So, yes, it’s a fantastic piece of software.
Zapier is in a category of software called middleware, which allows different software systems to work with each other. It’s not exactly a new concept, but the way Zapier designed this middleware is definitely different than the others. In short, they’ve designed it for the masses. Anyone can sign up for it and have their CRM talking to their marketing automation application in minutes. No joke.
That’s what it does. And it does it very well – but not perfectly.
Anyone looking into using Zapier needs to be aware what they might be getting into. So for your reading pleasure, I’ve assembled the nine pitfalls to watch for when using Zapier.
Let’s dive in!
Pitfall 1 – It’s tricky to learn
Although Zapier was designed to be easy to use, let’s not kid ourselves. It’s a software application, and all software takes some getting used to.
Think about the applications you use all the time – Outlook or Google Calendar, Word, Excel, or even Facebook. You didn’t know how to use them the first time you tried them, or even the second or the third time. (I’m still a little fuzzy on how some aspects of Facebook work, and I’m on it a lot.)
So, you can’t expect to naturally know how to use an application right from the start. And Zapier involves some concepts that may be foreign to non-technical users. For example, Zapier requires “mapping,” which is when you tell Zapier that you want the data in the First Name field from your CRM to go into the First Name field in your marketing automation system. Seems pretty straightforward, but to someone who has never done this, it can be … well, confusing.
Plus, you have to go through a number of steps to create a “Zap” (Zapier’s word for an integration). Once you’ve done it 10 times, it’s no big deal, but it’s definitely a challenge to grasp the purpose of all the steps the first couple times you go through them.
Pitfall 2 – Errors can be hard to resolve
As you set up Zaps, you’ll occasionally run into errors. Sometimes when this happens, you’ll get a clear error message and know exactly what to do. But other times, you’ll get a cryptic message and have no idea how to resolve the issue.
To provide some context, I’ve created hundreds of Zaps, and I’ve run into some sort of issue on about half of them. Some are definitely user error (me!), but others are not.
On a positive note, when I run into an error I can’t resolve, I’ve found that their customer service is excellent. You can’t call them, but they respond to tickets very quickly.
Pitfall 3 – You can’t interface with all of your applications
Yes, Zapier works with over 500 applications, but there are hundreds of thousands of applications out there. So, the actual interface represents a very small subset of systems.
Fortunately, many of the most widely-used applications are part of the platform. So, you can confidently expect systems like Salesforce, Zoho CRM, SugarCRM, Hubspot, MailChimp, SurveyMonkey, Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Gmail, Google Calendar and others to be available.
On the other hand, if you use an industry-specific practice management system or any ERP, you might be out of luck.
Pitfall 4 – You may still need to create integrations outside of Zapier
Even if the two applications you want to integrate are both on the Zapier platform, they still may not work the way you need them to work. Because Zapier must accommodate so many different types of applications while trying to maintain a uniform user experience, it has had to make tough decisions on how deep integrations can go.
It’s always worth a test to see if Zapier can meet your needs. While this platform can save you lots of time and money, you won’t get any ROI if your applications aren’t part of its menu. In that case, you might have to lean on good ol’ custom API-to-API work.
Pitfall 5 – Some apps are limited in what they can do
Sometimes I’m surprised at how much you can do with an application through Zapier. But at other times, I’m disappointed at how little you can do.
Although Zapier is very much about trying to create a common user experience, they leave it up to the individual applications to decide on what functionality they want to provide through Zapier.
So, there may be one CRM that allows you to add accounts, contacts, leads, opportunities, events, and tasks, while another CRM only allows you to add contacts.
Even among the same types of applications, what they offer can vary widely.
Pitfall 6 – Updating? Hard
Zapier itself admits that it’s not great at allowing for updating. So adding new data is generally a breeze, but updating an existing record can be challenging.
For example, let’s say that when you add a new contact in Salesforce, you also want them added to your Quickbooks Online system as a customer. No problemo.
But, if you then update that contact’s address in Salesforce, you also want it updated in Quickbooks, right? Uh, wrong.
In this example, Quickbooks doesn’t offer the ability to update a customer. This is a very common challenge with Zapier.
But Zapier is getting better at trying to resolve this issue. Many apps now allow you to map unique identifiers so the interface knows what record to update. But, it’s still a problem for many apps that work with Zapier.
Pitfall 7 – It can shut a Zap off without your permission
The software companies that participate in the Zapier ecosystem are commonly updating and improving the functionality offered. In some cases, Zapier will sense that an update is too intrusive and will automatically turn off a Zap – without your say-so or even your awareness.
Problematic? Sure. Say that every time a contact is added to your Hubspot account you get an email notification from your Gmail account. If you don’t get any email notifications, you may just assume that no contacts have been added to Hubspot when, in fact, your Zap may have been turned off.
Normally, Zapier will send you an email when this happens to alert you, but as we all know, email ain’t perfect.
Pitfall 8 – You may have to re-create a Zap
As noted above, your Zap may be turned off if the software provider makes changes to their offering. But, it may go beyond just having to log back into Zapier and turn your Zap back on.
In some cases, you will have to recreate your Zap – if an application provider changes the names of their fields, for example. In this case, if your Zap is using the old names, it won’t work anymore.
In that situation, you won’t need to completely delete your Zap; you can just edit it. It’s a bit of a hassle, but not too difficult to do.
Pitfall 9 – Premium apps require a higher tier
Premium apps are those applications that Zapier deems to be of higher value. Thus, premium apps are not available on the free tier. However, they are available on every tier above the free one.
Pitfalls aside, Zapier is an amazing tool. It’s revolutionary in how it delivers a simple, cost-effective way for businesses to have their software applications talk to each other.
I highly recommend you try it. But you may want to print out this pitfall list and keep it pinned next to your monitor – just in case.
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