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better way to send individual emails than Airtable + Zapier?

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I've used Zapier on and off for the last couple of years for small purposes. This week I used it for something important, and I'm wondering if the approach I took is the best way to solve the problem.

I have a list of people (about 120) that I needed to send and email to. The email contains a link to an Airtable form that I want them to fill out. I defined a date-time modified field in Airtable that I used to trigger the zap in Zapier. The zap then connected to my client's Google Workspace/Gmail account to send the emails out. I was a little worried about how well Zapier would perform, so I triggered smaller batches of records, about 30 at a time. In the end, it worked fine. We had to do a follow-up email, and I used the same process, just with a different body content for the message.

I didn't ask Zapier to do anything other than connect (record by record) to my client's Gmail account and send each message. After each batch went out, I marked those records as "sent" by hand (easy in Airtable, for this number of records), queued up the next batch, and waited for them to get sent. 

Is this the way to do this sort of thing? It feels a bit clunky.

And, if you've had experience doing something like this yourself, was it smart for me to trigger the zaps in smaller batches? Or would Zapier have handled processing ~120 records in one run?

 

2 Solutions

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Kevin_DiBenedet
6 - Interface Innovator
6 - Interface Innovator

There are quite a few different ways to send out emails from Airtable, as well as trigger them. 

The most straightforward way that Airtable currently makes for that process is the use the Automation tab. You can set a variety of triggers (at a scheduled time, with your date/time modified field, or based on several filterable conditions). After setting up the trigger, you can define the action (Send a Gmail) using the Integrations. Turn on the automation after testing, and sit back and relax. You can even make the last action in an automation  to update the record as "sent" as each email is sent. 

Other functional ways to schedule and send emails also include exactly what you've done with Zapier. You can also define a variety of ways for it to trigger including any changes to the record (checkbox, single select field using some sort of command like "Send email", etc. 

I also really like using the Sendgrid extension (though this does incur additional monthly costs). But if you have a need to send 50,000 emails in a month, it would only cost $20. The Sendgrid extension is a more manual process, whereby you define a set view of records/email addresses, draft the message, including use of mail merge tags to insert data from your table, preview them and send a batch group of emails. You can even define a button to the extension and send custom emails one at a time. 

In short, lots of methods. Mix and match, pick the ones that work for your work style or your budget, or even your technical proficiency method. I have many bases that I use all 3 of the methods I described. They sort of evolve as you grow your data and your base and how it functions. Start manual, move into a Zapier trigger, and then fully automate based on a complex series of filters. It's all possible. 

Here is a help file from Airtable about this process.

https://support.airtable.com/docs/send-an-email-action

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Airtable Automations are limited to finding 100 records per automation. They can look through a table, find 100 records that match a criteria, and then aggregate all the information in them into an action, usually a report, or writing a document. It sounds like you are trying to build automations that look at a single record and then send 1 email to that record's recipient, and move on to the next record.

If you build the automation to trigger on a record that matches some criteria, and then do some action with that singular data, then the automation find record limit doesn't factor in. It will fire for each and every record you have that matches, and send a singular email, or update that record. Then you are only limited by your automation run limit (which is related to your subscription level).

I too have run into issues with Zapier getting into a traffic jam and skipping records. I don't have a solution around that except to manually check and either re-run the Zap, or deal with the missing info some other way. 

If you are just doing 100 email sends here or there, I would stick with Airtable Automations. If you needed some other larger bulk sending operation I would look into using Sendgrid extension. I regularly batch send 15,000 emails with custom mail merged data from the table, and have no issue pushing through that many messages in an hour or less. 

Hope this helps.

See Solution in Thread

6 Replies 6
Kevin_DiBenedet
6 - Interface Innovator
6 - Interface Innovator

There are quite a few different ways to send out emails from Airtable, as well as trigger them. 

The most straightforward way that Airtable currently makes for that process is the use the Automation tab. You can set a variety of triggers (at a scheduled time, with your date/time modified field, or based on several filterable conditions). After setting up the trigger, you can define the action (Send a Gmail) using the Integrations. Turn on the automation after testing, and sit back and relax. You can even make the last action in an automation  to update the record as "sent" as each email is sent. 

