The Zapier Blog A blog about productivity, workflow automation, company building and how to get things done with less work. Mon, 14 Mar 2022 14:15:11 GMT 16 Asana features to start using right now .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

If you don't already love Asana, you might soon. The task and project management app has everything from advanced organizational features to smiling pups (for real)—and the basic version is free for individual users. 

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But don't limit Asana to being an electronic to-do list. 

I've been using Asana to keep my freelance business on track for a couple of years now and discovered there's even more to love once you dig into its lesser-known features and capabilities.

Asana tips for productivity

1. Try video messaging in Asana

Asana recently released a new video messaging feature through Vimeo. Now team members can record and embed videos right in Asana to enable better communication and collaboration from anywhere.

Simply click on the record icon to add a video to any task description, comment, or message. You can set the video to record your screen, your own camera, or both. Preview your recording, then send—your team can view your video message right in Asana, so they don't have to interrupt their workflow. Plus, Asana automatically transcribes your videos, making them accessible (and searchable) for everyone. 

Video messaging in Asana

2. Add Asana task dependencies

You can mark dependencies directly on a task, so you don't have to track when it's your turn to get started. Asana will send you a notification once all other dependencies have been completed.

To create task dependencies, go to the task you want, and click Add Dependencies above the task description field. Then type the name of the task that precedes it—a dropdown will appear, and you can select the task. The current task will now show as blocked until that other task is completed. Or you can click the Blocked by text and change it to Blocking, based on the direction of the dependency. Multiple tasks can be dependent on one task, and a single task can be dependent on multiple tasks. 

Task dependencies in Asana

Task dependencies keep your to-do lists prioritized while moving the work forward efficiently. Highly recommend.

3. Assign Asana tasks to multiple projects

Cross-indexing lets you assign single tasks to up to 20 projects—without duplicating them—and show different display information for each user based on where it's indexed. This way, you don't have to track multiple identical tasks in different places. Cross the task off as done in one list, and it will be updated in all the other lists.

To cross-index a task, hover your mouse over the task's name until you see a plus button. Click it and type the project name. If you're an administrator, you'll see a high-level project with a complete list of connected tasks and subtasks, kind of like a spider web workflow. This view helps you make sure things within your team are moving smoothly, and if not, where the problems are so you can help.

Adding task to another project in Asana

You can also cross-index subtasks:

  1. Open the subtask.

  2. Click the overflow button in the upper left-hand corner.

  3. Choose Add to Project.

The subtask will then show up in the project(s) where you placed it, but it will also still be inside its parent task. You can spider web like this pretty much endlessly in Asana.

4. Copy Asana tasks and assign to other team members

What if you do need to duplicate a task? Maybe you need every team member to fill out a form or respond with comments on a document or review and approve something. Asana makes it easy to copy tasks and assign them to multiple people.

Do this with a complete task you've created by clicking on the current assignee's name and selecting Assign duplicate tasks at the bottom of the dropdown. Then select each person who gets a copy of the task. Everything except comments will be copied.

If the task is in a project, all the copies will be too, in the same section. If it's a subtask, all copies will appear in the parent task. This is a real time-saver: instead of recreating the same task for multiple people, just create a copy for them.

5. Create private teams in Asana

In Asana, there are three kinds of teams: Public to Organization, Membership by Request, and Private. 

  • Public to Organization teams are accessible by team and organization members, and people can request to join them. 

  • Membership by Request teams are accessible by team members only, but people can still "see" that they exist and request to join them. 

  • Private teams are accessible only by team members and can't be seen by outsiders. No one can request to join them.

Private teams are great for projects with sensitive information in them, such as financial details, intellectual property, planning the office holiday party, and other data you just don't want getting around. To access team settings, go to the sidebar and hover over the team's name. Click the three dots and select Edit Team Settings, then make the team Private

Creating a private team in Asana

6. Unlock the goodest doggos (and more) in Asana's Hacks tab

The Hacks tab is where experimental Asana features live—it's a magical place that you should check frequently. This is where you go to ensure you'll see cute dogs (tab+V) and fluffy cats (tab+B) on your dashboard when you need a boost. 

Dogs all over the Asana interface

Other current (and slightly more serious) hacks include:

  • Recurring Tasks in Last Section of My Tasks: Make recurring tasks reappear in the last section of My Tasks upon completion.

  • Disable Notifications for Tasks Starting & Due Today: Reduce clutter in your inbox for tasks due or starting each day.

To turn on hacks, go to My Settings and select the Hacks tab. There you can enable hacks using the toggle. Then reload to apply the new settings.

The Hacks options in Asana

7. Turn emails into Asana tasks

You can create tasks by sending emails to Asana. Here's how Asana knows what you're saying: 

  • An email to creates a task in My Tasks. 

  • If you add another address in the To: field, that person becomes an assignee of that task. 

  • Anyone cc'ed on the message gets added as a follower of the task. 

  • The email subject is the name of the task, and the email body is the task description

  • Any attachments to the email get attached to the task.

Want to go deeper? You can also send emails to create tasks within any project in Asana because every Asana project has a unique email address. To find the right address, choose the project from the sidebar, click on the Project actions dropdown arrow, and select Add Tasks by Email.

Even easier? Use Zapier to send your emails to Asana automatically. Zapier lets you auto-forward your Gmail emails based on a specific label. For example, if you manage a lot of job applications, you can set a Zap to send any emails labeled "job application" to your Asana tasks.

Zapier lets you automatically send information from one app to another, helping you reduce manual tasks. Learn more about how Zapier works.

8. Create recurring tasks in Asana

If you have a task that repeats, don't waste your time creating it over and over again. When you create (or edit) a task, click on the due date. You'll see the repeat option below the calendar (two arrow icons). When you click on that, you can choose whether to repeat weekly, monthly, yearly, periodically, or whatever custom frequency you want.

To stop repeating, either remove the due date from the task or click Repeat and choose Never.

Create a recurring task in Asana

9. Focus on your tasks with the Asana desktop app

If you're like me, you have dozens of tabs open at any given time. But when you need to power through some work, those tabs can pull your focus from what's most important. 

Minimize distractions by working outside your browser with Asana's desktop app. The desktop app has all the functionality of the web-based app, but it's designed to help you focus on deep work. 

10. Add more details to Asana tasks with custom fields

Custom fields let you provide additional key information to view at a glance. You might use custom fields to add information about project stage, priority, cost, or anything else that's specific to your team. It kind of feels like adding color-coded tags to everything—and it also helps with searchability.

There are two types of custom fields you can create: 

  • Fields specific to a single project or portfolio

  • Fields that are reusable across your organization

To create a custom field, click Customize > Add Custom Field, and then enter the title, select the type, and add a description. If you want to apply the field to the whole organization, select Add to your Organization field library. Otherwise, the field will remain specific to your project.

You should be able to see your custom fields in two places: in your right pane's task details, and as columns in the main pane's task list. If something has more than one field, you'll see them all in the right pane details.

11. Use Asana advanced search

Search views populate lists of tasks, projects, or messages based on your search criteria. You can use these to find any specific group of conversations or tasks. 

Just click in the Search field at the top of the screen and select Advanced search at the bottom. Once you're there, you'll see all of the advanced criteria. Click on +Add Filter to add more parameters.

Asana advanced search

Once you've got your results, you can select Refine Search to adjust your parameters, Save Search to come back to it later (your saved searches appear in your left sidebar), or Sort to reorder the results. Or click View to view as a list or as a calendar.

12. Color-code Asana assignments with projects

I create a different project for each client, so I can visually organize tasks by client on my calendar—and each client is a different color. This is a great way to track client work (or multiple projects) from one view instead of toggling between individual tasks and project calendars.

  1. Create a project (or open an existing one). 

  2. Select the dropdown arrow next to the project name.

  3. Click Set color & icon.

  4. Select a color for your project.

Color-coding projects in Asana

Pro tip: If you have custom fields, you can color-code those too. For instance, you can use red for "on hold," yellow for "in review," and green for "complete." This gives you (and any collaborators) the ability to easily scan information by color.  

13. Filter your Asana list view 

You can organize your lists the way you like them with a variety of filtering options. You might want to do it automatically based on criteria like due date or assignee, or you can order the lists manually with a super satisfying drag and drop.

For preset sorting options, go to the list view, and use the icons at the top right to sort your tasks. 

  • All tasks lets you filter by all tasks, incomplete tasks, or completed tasks. Bonus: showing your completed tasks gives you an instant progress report.

  • Filter lets you quickly sort by "Just my tasks," "Due this week," "Due next week," or custom filters.

  • Sort lets you sort by the due date, assignee, likes, alphabetical order, and creation time.

Filter the list view in Asana

Play around with the views and filters that work for you—you might find a view that reveals important project details and tracks progress quickly. 

Pro tip: Click Save layout as default under the project dropdown arrow to save the project view for anyone working on that project.

14. Use Asana keyboard shortcuts to navigate

Speed up your workflow and streamline your navigation with handy keyboard shortcuts for Asana. There are too many to list in this article, so get the full cheat sheet here.

15. Stay on track with Asana project status updates

Use status updates to keep your projects on track and quickly give context to other collaborators. 

Project status updates in Asana

Click on your project, and select the Overview tab. On the right, you'll see a window that says "What's the status?" Here you can mark Green: On track, Orange: At risk, or Red: Off Track. When you click on a status, an update window will appear where you can fill out details on the progress.  

Project status update details in Asana

Project collaborators are notified each time you log a status update, so no one is out of the loop.

16. Supercharge Asana with extensions and integrations

Asana has a whole host of extensions and integrations that make it even more powerful. Here are a few worth checking out.

  • Chrome. The official Asana Chrome extension lets you add tasks quickly as you browse the web. The name of the page becomes the task name, with the link as a note. Add a description if you need one.

  • SkedPal. Time-block more effectively and get more deep work done on schedule with a SkedPal integration. Simply tell SkedPal what you want to do, and its advanced algorithms will create a smart schedule for you.

  • Zapier. Connect Asana to thousands of apps with Zapier, so you can do things like create new Asana tasks from calendar events, form submissions, or emails.

There's so much more to Asana than many users know. Remember these dynamic, overlooked features to get more out of Asana and to really optimize your task and project management workflow. And when you get more done, you can reward yourself with more happy doggos.

This article was originally published by Karla Lant in October 2017.

]]> (Brittney Thompson) Mon, 14 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
How to set up email alerts for Facebook Lead Ads .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

You've set up a Facebook lead ad, but how will you know when new leads come in? You can download your leads at the end of your campaign, giving you a comprehensive list of all those leads in one place. But if you want real-time updates, send yourself (and anyone else) a customized email notification when a new lead comes in. 

Here's how to set up an email alert with your Gmail account when you get a new lead from Facebook Lead Ads. If you're not a Gmail user, scroll down to see other options.

Visual learner? Watch us walk through the process on video:

Note: A business Gmail account can connect with any other app on Zapier. If you're a free Gmail consumer user, there are some limitations

Send an email with Gmail when a new lead comes in   

Zapier lets you create automated workflows called Zaps, which send your information from one app to another. You can create your own Zap from scratch without any coding knowledge, but we also offer quick templates to get you started. 

 If you'd like to start with a template, click the Use this Zap button below, and you'll be taken to the Zapier editor. You'll need to create a Zapier account if you don't already have one. Then, follow the directions below to set up your Zap.

Set up your Facebook trigger

First, set up your trigger—the event that starts your Zap. If you've started from the Zap template, Facebook Lead Ads—your trigger app—and New Lead in Facebook Lead Ads—your trigger event—will already be selected for you. 

If you haven't already, you'll be asked to connect your Facebook account. Click on Choose an account… and either select an account from the dropdown menu (if you've connected Facebook to Zapier before) or click + Connect a new account.

An orange arrow pointing to the text "Facebook Lead Ads Account" above the blue Facebook logo.

For each app you connect, Zapier will ask for a general set of permissions which allows you to be flexible with your Zaps. The only actions Zapier takes on your app accounts are those a given Zap needs to accomplish what you've set up.

Click Continue

Next, select which page your lead ad is running on and which form is collecting the responses. 

The text "Set up trigger" with a series of drowndowns underneath with the blue Facebook icon

Now you need to test your trigger. Zapier will find a recent result in your Facebook Lead Ads account for the lead ad and form you selected earlier. This will be used to set up the rest of your Zap.

If you don't have any lead data, you'll need to create a sample lead to test your Zap.

Click Test trigger.

The blue Facebook app logo with an arrow pointing to the orange Zapier logo above the test "Test your trigger".

Once you see that your trigger is working properly, click Continue.

Set up your Gmail action

Now let's set up the action—the event your Zap will perform once it's triggered.

If you've started from the Zap template, Gmail—your action app—and Send Email—your action event—will already be selected for you. 

The red and white Gmail envelope app logo next to the text "Send Email in Gmail" with a blue button that reads "Continue" below.

If you haven't already, you'll be asked to connect your Gmail account. Click on Choose an account… and either select an account from the dropdown menu (if you've connected Facebook to Zapier before) or click + Connect a new account. 

Click Continue. Now you can customize your email notification. 

First, add your email address to the To field. If you want other emails to get this email alert, be sure to add their email addresses in either the To, Cc, or Bcc fields. 

A partially blurred out email address in a field labeled "To".

Now set up who the email will be from. Select your email in the From field. You can change the "From Name" to whatever will be most helpful for you—maybe "FBLA" so you know where your lead is coming from. 

A series of dropdowns labelled "From", "From Name" and "Reply To".

Next, it's time to customize your alert email by pulling in the lead data you want to see. 

Enter the email subject line you want to see for your alert email. If you want to add data from your previous Facebook Lead Ads step—like the lead name or Ad ID—you can click in the email subject line field and select the data you'd like to use from the dropdown.


Keep the Body Type "plain". This will make sure there's no special formatting, like different fonts, font sizes, bold font, or italics.

Now set up the body of your email. Click in the Body field to enter your own text. You can also pull in data from your previous Facebook Lead Ads step and add it to your body copy. Click inside the Body field and select the data you want to use from the dropdown—such as the lead ID or date it was created.   

A cursor inside a field highlighted in blue with the text "Body" above and a dropdown menu below with the Facebook app logo next to data points.

After you've customized the body of your new lead alert email, choose if you want to add your email signature. It will automatically pull up based on what you have set up in your Gmail account. 

The text "Signature" with the red and white envelope Gmail app logo in a dropdown.

Pro tip: Create a label in your Gmail account for this FBLA campaign and then select it here. This will help keep your inbox organized. 

Now it's time to test your action. When you click Test & Review or Test & Continue, Zapier will send an email to your Gmail account according to how you set up your email earlier. 

It's a good idea to test your Zap so you can check if your email looks ok. 

If you'd rather skip the test, just click Skip Test in the top-right corner.

The text "Test action" with the orange Zapier app logo connected to the red and white Gmail app logo.

Once everything looks good, click Turn on Zap. 

Now, you'll get emails every time a new lead rolls in!

Don't have a Gmail account? Here are other options.

We used Gmail in our example above, but that's not your only option! If you don't have a Gmail account, you can use Email by Zapier instead. Use this Zap template to get started:

Email by Zapier can send only 10 emails per hour. If that's a deal-breaker, you can set up a digest email instead. This will send you all of your new leads on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Want to get lead ad notifications in other apps, like Slack or SMS? You can. Here are some Zap templates to get you started:

Stay on top of new leads from Facebook Ads

With automation, you can set up notifications that ensure no lead slips through the cracks ever again. That way, you can make the most of each lead you generate by turning prospects into sales. 

New to Zapier? It's a tool that helps anyone connect apps and automate workflows—without any complicated code. Sign up for free.

This article was originally published in April 2019, written by Justin Pot. It updated in March 2022 by Ellie Huizenga.

]]> (Ellie Huizenga) Fri, 11 Mar 2022 08:00:00 GMT
Zapier data report: The rise of no-code .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

No-code tools allow anyone to build apps and automate workflows using a visual interface—no coding or technical skills required. These tools experienced a dramatic rise in adoption over the past few years due to the acceleration of digital transformation from the pandemic, and that growth continues to gain momentum.

Who are the current adopters of no-code tools? Which business departments are being most impacted? What are the biggest challenges and blockers of no-code adoption? And how has this impacted overall business growth in the U.S.?

This study seeks answers to many of these questions, evaluates total industry impact, and makes business predictions for the short, medium, and long term.

Key takeaways:

  1. 82% of no-code users started using no-code tools during the pandemic

  2. 90% of no-code users think their company has been able to grow faster due to its no-code usage

  3. 76% of no-code users use no-code tools for their own personal projects

  4. 85% of no-code users plan to use no-code tools more in the next year

No-code boom

The data shows an enormous rise in the use of no-code tools from the beginning of 2020 to the beginning of 2022. In fact, the majority of no-code users started using these tools during the pandemic—with over 4 out of 5 having their first no-code experience within the past two years.

An infographic displaying the statistics in the paragraph above

According to Gartner, not only are new users continuing to flock to no-code tools, but existing users are increasing their usage: currently, nearly 60% of all custom apps are built outside the IT department. And by 2025, 70% of new applications developed by organizations will use no-code or low-code tools, up from less than 25% in 2020.

90% of no-code users think their company has been able to grow faster due to its no-code usage

With so many new users trying no-code tools for the first time, how are these new users learning to use these tools? Our results show that not only are the bulk of no-code users self-taught, but many are taking the initiative to watch free videos (26%), paying for an online course (23%), or simply teaching themselves through trial and error (18%). For those who benefit from additional learning resources, leveraging work resources is the most common method, with 31% receiving formal training at work and 6% informally asking someone else at work to teach them.

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Factors behind the boom

To understand how the current set of business, industry, and societal circumstances fueled the adoption of no-code tools, we asked users why they started using no-code tools and the underlying factors that drove their interest.

An infographic displaying the statistics in the paragraph below

The results support the conclusion that the time-savings benefits of no-code tools are primary drivers of usage. But those time savings were identified by a wide range of people: individuals for their professional work, individuals for their side projects and businesses, and company managers and leaders.

And as these users become more savvy with no-code tools, they have a better understanding of the types of potential benefits. We wanted to know which of these benefits was most important to the continued use of these tools.

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While task-oriented time savings (83%), automation (76%), and flexibility (74%) rank as the top three reasons for continuing to invest in no-code tools, many users were finding multiple benefits from their usage—solving multiple business problems simultaneously. Once an individual uses no-code tools for one aspect of their personal or professional life, they are increasingly likely to use the tool again for another task in a different setting.

Who is using no-code tools?

Despite the benefits of no-code tools to those without a technical background, nearly 9 in 10 users have some type of prior technical knowledge. This supports the conclusion that despite the rise in no-code tool usage, the industry still has widespread growth ahead of it, as millions of non-technical users—those who likely could benefit most from no-code tools—discover its potential power.

An infographic displaying the statistics in the paragraph above

Even though many professional developers or engineers could code their own technical solutions, more than 1 out of 3 no-code users are currently technical professionals who choose to use the tools anyway. Why? Because of the time savings, the ability to rapidly prototype solutions, the ability to empower other non-technical users to make changes after deployment, and also to free up mental focus for other more complex development or programming tasks.

This result supports the conclusion that those already knowledgeable about the technical demands of coding are still the ones most likely to recognize the potential benefits of no-code tools.

But despite the landscape of current adopters, our results also show that technical and non-technical users alike are benefiting professionally from no-code tool usage. While there are certainly "soft benefits," like the ability to be more productive at work, there are also more tangible "hard benefits," like positive company recognition (82%), additional compensation (70%), and the possibility of a promotion (60%) to go along with it. The ability to skillfully implement the use of no-code tools may be increasingly viewed as a difference-making ability and prized skillset.

An infographic displaying the statistics in the paragraph above

No-code usage and the challenges faced

We asked survey respondents about their frequency of no-code tool usage to understand how core these tools were to their workflows. 

An infographic displaying the statistics in the paragraph below

Notably, more than 8 out of 10 no-code users use no-code tools at least once per week, with nearly two-thirds using them multiple times per week. With weekly usage considered the gold standard for many software as a service (SaaS) providers, the extremely high usage rate with minimal fall-off over time suggests the high value being delivered by such tools. 

For the 1 out of 4 no-code users who are using such tools daily, that frequent level of usage suggests that no-code tools have become indispensable to the operation of their businesses and job functions.

To understand what stands in the way of even greater usage, we asked respondents to comment on the issues or blockers they most commonly experience when using these tools.

More than one-third of respondents identified issues related to troubleshooting—including not knowing what to do when something goes wrong (36%) and unexpected errors that impact others (34%)—as the two most common challenges.

An infographic displaying the statistics in the paragraph above

Following up in a close third position, respondents identified a lack of examples to follow or model after (32%). Increasing access to instructional and troubleshooting content, including official resources and help from other no-code users, should be a significant industry goal.

Importance of no-code to companies

Given the apparent importance of no-code tools to a growing set of businesses, we wanted to know which divisions or departments within a company had been most impacted. Are no-code tools having a bigger impact on the back-office operations of a company or the front-line departments like sales?

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For those respondents who said their department relies on no-code tools heavily or could not function without them, IT Operations led the pack with 63%—mirroring results that showed professional coders and developers as the most prolific users—but virtually all other departments from diverse areas such as product development, research and development, sales, accounting, and human resources reported reliance on no-code tools above the 50% benchmark.

