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Integrating HubSpot to talk to custom SAP builds: HubSpot Impact Award WINNER for Integration Innovation

5 mins read

A prestigious university with an enterprise-scale tech stack needed to integrate their HubSpot to talk to multiple custom-built SAP platforms, as well as some other key tools. See how Avidly HubSpot Solutions helped.

This blog post was submitted for a HubSpot Impact Award under the Innovation Integration category in Q4 2019. It won the award with a score of 97.5 out of 100.


Avidly HubSpot Solutions (formerly Digital 22) & Newcastle University

It's 1834. Pre-Victorian Britain is emerging from the Industrial Revolution. Science as we know it today is spreading across the globe, with new developments happening all the time. And Britain is at the epicentre. In fact, it is in this year that the term 'scientist' is coined.

The cutting-edge, fast-growing city of Newcastle in north-east England establishes a School of Medicine and Surgery. It begins by offering 26 lucky students lectures and demonstrations of the latest, ground-breaking medical techniques. The aim of the school is to promote and push forward the burgeoning art of medical science.

The school would grow into other scientific, forward-thinking disciplines, and its alumni would help lead us into the age of progress to which we owe so much of what we take for granted today.

By 2019, the school has become Newcastle University, a campus in the heart of the city that educates 27,000 students each academic year. It's a member of the prestigious Russell Group, the elite of UK university institutions.

When it comes to research and discovery, teaching and academic quality, the University is still a pioneering force. But as the institution approaches its bicentenary, it employs more than 3,000 people, each with their own way of working.


The main challenge was outdated data management.

Information has been collected and stored here, there and everywhere. For example, the university has a siloed marketing team that works to introduce Newcastle to all prospective students. But then international students are marketed to and enquiries are handled by a dedicated international office. Both teams have to talk to each other, and it can feel like an eternity as information or approvals are passed back and forth.

Any synergy between the two teams is further reduced by the fact that they use different software which doesn't speak to each other. The team described it as a "nightmare" to use - but the people ultimately left in the dark were prospective students.

Response from the university was slow and fragmented.

To solve this problem, the first step was to decipher all the different platforms used by the university. SAP ERP, SAP CRM, Gecko, Hobsons, the industry-required UCAS system and many more, to find out what was already in place and what needed to be replaced.

As well as being difficult for the team to work with, a major consequence of all this was that the core information base was never really 'live' data. It was only updated once every 24 hours. Who knows how many other universities around the world a prospect could have heard from in that time?

Another massive drawback of this setup was the immeasurable impact on productivity, as university staff spent more time searching for information than helping prospective students.

Not only did all of these systems not talk to each other seamlessly in a coding sense, but the teams of people using them all used different terminology. The fact that a huge part of the planning process was literally agreeing on a common terminology to be used going forward illustrates how complex this whole integration process was.

Furthermore, lots of interactions and conversations were happening before enrolment (at open days, via non-tracked email, via chat online) but no marketing ROI could be shown due to it being somewhat of a black spot.

" Historically, we could only see students when they'd already applied to us." Alaric Pritchard, Change Consultant, Facilitator and Business Educator, explained: "So there was lots of marketing activity going on, but we couldn't really measure it, we couldn't get a return on investment."

This meant that there was a huge pile of untraceable data, spread across many different places, out of which a certain number of students were enrolled. But who was to know what had led them to study at Newcastle? What worked and what didn't? What should we be doing more of, and what needs to be changed?

Graduating from multiple legacy systems to a single source of integrated truth.

Realising that things could be better was one thing. Making it happen was a whole other ball game.

Marketing Director Jude Browne was convinced that this was the right solution, and so the so-called "HubSpot project" was born.

The overarching aim was to create a single source of truth with a common language that all teams involved in increasing student numbers could use. After mapping what was currently being used and for what purpose, Avidly began working with Newcastle to identify which parts of the current tech stack should be retained and which should be replaced with a HubSpot solution.

The consensus was that HubSpot was best in class for front-end student communications, so it would replace everything currently used for that purpose. But it still had to feed data into several custom SAP platforms.

As a newcomer to the tech stack, HubSpot had to be built in a way that SAP could understand. But it was worth the long hours to make it happen.

For the first time, Newcastle University was able to capture student information before enrolment and also see how these prospects interacted with digital lead-gen marketing materials (another first for the international team).


Once the integration was complete, the process of getting the team bought in and trained could begin. As well as shifting their mindset that this new tool was worth learning and that it could actually deliver results.

Weekly visits were set up, training sessions were provided and lots of HubSpot material was given out to help spread the word. This upskilling and acceptance had a huge impact.

The impact of a truly end-to-end, fully integrated platform.


“The impact on my team is that they’ve got all the information they need to do their job,” says Clare McKeague, Senior International Recruitment Operations Manager. “Sometimes this wouldn’t have been available and even if it was, they’d have to log into multiple different systems in order to find it.”

The impact of the integration has been heightened by all the other synergies created by the joint efforts of the international team and Avidly. HubSpot has been used to interact with prospective students and several inbound campaigns have been launched to attract more visitors to feed this now fully integrated and insightful system.

With Avidly's inbound marketing strategy as the new foundation upon which the HubSpot-SAP integration is built, fully mapped buyer's journeys underpin all content presented to prospects. For the first time, its impact is trackable and actionable.

One place where this has been very successful is in email. Timely, relevant and interesting emails have resulted in open rates well over double the industry benchmark and click-through rates 10 times higher than expected for universities.


With an intelligently integrated system that offers real-time insights, the student experience has been immeasurably improved. The international team can see what prospects have and haven't interacted with, and what other replies their colleagues have sent.

Prospects don't have to explain themselves multiple times or wait days for a response. Now, the Newcastle team are freed up to work with a lot more impact.


Plus, the prospective students are enjoying the inbound content that Avidly has produced for Newcastle University. 

Before HubSpot, the international team relied on face-to-face meetings around the globe, which are both expensive and time-consuming. As a result, nurturing prospective international students was a tedious task - the team had to wait for these students to apply before they knew anything about them.

Now, the international team is able to nurture over 1,100 prospective international students. HubSpot has helped reduce the reliance on expensive, time-consuming face-to-face meetings.


This makes for a smoother experience on both sides of the conversation and has had such an impact that we have extended this strategy to the domestic student market in 2020.

Thanks to the integration, the team knows what's working and what's not. And they were so pleased with the project's success that they expanded HubSpot to the more fruitful domestic student market.


"For the first time, we're starting to see what a good applicant looks like. And that will make us a better university," explains Jude Brown. "We can't get to [British] undergraduate students fast enough."

Thanks to the integration, we're now able to see what's attracting students, better answer their questions and continue to encourage them to choose Newcastle University. As Alaric Pritchard describes.

“Without the integration, we simply wouldn’t be able to get the benefits of HubSpot.”


hubspot impact award winner for integrations innovation

We've partnered with Newcastle University to get the most from all aspects of HubSpot; marketing, sales and service. To see some ways we could help you and your business, take a look at our services and check out our prices...