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Accounting & Audit

Automating Sales and Marketing Tasks with Forms and Autoresponders

One of my personal goals this year is to increase the amount of automation I use in my work so that technology is working for me instead of me working to maintain the technology. I’ve used cloud-based accounting packages along with Receipt Bank, 1Tap ...


One of my personal goals this year is to increase the amount of automation I use in my work so that technology is working for me instead of me working to maintain the technology. I’ve used cloud-based accounting packages along with Receipt Bank, 1Tap Receipts, and bank rules/bank feeds to reduce the data entry in my accounting software for years, so the “easy first steps” have already been taken. I need to start automating some of the business processes – and like most areas where you have to change long-standing bad habits or become more disciplined – it was uncomfortable at first, but I’ve been very pleased with the results.

This winter, I attended an analyst briefing for Zoho Corporation in California, and while I knew the dozens of tools they offer (among them E-mail, calendar, CRM, marketing automation, books, inventory, and many others) were all very good, I had no idea how well the 40 tools which are part of the $30/mo./user Zoho One subscription worked together. I’m now about three months into my adoption of Zoho One, and so far, I’ve implemented Zoho Social (social media management), Zoho CRM, Zoho Campaigns (marketing), Zoho Meeting (replacement for WebEx/GoToMeeting for meetings and webinars), and Zoho Reports. By the end of 2018, I expect to implement Zoho Subscriptions, Zoho Survey, Zoho Creator (mobile app tool), Zoho Sign (e-signature), and Zoho Flow (data flow automation – think “digital plumbing”), and I will be much more automated than I have been in the past.

The reason data integration tools like Zoho Flow and digital plumbing apps like Zapier, IFTTT, and Microsoft Flow are necessary is that most of us have dozens of apps we use, all with separate data stores which do not integrate. While it doesn’t take that long to key in data a second time, it’s the way we lose our day – it’s not the half hour we take for lunch, but rather, it’s the 200 items of double-entry which each take 20 seconds throughout the day (which totals well over an hour of wasted time).

I’ve spent a couple of days in the last two weeks working on learning how to create forms, mail-merge e-mails, social media integration with CRM, and drip-marketing campaigns in Zoho, and it has been nothing short of amazing. I first set up an e-mail list for my website,, and worked on creating a form which I could embed in my WordPress website. I completed it a couple of weeks ago, and already have a few subscribers. The Zoho Campaigns tool handles all the list management issues – who opened it, who clicked on something, whose e-mail address bounced, as well as handling the recipients’ consent to receive messages from me.

After I mastered setting up a list, I moved on to creating an autoresponder which instantly responds to requests for a document entered on my website. It took a while to get the autoresponder to work properly – but now you can request documents/files from me without me having to ever attach them to a message to you – and you can receive them 24 hours a day. These forms and e-mail responses can be used in connection with workflows which automate the sending of multiple messages in a drip marketing campaign.

While we accountants often think of increasing our productivity by using bank feeds, bank rules, and other areas to eliminate data entry for our staff, the sales and marketing tools created for automating routine correspondence, social media, and contact tracking can save a lot of time for the most expensive and time-constrained people in your firm – partners, managers, and firm administrators. If you can make the technology for automating work for these key people in your firm, you’ll be creating a lot of value and making them more effective at working with clients – which is what public accounting is about.



Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA (@BFTCPA, advises firms and companies on accounting technology issues. He currently speaks through K2 Enterprises for professional accounting organizations across the US and Canada, and is an instructor with Yaeger CPA Review. Brian and his family make their home in Farragut, Tennessee.




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