Duplicates in Your CRM? It’s Not Ideal, But You Have Some Options

Written by Formstack on November 15, 2018

Posted in Workflow Automation

Regardless of your marketing automation system (HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, Infusionsoft, etc.) or CRM (NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, SugarCRM, ConnectWise, etc.), we recommend a 1:1 relationship between a contact/email address in a Marketing Automation and CRM sync. The reasons for this include:

Ensure email preferences: avoid the risk that someone will update the wrong record and impact opt-ins, opt-outs, or email preference updates
Better manage email send frequency: one record to manage minimizes the chances of sending multiple messages to one account
Easier to keep up with GDPR compliance: simpler for maintaining clear customer data records, managing customer requests to delete personal data, etc.
A simpler data sync process: less risk for unexpected errors or issues to manage

For customers who have duplicates in their CRM, our first question is, “Are these intentional duplicates, or do you want to clean them up?”

If you want to clean them up, then you’ll like our reporting feature that detects duplicates for clean-up. Once you merge them, they will be okay to sync as a unique record. You can incrementally clean your database, and as records are merged, they will be free to sync to the marketing automation system.

Sometimes a CRM configuration really demands intentional duplicates. Maybe the sales team is used to a process whereby there are duplicate leads. Maybe there are multiple sales organizations with their own contacts. While these cases are not ideal, there are workaround approaches to consider when you are setting up a CRM-marketing automation sync.

Note that Formstack Sync uses a de-dupe key as the method for de-duplicating contacts (or matching to existing) which can be any field on the lead/contact record. So these workarounds use alternatives to that de-dupe key, instead of email address. We’ll share pros and cons for each. These ideas can be combined together as well.

Option #1: Use unique CRM ID as de-dupe key.

A CRM contact ID can be used as the de-dupe key, ensuring the marketing automation system sees each CRM record as unique. Your marketing automation instance would need to be configured to allow for multiple contacts to have the same email address, which may not be possible in all marketing automation systems.

This will work very well for the syncing and creation of records from CRM to marketing automation. However, this process would not work for the creation of leads from marketing automation to CRM, as the marketing automation only records will have a blank value for this field and therefore never will be indexed/won’t sync.

This limits the ability to create new records from marketing automation to CRM only – it doesn’t limit updates from marketing automation back to the CRM once records have been synced, as Formstack Sync maintains a linkage between the marketing automation and CRM records for processing updates.

So therefore this approach tends to work well for companies who either have a “defined marketing universe” that already exists in their CRM and/or existing lead processes where leads are flowing first into the CRM (e.g. directly from a product sign-up).

Also note that if you use this option, you could setup this manual process for the marketing automation originated leads:

  • Export from marketing automation
  • Import to CRM, where CRM ID will automatically be added
  • Export from CRM, upload to marketing automation to add these CRM IDs to the marketing automation records
  • Then trigger the sync which will now work to match on IDs

Pros: Requires no customization in CRM to setup; can be “turned on” right away; get all CRM records into marketing automation.

Cons: Need to be careful on email preferences in marketing automation as you will have duplicates; syncing new leads from marketing automation to CRM will require a workaround.

Related: The Keys to Successfully Integrating Your Marketing Automation and CRM

Option #2: Add a second field of sync email.

This second option is a way to “hide” secondary contact records from the sync. For this one:

  • You’d create a second field, call it “Synced Email Address” to use as the de-dupe key
  • In the CRM, copy over data from email address, both in bulk from existing records, and automatically from new records
  • In the CRM, “Clear out” the value for the “Synced Email Address” for any secondary/duplicate records, leaving the one primary record as the record to sync
  • The sync would use “Synced Email Address” as the match, and sync this single primary record to the marketing automation

Pros: Creates a way for records to end up in marketing automation, with a single record per email in marketing automation, which is better from marketing automation standpoint.

Cons: Confusing for CRM users; requires custom code; requires admin on the CRM side.

Option #3: Connect multiple accounts to drive the sync process.

This idea is an option specifically to handle the situation of say multiple lines of business or divisions in the CRM as the reason for duplicates. We often encounter this with CRMs such as NetSuite where there are different partitions within the CRM, for these different lines of business.

We can treat the two LOBs, as effectively separate instances of the CRM, with different connections to the marketing automation, let’s call them CRM-1 and CRM-2. You’d set this up by authenticating users for each connection that only have access to read/write data for one LOB, essentially hiding the other side of the CRM.

When setting up the connectors, Formstack Sync allows you to prioritize one over the other, so say CRM-1 would be prioritized over CRM-2. For syncing the existing database, if a contact is in both CRM-1 and CRM-2, the CRM-1 version would sync, and the CRM-2 version would be ignored. This would happen automatically. No other CRM configuration would be needed.

In this model, you’d be able to automatically sync marketing automation records to CRM, pushing them into CRM-1 or CRM-2 based on the product area. Once a marketing automation record is mapped to a CRM-1 or CRM-2 record, it would not also be able to be mapped to a record from the other CRM partition.

Notes: For this to work, we’d have to ensure that the admin CRM user used to configure each connector only has the ability to view records for each individual LOB.

Pros: Can be done automatically, without any CRM customization; can still automate creation of leads from marketing automation to CRM.

Cons: Can’t create a second CRM record automatically from marketing automation for the same email address.

The scenarios above all introduce some complexity to solve the problem, so please contact us if you’d like to schedule some time to talk about your specific scenario.