Other functional ways to schedule and send emails also include exactly what you've done with Zapier. You can also define a variety of ways for it to trigger including any changes to the record (checkbox, single select field using some sort of command like "Send email", etc. 

I also really like using the Sendgrid extension (though this does incur additional monthly costs). But if you have a need to send 50,000 emails in a month, it would only cost $20. The Sendgrid extension is a more manual process, whereby you define a set view of records/email addresses, draft the message, including use of mail merge tags to insert data from your table, preview them and send a batch group of emails. You can even define a button to the extension and send custom emails one at a time. 

In short, lots of methods. Mix and match, pick the ones that work for your work style or your budget, or even your technical proficiency method. I have many bases that I use all 3 of the methods I described. They sort of evolve as you grow your data and your base and how it functions. Start manual, move into a Zapier trigger, and then fully automate based on a complex series of filters. It's all possible. 

Here is a help file from Airtable about this process.

https://support.airtable.com/docs/send-an-email-action

Kevin, thanks for that excellent response. Adding a link to it to my Airtable URLs base. 🙂

I have had some problems with Airtable automations stepping on one another's toes. That is, if six records are triggered to run the same automation (say, the trigger is an update in a particular field), I've had a number of cases where the automations that start earlier seem to get aborted by a later automation. I even posted about that a few months back. So I'm wondering, is using the Send Gmail automation inside Airtable reliable? Have you (or has anybody else) had problems with messages failing to get sent?

Thanks again.

William

Thanks for this excellent response. I've now used all of these methods myself, and I agree, it's nice to be able to "mix and match". 

I was particularly curious about a couple of things: reliability; efficiency; and message limits. I'm sure that I saw something here that said there's a 100-message limit on using the Send Gmail automation, although I think I went a little above 130 recently, so I'm not sure about that. I do like the fact that, with the Send Gmail automation, I can mark each recipient's record as having been sent an email (as the second action in the automation).

Zapier worked, too. I didn't worry about the message limits, but I was concerned about a "traffic jam" causing some records to get skipped. So I sent in batches of twenty-five and thirty records at a time, then waited 15 minutes for the Zapier trigger to react again. That meant that sending 130 emails took me about an hour, which was annoying. I guess next time I'll just try sending them all at once and see if it works. This weekend was too important to experiment. I did BCC myself (at an alt account) on all the messages so I could count the number of messages that actually got sent, and everything seemed to work well.

Thanks again for your input!

William

 

I've never run into an Airtable Automation stepping on another automations' toes. Play with the different triggers to make sure that they automation is the only 1 running for the specific step in the process. My favorite triggers are ones that are due to a specific form being used, so that means even if you hand enter a record, it won't fire unless that data came into the table due to a form entry. And for any other triggers that are matching on conditions or views, I just make sure to build out the step by step processes that mean a record will only show up in 1 of the views for each step in the process. Think critically through how you can further refine your criteria to make it match a very specific record for a specific action.

Airtable Automations are limited to finding 100 records per automation. They can look through a table, find 100 records that match a criteria, and then aggregate all the information in them into an action, usually a report, or writing a document. It sounds like you are trying to build automations that look at a single record and then send 1 email to that record's recipient, and move on to the next record.

If you build the automation to trigger on a record that matches some criteria, and then do some action with that singular data, then the automation find record limit doesn't factor in. It will fire for each and every record you have that matches, and send a singular email, or update that record. Then you are only limited by your automation run limit (which is related to your subscription level).

I too have run into issues with Zapier getting into a traffic jam and skipping records. I don't have a solution around that except to manually check and either re-run the Zap, or deal with the missing info some other way. 

If you are just doing 100 email sends here or there, I would stick with Airtable Automations. If you needed some other larger bulk sending operation I would look into using Sendgrid extension. I regularly batch send 15,000 emails with custom mail merged data from the table, and have no issue pushing through that many messages in an hour or less. 

Hope this helps.

Thanks, Kevin, for clarifying the limits. Yes, I was triggering records individually, by changing value in a SendStatus field from 'Not Sent' to 'Sending'. The automation would send the email (via my Gmail account) for each record individually, and then as a second action, set SendStatus field to 'Sent'. MUCH easier to use Airtable's built-in Send Gmail automation than to do this with Zapier (although Zapier's great, too, for other things). Thanks for the help!

William