An automation is a sequence of actions and conditions that you implement to help execute your business processes. Think of it as a conveyor belt that works to automate any business process you desire, internal or external.
We define automations in more detail in our “What Are Automations?” guide.
In this post, we discuss the first step to building automations: determining how contacts enter them.
Essentially, what you need to consider is who enters your automations and how often they can. That data can often explain the success or failure of your automations. It’s a step that seems simple but can complicate matters if not handled properly.
We find it helpful to imagine that contacts must travel down a hallway and pass through three subsequent doors before entering your automations. To pass each door, contacts must meet a specific criterion. Let’s explore those doors:
Door No. 1: Selecting A Start Trigger
The first criterion that contacts must meet in order to enter an automation is a “start trigger.” The two ways contacts can execute start triggers are as follows:
1. Contacts take a specified action
2. Data changes on a contact’s record
When either case is true, the contact automatically passes through door one.
A unique feature of ActiveCampaign is that you can choose from 20 start triggers, not just a couple, as is the case with other marketing and sales automation platforms.
As shown in the screenshot above, your options extend beyond the typical “submits a form” or “gets a tag” or “subscribes to list.” For example, contacts can unlock the first door to your automations if they share a specific email, achieve a goal, or experience a change in their lead score.
You can set multiple start triggers for each automation. Such versatility allows you to execute relevant automations that cater to contacts’ specific behaviors and characteristics.
Please note: start triggers apply only to changes in a contact’s record; the mere existence of contact data — such as subscriptions to lists or the presence of tags — does not open door number one. Only when ActiveCampaign detects a change in that data (i.e. a tag is added or removed, not just present) does the first door open and contacts move one step closer to your automation.
Be sure to check out our success webinar that breaks down the different start triggers and suggests use cases for each.
Door No. 2: How Often Can Contacts Enter?
The second door is where you determine how frequently a single contact can enter one automation.
The above screenshot demonstrates what happens when you pick a start trigger (aka a criterion for door one). In the example, we picked “Web page is visited”. An “Action options” window appears immediately. There you can specify what URL address you want to track visits to.
The next “Action option” is “Runs”. It is an option you must set for every start trigger, and it is the criterion for door two. “Runs” refers to how many times one contact can enter the same automation. If you select “Once” then contacts can enter the automation only once, even if the contact satisfies all start trigger conditions again at a later time.
Please note: A door configured like that opens once for each qualifying contact then disappears forever for that contact (remember, one email address = one contact). If you select “Multiple times” then contacts can enter the automation every time they satisfy the start trigger criteria.
Door No. 3: Halt! Who Goes There?
The third and final door is setup in the “Advanced” section of the “Action options” window. There you find our segment builder, which allows you to further segment contacts and gives you more control over who enters automations.
Thus, if contacts meet the criterion at doors one and two, you can still get more targeted to ensure your automations are as effective as possible.
In the example above, we added the condition that contacts must also have opened any campaign or email, in addition to visiting the URL we specified.
Using the “Advanced” option in start triggers creates another criterion that must be met before contacts can enter the automation. While you must assign a criterion to doors one and two, you do not need a third door to stand before your automations. It is merely an option that lets you segment contacts even further to aid in your success with automations. However, if you do configure the third door, that means contacts must meet that criterion along with the criteria at doors two and three (i.e., all criteria you set must be met).
Again, the purpose of all this is to create automated, targeted, personalized engagement so that you boost the chance of achieving your business goals — sales and otherwise.
Be sure to read over our segmentation guide for a full understanding of all the characteristics and behaviors you can segment contacts by.
Not Working As Planned? Check Your Integrations
Sometimes, you might think your automation isn’t working. Perhaps contacts aren’t segmenting as you hoped, or they’re entering automations only once when you wish they’d enter every time a change on their contact record matches the start trigger.
Our advice is this: Whenever you think an ActiveCampaign automation is broken, check to make sure the three doors are configured to your liking. Typically, automations do not break. Instead, you might overlook a setting (door) that prevents an automation from performing the way you intended.
Such scenarios are especially common when using third-party integrated tools.
Now, don’t get us wrong. We love integration; that’s why we’re compatible with more than 150 apps! To avoid any confusion with automations, however, we recommend knowing which platform controls the three doors.
If you’re allowing contacts to enter automations from a third-party tool, ask yourself this question:
Is my third-party software responsible for executing one of the 20 start triggers in ActiveCampaign?
If yes, great. A third-party tool can unlock door number one for contacts, and in fact, that is the simplest and most powerful way to handle automations. You’re able to sync the action on a third-party tool to one of the start triggers and therefore can configure doors two and three (frequency and further segmentation, respectively) to your liking.
That way, although the activity occurs outside of ActiveCampaign, you can still segment contacts into your automations exactly how you want to.
If the activity is not one of the 20 triggers, that means you’re limited by whatever segmentation tactics the third-party tool offers, and chances are the options are not as robust as ActiveCampaign. Indeed, if the activity is not one of the 20 triggers, then contacts who experience that change enter the automation regardless of how you configure doors two and three. In other words, ActiveCampaign is not in total control, and you might get the impression that things aren’t working as they should.
ActiveCampaign is built to automate and execute actions (changes in data). Our platform is also made to control the filtering of contacts who experience those data changes. Simply by using our platform to its full potential, you can expect to easily build fully-functioning automations that perform as you desire.
We hope this guide helps you understand the three steps to configuring start triggers. Please share it if you found it useful, and feel free to ask questions and give feedback in the comments!