A blog about productivity, workflow best practices, company building and how to get things done with less work.

 

Archives for June 2012

For as long as I can remember setting up meetings and sending meeting invites has been a royal pain in the keister.

First you have to negotiate a meeting time over the course of about three emails, then you have to translate that email into a calendar event, then you have to collect all the relevant email addresses back from your Gmail inbox.

A harrowing three step process that inevitably results in me forgetting to invite someone, messing up the time zone, or forgetting to send the invite altogether. #fail

Never again though! Thanks to a handy bit of scripting by Mike I can create calendar invites directly from a sent email. I've been testing it over the course of the last week and never has sending a meeting invite made me feel quite like superman before.

Here's How it Works

I have a Zap set up with a filter in Zapier that looks for #zapier in any of my sent emails. If it finds #zapier, the Zap is triggered to run. The Zap then looks for something like this in my inbox:

create_cal_event(Talk to users, build product, exercise tomorrow from 10AM to Noon with bryan@zapier.com, mike@zapier.com)

Here's what the email looks like in my inbox:

bossman email

Send the email, give it a few minutes for the Zap to run and boom! I have a meeting setup tomorrow from 10 AM to 10 PM with Mike and Bryan and they've both been invited. Best of all I didn't have to leave my inbox to do it!

Here's what our calendars look like as a result:

calendar magic

I'm blue, Bryan is purple and Mike is red. Everyone is invited!

The Secret Sauce

Ok, ok, enough talking. Here's how you can make the calendar magic happen in your inbox too.

  1. Jump over to this Gmail Google Calendar Zap page and click "Start Using This".
  2. Add Gmail and Google Calendar accounts to Zapier.
  3. Select [GMail]/Sent Mail on the GMail trigger side.
  4. Select the Calendar you'd like your invites to be sent from on the Google Calendar action side.
  5. Set your Google Calendar describe event to {{message_no_html_create_cal_event}} as seen below.

gcal fields

The last thing you need to do is set up your filter to look like the image below and you're done. Go ahead and enable your Zap and enjoy a much more productive inbox.

gmail filter

Want to make your boss happy? Use your new invite powers to schedule a meeting with him to chat about your TPS reports first things tomorrow morning!

About the Author

Wade Foster is a Co-founder and CEO at Zapier. He likes to write about process, productivity, startups and how to do awesome work.

Finding early customers is hard. Finding early customers with clout is even harder. Finding early customer who will pay you is hardest - especially if you're three mid-twenties tech founders from a small/midsize college town in the midwest.

The bottom line is that sales in the earliest stages of a startup can be overwhelmingly difficult. Especially, since many times you won't even know where to start.

The odds of us landing one of the most influential individuals in the startup world as our first customer seem pretty crazy, but here's how we did it and some tips for how you can do it too.

Identifying a Need

We started Zapier with the idea that integrations between all web apps should exist. After our initial Startup Weekend beginnings we had a barely functioning prototype and no clue what people wanted. So step one is finding people who need integrations and figuring out which ones seemed most popular.

For us that meant trolling as many SaaS service forums as we could find and lots of Googling for different integration combinations.

We'd go to 37 Signals forums and find people begging for Google Contacts integration. We'd go to Salesforce and find people begging for Evernote integration. It was literally a gold mine.

That's when I Googled Highrise Paypal and found this gem.

Yep that's Andrew Warner himself asking for PayPal data to sync into Highrise. After my initial excitement I work up the courage to send Mr. Warner an email and find out if we can help. Unfortunately the article at the time was about 8 months stale. Odds are he's found a solution already, but I decide to take a gamble and fire off this email:

Andrew,

I just noticed a few months ago you were looking for a solution to auto-import Paypal addresses into Highrise.

http://webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/13007/how-can-i-auto-import-contacts-from-paypal-into-highrise

Have you found a solution for this yet?

If you have, what did you do?

If you haven't, would you be interested in a service that let's you do exactly this for you without having to hire a developer or write a single line of code?

Keep kicking butt with Mixergy. I listen to at least one new interview every week.

Thanks!

Wade

I hate being cold emailed with a sales pitch so I intentionally try to avoid selling him on anything. I just trying to find out if this is still a problem for him. After writing up the email I hit send and wait.

Three days later Andrew emails back saying he already found a solution, but was curious if we had built a PayPal Highrise bridge (which ironically at that point we had not).

I'm a little bummed he's found a solution, but he left a small door open so I give him the pitch and let him know what we're working on.

Making the Sale

As luck would have it Andrew is in need of a Wufoo AWeber integration.

Unfortunately we don't have Wufoo and AWeber integration built so I tell Bryan and Mike we need to build this.

In a few days the integration is done. And I email Andrew and let him know it's ready and here's his response:

This is freakin' fantastic.

Andrew asks how much he owes us and we quote him $100 gets him into the beta period. Andrew immediately says yes and asks where to send the money.

Closing the Deal

At this point we don't have a bank account or any way on the site to accept payments so we start to scramble. The last thing we want is to lose him because we can't take payments.

So at the last minute I tell Andrew to send it to my personal PayPal account and we decide it's time to open that bank account.

Before we head to the bank though I set up a quick PayPal to SMS Zap that would send me an SMS when I got paid. I did not want to miss Andrew's money coming through.

