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Aimee Pagano

By: Aimee Pagano on January 18th, 2024

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1 of these things is not like the others: how Spark stacks up to other integrations

data integration | HubSpot for associations | martech transformation | spark for associations

mailto:demo@example.com?Subject=HighRoad Solutions - interesting article

We, at HighRoad, are proud of our Spark integration software. After years of practice across multiple Association Management Systems, digital marketing platforms, and associations/nonprofits, we're confident that our software is making an imprint on the association industry.

Spark is the most effective way for association professionals and marketers to democratize their data and get the most out of their tech stack. And when combined with HubSpot, it's the best way for organizations to reach their goals, strategically and operationally.

But, even as a standout integration, the waters can get muddy with all of the other options out there, so let's unpack what integrations do what, what type of integrations fall short, and specifically, what makes Spark stand out from its counterparts when it comes to marketing and segmentation.

De-muddying the waters...
We're going to dive into a handful of other integration types and brands. Keep in mind, this isn't a blog meant to slam the competition. Nope. Each of these integrations are strong in their own space. This is to delineate that, when it comes to integrations specific to associations with marketing and engagement goals, Spark is the more than likely the best bet given its niche contribution in the marketplace. Let's take a look. 


Spark vs SalesForce Native Integration-2

SalesForce’s native integration [into HubSpot] is always an option, however, from a marketing perspective, it puts significant constraints on what you’re trying to accomplish as an organization. If you’re looking for historical, transactional and/or member activity data, attributable conversion metrics, or subject matter expertise in association integration, you’re not going to find that natively. 

Specifically, here's what you miss out on when you turn to SalesForce's native integration: 

1—The Spark roadmap: Once you've invested in Spark, you're grandfathered into its roadmap, including new enhancements, features, and integration sources (i.e. Event Management Systems, etc.)

2—Flexibility: Spark gives you the ability to tailor and sync over custom objects from your AMS. These objects are built specifically for associations.
3—True data centralization: Once you go native, that's your single source. Spark integration, however, allows for multiple source plug-ins. Its roadmap was built with total data centralization in mind.
4—Conversion attribution: SalesForce doesn’t hold the completed transaction. It only holds the information leading up to the sale. As such, you can't attribute marketing activities to your conversion points (think event registrations).  Only Spark can directly attribute marketing efforts to conversions through the Deals and Custom Objects that it plugs into. 
5—Access to association-specific objects: Since Spark plugs into about 99% of today's biggest Association Management Systems (AMS), it naturally syncs over association objects, including membership info, event reg, committee info, etc. On the other hand, SalesForce was built for managing the sales cycle (something that HubSpot also does through its CRM) and was never designed for association management. 
6—Data expertise: Spark isn't just a tangible integration product. Once you invest in Spark, you get the support, tools, and martech integration consultation services baked in.  
7—Association translation: Whether trade association, professional society, foundation, or user group, HighRoad understands member-based associations and mission-based nonprofits more than any other integrator, including your business models, your marketing needs, and your data sets.
 Spark vs Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is a platform to write and distribute code. It’s not an integration—it’s a foundation for a developer to build a custom integration upon. Unlike Spark, which is productized, consider Azure vaporware. It’s a blank slate. In other words, a product that’s yet to be created.

Specifically, with Azure, here's what you'll be leaving behind: 

1—Productized integration: You’re not getting a fully baked integration product like Spark, which includes training and consulting services, a formalized methodology to walk you through the process, the Spark roadmap, and multiple ways to sync depending on your data goals and applications.
2—Association martech expertise: If you're approaching Microsoft Azure, not a problem. Just know that you need a strong development team and/or outside vendor that knows associations and their stacks. Through Spark, you get the fusion of digital, strategic, and tech expertise all in one package.
3—Plug-in flexibility: You have to support it and activate on it when you change platforms. With Spark, if you decide to switch your AMS, it's a simple plug-in and plug-out versus a much larger transition effort.
4—Dependable, efficient timeline: Building from the ground up using Microsoft Azure takes time...much longer than Spark’s 12-week data discovery, configuration, and training window.

Spark vs Zapier Similar Solutions-1

Zapier and similar solutions serve very different purposes than Spark. They’re "Hub & Spoke Models," designed to maintain enterprise continuity. With each transaction, a contact is pushed out from the “hub”—the transaction point—to each of the “spokes" simultaneously, which may include: finance, operations, marketing, human resources, etc.

While this mechanism is efficient and can be powerful from an operations perspective, it isn’t a marketing integration and won't support ongoing relationships with members and customers where the fusion of historical, transactional, and behavioral data is necessary.

Specifically, with Zapier and Zapier-type solutions, here's what's left out of the picture:

1—Source connections: There are very few, if at all, plug-ins written within the AMS to the greater association ecosystem. Spark does this and more.

2—Data that helps you market: Transactional syncs are very different than their segmentation and marketing counterparts. Syncing transactionally means only focusing on keeping data in sync record by record.

3—High performance: While Zapier is focused on pushing individual records over to the digital marketing platform—negatively impacting performance—Spark pushes records over in bulk. 

4—Member history and activities: Through systems like Zapier, you lose all the historical membership and non-transactional data held in your AMS.

Spark vs Custom Development Shops

Custom Development shops are often associated with hyper-tailored solutions designed specifically for organizations. And while this might be the case, unless organizations know what data sets they want to sync over, how to identify their business requirements and business rules, or how to sustain and troubleshoot the integration, they may end up with an integration more limiting than they anticipated.

Specifically, with Custom Development Shops, here's what not accounted for:

  • Future product roadmaps: Spark's future is inclusive of new enhancements, features, and integration source and destination plug-ins, all under one product.
  • Expert consultation on your greatest currency: Through Spark, you don't just get the output that is the integration. You get ongoing support, tools, and integration consultation services offered by HighRoad, including: Business Requirements/Rules, Technical Specifications, Data Tours, and ongoing sync reconciliation. 
  • Deep association expertise: Since associations and nonprofits are our only clients, we know the industry more than any other integrator out there. We're experts in nearly all AMS', association-specific campaigns, association challenges, and org models, which gives us the leg up to help you meet your goals through data. 
  • Time-savings: Custom development is time-intensive. And that makes sense since building from the ground up takes time. Since Spark is a productized configurable app, you can count on Spark’s 12-week window to get your data accounted for, your integration configurated, and your staff trained.

Once again, if you're only looking for a transactional integration or if you have a large tech team that can build and provide year-round support of your sync, the other integrators may make sense for you. And that's okay 😉.

But, if you're in the market for a robust marketing integration (and aptly, an omni-data marketing automation platform like HubSpot) so that you can level up on growth goals in 2024 and beyond, consider what Spark + HubSpot can do for your organization. 


Ready to start your Spark journey? We can help.
Book a consultation today to learn more about how Spark + HubSpot can refurbish your segmentation and marketing plan. 

About Aimee Pagano

Aimee joins HighRoad Solution with 15+ years of integrated marketing and communications experience, primarily in client-facing roles within the association and SaaS space. Her specialties include persona development, content strategy/management, lead gen and awareness campaign development, and website development/optimization.