LOCALOGY ENGAGE 19: SaaS Integrations Bridge the All-in-One, Point Solutions Divide

LSA proprietary data shows 79% of small business owners would prefer a single, integrated software solution or provider to solve multiple operational or marketing problems. Only 21% said they would rather work with point solutions.

That finding offers some important context for the discussion of SaaS and tool integrations. At the LOCALOGY ENGAGE: SaaS/SMB event last week in Washington, D.C., Greg Powell of Fundbox, Andy Fowler of Nutshell and David Brownman of Zapier took on this critical topic in an insightful panel discussion.

While investors tend to fund point solutions, most small businesses complain that their various tools and software programs don’t easily work together. This was underscored by the one of the SMB interview videos screened during the conference, in which the business owner was using multiple could-based tools but none of them communicated with one another.

For SaaS companies, integrations represent a powerful opportunity – even an imperative. In the best-case scenarios, they have the capacity to dramatically accelerate adoption, better meet customer needs and improve retention. Fowler told the story of how an early G-Suite integration more than doubled the company’s lead volume almost overnight. Greg Powell also spoke about how the company’s Quickbooks integration was a huge accelerant to their business.

Powell explained that a trusted integration (like Quickbooks) can create instant credibility for a SaaS provider. He added that deep integrations can also deliver the customer at “the exact moment of need.” Marketing can only approximate that level of SMB intent, he said.

Powell also sees the Intuit deep integration as a model for more of Fundbox’s partnerships in the future. “We don’t see ourselves as the dashboard or front door for our customers.” By contrast, all the speakers agreed that app stores or marketplaces generally don’t work very well for customer acquisition or engagement.

On the subject of what makes a good integration partner, Zapier’s David Brownman said it was less the case of large vs. small players rather than the specific attitude of the potential partner. “Good partners follow through,” he said, adding that to accomplish a successful integration teams need to be cross functional. “You need buy in from multiple areas: marketing, product, etc.” There needs to be a lot of discussion and collaboration with the partner, Brownman emphasized.

Fowler added that if the necessary level of partner engagement isn’t there, Nutshell will walk away. “We need to sell with the ability to walk away early – no matter how big the company is.” All the speakers stressed that it’s also important not to say yes to everyone but to be selective.

“The best partnerships are ones where we test and slowly make our way into deeper integration,” explained Powell. “The worst partners are not willing to put in the work.” Powell and Fowler both discussed the need to set expectations and goals with partners. “We’re committing to launch, test and iterate,” said Fowler. “Good partners are willing to engage in goal-setting discussions.”

Brownman sees integrations as bridging the divide between the SMBs’ stated desire for an “all in one” solution and proliferating point solutions in the market. He put his own spin on the 79% – 21% data point, arguing that what businesses really want is to be able to choose and work with specific best of breed products but also have them work together. That’s the promise and value of open APIs and integrations.

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