If you haven’t found a good reason to automate the redundant tasks in your business, try this: Automating common and mundane tasks saves my team 400 hours a year.
That, and spending time logging data into spreadsheets is not my idea of fun. I’ve been a digital nomad for the past three years, living out of a suitcase since 2015.
And data entry is the last thing I want to do. Especially when I'm in New Zealand.
Data entry or visiting Hobbiton? The choice is easy.
Data entry is boring, especially when it's unnecessary. The last thing I want to be doing is entering each sale I receive into Quickbooks, especially when there are hundreds of applications that have the capability to send data into this widely adopted small business accounting system.
Not only that, but I don't know if I believe in hiring virtual assistants, or VAs, just to do these common tasks. Why pay a human to do a task that can easily be automated? We live in an era of interoperability, so using manual processes just seems ridiculous to me.
In my previous career stops, I was involved with human-intensive businesses. My current business is also human-intensive, but only for the advanced work. We have a team of highly skilled people doing high-quality knowledge work, and we want to leave the rest for the computers.
A Zapier Review for a small, location independent business
Zapier is the key tool I use for automation. Zapier is an essential tool for just about any business out there because it connects thousands of apps together and integrates them even when there is no native integration.
Integration between software is common, but the available native integrations for any given software might not work with your technology stack.
Or the systems don't support updates from each other or don't upgrade connections consistently. This is why I think Zapier is so important for many modern businesses. If you want to connect two pieces of software, but there is no native integration between them, then Zapier is the solution.
In layperson’s terms, Zapier is a command center for business rules and integrations, like these:
If this happens, do that…
If this happens, and it meets these criteria, do that…
If this happens, do this, that and the other thing!
You have the ability to make one trigger send multiple actions to different business systems. Pretty cool, right?
Zapier use cases in my remote business
We use Zapier in many areas of our business. From sales to email marketing, Zapier is involved. Here are some examples of how we use Zapier.
1. Customer Purchases
When someone purchases one of our courses, an entry is automatically logged in a spreadsheet. We use this spreadsheet to verify purchases or to keep our mailing list in order. The purchase triggers another action as well. An entry is logged in Quickbooks, which makes bookkeeping much easier.
A third action also takes place, which kicks off a downstream process of putting customers into a new student onboarding email sequence. The email sequence welcomes them to the course and shows them how to access the materials in the course.
This action was in place back when we were using ActiveCampaign. Since we switched to Drip, we’ve begun using the native Drip-WooCommerce integration. Native integration usually works better than having an intermediary tool like Zapier.
2. Lead Generation
The leads we generate from our Facebook ads campaigns are pushed into our email marketing system. Facebook recommends Zapier as the tool of choice to export leads from their system into your email marketing platform. But since switching to Drip, we use the native Facebook-Drip integration.
We also turn survey responses in our Typeform account into leads, pushing them into our email marketing platform.
You can share leads across Drip accounts. If we get a lead in Jeffalytics, showing that they’re interested in analytics topics, we’ll have an action to put them in our Analytics Course Drip account.
Zapier makes it easy to track leads and sales. The leads that come in will go into Pipedrive, our CRM system, as well.
3. Customer Support
Zapier helps with our customer support as well. We have several channels where prospects or customers can contact us. We forward all of these communications into HelpScout which we handle from there. One of the ways we get contacted is through Facebook posts. Forwarding Facebook posts to Help Scout makes sure that we don’t miss anything. It’s a really fantastic integration and works great for our needs.
4. List Management
For our webinar registrations, we can port each new name into our email marketing systems. We tag them to make sure we can reference any action they took in the future.
You can also trigger an action recursively to the same platform. For example, you can unsubscribe someone from the prospect list when they’ve made a purchase.
Even with these cool integrations through Zapier, you should use native integration whenever possible.
System triggers and actions are generally more reliable when there’s no third party intermediary tool. Drip, for example, has worked well for us with its native integration.
5. Social Media Automation
We don’t use the social media auto posting capabilities in Zapier, because we have other tools like Buffer for it. But if we wanted to do that, we could integration WordPress and our social media channels.
Is Zapier focusing too much on quantity and too little on quality?