As luck would have it right as we walk into the bank I feel my phone buzz and sure enough there's a message from Zapier saying:

Check PayPal: Andrew Warner just paid you.

And with that text message Zapier became a revenue generating company and two hours later I see this Tweet go out and Zapier gets more traffic in an hour that we'd ever had before.


Follow Up

Unfortunately just because you make a sale doesn't mean your done. Over the course of the next few weeks we worked with Andrew to make sure he got Wufoo to AWeber set up correctly and we even built the filters feature specifically for him.

We even did a walk through on Skype to help him get things working since our interface was absolutely atrocious at the time. I'm honestly a bit surprised he put up with it.

It just goes to show you what people are willing to go through if you solve a big problem for them.

Repeating This

With customer one in the bank it was time to find out if this was a fluke or not. So I started this process from the beginning all over again. I'd find someone in a forum who had a need, send out an email asking if it was a problem or not. And occasionally it would be and they'd choose to join our beta program.

And that's how we got traction with our earliest of customers.

(P.S. I'd love to hear from other folks how early sales went down at their startup. These always seem to be the most fascinating stories to me)

Additional Thoughts

On Repeatable Sales: Clearly this is not a repeatable sales process - especially at the $100 price tag, but when you are first starting with an untested product it's essential to do everything in your power to get someone to like what you have and pay you for it.

On Getting Lucky: You might think we got lucky by happening to stumble across Andrew Warner and him having a need for our stuff. You might be right. But the thing is, there are lots of people with a soapbox like Mixergy who talk about problems and solutions all day long. In fact, I bet if you picked any random Mixergy interview out of a hat you could find an idea for a piece of software or a business idea that could have helped that specific founder out.

How Can This Work For You?

If you're running an early stage startup the most important thing you can do is get the idea out in front of as many potential users as possible and find out if they would use what you are building and if they would pay for it.

So if that means trolling forums, cold calling businesses, emailing potential users then go for it. And once you have someone interested in what you're working on don't be afraid to do things that won't scale. Provide more support than is necessary. Build features only for that person (within reason). Write hand written thank you cards.

If you do all these things early on you'll learn way more about your customers and your business. Don't worry about scaling. Don't worry about being inefficient. After all if you don't make sure there is a today; you won't have a tomorrow.

About the Author

Wade Foster is a Co-founder and CEO at Zapier. He likes to write about process, productivity, startups and how to do awesome work.

After months of hard work and tons of feedback from some of the best users in the world Zapier is publically launching. Big thanks to everyone who has tried us out and given us feedback over the past nine months. You are awesome.

Check out some of the coverage over at TechCrunch, Wired and Silicon Prairie News.

Also a big thanks to Paul Graham and the great partners over at Y Combinator who had enough faith in us to let us into the YC Summer 2012 batch.

What is Zapier?

You can get started in seconds with Zapier and start automating all those pesky tasks you do copying and pasting, importing and exporting, and syncing between those apps you use all day every day.

Still confused? Check out some of the most popular ways folks are using Zapier or head over to the Zapbook and get lost browsing the thousands of integration combinations you can use to turbo charge your productivity.

What's Next?

We may be out of beta, but that doesn't mean we're going to rest on our laurels. Instead we'll be focusing on adding even more apps and improving the ones we already have.

We'd love to hear from you about ways we can make it easier to kick those pesky, annoying, daily tasks in the teeth. Just drop us an email at contact@zapier.com anytime. We respond to every email.

About the Author

Wade Foster is a Co-founder and CEO at Zapier. He likes to write about process, productivity, startups and how to do awesome work.

One of the coolest things about Zapier is that people find all sorts of ways to use it that I would never expect or guess. But there are certain use cases that rise to the top.

Without further ado here are some of the top ways people are using Zapier.

Wufoo to AWeber Subscriber

wufoo to aweber

Setting up forms to collect email addresses for your mailing list can be a pain. Wufoo is in awesome form builder though. And AWeber is an awesome email marketing tool. With their powers combined you get email marketing heaven.

Anything to HipChat

twitter to hipchat

Twitter to HipChat, Trello to HipChat, GitHub to HipChat, you name it to HipChat. Plenty of companies live night and day inside of HipChat. Being able to create a company feed of everything that is happening across all your services is invaluable.

Gmail to Anything

gmail to zendesk

Getting to inbox zero is a pain. So plenty of users are using Zapier to take control of their inbox. Create Trello cards from emails, create Zendesk tickets from email, add notes to a Evernote from email all by slapping on a label. This lets you get those pesky emails out of your inbox and into a better system for managing your email.

Your Own Person Alert System

paypal to google chat

Constantly staying on top of todo items, customers, rss feeds and more can be a challenge. To solve this users are sending alerts to Google Chat for new PayPal sales, important RSS feeds, new todo items assigned to them in Basecamp and more.

Hack Your Own

webhook to webhook

Sometimes Zapier doesn't quite have the integration you need. Never fear though. If you have a little bit of coding chops you can use the Zapier webhooks to tie in new integrations simply by sending a GET or POST request to a URL.

About the Author

Wade Foster is a Co-founder and CEO at Zapier. He likes to write about process, productivity, startups and how to do awesome work.

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