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Superhighways offers advice, training and IT support to help small charities and community organisations across London be more effective, raise their profile and demonstrate their impact using digital technology.

Use this Guide to set up an alert on one platform (such as Microsoft Teams) when a new person joins your email list on another platform (such as Mailchimp). 

You might want to do this so you can check who signed up or so you can make sure someone sends them a custom welcome email. 

Superhighways use a tool called Zapier which can connect different platforms to complete a task (for example, sending an alert).

Steps to automating actions with Zapier

Automation and integration tools like Zapier can help you:

  • save time spent on administrative tasks

  • make sure your data is up to date across all the places it is stored

  • ensure your data is secure

  • keep track of what tasks have been completed and which ones still need to be done

  • connect up the programmes that you use, so that they can ‘talk’ to each other.

Before you start exploring automation, it’s important to understand every step of your existing process.

Map what happens when someone joins your email list, from their point of view, and from yours. Note down the different tools that you use.

Be mindful of data protection regulations like GDPR. Automation can help make your data more secure, but you still need to think about who will have access to what information, and why.

Superhighways help small charities and community organisations in London. They offer advice and training about using digital tools as well as IT support.

The team found that they had some problems with their email list data. Data was stored in several places, and there were many duplicate records.

When someone new joins their email list, the team checks to see if they are already in the database. For example, with a different email address. They also like to send them a personal welcome email.

The Superhighways team had already set up Mailchimp to send an email alert when someone subscribed. But there were problems:

  • the team use MS Teams chat instead of email for most things
  • notifications went to the generic ‘info@’ email address used for the account

  • the generic email inbox wasn’t checked very often

  • it wasn’t clear when someone in the team had read the email and taken action.

Zapier is a tool which can connect two different pieces of software so that they can work together. Zapier opens a secure door between two programmes. In this example, it connects Mailchimp to MS Teams, so that an action taken in one has an effect in the other.

There are other integration and automation tools, such as Make and Microsoft Power Automate. Make can create automations with lots of steps. Microsoft Power Automate only works with Microsoft products.

Zapier and Make have a list of different programmes that they can connect to each other. These include popular tools such as Facebook, Salesforce, Airtable, and Google products. If a programme that you want to use isn’t on the list, you may be able to connect to it via an API, which stands for Application Programming Interface.

When you are choosing an automation tool, think about:

  • whether it already works with the software you want to use

  • how much of your process you would like to automate

  • how much it costs.

Superhighways were already using a programme (Mailchimp) that isn’t a Microsoft product, so they couldn’t use Microsoft PowerAutomate.

The automation they wanted to set up only has a single step, so they didn’t need to pay more for Make, which can handle complex integrations.

They chose Zapier because it has a free plan which includes 3 single-step automations.

In Zapier, each automated task is called a ‘zap’. Every zap has two parts: a trigger event and an action event. The trigger event is what tells Zapier to carry out the task. The action event is the end result.

Once you are logged in to Zapier, choose the first piece of software in your task from the list of apps, for example Mailchimp. When you have selected the right app, use the drop down menu below to choose from the list of suggested trigger events, such as a new subscriber.

On the next step you will be prompted to log in to your Mailchimp account, to give Zapier access.

After that you can add more details to your trigger event, if needed. For example, you could specify that the new subscriber has joined a particular list.

Finally, Zapier will test the trigger you have set up to make sure it works and they can access what they need to.

Setting up the trigger in Zapier

Superhighways chose a new subscriber in Mailchimp as their trigger event. They currently have one Mailchimp audience group so they did not need to think about which audience or segment the new subscriber was joining. That might be something that they explore in the future.

The other half of the ‘zap’ is the action event. This is the event you would like to happen in response to the trigger.

The main steps are exactly the same:

  1. Select the programme you would like to use from the app list

  2. Choose the app event from the drop down menu

  3. Log in with your account to give Zapier access

  4. Add more details to the action

  5. Test the action.

However, if you are creating the automation from this example (a new Mailchimp subscriber triggers a notification in MS Teams) there may be a small extra step.

In step 2 above you can choose whether the notification should be posted in a Teams chat, or in a Teams channel.

If you would like the notification to appear in a Teams channel, you will be prompted to install an app called Zapier Team into Microsoft Teams. You might need permission from the admin of your workplace Teams account to do this.

The Superhighways team chose a Teams channel message rather than a chat message for their action event. This is because:

  • The notification would be visible to the whole team.

  • They use chat constantly to discuss work, so the notification might be missed in the flow of messages.

  • They use the channel for announcements, so people are more likely to see and respond to new posts quickly.

When they were setting up the action event, the team could choose how much information to include in the notification message. For example, it could simply say that someone had subscribed.

Superhighways set up the event so that the message included the new subscriber’s name and email address. That way, they could contact them without needing to log in to Mailchimp.

Everyone with access to their Teams channel is also cleared for access to the data stored in Mailchimp. That meant it was safe for Superhighways to share people’s data in this way.

After you have set up both the trigger and the action, you can test the whole zap to see if the automated task works from beginning to end. If it doesn’t work the way you expected, try adjusting the different steps to understand what’s going wrong.

When you’re happy that the automation works the way you want, show your colleagues how it is set up and how it works. Make sure they understand the new system, what to expect, and what they will need to do differently.

Using Zapier to integrate Mailchimp and MS Teams has helped Superhighways save time on admin tasks and enabled them to welcome new subscribers more quickly.

They have used the same integration to set up another automation which sends a Teams message whenever somebody unsubscribes.

Further information