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With the advent of the cloud and SaaS business models, small and medium-sized businesses can now leverage enterprise-grade technology without the enterprise-sized price tag. This access to powerful software at a reasonable price lets businesses of all sizes gather customer data, identify trends and bottlenecks in their processes, and iterate upon them until everything flows smoothly through their customer’s buying cycle.

But there’s a catch. Before an organization can take full advantage of this technology, it has to figure out how it can most effectively implement it into its daily business and sales activities to gather more customer data.

First, a company must begin measuring the actions it takes to generate new customers by implementing various applications at different points of the sales process. From generating awareness with social media campaigns or closing a deal with sales, to supporting the product with customer service, each stage needs applications gathering data from every customer interaction.

In most cases, this means having multiple applications all collecting data across various parts of your buying cycle. When this happens, there are two new problems: 1) the data you’ve gathered applies only to a certain stage of the cycle and 2) depending on how many applications you use, your employees are entering and re-entering information multiple times throughout the day.

Fortunately, there’s a solution for both of these problems: integrating your applications.

The power of multiple apps working together.

By integrating your applications you can populate customer information across all apps to prevent duplicate entry while simultaneously connecting different datasets across the buying cycle.

The problem is that integrating applications is a big challenge, and in most cases, an even bigger hassle. Just ask Bask Iyer, CIO of VMware, who said in an interview, “Even when we had everything in our own data center it was difficult to do integration. I mean there are software companies who say we’ll integrate across multiple clouds, it is not simple you know because we could not integrate applications that were sitting in our own data center.

Unfortunately, without integrations, every application becomes a data silo. This ends up costing the company in employee productivity, in business process, and in maintaining data integrity.

That’s why a small to medium sized business, ideally, shouldn’t go down this path of purchasing individual applications that aren’t integrated out of the box. They should instead seek vendors who have integrated suites.

With an integrated suite, the buyer bypasses the hassle of integrating applications, as well as the responsibility of maintaining those integrations with vendors through all future product updates. This means a tremendous cost-savings for the business and less risk when adding future applications to meet the organization’s needs.

“[A customer] will get faster value and time to value by adding the next application in an integrated suite,”  said Steve Miranda, Executive VP of Oracle Applications Product Development in an interview.

Sure, there are some cases where this can’t be avoided. But in those instances, a third-party connector can bridge the gap with little to no development. The key to success with this route is finding a vendor whose application has multiple third-parties developing integrations.

Unfortunately, these vendors are hard to come by, especially for newer products.

Running the numbers.

Now that you’ve collected and connected the right data points, you can conduct revenue attribution to understand where money is coming from and from which customers. With that knowledge, you can learn how customers engaged with your organization and then double down on those marketing sources to generate even more profitable customers.

More importantly, you can now calculate your conversion rates for each stage of your buying cycle.

“If you know the conversion rates, something extremely magical can be done here,” said David Skok, five-time entrepreneur turned General Partner at Matrix Partners, in a presentation

He continues, “This is absolutely fundamental to how you run your businesses. With this data, you now actually know that if you forecast we’re going to do $4 million next year, we better figure out how the hell we’re going to generate these raw leads to be able to support the sales people to do that. And it leads you to your proper budgeting and planning process.”

Overall, if an organization is able to successfully align its software stack with the customer’s buying cycle, it can leverage data to measure revenue-driving activities and figure out scalable, repeatable ways to grow; all while knowing exactly how much risk and how much cost it will take.

And from there it’s all about “failing forward”, as they say in Silicon Valley. Continually improving and tweaking—iterating upon the different processes and content—and ultimately figuring out what works and what doesn’t. And finally, leveraging your data to make decisions to generate more revenue and drive growth across your organization.