Help Articles

Using Automatic Import for Contacts

You can use our automatic import feature to have contacts added or updated in your lists on a recurring basis without manual intervention.

Please note: This is a more detailed and technical overview. For a quick overview please read our blog post.

Automatic import performs the following in your ActiveCampaign software from an external service:

  1. Adds or updates contacts.
  2. Creates custom fields for each contact based on commonly-used segment fields.
  3. Routinely checks for recent contact additions or updates.

Automatic import will not:

  1. Send instant autoresponders for new contacts added.
  2. Trigger webhooks to fire for contacts added or updated.
  3. Update a contact to “Active” status if they are currently unsubscribed.
  4. Allow you to manually map fields (like the old importer did).
  5. Send List-specific subscription notifications.

How the importer works

The automatic importer will first fetch every contact that matches your criteria (filters) and then routinely check for new or updated contacts. This is done by saving the most recently updated contact information so that when the importer checks again for updates, it looks for everyone updated since that date/time. The only time that everyone is imported is the first time you set up the import. After that, only new and updated contacts will be fetched and imported.

Most external services will have a limit on how many contacts can be obtained with a single request, so we try to import at least a few hundred (if not more) contacts with each run. If you have a lot of contacts in your external service, they likely won’t appear in ActiveCampaign until a certain amount of time has passed. For example, let’s say you have 3,500 contacts in your CRM. For this particular service, the ActiveCampaign importer can only fetch 1,000 contacts at a time, so in order to get everyone in ActiveCampaign the importer has to run four times (each “page” contains 1,000 contacts so we need four pages to get to 3,500 contacts). Every service has a different pagination limit, so it may not be 1,000 per page. Most are less, ranging from around 200-500.

Although the importer limit seems like an inconvenience, it is actually effective because it reduces issues involved with mass imports that take up a lot of server resources and bandwidth, and allows us to provide a smoother experience when possible.

For those services who have API’s that support it, the system currently re-checks for new or updated contacts every 30 minutes. Depending on usage and server load we may adjust this over time.

Some services don’t have API’s that support fetching contact data based on a “last updated” filter. For those services we are forced to fetch everyone on a weekly basis, meaning instead of catching only recently added/updated contacts every 30 minutes, it will simply re-fetch everyone once per week. Here are a list of services that are auto-updated once per week (as opposed to every 30 minutes):

  • Tactile CRM
  • Heap CRM
  • Pipedrive
  • Bigcommerce

Multiple importers

You can add as many automatic importers for each external service as you want, but to keep things under control we recommend creating no more than a few (for each service) because things could easily become confusing with multiple data streams coming in and contact details being updated in the background. You could lose track of which importer is doing what, which can cause issues with email segments or other features that rely on contact data values.

Import filters

Most automatic importers will allow you to supply filters to narrow down the incoming data:

Supplying filters is not required but can help limit the amount of contacts being imported in case you have a ActiveCampaign plan with limited contacts. It can also help with segmenting purposes in case you only want to import those contacts that match certain criteria for your email campaign.

You can also import everyone and create segments to automatically filter your data so you don’t have to supply a filter during the import process. For those with a large amount of contacts to import, this may not be practical, but in most cases this is the better approach.

Authentication credentials

Automatic import will also save your authentication credentials for each import that you set up so you don’t ever have to re-enter that information. You can also set up imports for different external service accounts. For example, if you have two Nimble accounts you can have both accounts imported into the same ActiveCampaign account, independently of each other.

Custom fields

The import process will automatically create the fields for you based on the name of the external service. For example, a Batchbook field called “Company Affiliations” will show up in ActiveCampaign with this personalization tag:


This personalization tag cannot be edited but the name/label can be.

We don’t allow editing of automatic import custom fields because our goal is to keep this feature as simple and error-proof as possible. If we allowed editing then segments could break, etc. The personalization tag is used by the system only, so as long as it is unique it does not matter what it’s value is.

If you happen to have a personalization tag already created using the same name that the automatic import would use, the system will know to use your field as opposed to creating a new field. However, once the system uses that field you’ll no longer be able to edit the personalization tag associated with it.

In general, we attempted to take much of the manual work out of importing, letting you focus on your marketing efforts instead of how data is updated and configured in the software.

In the case where certain valuable fields are missing from the import, please contact us to request the fields be added. We are always open to improving our software based on feedback.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I force an automatic import to start running immediately?

Not at this time. In order to make sure resources are balanced across all users, your import would have to wait until the next scheduled time to run.

Could this replace my current cloud connector service?

Cloud connectors (like Zapier) do a fantastic job of giving you full control over how data is shared between services, but can often add another layer of complexity on top of everything else, and require an additional service (middle-man) to perform the work. Our goal with the Automatic Import is to make it easier to use the tools you like with the power of ActiveCampaign email automation and marketing capabilities. That being said, our plan is to maintain a transparent process of contact syncing that requires very little manual involvement or intervention. We want your data to just be there and ready to use when you need it.

So to answer the question – yes, as long as you are willing to accept some limitations on how your data is mapped to custom fields. In most cases syncing data is straight-forward, so as long as you don’t have an extremely unique case, our automatic import should be able to achieve the majority of what cloud connectors do.