These results highlight the impact of no-code tools on an entire organization—not just in one or two specific areas.

How big is the extent of this organization-wide, cross-department impact? More than one-third of users report that no-code tools have saved them individually 10 to 20 hours worth of work, while 10% of users say that such tools have saved them at least an entire 40-hour workweek.

An infographic displaying the statistics in the paragraph above

The future of no-code

Overall, our results indicate high new user adoption of no-code tools, very high frequency of usage by existing users, impact across the entire business organization, and large amounts of potential users who could greatly benefit but haven't yet taken the plunge.

As far as no-code tools have already come, the industry is still at an early stage: as more people try out these tools and experience the benefits first-hand, high adoption rates will fuel high repeat usage rates that will further increase the prevalence and reliance on these tools.

In fact, our data shows that more than 8 out of 10 no-code users plan to increase their usage during the coming calendar year.

85% of no-code users plan to use no-code tools more in the next year

The result will not only be a proliferation of no-code tools to new businesses and sectors—with no-code users expected to grow by 40% a year until 2025—but also an increasing application of no-code tools to mission-critical use cases for small, medium, and large companies alike.

This impact isn't listed just to our work lives: 3 out of 4 current no-code users say they also use such tools for their own personal projects.

76% of no-code users use no-code tools for their own personal projects

That last one point is especially noteworthy: no-code tools in the not-too-distant-future may not only power the underlying operating system of businesses in all sectors, but it may provide the essential foundation that allows other personal and early-stage projects to thrive.

]]> (Zapier Editorial Team) Fri, 11 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
How to choose project management software in 6 steps .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Project management software can streamline your team's workflow—or it can bog you down by adding time to simple tasks. How can you tell which of the many tools out there will do the trick for your team?

As a freelance writer who works with a range of clients, I'm an accidental expert on project management software. My clients onboard me to whichever tool they're using, so my desktop is littered with apps like Trello, Basecamp, Asana, and others battling it out for my attention. I've also gained perspective by researching and writing about SaaS tools over the last seven years, including interviewing the founder of a project management software company.

With all that experience under my belt, I can shed some light on what to consider when choosing project management software. Here are the six steps to follow to get what you're looking for.

  1. Identify your challenges and constraints

  2. Create a list of top options

  3. Test each app yourself

  4. Test each app with your team

  5. Get feedback from your team

  6. Calculate and justify the cost

1. Identify your challenges and constraints

Not all project management tools solve the same problems. That's why an important first step when selecting project management software is identifying your specific challenges. 

Connect your project management software to your other apps
Make your job easier

My experience working in various project management apps with a range of teams has shown me how different their priorities can be. Some teams are focused on keeping the workflow organized and on track while others are looking for a contained and logical way to communicate about work in development. Still others need a scheduling or budgeting element in their workflows.  

You'll also want to identify your constraints: parameters you have to work within. For example, one company may have a specific budget for the app, another may need the app to work for a team of a certain size, and another may need an app that integrates with certain software. 

Make a list of all of the challenges and constraints you're facing. Try to be as specific as possible, so it will be clear which of the options are potential fits and which can be disqualified right away.

Here are some criteria that may make their way onto your list. It's not an exhaustive list, but it should get you started.

Criteria for selecting project management software

2. Create a list of top options

Once you know what you're looking for, you can create a list of the options that may fit your unique bill. Start by looking at Zapier's lists of the best project management software:

Zapier put the most popular apps to the test so you don't have to. Take a look through those lists and others like it (focusing on reviews written by real humans who've tested the software) to create a shortlist of apps that you and your team will test.

3. Test each app yourself 

It's almost impossible to make a good decision about which project management software will fit your needs best without using it. Sign up for the free trial, or if they don't have a full-featured free trial, then reach out to ask for one. If a company won't provide a trial of the full package, it's likely a sign that you should move on.

Heather Hendricks has a lot of project management experience, and she makes it clear that you need to have access to the full software package to make an informed decision:

"I simply don't trust any software company that won't let me use the full software package for a specific free trial period. As project managers, we have a lot on the line if we endorse a platform that ends up being the wrong choice. I want to kick the tires. Hard. Seeing a demo is simply not the same as exploring the software freely and unrestricted for a few weeks. Salespeople that encourage this unhindered access are the ones that I trust." 

But even with an in-depth look at the program, it's important to examine what it offers in its leanest version. Determine if the extras are just that: extras. Bells and whistles aside, stellar project management tech will do everything you need it to in its simplest form.

From my experience, an intuitive user interface is the most important feature. If you're going to be tracking all your work in this thing, you need to be able to perform common tasks without getting confused or needing to click through a bunch of menus.

A list of content production subtasks in Asana

Here are a few other things you should be sure to test as you pick your project management software:

  • Dashboard view

  • Task creation 

  • Notifications

  • Search

  • Customization, especially for dashboard/personal views or task options

  • Integrations with the other apps you use

  • Bug reporting functionality

  • Scheduling features

  • Accounting tools

4. Test each app with your team

If you're investing in new software for your team, you need to be sure your team is on board.

Paul Cothenet, the former CTO of MadKudu, an analytics company, suggests test-driving a tool's collaborative features with a small, committed group within your team. This kind of pilot program will likely uncover some of the issues and benefits that will only show up at scale.

"I geek out on my own with a lot of tools, but only a few actually have an incremental benefit that's worth the cost of switching with a multi-person team," he says. 

To test your options effectively, use them with your team in as close to a typical manner of working as possible. Here are some of the tasks you'll want to tackle so you can see how they work in the app you're testing:

  • Give members access with varying permission levels

  • Create tasks and subtasks and assign them to team members (use real tasks for a more realistic experience)

  • Customize notifications

  • Create various shared views (calendar, Kanban, or whatever is available)

  • Assign deadlines and mark items as complete

Make sure as many team members as possible get exposure to the tools you're considering, so they're making an informed choice when they voice their opinions. Encourage them to refer back to your list of challenges and constraints as they're exploring each tool's capabilities. 

5. Get feedback from your team

Getting buy-in from your team is essential if you want the new project management software you choose to gain traction and improve workflow. Instituting a product that the team doesn't find useful will not only waste effort and money but also has the potential to damage your team's functioning or morale by bogging them down, frustrating them, or disrupting their communication patterns.

Make sure you collect their honest opinions before making a decision about which app to choose. There are various options for collecting feedback: 

  • Interview each team member about their opinions of each tool 

  • Send out a survey to get their thoughts in writing

  • Meet with the whole team at one time to discuss jointly

  • Do a walk-through of the tool together and get live feedback

Whichever of these methods you choose, make sure to ask team members not only which of the features or capabilities they like or don't like, but also about the experience of using the app. Did a particular app make them feel calm and organized while another made them feel anxious and confused? Your team's feelings about the experience will probably be the strongest determinant of whether they embrace the tool over time, so it's important to listen to those thoughts as closely as feedback about technical specifications.

6. Calculate and justify the cost

In the short term, introducing new software will cost a lot of time and money. But finding the right solution for your project management workflow makes projects exponentially easier, which means that, over time, the software could pay for itself.

Whether the time and hassle savings will make the cost worth it depends on many factors—not least of which is the actual cost of the tool. Some enterprise solutions can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement throughout a company, while other teams get by with $50-per-month online tools.

"Rather than aiming for a particular number, I think it's important to research the landscape of products available to meet your needs, and compare the cost of buying and implementing the software versus the cost of not having it," says Niki Hammond, Director of Professional Services at technology and strategy firm Jackson River. "Factor in the time you'll save, errors avoided, and opportunities previously missed."

Product manager Martin Müntzing tries to price software at less than the sum of the value it provides, or equal to the sum of the licenses of other products it replaces: "Someone has to be able to provide a total-cost-of-ownership calculation that proves that investing in this software saves your organization money," he says. "Freemium products allow a way to try the product without any up-front commitment, and that's great, but the ROI still has to be there."

There's no cut-and-dried way to determine potential ROI for an app like this—it's an ongoing process that even requires looking at squishier things like company culture and employee satisfaction. But it's important to keep your eye on the value it's providing to be sure that you can justify the cost.

How to choose the right project management software

Once you find a tool that feels right, go for it. Start by purchasing a monthly or short-term contract. If you end up not being impressed, you can always export your information to a different task management tool later. But if you've followed these steps, it's likely that you'll have a tool that can help your team work smarter.

This article was originally published in May 2016 by Jane Callahan.

]]> (Katherine Gustafson) Fri, 11 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
What happened to the tech talent market in 2021 .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

It's no secret that the talent market has been bananas lately, which means talent acquisition professionals across industries and geographies have a lot to keep up with. At Zapier, we keep ourselves informed about recent trends to make smart sourcing and hiring decisions. Part of this effort has been seeking to understand what really happened to the talent market in 2021. 

We believe that recruiting is a team sport. This means that the more we involve everyone at Zapier in our recruitment and sourcing efforts, the better we'll be at hiring diverse and qualified talent as we continue to grow. 

So, during what we called our 2021 Talent Market Retro, we shared four factors that changed the job market last year and asked Zapier employees across the organization for their input on this market. Here's what we shared—and more importantly, what we learned.

2021 tech talent market infographics
These are the four talent market infographics we shared with Zapier employees. Hope you enjoy my Canva skills.

1. The Great Reshuffle

If you've been keeping up with the talent market in any way, this isn't the first time you've heard of the Great Reshuffle (also known as the Great Resignation). 

After the hiring freezes, layoffs, and overall uncertainty of 2020, it was safe to assume that 2021 would see an increase in the number of job changes across industries. But the magnitude of this trend presented a very distinct challenge for talent acquisition. According to Microsoft's Work Trend Index, over 40% of the global workforce would be considering a new position in 2021. That didn't mean that 40% of the workforce actually quit their job last year, but it was a huge number with huge implications for hiring and retaining talent in 2021 and beyond. 

Brandon, Zapier's Chief People Officer, noted in an internal post that the Great Reshuffle was characterized by post-2020 burnout, paired with folks rethinking what they wanted out of their jobs and a hiring surge in sectors like tech. Together, these factors have led to the relatively high rates of job change we saw throughout 2021—and are continuing to see now. 

Looking at it through this framework, 2020 acted as the trigger, not the cause of the Great Resignation. As Zapier data warehouse engineer Sarah put it:

"Many people may have withstood years of small frustrations (no pay increases, having their training blocked, no career path, bad work/life balance, too much pressure, and not enough resources), but the additional strain of the pandemic put them over the edge."

In hiring, it's important to understand what specific factors could be motivating people to leave their jobs. So, we asked Zapiens what they felt was driving the Great Reshuffle. Here are their responses.

What do you think is driving the Great Reshuffle and motivating people to leave their companies?

| Motivation | % Votes (180 responses)| | ---------- | ---------- | | Higher compensation | 29% | | Remote work opportunities | 18% | | Better work-life balance | 17% | | Re-evaluating life overall | 12% | | Burnout | 8% | | More growth opportunities | 6% | | Poor management | 6% | | Better values alignment | 4% |

Clearly, there's no one absolute truth, but when you think about these results in the context of recent online movements like theSkimm's #ShowUsYourLeave campaign that's been supported by companies like Pinterest, it's clear that employees are looking for workplaces that are aligned with their professional and personal interests. To us, this means that hiring in the 2020s is going to be about demonstrating how our company is caring for people's overall well-being, both in and out of the workplace. 

Based on these results, here's what we're doing moving forward: 

  • We'll share information about our benefits and compensation early in our hiring process, sometimes as early as our first outreach message to candidates. This will allow folks to decide if our potential offer aligns with what they're looking for before investing time in our process.

  • We'll share with candidates information about Zapier's personal development and mentorship opportunities and the programs we have in place to support our employees. This includes things like our commitment to helping our employees find their next job, an explanation of our growth framework, highlighting the work of our ERGs, and more. The goal is to show a clear investment in taking care of our people. 

2. Layoffs

Unfortunately, several tech companies experienced mass layoffs in 2021. Zillow laid off 25% of its workforce, Instacart eliminated thousands of jobs, let go hundreds of workers over a Zoom call, and Dropbox laid off 11% of its staff despite gains in customer acquisition. And as we've seen with Glossier, Hopin, and Peloton in just the first couple of months of this year, mass layoffs in tech are likely to continue to be an issue. 

Layoffs present a unique opportunity for hiring teams because the benefit of engaging laid-off candidates is a two-way street. Layoffs are also easy to keep track of thanks to websites like and lists that often circulate with the names and contact information of those affected. For example, here's the list from Zillow's layoffs in 2021: former employees added themselves to indicate that they were open to new opportunities after being laid off. 

At Zapier, we've been reflecting on how we can best reach out to folks affected by layoffs in a way that is empathetic and helpful, while still staying true to our process. When it comes to cold outreach, Adri, our Sourcing & Talent Attraction Lead, believes that "as long as we approach folks with empathy and high care, there's a strong mutual benefit. We get to connect with awesome talent and also connect them with potential opportunities they could have an interest in."

With this in mind, RJ, a sourcer on our team, and Bonnie, our Business Recruiting Lead, put together personalized outreach campaigns to laid-off candidates that share information about our open roles and invite them to schedule a recruiter screen (the first step in our process) if they're interested. 

Some companies have opted for more public approaches to connecting with laid-off talent. Shopify's CTO, Allan Leinwand, sent out a public LinkedIn invitation to attract Peloton engineers after recent layoffs. The Shopify team created a job post specifically for software developers impacted by Peloton's layoffs, giving them a one-week timeline to apply and promising a 48-hour turnaround for applications. Although this is undoubtedly a great way to engage talent, folks have pointed out that these efforts could lead to a "prestige bias," where employers are providing special treatment to those laid off from prestigious tech organizations, while not giving other qualified candidates the same opportunities.  

All of these discussions indicate to us that it's not only ok but important to reach out to folks who have been affected by layoffs and have signaled their openness to new opportunities. At Zapier, we commit to reaching out to laid-off talent in a way that is empathetic, personal, and helpful, while still keeping our process equitable and consistent. 

3. Money, money, growth, and more money

The term "unicorn" is a boastful way of referring to private companies (usually venture-backed) that reach a $1 billion valuation or higher. This was once seen as a big accomplishment, but over 500 companies reached unicorn status in 2021—compared to about 20 just five years prior. As tons of money continues to be poured into tech, being a unicorn might not make you stand out anymore.

This prompted us to ask two questions about what this means for the talent market and hiring in 2022 and beyond:

  1. Where will factors like valuation and market cap be ranked among other factors for candidates when considering new roles? 

  2. If these factors don't mean much anymore, how can we differentiate ourselves from the rest of the highly valued tech companies out there? 

Although financial stability will still be important, from what we can tell, valuation, market cap, and distinctions like unicorn status are becoming increasingly less important as candidates become more interested in long-term stability and overall well-being. The information we gathered in our poll about the Great Reshuffle showed that factors like compensation, work-life balance, and employee benefits were the biggest motivators for changing jobs. To us, this implies that people are looking for companies that take care of their employees—not just companies with a lot of money. 

We've also seen recent moves by companies like Amazon to offer overall compensation packages with higher base salaries that depend less on stocks and RSUs. This decision is largely influenced by the fact that, although compensation packages that rely heavily on elements like equity, stocks, and RSUs have the potential for high earnings, they vary depending on the market and therefore provide less day-to-day security than strong base salaries. Ultimately, this makes factors like valuation and market cap less important and makes factors like profitability much more important. 

At Zapier, we've been profitable since 2014, which has allowed us to grow without the need for venture funding. This has meant that our compensation packages ensure our employees' prolonged financial stability through strong base salaries (in the 90th percentile) and profit-sharing, and don't rely heavily on equity—although we do offer equity as well. 

The focus-shift to prolonged financial stability means that hiring will be about showing not only your own financial strength but also that of your sector, especially if you can show your company's competitive advantage in that space. This will indicate to candidates the importance of your company's mission within the context of the broader, growing market and highlight both the potential economic growth and potential impact employees can have in your sector. 

For example, no/low-code development has been steadily gaining popularity, and we were excited to see a few companies in this space welcomed into the unicorn club last year. Gartner reports that low-code development will account for over 65% of application development activity by 2024, and according to GlobeNewswire, growth in this space will ultimately lead to over $187 billion in revenue by 2030. For us, being leaders in the growing no/low-code industry should be a huge selling point when hiring in 2022 and beyond, not only because it signals unlimited growth potential for us and the no-code space, but also because it means that folks who join have the potential to impact a burgeoning sector that's still at its infancy. 

4. An intentional move to remote-first

From 2020 and well into 2021, several companies created their own approach to offering remote options for their employees. This includes everything from "work from home for a few days a week" policies, all the way to "we're closing our headquarters." It's clear that flexibility and remote work will be high on candidates' lists of must-haves moving forward, as most people will be looking for options that best fit their needs and preferences. 

Zapier has been intentionally remote pretty much since our founding. For years, this was a benefit for our recruiting practice for two main reasons:

  1. It meant that we were able to find great talent anywhere, without the usual geographic limitations.

  2. It served as a selling point for people looking to leave traditional office structures.

But after the pandemic, as many companies are starting to see that a remote-first strategy might actually benefit them and their employees, we've begun to wonder what this means for our hiring practices and how we can go a step above just being remote. 

For us, this means focusing on how we're making remote work easy and beneficial for our people—for example, ensuring equity around pay and growth opportunities for employees. This seems straightforward, but unfortunately for companies like Facebook or Google, it's not the case. To actively avoid this inequity, Zapier has created a comprehensive compensation policy for each country where we hire. This policy makes it so that the exact location within a country does not affect compensation (e.g., compensation for a role will be consistent whether the candidate is in San Francisco, California or Los Fresnos, Texas). We also ensure that opportunities for growth are open across the board by posting all our positions internally first.

It's also important that remote work doesn't mean 10,000 meetings and constant checking in. Autonomy and flexibility are key in making remote work actually function the way it should for employees, which makes adopting forms of asynchronous communication necessary for remote environments (especially when global). If you're curious about how we make this work at Zapier, check out this post by our co-founder and CEO, Wade. 

What next?

So a lot happened to the talent market in 2021—what next? 

The market changes we saw last year included a huge rate of job change, several mass layoffs, tons of economic growth, and an intentional move to remote work. From what we can tell, the driving factor of these changes can be boiled down to job seekers no longer settling for just a good opportunity at a good company. People are looking for jobs that truly suit their lifestyles and cater to their whole selves. They're looking for good compensation and long-term stability. They're looking for a good work-life balance and real, substantial benefits.  

At Zapier, the Talent Acquisition team is responding to these trends in six key ways:

  1. Openly sharing compensation and benefits early in our interview process to ensure that it aligns with candidates' needs and expectations

  2. Continuing to provide internal support to our employees and sharing with candidates how we invest in our people 

  3. Actively reaching out to laid-off talent in a way that is personal, empathetic, and helpful, and stays consistent with our current process

  4. Continuing to provide comprehensive and equitable compensation packages that ensure prolonged financial stability for our employees 

  5. Continuing to impact the growth of our sector through movements like National No-Code Day 

  6. Making remote work truly work for our people through equitable compensation and growth opportunities and asynchronous communication practices 

Our goal is to engage diverse and qualified talent by showing a clear investment in our people's well-being and highlighting how Zapier is a great place to make a positive impact in your field. 

]]> (Cecilia Garza) Thu, 10 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
How to design a digital bullet journal .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

My planner is basically an extension of my brain. I fell in love with bullet journaling because of its sleek, flexible method and endless adaptability. But when my kids reached toddlerhood, I struggled to follow through the habit no matter how many notebooks I started with enthusiasm.

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The answer came when I rethought my bullet journaling "home." Pen and paper worked great in my single years, but as a mother of three with a writing career to maintain, constant collaboration is the name of the game. Transitioning to bullet journaling on an app reignited my passion for planning—and made it easier to bring my partner along for the ride. 

Trello is my favorite (heart eyes for art and stickers), but you can make your digital bullet journal on a whole variety of apps, depending on how your brain works.

What is a bullet journal? And why go digital?

Bullet journaling is a planning method created by digital designer Ryder Carroll. You start with a notebook (your bullet journal, or bujo), create an index, and then create your own custom pages for scheduling, tracking habits, and accomplishing tasks. Symbols based on bullet points help bullet journalists organize notes, events, and tasks—other symbols designate status for each entry.

The Bullet Journal

While some bullet journal fans keep things minimalist, others transform their bujo into a hybrid of planner, diary, and art project. That's why it can initially seem a little unintuitive to bring a bullet journal into the digital world: the doodles don't feel the same. But like everything else, art is digital now, so you can absolutely maintain this aspect of your bujo online.

Once you get over the mental hurdle of making your bujo digital, you'll see the benefits:

  • A digital version lets you add other users for collaboration.

  • It gives you back the time you'd normally spend drawing templates like monthly or weekly calendars by hand.

  • It allows you to set reminders.

  • You can search your bullet journal (in some cases, even if you upload handwritten content).

  • You can back up your journal, instead of losing it forever when you leave it in the pocket of the seat in front of you on a plane. 

  • You can automate a digital bullet journal, so your tasks show up without you having to do a thing.

  • If you have your phone, you have your digital bullet journal.

How to pick a digital bullet journal app

Ryder Carroll actually offers a companion app through the official Bullet Journal website that's meant to be a supportive extension of a physical notebook. But I've found the most success moving the whole thing online. 

