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THE SIMPLIFIED GUIDE TO MARKETING AND SELLING YOUR INTEGRATIONS

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So you're building (or have built) a new integration offering.

But now you need to actually market and sell it. That's why we created this guide. Want to just grab a copy and go? Fill out the below form.

Developing an Integration GTM Strategy

An effective and collaborative GTM (go-to-market) strategy is key to aligning how a product solves its users’ pain points and how the company positions the offering and markets it to the current and prospective customer base.

In this guide we’ll cover how to develop a integration GTM strategy (with Cloud Elements’ help as a business partner) to:

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  • Define internal stakeholders
  • Progress and align internal conversations with the GTM stakeholders (such as sales and marketing teams), and
  • Develop key GTM decisions that your team can rally around.

Whether you’re productizing a few key integrations, selling bespoke services to enterprise customers, or selling workflow & integration tooling as a product line, this guide will help you align P&E with Marketing, Sales/CS, and Services teams. We’ll go in-depth on the following use cases:

  • Embedded integration with no charge for customer access
  • Embedded integration as a premium offering to generate revenue or breakeven
  • An integration product offering (such as white-label, platformification, etc.)

 

Why now?

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Customers increasingly demand connected, seamless experiences. With enterprises using 1,500+ apps (according to Symantec’s 2018 Shadow Data Report) and APIs growing by ~30% between 2015-2019, customer evaluations are increasingly skewed toward integration capabilities, meaning interconnectivity is essential to product viability and customer retention. This is the reason 80% of the IT budget goes toward performance maintenance activities such as integration and maintenance while just 20% goes to innovation.

As a Product/Engineering leader at your company, you clearly know the criticality of integrations, but there’s often an internal disconnect. Your field teams might ask why so much engineering time is devoted to integrations, while in the meantime sales and CS teams are acutely aware that customers are thwarted by lack of seamless data transfer into systems of record such as highly-customized ERP, CRM, or HRIS applications.

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It’s challenging to convince internal stakeholders to dedicate a chunk of their already-full plates with marketing or selling integrations, especially considering they don’t behave like your other features so teams might not know quite what to say about them or how to use them to their strategic benefit.

That’s why we’ve created this guide - to help teach internal stakeholders about the importance of an integration GTM strategy along with key considerations for creating effective methodologies.

Who's This Guide For?

Product Leaders

ProductLead-10For digital product teams, integrations are fundamentally a question of solving user needs, strategy, and market-fit. But as any P&E leader knows, ‘Build it and they will come…’ rarely works. As seamless integrations across the user’s app ecosystem become more and more important to customers, use this guide to align across BizDev, Sales, Marketing, CS, and PS to ensure everyone knows, a) why you’re building an integration experience, b) what problem that experience solves for users, and c) how to position it for customers.

 

Sales Leaders

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Integrations communicate to prospects a mature solution to their problems and help buyers realize value faster. Sales and BizDev leaders can refer to this guide to help shift teams from a mindset of pushing features and functions to a more consultative sales approach. Learn how to empower prospects with the idea of a connected, seamless experience - where is their industry headed, and what do your customers’ customers demand?

 

Marketing Leaders

Art-02Integrations enhance core value messaging by showing your products “play nice” with other tools customers use. Also, with the right set of integrations, you can enable high-level objectives such as penetrating new markets and customer segments. This guide helps marketing leaders both prepare for the launch of new functionality (developing a promotional strategy & core message) while also reflecting on the core value prop vs. supporting features. Discover the difference between marketing a strict value-add and communicating a more robust value prop that hinges upon connectivity and meeting customers where they’re at.

 

CS & PS Leaders

Art-03Integrations help customers see value faster, drive usage of your product, and reduce churn. CS and PS teams can use this guide to develop and set realistic expectations for customers to help them see the value of enhanced integration offerings faster. Learn what exactly GTM means for your existing customers and how to communicate the value of these offerings to them effectively without over- or under-promising.

