the file upload method, it creates a new issue. What if you want to allow your user to send data in your product back to their CRM system?
Going back to our example, one of the most important parts of running a cold email campaign is knowing who is opening and replying to your emails. This is data that your users will want in their CRMs, so that sales representatives can act on that activity. Unfortunately, with a uni-directional integration, that data cannot be sent back.
Hence we move to the final solution: a bi-directional integration that can pull data in from the CRM system and send data back to the CRM.
While the most difficult to build, taking the step beyond just importing data from other SaaS apps to support exporting data as well can increase the chance your users will be able to fit your tool into their SaaS stack.
In our example, this means that your users would be able to import their contacts data directly from their CRMs, and see the open/response metrics from your tool reflected in the CRM as well.
This is extremely powerful because it manages to keep data consistent between all your user’s systems, and most importantly, removes a big blocker when it comes to adding a new tool to a company’s current stack.
How to build powerful bi-directional integrations
Now that you know that bi-directional integrations are the best way to help your product integrate into a potential customer’s SaaS stack, let’s discuss how to build these integrations.
Building it yourself
Your team can certainly create bi-directional integrations in-house but they are hard to build and even harder to maintain. Furthermore, if you start to build a whole library of integrations, you will need to build serious infrastructure to manage all the syncing the integrations are doing – not to mention dedicating engineers to maintain all of this.
Building all this functionality out can take months depending on the complexity of the system, which can be a huge drain on engineering resources.
hotglue abstracts away most of the pains of building bi-directional integrations by offering a platform that reduces the process to a matter of days. hotglue leaves you in control over how the integrations work, with the ability to customize the data output formats, do custom transformations, and manage the integrations programmatically.
At the end of the day, your product needs to play well with other SaaS apps to be widely adopted. Achieving this means making it really easy for your users to connect their other SaaS tools to yours in order to have data consistency across all their platforms.
Above we walked through three different strategies of how B2B SaaS tools deal with data integration today. The file upload, the uni-directional sync, and the bi-directional sync.
If you are ready to start sending data to your user’s SaaS stack, check us out at hotglue.com.