The Ultimate Guide to CRM Automation

By Matthew Guay - Published October 24, 2014 -

You are reading: Chapter 5 of 5

You don’t want to spend your day managing a CRM. You just want a better way to keep up with your contacts, see your team's correspondence with leads, know where your deals stand, and ultimately push your business forward. You’d really rather do your real work and not have to worry about a CRM (customer relationship management) tool. But then, real work requires real people, and so a CRM it is.

You've learned the value of a CRM, identified the best CRM for your team (perhaps a CRM that even automates your marketing), and found out how other teams use a CRM. Now, it’s time to put your CRM to work for you.

Before doing so, however, you’ll first want to know your way around your CRM and have it set up with the fields, lists, tags and more that’ll work for your team. Once you’ve done that, your CRM will likely begin to automate some of your more common manual tasks, such as aggregate your contacts' social network links or add form submissions to your lead list. And then, Zapier is there to help you automate everything else, adding more features and custom tools to your CRM that’ll work just the way you want.

Automate Your CRM

Never Manually Add a Contact Again

Business Card pic

Your CRM is nothing without contacts; that's the very reason it exists. Getting the first batch of contacts added shouldn't be too hard. All you'll do is import your existing contacts list or perhaps a spreadsheet of contact info you've been using instead of a CRM. Or, you'll just bring in those most important contacts that you've been working with most lately. That's the easy part.

The hard part is keeping your CRM up-to-date. You'll get new contacts you want to add, but no one wants to have to manually enter each new contact into a CRM. Even if your CRM has some ways to automatically add contacts, odds are you'll get new contacts from many other sources.

That's why one of the most obvious ways to automate your CRM is by getting all of your contacts automatically imported, whether that's from a new form submission, email in your inbox or collected business card at a conference.


Odds are, you have a form on your site where people can sign up for your mailing list or get news from your team or grab a free trial of your product. Perhaps you’re running a survey of your customers or promoting a landing page where people can request info about an upcoming offer.

That’s the perfect place to capture leads and send them to your CRM. Even if your CRM has a built-in form tool, often you’ll find more features in a dedicated form app, and with Zapier you can get that data sent directly to your CRM.


For many businesses, a sale is your only interaction with a customer. Instead of letting that be an ad hoc interaction, why not add them to your CRM so you can easily follow up and potentially turn them into repeat customers?

That’s incredibly easy with purchase data, which could contain your customer’s name, email, and potentially mailing address and phone number. Based on what they bought, you know why they're interested in your business, too. Funnel all that info into your CRM, and when the appropriate time comes, you’ll be ready to target past customers with a marketing campaign.

Zapier supports a number of payment systems like PayPal, Stripe and Dwolla, along with eCommerce tools such as Shopify, Gumroad, Bigcommerce, Magento and WooCommerce. If your eCommerce system isn’t supported, you may still be able to use PayPal to get data if the payments go through PayPal, or otherwise you can use the Zapier Email Parser to find info from purchase emails.

Address Book

When you first started using your CRM, you likely imported your address book to add contacts. But then, if it only supports one-time import, you’ll need to add new contacts to both your address book and your CRM going forward. That’s a lot of trouble.

If you get an email on your phone from a potential new lead, the simplest way to save their info is to add them to your address book, while it might be easier to add them to your CRM when you’re at your desk than to put them in your address book. If your phone's address book syncs with Google Contacts, then Zapier can copy them from Google Contacts and save them to your CRM. That'll save you one step when you get back to your desk, and let you always save contacts to your CRM the way that's easiest for you.


Or, better yet, you could have Zapier watch your inbox for emails from new contacts, filter them based on criteria you want, and have the contact info automatically added to your CRM. That’s a great way to integrate with forms or other apps that don’t already support Zapier, as well.

You can even watch for just emails from specific companies, or skip over all emails that are from and other standard domains. Or, if you use an email alias for your contact email on your site, you can have Zapier import contact info from everyone who contacts you that way.

Another CRM

It might not just be your inbox and address book that have leads. If you’re like many of the teams we’ve talked to, you might have multiple CRMs, each one perfect for a different part of your business. You could have a marketing automation CRM that automatically pulls in leads from your site, a call CRM that tracks your team’s incoming calls and text messages, and then a contact- or conversation-focused CRM where you actually get your marketing work done.

All of them can work together with Zapier, sending your contact data from the app where it’s capture to the app where you put it to work. And if you need to log interactions back to the original CRM, pushing that data back is just another Zapier automation away.