 

Business Development & Partners Leaders

Art-04Integrations don’t just help sellers close or help customers see value faster, they communicate to the market where your company wants to focus and can deepen relationships with key partners. BizDev and Partners leaders can leverage this GTM guide to position the integration work from Product and Engineering as evidence your company is serious about investing in key sectors and/or partners. Further, leverage this guide to ensure your internal integration goals and strategies are clearly communicated to, and inclusive of, key partners.

 

Engineering Leaders

Engineer-09What do most engineering leaders need with a go-to-market guide? Fair question. We won’t blame you if you forward this on to colleagues now and get back to serious work. In a nutshell, we know engineering leaders have to make hard prioritization choices everyday. Integrations often come at the cost of other features that are differentiating, at least in the short term. So use this guide to ensure that your teams a) build what customers need and b) customers use what your teams build.

Six Steps To a Flawless GTM

First, a reality check: today, it’s rare that integrations are a totally blank slate for your company.

Telescope-12Perhaps you offer an API customers integrate with. It’s likely P&E has built an integration or two and that someone in PS has done custom integration work as a part of onboarding new customers. In fact, this is the challenge: we don’t get a clean start, we find ourselves in the messy middle.

But that’s the reality. As a product leader, you can muddle through the complexity, or you can have everyone take a step back and ask “where are we going?” We’ve structured this guide in six steps to serve the latter case; for the former, you should still find helpful tidbits to help guide your regular cross-team meetings to better align with your sales and marketing colleagues.6steps-01

What Are We Building, Exactly?

Step 1 of developing an effective GTM strategy is making sure internal teams are aligned on what exactly your integration offering entails.

Most people are familiar with what integrations are in general, but aligning on how your company is specifically using new integrations as either a part of your core value prop or a new revenue stream/retention strategy is essential to presenting the offering in a consistent, unified manner.

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What do we mean by integrations?

When we discuss integrations, we’re not talking about sales orders in your instance of Salesforce flowing into your instance of NetSuite to bill customers. Nor are we referring to job candidate records from Greenhouse syncing with Workday and JIRA to smooth new hire onboarding at your company.

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To put it plainly, we aren’t discussing internal integrations, which you and your team are likely intimately familiar with, but are instead communicating how to facilitate essential integrations that your customers need to further their operations and to realize full and “sticky” value from your product.

If your response to this customer need is “we offer a public API and they figure it out on their own” or anything else in the vein of “we build it and they come,” then stop reading this guide and go here.

 

How should I think about the integration experience?

Company leaders have multiple integration experiences to choose from when selecting a customer offering. First and foremost, you need to decide if you solution will be user-driven or product-driven:

pinkwrench-01USER-DRIVEN tooling that enables your customers to integrate applications on their own

 

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PRODUCT-DRIVEN integration that’s productized as a service or feature

 

 

An additional consideration to mull over is where to invest your resources: time (people hours) or technology (development platform)? In the decision-matrix below, we make recommendations for the experience you can provide your customers given the focus of your solution and your primary resource investment.

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And How Are We Charging For It?

The integration experience that you offer your customers hinges upon the revenue model that you use to obtain ROI either directly or indirectly.

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Some of the revenue models that our other customers utilize (and which you might pull from when deciding your GTM strategy) include:

Indirect revenue

Rather than getting actual dollars in your pocket by offering a new product line or a premium add-on to your existing customers, an indirect revenue strategy offers integrations free-of-charge to all customers in an effort to gain more competitive wins (differentiation), reduce churn (customer success), drive customer’s usage of your platform (revenue growth), and offer faster time-to-value (via ease and flexibility).

protip-01Pro tip: As there’s no direct revenue tied to this monetization strategy, the P&E investment is justified indirectly. Going through some “competitive takedowns” with other key stakeholders, (say-over drinks in the late afternoon?), can bridge the gap between a new feature to espouse and product evangelism.

