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Growth / May 01, 2017

Sales Automation Made Easy

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Automation saves time, makes it easy to connect with and nurture more leads, and generally lets your business run more effectively and efficiently. But many small or solo enterprises shy away from automation, because they assume it requires some sort of technical proficiency they simply don’t have.

We’re going to let you in on a little secret: it doesn’t take a developer to automate parts of your marketing workflow. In fact, with the right tools, adding automation is downright simple.

This article will show just how easy it is for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and non-technical marketing executives to bring automation into their email marketing routines. We’ll walk you through the process of capturing an email, automatically pulling additional information from it, and funneling all of that info into your sales platform—no technical skill required.

You’ll learn how to collect leads, filter out spam and junk, add the quality leads to your CRM, and send your new lead a calendar invite. All automatic, all automated.

(By the way, if you’re already using a large-scale CRM like HubSpot or Marketo, you’ll probably already have some built-in solutions for what we cover here. This is for people who are looking for a smaller-scale solution.)

For our example, we’re going to set up a hypothetical landing page to book appointments at a conference. Take a look:

Our hypothetical landing page.

Our hypothetical landing page.

Notice that all we ask for is an email address and a meeting time? That’s because the less we ask for, the more responses we’re likely to get. Reducing friction is key to keeping your marketing funnel running smoothly, and automation helps drastically reduce friction. Plus, you’ll learn that there’s a lot that we’re going to get out of “just an email.”

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Reducing friction is key to keeping your marketing funnel running smoothly, and automation helps drastically reduce friction.

The Right Tools for the Job

The first step to applying automation to your workflow is to get yourself set up with the right tools. For this example, we’ll need:

We’ll also need some sort of form/lead collector—in this case we're using WordPress with the Contact Form 7 plugin. And we’ll be sending emails through Gmail and notifications via Slack.

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All you need to start automating.

Those are the tools you’ll need, but what do they do? Well, Pipedrive is an ideal CRM for small businesses or solo ventures. It’s simple, effective, and affordable. Zapier is a nifty tool that lets you set up “if this, then that” automations between various apps and programs (it pretty much makes this whole thing possible). Clearbit adds a little magic by injecting artificial intelligence into your pipeline, making everything you do just a little bit easier.

Once you’ve created accounts with all of these tools, you’ll need to connect them all through Zapier. This is an easy process (no harder than installing apps on your phone) and it’s absolutely essential for making automation happen. Simply login to Zapier and follow the instructions from there.

Okay, so there’s the rundown; now here’s how they all fit together. And remember—this will all be easy! Anyone can do this.

Step 1: Parsing Emails Without Developer Help.

We created our sample page using WordPress and Contact Form 7, but what you choose to use for this step is up to you. The important part is that you can capture an email address and a meeting time, so if you have a different preferred way of doing that, go for it.

The key to this step is Parser, a plugin for Zapier. You’ll need to add this plugin to your Zapier account, which is another straightforward process. (Just search for it within Zapier and follow the directions.)

Parser creates an email address that you’ll forward your newly captured leads to, where it will then (surprise!) parse the info. This is a vital step for laying the foundation of the rest of the work we’ll be doing.

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Setting up the first step of automation with Parser.

Instead of sending your captured email addresses to their usual destination in your funnel, you’ll send them through Parser first.

As with all of the upcoming steps, you’ll set up Parser’s job from within your Zapier dashboard. You’ll see that Parser gives you a lot of options, but all we need for this particular automation is to tag the email address and the event time we pulled from our lead-capture form. Simple, right?

One of the keys to successful automation is to test each step as you go. You’ll see that Zapier makes this easy for you, so be sure to take advantage of the test button as you progress through each step.

Okay - at this point we have a lead-capture form built in Wordpress and we’re passing along the leads to Parser, where we are automatically tagging email address and time of meeting. On to the next step!

Step 2: Filtering Leads & Removing Spam

This time, we’ll be adding the Filter app to our Zapier toolkit. Filter, as you may have guessed from the name, lets you set up a series of conditional filters that will dictate what happens to a particular piece of information.

With Filter, you can set up as many rules as you’d like, but we’re only going to need a few for this exercise.

