THE MARKETING HERO PODCAST

Episode 2: Custom Salesforce & HubSpot Integration-Building with Tom Knickerbocker from SurveyGizmo

Transcript:

 

Monica Evans:

This is the Marketing Hero Podcast by ClearPivot, turning marketers into heroes. Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Marketing Hero Podcast. I'm your host, Monica Evans. I'm excited about our guest today. Tom Knickerbocker is here with me from SurveyGizmo. He is a Salesforce guru and has done some impressive work for SurveyGizmo. Tom, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do for them.

Tom Knickerbocker:

Sure. Thank you for having me. I'm the information systems manager at SurveyGizmo. I guess mainly what I do is, I oversee the large majority of our internal business systems. Basically, the systems that our staff uses internally to be able to do their jobs effectively and efficiently, I oversee all those systems. I also manage the integrations and the connectivity and the data transference between those systems.

I'm constantly building upon those systems as well for a variety of reasons, whether it's to make them more scalable or more functional, more automated or make the data output more precise or just make it easier to use. So it's a lot of different hats but that's pretty much it in a nutshell.

Monica Evans:

How long has SurveyGizmo been using the Salesforce?

Tom Knickerbocker:

SurveyGizmo has been using Salesforce since 2016 so going on just about four years. Actually, it might not seem like it's that long but that's a lifetime and a half for any organization using Salesforce, especially when you're talking about companies that are using the Salesforce classic interface and are considering migrating to Lightning.

You're talking about uprooting an entire CRM platform with countless business processes just for, really, an interface change and some new features. So four years is a super long time. I actually started at SurveyGizmo in April of 2019. It's really come a long way just since I started just over a year ago but it's a very well established system with a pretty high adoption rate at SurveyGizmo.

Monica Evans:

Definitely. How is Salesforce set up for you guys, for the sales team, for marketing? What's the current sales process and how do you have it set up to manage all of those integrations?

Tom Knickerbocker:

Salesforce is pretty much the primary platform that the majority of our employees use to do all of their work. Specifically, our sales team, our support team, they pretty much do all of their work out of the Salesforce Platform. So from an integration standpoint, pretty much all of our core systems are integrated with Salesforce in some capacity. We have quite a bit of integrations.

I would say, pretty much all of our SaaS and IaaS systems are integrated with it in some way. So we have a variety of data management tools, we have sales enablement tools, we have phone systems. That's off the top of my head but there's probably much more than that, I'm just not able to recall right now.

Monica Evans:

So you have all these kind of information going into Salesforce in a way that makes it easy for the sales team to do their job, for marketing to do their job efficiently because I know that I worked with you even to set up the HubSpot Salesforce integration just to make it easier for the marketers to do their jobs effectively in trying to target the right people.

Tom Knickerbocker:

Absolutely.

Monica Evans:

Specifically with the integration with HubSpot for marketers, how have you set that up in a way that works for them and what kind of challenges did you face with that integration?

Tom Knickerbocker:

It was a massive project. It was interesting timing too because we really kicked that project off about a month after I started working for SurveyGizmo so it was definitely, for me, a crash course in marketing automation, in general, and marketing automation integration as well as learning a lot about this new company that I had just started working for. The cool thing about SurveyGizmo and really I think the remarkable differentiator about the SurveyGizmo platform, and I'm not sure if you knew this but, up until very recently, our growth, from a marketing perspective and from a sales perspective was 100% organic.

Monica Evans:

Wow.

Tom Knickerbocker:

People would find us through independent agencies who reviewed our product like being one of the best in the market or they'd find us through word of mouth or just be through just our remarkable sales team just rolling up their sleeves, asking for referrals and just continuing to work with the business that they had. If you can believe it, that's actually how SurveyGizmo operated for more than 10 years.

They've been around since, I believe, 2006 and we didn't really kick off any type of marketing automation until, I want to say, 2018. I'm pretty sure that's when they initially acquired HubSpot and really had any true marketing initiative from an automation standpoint. So I think it really speaks to the incredible power of our products and services and really the SurveyGizmo platform that it was pretty much just organic growth for more than 10 years.

