There's a law in computer science that technology doubles its capabilities every two years.
Marketers and business owners should remember this law, because as technology gets faster, businesses need to keep pace. Technology can increase our business efficiency, scale our workload, and benefit our bottom line. But if we can't keep up with it, it can also leave us behind.
Dennis Yu is a powerhouse in the digital marketing space. He has advised many large, well-established brands on how to more effectively market their goods and services. He's an expert on social media marketing, strategic online growth, and developing a personal brand. As the designer of Yahoo's analytics engine, he's also a technology expert.
Yu's BlitzMetrics has served thousands of clients around the world. They use a variety of tools to run their marketing operations, from analytics programs that gather data so they can understand their customers better, to SEO tools that help their clients get found on search engines.
But for Dennis and his team, automation in particular is a critical part of the future of marketing. It's a technology that businesses need to start using now, so they can be ready for a future business world that's faster, more focused on in-depth processes, and intensely data-driven.
Dennis talked about how BlitzMetrics uses Zapier to keep pace with the future of business.
Editor's note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
How automation makes BlitzMetrics better
Q: How long have you used Zapier?
Dennis Yu: I've been using Zapier since January 2012, just one year after Zapier was founded.
When Zapier came along, I was one of their early adopters. I saw the value in using these Zaps to start automating parts of my business almost immediately. I've been using Zapier since it first started. We consider ourselves a Zapier power user.
Q: What was BlitzMetrics like before using Zapier? What were some of the inefficiencies in your company you needed to find solutions for?
Dennis Yu: We founded BlitzMetrics in 2008. By the time Zapier came out, we were a growing marketing agency. From the beginning, we were always on the lookout for new tools to integrate into our stack and make our processes more streamlined and more efficient. Being able to connect two different software platforms without engineering involvement was a lifesaver. If it weren't for Zapier, we'd either have to hire developers to integrate apps or go without the data. Both were expensive alternatives.
With Zapier, we could connect our growing number of apps—perhaps almost 20 of them—in just a few clicks. I thought Zaps were ridiculously simple and powerful.
We were as efficient as we could be back then. We were using the tools that gave us the best results. But some of the best tech tools expose inefficiencies you didn't even know your business had. That's because they open up new possibilities—amazing new ways to operate your business. We found Zapier did that for us. Back then, we were using only a couple dozen Zaps with only a few hundred integrations available. Today, I know that Zapier connects over 3,000 applications with millions of possible connections.
Q: When you found Zaps and started putting them to work, how did that change your business?
Dennis Yu: Zapier put rocket boots on BlitzMetrics' efficiency metrics. We started using Zaps for as many things as we could think to use them for. We pushed contact information for our leads into spreadsheets. We compiled conversion stats and other data points we wanted to track. We brought in metrics from our website, Facebook, Google Analytics. Anything that we could quantify and measure, we organized it better using Zapier's integrations. There were so many Zaps available, we wondered what apps we couldn't connect together. It also made quite a difference in our analysis of the data coming in. One big rule of data analysis is, if you're going to understand the data, you first have to organize it well. Zapier helped us do that better and more efficiently.
Three Zaps Dennis recommends:
1. Save new Facebook Page posts to Google Sheets for better retrieval and analysis
2. Add new Basecamp 3 projects to Google Sheets to track projects
3. Send emails in Gmail when Google Sheets rows are updated to ensure stakeholders know when an important spreadsheet is updated
Q: What are some of the suggestions you would give to businesses that are looking at automating parts of their business for the first time and wondering if Zapier is right for them?
Dennis Yu: Go slow. Understand the tool and know in what ways you plan to use it before implementing it.
Take the time to understand what the tool does, how you can implement it, and what kind of risk there is to your company if you implement it poorly. You always want to minimize the risk, so make sure you understand what you're doing well enough so you can implement it with success.