Here I'll show you how it works with Trello and Airtable, but don't feel limited to those two apps. To pick the right app for your digital bujo:

  • Think about what drew you to bullet journaling to begin with. Then look for apps that mimic those features digitally.

  • Go through all the apps you already use every day, and figure out if you can make one of them work as a digital bujo. If you're already in the app, you're much more likely to keep the habit up.

  • Decide how much flexibility you want in your bullet journaling. For example, if you want something with tons of flexibility, a note-taking app might be best. But if you need more structure in your life, you can go with one of the options below.

Trello: for the creative collaborator

Creative expression carries a lot of weight in the bujo community. If you're attracted to bullet journaling for the aesthetic, Trello is one of your best options to add artistic flair. It's also my personal favorite.

I suggest creating a new board for each month. That gives you plenty of chances to shake up the aesthetic throughout the year and keep each board neatly organized. Then, make a list for each week, like this.

Trello bullet journal with a list for each week of the month

Pretty straightforward. 

Copy and paste the days of the week and any other cards you want (e.g., Notes, Highlights, Gratitude, Reminders). Trello will give you the option to make each line a separate card, so setup will be pretty quick—for sure quicker than drawing it in your notebook.

Make every entry a separate card in Trello

If your schedule is more fluid, you can also set up your bujo by areas of your life, like work, social time, family to-dos, and health goals. Some cards, like a one-time event, can have a fixed date. For other entries, like a playdate or gym session, I mark it as a priority now and figure out the details later.

Trello bullet journal set up by theme

Trello offers tons of ideas to jazz up a simple board. 

  • You can choose background photos from Unsplash or—if you can't get away from the analog art—draw your own monthly spread and upload it. 

  • Stickers and confetti explosions for accomplished tasks add a burst of color and pizzazz.

  • You can also personalize individual cards with a cover image or colorful labels. (Tip: colorblind-friendly mode adds cute symbols, so cards are both attractive and accessible).

Color-coding in Trello

Do you do your best creative thinking in the form of back-of-the-napkin doodles? Not a problem. On the mobile app, you can find a Take Photo option under Attachments to attach a photo of an off-the-cuff sketch to a card. (You can also attach from your computer files or popular services like Google Drive or Dropbox.)

Airtable: for the systems-thinking planner

The bullet journaling method can help you get a quick, clear view of what's on your to-do list, so you can focus on what's most important and weed out extraneous or outdated tasks. Using symbols and different views gives a logical structure to an otherwise complicated schedule. That's why methodical, left-brain types might enjoy the clarity and flexibility you can get with an app like Airtable.

Airtable is a database tool, but it feels like a visually-oriented spreadsheet. It's super easy to switch between calendar, Kanban, and spreadsheet views, and it lets you link data from one section to another. 

One element that gives Airtable an edge is the ability to customize your field type. You can choose from classic text/numbers, formulas, checkboxes, star ratings, color-coded tags, time durations, and more. It will even automate a "date created" field, so you always know how long something's been lingering on your list.

It has a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you'll get a visually stimulating and still ultra-organized digital bullet journal.

Airtable bullet journal

Using different field types makes it easy to distinguish at a glance between types of tasks and projects. For example, let's say you wanted to check that you're staying properly hydrated on workout days. 

  1. Add a Water column to the daily spread as a checkbox column.

  2. Click Views in the toolbar, and create a new Grid view. (Or go with a calendar view—whatever works!)

  3. Click Hide fields in the toolbar to hide any fields (columns in a Grid view) you don't want to show. Maybe you only want to see the Water checkbox and the date of the workout.

  4. Click Filter > Add condition to filter for only days where the Water checkbox isn't checked.

  5. Now you can see all the days (in spreadsheet or calendar form) that you didn't drink enough water to find if there's a pattern.

The customization continues. You can group your records by any field, and then sort within those groupings. It's really flexible but without turning into chaos.

There's also an Airtable setup that mimics a physical bullet journal even more closely: organize rows by task, rather than by date.

Airtable bullet journal organized by task instead of date

Here, the Category column replaces the typical dot, circle, or dash that would denote tasks from events or notes in a traditional bujo. You can adapt the Status column options to practice bujo-style task migration. Sorting by date bumps upcoming items to the top of the list. And add a checkbox column for that satisfying feeling of being done.

Automate your bullet journal

One of the perks of digitizing your bullet journal is that you can connect it to the other apps you already use with Zapier. That means you can do things like create new Trello cards at scheduled times or based on events on your calendar. In my case, I collect a lot of recipe and kid craft ideas from Pinterest, so using a Zap to add Pinterest Pins to a Trello board can help me organize dinner plans and family activities for the week. You could do the same on Airtable.

Whichever app you use, take some time to automate your bujo so you can focus more on the creative process and, you know, doing the things in your journal.

Within the bujo community, you'll find minimalism lovers and planners who make every weekly spread an elaborate art project. Your digital bujo should reflect your personal preference. Again, don't feel limited to the options in this article: task or project management apps, spreadsheet tools, or note-taking apps might also give you the right balance of features and integrations you need to make a bujo your own.

]]> (Jessica Sillers) Thu, 10 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
Google Sheets now has a limit of 10 million cells. Here's what that means for you. .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Last week, Google unceremoniously rolled out an update that sang a siren song for folks like me (real sheetheads, if you will): they increased the maximum number of cells in a Google Sheets spreadsheet from five million to 10 million.

Immediately after hearing the news, I leaped into a new sheet to see what having twice the possibilities could get me. Here's what I learned.

1. You can't jump straight to 10 million

To test drive the new limit, I removed all but one cell from my spreadsheet and went to use the built-in Add button to create 9,999,999 new rows. No dice.

An error popping up when adding rows to Google Sheets

Even though the technical limit has been raised, Google still has guardrails in place to keep us from getting too wild too quickly. Because it turns out, 10 million is a lot of cells.

You can still add up to five million rows at once, however, and if your sheet has more than two columns, you may need to do a bit of math to see how many rows you can add before reaching the barrier (10,000,000 divided by number of columns, rounded down).

2. A sheet with 10 million cells is really slow

Once you've hit 10 million cells, you'll probably say two things:

  1. "Wow."

  2. "Why isn't it doing anything?"

Because even if they're blank, Google Sheets still has to think about all of those cells, and in turn, your browser still has to do work to render them. Ten million of anything is a lot to process, so even things like scrolling will take longer than you might be used to. Just pretend you're on dial-up.

If you want to actually do anything to those cells, that's another matter entirely. Adding a single SEQUENCE() function to count the cells resulted in a long delay, followed by my browser crashing.

Aw snap browser message

It did eventually load, in case you want to check my math.

But then let's say that you get your 10 million cells set up, filled with your amazing data, and you want to change the formatting? No, you don't.

When trying to center-align the text in the sheet above, about three minutes passed before Google finally gave me this error:

Saving your changes is taking longer than usual. Editing is temporarily disabled.

"That's fair," I thought, "I'll come back to it later." But 20 minutes later, the error was still there. "Temporarily" stretched longer and longer until I opted to delete the sheet, start over, center the text first, then add my data. The more you can do before maxing out the cells, the better.

3. Your Zaps will not be happy about 10 million cells

Just because Google Sheets can have 10 million cells, does not mean your sheet should have 10 million cells.

Jurassic Park GIF: Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they never stopped to think if they should.

When Zapier sends a request to Google Sheets, whether it's to create a new row, or see if there are any changes that need to be triggered on, it waits around 30 seconds for a response. In order to send that response, Google needs to process all cells in the sheet, determine their output, wrap it up in a nice little package, and send it back. Even though it's a big Google machine, that can still take some time on large sheets because it processes those cells one at a time, going left-to-right and top-to-bottom, like reading a book (here's more on how I found that out). 

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If Google Sheets can't form a response within that 30 seconds, Zapier receives a "timeout" error, meaning it may not receive new rows or make updates as expected.

With even my relatively simple spreadsheet (which uses one formula in cell A2 to fill in the row numbers), timeouts start to happen at around 1,200,000 cells, almost one-tenth of the new limit. If your sheet has lots of formulas, especially with slower functions like QUERY() or IMPORTRANGE(), that number is even lower.

So the moral of this story is to resist the temptation of 10 million cells. Your Zaps will thank you for it. (If you really do need that many cells, keep reading for some solutions!)

4. 10 million cells lets you do…a lot

If you can get past the slowness, this new limit does open up some fun and interesting possibilities. In my initial experiments, I was able to come up with a couple:

But you could also:

  • Keep a record of the first and last name of every person in Cape Town, South Africa

  • Take a census of all of the swans in England (a real thing) for the next ~75 – 150 years

  • Making the cells as tall and wide as possible (2000 pixels), have a spreadsheet that could fill around 20 billion 4K TVs

If it's not obvious yet, the actually practical uses for 10 million cells are few and far between. I'm not sure who Google actually changed the limit for, but whoever they are, they should follow the next step.

What you should actually do if you need 10 million cells

I'm going to say this out of love: if this is you, stop using Google Sheets.

If your spreadsheet has 10 million cells, you no longer need a spreadsheet. You need a database, and those are two different things.

Databases are designed to let you selectively choose which data is processed, letting them break large sets of data into more manageable chunks. Thanks to that, they can automate that data through Zapier without running into the timeout issues that Google Sheets has. And they're not all scary, either—apps like Airtable are designed to put a friendly face on your data, making it easy to import your data (from Google Sheets, for example) and get started. We even have a guide all about it.

And for the rest of you sheetheads with 10 million cells, who refuse to leave the familiar fields of Google Sheets: godspeed.

]]> (Tyler Robertson) Wed, 09 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
How to get people to take a survey .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

For some reason, customers are never as excited about filling out a survey as we think they should be. And there's nothing worse than expecting an influx of responses only to get…crickets.

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But don't throw in the towel just yet. I've created loads of surveys in my time as a marketer, and I've learned a few tricks along the way that can help increase your survey response rate. These tips will encourage more people to take your surveys and ensure that those who start your surveys always finish them. 

You'll notice I use Typeform as an example a lot here—that's because it has some features I find particularly helpful in achieving my survey goals. But most of these tips can be applied to whatever form or survey app you use.

  1. Offer a targeted incentive

  2. Create an irresistible welcome screen

  3. Embed, don't redirect

  4. Tell them how long it will take

  5. Create a personalized survey journey

  6. Make the survey itself interesting

1. Offer a targeted incentive 

Rewards are always going to be the most effective way of convincing someone to take your survey. We all naturally expect a little something in return for our time, right? 

But rather than go down the popular route of dishing out Amazon gift cards to your respondents, be strategic with what you offer. Choose a reward that appeals strongly to your target market—otherwise, you'll end up with lots of survey satisficers and even professional survey-takers (yup, it's a thing) who aren't actually relevant and rush through the survey just to get the compensation. And that just leads to unusable survey data. 

For example, if you're looking to gather more responses from dog owners, you could offer vouchers for dog food; or if your respondents are your own customers, you could offer a discount or early access to a new feature. 

Rewards don't always have to be monetary, and the more relevant you make them to your target market, the more likely you'll incentivize the right people. 

2. Create an irresistible welcome screen

As any good salesperson will tell you, everything relies on that killer opening line. When you're creating a survey, your welcome screen is your opening line in survey form. How can you instantly engage someone so they can't resist taking your survey? 

The key is to ask a question where you know the answer is very likely to be "yes." You could go down the route of describing a pain point you know they have, or you could tempt them with your incentive.

Sticking with our dog food reward, here's an example welcome screen I put together in Typeform for a fake pet shop looking for responses from dog owners.  

Welcome screen example (with a pug face, asking dog owners "Do you want free dog food for a year?")

This includes most of what you'd want on your welcome screen to maximize responses: 

  • Opening line. I've gone for the incentive here. What dog owner wouldn't want free dog food for a whole year?

  • Your company logo. This provides trust and credibility and reminds people who you are.

  • Powerful imagery. Typeform has a whole gallery of free images that will make your surveys pop. Who's going to say no to that face?

  • A description of what the survey is about. Be transparent about what you're looking for (in this case, product feedback).

  • Time to complete. I have five minutes to spare, so why not?

  • Clarification of anonymity. If the survey will be anonymous, add this somewhere on your welcome screen too. It might boost your chances for anyone who's skeptical about data collection.

Here's a non-invented example for you: Big Cartel's welcome screen on their customer feedback survey.

BigCartel survey welcome screen

It's not flashy, but it works well because it speaks really specifically to a pain point existing customers are feeling. The incentive is that filling out the survey might improve the product and make their lives easier—no monetary reward needed.

3. Embed, don't redirect 

One click might feel like small potatoes, but it could have a huge impact on your survey response rates: surveys embedded on your webpage or in your email can get 135% more responses than those that link out to another site.

It makes sense. You need your welcome screen to work its magic in enticing people to take your survey, and when you embed it, the welcome screen is permanently on show. There's only so much convincing a single CTA button or hyperlink can do.

Plus, redirecting people to a new webpage can be off-putting. It interrupts their flow, they don't 100% know how trustworthy the link is, and if it takes more than a second or two to load, people will click away without a second thought.

Embedding your survey keeps everything quick, simple, and straightforward. Most good form apps will give you an embed code for sharing directly on your site, and lots of them integrate with email marketing tools, so you can embed your survey straight into your marketing emails.

4. Tell them how long it will take 

If you give a clear indication of how long it will take to complete your survey, you're likely to get more respondents. It'll also help you ensure your survey isn't going off the rails. Less than seven minutes is ideal, so be concise and use as few questions as possible.

Most form apps have a feature that automatically generates an estimate of how long the survey will take to complete based on the number and type of questions. If you ask a lot of open-ended questions (where respondents need to type out answers) instead of close-ended questions (where they just select an answer from a multiple-choice list), this will increase the predicted time-to-complete substantially. Of course, open-ended questions are sometimes the most valuable—but you'll need to find the right balance.

And it's not just about telling people the length of the survey on the welcome screen. You'll get fewer drop-offs if people know how far along they are, so be sure to enable the progress bar feature.

Progress bar feature in Typeform

5. Create a personalized survey journey  

If your target market has a range of different personas, create a unique survey journey for each one. You don't need to create separate surveys—most form and survey apps have logic features that allow you to take respondents down a totally different path and show them a different set of questions depending on their answer to a persona-related question at the start. The first time I used this feature for a Typeform survey, it blew my mind and made the rest of the survey so much more effective.

Another great feature of many survey apps is that you can repeat the respondent's personal information throughout the survey (in Typeform, it's called Recall information). For example, if they fill in their name at the start, you can repeat it in a way that makes it really conversational and keeps people engaged until the end.

Katie's name popping up in a survey

Typeform and some other survey apps can also integrate with your CRM to pre-populate the survey with a respondent's personal data before they've even taken the survey. Sounds creepy, but it's not: Typeform just pulls the information directly from the contact's record and displays it in the survey using its hidden fields feature

This means you can send people emails with an embedded survey that already has the respondent's name on the survey welcome screen. It doesn't get more personalized than that.

6. Keep your survey interesting 

Most surveys are boring. So if you can make yours not boring, it'll stand out and increase your completion rates.

This is where I think Typeform really takes the cake—its strong focus on design means you can customize your surveys to make them look a bit more fun than they probably are. 

But it's not just about design. You should also try to use a variety of question formats to mix things up and keep your respondents engaged and interested. For example, rather than multiple choice across the board, try adding a rating question, a Likert scale, an opinion scale, or a matrix. Even just adding pictures to your multiple choice questions like this company did can make a big difference.

Adding images to a survey question

You'd be surprised how much of an effect small changes like these can have on your survey response rates. 

Whatever form tool you're using, take time to review all the features you have access to: you could be underutilizing some options that are designed to bring in more respondents. In my experience, the more personalized you can get with your survey, the better. Do a little trial and error until you find out what works.

]]> (Katie Paterson) Wed, 09 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
The 8 best electronic signature apps in 2022 .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Paperwork doesn't have to be done on paper to be legally binding, but if you want those documents to be a little more enforceable, there will be a few extra steps. Using a dedicated eSignature app to add a digital signature is the best way to go.

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As a freelance tech writer, I've had to sign dozens of contracts, statements of work, W8-BEN-E forms, and other legal documents over the last decade just to do my job. It's reached the point now that I'm relieved to see a DocuSign link in an email—and get stressed when it's a link from one of the many apps not on this list.

Whether you're looking for a way to electronically sign a document that you've just received or want to send documents out to be digitally signed by contractors and other business partners, we've got recommendations for the right apps to use. I considered and tested almost 40 electronic signature apps, and these are the eight best—for everyone on both sides of the paperwork.

The best eSignature software

  • DocuSign for businesses that sign lots of things

  • HelloSign for integration with cloud storage

  • Preview for occasionally signing documents on a Mac

  • Adobe Acrobat Reader for occasionally signing documents on a PC

  • for a pay-as-you-go option

  • SignWell for a free eSign app

  • PandaDoc for collecting payments when people sign

  • signNow for small teams

Digital signature vs. electronic signature

As with all things legal, definitions matter. Electronic signatures and digital signatures are slightly different things. An electronic signature is just your typed, drawn, or otherwise computer-added signature on a document. You can make one with almost any app, from Microsoft Word to Adobe Photoshop. It's still legally binding, but because anyone could easily forge it, you might have a harder time in a contentious court case. 

A digital signature is a special kind of electronic signature that uses cryptography to protect the document and also embeds details like email addresses, when and where people signed any documents, and the serial number and identifying details of the device they use to do it. This creates both a "fingerprint" that makes the document unique and a paper trail that can be independently verified. If there ever was a court case, it would be a lot harder for anyone to claim they weren't the one to actually sign the document. For official purposes, digital signatures are a lot more secure and legally recognized around the world—and you need a dedicated eSign app to add them. 

We use the terms interchangeably—in common usage, they basically are—but it's worth keeping that distinction in mind as you do your research.

What makes a great electronic signature app?

How we evaluate and test apps

All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.

The problem with business app categories like this is that often the people paying for the app (or deciding which one to get) aren't the ones who have to use it every day. And while there are lots of eSignature apps out there, a lot of them are awful to use.

To make this list, an eSignature app had to be nice to use but also provide all the features that businesses need. Any good eSignature app has to meet a few criteria:

  • The ability to add an electronic (or digital) signature to any document. Signing things is the whole point of these apps. But the simpler and easier it is to do, the more different kinds of documents and devices that are supported, and the deeper the integrations with other apps and software platforms, the better. While almost any app can simply add a signature or typed name, we were looking for ones that were great to use and could fit into a lot of different workflows. 

  • The ability to send a document to someone else to have them sign it. This is a really important feature for a dedicated eSign app and, like when signing a document yourself, we wanted it to be easy and pleasant for the recipient. (Seriously, I've had to sign a lot of documents with awful apps.) The recipient also had to be able to do it without being forced to sign up for an account or install any apps.

  • Accessibility for small to mid-sized businesses. You can find plenty of eSign apps with expensive plans, crazy contract lock-ins, and a focus on enterprise clients—but not on this list. 

  • Security. Although we weren't looking for a specific set of features, any app that could store sensitive documents like contracts needed to address it in some way. Things like encrypted or password-protected documents, U.S. or EU government compliance, and digital signature support were all enough to make the grade. (With that said, make sure that any app you use meets the compliance standards of your country or industry. They can vary quite a lot.)

  • A free trial (or free plan). This is a field crammed with different competitors, and telling the good from the bad just from their websites is nearly impossible (trust me, I know). A decent free trial—or better yet, a free plan—was needed to make this list. Priority was also given to apps that didn't collect credit card details. They're just not necessary. 

I started out with a list of almost 40 eSignature apps. That was too many to meaningfully test, so I cut it down by checking out their websites and excluding any that obviously didn't meet our criteria, were clearly aimed at enterprise clients, had generally poor user reviews, or otherwise didn't look like a good fit.

For the remaining apps (which I've now tested twice over the past two years), I created an account, uploaded a Super Important Contract as a Word file, and sent it to a second email address. I then signed the contract both as the sender and the recipient, which gave me a good sense of the overall workflow. Most apps that didn't make the list were cut at this stage, as the process for either the sender or the recipient wasn't up to our standards. 

For those apps that passed, I spent more time exploring the interface, trying any headline features they claimed to have, and making sure they met the rest of our criteria. Based on all that, here are the eight best eSign apps. 

Best electronic signature software for businesses that sign lots of things

DocuSign (Web, iOS, Android, Windows)

DocuSign, our pick for the best electronic signature software for businesses that sign lots of things

DocuSign is one of the most popular electronic signature apps available, and for good reason. It's great to use and hits all the features most people need in an eSignature app. Getting started with DocuSign is pretty straightforward: sign up for a free trial, and almost immediately, it's prompting you to upload a document, prepare it for signatures, and send it to recipients. 

DocuSign is set up so that it's easy to keep track of lots of different documents at different stages in the signing process. In the Manage dashboard, there's a sidebar with an Inbox for any documents or "envelopes" you've received, a Sent box for the ones you've sent, and a Drafts tab for ones you're working on. There are also Quick View options, so you can, well, quickly see any documents that you need to do something to, the ones you're waiting on, any that are due to expire soon or where the recipient failed to sign, and all your completed documents. 

DocuSign also has powerful templates and reporting features. If you're sending the same contracts over and over again, you can set up a template in the Templates dashboard. Simply upload a file (or use one you've already sent as a base), add all the signature and information fields, and save it—it's much the same process as sending out an individual document and really speeds things up. 