So I think today, the SurveyGizmo Platform has really evolved to become very versatile. Going back to your question about the sales process, it's versatile in a way that it accommodates for enterprise businesses as well as self-serve individuals. Our marketing automation, when I came on board and you and I started working on this, we had to make sure that it tied into that wide spectrum of use cases.

I think that was really the biggest challenge with this new iteration of this marketing integration, making sure that we're accounting for every type of customer from just somebody who wants to purchase a single license to send out a survey to these very advanced enterprise customers who want to integrate our system with all of their core systems. So, they're not just sending surveys but they're actually using that data to make strategic decisions to make their business operate better and to give their customers a better experience.

Monica Evans:

Even when we set our first set up, the problem with it too is that, there wasn't previous data that we had because we imported all of our contacts into HubSpot from Salesforce. There was a lot of information previously that we didn't have so we were setting up for future success, correct?

Tom Knickerbocker:

That's correct, yeah. Totally. This is all coming back to me now but I think a lot of what we had to build, we meaning you and me, we had to build from scratch. There was a base platform in place when I first came on board but most of that had to be stripped out and redone. Now, it's not to say that it was wrong or done incorrectly, it's just that the requirements changed. When you and I started, we had to essentially redefine our lead MQL, SQL and customer lifecycle stages. I've got to give credit to the woman who put everything together before you and I actually started working on this project, Stephanie Ross, she's a developer of ours now.

Before you and I started with this new HubSpot implementation, she single-handedly built the first iteration of our HubSpot implementation based on the requirements that she had at the time. Now, when those requirements changed and they changed drastically, it basically required you and I to start essentially from scratch. I think you can agree that, in any organization regardless of size or age, that's a super daunting task to start a marketing automation platform from scratch, right?

Monica Evans:

Yeah.

Tom Knickerbocker:

I think in terms of the challenges involved with that, I think the first step was just, like I was saying, defining what our sales and what our marketing stages were. Like, how do we define what a lead is versus an MQL versus an SQL versus an opportunity versus a customer, what are the business definitions of that? I think that was the first big challenge. You and I spent a lot of time with the SurveyGizmo executive team on making sure that we had exact definitions around what those different lifecycle stages were.

Monica Evans:

Because I think it also depends company to company. Somebody that values an MQL is different from a company that values MDM.

Tom Knickerbocker:

Very much so.

Monica Evans:

So defining that works for SurveyGizmo was a little bit tricky because you have a bunch of people coming from other companies as well and how they've ran things there is a little bit different than how SurveyGizmo. So just defining those and aligning everybody on the team to make sure that we set it up properly.

Tom Knickerbocker:

Like I was saying too, our platform accounts for an insanely wide spectrum of use cases so it's really making sure that our definitions are clearly defined but not so rigid that we are leaving people out of those lifecycle definitions, if that makes sense. So that was really the first step I think, just figuring out what those customer lifecycle stages were and what actions would need to be taken in order to move that lead or that contact through the lifecycle's process.

Monica Evans:

Because that was interesting too, mapping out and trying to feel, okay, if somebody comes in from this page, they're going to do this and then how that's going to go from HubSpot into Salesforce, how it's going to update depending on how they go down their journey and really defining that and getting the write off because of the amount of times we've drawn things out to try to figure out how everything is flowing through each system.

Tom Knickerbocker:

It was definitely a learning process, not just for us but for the executive team that we were bouncing these ideas off of too. Some things are possible, some things are not possible. Some things made sense when we first collected that information but then when put into practice or when we began to implement these things in a sandbox, we realized, oh, maybe this doesn't work after all and we had to bounce that back off to the stakeholders to reevaluate and redefine. So I think it was a process that evolved over time as we were scoping this out, which I think is great because when you're working on projects like these, it's really hard.

