Five Ways to Connect Your Website to your CRM

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By: Rob Jordan | 11.20.13

One of the more common requests we get from our clients at Idealist Consulting is how to allow donors to access Salesforce.com (CRM) from a website (CMS). For example, perhaps you have donors that would like to change their address, make a donation, and sign up for an event.  By giving them access to your Salesforce.com database you reduce data entry time and the administrative process that goes into managing a donor experience.

Fortunately there are many options to achieve this experience.  To keep things simple, Idealist Consulting has narrowed the options to five types of CRM/CMS integration. When evaluating which type is best for your organization you need first to consider what accessibility your donors require.  This means you need to evaluate their “C.R.U.D.”(Create, Read, Update and Delete) requirements. For example, a donor may wish to create their own record in Salesforce and update their information after a recent move to a new state.  This would imply that they require Create, Read and Update capability. It is important to note that the less accessibility you require the less costly the deployment will be.   For example, a donor that only needs to read their membership information will likely be less expensive of integration CRM/CMS deployment than a donor that is permitted to have full C.R.U.D. access. Taking all this into account, below are five methodologies to consider.

Option #1 CRM Application

Salesforce.com provides “prebaked” Managed Packages that allow a donor’s access into your CRM from a web portal. Examples of this include MemberNation which is a solution specifically designed to help Associations manage their memberships.  EnrollmentRX is another example of a solution built on Salesforce.com that allows both students and prospective students alike to apply for school enrollment from a web portal. Managed Packages will likely provide the most turnkey experience, but it will require a change in business process to fit within the confines of the selected Managed Package.  Moreover, you may have to wait as much a year before you get the new features you may need today. This option is ideal for the large organization that does not have a very customized business process and is looking for full C.R.U.D. access.

Option #2 Salesforce Portals

Salesforce portals are like “lite” users that have much of the same access to Salesforce that a standard user would have -- only they are restricted to limited information. This option is generally the most stable and provides the most accessibility for your donors.  The two way sync is robust allowing full C.R.U.D. capability with minimal configuration.  However, portal licenses come in many shapes and sizes and the cost of deployment may vary depending on the portals you wish to buy. Pricing can be obtained from your Salesforce Account Executive (your consulting partner can help you find them if you don’t know who that is). This option is ideal for the large organization that has a very customized business process looking for full C.R.U.D. access.

Option #3 CRM/CMS integration with CMS Plugin

This option bypasses portals by allowing the user to sync a CMS profile with the Salesforce Contact and Account record. In other words the donor would see your Salesforce database through the “window” of your CMS. This option is likely to be more affordable than Option #1 but requires significant concessions in functionality.  In most cases an organization looking to have Read and Update capability will be happy with the initial cost of deployment but may find the ongoing cost of maintenance between two disparate solutions frustrating. Another consideration is making sure that both solutions are coordinating updates.  Much like an app requires updating when the iPhone updates its iOS, so does the CMS when Salesforce makes updates and vice versa. It is also important to note that this option requires a plugin from your respective CMS and to date there are only three CMS’ that have integration plugins worth looking at: Drupal, Joomla and Wordpress.  The most robust of these integrations is Drupal followed by Joomla and finally Wordpress in a VERY distant third.  Moreover, you will likely require two skills sets to deploy this option (CRM Specialist and CMS Specialist) making the deployment process slightly more unwieldy. This option is ideal for the medium to large sized organization that has a very customized business process looking for R(ead) and U(pdate) access but does not have the budget for option one or two.

Option #4 Visual Force (With Salesforce Sites)

Visual Force is sort of like HTML code for the Salesforce platform.  You can build a website in the platform but managing the web content thereafter can be awkward compared to the experience of a more developed CMS. That said, it is an ideal solution to share information in a read only capacity. For example, perhaps you want to share a Salesforce report openly on your website or give general information to your constituency that can only be found in your Salesforce CRM – Visual Force is ideal for this.  This is a clear option for organizations that wish only to share basic Read capability.  Embedding this read functionality within a CMS portal environment can give the impression of a “members only” experience but it really does not provide the individual access that Option one two or three offer. Costs will vary depending on the depth of information you wish to share and although it is conceivable to build out the same functionality you will find in options one, two or three, we do not recommend it. This option is ideal for any organization that looking for R(ead) access only for its constituency.

Option #5 Non CRM Applications

Leveraging multiple applications with some of the native functionality of Salesforce.com is a very affordable work-around to all the options listed in this article. Simply put, rather than having your donors update their information from your CMS, the donor is sent event invites, surveys, update requests, donation forms etc., directly to their respective email address. These forms are filled out by the donor and then returned automatically directly to their respective record in the CRM. This option requires that you reach out to the donor directly (generally by email) and then the information is fed back to the CRM once the donor has clicked “submit form”. This method requires more administration work than the other options and reduces website traffic, but is roughly two-thirds less expensive. Moreover, the donor does not have to go to the website to keep information updated. This generally means more administrative process on the back end since it entails sending out communications to the donors directly (usually by mass email).However, it is an ideal option for organizations with a small budget that wish to give an impression of a membership experience but don’t have the budget for option one two or three.

To help decide which option is best for your organization you should consider four things:

  1. How many donors require access?
  2. What processes do you wish your donors to see?
  3. Which levels of C.R.U.D. access do you wish your donors to have?
  4. What is your yearly budget?

Once you have considered all these variables you will find that the higher your answer for each question the more likely you will lean toward the more robust options.  Below is a table that breaks down the ideal scenario for the deployment of the options discussed.  Please note that all these options could conceivably provide full C.R.U.D. access but it is the opinion of this consulting firm that some are more appropriate than others when considering Automated Enhancements, Maintenance, Licensing fees and of course…cost of configuration.  The options are listed in order of total cost to deploy relative to the recommended C.R.U.D.

Solution

Recommended C.R.U.D.

Automated enhancements

Reoccurring fees

Requires familiarity outside the Salesforce Platform

Cost of initial configuration

CRM Applications

C.R.U.D.

Yes

Yes

No

Low

Portals

C.R.U.D.

Yes

Yes

No

Med

CRM/CMS

R.U.

No

No

Yes

High

Salesforce Sites

R.

No

No

No

Med

Specialized Applications

R.

Yes

Yes

No

Med

 Interested in learning more about how CRMs and CMS' can interact? Check out The Connected Cause's whitepaper: CMS Platforms: A Guide for Nonprofits.

 

 

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