If you're only sending a couple of envelopes a month, the report features aren't going to be much use—you know who has and hasn't signed their contract. But if you're managing dozens of contractors or freelancers, or require all your clients to sign contracts, then they can give you a useful overview of where your business stands. Click on the Reports tab, and you'll see things like how many envelopes you've sent, how quickly people sign them, and the number that are still unsigned. 

DocuSign also integrates with Zapier, so you can do things like automatically send a contract to someone who fills in a Typeform or let your team on Slack know when one has been signed. 

DocuSign price: From $15/month for a Personal plan with up to 5 envelopes sent per month. Unlimited documents with automatic reminders are available on the Standard plan at $45/user/month. 

DocuSign isn't the only solid eSign app for businesses that need to handle a lot of documents. Both SignEasy (from $15/month) and HelloSign (from $20/month) are great DocuSign alternatives—it just eked them out on a few specifics.

Best electronic signature app for cloud users

HelloSign (Web, iOS, Android)

HelloSign, our pick for the best electronic signature app for cloud users

HelloSign, now owned by Dropbox, is one of the best alternatives to DocuSign. It's one of simplest-to-use electronic signature apps around, has a great free plan, and offers unlimited signature requests per month on its starting paid plan. As soon as you log in, you're presented with two options: send or sign something, or create a template (as long as you're on a paid plan). The things you're going to want to do aren't hidden away in deep sub-menus.

The simplicity of the user interface, however, hides some pretty powerful features. Of all the apps we tested, HelloSign has the best integrations with cloud storage platforms. While you'd expect it to play nice with Dropbox, it also works well with Google Drive, Box, Evernote, and OneDrive. 

To sign a file in your Dropbox, for example, you can head to HelloSign, click Sign or Send, then click on the Dropbox icon to bring up a file browser. Navigate to the file you want to sign, and click Choose to import it into HelloSign. Alternatively, you could open the file in Dropbox, select it, click on the Share dropdown, then click Send for Signatures. You've got similar options with Google Drive too. You can upload a file directly from HelloSign or, with the Chrome add-on, sign files through the Google Drive app. 

And all this file handling works both ways. When someone signs a document and sends it back to you, it can get saved back to your cloud storage platform of choice. 

HelloSign doesn't hold back on the other features, either. It supports custom templates, and, on higher plans, custom branding, multiple users, and advanced team management. If you want to integrate HelloSign with non-cloud storage apps, you can do it with Zapier. That way, you can do things like automatically send a contract when someone fills in a Typeform or get an SMS when someone signs.

HelloSign price: Free for 3 documents/month with one user; from $20/month for the Essentials plan with unlimited documents.

Best electronic signature app for occasionally signing documents on a Mac

Preview (macOS)

Preview, our pick for the best electronic signature app for occasionally signing documents on a Mac

If you've been sent a document to sign and nobody needs all the alarm bells and security whistles that come with one of our other picks, you have options. If you have a Mac, you don't need to worry about installing any software or signing up for any services. You can sign things straight from Preview.

Open the document you want to sign in Preview, go to Tools > Annotate > Signature > Manage Signatures, and click Create Signature. You can then create a signature using your trackpad, your iPhone, or by signing a piece of paper and holding it up to the camera. 

Click Done, and then you can drag your new signature to where it needs to be. Save the document, send it back, and you're good to go. And your signature stays saved in Preview for future use. 

Preview price: Included free with all Macs

Best electronic signature app for occasionally signing documents on a PC

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC (Windows)

Adobe Acrobat Reader

Windows PCs don't have an awesome built-in option like Preview, but you can still quickly sign any document with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader DC app—something you probably already have installed. If you don't, download it from Adobe's website.

Open the document you want to sign in Adobe Reader, and in the right sidebar, select Fill & Sign. Click the Sign button in the toolbar and then Add Signature

There are a couple of ways you can create a signature: you can type your name and have Adobe Reader convert it into something that looks like a signature, draw one with your trackpad, or upload an image of your signature. Drawing is probably the easiest if you want something unique without too much hassle. 

Drag your signature to where you want it to be, save the document, and send it back. And just like that, you're done. 

Adobe Reader DC price: Free

Best electronic signature app with a pay-as-you-go option (Web) screenshot

A lot of eSign apps limit the number of documents you can send per month without signing up for one of the more expensive plans. It's pretty inconvenient if your eSigning needs vary throughout the year, say because you hire seasonal staff or your projects don't follow a predictable pattern. You either can't send all the documents you need to when you want to, or you have to overpay most months., with its exclusively PAYG option, bucks this trend entirely. 

As soon as you sign up for a free account, encourages you to send a sample contract to yourself so you can see how the service works. (The same demo is also built into the website homepage, which is pretty awesome.) After that, things are up to you—although the onboarding wizard helpfully guides you through. 

Unlike other of the best eSignature services, isn't really made for sending individual contracts to one-off recipients. You can do that if you like, but it's really designed for businesses looking to batch or automate their contracts using templates. 

To make a template, head to the Templates tab. You can build your own from scratch, use a sample one as a base, or extract one from an uploaded Word doc. Just fill in all the legal details, add all the placeholders you need, and click Save Template. (It's a little less flexible than some of the other options that support more file types, but's lack of lock-in makes up for it.)

With a template set up, is almost ready to use—you just need to add credit card details. Head to Account > Billing and add them. Then you can start sending out documents without worrying about monthly fees or usage limits. 

To get started, select the template from the dashboard, and click New Contract. You can also upload an Excel spreadsheet of contacts, if you want, and bulk send everyone the same documents to sign. Just click the dropdown and then Bulk Send Contracts doesn't even need you to be this hands-on to work. There's an API if you want to code your own integrations, and there's built-in Zapier support for everyone else. That means you can easily do things like have new signed contracts automatically uploaded to your Google Drive account or saved back to an Excel sheet. price: $0.49/document.

Best free eSign app

SignWell (Web)

SignWell, our pick for the best free eSign app

Not every business needs to send or sign dozens of contracts a month. If that's the case, then SignWell (previously known as Docsketch), with its three documents per month free plan, might be the perfect fit. 

As soon as you sign up, you're good to start sending contracts. Just click New Document on the dashboard. You can either upload a document to be signed or build a template (though you only get one on the free plan). Whichever option you take, you'll use SignWell's modern and, honestly, really nice-to-use web app to add any information and signature fields. If you turn on Suggest Fields, it will even help you place things on any blank lines or gaps in the document. Click Send, and it's on its way to be signed. 

Now, don't worry—SignWell is on this list because it's a good, easy-to-use, and fully-featured electronic signature app. That it's got a great free plan is just a big bonus. If you need to send more documents some months, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend upgrading to a paid plan. The $10/month Personal plan gets you five templates and unlimited documents, while the $30/month Business plan has unlimited templates, up to three team members, custom branding, and a few other nice-to-have features like data validation. 

If you like to automate your workflows, SignWell also integrates with Zapier. That way, you can do things like automatically get a Slack notification or update a Trello card when someone signs a contract.

SignWell price: Free for up to 3 documents per month. From $10/month for the Personal plan with unlimited documents.

Eversign is another eSignature app with a great free plan. It allows you to send up to five documents per month, but the app isn't as easy to use. Also, there are no templates on the free plan. If you want to send four or five documents each month, however, it's worth checking out. 

Best electronic signature app for collecting payments

PandaDoc (Web, iOS, Android)

PandaDoc, our pick for the best electronic signature app for collecting payments

Everyone likes getting paid: PandaDoc makes it really easy to make it part of your contract signing workflow, even on the free plan. You can set things up so when someone signs whatever documents you send, they enter their credit card information, and get charged. If you're sending people contracts for a specific service or job, it's a great way to tie everything together. You get your legally binding agreement and the first installment in one go. 

PandaDoc integrates with a couple of different payment gateways, including Stripe, Square, and PayPal. To set up payments, you'll need an account with whatever gateway you want to use, then head to Settings > Integrations > Payment Gateways and enable it. Getting started is certainly a little more involved than some of the other apps, but the Get Started wizard will walk you through everything. 

Once you've got your payment gateway set up, you can add a credit card information form to any document—whether you've made it with PandaDoc's built-in editor or uploaded an existing contract. 

PandaDoc isn't exclusively for collecting payments—it's got other neat features like allowing your clients to attach files to the document—and you can send contracts out to be signed without them. It's just clear from the user interface that they're a big part of its feature set. The dashboard, for example, lists the dollar value of the contracts at every stage of the signing process, and there are sections for Paid and Unpaid contracts. The three sample documents are also an invoice, a sales proposal, and a sales quote.

PandaDoc works with Zapier, although you'll need to sign up for the $59/user/month Business plan to use it. If you do, you'll be able to do things like integrating your invoices with QuickBooks or FreshBooks. 

PandaDoc price: Free for unlimited documents and payments. From $29/user/month for the Essentials plan with templates and document analytics. 

Best electronic signature app for small teams

signNow (Web, iOS, Android)

signNow, our pick for the best electronic signature app for small teams

For many businesses, paperwork is a team effort. You may need people from different departments to collaborate on, or at least check out, documents before you send them off. Many electronic signature apps charge a significant per-user monthly fee. Adding two or three extra accounts doesn't just double or triple your costs; when compared to the single-user personal plans, it can easily quadruple or quintuple them. That's why signNow is our favorite app for small teams—it doesn't even have a separate personal or individual plan. The Business plan starts at $20/user/month when paid monthly, which puts it at the more affordable end of the spectrum. And, if you pay annually, it's just $8/user/month. As long as you're prepared to commit to the platform and know you'll need to work on a lot of contracts with your team, that's as good value as it gets. 

When you sign up, the first thing you'll need to do is invite your other team members. Click Teams in the bottom left corner, give your team a name, and then add the email addresses of anyone you want to invite. 

Creating a team adds a Shared Templates option to the left sidebar. This is where you'll want to store any templates that you want other team members to have input on or be able to use. You can also create a Shared Documents folder in the Team Settings; that way, every team member will be able to see any completed documents too. 

In addition to its team features, signNow ticks all the boxes of a great electronic signature app. Signing documents is easy for recipients, you get unlimited templates for different document types, and there are even mobile apps. You can also use Zapier to connect it to your other services, so you can automatically do things like track documents using Google Sheets or update original files in Google Drive as they're updated or signed. 

signNow price: Starts at $20/user/month for the Business plan.

Originally published in April 2015 by Paula DuPont, this post has had previous contributions from Hannah Herman.

]]> (Harry Guinness) Wed, 09 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
Google Forms to Google Sheets: How to automatically update inventory .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Managing a growing eCommerce business and need details on your inventory? Spreadsheets are a great tool to track your store's inventory, list all of your products and supplies, as well as log whenever anything's added or taken out.

The only problem is that it can be tedious—and time-consuming—to update and edit your spreadsheet every time a new product is added to your stock or a new sale is made that decreases your inventory.

Fortunately, there's a way to automatically manage and update your inventory in a Google Sheets spreadsheet every time a new Google Forms response is submitted, so your stock quantity updates the moment something changes. 

Note: This workflow requires Formatter and multi-step Zaps, both of which are available on our paid plans and during the first two weeks of a free Zapier trial. 

Set up your Google Forms trigger

First, set up your trigger—the event that starts your Zap. Search for and select Google Forms as the trigger app and New Response in Spreadsheet as the trigger event. Click Continue

The purple Google Forms app icon shown next to the text New Response in Spreadsheet in Google Forms

Now, connect your Google Forms account. Click on Choose an account… and either select an account from the dropdown menu (if you've connected Gmail to Zapier before) or click + Connect a new account.

Before we continue setting up the trigger, you need to build your inventory spreadsheet if you don't already have one. In a separate window, open Google Sheets, make a new spreadsheet, then list your inventory there. Be sure to add at least a column for your product ID numbers—or SKU for stock keeping units—and the quantity of the items you currently have.

A Google Sheets spreadsheet titled Inventory sheet with the tab Stock sheet highlighted with an orange box around it

Now, we'll create a new Google Form to update inventory. Inside the same spreadsheet, click Tools > Create a new form in your spreadsheet.

The "Tools" menu in a Google Sheet is shown open with an orange arrow pointing to "Create a new form"

In the form, add the fields you'd want to update—including at least the product ID or SKU and the number of stock you're adding (or removing—which you'll do by adding a negative quantity).

The questions menu of a Google form is shown open with the "Quantity" menu settings highlighted.

You can also add a validation to your quantity—click the 3 dot menu on that question, select Response Validation, and add the details you need to make sure you have the correct data.

A tab will automatically be created within your Google Sheet, so every time you fill out your Google Form, your responses will be routed there. We'll call this tab "Form Responses 1". 

A Google Sheets spreadsheet titled "Inventory sheet" with the tab "Form Responses 1" highlighted with an orange box.

Now we can continue setting up the trigger. Go back to the Zap editor. Under Spreadsheet, select your Google Forms spreadsheet, and under Worksheet, select the tab where your Google Forms responses will live. Click Continue

The purple Google Forms icon next to the words "New Response in Spreadsheet in Google Forms".

Now it's time to test your trigger. Zapier will find a recent form response from your responses tab in your spreadsheet. If you've never submitted a response before (because the form is new), submit a Google Forms response now with some new product numbers. (You can delete this later.) This data will be used to set up the rest of your Zap.

Click Test trigger. Once you see that your trigger is working properly, click Continue.

A purple Google Forms icon and the orange Zapier icon above a blue button with the text "Test trigger".

Set up your Google Sheets action

Now let's set up the action—the event your Zap will perform once it's triggered. Select Google Sheets as your action app and Lookup Spreadsheet Row as your action event. Click Continue

The green Google Sheets icon next to the text "Lookup Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets".

Connect your Google Sheets account to Zapier and click Continue. 

The text "Choose account" with a dropdown menu underneath that reads "Choose an account..." with the Google Sheets app icon.

Now it's time to customize how Zapier will find the inventory you want to update. Under Spreadsheet, select your main spreadsheet. Under Worksheet, select the sheet with your inventory list (in our example Stock sheet). 

Under Lookup Column, choose your product ID or SKU column from your inventory tab. Then under Lookup Value, select the SKU field from your Google Form. 

A series of dropdown menus underneath the text "Set up action".

Tip: Want to add new products to your spreadsheet from this form, too? Tick the Create Google Sheets Spreadsheet Row if it doesn't exist yet? box, then fill in the info from your form to add new products if this item isn't in your inventory yet.

After you've adjusted your settings, click Continue

Now it's time to test your action. When you click Test & Review or Test & Continue, Zapier will send a spreadsheet row to Google Sheets according to how you set up your step. 

A successful test message which includes the text "Test was successful", the orange Zapier app icon, the green Google Sheets icon, and a blue button that reads "Retest & Continue".

Set up your Formatter step

It's time to crunch the numbers and calculate your new stock quantity. Add another step to your Zap by clicking the plus sign below your previous Google Sheets step. 

Select Formatter by Zapier as your action app and Numbers as your action event. Click Continue

The Formatter app icon, which is two orange wavy lines, next to the text "Numbers".

Under Transform, select Perform Math Operation. Under Operation, select Add. 

Now it's time to input the values you want to add together. Under Input, click in the first field and select the Quantity value from the dropdown of data from your previous step. In the next field, click and select the Stock value from your Google Sheet. Click Continue

The text "Transform" with a dropdown underneath with an icon with two orange wavy lines and the text "Perform math operations".

Now it's time to test your trigger. Click Test & Continue

The orange Zapier icon and the orange formatter icon with a blue button that reads "Test & Continue".

Set up your Google Sheets action

Now it's time to set up the very last action: Updating your spreadsheet row with the right stock quantity. 

Click the + sign after your previous action step to add a new step to your Zap. Select Google Sheets as your action app and Update Spreadsheet Row as your action event. Click Continue

The green Google Sheets app icon next to the text "Update Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets".

Connect your Google Sheets account to Zapier and click Continue. Under Spreadsheet, select the same inventory sheet from your previous step (ours is called Inventory Sheet). Under Worksheet, select your stock sheet tab. 

The text "Set up action" with a series of dropdown menus underneath that all include the green Google Sheets icon.

Now, under Row, click on Custom and select Lookup Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets.

An orange box around a green Google Sheets app icon and the text "Lookup Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets".

Select the ID value from your first Google Sheets step. 

A blue search bar with a series of green Google Sheets icons underneath with different text next to each line.

Now, scroll down to the last field. Click in the Stock field and select the Output value from your Formatter step. That will add the new quantity to your spreadsheet to keep your inventory up to date.

A field called "Stock" with the words "Output" in the field with a blue button that reads "Continue" underneath.

Click Continue

Once you've tested the Zap, click Turn on Zap. 

Share the form with your team. Now, whenever you need to update inventory in Google Sheets, just fill out that form, and your inventory will be updated automatically.

New to Zapier? It's a tool that helps anyone connect apps and automate workflows—without any complicated code. Sign up for free.

This article was originally published in May 2017, written by Matt Guay, and was updated in March 2022 by Elena Alston.

]]> (Elena Alston) Tue, 08 Mar 2022 08:00:00 GMT
The 10 best email apps for iPhone in 2022 .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Many a tech blog headline and bold entrepreneur have announced that [insert app name here] will kill email. But like a wicked witch trying to kill a fairy tale princess, these new apps all fall short, and email continues to dominate.

There's a better way to deal with email.
Automate your inbox

You may be happy with a web app like Gmail when you're at your computer, but when you're emailing from your iPhone, you'll want a dedicated iPhone email app for the job. I spent several days testing the most popular iOS email apps, and here are my picks for the 10 best.

The 10 best email apps for iPhone

  • Mail by Apple for a no-frills email app

  • Outlook for a balance between simplicity and features

  • Gmail for integration with other Google apps

  • Triage for quick and easy inbox maintenance

  • Yahoo Mail for email management and quick finds

  • Unibox for humanizing your inbox

  • Chuck for extensive inbox maintenance

  • Edison Mail for frequent travelers and shoppers

  • Twobird for note-taking and scheduling from an email app

  • ProtonMail for privacy and security

What makes a great iPhone email app?

How we evaluate and test apps

All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.

For starters, with one or two exceptions, I only considered apps that supported all the major email providers, like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, iCloud Mail, and IMAP accounts.

I also focused on standalone email apps for iPhone, rather than apps that are really just add-ons for a web or desktop app. I wanted to showcase email apps that could be the only way you accessed your email if you wanted. An Apple Watch companion app, however, was a bonus.

Since we're focusing on the iPhone, which you're likely using for personal use rather than intense work, I rejected any primarily team-focused or collaborative email apps, like Front. While these are useful for organizations, they're needlessly complicated for day-to-day emailing. They also tend to charge a monthly fee, and while there are paid apps on this list, we generally avoided apps that required expensive subscriptions.

Maintaining a clean inbox free of spam and clutter is top of mind for many, so I looked for apps that included some degree of spam filters, cleanup suggestions, and security options. Along those lines, I looked for apps that had the most efficient and creative methods of email organization.

On this list are also some great options for anyone looking for more productivity features in a personal email app, including note-taking, snooze options, and built-in calendars.

Even with all these criteria, there are a huge number of options to consider. So I dug in deep, put them to the test, and determined which ones were more than just marketing hype. As I went through each of the apps, my testing process involved:

  • Exploring all available features when composing and sending emails, like send delays, scheduling, and file attachments.

  • Assessing how well emails were received on other platforms.

  • Gauging how mobile-friendly and effective the app's UX design was.

  • Toying with customization options, like color themes and swipe actions.

  • Creating folders and changing filters to get a feel for organizational efficiency.

  • Tracking compatibility with major email service providers.

After days of testing, these are the best iPhone email apps.

Best no-frills iPhone email app

Mail by Apple

A screenshot of Apple Mail, our pick for the best no-frills iPhone email app

Apple's Mail app has had a bit of a bad reputation over the years—that's why there's such a healthy ecosystem of alternative apps—but that criticism is now largely unwarranted. Yes, it's one of the most basic apps on this list, but that's an advantage: it's a simple and easy-to-use email app. It handles your email—whether you use iCloud, AOL, Gmail, Outlook, Exchange, or any other POP or IMAP compatible service—without any fuss.

When you open the app, you'll see your email inbox with all your emails in reverse chronological order. To only see the unread emails, tap the handy filter icon in the bottom-left corner. It's nothing fancy, but it works great.

The only area where Mail steps beyond just sending and receiving emails is with a VIP Inbox and thread notifications. If you're overwhelmed by the number of emails you receive, it's tempting to turn off all notifications. Unfortunately, that means you might miss something important. Contacts added to the VIP list have their own dedicated inbox that always pushes notifications. Similarly, you can enable notifications for responses to individual email threads if, for example, you're waiting for a reply from customer support and want to know as soon as you get it.

If you don't need an app that does much more than send and receive emails, then Apple Mail is one of the best.

Mail by Apple compatibility: Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, GMX, Exchange, IMAP accounts

Mail by Apple price: Free.

Best iPhone email app for a balance between simplicity and features


A screenshot of Outlook for iPhone, our pick for the best iPhone email app for a balance of simplicity and features

Microsoft's Outlook email app—surprising almost everyone—hits the best balance between usability and feature power. It supports all the major email services except POP3 accounts, so you don't have to use an Outlook or Hotmail account to make use of it.

