[We're pleased to share this in-house perspective from Laura Toledo, rockstar, tech geek, and Communications and Marketing Manager at Nilan Johnson Lewis. Originally published on Laura's Will Write for Tacos blog:]
This is for my DIYers at smaller firms unfamiliar with automation. It’s assumed you know what JD Supra has to offer. If not, hit me up.
Our firm uses JD Supra. In the early months of the pandemic, I was overwhelmed with the amount of content we were producing while also realizing that we needed to beef up our business development game. Through JD Supra, we have access to actual names and titles of folks at companies we’d love to work for (and who were reading our content). But who had time to monitor that when we’re producing 1-4 articles a day?
In the end, I was looking to solve two problems:
- How often should I pull reader statistics for my attorneys?
- How the heck do I remember to pull those statistics at intervals?!
HOW OFTEN DO I PULL READER STATISTICS FOR MY ATTORNEYS?
Luckily, Paul Ryplewski of JD Supra fame, answered this question for me. He wrote, in one of his many great “Tip of the Week” emails, that it’s best to pull reader reports at:
Which gets to my second issue…
HOW THE HECK DO I REMEMBER TO PULL THOSE STATISTICS AT INTERVALS?!
At some point, it dawned on me that I could use automation to do the reminding for me.
For those of you going “Oh crap, technology!”, I’m going to break it down step-by-step. You can absolutely do this.
Before before doing that, let me outline why this automation is great for me (and hopefully you!):
- It saves me SO MUCH TIME. So much time.
- It gives me a chance to review articles at those intervals to spot trends. Do certain companies appear often? Across practices? If you’re hooked up to your attorney’s relationship activities, you can spot those targets and pass along those trends.
- It ups your value as a marketer. The holy grail in this industry is a name with a title and company. Even LinkedIn paid ads can’t give us that info. But now you’re providing sales data on a regular basis (again, without a ton of effort), and your attorneys will appreciate the useful data!
- Learning automation can open doors. Automation isn’t for everyone, but once I got a handle on the process, I could see other ways to connect data from different systems and apps IN ONE PLACE. (I am in nerd heaven, no joke.) I outline a couple of these at the bottom, in case you’re interested in a few other ideas.
Let’s get on with how-tos!
HERE ARE THE TWO THINGS YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS WORK:
- A calendar on any of the major players (Office 365, Google, anything with an API). You can swap out the calendar app for a task manager or other reminder apps. It might take a bit more knowledge for some, but the basic framework below should help.
- An account on IFTTT or Zapier*.
- Both apps include access to Outlook and Google calendars.
- Also, they are both “freemiums” – so they are initially free with limitations, but you can upgrade if you want it to do more things.
- Zapier is the more powerful of the two. IFTTT kinda looks easier, but it doesn’t auto-test these triggers, so you have no idea if they’re working (unless you know some codes) until it happens in real-time.
THE CONCEPT OF AUTOMATION TRIGGERS
Mentioned above is the IFTTT app. The name is an acronym for IF This Then That. In other words, if <this thing> happens, then <this other thing> happens.
To put it in context:
IF This: the trigger here is an article posted on our JD Supra profile.
Then That: a reminder is created on my calendar that alerts me in 1 week, 1 month, 1 year.
So, an article is posted to our JD Supra profile, then alerts are set up to remind me to grab stats at those intervals – ALL WITHOUT ME HAVING TO DO IT.
Sweet, right? Here’s how to do it.
SETTING UP AUTOMATIONS
STEP 1: GRAB YOUR FIRM’S JD SUPRA RSS URL
You don’t have to know what “RSS” or URL” stands for to do this!
- Go to your firm’s JD Supra portfolio (the public-facing profile, not your dashboard).
- Scroll down a bit to find the RSS icon under your left-side profile.
3. Copy that RSS URL (hover your mouse over the RSS icon and right click > copy). Keep it handy or save it somewhere you can find it.
STEP 2: HEAD TO ZAPIER OR IFTTT
I’ll use Zapier as an example. I’m skipping over the “how to sign up part.” Make sure that you follow along with the directions to approve your calendar authentication with Zapier (it’ll walk you through).
