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


Entries Tagged “Tools”

Let's paint a picture: you'd like to offer up some sort of file for sale. It could be anything, say... an album of self-produced MP3s, a collection of quilting patterns, a video pack of kids tunes, an ebook on self-spiritual healing or even an Excel spreadsheet of horse racing odds! It doesn't matter, as long as it is a digital file.

The idea is simple: when I receive a payment, send the user an email with a link to the file. Zapier can help you do that! Plus, we let you can use any payment provider, file host or email provider you want!

You'll need three tools at your disposal:

A payment provider (so you get paid).

We recommend either PayPal, Stripe, Dwolla, or Paymill. Alternatively, you could trigger off sales in Magento, Shopify or BigCommerce (or entries in your CRM, lead database, webform, etc...).


A host provider (somewhere to put your file).

We recommend either Dropbox, Box.com, Google Drive or Skydrive if you want to do direct link, but you could upload it to your blog or personal host if you have one. We'll talk about Amazon's S3 later, which is a powerful way to give expiring URLs. You could also send as an email attachment!


An email provider (to send the email).

We recommend either Mandrill, Sendgrid, Mailgun, or Alpha Mail, but you could use a service like Gmail as well (or use your own via STMP).


The beauty of Zapier is you can mix-and-match your favorite providers and customize anything and everything about the email you send. Want to trigger off of PayPal sales and send an email with the file as an attchment via Gmail? Sure!

Maybe you'd prefer to trigger off of Stripe sales and send an email with a link to a Dropbox file via your own Exchange server's SMTP. Zapier can do that.

Or, maybe you'd like to get really fancy and trigger off of particular sale that goes through your ecommerce platform. You could use our custom S3 URL Signing app (more below) to provide expiring download URLs and send those URLs to the customer via Mailgun. We, as usual, can do that too.

By now you get the idea: just can pick and chose from any of these neat little features and build an awesome experience for your customers.

Putting The Plan In Motion

Now, you have a few options! We'll list each option in order of "simplest" to "most powerful", so you can choose which is best for you.

Direct Link Method

This is the easiest method by far: you just send an email with the same static link to every customer after they make a payment.

  1. Upload a file to your Hosting Provider. Copy the public link (you might need to "share" it first).
  2. Set up a single Zap from Payment Provider to your Email Provider. Place the link in the "body" field of the email.
  3. Enable the Zap!

But you could tweak this one a little bit and attach the file to the email instead, but you'll still need a host like Amazon's S3 or even your own personal host or blog.

Below are a few example Zaps, but don't forget, you can swap out any payment or email provider you like!

Attachment Method

This method is very similar to the direct link method above, but it uses Zapier's handy ability to download files and attach them as attachments in Gmail!

  1. Upload a file to your Hosting Provider like your blog hosting or Amazon S3. Copy a direct public link, it can't be a download page!
  2. Set up a single Zap from Payment Provider to your Email Provider. Place the link in the "attachment" field of the email (Zapier will automatically download it and attach it!).
  3. Enable the Zap!

At the time of writing Zapier only supports attachments on Gmail or SMTP, but you can use any other payment provider. Below is a PayPal/Gmail example:

Expiring Link Method

This method is much more powerful but only works with a single hosting provider: Amazon S3 (it does work with any payment/email provider though). Similar to the first two examples, you just include the specially generated expiring links in "body" field of the email!

It uses a custom, invite only application that will act as a "middle stage" which can generate unique links that expire after a specified amount of time. Before you start, click here to add the S3 URL Signer application to your account (be sure to be logged in before clicking).

Here are the full directions, jump to the bottom for the one of the two Zaps:

  1. Upload your file to your Amazon S3 bucket. Make it is not "public", just remove any "Everyone" permissions. Copy the link.
  2. Set up the first Zap from Payment Provider to the invite only S3 URL Signer. Fill in the fields, but leave Next Webhook URL blank, we'll come back to that in a moment!
  3. Set up a second Zap from Web Hook and the Catch Hook trigger to your preferred Email Provider. Copy the Webhook URL from step two.
  4. Go back to your first Zap and place the Next Webhook URL. Maybe send a sample or two in step 6.
  5. Finally, go to the second Zap and finish designing your email. Enable both of them.

Since the first Zap involves the custom, invite-only S3 app click here to add it to your account, only the second of the two pair Zap is available from a template, but here are two screenshots that should demonstrate the setup you want:



That's Not All!

While just a few Zaps can automate your digital download delivery process, you can use even more Zaps to put your customers in your Mailchimp, Constant Contact or AWeber mailing list, send sale notifications via SMS or into your Campfire or Hipchat chat room, or even just omit the download link and thank your customers via email! Zapier can help you do all of that and more.

If you need help setting any of these up, or need some suggestions or recommendations, just contact us and we'd be happy to help!

Do you have any tips or tricks on how you use Zapier? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author

Bryan Helmig is a co-founder and developer at Zapier, self-taught hacker, jazz/blues musician and fine beer and whiskey lover.

Hey there friends of Zapier, If you've seen a new face answering your emails and chat questions, odds are it was me. I'm Micah Bennett, and I'm super stoked to be joining the team at Zapier!

For a quick intro, I'm Chicago born, Ohio raised, and Missouri educated; a true child of the midwest. I enjoy spending time supporting Tigers and Bears (but no lions), as well as travelling with my lovely wife. I’m also very passionate about efficiency, and am ever searching for ways to improve my workflow. This is what makes Zapier such a perfect match. What better way for an efficiency junkie to spend his days than working to save users untold hours and dollars in productivity?

I also appreciate Pandas.

