Nov 01 2018
Nov 01

As Drupal 8 has matured as an enterprise content management system, so has its ability to connect with enterprise SaaS CRMs such as Salesforce. As the undisputed IBM of CRM solutions (for now, anyway) Salesforce is a cornerstone for most businesses. And now with tighter integrations than ever before, Drupal 8 can be too.

With that, let's explore some key considerations involved in connecting Drupal 8 with Salesforce. 

All Hail the Cloud

At its most basic core, Salesforce is really a database of contacts in the same way that Drupal is a database of content. Yes, Drupal also has users and Salesforce often houses products, events, etc., but you get the idea. What’s important is that customers interact with both systems. Whether it’s reading website content or opening an email from a salesperson, customer data across all fronts is critical to consolidate, manage and leverage.

Integration is a Dirty Word

A representation of Salesforce as one integration in the broader Drupal ecoysystemYou may be wondering what’s involved with a Drupal integration with Salesforce. Ah, the dreaded “I” word...integration. So often the herald of scope creep and blown budgets. Integrating Salesforce with Drupal 8 can vary between something as simple as submitting contact forms to the CRM, to running a global ABM effort supported by a sophisticated Drupal website equipped with real-time personalization. In either case, leveraging Drupal 8’s API-first architecture and its plethora of open source modules are key. In this case, the Drupal Salesforce module is our starting point.

Modules Make the World Go Round

The Drupal Salesforce Suite module is a testament to both the ingenuity and passion of the Drupal community and the flexibility of Drupal as an enterprise platform. As a contributed module, the Salesforce Suite for Drupal enables out of the box connection with Salesforce, no matter your configuration.

Available free on drupal.org, the module offers:

  • Single Sign-On (SSO) with OAUTH2 authentication, which lets you pass credentials to Salesforce (and log in seamlessly. Salesforce events are also accessible through Drupal 8. Handy!

  • Entity mapping, which means tying fields in your Drupal site to those in Salesforce, such as “Markets” you serve for upcoming events or hidden user fields like “Lead Score.”

  • Ability to push data to Salesforce from Drupal, such as users engaging with gated content, new leads, or activity data to ensure Salesforce has all the information it needs to make decisions. This is critically important with AI advancements such as Salesforce Einstein.

  • Ability to pull data such as new products, syncing events, etc into Drupal. Often, this takes the form of rough data imports for critical fields (like product information) that site admins can add to using Drupal 8’s editing capabilities.

Take it to the Skies

While the Salesforce Suite module is a great start, any complex integration requires an experienced and competent Drupal development team to implement. Establishing an API connection is one thing, but building a Drupal 8 site to adapt to changing conditions on the Salesforce side is critical, as well as sound architecture on the Drupal 8 side to ensure data integrity and easy management for non-technical site admins.  
Looking to connect Drupal 8 with Salesforce? Contact us about your project and see how we can help.

Aug 31 2018
Aug 31

Drupal content migration is an essential part of any website redesign process (the most important, some would say). If content is king, then content migration is the armored chariot to take said king from the old castle to the new one. If bandits assail the king along the way, that fancy new castle won’t mean much. 

Awkward metaphors aside, content migration is an important part of the migration is an important part of the Drupal website redesign process and here are some content migration fundamentals you should know. 

#1 Drupal Content Migration Costs Money

Let’s get this out of the way first. 

Whether you do it yourself or outsource your Drupal content migration, content migrations are never, ever free. Ironically, with all the money put towards design and technology to deliver content, migration of the actual content itself is often overlooked by those embarking on a digital transformation journey. It's important to note that there are often significant costs associated with content migration. Typical costs include:

  • Writing and testing automatic migration scripts
  • Auditing content before migration
  • Manually creating new pages and rebuilding content
  • Tagging or retagging assets
  • Training and coordination

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get into some other Drupal content migration fundamentals. 

#2 Structured Content vs Unstructured Content

It’s important to understand the types of content before talking about Drupal content migration in detail. There are two basic types of content, structured and unstructured content. You probably have a bit of both on your site right now.

Unstructured content vs structured content

Unstructured content vs structured content

Structured content is your blog posts, press releases, product detail pages, webinars, anything with repeatable fields that are consistent between individual posts. Usually, meta information such as dates, categories or tags is associated with structured content as well.

Unstructured content, on the other hand, comes in the form of your long-form narrative pages, explorative brochure pages, or older static pages with no CMS at all. Basically, anything that is not structured content is unstructured. 

Think about your content for a moment. What type seems most common? What kind of quantity of each kind do you have? These questions that inform the migration process and are good ones to consider early. 