The Outlook mobile app is a far cry from the desktop app. This isn't a bloated, enterprise product. It's a well-designed, highly functional personal email app that adds in some basic file management (with OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box) and a calendar, so you can handle all the extras around email, like attaching files and scheduling events, in one place.

Outlook automatically splits your inbox into a Focused Inbox, for what it considers important mail, and an Other Inbox for everything else. That, combined with powerful search and the Contacts section that groups together all the emails a specific person has sent you, make it easy for you to keep a handle on important messages.

The left and right swipe gestures are customizable: you can set them up to archive, delete, reply, move, or schedule (Outlook's take on snooze) emails. And there's even an Apple Watch app so you can check your email on the go.

Outlook Compatibility: Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail, Exchange, iCloud, Hotmail, Live, MSN, Accenture, Infosys, Cognizant

Outlook price: Free

Best iPhone email app for integration with other Google apps


A screenshot of Gmail, our pick for the best iPhone email app for integrations with other Google apps

The Gmail iOS app brings the familiar Gmail web app experience to your iPhone. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on how you feel about Gmail.

While Gmail for iOS does support iCloud, Outlook, Yahoo, and IMAP, it's at its best when used with your Gmail account. The iOS app nicely integrates with Google's other services like Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Sheets. For example, you can preview any file shared through Google Drive or one of Google's apps. A single tap then either saves it to your own Google Drive, which you can access through the Attach option when you're writing a new email, or opens it in the Google Docs or Sheets app, so you can edit or update it. You can also respond to Google Calendar invites straight from the email, just by tapping on the Yes, No, or Maybe. The integrations extend to video chat: instead of needing to download the Meet app separately, you can handle all your video conferencing in-app. And with Zapier's Gmail integrations, you can connect Gmail with thousands of other apps too.

Outside of these integrations, Gmail is still a competent email app. In terms of customization, you can choose the default view, which shows an icon for each sender and a preview of any attachments; or you can select Comfortable (which removes the previews) or Compact (which removes the icons as well, letting you see more emails at once). All your emails are sorted into three separate inboxes: Primary, Social, and Promotions. Search is, as you'd expect from Google, lightning fast. Emails can be snoozed, and if you accidentally send an email too soon—which is easy to do on a phone—you can tap Undo to rescind it.

Gmail compatibility: Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo, Hotmail, Outlook, Live, Office365, IMAP

Gmail price: Free

Best iPhone email app for quick and easy inbox maintenance


A screenshot of Triage, our pick for the best iPhone email app for quick and easy inbox maintenance

Triage may be the most simplistic email app on this list, but I'd say it's by far the most innovative.

This Apple-only app is touted by its developers as "first aid for your inbox." The format is simple: your emails are presented as "cards" that are stacked on top of each other. You can swipe left on an email to archive it, swipe right to keep it, and tap on the card to expand and reply to it. And that's basically it. It's like Tinder for emails, except (hopefully) a lot more effective.

Of course, Triage isn't necessarily meant to be used by itself. Think of it as a useful complement to your typical, more extensive email software. The main goal of this app is to make inbox maintenance a little more manageable, especially if you're like me and are prone to accumulating loads of emails. 

Triage ends up having somewhat of a game-ish feel to it. If I found myself bored in a waiting room, I could easily pass the time by hopping on the app and swiping away at my pile of emails.

Triage compatibility: Gmail, iCloud, IMAP

Triage price: Free; $9.99/year for a more advanced plan which includes multiple inboxes

Best iPhone email app for email management and quick finds

Yahoo Mail

The Yahoo iPhone app, our pick for the best email app for email management and quick finds

While Yahoo may not be the web behemoth that Google now is, the Yahoo email app is still a force to be reckoned with. The iOS app is packed with loads of features that are perfect for those who want better organization and don't mind a little in-app entertainment. The app is compatible with non-Yahoo email services as well.

You can tap the Subscriptions at the bottom of the screen to manage all your mailing lists. This page is split by Active subscriptions, Unsubscribed, and Discover, the last of which recommends popular newsletters. The Unsubscribed tab shows you your list of inactive subscriptions, with a one-tap option to block the sender. This can come in handy if any shady newsletters decide to ignore your request.

Yahoo Mail additionally highlights deals and discounts in your emails through their Deals view, allowing you to see when offers from your favorite companies will expire and making it easy for you to find discounts without having to comb through your emails. You can also view all your emailed receipts in one view; and any travel details, such as reservations, flight tickets, and travel offers, in another.

Sending emails is convenient, with the ability to easily attach files from Dropbox, Google Drive, or your device (many email apps don't readily present Dropbox and Google Drive as options, so this is a nice, simple gesture). Through their existing collection, you can also send GIFs or use colorful, artsy backgrounds (called stationeries) in your emails.

Yahoo Mail doesn't stop with just email—with a window dedicated to weather reports and a feed with the latest news, you'll have plenty of entertainment when you're not focused on your inboxes.

Like any app, Yahoo Mail does have its downsides—the in-app ads can be a bit distracting for those who are interested in just looking at emails, but they aren't very invasive, and you can get rid of them by paying $1.99/month for the Yahoo Mail Plus plan. Yahoo Mail's iPhone app also doesn't offer a unified inbox. Instead, you have to tap the icon in the upper left to navigate between your inboxes. But switching took me less than a second to do, which makes this just a minor annoyance—and the benefits of Yahoo Mail far outweigh any of these issues.  

Yahoo Mail compatibility: Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, Outlook, Office 365

Yahoo Mail Price: Free; $1.99/month for Yahoo Mail Plus, which includes ad-free email, reply reminders, and domain blocking.

Best iPhone email app for humanizing your inbox


A screenshot of Unibox, our pick for the best iPhone app for humanizing your inbox

Unibox throws out the standard email inbox conventions. When you open the app, you'll see all emails automatically grouped by sender, and then arranged by date. As soon as you tap on a name, you'll see the most recent message and all your previous conversations with that person; you can even see all the files and photos they've sent you by tapping on the paperclip in the bottom right corner. If you think of email in terms of who you're communicating with, it's perfect.

Aside from this novel take on email sorting, Unibox is relatively feature-light. You can customize what the swipe gestures do in the settings menu, but there's no snoozing, scheduling emails, or any of the features common in advanced email apps. You can't even use multiple accounts or custom signatures without paying for Unibox Pro ($4.99), and it doesn't support POP accounts.

Unibox compatibility: Gmail, Outlook, Live, Hotmail, Yahoo, Office365, Exchange, IMAP, self-hosted servers

Unibox price: Free; $4.99 for Unibox Pro

Best iPhone email app for extensive inbox maintenance


The Chuck iPhone app, our pick for the best iPhone email app for extensive inbox maintenance

What's unique about Chuck is the variety of ways in which you can view your inboxes: by month, subject, or sender, all of which I found super helpful in locating specific emails faster.

Unsubscribing from multiple email lists is also quick and smooth: when you tap on the bottom-right, you're guided to a page with all your mailing lists, where you can select specific subscriptions and unsubscribe from them all at once.

The free plan of Chuck should be sufficient for most, but if you want to step up your filters and organizational features, you can upgrade to become a Pro user. I made use of the seven-day free trial to explore this more extensive plan, and I was able to add as many inboxes as I wanted, block senders, and try out Chuck's cleanup suggestions. If you know you need to tidy up your inbox, but you're not quite sure where to start, Chuck will recommend categories of emails to get rid of, including old messages, social media notifications, or even messages that weren't addressed to you.

Another small plus: when composing emails, you can easily add links to text, a feature I've been craving for ages now since the vast majority of email apps don't allow it without some smart workaround

Overall, it's a very efficient app with great filtering capabilities, one-tap tasks, and cleanup suggestions.

Compatibility: Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, iCloud, AOL, Office 365, IMAP

Chuck Price: Free; Chuck PRO plan for $3.99/month or $39.99/year.

Best iPhone email app for frequent travelers and shoppers

Edison Mail

A screenshot of Edison, our pick for the best iPhone email app for frequent travelers and shoppers

Edison Mail takes intelligent email sorting to the next level: subscriptions, purchase receipts, and even travel details and package shipping details are automatically identified and sorted into the correct groups, which you access from the sidebar.

You can then quickly glance at your favorite newsletters, unsubscribe from ones you no longer read with a single tap on the unsubscribe button, see upcoming trip details like boarding gates and departure times, and track your parcels, all without having to dig deep into your email archive. Edison will even use the information to send you smart notifications, letting you know when your flight's gate has changed or your package is out for delivery.

In addition to the assistant, Edison is a full-on modern email client: it supports all the major email services and offers undo send, customizable swipe gestures, snooze, and smart replies for when a short response is all that's needed. And my new favorite way to mark an email as read? Just swipe the little blue unread dot, and it vanishes.

Edison compatibility: Gmail, IMAP, iCloud, Yahoo Mail, Outlook, Comcast, AOL, AT&T, and more

Edison price: Free

Best iPhone email app for note-taking and scheduling


A screenshot of Twobird, our pick for the best iPhone email app with note-taking and and scheduling

Twobird allows you to kill two birds with one stone (cute!): the app functions as your typical email app, but it also has decent note-taking capabilities. When you tap the green button at the bottom of screen, you'll be taken to a page that's almost reminiscent of iOS's Notes app and functions similarly. You can start typing to take notes, but you also have the option to create checklists, add comments to existing notes, and assign contacts to notes. Then, once you're done, you can share your notes through email or by copying a link to the note, which can be made public.

You could even argue that Twobird has a third bird hidden in there, with its scheduling capabilities. Sharing and making plans with your contacts is straightforward when you use Twobird's built-in calendar. This feature seems to borrow from Google Calendar, allowing you to schedule events or meetings with any of your contacts, with the option of adding Google Meet video conferencing.

The biggest drawback of Twobird is that it only works with Gmail and Microsoft accounts, a flaw that Twobird will hopefully fix in the future. (If you need an app with similar productivity features and more email service options, give Airmail a try.) Another minor issue for me is how long the app took to load my emails after initially adding an inbox—most of the other apps on this list downloaded emails immediately, but Twobird took a few minutes or more. Again, it's minor and may not be the case for everyone, but it's something to be aware of, so you don't rush to delete the app before you can enjoy all it has to offer.

Twobird compatibility: Gmail, Outlook

Twobird price: Free

Best iPhone email app for privacy and security


A screenshot of ProtonMail, our pick for the best iPhone email app for security and privacy

If you're not familiar with using more secure email services, ProtonMail makes the process easy. You can compose an email as you normally would, but if you click the lock button, you'll be asked to set a password to encrypt your email message. Then, once your recipient gets your email, they can click to view your message; they'll be directed to a browser to input a password. You can use this process to send emails securely to non-ProtonMail users, but emails are automatically encrypted if you're sending to contacts who also have ProtonMail.

The only thing that could be a bit of a hassle is that, if you want to access your inboxes from other email service providers (Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook/Hotmail) through ProtonMail, you'll need to set up mail forwarding. But this just comes with the territory of using an email app that's specifically designed for privacy and security—even the free plan of ProtonMail doesn't allow ads, which means that your emails aren't being scanned to deliver personalized ads as would be the case with other email services.

Another great alternative to ProtonMail is Tutanota—it has similar security features with end-to-end encryption and even more to offer when it comes to inbox maintenance and spam controls; its biggest weaknesses are the lack of mail forwarding and the inability to reset your password without a recovery key.

ProtonMail compatibility: You can set up mail forwarding through Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook/Hotmail

ProtonMail price: Free; ProtonMail Plus is $59.99/year, includes 5 email addresses, 5 GB of storage, and IMAP/SMTP Support

The iOS email app universe is saturated with options—some excellent, some...not. But with all the choices, one is bound to fit how you use—or aspire to use—email. If you're not sure which one's right for you, try more than one. They're all free or cheap, and it can be fun to experiment with a few different styles for managing email on your phone.

This article was originally published in March 2019 by Harry Guinness.

]]> (Kristina Lauren) Tue, 08 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
How to get awesome customer testimonial videos .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Have you ever taken a selfie in the bathroom mirror? I have. 

You're looking at yourself in the mirror because you want an accurate reflection (I guess?), but you can't really see yourself. Literally, because your camera is in the way, but also figuratively: you're seeing yourself through your own eyes, which is not an unbiased look.

It's a much different experience when someone else takes a photo of you, especially someone who knows you well. If they snap you doing something you love—something you're fully immersed in, to the point that you don't even know they're taking the photo—that's even better. 

A portrait of Kerri outside
There's no way around it: mirror selfies are supremely awkward and embarrassing. Why are we as humans doing this? Thanks to my friend Nate Udall for catching me unaware, basking in the sunshine on a hike. 

Why am I talking about awkward selfies in contrast with forest photogs? Because I want to tell you this: customer testimonial videos are like your friend's photo of you. For your business. 

Why you need customer testimonial videos

There are obvious benefits to customer testimonial videos for marketing purposes, but there's also a semi-hidden business benefit. When you and your team see yourselves through the eyes of your happy customers, you want to live up to those things. That's the Pygmalion effect. 

Focus your energy on creating, and let robots do the rest
Automate post-production

And it has a tremendously positive effect on your company culture. We had a recent client share their customer testimonial videos at an all-hands meeting and learned how much it meant to their engineers to hear customers praise their fast API. (A lot.) 

For sales and marketing purposes, you may already have written testimonials, which is awesome. Keep those. Add video. Here's why:

  • Video testimonials establish trust in ways written testimonials can't: facial expressions, tone of voice, genuine enthusiasm—you have a chance for sincerity to really shine through. 

  • Your prospects experience what I'll call the "like me" effect. They see someone like them talking about how happy they are with you and your work. And that sends a signal immediately: you can solve a problem that people like them have. 

  • I won't say video can't lie, but videos are harder to fake than writing, and the very fact that you have a customer testimonial video conveys a sense of trust. Having a customer "testify" for you with their whole self on video has more impact than a few written sentences. 

Tips on asking your customers for a testimonial video

We all fear rejection. And it may feel like high stakes to ask a customer to speak highly of you. What if they don't want to? Does that mean they don't like your work? Or worse, they don't like you? But realistically, you know when your customers are happy with you. And it's likely that even if they have trepidation about appearing on camera, they'll get over those fears to help you out. In most cases, you'll learn that they're actually over-the-moon happy with you.

There are a couple different strategic approaches to asking, depending on the type of relationship you have with your customer.

Self-recorded testimonials (customer self-records and submits)

This is a great way to ask if you have a lot of customers who don't exactly know your team personally but are loyal to your brand. For example, monthly SaaS subscribers, customers who love your dog collars, people who won't go anywhere else for their haircare products. 

A fun way to ask for a self-recorded testimonial is to play it as a contest. "Submit your 30-second video telling us why you love us, and we'll feature you on our social page and enter you to win [something they want]!" This works especially well if you have an engaged community on social media.  

Testimonials where you interview your customers

This is a good approach if you have a strong one-on-one relationship with your customers. Say you're a lawyer, a financial advisor, or an enterprise account executive for payment processing. You know each other and have probably met each other's dogs on Zoom by now. If you already have written testimonials, a great place to start with video is going back to those people to see if they would be willing to expand on their written endorsement in video. Make it fun and relaxed. You can film it on your phone, in person, or online (we use 

Ask questions like: 

  • What were your first thoughts when you heard I could help you with… [be specific but not invasive, for example: customer acquisition]?

  • How is your life/company better because of the work I do for you?

  • What would you say to someone considering trying out my service?

I'm a big DIY advocate, which is why I suggest doing this yourself. But there are some definite drawbacks. Just like it's hard to take a mirror selfie, it's hard to talk about people who are in the room (for some reason, it's easier to say nice things about people when they aren't around). So, if you have the budget to hire a production company to do this for you—either remotely or in person—it can make for a more authentic video. 

Just be sure you trust them to take care of your customers. Here are some questions you can ask them to be sure you're on the same page.

  • How much time and preparation will you require from my clients? (Best answer: minimal and no preparation.)

  • How far in advance will I be able to review and give input on your interview questions? (Best answer: How long do you need to review? I'll make sure it's within that time frame.)

  • What's the best way to ask my clients to do this? (Best answer: Here's a template to get you started, and please feel free to introduce us directly so I can handle scheduling and answer their questions.)

If you're ready to get started, here's a resource I created with email templates that provide specific language to help you ask for a video testimonial.

To script or not to script?

I advocate exclusively for unscripted testimonial videos. 

There's a very slim chance your customers are professional actors, and it's really hard for non-actors to convincingly read a script. At no fault of their own, their underdeveloped acting skills will also undermine the trust you're trying so hard to build with your customer testimonial. 

So let your clients speak freely. Assure them they can't say anything wrong in the moment (and edit out anything later that makes them sound less than stellar). We cut out a ton of ums, uhs, and mispronounced words in videos for our clients.

What should a video testimonial be like?

As a professional video producer, I'm here to tell you that you don't necessarily need a video of professional quality.

Yes, please do better than my mirror selfie. But as long as you have high enough quality sound and image, the technical aspects of video-producing are secondary to the more important element: storytelling. And the key to storytelling is change—the change your company can offer your client. 

It may be helpful to think about leading your clients to communicate a story of change in a few different ways. The statements below are generic to illustrate a concept. But by getting your clients to speak specifically with details unique to their experience, your customer testimonial video messages become powerful tools.

The story will go something like this:

  • "I was there, and now I'm here."

  • "Without this, I would be that."

  • "Compared to the alternatives, this is so much better."

  • "I was worried about this, but because of your help, the process (or outcome) was much better than expected."

  • "I couldn't have even imagined things being this good."

As you watch the customer testimonial video examples that follow, think about the story of change being told in each.  

In-person testimonials

When you have an especially notable or industry-famous client, bringing out a crew for an in-person production may be the best way to convey your story. If you do a montage (as in the second example), I recommend using the same type of footage (all in-person or all remotely recorded) for a unified look and feel.

Remotely recorded testimonials

In some cases, a lack of super slick polish can actually work to your favor in establishing authenticity and trust from our customer testimonials. These remotely recorded testimonials lean into that look and feel.

If you do go the DIY route, follow these best practice tips for how to DIY your business videos.

5 ways to use your testimonials effectively

Once you have a piece of video content, use it. A lot. Your customer video testimonial videos make great additions to any of your channels. 

  • Case studies. If you already have a great case study on your website, a video makes it even greater. Here's an example of one our clients integrating a customer testimonial into their case study (the page has a GIF; click "Watch the video Q&A here" for the video). To develop the interview questions for this video, I led Mike to reiterate some of the key points in the case study to emphasize them. But this video isn't just a repeat of the written content in a different format—it's an expansion.

  • Email campaigns. Adding customer testimonials to your email campaigns and newsletters is a great way (and great reason!) to keep in touch with your customers. Always focus on helping them solve their problems.

  • Email footers. A link with a concise message can do the trick. Take the opportunity to use language that inspires curiosity to motivate the click. Try something like: "See why this client loved working with us!" or "Why did this successful startup CEO hire us?" or "How do our clients feel about our process?"

  • Internal online library for sales. A library of customer testimonials is an amazing tool for salespeople. Have a variety of videos, so they can choose specific videos for specific prospects (and especially to overcome specific objections). This is especially important if you serve several niche industries or solve different types of problems for your clients. 

  • Team morale and recruiting new hires. Research shows that a simple thank you goes a long way to motivate employees. A boost to team morale from customers can be huge. Customer testimonials can also help you in recruiting new staff: showcase the fact that they'll be working for a company made up of colleagues who delight their customers and prioritize making a good impression on people.

Make sure you get proper permission 

Finally, follow the rules. While the process is worthwhile, there's a lot of thought and effort that goes into putting together great customer testimonial videos. Make sure you're adhering to some basic guidelines.

  • Get written permission from customers. Always make sure you get permission in writing instead of leaning on implied consent by appearing on camera. It's just a good idea to have a legal contract: we use a simple one-page document that can be digitally signed

  • Follow FTC rules. If you're showing actual clients and encouraging your clients to be honest, you're on the right track. But there are some specific guidelines that may surprise you. It's a good idea to be familiar with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules outlined in this document

If you talk about how great you are, it ends up feeling like a mirror selfie. Your customers conveying their experience with enthusiasm and joy is your friend's photo. Skip the mirror selfie—I promise.

A previous version of this article was published by Victor Blasco.

]]> (Kerri Fernsworth Feazell) Tue, 08 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
How to disable the typing notification in Slack .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Just like your manager should never just text you hi, no one should ever leave you hanging in typing limbo. But if you're a regular Slack user, you've probably found yourself waiting while your coworker writes their version of Moby-Dick

Slack message box with "Krystina is typing..." under it
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And if you're like me, you probably think the longer it takes to type, the worse the message is going to be. Am I about to get fired?

So I tried an experiment recently. What if I just turn it off? Would my productivity boom while my anxiety took a nap? 

Here's how to turn off the who is currently typing setting in Slack.

  1. Open up the Preferences menu.

  2. Go to the Messages & media menu, then scroll down to Additional options.

  3. Uncheck the box next to Display information about who is currently typing a message.

Keep reading for screenshots.

How to ignore who's typing in Slack

1. Open the main menu for your Slack workspace, and go to Preferences.

Navigating to Preferences in Slack

2. Then go to the Messages & media menu and scroll down to Additional options. Resist the urge to update all of your other settings along the way. (Or do it. I won't judge.)

Additional options in the Messages & Media section in Slack

3. Once you're there, uncheck the box next to Display information about who is currently typing a message, and you're done. 