When you're building systems in general and you have end users, you have stakeholders who aren't really familiar with building these types of systems, they will only really see the end result, it's really hard to communicate the process behind getting the results that they're asking for. I think that we were really lucky in this case because the SurveyGizmo executive team, they come from a technology background and a systems building background so they really understood when we came back to them with some of the challenges that were facing and some of the work that was going into building these systems out. They were totally understanding of what this process entailed and the difficulties that we were facing and some of the roadblocks.

Our CEO, David Roberts, he comes from 15 years, I think, of building and implementing CRM systems so you couldn't really ask for a better stakeholder for a project like this because he knows pretty much better than anyone in the company the amount of work that goes into a project like this. I think that it really allowed for us to build a proper foundation for this project to scope it out properly because we had a stakeholder team that we were able to bounce these ideas off of. And when things were falling apart at the beginning, as they do with these projects, they were able to improvise and adapt with us.

Monica Evans:

Definitely. One thing that we did too is that, we were able to set up a sandbox environment both in Salesforce and HubSpot to truly track because, if we do anything in the live environment, Salesforce is the point of record for you guys so we can't have any mistakes within that environment so setting up that sandbox really makes it easier to test the flow of things.

Tom Knickerbocker:

Yeah. With Salesforce is easy because especially with Salesforce enterprise, you're given a sandbox so it's really easy to just say, okay, point to this sandbox instead of pointing the production. With HubSpot, it was a little bit trickier. I think that we had to set up trial accounts. So as soon as we set up these "sandboxes" in HubSpot, we had a 30 day countdown before we basically had to start over again or ask for an extension.

But, I totally agree. I think especially with a project like this or really when you're building any systems, it's really important to measure twice and cut once. I think that's what you and I did really well with this project, that we spent a lot of time not really even doing anything aside from just really scoping out what this project is. The SOW that you've put together was extremely detailed and I think that it really allowed for us to be overprepared for the worst case scenario. And I think it's really the only way to get the job done right.

Monica Evans:

Definitely.

Tom Knickerbocker:

I think this project was a real testament to that too, spending lots of time on preparation, on documentation, putting together an SOW, we tested multiple times in our sandbox environment. Even when it came to actually implementing this stuff into production, we very slowly implemented stuff out and tested. We tested and measured things along the way as we rolled things out into production as well as building best practices documentation as we were rolling this stuff out.

Monica Evans:

Go ahead.

Tom Knickerbocker:

That's it.

Monica Evans:

Because I think that SOP document, I know that SurveyGizmo started doing much more marketing with more campaigns than they've ever done in the future or in the past. So I think that having that SOP document allowed any new people coming in understanding how the process was set up because, at the beginning it was just you and me and we did everything to set it up properly so we knew it inside and out but anybody coming in afterwards would be like, what is going on here?

Tom Knickerbocker:

What is this?

Monica Evans:

Why are there so many workflows in HubSpot, updating property fields what does this all mean and what type of properties were used for enrollment triggers to target the right people? So I think that's extremely important for anybody that's looking to do any kind of integration, documenting the process and also having that SOP document for anybody that's coming in.

Tom Knickerbocker:

It's like that role when you're cooking, when you're making food, there's a common tactic that says to make sure that you're cleaning while you're cooking so that when you're done cooking, you don't have a big mess of dishes that you have to deal with. You know what I mean? So documenting these things as you're building and as you're deploying, really makes it really easy to do that because, it's a really common issue in pretty much any organization I've ever worked in to not document this stuff.

The problem is that, when these people that built these very complex systems, if and when they leave that organization, the person that's left, I guess, holding the bag, so to speak, has no idea what they're working with so when something inevitably breaks, trying to troubleshoot that issue becomes almost impossible in some cases.

Monica Evans:

Definitely. With this, now, integration, are you still evolving it or it is okay?

Tom Knickerbocker:

All the time.

Monica Evans:

How are you managing that?

Tom Knickerbocker:

We have a pretty good internal project tracking system or systems to really keep track of the changes that are being made in these systems. But really, the main changes that I'm talking about here are just, as we continue to roll out new products and services to our customers, we are implementing new marketing assets like new webpages, new forms. So it's really just integrating these new assets into our already robust system. So I haven't really made any main fundamental changes to the core processes that manage these forms.

