CRM for Architects: Stimulate Referrals With This Cheap Follow-Up System for Gmail

Published Categorized as Tools

How often do you check-in with your past clients?

Word of mouth and referral from past clients is the lifeblood of any successful architecture practice, but it’s often the last area of our marketing plans to get our attention.

Months pass by, we forget to follow-up, and that relationship can decline to the point that your former clients no longer provide your firm with referrals.

But how do you stay on top of these follow ups? It’s hard without a tool to keep your outreach efforts organised.

Some architects put reminders on their calendar, and some just reach out to everyone all at once every now and then (usually Christmas). Others just hope to keep in touch via their newsletter.

While these systems are common in many practices, they aren’t perfect, and they make it harder to create good habits.

That’s where a CRM for architects comes in.

At the end of the day, you need a system that does the remembering for you.

Didn’t you already post a CRM for architects?

I recently shared a CRM template for architects that uses Airtable. I think it’s great for keeping track of incoming projects in your pipeline.

The difference between the two systems is that you won’t generally follow up with a lead forever and ever. At least I don’t, and you probably shouldn’t either. They go through the steps, some make it all the way to the end, and others don’t.

Once they do, you’ll need a different system for keeping top of mind with them over the months and years to come. That’s what I’m sharing with you today.

I think I’ve come up with something better for managing your past client follow-ups using Google Sheets and Zapier.

Here’s what it looks like in action for Vanity Projects…

crm for architects

(I’ve setup a simple version for this CRM for architects. You can make a copy of the template by clicking here, going to the File menu, and Make a Copy).

This template allows you to setup a contact, select how frequently you’d like to contact them, and Zapier will automatically update the last interaction from any emails you send in Gmail.

That way, the ‘days since last interaction’ is always kept up to date. The final column makes it obvious which contacts are due for a follow-up.

I’ll also share a step at the end on how I connect this spreadsheet to my todo list so that I don’t have to open it to find out when someone is due for an email. Again, using Zapier.

Quick side-note: Why I recommend Gmail over Outlook for company email

A lot of clients ask me whether they should setup their company email using Google’s G Suite service, or Microsoft’s Outlook service. Personally, I almost always recommend Gmail because it has much better connectivity with other apps and services. Most marketing tools are designed to work with Gmail, not Outlook.

Another quick side-note: Why don’t I just use an off the shelf CRM?

Good question. Well, there’s a few reasons. Firstly, this way is free. Zapier costs money, but Zapier will automate so many things in your marketing that you should be using and paying for it anyway.

Secondly, why go through all the hassle of setting up another tool that you probably won’t use, when you can just use simple spreadsheets, Zapier, and your favourite todo app.

If you do decide to use a retail CRM rather than this method, I’d recommend Streak for Gmail. But seriously, unless you’re literally selling all day long, it’s probably overkill.

So, let’s get started!

How to setup the follow-up tracker

Setup your Google Sheet

Once you’ve copied the spreadsheet into your Google Drive, start adding contacts you’d like to keep in touch with.

Make sure to include their email address.

Then go ahead and set follow-up frequencies in the top right hand corner. My thresholds are currently set at 30, 60 and 90 days. Pick whatever feels comfortable for you.

Maybe yours will be set at much longer intervals, it’s completely up to you and how comfortable you feel about following up.

As a final step, go into your email or calendar and take note of the last interaction you had with that contact. Add that date and time to the last interaction field.

If you’d entered the last interaction properly, you should now see an accurate ‘Days Since Last Interaction’ cell, and a recommended action.

Sign up for Zapier and create a new Zap

Zapier is an absolute must-have tool for any marketer. In a nutshell, it connects thousands of different tools and apps together, allowing you to setup rules that trigger when something happens in one app, then an action will happen in another app.

This is one app you definitely want to fork out the money for each month. It will save you so much time.

In this case, we’re using a new email in Gmail to trigger Zapier to lookup a cell in a Google Sheet, and update that cell.

All of this happens automatically. You won’t have to do anything. Pretty amazing stuff.

So go ahead and sign up for Zapier and create your first Zap.

Create a Gmail trigger

Pick Gmail and “New Email” as your trigger.

Select your Gmail account and login and authorise Zapier to read your emails.

Then you’ll want to specify the “SENT” folder. This will mean the Zap triggers every time you send an email.

Before testing the step, I recommend setting up a test row in your Google Sheet. Use your own email address as the contact. Before moving ahead in the guide, send yourself an email.

Test that Zapier can pull in your most recent email to yourself, then move on and add Google Sheets as an action.

Setup a Lookup action in Google Sheets

This time we want to pick “Lookup Spreadsheet Row”. This will take the email from the first step, scan the Google Sheet, and work out which row to update.

Just like last time, we want to login to our Google account.

Next we’ll select the right Drive, pick our Sheet, select the correct worksheet and select Column B as the Lookup Column.

Basically, Zapier will scan the Email Address column to find the row that matches the email address it found in your email outbox.

You’ll pick the “To Email” as the Lookup Value.

You can leave the other options blank. Make sure you don’t tick that last box, otherwise Zapier will add rows to the sheet every time you send or receive an email.

Update Spreadsheet Row in Google Sheets

Now we want to create an action to update the last interaction in our Google Sheet every time Zapier finds an email to a contact that exists in the CRM.

Pretty much the same steps as before except we pick “Update Spreadsheet Row”

Pick your Drive, Spreadsheet, Worksheet.

Then, use the “Row” result from the lookup step we created earlier to populate the Row field.

You can do this by clicking on the empty Row field, expanding the Lookup option in the menu, then finding and clicking the “Row” option.

Finally, look for the ‘Last Interaction’ empty field and click it. Select your Gmail step from the menu, and select the Date data.

Everything else can remain blank.

Test the Zap

Now that you’ve filled out the final step, run a test and go have a look at your Google Sheet.

If everything worked properly, Zapier should have updated the Last Interaction for your test contact in your Spreadsheet. The Days since will have automatically recalculated, too. It’ll probably say “0” if you just sent yourself a test email for the purposes of setting up and testing this Zap.

That’s it. Turn on the Zap and you’re good to go.

Every time you send an email in Gmail, Zapier will check the Google Sheet to see if there is a match. If there is, it’ll update the interaction.

How to use the CRM template

Now that Zapier is keeping the spreadsheet up to date, all you have to do is look out for any contact that’s showing “Reach out” in the final column.

Alternatively, you can also setup a Zapier Zap to connect the spreadsheet to whatever TODO app you use to manage your tasks.

I’ve setup a Zap that triggers any time a contact in my CRM goes from “No action” to “Reach out”. It adds a task in my Todoist app to remind me to reach out to the contact.

Here are my settings, if you’d like to setup something similar.

This is the trigger step.

And here is the action.

The result is that I never have to check the CRM sheet. My daily todo list will just have an extra item in it whenever a contact is due for a follow-up.


I hope you enjoyed the tutorial. If you setup a similar CRM system for your firm you’ll find it a lot easier to keep on top of your post-sales follow-up and relationship management.