 

Upsell or premium tier

graphlady-01With this strategy, customers pay extra money to access the premium integration offering. In this case, the integration pricing can cover all (or only some) of the upfront P&E investment or can be used as a new profit generation tool. We’ve seen it all, from companies that charge an additional 25% of the subscription fee for one integration (props to them) to those who include integrations with other features in premium tiers. Regardless of the nitty-gritty financial details, in all cases, Marketing, Sales, CS, and PS need to be able to explain the value of the features in the premium tier(s).

protip-01Pro tip: Many product companies that price integrations start by summing up the investment and dividing that total by the projected usage. We always recommend starting with some assessment of customer value to set prices (rather than using your costs as the baseline), meaning if integrations add $100 in value, the price is how much of that $100 goes to the company vs the customer.

 

Standalone product

This scenario is typically only applicable to large enterprises (think: the SAPs, Oracles, and Microsofts of the world). With this scenario, the integration experience may be offered as a new product line and typically complements the enterprise’s other technological offerings. As with any product line, leadership is honed in on profitability and self-sufficiency (at least after enough time has passed after the hiccups of initial release).

protip-01Pro tip: Companies that go this route shouldn’t think of integration as a feature. With this route, the enterprise is getting into the integration business. With this, your offering might now overlap with resellers, partners, and system integrators in the ecosystem—make sure to align with them early on if that’s the case

Planning - Aligning on Your GTM

At this point, P&E leaders need to decide why they are offering the integration experience they’ve settled on.

Because of the internal differences in teams, constraints, customers, etc., there’s no cut-and-dry template for having this conversation, but there are a few key questions that your leadership should off-handedly know the answers to:

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What’s the business opportunity that’s driving this investment from P&E?

Integrations could be table stakes in your niche, tied to strategic moves up- or down-market, key to expansion into new verticals or regions, or they could be blockers for customer growth that take too long to implement (PS) or too much time to maintain (engineering). Regardless, getting aligned on the why is critical to cross-departmental understanding and advocacy.

 

How important is it to own the UX?

Two key options for offering integrations via the Cloud Elements platform include either a drop-in iPaaS (aka white-label) where you own the UX or an embedded integration platform that’s accessible via API call. What’s best for your company depends on several factors, including revenue strategy (direct vs. indirect), need for additional control over the UX, etc.

 

Are you solving the problem, or helping the user to solve the problem?

Productized integrations offer thoughtfully-designed solutions for a few repeated use cases, whereas integration tooling helps thousands of users solve thousands of unique problems. We’re clearly biased, but asking users to learn a third-party integration tool to build integrations seems dismissive of customers’ demands for a seamless experience that improves time-to-value.

 

techleaders-01What support resources are available, and when should customers engage the PS team?

No matter what integration experience you offer, it’s essential to align on who will be the point-of-contact for various types of customer support as users adopt your offering. These needs can range from non-technical users who need simple tutorials, to customers who need customization but are unable to complete it internally due to competing IT priorities, to users who want formal trainings and certifications. What’s your game plan for insulating your customers from hindrances throughout adoption, whether it be initial learning/justification or more comprehensive technical requests?

 

A Note on Value (aka Customer Benefits)

We know you’re going to be asked by internal stakeholders from Sales, Marketing, BizDev, and other customer-facing teams how you plan to position your integration offering. Unfortunately, this is another area that doesn’t have a cut-and-dry template, but don’t scroll past this section, because we do have some base recommendations (separated by monetization strategy) to work off of given what we’ve seen from other customers.

 

Indirect Revenue

Most often, we see these customers position integrations as an enhancement to the core value prop that recognizes your customers’ use of a bunch of different applications to sew together business processes like procure-to-pay. In this sense, integrations communicate product maturity (reliability), expertise (“users like you typically integrate with X in order to…”), and a focus on customer value, quickly (“If you had to build this integration yourself, it’d likely take 6-8 weeks after IT prioritizes it…”). Clear customer stories and/or user scenarios (“If a customer has recently adopted X product, our integration to X allows them to achieve Y...”) are an efficient way to communicate value and encourage prospects to move along the sales funnel.