#3 Programmatic Migration vs Manual Migration

Now that we understand the types of content in play, there are also two main types of migration, programmatic migration and manual migration. Each has their uses depending on the kind of content you have.

Programmatic Migration

Programmatic migration is where structured content organized in database fields is exported from one content management system and imported into another via scripts. However, it’s no magic bullet. Fields are rarely identified in the same way between systems, which requires them to be remapped before migrating data. It’s a little like translating words in a foreign language. One site might use a content field “Address” while the other uses “Location.” A migration script acts a kind of Rosetta Stone to tell the data where to go.

Programmatic migration is a great tool for huge quantities of similar content with predictable fields and variations, but it’s not perfect. Like any automated process, it’s vulnerable to inconsistencies and one-off cases. 

Pros

  • Handles huge amounts of content
  • Automated
  • Can be adjusted and re-run

Cons

  • No nuance or intelligence during migration (all or nothing)
  • Can be labor intensive to write 

Best For

  • Structured content like articles, blogs, press releases.

Manual Migration

Like the name implies, manual migration is where human users move content from one system to the other through the Drupal UI, often editing and tidying as they go. Manual migration is best done with someone familiar with the site’s content, has an eye for layout, an ear for tone, or both. This is especially critical when the way content is presented shifts dramatically from one system to another (more on that later). 

Manual migration is best for non-structured content where decision making is needed for a good result. It can be time-consuming, but until AI swoops in to save the day, there is no way around it.
 
Pros

  • Ability to adapt to inconsistency between pages
  • Edit and migrate at the same time

Cons

  • Labor intensive
  • Human error

Best For

  • Narrative content, visually-driven layouts

The trick with any content migration to Drupal is weighing the effort between volume, complexity, and consistency. Typically, migrations are always a combination of both processes.

#4 Page Templates vs Components

The old way of thinking about websites consists of rigid, cookie-cutter page templates filled with a variety of information. Today, component-based design philosophy takes the approach of providing content admins sets of components to build and arrange new pages on the fly, resulting in hundreds of possible “page template” combinations. 

Sounds great, right? It is, but problems often arise during migration. In extreme cases, such as dated websites consisting of single, wall-of-text-style content moving to modular, component-based content must be manual. It’s simply not something a machine can do (yet) and it’s a challenge for even the best site administrators.

Long-form copy transformed into components

Long-form content transformed into components. 

You can imagine the complexity here. It’s a bit like trying to fit one huge peg into a dozen tiny holes—you have to cut it apart, sand the edges, and make it fit. And that takes work. Imagine the example page above times ten, or a hundred. Or a thousand. Suddenly those technical integrations scattered across your requirements don’t seem so daunting, do they?

#5 The Importance of Humans

But not to worry. Where there is a will, there's a way. By now you’ve come to see how vital competent, experienced people are in migrating site content. It can be a tedious, arduous process requiring patience and commitment, but ultimately what's needed for a great experience for your end users. But before you hire a squad of rag-tag content management mercenaries to help you migration, consider some of the following:

More is not necessarily better
When nuance, copy editing and layout involved in a migration, a large, inexperienced team isn’t always better. A small, core team of trained admins with the authority and experience to make good decisions can be far more effective.

Documentation upkeep
Making sure spreadsheets, workflow approval documents and copy revisions are up-to-date, synced and available for the whole team is hugely important for content migration. The devil is in the details, and they will turn on you if you don’t keep an eye out.

Elect a migration manager
A single point of content to coordinate teams is helpful to divide workload and keep track of parallel teams. This person should be well-trained in your new Drupal CMS to be able to field questions and be the go-to client-side resource.

Training and practice
We always prefer to train hands-on right as teams are starting the process so the knowledge is fresh. Reps are what make migrations efficient, and once people have a few pages under their belt, the process can be incredibly quick. This process also provides an additional QA cycle to ensure all functionality on the admin side is working correctly.

Wrap Up

If you thought your Drupal migration project was daunting before, it probably feels even more so. But there is good news. Agencies like us have the experience needed to manage massive migrations. Just ask Cvent, the largest event management SaaS provider in the world, who we helped execute a massive Drupal 8 content migration.
 

Dec 13 2017
Dec 13

Customer experience. Data-driven marketing. Unified customer data. Digital transformation. You’ve heard the buzzwords and have a laundry list of things you’re not doing—or struggling to do—with an older version of Drupal. Enter Drupal 8. 

Digital Transformation is tough—and only getting tougher. 

Across the board, enterprise companies (and their digital marketing teams) struggle with technology platforms and integration in an effort to stay nimble.

Customer experience is at the top of every marketer’s list, and demand for ROI is growing. And it’s only going to continue.