Display information about who is currently typing box

Now enjoy living in blissful ignorance about who is writing a novel about how you screwed up in that last meeting.

Care less while being more productive

So how did turning it off work out for me? It took a little while to get used to.

Slack message from Grace: "Day 1: I am stressed that I don't know if people are typing. I am maybe spending more time waiting to see if they'll write something, but we'll see how this goes after I get used to it."

But after a couple of days, it started to improve.

Slack message from Grace: "I think I've moved beyond anxiety but not quite to serenity"

And now, a few weeks in, I spend way less time waiting for replies. And really, when the message finally does arrive, it's usually a cat GIF anyway. It can wait until Monday.

]]> (Grace Montgomery) Tue, 08 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
How to add to the mental health conversation through your content marketing .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Mental health is a hot topic for businesses, so it makes sense that everyone wants to jump on the conversational bandwagon. But it still bothers me to see companies plunge in without taking the time to figure out why they want to contribute or what they want to say. There's nothing wrong with sharing "10 easy ways to handle stress at work," or telling people to download your workplace wellness eBook. But do they honestly add to the conversation? Probably not.

Talking about mental health is something I do every day, as a podcaster, writer, disabled business owner, and mental health advocate. It's literally embedded into my work and my daily life. But even then, I have to be careful to only speak to what I know and do my best to contribute something of value. 

And that's the keyword there: value. Content marketing is built around drawing people in, getting them interested in our products and services, and ultimately, making them a customer. To join the mental health conversation, I need you to throw away the content marketing rulebook.

Think of this as a way to explore important ideas as a company, show support, and spread the word—without the snap call-to-action at the end.

Joining the mental health conversation (the right way)

I can write articles about my life with PTSD, how my depressive cycles work, and building a small business with mental health in mind. But the second I share something self-promotional or outside of my experience, I'm taking away from the importance of the topic. 

Adding to mental health conversations in a meaningful way starts with having a clear statement or goal in mind, one that's not focused on lead generation or attracting new customers. Ask yourself: Why am I doing this? What do I want the outcome to be? 

Goals you set for your content could look like:

  • Advocating for a specific change within the workplace

  • Educating workers and managers on the signs of stress and burnout

  • Creating awareness around mental health conditions and chronic issues

Just to name a few. 

Have something in mind? Great, now you can get down to it. Here are five ways to add to the mental health conversation through content marketing.

  1. Check the news

  2. Turn the conversation inward

  3. Ask questions

  4. Draw attention to outside innovation

  5. Bring in the experts

1. Check the news

Rather than having to start from scratch, you can make a bigger impact by leveraging timely and relevant mental health topics.

Stay on top of what's going on in your industry, especially the areas that may relate directly to your target market, like workplace wellness, stress, fatigue, or productivity. Set Google Alerts for relevant mental health keywords, or follow powerhouses like HBR, Forbes, and McKinsey & Company to access new findings and research.

But don't just jump on the first juicy topic or try to cram current events into your content calendar. If the news hits close to home, inspires new thoughts, or helps you make a point by bringing new facts to light, you're headed in the right direction. Use it as a starting point to voice your thoughts—not a lifeline—and always keep the content relevant to your audience.

If nothing in the news feels right for you to latch onto, don't force it. There are other options.

2. Turn the conversation inward

Yes, you can talk about what you're doing as a company to support the mental health movement—but only once in a while. It's important to avoid promoting your company in a serious discussion (unless you actually do provide the solution).

Keep your mental health content and discussions sales-free by limiting your "What we've done" and "Why we're great at mental health" content to press releases and employer brand campaigns. Instead, consider turning the conversation inward by inviting your employees to take part. 

Open the floor to mental health discussions on internal communication channels and during team meetings. Send out a company-wide survey to get your managers' and employees' thoughts on important mental health topics, burning questions, and needed resources. If you go this route, be sure to get explicit permission before using any of these ideas in your campaigns (and it's also important to allow for anonymous contributions).

Not only will this process help you personalize your content and offer valuable insight, but it can also inform your approach to mental health as a company. Not a bad way to learn as you go, right?

3. Ask questions instead of giving answers

When it comes to mental health, assuming you have all the answers can come back to bite you.

A healthier, and often more approachable, strategy is to add to the mental health conversation by asking questions. Focus on opening new discussions, not impressing an audience with your knowledge or trying to look like the mental health expert. (A good rule of thumb: don't offer any mental health advice if you're not a licensed practitioner.)

In other words, think like a solutions journalist. Solutions journalism focuses on how people and companies respond to and solve problems. Rather than saying "this is the only way," it lays out the problem and examines a range of solutions from different sources.

Try starting discussions about the best ways to approach mental health at work and challenging what others think to be true. If you do offer a mental health solution, this is one of those few times a call-to-action would work. 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Rather than "Here's how we do it," ask "How can we solve X?", "What's the next step?", or "How can we reframe this or see this differently?" 

  • Present the problem and share how others are responding, or ask your own expert to weigh in.

  • Take a popular topic or solution and ask, "What works and what doesn't?" This is a strategy I used to explore mental health work perks in my Medium mini-series.

4. Draw attention to outside innovation

It's hard to shift the attention elsewhere when you have a lot to say. But mental health is all about diversity, especially diverse perspectives, because no one experiences it exactly the same way.

This is something I always have to be aware of when recording my mental health and business podcast with my co-host. While the show is based on us and our experiences with mental health, we have to make sure it's not just about us. Even though we're two different people with a range of experiences, the show would get boring and narrowly focused if we didn't explore new ideas or share the mic once in a while.

Spotlight innovators and companies making a difference to mental health. These could be:

  • Companies in your industry that are also adding to the mental health conversation in a meaningful way

  • Companies with innovative mental health solutions

  • Academic or government institutions sharing original, relevant research

For a more content marketing-friendly approach, you can highlight people and companies a bit closer to home, like clients, customers, or partner companies. Again, make sure you have permission before you do this and have anyone who contributes sign off on your final product. 

Your company can also draw attention to mental health issues by playing a more active role as an advocate. Every year, there are dozens of awareness events that need corporate partners to participate. Adding a few of these to your content marketing schedule can help you spread awareness and start conversations of your own. Just remember to keep the focus on the issue, not your company.

5. Bring in the true experts

Finally, if you really want to add to a conversation, bring in the experts: people with lived experience of mental health issues.

This is a tricky one because mental health is a private topic, and too many workplaces still penalize openness. So getting workers, even your own workers, to share their stories publicly may be tough. Though I still encourage you to ask!

Sometimes, the best way to go is up. Try asking one of your executives to write a guest post or byline about how they deal with anxiety, pandemic stress, or burnout. And don't neglect the professionals, either. If you work with therapists or other mental health professionals, a subject matter expert angle can also be a great addition. 

If team member stories aren't an option, there are thousands of mental health advocates out there who would be thrilled to share their stories and offer advice. Platforms like HealtheVoices and Lyfebulb are all about helping people spread the word.

Being part of the change

At the end of the day, it'll take time and effort if you want mental health to be a serious part of your content marketing. And I'm talking about more than goal statements and strategies: joining the mental health conversation should be an authentic and genuine decision for your company. Don't jump in because it's there. Be prepared to learn, grow, and question your own beliefs and others'. 

]]> (Leanna Lee) Mon, 07 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
The FOMO strategy: How 3 brands used micro-influencers to get overly sponsored .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

With everyone and their dog showing off on social, it's no wonder we feel like we're constantly missing out. As a content creator, I'm on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest throughout the day: Did my Pin go viral? Did I get more followers on Instagram? Did I miss any big news?

4 workflows to better market your brand on social media
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This is FOMO in high gear: the fear of missing out, with a hint of jealousy thrown in the mix. We're now wired to feel this way—and some marketers are capitalizing on it. While many brands rely on exclusivity or social proof, some are tapping into fear and using FOMO to drive brand awareness and sales. How? With the help of lots (and lots) of micro-influencers.

How do micro-influencers help create FOMO?

What constitutes a micro-influencer is up for debate, but they generally have fewer than 50,000 followers (some would lower this max number to 10,000). Their audience is small, but because of that, they generally have better engagement.

And brands are really leaning on these micro-influencers. Influencer Aly of What Moms Love says:

"I worked with HelloFresh back in 2018 on an Instagram campaign (post + stories). I think I had around 80-100k followers. I reached out to them recently, but they seem to be working mostly with micro-influencers with smaller followings (10-100k range)."

Because micro-influencers—and their even smaller counterparts, nano-influencers—are more readily available and generally affordable (anywhere between $10 and $500 for a post on Instagram), it means you can use more of them.

And that's just what brands are doing to create FOMO: working with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of micro-influencers to push products. If seemingly everyone you follow is promoting something, you can bet the FOMO will be real.

3 brands that work with micro-influencers to create FOMO

1. SmartSweets' #kicksugar campaign

SmartSweets—a candy brand that claims to have 92% less sugar than traditional candy—launched in 2016 and used ads and micro-influencers to kick things off. They created the #kicksugar campaign (a social campaign originated by the owner, Tara Bosh, and her commitment to kick sugar but keep candy) for Facebook, and ran ads about it. 

But it really took off on Instagram, with the help of thousands of micro-influencers offering giveaways. Take a look: Authentically Steph's ad showcases the giveaway to her 14k followers with a Reels video.

With an Instagram search showing over 20k posts for #kicksugar—many of which offer a giveaway—it's pretty clear that SmartSweets was turning up the FOMO. And it worked on three levels:

  1. Everyone was talking about it (see: micro-influencers).

  2. Giveaways got people to tag other folks, which spread the FOMO around. (And anyone who wins the giveaway will promote it even more.)

  3. Giveaways expire—you'll miss out if you don't act now.

It's clear Tara is invested in this strategy: she even has an influencer signup page on the SmartSweets site. This cooperative approach creates ambassadors helping praise SmartSweets all over Instagram.

2. The Always Pan from Our Place

Based on the press coverage, you'd think everyone on the planet owns the Always Pan from Our Place. And this is precisely what Our Place wanted: FOMO to the nth degree. The Always Pan—eight pieces of cookware in one pan—is even dubbed the Instagram Pan, as content creator Linsdey exclaims on her feed.

Wife-and-husband team Shiza Shahid and Amir Tehrani developed this cult item in 2019. Just like with SmartSweets, they launched Facebook ads to get started, but the Always Pan made the most headway on Instagram.

Our Place relied on user-generated content and micro-influencers to promote the Always Pan, having folks showcase the pan as part of their everyday lives. Whether a user was in a one-bedroom apartment in New York or a mini-mansion in Texas, these promoters made the Always Pan look relatable. (Notice the coupon code in there too.)

These promotions did something else for the Always Plan—it got them media placements. The New York Times article about it (which, to be fair, doesn't have the best things to say) even specifically mentions that the article is being written because it showed up all over their Instagram feed. 

3. HelloFresh

HelloFresh is a meal kit provider: you pick a plan that suits your lifestyle, get your delivery in a box with pre-separated items and a recipe card, then cook (and eat!). 

But I probably didn't have to tell you that because I'm guessing you've heard of them. They initially dominated this industry with video ads for Facebook and Instagram. But it was hiring micro-influencers to kick off campaigns like #refreshwithhellofresh or #hellofreshpics that ensured HelloFresh was everywhere.

The hashtag campaigns for HelloFresh have garnered over 120 million posts, and the company used the help of micro-influencers to share and promote their brand to busy families. Micro-influencer and mom Lauren Hansen partners with food and shopping companies, and her small-but-dedicated audience is gushing over HelloFresh.

By targeting a specific audience (parents trying to cook quickly but deliciously for their kids) and using micro-influencers who are that audience, you build trust—but you also build FOMO. If all these other relatable people on Instagram are able to cook a family dinner like that…why can't I?

Having hundreds or thousands of micro-influencers promoting your product or service might seem like overkill—but being "overly sponsored" like these three brands has only helped get their product to the masses quicker. It all starts with micro-influencers who can pack on the FOMO, ignite the discussions, build engagement, and finally, make the sales.

]]> (Elna Cain) Fri, 04 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
How to hyperlink in Slack .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Everyone seems to find themselves fumbling with hyperlinks in Slack, but it's almost magic how easy it is. There are two main ways to do it.

How to hyperlink in Slack with a keyboard shortcut

  1. Copy the URL you want to link to.

  2. Highlight the text you want to hyperlink.

  3. Type Command + Shift + U on Mac or Ctrl + Shift + U on Windows. (You can also just click the link icon right above the message field, but why do that when you can use a shortcut?)

  4. The hyperlink box will pop up: paste the link in the Link field, and click Save.

Hyperlink pop-up box in Slack

How to hyperlink in Slack with an even shorter keyboard shortcut

  1. Copy the URL you want to link to.

  2. Highlight the text you want to hyperlink.

  3. Type Command + V on Mac or Ctrl + V on Windows.

The text will hyperlink without having to use that Add link pop-up. It seems like a small thing—cutting out one step and a couple keys—but when you spend your day adding links to Slack, it adds up. When Zapier customer champion Michelle Poterek shared this insight in an internal blog post, the people went wild for it.

Slack thread from about the hyperlinking shortcut

The case for not hyperlinking

Now you know how to hyperlink in Slack—but should you?

I much prefer when people just drop the full URL somewhere in their Slack message. When there's a hyperlink, I find myself hovering over it to see what I'm about to click on.

Hovering over a link in Slack

So far, I haven't been trolled by a Slack hyperlink, but it's worth keeping in mind.

]]> (Deborah Tennen) Fri, 04 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
How to blur your background in Zoom—and the case for not doing it .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

That Zoom blur background is everywhere. It prevents your coworkers from seeing the mess or other variation of chaos behind you—and it only makes your hair look vaguely weird.

Here's how to get the blurred background on Zoom.

How to blur your background on Zoom

  1. With the Zoom desktop app open, click your profile icon, and select Settings (or click > Preferences from the toolbar).

  2. Click Background & Filters on the left sidebar.

  3. Select Blur.

How to blur your background in Zoom: click Background & Filters, then Blur (from the Settings)

All you'll be able to see is your face (and your dog's—tested to be sure!). 

You can also do it from within a meeting:

  1. Click the caret next to Stop video or Start video (depending on whether your video is currently on).

  2. Click Choose virtual background…

  3. Select Blur.

Blur you Zoom background once you're already in a meeting by selecting Choose Virtual Background

Don't blur your Zoom background

It wouldn't be an app tutorial on Zapier without an opinion attached to it, so here you go: I don't think you should blur your background on Zoom.

The other day, my kids were watching TV in the living room where my desk is, so I was sitting in the kids' playroom for my 1:1 with my manager. We started the call, and she immediately asked about the artwork (generous term) behind me. It was a giant kid-painted mural that we'd slapped up on the wall two years ago and never took down, I told her. She said she liked it, and that she actually had her own doodles on her wall.

Lane on Zoom with the doodles behind her
Pretty impressive framed doodles.

I'd seen those framed pieces behind her for a year, and until that conversation, I had no idea she'd drawn them.

This kind of interaction doesn't happen if you blur your background. And as much of a curmudgeon as I like to think I am, it's nice to have those moments.

By keeping your background visible, you get to know your remote coworkers better. You might see their partner or kid or dog walk by in the background. You might notice a mirror they have, ask where they got it, and then buy multiples for your own house (true story). Or you might just see that the sun's out where they are and live vicariously.

So unless there's something borderline illegal happening behind you—in which case, please don't make me report you, Joey—don't blur your background.

More Zoom tips

  • How to share part of your screen on Zoom

  • How to add your pronouns on Zoom

  • How to automatically close those annoying "Launch Meeting" tabs from Zoom

  • How to play background music on Zoom—without sharing your screen

  • How to automatically upload Zoom recordings to Google Drive

]]> (Deborah Tennen) Fri, 04 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
How to hyperlink in Gmail on your phone .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

How many times have you sworn at your phone because you can't hyperlink in the Gmail mobile app? You highlight the word, tap, swipe, swipe back, swear you missed it, try again, and then eventually move on to cursing.

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You'd think it wouldn't be hard to have some sort of double-click and link situation, but alas—you have to use a workaround. Here's how to make a hyperlink in Gmail from within the mobile app.

The short version:

  1. Type your message.

  2. Copy the URL from the source, and paste it at the bottom of the message.

  3. Close out of the draft, then go back into it. 🤦‍♀️

  4. Type the words you want to hyperlink somewhere within the URL.

  5. Delete everything but the words you want to hyperlink.

  6. Cut and paste the hyperlinked text into the message wherever you want it.

(How is this real?)

Keep reading for screenshots.

How to create a hyperlink in Gmail on the mobile app

1. Type your message. (Resist the urge the double-click and look for a hyperlink option—it's not there.)

Gmail message with text highlighted

2. Copy the URL from wherever it is, and paste it into the bottom of the message.

URL at the bottom of the email

3. The URL won't hyperlink automatically, so you need to close out of the draft, then go back into it. At that point, it'll be hyperlinked.

Hyperlinked URL at the bottom of the email

4. Type the words you want to hyperlink somewhere within the URL.

Typing the words to hyperlink within the URL

5. Delete everything but the words you want to hyperlink.

The hyperlinked text at the bottom of the email

6. Cut and paste the hyperlink into the message wherever you want it.

The hyperlinked text within the body of the email

Check out those timestamps—that took me two minutes. Not bad, but way longer than it should take to add a hyperlink to an email.

]]> (Deborah Tennen) Thu, 03 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
The ultimate guide to marketing operations .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Digital marketing seeks to reach customers online. But this simple aim has never been more complicated: there are more available marketing channels and tools than ever, and each one has its own rules and quirks.

You need someone to align all the pieces and make sure everything runs without hiccups—from selecting the marketing software you use, to designing and implementing a marketing campaign, to getting you the data on how it performed.

In other words, you need a marketing operations team. 

What is marketing operations?

Marketing operations (MOps) refers to all the processes that happen backstage in marketing. The folks who work under the marketing ops banner make sure that the right systems and technology are in place to deliver marketing campaigns at scale. 

Grow your business with marketing automation
Learn how

If you think of a marketing campaign as a race car speeding to the finish line, then consider marketing ops the pit crew. The pit crew changes the tires, services the car, refills gas—they ensure that all the equipment is running shipshape so that it doesn't break down.

A marketing operations team oversees:

  • Systems. They create and implement the best automation systems and software to support marketing campaigns (e.g., determining how and where your team tracks and targets leads). 

  • Data. They use data to help marketers determine who their audience is and how to best reach them—and to assess the performance of past campaigns.

  • Email and CRM processes. They maintain the infrastructure to communicate with customers.

  • Project management. They determine and document the processes everyone should follow to achieve all of the above.

What is marketing operations? Infographic

Roles and responsibilities: Marketing operations team structure

At Zapier, our Marketing Ops team is responsible for a whole heck of a lot—from project management to process compliance to email operations. They're the data wizards, the process shapers, and the tech experts that allow Zapier to scale and grow. 

Marketing operations is the backbone of marketing. When done well, marketing teams deliver the right message to the right people at the right time, with attribution in place that tracks return on investment (ROI) effectively.

Sean Kennedy, Senior Marketing Operations Specialist at Zapier

Each company will organize their marketing ops department differently (ask some fellow marketers if you want a bunch of ideas), so we're breaking it down into the key responsibilities we've found most important at Zapier.

Systems and data management

This area of marketing ops focuses on infrastructure, campaign operations, lead management, and data reliability. Essentially, they ensure marketing has access to the tools and data they need to do their best work. They align your brand and your customer journey, using data to help inform strategy and create a more effective omnichannel experience.

Here's what that looks like in practice:

  • Overseeing the marketing technology infrastructure, including implementation, feature enhancement, and usability

  • Implementing privacy regulations across all marketing systems

  • Creating scalable and repeatable processes for everyone

  • Building automations to reduce manual work, so marketers can focus on creative efforts

  • Creating documentation for all the above

Example: Moving a webinar signup flow into a new tool like HubSpot, so marketers can see webinar attendees' information and form submissions in one place. 

Outcome: The marketing ops team builds workflows based on webinar attendance and other data, so attendees (the target audience) receive content that's tailored to their interests. 

Email and CRM operations and management

Marketing ops is so focused on email operations and customer relationship management (CRM) tools that it's sometimes called email ops or CRM ops. 

Here's what that looks like in practice:

  • Monitoring email deliverability and making recommendations based on performance

  • Managing email data for audience segmentation and optimizing email campaigns for critical stages of the customer journey

  • Managing CRM data for things like lead scoring

  • Liaising with engineering and data teams to fix bugs or implement new features in CRM, email, or other marketing automation tools

  • Setting up CRM and email automations to personalize email campaigns at scale

  • Maintaining email subscription and exclusion lists

  • Supporting email requests from across the company: creating templates, coding campaigns, loading them into the email tool, selecting the audience, and performing QA

  • Reviewing email campaign performance and making recommendations based on engagement and conversions

Example: Creating a distribution strategy for when and where an email campaign will go out so that it's sent at the right time when customers will be open to it.

Outcome: Your customers will be more responsive and likely to engage with the email, as well as fulfill the intended purpose of the email (like signups). 

Project management

MOps implements the best-in-class project management practices that scale across marketing and the organization as a whole. They distribute the tools, templates, processes, and training that makes projects successful. It's highly cross-functional, as project managers help other teams improve efficiency.