For us, we have a lot of social media channels, marketing tools, and CRMs to tie together to be able to transfer data, tweet, send messages, fill out spreadsheets, and trigger actions. We think of all these pieces connected together via Zaps as a single machine with many parts working in unison.
BlitzMetrics' marketing automation with Zapier
Q: How do you use Zaps in your marketing efforts?
Dennis Yu: We implement Zapier in a pretty unique way. We do have some tools we've engineered where we're able to pull our own data down, but there are some things we haven't done yet or figured out how to do. And Zapier makes it super easy.
BlitzMetrics has about a thousand businesses we currently serve, and we take all of them through the same six-step process. Each of these processes has the same template tasks.
In marketing, a lot of tasks stack upon each other. For example, if I'm going to edit a video, then I need to publish that video and optimize it. But how am I going to track a video through all of these accounts?
Automation will be the standard in marketing in the very near future. It won't just be the technical marketers like us using it.
Dennis Yu, founder of BlitzMetrics
So we created a queue tracker to be able to go through and check out our pivot data, our productivity, and our workload. We were able to map what master tasks were created and which ones were completed and all of this populates into spreadsheets.
Basically, when there is an event in Basecamp, we have a trigger set up so that an action in one queue triggers the next, and as it does, it tells our spreadsheet the status of those actions.
Q: How easy is it for a business to work this kind of integration into their marketing program?
Dennis Yu: Well, you might not use the exact same Zaps we're using, and that's okay. We use Basecamp because it's probably the only project management tool that we could put together with Zapier to get these kinds of results. We are using thousands of Zap connections to put this whole process together.
As far as how easy it is to do, the most complex things can be broken down into the most simple actions. It's that old question, how do you eat an elephant, right? Bite by bite by bite. If we take small steps and we're slow and deliberate, we'll find that we're less likely to make mistakes and we can reach our goals much faster.
Q: Would you suggest integrating everything at once or just doing it piecemeal in order to figure out what's working for your business and what's not?
Dennis Yu: I don't recommend dumping all of your processes into Zaps immediately. I would do it piece by piece. Attack the low-hanging fruit first and get those little things off your back. By doing that, you're going to learn way more than you think. As I said, go slow. Be deliberate. Understand the process. That's the way you get results.
The business results
Q: How much time would you say BlitzMetrics is saving using Zapier Tools?
Dennis Yu: You have two types of time savings here. You have the time savings of not having to input and quantify the data. That's the obvious one. And I would say that has saved us countless hours that we are able to instead focus on building our business in other areas.
But there are also the less obvious benefits to this process. When we first started populating our spreadsheets this way, we found everybody was naming things whatever they wanted. They were assigning whoever they wanted. Tasks were in the wrong queues. There was all kinds of stuff happening outside of our system and processes.
So we were able to have meetings with our team and start to isolate this and figure this out. Now we have our processes refined more, which saves more time because everyone is able to understand things better. When you're managing large teams, you need to know what's going on, and you don't want to be held hostage by a tool or anything else.
Q: How much money would you say you're saving?
Just in the last past month, this process has probably saved us $50,000. When you start adding up what inefficiency costs your business it only makes sense to do something like this.
Understanding our processes better by using automation helps us get stuff done. Getting stuff done is the most effective thing you can do for your business. It's the thing that makes you the most money. It's also what makes your clients the most money.
The future of marketing and automation
Q: What role do you think automation tools like Zapier will play in business and marketing projects 5-10 years from now?
Dennis Yu: Automation will be the standard in marketing in the very near future. It won't just be the technical marketers like us using it. We'll see a lot of other agencies and small businesses using tools like Zapier because they either don't have the skills, the team, or the time to be able to pull down this data.
This isn't just because they want to populate spreadsheets and get robots to do these tasks, but because they're going to have to productize their service, and they're going to have to put it into phases and processes. That's what is going to make their business keep up with the speed and efficiency of the future. That's where we believe the best use lies for these tools, to get things done, and we're super grateful for our Zaps and the way they've allowed us to work more efficiently.