Email Newsletters

Aside from purchases, email newsletters may well be the best way to gather potential leads. If you have a widely popular email newsletter, you can use filters to find subscribers from interesting companies that you’d like to add to your CRM. And if you have a more focused industry-specific email newsletter, every single subscriber might be a potential lead. Or, you might even find that the people who unsubscribe are worthy of a personal follow up.

Whether you want your full email list in your CRM, or find it time to break out the filters, you’ll likely find a way to put your email newsletter to work for you with your CRM.

Business Cards

There’s almost no better tech parlor trick than scanning a business card and having your phone automatically recognize the contact info. With dedicated contact apps like FullContact Card Reader and even Evernote’s built-in business card scanning—or just an OCR-enabled scanning app—it’s no longer difficult.

Don’t just surprise them when you scan their cards; surprise them later when you actually follow up since their contact data is now in your CRM. All it takes is a quick Zapier integration, and your scanned business card info can automatically show up in your CRM.


Or, if you’re the one organizing an event—either online or in-person—you could preempt the need to scan business cards by having your event attendee’s info automatically added to your CRM. It would just take a second to set up, and since they’re already giving you their contact info when they sign up, it’s as perfect a lead tool as purchase info. And, once again, if that’ll be too many people—perhaps with a very large event—you could employ a Zapier filter to only include people from companies you want to target.

Support and Chat

Online interactions aren’t just in your personal inbox, they’re also in your team’s support app and perhaps an in-app chat you have for your customers. Again, every person you interact with there isn’t a lead, but there will be people in your support systems that you’ll want to follow up with later. Zapier can send those to your CRM with ease.

Here, as before, you’ll want to put some filtering in place to only grab the most important contacts. Perhaps add a special tag in your support system for people to add to your CRM, and let Zapier pick up on it and send them over for you.

Websites and Databases

If you’re using custom, in-house tools to gather leads, such as a hand-coded form app, or use a third-party app that doesn’t work with Zapier yet, you can still integrate them with your CRM though Zapier. Rather than coding integration with each app you use, just connect your app to Zapier once and you’ll get it to work with your CRMs and any of other 300-plus apps we support.

If your app has an API and you’re comfortable working with it, you can add it to Zapier yourself with the Zapier Developer Platform. Or, if the apps support webhooks or are powered by MySQL or another database Zapier supports, you can add them inside Zapier with little more trouble than adding any other apps. You might even find you can get them to work better with Zapier that way since you get to pick exactly what get synced. Then, all that’s left is hooking them up to your other apps and letting Zapier do the hard work automatically.

Trigger Automation from Your CRM

match on fire pic

You’re now automating the addition of contacts to your CRM, but don’t stop there. Your new CRM contacts can trigger automation themselves. Even if your CRM doesn’t have any built-in marketing automation features, there are a variety of ways you can automatically reach out to your contacts, start off your new client projects, and make sure they get the info they need with Zapier.

Grow a Client Mailing List

Email newsletter lists aren’t just a great way to get leads, they can also be a great way to followup with all of your leads. You could either add contacts to a drip campaign, which will email them a series of emails a set number of days after they’ve been added to the CRM, or you could just have an update email you send to all of your leads. Or, with tools like the new drip email campaigns feature in MailChimp, you can get the best of both worlds by starting them off with a drip campaign and then having them receive your normal newsletters, as well.

Send New Customers a Welcome Email

Perhaps a full drip campaign is a bit much for your business. Instead, you’d rather send your new leads a detailed email with info about your company and perhaps extra documents, important links and contact info, and more. For that, you’ll just want to make an email template with all the important info, and then send it to all of your new contacts.

If you don’t want to email people as soon as you’ve added them to your CRM, you could use the Zapier delay trigger to automatically email them, say, 3 days later. Or, you could use filters to just send the email when your leads are at a specific stage in your CRM, a great way to send extra info once the deal has been closed.

Call or Text Potential Clients

If your contacts are at larger companies that prefer a call, or your company is aimed at younger clients that’d far prefer a text message, that’s possible, too. You’ll just have to gather your contacts phone numbers, and then let Zapier automatically send them a text or call with a pre-recorded message. This, again, is a great place to put either status filtering or the delay trigger in place; you likely won’t want to call people 5 minutes after they signed up to your newsletter and got automatically added to your CRM.

Fax Info to Businesses

If you work with older businesses, perhaps in more traditional, lower-tech fields like law, you’ll likely find that you still need to send faxes. Most of those will need to be manual, but you might want to still send introductory info automatically. That’s just as easy as sending an email or text automatically with Zapier’s Phaxio integration. You can grab your contact’s info from your CRM, and automatically fax them info about your company and the products or services you’re selling. Or, you can use the note and document naming trick below to fax important info to them automatically as your projects progress.