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Upsell or Premium Tier

Customers typically position these integrations as a part of their ‘enterprise-grade’ offering (still an enhancement to the core value prop) and sellers should be able to clearly articulate why the customer will reap more additional value from the integrations than what they pay for them upfront. This increases the level of training and enablement sellers need to quantify added value, and CS teams need to proactively suggest the higher tier to customers ahead of renewals. This, in turn, ups the level of engagement needed from product marketing and how directly customer adoption is tied to seller incentives.

 

Standalone Product

In most cases the standalone product route gets you into the business of integration (vs just enhancing your value prop), so you should treat it as such.

This means your company should dedicate sufficient marketing and/or product marketing resources and plan to enable and incentivize sellers through assets such as competitive battle cards, sales decks, leave-behind collateral, etc. Additionally, analysts like Gartner and Forrester need to be notified of your entry into the integration space by your analyst relations (AR) team and you need to recognize the new set of competitors that your product marketing or competitive intel teams need to add to their lists. Finally, think about dedicating engineering time to help jumpstart early adopters—for example, with purpose-built integration templates.

In terms of positioning, in some cases the new product line still complements the core value prop of the product suite (in the case of SugarCRM, Sugar Integrate is the glue that makes their vision of ‘the first time-aware CX platform’ possible). In other cases, the integration product extends the core value prop into new territory (look at SAP CEO Christian Klein’s recent post for an example: “Integration in the Cloud: SAP’s Way Forward”).

Critical Conversations in Your GTM

There’s a range of internal and external stakeholders that need to “opt-in” to your integration GTM strategy to secure a successful, aligned release.

After all, if you’re offering a premium integration but your sales & marketing teams don’t know how to promote it to prospects and your CS team doesn’t see the value-add for existing customers, how can you expect positive ROI? Read on for communication tips to create advocates within various essential leadership roles.

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Talking to Sales Leadership

Something to consider: If you’ve never worked in a sales role firsthand, it can be difficult to empathize with having a large portion of your personal income dependent on performance. With this in mind, many sellers have developed a necessary “spider sense” for new features/partners/etc., and whether they will be “good” and simplify sales or “bad” by making deals more complicated. Effective integrations can simplify the sales process, meaning when speaking with sales leadership about the path forward, this is the point you should underline.


What Sales Cares About

  • Timing. When should they bring up integration (what to listen for) and bullet points on how to talk about it
  • Selling focus. How will integrations help with the current prospecting?
  • Basics on pricing and packaging
  • Customer stories. How do integrations address common prospect needs/pain or stats on faster time-to-value due to integrations?
  • How to respond to customer demands. 'How long will it take to add an integration my customer needs?'
  • Incentives for sellers (money motivates action - best not to ignore this point)
  • Supporting sales materials. What content or collateral is available to use? (this is where marketing should be looped in to get their perspective)

pointingman-01Special consideration: Sales Engineering usually require marketing material with a technical focus such as a deeper dive into capabilities, corner cases and gotchas. They will also be looking for ways to visualize integrations to customers such as demos and test data.

 

What You Need From Them

  • Incentives or spiffs. Are they on the table?
  • Team trainings/enablement work (there may be internal learning management systems to populate)
  • Inclusion in events such as annual/quarterly meetings or kickoffs

 

Talking to Business Development

Find out what the Business Development team's strategic focus is. Hopefully your integrations/roadmap align with that initiative.

 

What Biz Dev Cares About

  • Technology partnerships. What relationships exist with your integration targets that can be used for co-marketing/co-selling?
  • Building relationships. Integrations can strengthen ties to strategically important vendors and channel partners
  • Alignment with Business Development initiatives and campaigns related to targeting specific industries, up or down market expansion, etc.

 

What You Need From Them

  • Creation of partnerships/relationships to get sandboxes

Be sure to make their customer support & SEs aware that these integrations now exist.