Sound familiar? 

Technology should support digital transformation. But older versions of Drupal can be the biggest hindrance. Think back to your brainstorms and team meetings.

Do any of these statements sound familiar? 

  • We spend too much time managing content and not enough time producing it.
  • We spend too much money on developers to make simple site updates.
  • We have so much inefficiency with our disconnected systems.
  • We can’t seem to optimize or evolve out of our current situation.
  • We seem a long way off from personalization or targeting.

Drupal 8 is here. And it is the answer to all of the issues listed above. The improvements to the platform help users leverage personalization, integrate better and update seamlessly. Check out this infographic for more. 

Drupal 8 infographic
May 16 2017
May 16

Drupal 8 is maturing. It’s not crawling around on all fours as it once was. It’s walking and talking and doing all kinds of interesting things. But there’s an important milestone it hasn’t yet reached in its young life, and one that’s important to its future. No, not learning to drive or going on its first date. Ok, the metaphor is breaking down now...

We’re talking about Drupal and Ecommerce.

The coming of Drupal 8 brought with it tons of innovation. Object-oriented code, configuration management, better web services and APIs, but it also came with few contributed modules. As with every new release, heavily used modules have to adapt with the help of dedicated contributing developers from around the world. In this blog, we’ll look at our options right now to achieving ecommerce with Drupal.

 

Contributed Drupal Ecommerce Modules

Since Drupal 8's release in 2015, Drupal eCommerce modules have struggled to keep up. A few, in particular need special attention: Drupal Commerce and Ubercart. Both are still in active development and preparing for full releases (though Ubercart’s development has appeared to have slowed in recent months).

Now, let’s make one thing clear. These are big, complicated modules that need a LOT of work to port to Drupal 8.

But for big Drupal 8 websites looking to sell online, sometimes waiting means losing revenue—it might not be an option. So, what’s a business owner to do?

There are three main options to pursue:

  • Throw caution to the wind! Dive in head first with a beta contributed module like Drupal Commerce 2.x

  • Play it safe! Develop on Drupal 7 now, but face an upgrade down the road

  • Have cake and eat it too! Integrate with a third-party commerce platform.

 

Let’s break down the options.

 

Drupal Ecommerce Option 1: Beta Commerce 2.x

With Ubercart still in early alpha stages, your best bet for native Drupal ecommerce is to use the current beta release of Drupal Commerce 2.x, which is in use on some production websites. It’s also rumored a release candidate will be made available at Drupalcon Baltimore, which our Drupal development team will be attending.

So let’s break down the pros and cons here:

Pros:

  • Latest and greatest technology

  • New Drupal 8 features across the board

  • Extend future upgrade horizon

  • No licensing cost

Cons:

  • Module bugs will likely come up

  • Limited community support for now

  • Customization could mean a lot of effort

While there are some risks, the potential upside and growing community support might outweigh the downsides.

 

Drupal Ecommerce Option 2: Drupal 7

A Drupal 7 solution is a viable option for some companies, especially if they already have a production Drupal 7 site that ecommerce is being added to. The contributed modules are proven, and there’s a lot of comfort in sticking with what works. But there’s a tradeoff, of course. Think of a used car. Sure, it gets you down the road. Does it have a touch screen and fancy seat warmers? Maybe not. But it still might be a safe bet.

Drupal 7 isn't necessarily a bad option, it is a safe bet for some, but there are factors to consider:

Pros:

Cons:

  • Sooner end-of-life for Drupal 7

  • Lack of new features as more effort begins migrating to Drupal 8 modules

  • No Drupal 8 features.

  • Integrations with other systems might be tougher than with Drupal 8

Like I said, while this solution is great for a site already running Drupal 7, but without the ability to migrate from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8, the cons probably outweigh the benefits for most use cases.

 

Third-Party Ecommerce with Drupal

Integrating a third-party ecommerce platform with Drupal is nothing new. Ticketing systems like Galaxy or ecommerce platforms like Magento are always an option and something we’ve done a lot of. And there is a clear benefit to using some of these systems, just as you would a CRM or marketing automation platform.

Even our partner Acquia, the premier Drupal hosting provider, recently announced a partnership with Marketo to support a better ecommerce experience for Drupal 8 and Magento.

While it seems like a no-brainer to go best-in-breed, rarely is the solution that simple. Consider this:

Pros:

  • The strength of Drupal 8 for content management along with an ecommerce platform

  • Freedom to choose the right ecommerce platform

  • The ability to take advantage of the best ecommerce providers like Magento, or Hybris or Shopify

Cons:

  • Licensing costs (in some cases)

  • Effort needed to integrate, depending on the complexity

  • Long-term dependency on a vendor’s business logic and development roadmap

While the cost can sometimes be an issue, integrating with a third party ecommerce system with Drupal can often be the best solution when admin features and customer experience are the most important things.