I think you and I actually did a really good job on building the system in such a way so that when we do create these new forms and these new marketing assets, these new templates, it's really easy to plug it into this already robust system that we built. So it's really easy now to add and integrate new forms, to integrate new properties, to add new lead sources to our inclusion list and making sure that they're tying back to the correct lifecycle stage assignments. We did all the hard work and we made sure that it was well-documented and that it was easy to build new assets on top of those already existing systems, if that makes sense.

Monica Evans:

Yeah, definitely. If you could do this project again, what would you do differently?

Tom Knickerbocker:

That's a really good question. I think what I would do differently is, I think I would have spent more time, and I'm saying this because I don't have a better term for it but, clearing out the clutter. It's not to say that HubSpot was a cluttered mess when you and I started, but it was that our requirements for HubSpot and for HubSpot and Salesforce integration was so fundamentally different that I wish we had spent more time clearing out all the existing automation and processes and field mapping that was in place before we started building these new systems and processes.

Monica Evans:

I would agree.

Tom Knickerbocker:

I might've gone as far as doing a total factory reset of HubSpot and just starting from a total vanilla version because I can't tell you how much time you and I spent trying to figure out why something wasn't working only to discover that it was due to some random workflow or process or field mapping that was already in place that we had initially looked at and we had an understanding of but we didn't really consider the impacts of.

It happened so frequently where some seemingly unrelated process was impacting a new workflow or a process that we put in place. I think eventually you and I spent a good several hours just going through every single field and every single workflow one by one and I think we had a lot of revelations throughout that process where we realized, oh, this is why this is happening, let's deprecate that, let's change that, let's move that aside or temporarily turn it off or we can build this and then plug it back in.

I think even in lieu of all the preparation work that we did, we did a lot of prep work for how we should build this system but we did it from the perspective of this is how we're going to build it from the ground up, as if we started from nothing instead of saying, we have an already established system, how are we going to make sure that the transition ... I know that we did consider the transition, that was part of that process, but I just wish that we had spent more time in the beginning with some more consideration as to what those impacts would be.

Monica Evans:

I agree. I think the thing too is, when you're dealing with such a large database, it gets a little scary rolling things out.

Tom Knickerbocker:

It totally does.

Monica Evans:

I think that was a good thing that we did, defining which properties that we want to use, what we want to deprecate. I would say, anybody that's looking to do any kind of integration, that's step one, figuring out which properties they're still using, why they are using it and how they're going to use it in the future because I think that, that's just something that every business needs to know when you're going to be integrating a bunch of systems together. Because now, SurveyGizmo just has HubSpot, Salesforce and they have a bunch of other integrations into Salesforce.

Tom Knickerbocker:

We have a ton of integrations. Our core application is tied to it, our sales automation tools and, like I said, our sales team and our services team works directly out of it for almost all of their work. So a project like this, it definitely made things more complicated to begin with because, like you said, it is a huge database, it is one of our primary systems of records. The initial integration of the HubSpot platform, turning our HubSpot integration to V2, the way it is today, it was complicated at the beginning but I think at the end of the day, it really only strengthened all of our core systems as a result because they all do tie into Salesforce in one way or another.

I think the most important part of my job is to ensure that all of the data in our internal systems flows harmoniously between each of these integrated systems depending on their purpose. Back to what I was saying about measuring twice and cutting once, I really commend both of us on the amount of preparation we did go into this because I think both of us knew that the stakes were high, that we're dealing with live info and we're dealing with real data and we had to be very careful about it.

I think paranoia is a part of my job description. I think it has to be and I think, actually, is what makes a good systems' builder, especially when you're implementing these big systems on, I wouldn't call our Salesforce system a legacy system but I guess, an already established system. When you're implementing big systems on these already established systems and databases, there's always going to be unintended consequences to even the simplest change or the simplest workflow that's put in place. Like I said before, we were very overprepared for the worst case scenario. We spent a lot of time preparing so that when it came to implement-

Monica Evans:

And testing.

