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Salesforce Integration Guide: How to Connect Any App to Salesforce

Salesforce is a great tool used by thousands of eCommerce businesses and other types of organizations. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Often, businesses need additional tools to run their operation. Whatever those tools may be, from Slack or HelloSign to a BigQuery storage and analytics solution, they can be integrated with Salesforce to work as one mechanism.

Are you new to Salesforce and need to integrate your stack of tools? Are you growing your business and adding your first external app to the platform you’ve been using for years? In any case, this article will help you navigate this new dimension of Salesforce. Follow this guide to learn more about integrating apps with Salesforce and the best ways of doing so.

What is Salesforce integration?

Salesforce is a CRM and a database, but it can become much more than that when you connect additional apps to it. That’s what Salesforce integration is — the process of merging functionality and data between Salesforce and a third-party app.

The platform allows native integrations with a number of top-ranking apps like MailChimp, NetSuite, or AWS. Most others can be integrated with the help of either programmatically connecting applications’ APIs or through third-party integration tools.

Connecting the applications can take a bit of work, but it will save a lot of time in the long run as you or your employees will not be wasting their time switching between tabs or importing data manually.

Salesforce integration use-cases

When it comes to integrations, Salesforce can be linked with almost any web application out there, albeit with differing levels of difficulty. If you have a tool that is indispensable for the operation of your organization, the odds are it can be connected to Salesforce to work in a single environment.

Any integration where data is transferred either to or from a Salesforce instance is possible, with users controlling the process from the Salesforce org admin panel or with the other tool. Let’s look at a couple of use-cases to see what your options are.

  • Importing lead contact information
  • Updating payment information
  • Importing remote support service data
  • Updating Salesforce Price Books
  • Remote access to Salesforce records
  • Duplicating Salesforce data for record-keeping

These are the most basic features that can be useful for most businesses. Now, let’s look at an example to see how it can work in practice.

Salesforce integration example

Let’s imagine a medium eCommerce company that used to sell products on Shopify and decided to upgrade to running their own website and using Salesforce as the central hub for handling all their business data. However, native Salesforce tools do not cut it for this company, and they need to connect external applications to make the process smooth for all team members:

  • Exporting Shopify data to Salesforce and making a backup in BigQuery. Due to Salesforce’s constraints on data storage, keeping historical data off the platform is cheaper and more reliable. Having a backup log of historical data can also be a good solution in case your company needs to analyze such data in the future. 
  • Connecting a TypeForm lead generation form from the website to Salesforce. It can be done with TypeForm’s native app, TypeForm Connect. Information that leads provide in the form is going to go directly into the Salesforce database.
  • MailChimp integration with either AppExchange or third-party apps. Salesforce does have its email marketing tool, but you may choose to use an external app because it has more features, or you don’t want to spend time onboarding. As a result of the integration, Salesforce and MailChimp databases will be in sync, and users can configure email campaigns from the Salesforce org.
  • Finally, this company finds that the volume of historical data stored on Salesforce is too small for long-term analytics purposes. It’s going to be much cheaper to store archival data elsewhere, and this is most easily done by exporting Salesforce data to BigQuery. Even if the organization does not have the resources for data mining and advanced data analytics at the moment, they can always store business data cheaply and connect Data Studio or Tableau for analytics when the moment is right.

Thus, the company can use four cloud tools as one with a bit of integration to achieve all their business goals.

Step-by-step Salesforce integration process

Creating an app-based integration with a third-party tool like Coupler.io is pretty straightforward. Here is a step-by-step overview of creating a Salesforce BigQuery integration with this tool.

Salesforce API integration – Coupler.io example

To start with, you have to create a Coupler.io account or log in to an existing one. Next, create a new importer and name it. 

Set up source

Your new importer needs a source of data to send to BigQuery. Select Salesforce from the list and connect your account to Coupler.io. Then, you should specify the data entity you want to export.

You can also add almost any type of filter to the exporter via the advanced settings. However, this is a low-code solution, and you will have to write filtering criteria in the corresponding field in the Coupler.io importer.

It needs to be written in SOQL, Salesforce proprietary query language. There is detailed documentation on SOQL and the code you need to write is limited to the name of the column in the object you’re exporting and value. Here’s how the filtering criteria looks like for export of sales data on sales created in the current month and which are not closed yet:

IsClosed = False AND CreatedDate = THIS_MONTH

Set up destination

The next step is connecting BigQuery to the importer. Connect your BigQuery account. Specify the dataset and table for your import.

Now, all you have to do is save the importer and run it.