Zapier can do many things, but there are some aspects of this tool that I don’t like. It's mainly their focus on quantity over quality, in many instances.
1. Many integrations are of minimal utility
Their Google Analytics integration sucks. It really does.
I practically begged them for years, tweeting at Zapier to vote for a Google Analytics integration.
And when it was finally released, it was a complete flop.
There was only a grand total of 3 zaps available out of the box.
And the documentation is weak and not at all helpful. What is this trigger about new goals? Does it mean when a new goal is added to your account?
This doesn't make any sense! Trust me, analytics is kinda my thing.
If you compared that to Klipfolio, Zapier completely missed the mark on this one.
Klipfolio is a dashboard tool that integrates with hundreds of other tools, including Zapier. Their Google Analytics integration is extremely robust. I can click on a button and have a 5-minute summary review of the year 2017.
So I say this to Zapier: You're mailing it in with your Google Analytics integration.
This is especially true for the Google Analytics, but I think that they are also mailing it in with most of the triggers Zapier develops. I think they’re focusing too much on adding new technologies, so they let quality slip on existing integrations.
There are thousands of apps that do an extremely robust integration with Google Analytics, Klipfolio is just one of them.
Why thousands of platforms? Because Google Analytics is the biggest platform out there. Zapier has had years to address this, but their integration is disappointing at best.
2. The pricing scheme is ridiculous, stupid and punitive
I absolutely hate punitive pricing schemes. These pricing schemes charge you for the success of your business. The increase in price from having 3,000 tasks per month to 15,000 is ridiculous.
I had to upgrade our plan from “Starter” to “Professional” when I ran a promotion on my PPC Course. This was necessary to accommodate the influx of tasks that were required to log and process the orders. That’s what I call punitive pricing.
There is an increase in resources needed to process these tasks, but it doesn’t justify the 150% price increase. The pricing penalizes people for being successful and for automating their businesses.
3. It’s getting more complicated over time (not a good thing)
After I configure my triggers, the testing steps in Zapier often do not work. The only way to test things is through manual order entry.
This means I have to go into my own systems to test transactions manually in order to see if Zapier works. They won't let me save the Zap otherwise.
This may be manageable for tasks like email address collection, but becomes troublesome when I need to test e-commerce transactions.
The experience of testing integrations has been downgraded over the years. It has gotten worse, to the point that about 50% of new zaps I create break because of the poor testing. I hope they can get this fixed soon.
4. They are focused too much on new integrations vs. making major platforms better (quantity over quality)
Here’s an example of quantity over quality. Here’s a typical email I receive from Zapier. It’s about their 15 new apps and updates. They have 11 new apps and 4 updates to existing apps.
Take a look at this list of apps. How many do you recognize? Are you excited about these new apps? I'm not.
I think adding new apps frequently sounds cool on paper, but that doesn’t mean much if they’re of low quality. They should instead focus on improving major platforms, like Google Analytics, and stop favoring quantity over quality.
5. Many platforms charge extra to use Zapier
Many platforms charge extra to use Zapier and this is annoying. I use WooCoomerce, and it charges extra for me to integrate WooCommerce to Zapier.
Everyone seems to want a cut, even though they should have integration built into their systems in the first place.
6. Native integrations are way better
Given all the above, native integrations are still better. It’s always better to have direct native integration between two platforms than using an intermediary tool.
It’s cheaper, faster and less likely to break. A good example of native integration is the one between WooCommerce and Drip. I don’t need to upload my purchase list to Drip, it happens automatically. It's not cheap, but it's less expensive than an upgraded Zapier plan.
All these flaws aside, I still love Zapier. The main reason being it’s simply impossible for all app developers to build native integration for every single tool out there.
Zapier is relatively affordable and consistent compared to manual labor. But I would still prefer native integrations over Zapier, for the reasons I shared.
Hopefully, Zapier will be improving their product soon to address the shortcomings. They are an industry leader in the automation space, but this position won't last if they keep making questionable product decisions.
I’m going to keep using Zapier for the foreseeable future because there are some vital features I need for my business. And you should test it out too if you haven't already. It’s still the best at what it does in the marketplace.
4 out of 5 stars