- Once you’re logged into Zapier, hit Make a Zap (first button on the upper left side). “Zap” is Zapier’s cutesy name for automation.
2. On the new screen, locate “RSS” and click on it.
3. On the new page, use the drop-down menu to select “New Item in Feed” as your trigger event. Then select Continue.
4. Grab your JD Supra RSS URL and paste in the “Feed URL” field. You can ignore the rest – hit Continue.
5. Here’s where you can test your Feed URL. If you hit “Test Trigger,” Zapier will tell you whether it can pull data from the URL to successfully complete your action. If all looks good (like below), hit Continue.
6. Next we set up our action (the “then that” part). You can either search for your calendar of choice or select one on the screen. For this example, I’ll use Google Calendar.
7. If you haven’t connected to your calendar app to Zapier yet, this is where you’ll do it. Just follow the directions to authenticate. Then, select the type of event you want to create. Quick Add Event just uses a title – no date. For this specific automation, select “Create Detailed Event.” Hit Continue.
8. Once you connect, select the calendar account you’d like to use for your reminder (you may have only one option). Hit Continue.
9. This next part looks overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with the tool. Don’t be intimidated! Look for the little red “(required)” fields (on the right side of the pane) – that’s all you need to fill out to make it work.
Your first action is to choose your calendar. (The first calendar in the field above was your account, as you can connect multiple Google accounts if you wish.)
The next set of data is slightly irrelevant, though you may want to add a note in your calendar event. I’d skip this part for this automation.
Next set is the timing of the event. Both the start and end date/time are required for automation. Once you click on the field entry, you’ll get a drop-down menu: ignore it. Type in BOTH fields “in 1 week” (yes, you’ll have to create more than one of these, more on that later). Because it’s more of a reminder for me, I don’t require a block of time (also, I don’t want to do the math).
The rest I ignore. Though if you’re part of a team, you can use the “Attendees” field to remind other folks.
Hit Continue when you’ve filled out what you need.
10. The next section is the final test! Scroll down to the bottom and hit “Test & Continue.
11. Once you’ve tested your Zap, it will let you know whether it worked.
You’ll need to turn it on after the test, otherwise, it sits as a draft. Select either the blue “Turn on Zap” button or the switch that sits at the bottom of the browser window.
Before you go: make sure to label it! (Upper left corner with the little pencil) You’ll need it not only for the next step, but because you’ll never remember it later.
STEP 3: DUPLICATE AND LET IT RUN
Once you’ve set up one automation for 1 week, it’s easy to duplicate the automation and change the interval. This is where naming your Zap comes in handy.
- Find that Zap you created for 1 week out. Click on the down-arrow on the right side, and from the drop-down, choose “Copy.”
Doing so will create a new Zap (note the “copy” in front of it):
2. Using that same down-arrow on the right, choose “Edit.”
3. Rename your Zap (upper left corner) so you don’t forget which one you’re working on.
4. You’ll see the screen below – select the Action (2nd step).
5. To find those parameters you’re looking for, click on “Set up action.”
6. Scroll down to the Start and End Date & Time. Swap out your “in 1 week” to “in 1 month.”
7. Turn it on!
You’ll repeat that again for your year alert. Now you can forget about it until you get a reminder!
NOTE: These are smart fields, so if you type in easily understandable dates (in 6 months, in 1 year, etc.), Zapier can translate it.
REMINDERS & BEYOND
Some of you may want to stop at that, but this opens up the board for you to get creative.
For example, if you want to build a content database, you can set up an automation so that when an article is posted on JD Supra, it goes to another app (Airtable, which is online Excel, basically) where you can tag posts for searchability.
Maybe you use more than one task manager (am I the only one?!), I can use automation to make those tasks go back and forth.
Or when a due date comes up in your task manager, you get a reminder email or calendar event.
I hope you get some use out of this! And I’d love to hear what automation you come up with or use in your daily life.
Connect with Laura on LinkedIn. Read her blog here.