23.09.2020

Technical & Integrations

HubSpot Integrations - When To Go Custom & When Not To

13 min read

Shane

Are thinking about integrating a system with HubSpot? In this blog post, Shane Punt, Martech Specialist at Huble Digital, provides a logic exercise for you to follow to make sure you are selecting the right integration solution for your data requirements and avoiding unexpected costs.

Firstly, I want to state that I am not a developer; I work in strategy (think more Mad Men than Mr Robot). That being said, I’ve been involved in quite a few HubSpot CRM Integration projects from a strategy and planning perspective, and I do know more than the average Joe when it comes to HubSpot integrations.

Not too long ago, our CIO Rowan Reid wrote a great article called: Five examples of integrations you didn’t know you could do with HubSpot. Picking up where he left off, I thought custom integrations would be a valuable topic to expand on from a digital business/marketing consultant perspective. This purpose of this article is not to show if we can do it, but rather to ask should we do it, or is there another way?

Working on HubSpot integrations has taught me a few things – namely, they can be extremely powerful, providing the right information at the right time and connecting organisational systems that were inconceivable a few years ago (unless you ran an enterprise-size organisation).

At the same time, however, HubSpot integration projects can also spiral out of control if you don’t have a clear understanding of an integration’s purpose. For example: the type of integration you need to acquire specific data. 

Hint: There is more than one way to do an integration, and not all of them need a backend developer.

If you are thinking about integrating a system with HubSpot, I highly recommend you follow this logic exercise. I’ve broken it up into steps to make sure you are selecting the right integration solution for your data requirements and avoiding unexpected costs.

Step 1 - Data mapping

What is this task?

Before selecting an integration method, you should commit to a data mapping exercise. This will give you a scope of what is needed from your HubSpot integration.

Don't worry, data mapping doesn’t need a developer, and if you are familiar with HubSpot properties this will be a simple enough task.

Generally, I create a spreadsheet with properties that need to go from HubSpot to the other platform, and from that platform to HubSpot. 

This is an important exercise as you don't always need to pass every property into each platform.  Often, your field types may not correspond between platforms — for example, a date field in one platform may be a free text field in the other, which could inhibit an integration.

From the spreadsheet, you can now see the properties that need to be integrated and whether those properties need to be created in the corresponding system. For example, does HubSpot’s “First Name” have a corresponding property in the other platform?

Things to look out for

During your data mapping exercise, the following factors may indicate that a custom HubSpot integration is needed:

  • Data transformation

    • When the data needs to be manipulated before being passed between platforms. This may be a format change or new properties being created in one platform when they are created in the other.

  • Rules of when to pass data or create data

    • When data needs to only pass over in certain circumstances, rather than at regular intervals. For example, if a contact has X property already, then do Y with the integration.

  • Mapping to non-standard object corresponding properties

    • These scenarios are rare but do crop up from time to time (such as if a “Contact” property needs to pass to a non-contact property in another platform). For instance, “First Name” needs to become a company name in a property on the other platform. I’ve had scenarios where a contact property in one platform needed to become a HubSpot “Deal” property.

If your mapping exercise does not have any of these scenarios, you can move on to Step 2 to see if an out-of-the-box integration is suitable for you.

If you encounter any of the above scenarios, move to Step 3 to see if you can do a custom integration without a developer (most out-of-the-box integrations will not cater for the above scenarios).

Step 2 - Out-of-the-box HubSpot integration

What is this task?

This task should be undertaken when you’re sure there are no data integration complexities, as described in the above scenarios. Begin by browsing the HubSpot App Marketplace to see if it has an out-of-the-box integration for the platform you want to integrate HubSpot with. 

If you log into your portal, the HubSpot App Marketplace should be under the Marketplace tab. This portal has a huge amount of ready-to-use integrations — it’s a simple plug-and-play operation where you just connect the platforms. 

A good example of an out-of-the-box integration is that of Salesforce and Shopify.

Things to look out for

The following are important considerations when selecting an integration from the marketplace:

  • Is the platform you want to integrate with Hubspot listed?

    • If you can't find the platform you want to integrate with then you need to move on to Step 3 to look at other integration options.

  • Do you have the right subscription?