Tom Knickerbocker:

And testing and we implemented things very slowly. I think that's really the only way that you can do that because we have hundreds of people using these systems every single day while we're building on top of it so you have to be really careful about what you do.

Monica Evans:

I even remember too, when we first rolled out the integration into the live environment, you had a list of people that, if anybody is coming in, making sure that they're updating correctly, you were monitoring it every single day, every 10 minutes, just to make sure things are working properly.

Tom Knickerbocker:

Yeah, I lived and breathed HubSpot for several months just because of the sheer size of this project. When we first started with, we had a system in place, like I was saying, but it was really just, contact comes in, contact goes out. And with this new implementation, we created a very intricate and dynamic data flow that's really remarkable, I think. We now have the ability with this new implementation to be able to drill down on lifecycle and engagement data.

It's just been totally invaluable to us, especially now that we have the ability to dynamically route lead and customer pipelines to the correct people for the job so it's not just data coming in, data going out, could we get a lot of inbound traffic? Like I said, it's a pretty wide customer spectrum and a wide spectrum of use cases that we have to account for and we don't want to waste our customer's time and we don't want to waste our employees time.

So if a customer or a passer-by wants to learn more about a product or service offering on our website or they just want to try our product or even if they just have a really simple question, we've built a system now that will get that person to where they need to go using a path of least resistance. All of that response data and all of that engagement data, we can now use to actually make better decisions and we can make further improvements based on that data to improve the experience of our customers and to improve the experience of our employees who are on the receiving end of these systems as well.

So it's sort of an ever beneficial cycle that we're able to constantly improve on. So it's been totally invaluable. I think this is really just the beginning of it. I think we're going to be constantly improving on it and building on it and it's only just going to make our decision making and our data even better and it's going to make the customer experience even better as well.

Monica Evans:

Perfect. That's awesome. To end it, I like to ask a couple of fun questions. If you could be any superhero, I know you're a big gaming fan but I decided to move to the more of the superhero, which one would you be and why?

Tom Knickerbocker:

You know for the longest time, when I was a kid, it was Spider-Man. It was just because I liked the cartoons growing up but as an adult, I've really like Doctor Manhattan.

Monica Evans:

Doctor Manhattan? Maybe, I don't know my superheroes very well.

Tom Knickerbocker:

From the Watchmen classic novel. He's the blue guy. I really like the idea that he's just all powerful, all knowing, omniscient and also the way he experiences time differently from other people, he experiences the entire spectrum of time and he lives in the fourth dimension while everyone else lives in the third dimension. The dude is just a monster and he's always been my favorite hero by far, he even blows Super-Man out of the water.

Monica Evans:

That's interesting. I might've to do some research on that guy.

Tom Knickerbocker:

You should.

Monica Evans:

And then also, do you have any words of advice for our audience today, anybody that's trying to do some sort of integration?

Tom Knickerbocker:

Yeah. I think if you've been listening to anything we've been talking about, it's really just to make sure that you're extremely prepared prior to going in and building a system similar to this project that we discussed today and be upfront and transparent with your stakeholders, especially if you have stakeholders that aren't aware of the difficulties that are involved in such a complex integration.

Fortunately, we were in that situation but, I bet most people that are in a similar situation aren't going to be as lucky as us. So overprepare, write a very detailed SOW, make sure you review that SOW with your stakeholders that are actually requesting this integration, make sure that you're defining your customer and lifecycle stages to [inaudible 00:30:12] that they meet the business definitions. You do all those things and I think you'll actually turn out okay.

Monica Evans:

Perfect. Well, thanks for coming on today, Tom. I really appreciate it.

Tom Knickerbocker:

Of course. Thanks for having me.

Monica Evans:

You've been listening to the Marketing Hero Podcast by ClearPivot. Be sure to join us next time. For more information, visit www.clearpivot.com.

 

Topics: SaaS Marketing, Integrations