5 Essential Marketing Automation Tricks

Working at ActiveCampaign is full of rewards; free lunch every day, free personal ActiveCampaign account, great culture, free CTA pass (can travel around Chicagoland for free), espresso, and more. (Sound good? We’re hiring).

One of the greatest things I have picked up from my time here, is a handful of great marketing automation tricks that come in handy and save even more time building and maintaining automations.

These automation tricks have been collected internally across several departments, from the personal experience of our sales, success, and support teams, as well as from other departments and from our certified consultants that have a love for all things automated.

Since all of these tricks have been generously bestowed upon me by a variety of sources, it doesn’t seem fair to hoard them away all to myself.

Here are 5 essential marketing automation tricks to help you automate your business:

The “Construction Queue”

Inevitably during your time as an automator, you will need to edit a live automation. ActiveCampaign will automatically save revisions of an Automation after every change, but what if you need to prevent contacts from passing through a section of an automation that is currently “under construction?”

I previously solved this challenge by simply copying the Automation I wanted to work on, making my edits, and then turning it on and the old automation off (real fast!). This method works fine, unless you are actually measuring anything in the reports tab. This process restarts the metrics for the new automation back to zero.

A better way would be to copy the existing automation, switch the triggers (real fast!) and then edit the original automation. Once you are finished you can then switch the triggers back (real fast!).

Both of these methods are overly complex and prone to error. There is a much easier way.

Before you make changes to an automation, add a wait condition above where you want to work. Then continue making the changes you need to make before the contact buffer created by the wait condition.

When you are finished with your changes you can simply remove the wait condition. When a wait condition is removed, it will automatically “release” all of the contacts queued back into the automation.

I intentionally create a wait condition for only a little bit longer than it should take me to make my changes. That helps me stay focused on making my changes quickly.

The “Double Wait”

I have an autoresponders series setup for my wife’s photography business, powered by ActiveCampaign. When a contact submits a lead-magnet form, we immediately follow-up with a transactional email that includes the PDF download. We then used to wait 3 hours, before my “wife” would follow up with a “personal” email.

This always seemed like it could be improved to me. What if a contact submits the lead-gen form at 10:30pm as they are getting ready for bed. The personal email from Heather would get sent at 2:30am in the morning? It would be obvious that it wasn’t personal at all.

I knew we werent fooling all of our contacts into thinking the emails were being sent by Heather each time. Still, there was something so impersonal about not taking the care to at least make it seem like we had the attention to detail to make sure that the “personal” follow-up email was sent during the time of day when we at least might be awake.

Then I learned about the “double wait.” Now this has become one of my most-used “tricks.” Instead of using only a 3-hour wait condition, I combine it with a second wait action (the double wait, get it?). The second wait is conditional, and waits until it is Monday – Saturday AND 8am – 11pm.

Now when a lead submits their contact information at 10:30 pm, the automation waits until 8am on the next business day to send the personal email from Heather. If the contact submits their information at 2:14pm then they will receive the email at 5:14 pm.

The money is in the details!

The “Reusable Block”

One of the most helpful things I ever learned when I was just getting started programming was the concept of DRY. DRY stands for Don’t Repeat Yourself. When you are just getting started, it is okay to copy and paste, but eventually you want to clean that up and wrap any repetitive processes in a function — a reusable block of code.

If you need to make changes to the block of code, you can edit the function itself, instead of making changes wherever the function is used. This makes it much easier to maintain consistency, and reduces the “surface area” of the possibility of human error.

You can achieve the same thing with your automations. If you find yourself creating the same sequence of events in many automations, you can abstract that repetitive “block” away into a separate automation. Then when you need to make a change, you can do so from a single place, and it will update all the other automations that use the block.

To accomplish this trick, simply place the block of actions into its own automation — but dont create a start trigger for the automation. Whenever you want to use the block in a “parent” automation use the “Enter Automation” action, followed immediately by a Wait action. Set the Wait action condition to be “when has ended automation” and choose the reusable block automation you just created.

The gotcha – if you use our Goal actions with a Jump condition, there is the possibility the contact will jump out of the wait condition prematurely, even though the second contact “instance” will still exist inside the block automation and will proceed as normal. If this is undesired you can prevent this behavior by including “when has ended automation” as a second goal condition.

The “Flight Controller”

If you are a larger organization, with many simultaneous automations running all at once, it can be a real challenge to avoid sending multiple emails to the same contact on the same day. Add in the occasional campaign blast and personal messages and it can be nearly impossible.

A very simple way to avoid these “messaging collisions” is to setup a calendar system. Instead of using a “wait for 3 days” type of wait in your automation sequences, switch to a consistent pattern of “wait until Current Day of Week is Tuesday,” or use the “Double Wait” mentioned above to achieve the same result.

Create specific days of the week to send certain types of messages on. Tuesday for automated messages, Thursday for blast campaigns, Monday Wed Friday for personal correspondence, etc… you can easily avoid these messaging conflicts.

You can choose how to describe the “types” of messages you send, and what day of the week you send them on, but this is an easy way to keep track of who gets what, when.

The “Neverswitch”

The “Neverswitch” was introduced to me by our head of sales Adam Tuttle, for one of his sales automation processes. The concept is relatively simple, create a section of your automation that is impossible to get to perhaps behind a 99 year wait period, and then use a goal to pull the contact there if certain conditions are met.

You can then measure the success of the Goal in the Goal reporting view, or even quickly understand how well an automation is performing by looking at how many contacts have completed a goal from the automations screen.

In Adam’s case, he wants to measure how many deals move from one set of stages to another set of stages. He can’t use a “Mark Deal as Won” condition because these deals are not won yet, they are just progressing.

To accomplish this measurement, he creates a wait condition that waits until the deal is marked as lost. If it is, then the contact is released from the wait enters a matching IF statement, and ends the automation. If the contact instead proceeds to the appropriate next stage of the pipeline, then it will match the goal condition, and he can see this in the goal reports.

Goals are certainly one of the most nuanced features of ActiveCampaign and the use cases for the “Neverswitch” are admittedly rare, but they can come in handy as another trick for your automation toolbox.

Conclusion

These are just a few of the automation tricks we have discovered ourselves at ActiveCampaign. We would love to hear from you what marketing automation tricks you have collected over the years.

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