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Automate Email with Attachments

May 11, 2020

There are many ways to automate email and not all of them are appropriate in every situation. In this post, I'm outlining the steps for building an automated email that includes an attachment or file that is first stored in an Airtable database. This type of email automation is best utilized in the cases where (1) you are sending internal emails or (2) your email recipient has requested the email correspondence. This type of email automation is not recommended for cold emailing or email campaigns as it will not include an option for unsubscribing. To keep this simple, it's best to consider this automation as an alternative to manually typing an email to a client or boss.

One of the key features of Airtable is the ability to store files directly inside a database. To do this, Airtable has created the 'Attachment' field type, which we can use to store practically any file. Most commonly, I see clients store JPG, PNG, or PDF files, but I haven't yet found a file type that the field doesn't accept.

In many cases, you may wish to send an email directly from your database - doing so will require the use of Zapier (or a similar tool).

The Trigger

We start by establishing a 'Trigger' in Airtable. This is where we build the conditions that are required to be met that will 'fire' the automation. To do this, we apply specific filters to an Airtable view. Ideally, this view is then locked down so that changes aren't made accidentally (thereby eliminating the fear of the automation misfiring).

The Email

For the next step in the automation, compose the email from your choice of email platforms. Personally, I love the seamless integration between Zapier and Gmail, but the same functionality is available in Microsoft 365 as well. Once your email template is composed (subject line and body) you can move on to include the attachment. When selecting the proper data to include, it's vital that you don't try to pass the file itself. Instead, look for the data labeled "Full URL" - this is the URL information that Airtable has created for your file that can be accessed by external users. Do note that there are other URL options that will work, but these files may be resized or otherwise altered from the original version.

With this, your automation is complete. I'd strongly advise that you now test your automation a couple of times to verify that it's working as expected. Once you've confirmed that it's working, sit back and get ready to enjoy more reclaimed time thanks to automation!


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