Make New Projects and Tasks

Depending on your company and how you use your CRM, your team will likely have to get to work on some new tasks and perhaps a full project when you’ve added a lead or they’ve reached a particular stage of the sales process. So teach Zapier what’s the crucial point for your work, and let it automatically make projects or task lists for your work. You can even have it add tasks to your CRM automatically if it supports that.

It can use your client’s name or email when making the new project, so you can then automatically sync data from that project back to your CRM. And if you share your in-progress work with your clients, you can even add them to your project when it hits a particular stage.

Create Personalized Documents

Chances are, you’ll need quite a few documents as your projects progress. You’ll perhaps need to get them to sign a contract or release form; HelloSign’s great for that, and Zapier can let it send out your signature requests automatically. Or perhaps you’ll need to customize the documents with your client’s names and addresses; WebMerge is the tool for you.

No matter what type of documents you need to create for your contacts, and how you need to use them, there’s a way to get it automated with Zapier. Just have Zapier watch for leads that hit a particular stage, and it can then get the correct documents made quicker than you could fill in the text in a word processor yourself.

Automatically Invoice Clients

You’ve finally sealed the deal, and have a new paid client. Congrats! Except, first, you’re going to need to get them to pay.

All you’ll have to do is have Zapier automatically add new CRM contacts to your CRM, so it can then send them quotes or invoices in the future. Then, have it watch your CRM for contacts who’ve completed your sales process, and automatically send them the correct invoice. Getting paid has never been easier.

Stay Informed

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Your CRM can likely notify you of some things—perhaps it sends you an email when you need to followup with a lead, or maybe it has a mobile app that informs you whenever anything happens. But you can do better than that. Just hook Zapier up to the place you prefer to get notifications, and let it tell you just the stuff you want to hear via filters.

Build Your Own CRM Notifications

Notifications are both the most convenient amenity and most annoying amenity about modern life. It’s great to be alerted about anything, anywhere, anytime, but it can also be terribly annoying to have your phone beeping just because you accidentally tapped OK and let a new app send you notifications.

Your CRM likely has some activities you’ll want to be informed about, but it’ll also have a lot of info that’s just noise. So pick what you want to be notified about, and use Zapier to filter your CRM data down to just that. Then, have it send the notifications the way you like. You could get an SMS or push notification, a ping in your chat app, an email, or just a list of everything in an RSS feed. Your choice.

Remind Yourself to Follow Up

Everyone knows you should follow up on your leads; that’s the very reason you’ve added them to a CRM in the first place. But it can be really easy to forget to follow up if you don’t have something reminding you. Even if your CRM shows who you should follow up with, you won’t see it if you don’t open your CRM.

Instead, have Zapier automatically remind you a certain number of days after you’ve added a contact to your CRM, again using the delay trigger. You could have it send you a detailed email with info about your contact, or just a quick push notification with the contact’s name. Or, you could have it add a new appointment to your calendar or a new task on your todo list for a few days later.

Or, if you’re really forgetful, you could even have it do all of the above. Better be safe than sorry!

Keep Track of What You’ve Done

One of the best motivation tools is a list of everything you’ve done or a dashboard that shows your progress. If you see a number of days without much accomplished, or if your stats start falling off the cliff, you’ll quickly see that you need to start doing more. On the other hand, a full list of stuff done and a rising chart will be a nice reminder that stuff’s getting done.

If you’re doing a lot of work in your CRM, you might as well use it as part of your personal work metrics. You can send your new contacts or won deals to apps like iDoneThis or just append text to a note with a running log of your work. Or, you can increment numbers on your dashboard to track the number of contacts you have, the deals you’ve won this week, and more.

Add Your Own Automation

add your own automation

The power to automate a CRM is in your hands with Zapier—coding skills aren't needed to integrate over 350 apps with your tool of choice. Whether you do that by using a pre-defined Zapier automation like the examples above or setting up a "Zap" yourself, getting started takes just minutes.

That's All, Folks!

You've made it! You've learned all about CRMs, picked out a great CRM, and have started automating your CRM work. Congratulations!

If you found this guide helpful, please pass it along—and then check out our other guides and books for more great resources to help you pick out great apps and use them effeciently in your work.

Dominos photo courtesy Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ.
Business card photo courtesy Jake Mates.
Hand raising photo courtesy Maryland GovPics.
Match photo courtesy John Goode.


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