Connect with External Services for Automatic Importing

Our external imports (to services like Salesforce, Wufoo, and Capsule) has always been a manual, one-time import. This is fine is you just start using our service and would like to bring in everyone from another service. The problem is that every time you update someone in the external service, that change would not come across to ActiveCampaign until you re-imported. This became a redundant task which reduced the effectiveness of the feature.

So we spent some time updating the import section to allow for automated imports from external services. When you connect to your external service you’ll have the option to let us check for new updates on a recurring basis (a few times an hour or week), or to use the old approach (non-recurring, one-time import):

You can still supply import filters to narrow down the data, and we’ll automatically check if the subscriber already exists (if so, their details are updated).

We’ve also removed the mapping step (where you mapped fields from the external source into ActiveCampaign fields) in order to simplify the entire process. Instead we hand-pick as many relevant fields coming from the external source and automatically create custom fields (and map the data) in ActiveCampaign for you:

Notice in the screenshot above that the new custom fields are labeled with the external source name to start the personalization tag (IE: batchbook-about). This makes it easy to identify the field related to a specific external import source. When the import process runs again (on a recurring basis) it will continue to update those custom fields with data. This speeds up the entire process and let’s you focus on crafting relevant email campaigns for your subscribers.

Initially we’re allowing this new automatic import to happen for four external sources, and plan to add the rest of them very soon:

  1. Nimble
  2. Contactually
  3. Capsule
  4. Batchbook

You will know if a particular source is set up for automatic import if it shows “Auto-Import Capable” beneath it:

For any source that does not have automatic import enabled, you can still perform an import using the old approach (manual, one-time, and ability to map fields on your own).

You can also connect multiple external accounts (using different users or API keys) per source. For example, if you have multiple Contactually accounts (or users with different API access), they can all be added through a single ActiveCampaign account and have an automatic import set up for each.

We are excited to release this improved method of importing subscribers, and we’ll be on the watch for any initial issues, so please let us know if you have any questions, problems, or feedback!

Note: We are slowly rolling this out to all accounts so it might not be available immediately.

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  • Shay Zamir

    This is great news. Are you also working on auto sync directly from a sql db, as the non-hosted solution offers?

    • jvandeboom

      We are going to replace the existing database sync feature (which allows you to import on-demand from our hosted service) with a MySQL auto-import option in the future.

      • Michael Muryn

        Do the new auto-import feature do import the whole DB or only what is needed?

        Will you make that auto-import from SQL DB “more smart” ? I mean, currently it process all data and seem to do heavy work like it is doing it one by one. It takes us hours to synch some hundred thousands of subscribers from our main list and yeah, we prefer to have the “truth” on our side. We do not like that it takes hours and it will sooner or later be a bigger problem as we expand.

        There are ways I thought to communicate sooner or later to ActiveCampaign to make all this way more efficient by detecting fast what is new, modified or deleted. It could easily start from hours and go to some minutes. The main idea is to do “diff” of the data and only do the work for these (I thought to do this myself and then use the API on the few new and modified account).

        You might also give the option to do the work with a “last modification time” mechanism, where you would do the work up to the last synch time. The burden will be on our side to make sure that time is correct (in case of JOIN for example)

        It would be nice too to let us specify the primary key, instead of assuming it is the email (as we have a few account for the same email in some case, but how you know which one to synch without that “primary key”).

        • jvandeboom

          Only what is needed.

          We can’t pull full data all the time so instead we use a variety of methods including API calls for changed data, hooks (when available), some special calls that our partners setup just for us, etc…

          The end result is real time data updates in most cases with the worst case scenarios being up to 15 minutes out of date.

          MySQL as an auto-import is oddly easier as we can force you to pick the primary and/or modified field to work off of. We are all looking forward to replacing the current MySQL sync feature with a MySQL auto import option. Sounds like it would be what you are looking for.

          • Michael Muryn

            I don’t really mind about real-time or not in my case. Of course one system can be down (website or AC), so we always need either a queue, or a full sync features. And doing some kind of diff can be very efficient (considering data is indexed) even with millions of entries. The challenge on your side is to make a clean solution usable for everyone (e.g. if you need to create a table in a remote MySQL database for it to be efficient for people having different DB servers). But with what you describe, it will probably be flexible, which is nice.

            I also talk of using a different “primary key” than email in Active Campaign itself (e.g., an user-id). If we have 10 member accounts with the same name, we might want 10 entries (for list that allow multiple emails), but then when we sync, correct me if I am wrong, it currently does not know which of the 10 entries to sync with.

      • Shay Zamir

        That would be perfect; it’ll shave a good amount of time out of my weekly routine.

  • Matt

    I don’t see Salesforce as ‘Auto-Import Capable.’ Is this being worked on to be included in a future release?

    • jvandeboom

      Yes, we are currently working on converting the rest of them to be “auto-import capable” Should be a matter of days to weeks.

      • What about leads, accounts and person accounts?


        • jvandeboom

          The framework is in place to allow importing of various things (other than just basic contact details) and even 2 way syncing. It is going to all come down to each external service and what our users want/need to have brought over.

          • Thanks and reaching out to integration services for this is probably a better idea.


      • Good for you guys for not just jumping on Salesforce, I’m guessing the management and dev time was considerably lower even though you brought out 4 at once. Good on you. Mine isn’t on there, but that’s okay, I’m sure it will be.

        Great work guys!

        • jvandeboom

          Thanks, we wanted to start off with some services that we have close partnerships with and based on user demand. Definitely going to get the rest (including SalesForce & SugarCRM) converted over to auto-import as they have a lot of potential for pulling data.

          What service are you using?

          • I use BaseCRM. I love their mobile apps and since I’m always on the go.

          • jvandeboom

            BaseCRM is actually currently on our in-progress board for integrations. I believe the team is currently exploring the best route. But as that started already we should hopefully see something soon.

  • Dominick

    Is the mysql sync also auto-import capable?

    • jvandeboom

      Not yet. We are planning on bringing the mysql sync into the auto import system though. It would be more efficient and would allow for automatic imports from an external db (without requiring you to click import each time)

  • hectorpereznieto

    Will this and the Notes feature make their way to the self-hosted version soon?

    • jvandeboom

      We don’t have any ETA for that. I will say it would be a rather larger undertaking to even get part of the auto-import feature for self-hosted as some calls are setup by our partners specifically for our infrastructure. And we have dedicated services/hardware setup for auto-import. So much of it is likely not possible and for the experience to be on-par it would raise the bar of the required hardware/servers.

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  • Andrew

    This is great news as my firm is looking for a new mass mailing provider. With regards to Salesforce, in an ideal world, it would be great be able to add contacts to mailing lists within salesforce and also be able manage my lists within sales force also. Is this going to be possible?

    • Hi Andrew, we’ll add Salesforce to the automatic import feature within ActiveCampaign, but for embedded add-ons or features that exist solely in Salesforce, we typically work with someone who is familiar with the best use-cases for the external software, and that is something we will consider for your mailing list suggestion. Thanks.

  • Randy Tucker

    Great re: Nimble. Will be checking it out shortly. Thanks for the work in getting that up.

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  • jvandeboom

    Available to free and paid. Many have been updated quite a bit since we posted this article though (so they may look a little different)

  • GeorgeM

    Just tried this and it works well – great addon to the AC feature list.