Here's what that looks like in practice:

  • Providing training, user access, and provisioning of internal marketing tools.

  • Developing workflows and best practices to help other teams execute on projects.

Example: Creating a new project template that everyone in the marketing team completes when starting a new project. 

Outcome: Every team member in the marketing department completes their projects in the same way, on time, within budget and scope. 

Scaling your marketing operations

Let's take a look at Airbnb. When the room-sharing platform first launched in 2008, it had none of the marketing infrastructure it does today. Back then, the founders even went door-to-door in NYC, helping hosts take better pictures of their listings. 

But as Airbnb grew in popularity, the brand also scaled its marketing operations—and invested in market research—to build momentum. Today, the company has determined very accurate user profiles for its two markets (guests and hosts). In terms of their digital marketing strategy, this information allows them to make data-driven decisions.

For example, Airbnb now segments high-value guests and encourages them to list their own property via email right after they've stayed somewhere, with the hope of turning a guest into a host. And they have a solid marketing infrastructure that supports retargeting, retention, and lead acquisition. 

Every campaign Airbnb launches happens because of their marketing operations team, supporting the tech in the background. 

Having a marketing ops team in place helps your company scale. It develops ways for you to be agile through the use of martech and automation, helping you save time, add value, and dramatically improve your ROI. 

The cross-functional power of marketing operations

I asked the Zapier marketing ops team what they love most about their jobs, and the answer was nearly unanimous: connection.

Marketing ops is all about connection. Connecting systems, connecting strategies to tools, connecting customers to the most relevant information.

Lindsay Rothlisberger, Senior Manager of Marketing Operations & Email at Zapier

Marketing ops teams are cross-functional, partnering with folks across an organization to define workflow and process solutions that help them reach a shared goal and be sure that tools and personnel are in alignment. Put ridiculously: marketing ops is the wind beneath the wings of the rest of the marketing org.

This means marketing ops teams can drastically improve team morale: they make everyone else's job easier and everyone else's projects more successful. If you don't have a marketing ops team, now's the time to start.

]]> (Elena Alston) Thu, 03 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
4 marketing automation ideas for better post-purchase engagement .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

I spend a lot of time looking at marketing examples for my work, so you can't pull the automation wool over my eyes—I know that you're not speaking directly to me.

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Learn how

But when post-purchase marketing automation is done well, it doesn't matter. Logically, I know it isn't a one-to-one conversation and that they're sending this message to everyone who made a purchase. But emotionally, marketing automation makes me feel like I'm a valued customer and that genuine thought was put into creating a personalized experience. 

A little forethought and help from automation tools gives you the opportunity to really wow your customers after they've made a purchase.

What is post-purchase marketing automation?

Marketing and sales teams are juggling all sorts of tasks, and the focus often ends up on leads, which means existing customers can fall by the wayside. 

Marketing automation can help by taking care of your post-purchase marketing communication: after a customer places an order or engages with your product or service, you can use automation to keep them engaged with your brand, build trust with your company, and even upsell or cross-sell. Creating triggers to send emails, push notifications, in-app alerts, and SMS messages enables you to connect with existing customers, at scale, without losing the human touch. 

4 post-purchase marketing automation examples

If you want to automate post-purchase communication with customers, it's best to start simple. I've roughly ordered the examples below from simple to complex, but feel free to embrace the strategy that works best for you. 

  1. Send educational content

  2. Ask for feedback

  3. Let customers know what's next

  4. Keep customers involved in the process

1. Send educational content while they wait

Welcome emails are the perfect way to thank subscribers for joining your list or making a purchase. It's a simple automation (someone subscribes/purchases → send email), but it's what you do with that welcome email that makes the difference.

I recently ordered a handful of sample-size perfumes from Etat Libre D'Orange (I fell victim to a TikTok ad!). While I waited for my order to arrive, the company sent tips on the right way to take a fragrance for a trial run.

An email sent to Steph with educational content on using her new fragrances

You can use this strategy—teaching new customers how to use your product or sending related content—whether you offer a physical or digital product. If customers interact with something, you can always teach them the best way to do so. Ideally, the better they're able to use their first purchase, the more likely they'll come back for more. 

Get started: Pick a product category, and brainstorm tips or content you could send. Then create an automation to send the message each time someone makes that order. 

2. Ask for feedback

Sending a prompt to leave a review or provide feedback serves two goals. First, you generate social proof you can use on your website and in marketing materials. Second, you find excited (and annoyed) people that need a follow-up. 

Pacsafe sent me a pretty standard review request email—take a look. 

A feedback request email from Pacsafe

I like that the company mentions its philanthropic efforts. The only thing I'm unsure of is if the review email is the best place to suggest additional products. What if I hated the first one? Regardless, it gave me space to tell them if something was wrong without having to put in any effort on my end.

You can follow Pacsafe's strategy and use a review tool (they used Okendo) to collect feedback.  Or you can simply ask people to respond to the email with their opinions. Either way, be sure to use automation to personalize the email, using their name and mentioning the specific item they purchased, so they know what they're reviewing.

Get started: There are a variety of review apps you can use to gather customer reviews (Google reviews are pretty standard too), and they should offer automation options to send emails like this. You can even create an automation to save new review responses to a spreadsheet, so you can pull from it when you need social proof in marketing materials.

3. Let customers know what comes next

Finding the "aha" moment and supporting it with an automated message can encourage customers to make another purchase or use your service again. 

One of the ways the American Red Cross keeps donors coming back is by letting people know when a hospital uses their donation. My boyfriend recently donated blood for the first time, and the alert about where it was going made the impact feel tangible. 

An email sent to Steph's boyfriend from the American Red Cross, showing the impact they made

If you work for a non-profit, let people know how you use their donation. If you have a software service, congratulate users at a milestone. Even product-based companies can use this strategy by sharing how customers use and enjoy the item in their everyday lives. 

Get started: If you want to include dynamic content in your message like Red Cross does, you'll need an email marketing tool or CRM, like ActiveCampaign, that offers that feature.

4. Keep customers involved in the entire process

If your customers have to wait a while for their order, and you want to really wow them, send them an update each time their account status changes. 

When I sent off my dog's DNA to Embark for analysis, I already planned on obsessively checking my account for updates. But Embark beat me to it and sent a message at every step of the process.

Nine emails from Embark in Steph's inbox, showing the progress of her order

Each email explained what they were doing with the sample, where it would go next, and how long I'd need to wait for another update. Instead of experiencing silence during the month-long wait, I had my anticipation built up with every alert. 

Get started: Make a list of the possible update points and account changes your customers might be interested in. If you use a CRM to manage customer accounts, it likely has built-in automations for sending messages to customers, or you can create your own CRM automations.

More post-purchase marketing automation examples

All of my favorite recent examples happen to be email, but marketing automation applies to any of your channels. You can set up marketing automation for SMS, in-app notifications, push notifications, or even physical mail. If there's a channel you already use, start adding automation there. 

Here are a few extra ideas to get you started:

  • Send a physical coupon two weeks after a customer buys something from your local business.

  • Send a push notification if a SaaS user hasn't logged in for a few days.

  • If a person opens your post-purchase email but doesn't make another purchase, follow up with an SMS with a discount offer.

  • Send a "happy anniversary" in-app message after someone has been a customer for a year.

  • Send a text to customers about a new product launch based on their past purchases.

  • Send a push notification asking customers to vote on your next product or feature.

  • Mail a birthday postcard with a coupon to local customers who have made at least two purchases in the past year.

Take automations one step at a time

Seeing unique marketing tactics can give you that kid-in-a-candy-store feeling. There's no rush to try everything at once, though. Before you design your first automation, there are a few things to consider:

  • What are your goals? Strategizing is easier if you have a primary marketing goal or metric to focus on.

  • What data or triggers do you have? A condition or event sets the automation in motion, so make a list of data points or triggers you can use, and go from there.

  • Which tools do you need to connect? Lots of apps offer built-in automations, but if you need your apps to talk to each other, Zapier helps you connect thousands of apps to create marketing automations with your existing tools. 

Looking for more marketing automation inspiration? Take a look at Zapier's guide to marketing automation tools.

]]> (Steph Knapp) Thu, 03 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
How to write Instagram captions for your business .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Instagram is for images, but your captions can make or break a post. As a content marketing consultant, I've written more Instagram captions than I can count, both for myself and my clients, and I've seen firsthand how powerful they can be. A snazzy picture or funny Reel might stop your followers' scroll, but it's the caption that can draw them in and help them learn more about you, your business, and the value you provide.

The formula for writing a business Instagram caption

So how do you make the most of this valuable piece of social media real estate? 

The first step is understanding which types of captions drive different actions. Some are great for increasing engagement on your account, while others are better at generating leads and getting people to your website—you need a healthy balance of both.

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There are also some hard rules you should follow. For example, the Instagram caption limit is 2,200 characters, and Instagram shortens your caption after three to four lines, so your first sentence should act as a headline to encourage your audience to read the whole caption.

Copywriter Alex Cattoni explains that Instagram captions need to follow the "ABC's of copywriting":

  • Attention: Grab attention with an intriguing question or an emotional sentence.

  • Benefit: Provide a benefit in the form of education, entertainment, or inspiration.

  • Close: Close your caption with a clear and concise call-to-action.

5 types of Instagram captions for businesses 

Alex outlines five different types of Instagram captions that are particularly effective at driving crucial engagement actions such as likes, saves, shares, comments, and website clicks:

  1. Tell a relatable story

  2. Share helpful tips and tools

  3. Post thought-provoking memes or quotes

  4. Ask simple questions

  5. Provide valuable resources

These work so well because of the "know, like, trust" factor: your customers need to know, like, and trust you before they'll buy from you. 

  • Telling a relatable story helps your audience get to know you. 

  • Posting funny memes or interesting questions will get them to like you. 

  • And sharing helpful tips, tools, and resources will help them trust you as someone who can solve their problems. 

To bring this all together, I'll illustrate how these caption types, coupled with the ABC caption formula, work—using examples from my own business Instagram account.

1. Tell a relatable story

Share real stories—ones that your audience might relate to or see themselves in. The point of this type of post is to help your audience get to know you beyond your service or product, so don't be afraid to get personal.

This is one of my most-liked Instagram posts. The caption is about authenticity and why I felt I had to be someone I wasn't when I started my business. The image is pretty simple, but the caption really resonated with my audience. 

The first sentence ("When I started my business, I felt like I had to be someone I wasn't.") hooks people in with a vulnerable yet relatable confession. The rest of the caption then provides value by sharing how I learned to become more comfortable being myself. While I'll admit the post doesn't have a strong close, as you can see by the level of engagement, it was still effective in building a deeper connection with my audience.

2. Share helpful tips and tools

Short, educational lists are a great way to build trust with your audience by giving them helpful advice or resources that they can apply to their lives. It offers potential customers a taste of the value you provide and will help them be more receptive to your paid offers.

One of my most saved posts was this one I made about my company values. Again, you can see the ABC formula at work. There's the headline-style first sentence ("Let's chat about values, shall we? 🗣"). The body of the caption provides more details about why I've created my company values (the slideshow post shows them). And the caption ends with a question CTA ("What are your brand values? Do you have a company brand guide? Let me know in the comments.") This post works well because it shows people what I stand for and provides a framework for people who might be interested in creating their company values.

3. Post thought-provoking memes or quotes

Memes and quotes are popular post formats because they're super engaging, digestible, and shareable. They instantly elicit an emotional response, and because they're so quick to consume, most people don't think twice about sharing these kinds of posts.  

The quote or meme you post should speak for itself, but you can add more value with a caption that provides context, whether that's a story or helpful advice that relates to the meme or quote.

My most shared post of all time is this Twitter screenshot around name pronunciation.

While the quote here grabbed people's attention, I used the caption to add context. The caption starts with an intriguing headline ("So this little tweet went viral last month…"). The body of the caption goes into what I've learned since the post went viral, and I ended the caption with a strong CTA around asking people how they pronounce their names and why it's important. 

4. Ask simple questions

As the saying goes, you don't get what you don't ask for. The same goes for Instagram post engagement: if you want people to comment more on your posts, ask them a question, and tell them to post their replies in the comments. 

Just make sure it's a simple question that your followers can answer quickly—a yes/no question or even a multiple-choice question. Lots of folks will elaborate on their answers anyway, but you want to keep the barrier to entry low.

One of my posts with the most comments was this Twitter screenshot where I asked a straightforward question: "Is anybody else finding that it takes them super long to do basically anything at this point?"

This post was inspired by the pandemic fatigue I was feeling at the time, and given the level of response, my audience was feeling the same. 

Even though the caption is just one sentence, it follows the ABC formula. It grabs attention, provides a benefit by showing my followers that they're not alone, and includes a CTA to put a "hands up" emoji in the comments if they relate. 

5. Provide valuable resources

Since Instagram currently prohibits users from putting hyperlinks in their captions, it can be challenging for business owners to drive their followers to their website. While Instagram Shopping has made this a little easier, most business owners have to get their followers to go to their profiles and click the link in their bio if they want them to visit their website.

Since this can be a bit of a process for your followers, you need to make it worth their while. That's why the best way to generate leads from Instagram is to give them a highly valuable and relevant resource that will fulfill an urgent need or solve a pressing problem. 

In addition to my content marketing consultancy, I'm also a freelance coach. I offer a variety of tools, courses, and services to help new and aspiring freelance creatives launch and grow their businesses. 

One of the top freelancing questions I get is, "How do I set my rates?" So I created a tool to help my audience do just that. The Instagram caption for the post leads with a headline that addresses my audience's pain point ("'How much should I charge for my freelance services?!' 😣"). Then, I describe the tool and its benefits and end with a strong CTA to download the tool. Because the tool solves a pressing problem for my audience, it's no surprise that this post drove the most website clicks of all time. 

The key to writing winning Instagram captions 

Whether you're posting a relatable story, a funny meme, or a helpful tool, always ask yourself: "What can my audience gain from this?" Writing thoughtful Instagram captions that have your audience's needs and wants in mind will help you build a deep connection between you and your followers that will keep them coming back for more. 

]]> (Jasmine Williams) Wed, 02 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
The 4 best password managers in 2022 .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

As a tech journalist, I've been covering—and personally using—password managers for almost a decade. I've advocated for them every opportunity I had, and even convinced some of my family members to start using them. It's safe to say, this is a category that I care a bit too much about. 

So I spent a few days testing every viable password manager on the market, and here are the four best.

The 4 best password managers

  • 1Password for most people

  • LastPass for people already using LastPass Free

  • Bitwarden for a free password manager

  • Dashlane for a full internet security tool

How do password managers work?

All someone needs to log in to most online accounts is a username (or email address) and password. Ideally, only you would know your password, but as data breach after data breach has shown, that can't be guaranteed. There's a very good reason to believe that if you use the same password for all your accounts, it's been leaked online somewhere. This is a big problem—and it's only getting bigger. 2021 set records for the amount of passwords and other sensitive data that was leaked by hackers. 

If you can't trust that your carefully thought-up, long, complex password—because you do use a long, complex password, right?—is secret, the only way to stay secure online is to use a long, complex, and unique password for every single online account you have. And if you're anything like me, that's a lot of passwords. 

Password managers take care of all that for you. All you have to do is remember a single master password, and it takes care of the rest. A good password manager will automatically generate super strong passwords, fill them in for you when you go to log in to your online accounts, and even allow you to use additional security features like two-factor authentication, without having to worry about downloading extra apps or having your cell phone nearby. In terms of online security, they can be life-changing. 

What makes a great password manager?

There are dozens of password managers available. For this article, I considered almost 40 of them, and—to be blunt—a lot of them are bad. Either their security is lacking (or can't be verified), they're only available on a limited number of platforms, or they're just plain awful to use. 

But because there are so many apps to choose from, we don't have to settle for bad—or even mediocre. I was able to set a really high bar and only include the apps that cleared it. To make this list, apps had to:

  • Be truly cross-platform. Your passwords should be accessible to you everywhere, whether you're using your computer or smartphone, or even a friend's computer. The minimum capability was that an app supported and securely synced all your passwords between at least one desktop and one mobile platform, but in practice, all the apps on this list support Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android, and have browser plugins for Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox, at the very least. And because of their encrypted sync services, your passwords are always available.

  • Generate secure passwords and 2FA codes—and autofill them. In other words, the apps had to be complete password managers that handled everything, not glorified spreadsheets. Once you enter your master password (or use a biometric unlock), you should be automatically logged in to your accounts with, at most, a click or a keyboard shortcut. Also, the apps had to make creating and saving new accounts simple and as automatic as possible. 

  • Support additional security features, like security audits and data breach notifications. I was looking for apps that not only made it so you could use secure passwords, but also continuously protected you. This means apps that let you know if you're using a weak—or hacked—password, help you update and change bad passwords, and otherwise make securing your online life easier. 

  • Be transparent about how passwords are encrypted and secured (and, ideally, third-party audited). Security by obscurity doesn't work. Instead, the best apps are very clear about what technologies they use to keep data safe. Some are open source, some are audited by third-party security companies, and some are just incredibly clear about how they work. But we're confident that all our picks offer incredible security—and will continue to do so. 

  • Nice to use, reliable, and just plain good. Logging in to accounts is something you do every day, so you'll be forced to interact with your password manager a lot. If it's annoying to use, poorly designed, or just bad, it's going to get annoying fast. I have a really low threshold when it comes to bad app experiences, so the highest praise I can offer these picks is that I would happily use any one of them on a daily basis—there are very few apps I'll say that about.

Of course, all of my picks also offer lots of other features, from credit card autofilling and secure notes to sharing passwords with family and private document storage. These are all fully-featured apps. The criteria above were the minimum requirements to make this list, not an exhaustive list of features. 

Each secure password manager on this list has both personal plans for regular users and business or enterprise plans for companies. I focused on the personal plans, but I'm confident that the business plans will offer the same level of ease of use and security if you're looking for a password manager for your business. 

How we tested the password managers

How we evaluate and test apps

All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.

I've been using and testing password management apps for 10 years. For this article, I started by making a list of all the apps that could possibly be considered fully-featured password managers and then checked to see if they met my minimum criteria listed above. Many apps failed out at this stage for any number of reasons. 

Of the 10 or so apps that made the initial cut, over the course of three days, I tried each one on at least two devices and used them to generate passwords, log in to my accounts, and generally just manage my passwords. Of the almost 40 apps I started with, there were only four I felt were worthy of inclusion on this list. Here they are.

Best password manager for most people


A screenshot of 1Password, our pick for the best password manager for most people

1Password is one of the biggest names in password management, and I'd say it's the best option for most people looking for a password manager. It's easy to use, incredibly secure, and widely available, with all your passwords syncing across all your devices. 

Although 1Password started out as a Mac exclusive 15 years ago, it's now available for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and pretty much every browser. That Mac app polish still shows, though. 

1Password is based around the idea of "vaults." Each vault contains your passwords, credit card details, and other autofill information like addresses, as well as up to 1GB of secure notes and documents. You can set up individual vaults for your personal and professional lives (I have one just for all the logins I create while writing these kinds of Zapier articles, for example), and, if you're on a Families or Team plan, securely share them with other people. 

Where 1Password stands out most is how easy it is to use. Password managers have long been built by nerds, for nerds. Unfortunately, with the way online security is going, everyone needs to be able to use secure passwords—not just the most technical-minded. 1Password nails the basics and guides you through every step of setting up secure passwords. 

Take Watchtower. It's the section of 1Password that assesses your ongoing password security. It tells you if any of your passwords are compromised in a hack, are weak, or are duplicates. It also tells you if there are any sites with two-factor authentication that you haven't enabled yet. All this info is presented clearly without any overdramatic warnings, so you can do something about it. 

Right now, 1Password is in the middle of a big upgrade, so things are a little inconsistent between platforms. 1Password 7 is available for macOS, while 1Password 8, which overhauls the user interface, is available on Windows. Expect everything to be a bit more settled by the end of this year.

The biggest downside to 1Password is that there's no free option (unless you're a journalist or politician): it costs $36 per year for one account or $60 per year for up to five family accounts. I'd say online security is worth the fee, but it's understandable that not everyone agrees.

1Password pricing: $36/year for a Personal account; $60/year for Families with up to five accounts.

Best password manager for existing LastPass Free users


A screenshot of LastPass, our pick for the best password manager for LastPass Free users

LastPass is the other big name in password management, and it's an excellent 1Password alternative (although it doesn't really have native desktop apps). It's available for iOS and Android and (through browser extensions) for Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox, as well as macOS, Windows, and Linux. We actually have a full feature-by-feature rundown if you're interested in exploring the small differences between 1Password and LastPass. But there's one big reason LastPass doesn't top this list: customer support. 

Up until last year, LastPass had the best free plan of any password manager, to the point that very few people needed to subscribe to its premium offerings. But that changed, and it wasn't handled especially well. With one month's notice, LastPass limited all free accounts to one device type. You could either access your passwords on your computers or on your mobile devices, but not both. 

To me, this felt like LastPass was attempting to hold people's passwords for ransom in order to get them to upgrade. Passwords and login details are such an important part of online life that when you use a password manager, you should trust that you'll have ongoing access to them. LastPass undermined that. 

Again, this isn't to say that LastPass isn't a great app. LastPass Premium has all the features I'd want, it's easy to use, and it's available everywhere. I happily used it in the past, so if you already use LastPass, there's no reason not to keep using it—and if you have LastPass Free, I'd happily recommend you upgrade to LastPass Premium. But for new users with no existing account, I feel 1Password is the safer option, purely because it has never limited or changed how people are able to access their passwords.