Set up schedule

After running a test with the new importer, you can automate it. With Coupler.io, you can set up the importer to run at a specific timeframe, ranging from monthly exports to updating data every 15 minutes.

Salesforce data integration rules

When you connect other apps to Salesforce, you may need to set up data integration rules on the Salesforce platform. These rules allow records to get automatically updated when a user or script updates the database with appropriate records. An example of that would be adding geolocation to the lead information upon triggering a data integration rule.

Types of integration in Salesforce

When you’re thinking of making a Salesforce integration, you need to decide on the Salesforce integration architecture first. There are two main options: app-based integration and code-based.

App-based integration

App-based integrations are either low-code or no-code solutions to doing Salesforce CRM integration. This can be done either with a proprietary app like MuleSoft Composer that is accessible from Salesforce App Builder or with a third-party app like Zapier or Coupler.io.

This method may not allow for some of the most intricate integrations, but it does not require any coding knowledge to set up. This makes app-based integration an ideal variant for SMEs and solopreneurs as you don’t need to hire a professional to handle the integration process.

Code-based integration

Apart from using apps to integrate Salesforce CMS with third-party tools, you can also use solutions based on programming. It will most likely involve writing code on Apex, a language closely related to Java, and hosting the code responsible for this Salesforce API integration on the Salesforce platform.

Despite the greater difficulty of implementing this method, it does allow for more intricate and difficult integrations.

Salesforce data integration

Creating a data integration in Salesforce is probably the easiest way to integrate the platform with another app. It does not involve anything complex, just data going in or out. An example of a simple Salesforce data integration would be an app sending customer data to the Salesforce database for recordkeeping or exporting Salesforce data into a BI tool.

Business process integration

With Salesforce, you can not only integrate data streams but business processes as well. An example of that would be connecting your email marketing tool to the Salesforce database or automatic aggregation of data for reporting purposes.

User interface integration

Another way you can integrate a Salesforce instance with a third-party app is by integrating the UI of both platforms. With that type of integration, you can control your email marketing campaigns from the Salesforce admin panel, saving you time on switching between tabs.

Salesforce integration patterns

Even though there are around half a dozen integration patterns, most of these are applicable to code-based integrations and denote the particularities of handling data. Most business owners will be choosing between the following two patterns. 

Direct integration

Direct integration is a more simplified approach that is simultaneously more limited in what you can do with the integration. A direct integration involves integrating databases or certain API calls from two platforms. Most often, it’s a simple integration like sending data entered into a form to a Salesforce database.

Server-based integration

Server-based integration involves coding and can be useful for more intricate integrations like merging business logic and user interfaces of different apps. Salesforce allows developers to use the following patterns when creating a server-based integration solution:

  • Remote Process Invocation—Request and Reply
  • Remote Process Invocation—Fire and Forget
  • Batch Data Synchronization
  • Remote Call-In
  • UI Update Based on Data Changes
  • Data Virtualization

These types of patterns, when combined, can make for a pretty complex integration. For instance, your Salesforce org can invoke an email marketing campaign in MailChimp on specific leads once they meet the specific criteria, and update the corresponding data sets in Salesforce.

Salesforce integration tools

What tools you’re going to be using for the integration with Salesforce will depend primarily on what type of integration you choose and your budget. For code-based integrations, your choice will fall on Salesforce Lightning Platform and Apex as the main programming language.

For code-free integrations, you may use either a proprietary tool like MuleSoft Composer or third-party tools like Coupler.io.

MuleSoft used to be a third-party importing solution but was later acquired by Salesforce. Naturally, it has a lot of importing and integration solutions with the platform. It allows for quite intricate integrations. Here’s a snippet on the business logic flow of Salesforce-NetSuite sales order broadcast.

Zapier is a third-party app that can be used to integrate both databases and business logic between Zapier and many other apps from its collection of over 4000.

Commercient is another integration platform that can be used to integrate Salesforce or another CRM with BI and productivity tools.

Fivetran is a business automation system that features only around a hundred connectors, but covers many of the top-tier business tools.

Integrate.io also offers a range of automated data importing solutions. It focuses primarily on bringing together disparate databases and not on automation.

Importer tools like Coupler.io allow users to integrate any apps with each other without using coding at all or with very limited need to write code.

Salesforce integration best practices

Salesforce is a great CRM platform in and of itself, but when it’s combined with other business tools, it creates an unbeatable combination. Integrating Salesforce with any app is easy enough with or without coding.

To do this, you need to start with planning first: decide what you are going to use the integration for, choose the type of integration, and the tools you’re going to use. Setting up and testing the integration is going to take some time, but once you’re done, you’re going to have a solution that saves your team hours upon hours of time!

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