So what does that mean for you guys? Well, if I'm doing my job right, it means better support. Better and quicker responses, improved documentation, and a constantly improving user experience. We’re working on some great tools to get you to solutions faster and easier than ever, as well as improving how we work on things internally. Efficiency inside and out!

In short, I’m excited to get started working to improve the Zapier experience for all of you users. So hello, and stay tuned!

About the Author

Micah Bennett is the Support Lead at Zapier. He loves his wife Trinity, dessert, and the Chicago Cubs. He has never been to Boston in the fall.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Columbia MO's second annual Startup Weekend (you can read about Zapier's origins at the first annual, last year) While the Zapier team was officially registered as mentors, Wade and I decided to also build a gag startup, PRLibs.

PRLibs — madlibs to create press releases for startups. We realized that many startup press releases sound the same and that we could build something to auto-generate them. I think the expression is, "adding fuel to the fire".

PRLibs Banner

The product works like this: users fill out a few form boxes with details pertaining to their startup. Those form entries (coupled with a website scrape which we added later) combine to create an often hilariously inaccurate madlib-style press release.

Wade and I decided that we wanted the final product to auto-post to a blog somewhere. We could have spent a few hours installing, configuring, and designing a WordPress blog (or similar) but realized we could get there even faster by using Posterous and using their built-in "Email a blog post" functionality.

The final piece of the puzzle was the glue between our madlib form and sending an email. Something Zapier can help with! You can hook up simple HTML forms to Zapier using our Webhooks app. In a few minutes we had our Zap, Webhook -> Send Email, and even used Zapier to build final paragraph out of the submitted form fields.

Zapier can help you get from idea to working demo, even if you don't know how to program. Many times (like in the example above) you can build an entire demo only knowing HTML.

There are a ton of other tools out there that can help you get from zero to demo, especially if you are not a developer. This list is compiled from actual observed successful usage at Startup Weekend:

Kickoff Labs Landing pages and email collection. A great thing to have live by the end of the night, Friday

Balsamiq Pitching an idea or vision? Mock-ups can quickly convey information to would be developers

WooThemes Get a custom Wordpress Site off the ground by Sunday

Posterous and Tumblr can host your Blog without needing a server of developer

So, how'd we do? 54 hours and a working demo later, we had this nice traffic graph:

PRLibs Traffic Graph

I believe one of the judges referred to us as "worst startup of all time". In other words, PRLibs was a smashing success and great way cap-off the real Startup Weekend participants. Congratulations to everyone who participated!

About the Author

Mike Knoop is a Co-founder at Zapier. He helps run product and love the color orange.

As a fast growing fast-growing startup with limited personnel and resources it's absolutely essential we make the best possible use of our time as possible. And since we are building integrations for a number of web apps we've had the opportunity to test many different tools.

Here's our list of the apps we have found essential for running a small startup and team.

Office Tools - Google Apps

The Google suite of products is about the best bang for the buck you can get. We are constantly using Gmail for email, Google Docs for documents, spreadsheets, and ad hoc surveys and forms, and Google Calendar for keeping track of events and calls.

Email Marketing - Postmark & MailChimp

The life blood of any early stage startup is their launch list. Understandably making sure emails get delivered reliably is a big deal.

Postmark has been great for sending automated notification emails from our app and they do it for just a buck fifty for every thousand emails.

For bulk marketing messages it's hard to beat MailChimp. They have a great free plan that supports 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 sends a month. Why use MailChimp over Postmark for marketing messages? MailChimp come with a pretty solid analytics interface that lets you track and A/B test your campaigns.

Special Mention: since building your email launch list is so important, it makes sense to have a landing page to collect emails as soon as possible. We found Kickoff Labs to be an excellent tool for doing that. Plus Josh and Scott provide amazing customer support.

Hosting - Linode

Our application is built on Django so that narrows our choices for hosting. We choose Linode even though it is a little more expensive than something like WebFaction. Though for root access to your machine and the extra flexibility and security that users won't take us down - it's worth it. For a startup this is definitely not an area to skimp.

File Sharing - Dropbox

Dropbox is the no brainer here. It doesn't get much easier than sharing documents with Dropbox. We use Dropbox as a repository to store, share, review and edit documents that the company uses.

Payment Processing - Stripe

For any startup being able to collect money from your users is important. If you are developer, the Stripe API couldn't be easier to work with.

It makes it really simple to collect money from your users and send it to your bank account. Plus, you can easily generate subscription plans, one time payments, and just about any payment plan you can imagine.

Customer Interaction & Support - Olark

Most of the tools in this category aren't cheap, but for us it was worth having Olark on the site even before we had a product. Simply having it on the site has lead to more interaction with customers and early sales.

Not only has Olark made it easy to chat with prospects and customers it's also create the opportunity to talk with investors randomly visiting our site, vendors wanting integrations, and potential partners looking to expand business. Bottom line - Olark makes us money.

Social - Twitter

As primarily a B2B company we've found Twitter to be our users social network of choice. A significant portion of our customers hang out on Twitter to talk shop so it makes sense for us to have an active presence there.

For most startups it makes sense to go where your users are. So if that's Facebook, then go there.

Analytics - Google Analytics

One of the most important thing a startup needs is users and that means getting people to your site. Keeping track of that is important and the free and power packed Google Analytics makes it easy to keep track of traffic, where it's coming from, and gives you ideas for how to grow your site.

After all, if you aren't measuring you can't know for sure how to improve.

Integrations - Zapier

At Zapier we take our own medicine and use Zapier to integrate a lot of these apps, make all our processes better and to have a little fun too. Some of our favorite integrations are:

Those are the tools we find essential for running our startup. What tools are absolute must haves for you?

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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