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Financial Advice

Save Time and Increase Accuracy With Zapier

This web-based service can help you automate workflows based on your various apps and processes.

New technologies are making it easier than ever to run our advisory businesses more efficiently. Yet with each new tool we add, the more complex our daily workflows become, as we have to learn how to use new systems and effectively incorporate them into our processes. We may even have to cross reference multiple systems to ensure basic data is consistent, correct, and in front of the right people at the right time.

While many fintech platforms are increasingly adding integrations with key advisory software and account custodians as a selling point, not all of our tools have a built-in ability to talk to each other. Thankfully, an app called Zapier exists to solve that problem, helping you and your team complete your workday more efficiently and effectively, with workflows and processes on autopilot.

What is Zapier?Zapier (rhymes with "happier") is a web-based service that allows you to integrate your web applications, move data between them, and automate processes and workflows by creating "Zaps" based on certain events (or "Triggers"). At present, Zapier integrates with more than 1,000 different apps, including several that many advisors already use, such as WealthBox CRM, Redtail CRM, Salesforce, Office 365, Google Suite, Slack, and more. With an intuitive, do-it-yourself design, Zapier enables anyone to create workflows across multiple applications without requiring any coding knowledge. The basic plan is free for simple one-to-one connections, while the paid plans start at $20 per month and include multiapp connections with more complex workflows, as well as access to several premium app integrations.

How Zapier Works Zapier relies on the application programming interfaces of web apps in order to connect them. An application programming interface is a set of clearly defined tools and building blocks that a computer programmer can use to more easily enable different apps to communicate with each other. Zapier acts as the translator, listening for certain events on one end, then triggering new events (such as data movement) on the other.

After signing up for an account, users can set up their own integrations by creating "Zaps" that automate certain workflows for you. Creating a Zap is surprisingly straightforward, and as simple as linking one or more of your existing web apps (your CRM), selecting a "Trigger" event (such as a client anniversary date, or the addition of a new prospect), and combining it with an "Action" or series of Actions that perform certain tasks for you automatically (like sending a reminder email to you or your staff, or creating a contact and kicking off a workflow within your CRM). Zapier also includes several built-in apps that can perform certain Actions for you, such as filtering results; creating text messages, emails and phone calls; reformatting data; and many more.

How Zapier Can Help With the ability to integrate your various web apps and automate workflows, the opportunities to increase accuracy, reliability, and save precious time are abundant. The following are examples of Zaps that you may consider implementing in your own practice.

New Prospects If, like many advisors, you have some sort of contact form on your website, you may find that you or someone on your team is having to not only respond to these inquiries, but record them in other systems. With Zapier, you can create a Zap with a contact or client application form submission set as the Trigger. Then, add Actions to create a new contact in your CRM software with certain fields already filled out using data you've collected with your form. If your email client is integrated with your CRM and set up to save emails to the appropriate contact, then any further email communication with your new prospect is now automatically captured in your CRM, without your having to take any action.

You might also create additional Zaps to automatically send team email notifications about new prospects, add prospects to your firm’s email newsletter, or kick off a prospect conversion process, perhaps starting with a draft email automatically created in your outbox ready to be customized and sent to your new potential client about next steps.

Risk Tolerance A number of risk profiling tools exist on the market today, but some advisors may choose to create their own system for getting a sense of a client's appetite for investment risk. After creating your own risk tolerance questionnaire using a form-building web app, you can set up a Zap to record these responses in a spreadsheet. With the questionnaire submission the Trigger, your subsequent Action can store question responses in Excel or a Google Sheet. Once in a spreadsheet, your client's responses can be automatically formatted or perhaps assigned a numerical score, which in turn can be automatically matched with a suggested, potential portfolio of your design. An additional Zap could continuously check for new entries in your risk tolerance database spreadsheet, then automatically add a note to the appropriate client contact's record in your CRM software indicating the date they completed the questionnaire, the score they received, and the potential, correlating portfolio based on their score.

Client Dates and Events Though we may be diligent about recording client anniversaries, birthdays, or other important events, taking action on them is another story. With clean data in your CRM software, you can create Zaps with one of these dates as the Trigger, and then specify what kind of Action needs to take place on, before, or after said date. For a client's birthday, you may want Zapier to create a draft email in your outbox with a template message that could be further customized, or perhaps you'd prefer an email reminder sent to you so that you can put a physical card or gift in the mail. If using a scheduling web app (such as Calendly, ScheduleOnce, or others) you might create a Zap that is set to Trigger on the creation of newly scheduled client or prospect meetings, then automatically add these as events in your CRM software, and create a reminder email or task for you to add details to the meeting record once it's taken place.

There are far more ways advisors can leverage Zapier to automate workflows based on their web apps and processes. In each case, try mapping out your workflow in advance to visualize how you’d like it to work, and what you want to automate. Zapier is intuitive enough that anyone can dive in and test out different integrations, which can be a good way to find inspiration for processes you may not have considered automating. Zapier will also suggest integrations and Zaps based on the web apps you connect to it, with detailed tutorials on how to set each of them up. Once you create your first few Zaps, you’ll be hooked on workflow automation, reliability, and saving you and your team valuable time.

Ben Brown is a certified financial planner and an IRS-enrolled agent. He is the founder of Entelechy, a fee-only financial planning and investment management firm based in Bethesda, Maryland, serving clients in the Washington, D.C., area and nationally.

The author is a freelance contributor to The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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