 

Talking to Marketing

 

What Marketing Cares About

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  • Differentiation between Integrations (i.e. how much marketing focus is necessary)
  • Value prop. How integrations enhance your core product(s).
  • User stories/comments/research. If integrations are standalone, what support points indicate the integrations will be valuable?
  • Quotes or stats from beta users or early customers that can be shared publicly.
  • Target audience. Who will use the integrations and are they the same person who makes the purchase decision, or are they an influencer?

 

What You Need From Them

  • Supporting content/collateral updates—get out ahead of this one prior to launch, if possible
  • Launch announcement support (if you’re “launching” your integrations - there are times where you don’t want to announce new things loudly, like where the competition can hear)
  • Updates to your website and other digital properties

 

Talking to Customer Success and Professional Services

 

What Customer Success and Professional Services Care About

  • Timing. When to use these integrations and how. When during renewal cycles/customer lifecycle to introduce integrations to existing/at-risk customers
  • Any limitations
  • Implementation. Can/will CS & PS still implement these integrations for customers?
  • Corner cases and gotchas (Implement a system to discover and remediate issues as they arise)
  • Value. How does out-of-the-box integration show value faster?
  • Getting started. Where do integrations end and custom SOWs begin?
  • Training. How will they be enabled/trained on positioning (CS)/ delivering (PS) integration solutions for customers?

 

What You Need From Them

  • Timeline. The time it will take for team enablement/to learn the new functionality (CS & PS teams can be great beta testers because they’re hands-on with customer use cases)
  • A shared list of likely target customers (especially at-risk accounts)

 

Talking to Channel Partners

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Something to consider: If channel partners make money doing integration work around your software, think hard about pricing models that don’t dramatically impact their revenue and consider the added training cost that comes with switching from the status quo.

 

What Channel Partners Care About

  • Delivering reliably and profitably for customers
  • Building and protecting relationships and expertise/speciality
  • Navigating relationships with other integration software vendors
  • Growth opportunities from this new offering (i.e. how it helps them guide customers to your product vs. competition)
  • Training/enablement/marketing support and collateral that will make their sales motion more fluid and fast
  • Options to certify their employees and incentives to do so
  • Repeatable solution delivery via templated integration content

 

What You Need From Them

  • Input on key needs/areas of focus
  • Estimated time investment for training/enablement of their employees (usually outlined in the reseller/partner agreement)
  • Help promoting the new offering among their customer base
  • Insight to how they foresee impacts to their revenue and profitability

 

The GTM Checklist For New Integrations

Everyone does product launches a little bit differently. The table below is just a high-level guide—you should add detail, make changes, and subtract or include stakeholder groups as your situation warrants.

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After all, if you’re offering a premium integration but your sales & marketing teams don’t know how to promote it to prospects and your CS team doesn’t see the value-add for existing customers, how can you expect positive ROI? Read on for communication tips to create advocates within various essential leadership roles.

The key takeaway: marketing and selling integrations (whether new features or pushing for greater adoption) is a cross-functional effort. Aligning on the checklist and dates early will save confusion and frustration later.

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Click here to access our Integrations GTM Execution and KPI Tracking Checklist

Launch Your Offering!

The title speaks for itself. Now that everyone's onboard, it's go time.

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Here are some other companies that have launched integration products with Cloud Elements (and how they did so successfully).

 

gainsight-vector-logoGainsight partnered with Cloud Elements in December 2019. To build anticipation for their suite of new integrations, they announced the offering publicly at their annual user conference in May 2020. In the first half of 2020, Gainsight quickly built and tested eight new integrations, which were launched to users in July with a fully-integrated GTM. They published limited press releases or announcements and instead used a heavy focus on customer marketing via beta user stories; sales & SE training and enablement; end-user content and training videos for self-service learning; and CS team promotions to target customers.

 

SugarCRM-Stacked-Full-Color-1SugarCRM launched Sugar Integrate, a white-labeled version of the Cloud Elements platform in April 2020 (in just 90 days!). With this quick turnaround, alignment was key - early in the product development cycle, SugarCRM held executive- and director-level meetings among Product, Sales, & Marketing to strategize launch and GTM activities. To help explain and promote Sugar Integrate, SugarCRM repurposed and rebranded existing Cloud Elements collateral to educate their sellers, SEs, and partner network (with SI and VAR partners getting involved early in the cycle). Additionally, the team included Cloud Elements in early deal review calls to help position the new offering and create developer advocacy plans and collaborate on user training events.