 

So, what’s the right answer to the Drupal ecommerce problem?

 

It depends, of course. Every project is different, and each of the solutions above has their place. That’s why clients choose to work with an agency like us to find out the most effective way to meet the needs of their business.

Have an ecommerce project in mind? Let’s talk and see if we can help you find the right solution

Dec 15 2016
Dec 15

Customer journeys are about understanding the situation your customers find themselves in (both physical and emotional) to build empathy and make better decisions about how to talk to them. For a homebuyer, the customer journey of buying a home can be a scary one. The biggest purchase of your life, some say, with all the paperwork that goes along with it. Buyers concern themselves with questions like: 

You get the idea. It's important to understand customer concerns. You likely know a lot more about the process than they do. The customer journey starts there.

But at the same time, the homebuying process is also exciting. The “fantasy-phase” that buyers begin when looking for a home, before they become discouraged with showings and disappointing offer rejections and worse inspections, is key. It’s critical to tap into this excitement early and often.

When developing customer journeys for real estate it’s important to understand each of things things. Understanding customer concerns while not forgetting to “feed the dream.”

Buying Cycle vs Building Cycle

The typical home buying process takes anywhere from 45 - 120 days once started. A development, however, could be anywhere from months to years to complete:

Design/Planning > Financing >Construction > Lease Office >Model > Construction Complete / Vacancies

Think of other long term marketing strategies. Blockbuster movies, product announcements—these, too, can happen years in advance. They plant the seeds of excitement and start to build awareness early, long before the final product is ready.

With such a long timeline, it can be difficult to market effectively through the entire process. It may be tempting to save marketing dollars for closer to when models are in place, but what about the year leading up to that?

Start Small    

So how do we start taking advantage of a customer journey early? The second you have branding, renderings, a name, whatever, it’s time to get a website out there. It might be all inspiration photos and copy, maybe a rendering, but it’s job is to once again address buyer concerns and generate excitement. Explain what the property will be like, how it will be different. Give those banners you’re buying somewhere to go to. But most importantly, it’s to get visits and email addresses.

With visits, you can start targeting with awareness campaigns. Keep that awareness going as users browse sites during their research phase.

Emails give you the ability to start marketing early. But avoid the spam! Tell a story. Let potential buyers into the design process. Talk about, or better yet, have your architect talk about the approach to the materials. The key is to get people interested emotionally long before they are ready to buy (and you’re ready to sell). If done well, they’ll wait for you!

Build on What You Have

As your development takes shape and grows, so should your website. That’s why Elevated Third builds websites using Drupal, a content management system designed to grow and change over time.

Your website should adapt to new media, such as 3D models, floorplans, material lists—everything you are already doing but not sharing soon enough (if at all). That’s how Drupal can help and allow you to put your content out there sooner. But don’t just throw it up there, tease it through your email list.

Process Diagram

One small taste can be more tantalizing than everything all at once. Share content to your email list, and to social before adding it yourself to your Drupal site (no IT required). This kind of publishing helps you stay top of mind of potential buyers and differentiate your development from the one next door and the one down the street (hey, that’s Denver). If you want followers, you need to give them a reason to follow you.

Find the Right Moment

Once your renderings, floorplans and media are complete, it’s time to start taking advantage of the list you’ve cultivated. Start teasing early showings. With marketing automation integrated into your Drupal website, you can segment your growing email list by lead score (an indication of your most interested potential buyers based on their website activity and email interactions).

Email these highly-scored leads for a VIP night beforehand to preview your model. Add them to your remarketing list for additional awareness. You know they’re interested, now it’s about getting them in the door.

Follow Up on Showings

As the development nears completion, your Drupal website should be in full lead-generation mode, tightly integrated with your marketing automation platform. Showing requests are followed up on with automated drip campaigns. No one should come for a visit and disappear! Send buyers a materials and options brochure, or school scores in the area. Back to the customer journey mapping, address concerns and excitement—over and over and over.

Your marketing automation platform will also notify your sales team of the warmest leads to reach out to directly throughout the process to prioritize your time and make the most of the staff you have.

No Free Lunch

Customer journeys aren’t a magic bullet for real estate developers, but they can provide valuable insight for more effective, long-term marketing, especially when paired with the strategic know-how of an experience digital agency. Your agency should be able to guide your marketing in tandem with the phases of a project to produce valuable customer insights and high conversion.

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web