Back in early April 2014, I came back to my home office from ICON 14 with a set of fresh new ideas on how to market my sister’s business and my own. I was faced with a series of administrative tasks that left me uttering, “I wish there was a way to collect X and then Y would notify me when X happened.”
“I wish X would collect this piece of data and then Y would automate and then I could have Z happen after Y.”
In particular, I was mostly concerned with the Google products that I was using like Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Hangouts. I was looking for a solution that allowed me to send out emails from my e-mail marketing software (Mailchimp, Aweber or Infusionsoft) and embed a link to a Google Form to have a user take a survey. From that point, that data would be collected into Google Sheets and I could get notified when someone completes the survey–instead of having to randomly check every few days.
In short, I’d eliminate relying on my memory to check this tedious task every couple of days or week.
I could definitely go the route of using another service that didn’t integrate with Google Products, but I was persistent. I needed to create a workflow using only Google Products. I could definitely do this, but the problem that I faced was having to code this in Google’s Form Editor–skills that I do not possess.
So I did what anyone would do…I started to “Google It.”
My Introduction to Zapier
To my surprise, I came across Zapier late one Friday afternoon before the weekend. I had been hunting for a solution to my simple problem:
1.) Someone fills out my Google Form.
2.) Their data is collected in a Google Sheet.
3.) I am notified via E-mail or Google Hangouts that new data has been added to my spreadsheet.
Without giving you too much detail, I learned that this service gives anyone the ability to connect web-based apps (GoToWebinar, Mailchimp, Infusionsoft, Gmail, AOL IM, and hundreds more) with each other and perform particular tasks that will notify you.
What is a Zap?
Once you go into Zapier and thumb around, you’ll learn that Zaps are a set of rules that you create to complete a task.
Metaphorically speaking, a Zap is a plate of hot food waiting to be eaten. When you pick up your fork and eat the food, this is an actual task. Once you have chewed your food and swallowed it, signals are sent to your brain notifying you that you are becoming nourished. At that point, your Zap has completed.
If the human body can do this, why can’t web apps?
Creating My First Zap
As you already know, I was looking to collect data from a Google Form that I created then get notified when someone took action on this form. So I created a test Google Form, confirmed that a spreadsheet was created in Google Drive and went to Zapier to build the Zap.
When you build a Zap for the first time, you will be presented with a couple of dropdown menus that list out hundreds of web applications that work with Zapier. The first drop menu is the first action that is going to take place. In my case, I need a new spreadsheet row (from Google Sheets) to be added when someone has completed my Google Form.
When a new spreadsheet line is added, I go to the second drop menu and tell Zapier to send a message from Gmail to anyone I want–I could just have it notify me or anyone in my team that learns a new spreadsheet row has been added.
Upon using Zapier for the first time, you will have to connect the Google account that stores your data. This means if you have spreadsheets or docs stored in Google Drive, Zapier will be able to identify which files you want to connect to this particular action.
In this instance, after I connected my Google account I chose the appropriate spreadsheet that Zapier needed to access. Once I selected it, I was able to select which worksheet I needed Zapier to access.
In fact, as I continued this setup process, I realized it was easier as I moved further along. Zapier makes it easy for anyone to connect any web application and each action that happens thereafter.
Before any Zap goes live, Zapier recommends that you test the Zap before you do anything with it. In the case of my Google Form, I filled out my own form a couple of times so the Google Sheets fields would fill in. If you don’t have any fields completed in Google Sheets, the Zap will not work.
After you test, then you will get confirmation that the Zap is functioning properly and you can finally go live with your Zap. As a quick note, if you manually delete any completed fields in your Sheets, Zapier will notify you that a change has been made in your Sheets document.
Zaps for Taking Attendance and E-Mail Collection
Once I was able to create my first Zap, I then applied it to my e-mail marketing program.
In my case, I provide monthly webinars for a local networking group here in Phoenix. Since this networking group does a lot of events in person, they require that you take attendance before you give your presentation. In previous months, I have given my Google+ presentation in-person and taken physical attendance, but never collected an e-mail address to stay in contact with attendees.
So, I had to figure out a way to not only take attendance for the networking group, but also collect an email address for myself–killing two birds with one stone.
In Google Forms, I created an “attendance” sheet that served a dual purpose:
1.) Take attendance
2.) Added the interested parties to my e-mail subscriber list
Because this event isn’t your typical webinar, it doesn’t have a typical landing page that needs to be set up. I’m only speaking with a small audience of potentially 25 people where the communication is made through the networking group’s platform. From there, I can see who is interested in the webinar and who are planning on attending.
A few days before the event, it’s my responsibility to contact each attendee and send them an email with a link that directs them to my Attendance sheet.
Once they fill out the attendance sheet, I have directed Zapier to access the appropriate list where I want this person to be added and whether or not I should send them a Welcome E-Mail or Double-Opt In. Both the Welcome E-Mail and Double-Opt in are systems that you need to set up in your e-mail marketing program, so take note that you need to have all systems in place before you start running tests on Zapier.
Now that I have collected attendance and e-mails, I can now go back to my networking group and start checking names off with in the group’s management system and fulfill my duties for them. For the attendees, they are taken to the Google Form confirmation page and provided a link where the webinar will be held.
All parties are happy thanks to Zapier.
It should be noted that this Zap that I have created for myself may differ with different e-mail marketing programs in terms of how the Zap will work with web applications.
Is Zapier Free?
It is to an extent. Zapier gives you 5 free Zaps with 100 tasks per month. They do allow you to earn more tasks if you subscribe to their newsletter, refer friends, connect accounts, and much more. Believe it or not, you could use a huge number of tasks just for one Zap. So, if you’re only going to use Zapier for a few applications, I recommend you start earning points to earn more tasks.
When it comes to creating more Zaps, you will fall into the pay model for $15/month:
If you run out of your allotted tasks, you will have to wait until your task bank is refilled at the end of the month.
I’m thoroughly pleased with the Zapier free service. It has allowed me the flexibility to automate basic systems that I never thought would exist. In fact, I have been able to create Zaps that allow me to become notified through Google Hangouts. In this instance, I can set an action like a new event added to Google Calendar and a Zapier chat bot will notify me of when someone creates and event. I have been able to set up Zaps that notify me of Disqus comments to my blog too!
I would highly recommend that you set up those menial digital tasks through Zapier because I can promise you that it will make your life easier for each circumstance you face.