6-12 Months After Launch

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At this point, it’s important to measure how exactly your GTM efforts have paid off - have you closed more deals? Has customer churn lessened? Have customer implementations of the integrations gotten quicker and quicker? Are you making in-hand money off the integrations you offer? How much user adoption are you seeing? Of course, the metrics that you analyze to determine “success” depend on your revenue strategy. Once these key determiners have been measured and deemed “successful” or “unsuccessful,” you can take one of two paths.

Path 1

If you’ve launched your integration offering successfully, it might be time to look into building even more integrations to boost the customer experience and keep a steady flow of product improvement within your roadmap. What other integrations have your customers continually mentioned? How are they using the current integrations you offer? Use these data points as a start to target your next round of integration offerings.

 

Path 2

If your integration GTM was deemed unsuccessful, it’s time to analyze what exactly went wrong. Consider these potential contributors:

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Did your company strategy shift? (i.e. Did you build a bunch of integrations for healthcare but then decide to walk away from healthcare?) — if so, refocus your integration targets.

Do integrations solve user needs? (i.e. You may have tried to productize a self-serve integration only to find you still needed a lot of professional services.) If this is the case, pivot design requirements to fix the actual customer pain (maybe instead of providing fully self-serve integrations, you can look to reduce the PS hours 10x like our customer Mindbridge.ai did).

Are users aware your integrations exist? (i.e. Are you still getting mediocre NPS scores that complain about connecting with an application you’ve built an integration for?) If so, reconnect with your marketing and CS teams to understand the communication disconnect; perhaps the CS team checks in regularly with an exec sponsor who doesn’t pass information along to your users.

Are sellers/SEs even talking about integrations with customers? (i.e. Are you still closing business and getting referrals, but no new customers take advantage of the integrations?). If this is the case, reconnect with sales leadership on the following points:

  • Often, sellers don’t feel like they have enough or the right content to convey the value of the integration offering to prospects, or they don’t know when/how to talk about integrations or have references in hand to make those conversations simpler.
  • Incentives may be misaligned—sellers and SEs are making good money without bringing up integrations and/or are afraid of complicating the deal
  • If sellers can’t explain why your integration offering is better than the status quo (especially if the status quo includes a competing integration product), it’s hard to ask them to fight for your solution—check your competitive intel and enablement materials

Is Product/Marketing/Sales just stretched too thin? (i.e. In spite of your best intentions, did you build integrations but not the enablement content, forget to coordinate with Marketing ahead of the release and just launched anyways, etc…?) In this case, it’s critical to ask leadership for the resources you need to drive adoption and customer success—pound tables, raise your voice (respectfully)—after all, you’ve invested this much so far…(and if they don’t come back to you about sunk costs, use that to your advantage).

Where to Go Next

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Where do you go from here? Now that you’ve launched your integration offering, it’s critical to keep the motor running - sure, you’ve integrated to many of the apps that are critical to your customers’ ecosystems, but in the rapidly transforming technology world, new apps pop up every year, month, week, day.

To keep the critical value of customer experience and seamless connectivity at top of mind, developing and iterating upon a roadmap for your integration strategy is something to come back to every month or so and have a fluid communication plan in place with key stakeholders (customer success, sales, professional services). Ask yourself:

  • Which integrations are CS & PS teams consistently hearing about from users?
  • Where is my company and industry headed, and how can I leverage integrations as a competitive differentiator?
  • Are there any cornerstone integrations that competitors offer and that we do not?

 

Developing and optimizing your integration GTM and roadmap isn’t something you have to do completely on your own - Cloud Elements is here to help make the process as smooth as possible. After all, this isn’t our first rodeo. So please lean upon us for any help you might need as you strive for success and an aligned GTM for your exciting integration offering.

 

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