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Here we’re filtering out emails from Gmail and Hotmail domains.

Pick what fields you want to validate - this is entirely up to you, but for this example we’ll just walk through the process of validating email. So select email, then start setting up your rules!

If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ve probably seen the same domain names showing up in your spam folder again and again. Our rule of thumb is to prioritize your filters based on what’s attacking you the hardest - so start with the usual offenders and go from there! Add those names to your list of exclusions and Filter will knock them out of your pipeline, quickly and easily!

Note that testing this step won’t work unless you have passed an email on to Filter.

Step 3: Adding Additional Data from Only an Email

This step relies on Clearbit, so be sure you’re all set up with that and have it connected in Zapier. Clearbit lets you pull all sorts of accurate information from a simple email address - it’s really the secret ingredient to this whole friction-free signup form.

In this case, we’re going to use Clearbit to get us the name and company of the person we’re setting up a meeting with, though you’ll see there is a LOT more potential information you could harvest from a simple email address.

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Adding Clearbit to our Zap.

For this example, we’ll feed the email address (which we tagged with Parser) into Clearbit, and ask for a name and a company name in return.

Simply click “New Email,” then “Parsed Email Output” (which is what we initially created in Parser). Then select “Find Person and Company Information.”

And there you go - Clearbit will pull all of this info just from a simple email address! Thanks, Big Data! We’ll use this information, along with the meeting time we asked for upfront, to send ourselves a notification, personalize our message to the lead, and populate our CRM.

Step 4: Put the Qualified Lead Automatically Into Your CRM

This step relies on Pipedrive, our budget-friendly CRM. From your Zapier dashboard, open Pipedrive, then select “create/update a deal.”

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We’ll start automatically sending information to Pipedrive.

You’ll see all of the information available thanks to Clearbit. Now we just need to select the pieces we want to pass along to the CRM, and Zapier will automatically create your new lead contact.


So now we’re going from capturing a single email address, to creating a rounded-out lead entry in your CRM - all without any additional work on your part. See why automation is such a clutch tool for small businesses?

Step 5: Invite User to a Calendar Event

Next up, we’ll use Google Calendar to automatically invite the new lead to a calendar event for our conference meeting.

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Zapier makes it easy to automatically add events to Google Calendar.

To do this, use the Quick Add feature of Google Calendar. Pick the calendar you want to use, then set up an event. You can feed in the meeting time from Parser, along with the name, company, and whatever else you pulled out of Clearbit. Set the date, and use their parsed email address to fire off the invitation.

Like everything else we’re doing here, you just need to set this up once and it’ll happen automatically from there on out.

Step 6: Get Notified in Slack/Email

We love Slack, but Zapier gives you options to automate reminders in other popular chat channels as well. Choose your favorite chat app, select the channel you want the notification to appear in, write your message, and feed in the data you want to see. Easy peasy.

Now every time someone completes your lead-capture form, you’ll be pinged about it in Slack.

Step 7: Send an Email to Confirm it All

The last step is to send an email to your new contact, thanking them for signing up and letting them know how excited you are to meet. Using your mail client’s Zapier app, simply write a subject line (we like to include their name and the meeting time as part of the subject), put together a great little greeting or reminder, and feed in their parsed email address. You could always attach a PDF or sales email here as well.

You’re Now Fully Automated

And there you have it! Now, when someone enters their email address on the form, it’ll pass through all of those steps automatically. You’ll get a new entry in your CRM and a notification in Slack, they’ll get an invitation to a meeting and a welcome email.

Just be sure to turn on the Zap after you create it! Then test the whole workflow by entering your email on the signup page and being sure that it triggers the entire sequence of events!

When To Scale Up

Automation can go a long way and let you do a lot without adding to your staff or bringing in outside resources. But the result is that your company can start to grow faster than you’re ready for. At some point, you’ll have to upgrade.

As you get a more robust CRM platform, start handling more leads, and start to need professional design and development help, be sure to choose an agency that is ready not only to help sustain your new growth, but to boost it even further.

Whether this article gives you your first experience with it, or you’re an old pro at automating, we want to hear how your experiments in automation go! Share your favorite Zapier hacks, automation recipes, and other stories in the comments below.

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