Also, I'm a sucker for a native desktop app. 

LastPass pricing: Free for single device type; $36/year for Premium with unlimited devices; $48/year for Families plan with up to 6 users. 

Best free password manager


A screenshot of BitWarden, our pick for the best free password manager

Bitwarden is the best free password manager. It's the only app I tested that offered almost everything I wanted in a password manager as part of a free plan with no big caveats. It's a little less polished than 1Password, but it's no less effective at keeping your online accounts safe. 

Bitwarden is open-source (so its security credentials are easy to verify) and available for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux. Its browser support is even better: there are extensions for Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera, Vivaldi, Brave, and even Tor Browser. 

One quirk of Bitwarden is that, by default, it doesn't automatically suggest or fill in your login details when a page loads. You have to use the keyboard shortcut Control+Shift+L (or Command+Shift+L on a Mac). If you want to change that, in the browser extension, click Settings > Options and then check Enable Auto-fill on Page Load and set Default Autofill Setting for Login Items to Auto-fill on Page Load

Similarly, it's not quite as good as LastPass or 1Password for auto-detecting and saving new logins as you create them. Instead, the best process is to click the browser extension and then click Add a Login. Then fill in the login details, click the Generate Password icon, then click Save before filling all the information into the account creation form. (That way, you won't accidentally forget to save a password.)

In addition to offering a great free plan, Bitwarden's $10 per year Premium Account is well worth a look. It adds features like Vault Health Reports (which let you know about weak or leaked passwords), 1GB of encrypted file storage, and more advanced two-factor authentication options.

Bitwarden pricing: Free for all important features; Premium Account at $10/year for password health reports, encrypted file storage, and a few other nice-to-have features. 

Best full internet security app that's also a password manager


A screenshot of Dashlane, our pick for the best password manager that's also a full internet security app

Dashlane is as good and easy to use as 1Password and LastPass, but it costs a little more and has a few extra security features that aren't necessary for most people—though they're certainly nice to have.

Dashlane is available for iOS and Android. The desktop apps were recently discontinued, so access on Windows, macOS, and Linux is through the fully featured web app and Google Chrome, Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Firefox browser extensions. 

It's a powerful password manager, but Dashlane also includes a VPN service, so you can browse privately, and it can automatically monitor the Dark Web for your various email addresses to let you know if any of your personal information has been compromised in a hacked database. (Mine was from nine separate hacks.) 

I especially liked Dashlane's Password Health score. While it doesn't do anything different than 1Password's Watchtower, the way it presents the overall quality of your passwords as a percentage is incredibly clear. There's the added motivation to improve the score, which you can do by updating your passwords—which Dashlane also makes easy. For a limited number of sites, you can change your password with a single click. Just click Change Password, and Dashlane will handle the rest. (For most sites, though, the process is a little less automatic.)

So what do these extra features cost? Dashlane is the only app on this list that offers a true monthly subscription (i.e., not billed annually), which starts at $6.49 per month ($78/year) for the Premium plan, although it's $60 per year if you pay up front. That's almost twice the price of 1Password Premium, although the difference is offset if you would otherwise pay for a VPN service as well. 

Dashlane also offers a free account, but it's limited to one device and 50 passwords. It's nice if you want to explore Dashlane, but it's not really a usable password management option for most people. 

Dashlane pricing: Free for a single device and 50 passwords; from $60/year for Premium.

Why can't I use the Google password manager or the Apple password manager?

A lot of people question the very need for a password manager, especially a standalone one. And yes, all major browsers can save your passwords for you and sync them between your different devices. (Apple's password manager, iCloud Keychain, is particularly good across Macs and iPhones.) Still, there are a few big downsides to managing your passwords this way. 

  • They're not synced across different browsers. I use Safari and Chrome for work (as do a lot of people), and the Apple password manager and Google password manager don't play nice with each other.

  • Device support is inconsistent. For example, if you're fully invested in Apple's ecosystem, iCloud Keychain can work, but it still means you can't easily access your passwords from a friend's computer in an emergency.

  • Generating and maintaining secure passwords isn't a major priority for browser manufacturers. While they will suggest and save a good password, they don't offer all the password health checks of our top picks, nor do they make changing passwords as simple. 

Identity theft and data leaks are too common and online accounts too valuable to just leave things up to your default browser. A good password manager is an investment in your security—and one I'd encourage you to make. 

This article was originally published in October 2015 by Jesse Plautz.

]]> (Harry Guinness) Wed, 02 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
It's ok to face-mute .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

We're now years into this great experiment in remote work. It started off as a Zoom, but now it feels more like a plod. Our work lives are lived on camera all day, every day—and it's time to let people take a break.

Face-muting is ok

Communicating remotely isn't new. For ages, we corresponded by mail. Then we added telegraphs, which increased the speed of communication. Then came telephones, which allowed us to communicate beyond cablese. Fax, email, instant message—the communication options continued to grow. 

We didn't see each other's faces, yet business still thrived.

Video calls are great for a lot of things, like screen sharing and picking up on non-verbal cues. But it doesn't mean we always have to stare each other in the face. Because, let's be honest, it's exhausting.

A screenshot of everyone on a Zoom call being video off
The many looks of face mute

We all know it's ok to mute. But I want to make it clear that it's just as ok to face-mute—to turn your camera off—especially in certain situations.

  • When eating. On days when I'm slammed with back-to-back meetings, I often eat during calls. To avoid turning the meeting into a mukbang session, I turn off audio and video. 

  • When multitasking: Not all parts of all meetings I'm at are relevant to me. If folks are talking about something that doesn't pertain to me, I use that time for busywork, like checking Slack. I don't face-mute to hide my multitasking—it's a good use of time—but if I had my video on, it'd be noticeable and distracting to others to see me doing something else.

  • In large group meetings. If no one's going to see you anyway, feel free to give yourself a break, so you don't have to worry if people noticed the weird way you itched your ear.

  • When you don't have your game face on. We're not camera-ready 100% of the time. While time-shifting to accommodate time zones, I've popped into 5 a.m. meetings. I'm not getting up at 4:45 a.m. to get my game face on, and believe me, you don't want to see my face at that hour.

And there's one more big one: face-mute whenever you feel like it

How to encourage people not to face-mute

Yes, it's ok—and sometimes important—to keep your camera off during a video call. But it's also nice to see people's faces sometimes, and the visual aspect of synchronous communication has obvious benefits. 

Instead of issuing a hard edict, you can encourage attendees to show their faces by implementing a few strategies.

  • Have an agenda and share it ahead of time. It lets those who are multitasking know when something will be relevant to them. Instead of defaulting to camera-off the whole time, they can turn their camera on when it's a pertinent agenda item.

  • Keep things concise. It's easier to put your game face on if it's a shorter meeting, and people might be more open to camera-on for 15 minutes than 45. Don't schedule a one-hour meeting just because it's the calendar default. 

  • Ask engaging questions or use breakout rooms for small group discussions. People are more likely to show their faces if they're actually participating.

  • Don't record the meeting unless it's really necessary. Being on camera all day is tiring enough. Knowing that it's going to be recorded and live forever in the bowels of Skynet—uh, the internet—adds another layer of pressure. If a recording is necessary, add timestamps so people can easily skip to relevant sections, and enable closed captions and/or transcripts so people can get the context without staring at everyone's recorded faces. As an added bonus, it'll make your meetings more accessible.

I concede that meetings are sometimes (I repeat—sometimes!) necessary, but you can decrease the burden of being camera-on all the time. It may not be a full zoom anymore, but see if you can at least turn that plod into an amble.

]]> (Michelle S.) Wed, 02 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT
5 ways to automate your marketing operations and processes .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

Marketing campaigns and strategies would have limited success without marketing operations processes happening behind the scenes. From running lead generation campaigns to communicating with customers to generating data reports, these processes—and the tools they require—allow your marketing channels to succeed.

With all these elements to manage, it's no wonder that marketers and marketing ops professionals tend to be automation power users. There isn't enough time in the day to manage marketing efforts manually. 

With an automation tool like Zapier, you can connect the apps you use every day to cut down on manual work. Here are the top ways marketers use Zaps—what we call our automated workflows—to save time, improve data accuracy, and stay organized.

Automate your marketing operations

  • Lead management

  • Segmenting subscribers

  • Customer communication

  • Data reporting and analytics

  • Cleaning up data

You'll need a Zapier account to use the workflows in this piece. If you don't have an account yet, it's free to get started.

Lead management

Managing leads is a full-time job in itself. For starters, you're managing multiple channels to attract prospects to your business. You also have to clean up lead information and store it in one place, so you can nurture those leads to become paying customers. And then you need to track what they're doing. 

It's exhausting just reading that list. Automating those tasks with Zapier ensures that you're preserving your finite energy for strategic problem-solving.   

Lead generation

Potential customers need to see the same marketing message multiple times in different channels before they bite. You're likely managing a stack of tools to source those leads, such as various forms and social media ads.

You can organize leads from multiple sources into a centralized place with a few Zaps. Just click on one below to get started:

Lead tracking

Tracking your leads' journey helps you make informed decisions on how your marketing campaigns are performing and how they're resonating—or not resonating—with potential customers. 

You can automatically track conversions  with the following Zaps:

Lead nurture

When done appropriately, nurture campaigns can turn prospects into paying customers—or keep existing customers coming back—through well-timed messages that encourage them to take a particular action.

While we can't write the nurture campaigns for you, Zapier can make enrolling leads in a nurture campaign easier when they've taken a particular action. Try any of the Zaps below:

Segmenting subscribers

Have you ever received an email from a company that seemed wildly out of touch with how you use their product? It's likely because they didn't segment their subscribers. 

Segmentation is a critical part of any marketing strategy because you want to speak to potential and existing customers at the right moment to influence a purchasing decision. (And you don't want them to unsubscribe.)

If you need to clean up your segmentation workflow, try the Zaps below, which will tag leads when they take a particular action.  

Customer communication

It's hard enough responding to Slack messages from your own team. And while your coworkers may forgive you for leaving them unread, your leads and customers won't. Automation can help your team stay on top of communication at each stage of the customer journey. 

Notify team about new leads

Timely follow-up is universal business etiquette, but especially so in marketing. You know there's a limited amount of time to capitalize on a prospect's interest. 

If personalized introductions are part of your process, then your team needs to know when there's a new lead. You can use these automated workflows to automate lead notifications in your preferred communication channels:

Automatically message new leads

Maybe you don't have the bandwidth to send a custom message to a new lead, but you'd like some form of personalization. You can still benefit from automating responses to leads. These Zaps will send personalized messages to prospects using information they've submitted:

Send post-purchase notifications

Of course, the work isn't done once you've acquired a customer. Automation can help you manage timely messages with customers after they've made a purchase, whether it's a simple transactional email or enrolling them in a post-purchase nurture series. 

If you want to go the distance—and why wouldn't you—you can also segment customers based on purchases they've made. 

Collect and organize feedback

Whether you're soliciting feedback at the beginning or end of the customer journey, you need a place to organize that information so you can use those insights later. 

While many form apps have native integrations with spreadsheet products, you can use Zaps to route feedback to a specific sheet based on how customers respond. 

Start with the Zaps below:

And then add a filter between or a path step at the end to route specific feedback to your desired location. 

Data reporting and analytics

Marketing ops professionals are often the chief data wranglers, pulling all sorts of information from siloed channels to create reports and make strategy recommendations. It's a herculean task because it often requires streamlining and cleaning up data. And if you don't have a designated MOPs lead, it can be even harder to get the job done. 

You can use automation to save time, improve reporting accuracy, and, most importantly, get a holistic view of campaign performance. (And everyone will think you're a wizard.)

Streamlining data between apps

Marketers deeply relate to the problem of having too many apps to keep track of, many of which don't make it easy to sync data. That's why spreadsheets are often the makeshift solution. 

Here are a few Zaps you can use to move the data from your super spreadsheets to your main source of truth. 

Generating reports

Spreadsheets are incredibly powerful and flexible, but sometimes a specific data or analytics app will do the job better. 

You can use automated workflows to create measurements in Google Analytics for specific activity that you want to measure outside of your website, such as calendar bookings.  

To create more advanced charts or dashboards, these Zaps will push your data to apps such as Databox or Hotjar. 

Keeping your team notified

Data helps everyone on the marketing team make decisions and strategy recommendations, so they're likely to be interested in the latest report. Instead of begging your team to read your latest insights, set up a Zap that will automatically send alerts. 

Cleaning up data

Marketing ops teams are perpetually on clean-up duty, trying to keep data tidy so you can run marketing campaigns efficiently. 

While there's a certain zen in tidying things up, constant data errors and formatting issues cause major headaches—and take you away from the problem-solving and strategy work you prefer.

Automating alerts can help you catch data errors right away. Set up a few Zaps like the ones below so you can troubleshoot early. 

You can also automatically format data as it comes in. If you're constantly reformatting dates, separating first names from last, or other types of information, these Zaps will take care of that work for you. 

Note: Formatter and multi-step Zaps are available on our paid plans and during the first two weeks of a free Zapier trial. 

Keep your marketing processes flowing with automation 

The processes running your marketing campaigns don't have to be chaotic. Automation can be the sidekick that helps you manage your tools and processes more efficiently, so you can devote time to problem-solving and strategizing for your next big campaign. 

New to Zapier? It's a tool that helps anyone connect apps and automate workflows—without any complicated code. Sign up for free.

]]> (Krystina Martinez) Tue, 01 Mar 2022 08:00:00 GMT
How to use Notion as a to-do list (with template) .css-rclntc-Outer{overflow:auto;}.css-rclntc-Outer > *{margin-bottom:20px;margin-top:20px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H2{margin-top:60px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > H3{margin-top:40px;}.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:20px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:20px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:20px;scroll-margin-top:20px;}@media (min-width:660px){.css-rclntc-Outer > [id]{-webkit-scroll-margin-top:100px;-moz-scroll-margin-top:100px;-ms-scroll-margin-top:100px;scroll-margin-top:100px;}}

There's a reason we all love Notion: it's a nearly perfect blend of customizable and functional. It can be your word processor, your database, your Kanban board—you name it. 

But one thing it really isn't built to be? Your to-do list.

Turn your Notion workspace into an information hub
Automate Notion

Sure, there are ways to make Notion work as a to-do list, but as the great Dr. Malcolm so eloquently put it, we've been so preoccupied with whether or not we could that we never stopped to think if we should.

I'll freely admit that I'm one of those people who keeps trying to turn Notion into my sole project management tool. I've created my own to-do list in Notion that works pretty well for me (which I'll share below, in case you're a glutton for punishment like I am). 

But I firmly believe that using Notion as a task manager isn't the right fit for everyone—and that's ok. I'll also give you a couple of ideas for integrating Notion into your task management process in other ways, if granular customization just isn't your thing.

Why I keep returning to Notion as a to-do list

The best to-do list apps are the ones that let you brain-dump your tasks, organize them to your heart's content, and see all of your upcoming to-dos across all of your projects, both work and personal. But in my experience, these apps are seriously limited in other important ways.

For example, as a freelance writer, I want a robust database for my client and business projects. I also want the option to use different views, like Kanban, Gantt charts, and a calendar. And I want different (and customizable) ways to visualize my goals, projects, and tasks in a way that makes sense to me.

In short, I want the granular control of Notion without losing the best qualities of a great to-do list app. And I'm proud to say that after (too many) hours of experimentation, I think I've arrived at the solution.

Notion to-do list template

If you want to give my method a try, here's the link to my Notion to-do list template. Simply click that link and then click Duplicate in the upper-right corner to create your own copy and start customizing it to your own preferences.

Below, I'll walk you through my custom Notion task manager and how I've (mostly) successfully made up for each of Notion's biggest weaknesses.

1. Create a dashboard and your preferred views

The first and biggest shortcoming is that Notion doesn't have one central place that notifies you of all upcoming deadlines. So if you want to use Notion as a to-do list, you'll need to use one task list for everything—work and personal alike.  

I created a database (creatively titled "To-Do List"). Then I set up a dashboard page titled "Task Manager," where I have quick access to various views (or filtered, linked databases) of the to-do list.

For any way you like to organize or think about your tasks, create a page with that view in it. 

I personally don't like the calendar as my main view, since there's no weekly calendar view option in Notion (yet). So instead, the main view on my dashboard is a Board view grouped by date, with empty days hidden from view.

Notion to-do list

Just remember to filter out completed tasks on all of your views so that your to-do list only shows what still needs to be done. You can always create a separate archive page if you'd like to see all of your completed tasks in one place.

2. Set up relations to your projects

Because you have to use one to-do list for work and personal, I recommend making use of the relations feature to keep yourself organized. You can create higher-level projects in other pages or databases in Notion, then send actionable subtasks to your to-do list using relations. 

Let's look at my freelance project planner as an example.

Project planner in Notion, with different views linked along the top

I created a relation between my project planner and my to-do list database. And to save time, I've created templates in my project planner. 

When I create a new project from a template, it automatically populates with a filtered, linked to-do list database. Here's a screenshot of the filters I used in a template (for this very article!) so that any new subtasks are automatically categorized correctly and linked to the new freelance project.

Creating a relation between the project planner and the to-do list

3. Use an "inbox" view for quick-adding tasks

One thing you want in any to-do list app is the ability to brain-dump your task ideas. You don't want to have to schedule or sort every new task into its proper category right then and there.

That's why below the "Upcoming" view in my task manager dashboard, I have a running list of all undated tasks. If I think of something I'd like to do, I simply open my task manager, quickly add it to that list, and don't worry about filling in all the properties until later. 

The "inbox" in the Notion to-do list template

This "inbox" is a great way to see all undated tasks at a glance so that I can do them if (and when) I feel like it. I'm keeping track of all my noncritical to-dos without putting too much work into organizing or scheduling them. But they're readily visible on my dashboard, so I don't have to worry about forgetting something important.

4. Have a system for recurring tasks

Notion doesn't have a recurring task function—not great for a task manager (which, to be fair, Notion isn't).

If you have a checklist that contains repeating items (like a weekly grocery trip or monthly invoice), you'll have to remember to roll the due date forward manually instead of checking it off as completed. Otherwise, that task will disappear from your to-do list if that list is filtered to show only uncompleted tasks.

My workaround for this problem is to create a property for "Repeating," then make sure my filter doesn't filter out completed tasks that have that property. 

Creating a repeating property in Notion

This is a bit clunky, but it works for me. Another solution would be to automate the process with a tool like Zapier. By integrating Notion and Zapier, Zapier can automatically create a task in your Notion to-do list daily, weekly, or monthly. 

Zapier lets you automatically send information from one app to another, helping you reduce manual tasks. Learn more about how Zapier works.

Alternatively: Use Notion for macro-level items and another app for your tasks

While I'm pretty happy with my to-do list in Notion so far, I feel I should repeat: Notion isn't an intuitive task manager. It won't work for everyone as a to-do list. 

Notion's primary advantage lies in its combination of blank-canvas notebook design and extremely robust databases. For that reason, you might only use Notion to organize all of your higher-level documents and data. Turn to your Notion workspace anytime you need to:

  • Take notes

  • Keep a journal

  • Brainstorm goals

  • Track projects

That way, you're maximizing the organizational power and customizable views that Notion does best. 

But any time you have a project or goal in Notion, send the actionable tasks to another, simpler app that you use as your daily to-do list. Going back to my freelance project planner, here's how I've used Zapier to automate my to-do list using both Todoist and Google Calendar—but you should use the app that's most familiar to you.

Notion to Todoist 

In this system, every time I add a new project to my freelance project planner in Notion, Zapier sends that project to Todoist.

The Todoist task was set due the Monday before its real due date. Then, when I check Todoist on Mondays, I see every project due that week. I can plan out subtasks (and divide them evenly throughout the week) from there.

Notion to Google Calendar

Similarly, I've had Zapier send every new database item in my freelance project planner straight to my Google Calendar. This was when I went through a phase of using my calendar as my combination to-do list and daily schedule. 

Because I usually set client deadlines for Fridays, all of my projects showed up on Fridays, set as all-day events. Then I'd check Google Calendar every Sunday night to see what needed to get done that week. I'd plan out my week in hourly increments from there. 

Here's a screenshot of a week where I used this process.

Notion projects moved over to Google Calendar

You can see the projects are on Friday, and I broke them down into subtasks during the week. I liked this process because I used Google Calendar as a record of how I actually spent my time. You can be sure that my week looked a lot less chaotic when I was planning it, but I adjusted events' times and durations according to what really happened throughout the week.

Sure, you could… but should you use Notion as your to-do list?

Notion is an amazing tool. It's nearly unmatched in its flexibility, customization, and aesthetics—but it's also severely lacking in task management features. 

If you like having granular control over your to-do list and don't mind creating a completely custom task manager dashboard at the outset (or using my Notion task manager template!), Notion can be a great to-do list. You just have to be ready to make up for the obvious drawbacks.

On the other hand, if you stress out about due dates slipping through the cracks and don't want to do a lot of manual setup at first, Notion might not be the right solution for you. In that case, I recommend using Zapier to connect Notion to your favorite to-do list app. 

There's a perfect system out there for everyone—go find yours.

]]> (Nicole Replogle) Tue, 01 Mar 2022 05:00:00 GMT