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The BlackTies: Making magic with automation

Running a successful business is magic in its own right. But managing leads and updating spreadsheets wasn’t the kind of magic The BlackTies, a Sydney magician group, wanted to be doing.

“I love to entertain and express my creativity, which means I hate sitting down and doing mundane tasks,” Scott said. “I was very surprised how Zapier allowed me to understand everything very simply in the editor. From the first moment, I knew exactly what each button does, and how things connect. It really is like coding but without any coding knowledge!”

From a humble start in 2015, cold-calling event organizers and begging for the chance to perform, the group has grown to perform at more than 300 events a year. They didn’t see this growth on skill alone.

They had spent hours practicing card tricks, coin tricks, and psychological mind-reading, and they were ready to turn magic into a profession, positioning themselves as full-time entertainers specializing in big corporate events.

“Our current business model is that we are a team of magicians, working together to provide as much magic as possible,” said co-founder Scott Zhou. “We are not an agency—we are a ‘boy band’ of magicians.”

Automation with Zapier helped them scale, managing five times as many leads as their business grew.

The BlackTies bill themselves as a boy band of magicians.

A human system

In the early years, group members did the heavy lifting.

“Our old system was called Julian,” Scott said. “He was a member of our team, and he literally spent the whole day, five days a week, on our numerous apps, typing away, ensuring we had kept track of every inquiry and performance.”

He transferred information from email to Trello cards, and updated each card to make sure whoever staffed the event had all the information needed.

“Julian is a magician at heart,” Scott said. “He wants to express his artistry and creativity. He wants to spend his time performing. He does not want to be typing away at a keyboard non-stop.”

When Julian expressed that, the group looked for a better way. Scott heard about Zapier on a podcast ad, and instantly realized this was the answer.

“I had Julian doing things that can be done automatically,” he said.

Scott went to Zapier’s App Directory and found all the apps they used to run the business were already on the platform.

“All those manual tasks which we wasted our time doing were now automated,” Scott said. “If we got an email, or a customer submitted a form on Squarespace, it automatically generated a card on Trello, a deal in Pipedrive, and linked everything together in a convenient way.”

Julian got to step away from the keyboard and turn his talents to developing creative magic for the group. The switch came at the right time, Scott said.

They struggled to manage their system and thought they were in over their heads, even though they were only receiving about 200 leads per year at that point.

Now, with Zapier, they easily manage 1,000 inquiries per year.

The Zaps that drive their business

The BlackTies’ success with automation is fueled by Zaps that help them get leads from their website into their CRM, and move information from their CRM into the platform they use to manage performances.

Google Sheets to Pipedrive

The BlackTies collect leads in a Google Sheet, and whenever a new lead is logged, this Zap automatically creates a person and deal in Pipedrive. They use Pipedrive to manage their customers, so it’s important that it be up to date with every new lead.

Pipedrive deal to Trello card

The magicians working events use Trello to plan for their performances. When deals are created in Pipedrive, this Zap automatically creates a Trello card with all the information the magician will need. It pulls information from the Pipedrive deal, like the name of the event and the date. The Zap also includes standard text added to every Trello card, like a series of questions to ask the venue, saving everyone time.

A business run automagically

Using Zapier has cut the BlackTies’ back end management time by 95 percent, Scott said, and has them easily handling their business worflows, even though inquiry volume has more than quadrupled in the past five years.

Images courtesy The BlackTies. Top image, from left to right, Vincent Kuo, Fung Ng, Julian Yu, and Scott Zhou. Second image, from left to right, Scott Zhou, Vincent Kuo, Julian Yu, and Fung Ng.

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