    • Some platforms require you to have a certain level of subscription for an integration to take place. Please make sure that you have the right subscription before selecting the integration as otherwise you may hit a dead-end or need to pay an additional subscription fee. 

    • If the integration is available with a small additional fee, I would recommend this as custom integration costs can get expensive and take longer to rollout.

  • Does the integration work with your mapping doc?

    • You may think your data mapping document is a simple integration, but sometimes out-of-the-box plug and play integrations may not meet your requirements. For example, you may be able to integrate contacts but not companies with an integration.

Step 3 - Third-party custom integration platforms

What is this?

If there is no out-of-the-box integration that meets your requirements –or you need to transform data, create data rules or map data to non-standard object properties – you may want to look at a third-party integration tool.

The key benefit of these tools is they often let you manipulate and integrate data without the need for a developer. However, these tools sometimes have limitations with how the data can be manipulated, and because each platform is different, your options need to be carefully evaluated as these services have an associated fee.

A solid example of this is Zapier, which allows you to implement integration parameters, manipulate data and create rules of when to allow data to integrate. That said, it can't always do everything you need it to, but I highly recommend you try this out before moving onto a custom integration that needs a developer.

Before proceeding, I advise running a proof of concept before committing to a third-party integration platform.

Things to look out for

  • Does it support the platforms you want to integrate with?

    • If the third-party platform does not include the integration you want, you will almost certainly need a custom HubSpot integration with a developer. This either means that the platform you want to integrate HubSpot with is very bespoke and not widely used enough, or that it does not have an API (application programming interface) which allows data to pass between platforms.

  • Can it transform data, create data integration rules or map to non-standard object properties if needed?

    • Although third-party platforms are often very flexible with how you can configure integrations, some don't cover all the scenarios or require non-ideal workarounds.

  • Does your data policy or regulations allow for information to run through third party platforms?

    • If you have a customer data policy that prohibits contact information from passing through third-party platforms — or data regulations in your country that prohibit data from passing through third parties without the contact’s consent (GDPR etc.) — you may need to look at a custom integration with a developer.

If the integration platform can’t do the integration you need, it’s time to start thinking about a custom integration with a developer and move to Step 4.

Step 4 - Do APIs exist?

What is this? 

At this point, you will almost certainly require a custom HubSpot integration, but the question is how complex does that integration need to be?

If you have exhausted both your out-of-the-box and third-party integrations, your next step should be to check if the platform you want to integrate with HubSpot has an API. This can be found by viewing the platform’s support documentation.

Read more detail about API and their uses on freecodecamp.org/

If a platform does not have an API, you will need to build one or find a method to pass data into the platform, which can substantially add to development costs.

Although many modern platforms do have an API, we often find that software housed on local machines rather than in the cloud lack this key functionality.

Things to look out for

  • Is the software housed on-premise?

      • There is a good chance that if the software you want to integrate with HubSpot is installed on your organisation’s premises, it will not have an API and one will need to be created.

  • Does an API exist or can one be built?

    • If an API does not exist, one will need to be built and factored into the integration scope.

Once you have determined if an API exists you can move to Stage 5.

Step 5 - Types of custom integrations involving a developer

If you are at this point, you will definitely need a developer to build a custom HubSpot integration, assuming both a plug and play integration or third-party integration platform can’t achieve what you need them to.

However, you need to be aware of some of the remaining factors that can increase the scope of custom HubSpot integration projects:

  1. If an API needs to be built it can push up the scope of an integration project.

  2. If the data needs to be manipulated, transformed or have rules applied before it passes between platforms, the developer may need to build “middleware”. This is code that manipulates and applies logic to data being transferred between platforms. This can also push the scope higher with projects, but much less so than having to build APIs from scratch.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you’ve a much clearer understanding of your integration options with HubSpot, as well as when it’s the right time to consider a custom integration, with or without a developer.

Remember, there is no point going after a blue sky solution that is not achievable with real-world constraints. Sometimes, a solution that achieves 80% of what you are looking for with key MVP features is the best, especially if it can be done more quickly and cheaper than the alternative.

On a parting note, I will be the first to say this article probably isn't long enough to do the whole process justice — there are many, many other different factors to consider. So if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to the Huble Digital team — we’ll be more than happy to answer any integration questions you may have.

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