What is Zapier? Zapier Explained & Basic Zap Examples

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Introduction to Zapier

Zapier is an online automation tool that connects a wide variety of your favorite applications together. 

Anything from Google Docs to Mailchimp — Zapier can help them speak to each other. 

At first, you might be thinking: “Why would I want Google Docs to interact with Mailchimp?”

Or maybe even: “What the heck is Mailchimp?”

It would probably be easiest to explain what I mean when I talk about applications “talking” to each other.

How Zapier Organizes Your Mess of Online Business Tools

One of the biggest problems professionals have experienced upon moving much of their operations online — is too much data.

Too many emails, too many invoices, too many notifications, and really, just too much information in general.

So what would help us cut through all the noise so that they can focus on their highest priorities?

Something that automates those emails, or sends those invoices, or answers those notifications for us.

This might seem like something that’s light-years away in the future, but it can be done right now.

You are probably overworking. 

There is likely a multitude of tasks you do every day at work that could be automated.

Tasks that take up time and annoy you.

Zapier can do these tasks for you.

With 0 coding required.

The Technology Behind Zapier

To fully grasp what Zapier is, we need to understand APIs.

An API, which stands for “application program interface” — is a medium through which computer programs can talk to each other. 

Many, if not all of your favorite web applications utilize APIs extensively.

The problem is that sometimes, different APIs used by different software cannot easily communicate with each other.

Let’s say that you have two friends who speak completely different languages.

Usually, the language barrier would make your friends having a conversation impossible.

However, that’s where a translator comes in. 

The translator can speak a variety of languages and help your friends understand each other.

This is where Zapier offers its value.

Zapier acts as a translator between APIs so that your favorite web apps can speak to each other, regardless of the language barrier.

Why Should You Care About Zapier & APIs?

The answer to this is simpler than you might imagine and we touched on it earlier.

Zapier will save you time. Tons of time.

It can be hard to understand how it can do so at first, but trust me. It will.

Before you know it, you’ll have your average workday mapped out via flow chart on a whiteboard — foaming at the mouth trying to brainstorm new zap ideas.

Now I get it, you might not be a techie, or even be very computer savvy.

However, if there was one thing I would recommend my colleagues learn outside of work or class, it’d be Zapier.

I know I’ve emphasized how much time it can save you, but let’s look at some real work examples.

Zapier Terminology

Zap

A Zap is an automated workflow that connects software and applications together. Zaps consist of a trigger and one or more actions. When you turn a Zap on, it will run every time a trigger event occurs.

Zap Editor

The Zap Editor allows you to create your Zap from a blank canvas. In the Zap editor, you can select triggers, apps, and actions to create your own automation workflows.

App

An app is a web service or application. This includes common tools like Google Docs, Slack, Gmail, and plenty of others. Zapier offers integrations for over 2,000 apps, which is honestly a crazy amount of apps.

Trigger

A trigger is an event that initiates the start of a Zap. An example would be if you want to send a message to a Slack group every time you receive an email, the trigger would be receiving the email. One of the best ways to get started with automation is to identify triggers throughout your average workday that require a standardized response.

Action

An action is an event a Zap performs after the trigger is initiated. To go back to the example of sending a slack message every time you receive an email, the action in this instance would be the slack message.

Task

A task is an action your Zap successfully completes. For example, if your Zap has an action to create new Google Contacts, each contact that is created will use one task. Learn more about tasks in Zapier.

My Guide to Mapping Automation Workflows Like a Pro

As I’ve said before, I know that it can be hard to identify just exactly where you can implement some of these automations in your daily work.

Or maybe, I’m completely wrong and you’ve already developed a self-sustaining ecosystem of semi-conscious APIs that act as your personal virtual assistants.

Regardless, there’s an oft-overlooked strategy that can make developing these processes quite a bit easier.

Whiteboarding. Yup, the dry-erase kind.

Draw the process you are trying to automate on your whiteboard.

It can be a short sequence of events like the slack-to-email example or even your entire workday.

It doesn’t matter how complex or unfeasible it might seem at first, but the process of visualizing systems is going to help you immensely.

Draw it like a linear flow chart preferably, although a spider-web can work just as well.

Immediately, your brain is going to realize that you’ve drawn what seems to be a neural network.

A structure of connections that works exactly like Zapier — and exactly like your brain.

Identify the troublesome portions and the bottlenecks, those are the areas that you should be looking to automate as much of as possible.

This visualization process works for a variety of things, not just automation alone.

Basic Zap Examples

Here are some basic Zap examples that will give you an idea of the kind of things you can accomplish using the platform.

Zap Example 1

Zapier cold email outreach Zap Example

Here’s an example of a Zap that I’ve used a plethora of different times.

Essentially, it sends an email sequence to every new contact entered into a google sheet.

Perhaps you’re cold-emailing agencies in order to pitch them SEO services, or maybe emailing job applicants in our case here.

Regardless, instead of manually entering all the information and bulk uploading your CSV in the end, you can have a living spreadsheet that never has to be downloaded.

As soon as a new prospect is added to the sheet, they are emailed.

Zap Example 2

Zapier booking calendar to Hubspot CRM Zap example

This is another super useful — and simple — Zap that I have running constantly.

Essentially, every time that a new prospect books into your calendar, they are immediately uploaded to your CRM.

Rather than manually entering the contact information of prospects that find you via SEO and book a free consultation — Zapier will automatically upload them straight into your CRM.

This alone could easily eliminate a half hour or so from your day if you work at a busy agency.

Learn How to Build More Zaps Using These Great Resources

Zapier’s official resources and blog are a perfect place to start.

Process.st also has some awesome information on automation — even if it’s geared towards using the automation in tandem with their platform.

Airtable has some great information on automation and organization as well.

Lastly, always stay tuned on my website and blog for content on automation and marketing!

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Samuel VanMeter is an Indianapolis-native looking help business grow through digital marketing.

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