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"Z" is for: Zapier

Nyla Smith | Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Have you ever wished you could accelerate your administrative tasks? Streamline your spreadsheets? Fast-track your follow-ups? Guess what — there’s a Zap for that. If you’ve never used or heard of Zapier, you may be working harder than you need to. Read on to see if Zapier is the life hack you’ve been dreaming of.

The reality for a lot of small businesses is that a large portion of our days is given over to mind-numbing data entry and administrative tasks that, at best, leave us less time to do business, and at worst, leave us with massive headaches.

For some of us, the closest we get to automating those administrative tasks is configuring our auto-reply e-mails. Until recently, anything more complicated tended to involve a high-level knowledge of coding. But in the past few years, more sophisticated solutions have been appearing, and Zapier has established itself firmly at the head of the pack.

What is Zapier?

In their own words, Zapier exists “to help you automate the most tedious parts of your day-to-day job.” It’s an app-automation service, which allows you to link your various online services together and automate tasks among them. This makes it possible for you not only to cut out some of the excess time you spend copying over redundant data or engaging in mundane tasks, but in some cases, build a workflow that can allow you to digitize processes completely.

So what can you do with Zapier?

Here are just a few examples of various integrations that are possible with Zapier. You can automatically:

Zap your processes into simplicity

  • Add subscribers to your MailChimp list via Google Sheets
  • Get a Slack notification when new Eventbrite attendees register
  • Register Eventbrite attendees to a GotoWebinar webinar
  • Save a Gravity Forms form to Dropbox
  • Post new images from Dropbox to your Facebook page
  • Post on Twitter for new SurveyMonkey responses
  • Save Gmail attachments to Dropbox
  • Post new YouTube videos as image tweets on Twitter

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Even better, once these tasks are set up, they are automated so that you can set them and forget them. There are currently over 500 apps that you can connect, and you can integrate them in more ways than you can imagine. More are constantly being added, so if there is a process you’re looking for that you can’t find, it may appear later.

Is Zapier a good option for me?

  • If you are a business owner who uses popular online services such as MailChimp, InfusionSoft, WordPress, Facebook, or Office 365, chances are, you’ve wished at some point that they could all talk to each other better (or at all) so that you wouldn’t have to. If that sounds familiar, Zapier may be a good choice for you.
  • If you are an administrative professional who has to sludge through a mountain of repetitive manual entry tasks every day before getting to the meat of your work (#thestruggleisreal), Zapier may be for you as well.
  • If you are a web developer or designer who wants a fast, reliable way to make your clients’ websites more efficient and streamline content updating processes, Zapier may be for you, too.
  • If you provide online customer support, and need to automate your ticketing system to communicate better and faster with your team and your customers — guess what? You probably want to try out Zapier.

The time you save from Zapier can vary depending on your needs, but even a few extra minutes a day can add up. Don’t take my word for it; check out this case study on Urban Baby Bonnets, whose solo owner and proprietor saved 10 hours a week — and 78% on software costs a month — with Zapier.

So, how does it work?

Zapier is a sign-up service that provides both a free plan and a monthly paid plan. The monthly plan is vastly more robust and provides more features, which makes it much more useful for businesses. Once you’ve signed up, the process is simple:

  1. Select the apps you want to integrate and connect to them, using your account credentials for those apps.
  2. Set up a “Zap.” A Zap consists of a trigger and an action. For example, a trigger can be something such as a sign-up for your Eventbrite event, which you can then tie to an action such as automatically registering that person for your webinar.

You can even integrate multiple actions to set up a chain reaction amongst additional apps; in the example above, after registering that person for your webinar, you can then:

  • Send them an e-mail with further instructions for connecting to the webinar
  • Add them to a subscription list on MailChimp for updates on future events
  • Enter their information onto a Google Sheet, all without lifting a finger.

Want to see it in action? Check out the video below:

What are the downsides to Zapier?

Overall, Zapier is a fantastic tool. But, as with anything in life, it’s not perfect, and it’s not necessarily for everyone. For one, you don't get continuous and instantaneous "zapping". On the paid plan, new Zaps are run every 5 minutes; on the free plan, they will take longer. Secondly, not all of the apps are available on the free plan, either; some are Premium, which means only paid members can use them in an integration.

And for all the functionality of the paid monthly plan (and there is a lot), you want to make sure you are using the apps enough to make it a worthwhile investment. Zapier’s long list of apps can make it easy to experiment with different services and management solutions, but if you do not already have specific apps or processes that you are looking to integrate or streamline — or if you want to use it for something that you do only rarely, such as a quarterly or annual event — it may not be enough to warrant that monthly expense.

To Zap or not to Zap?

At the end of the day, if you are a business owner and you don’t want to or can’t hire a web/app developer to try and connect multiple services together, you should certainly at least see if Zapier will fit your needs. After all, you don’t need to know a lick of code to start using Zapier, and it may just save your sanity.

Nyla Smith is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, and Front-End Web Developer with over 11 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support to small- and medium-sized businesses that need creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.
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