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The Importance of Goals In Marketing Automation

Your marketing efforts, in large, should be guided by the goals you have set out to accomplish. In this guide you will discover the important role goals play within your marketing. You will also learn how to leverage goals inside of ActiveCampaign to their fullest potential.


The more intentional you are with your marketing the more you accomplish.

Marketing is more than doing random actions and hoping for the best. The effectiveness of your marketing is determined by the level of intentionality you execute it with.

Such intentionality can be summed up by always beginning with the end in mind.

First, ask yourself, “What am I trying to achieve with my marketing?” Then plan and build from there.

That goal-driven approach does nothing but enhance your marketing efforts and make it easier to determine what’s working and what is not.

What Are Goals?

Goals are an action you can add to your automations. They are a way of measuring the effectiveness of your marketing. Used properly, goals provide an accurate snapshot of how a specific part of your marketing (or your marketing as a whole) is performing.

That is why it is critical to start automations by recalling your ultimate marketing goals. Doing so ensures that your automations are aligned with your end goal(s). In addition, by clarifying what you want contacts to do, you can make more informed adjustments if goals aren’t achieved.

But that’s not all.

You can have multiple goals serve to measure milestones and key events. Ideally, you want all of your goals working in conjunction to achieve your desired outcome. That looks something like this:

  • Goal 1: Download a whitepaper
  • Goal 2: Schedule product demo
  • Goal 3: Buy product

If contacts achieve the first goal, you know they are on track to achieve goal two. If they meet the conditions of goal two, you know they are in a position to do what you want: buy your product, thus accomplishing your main goal.

For every main goal, you can setup unlimited preliminary goals. In fact, we recommend you err on the side of having too many goals. Deleting data points is easier than adding them after you activate your automations.

How Do Goals Function?

The primary function of goals is to help you easily measure the effectiveness of your marketing. However, goals serve a secondary function when it comes to automation: auto-progression.

Auto-progression is the ability to automatically push contacts past steps in the automation that — because the contact meets certain conditions — are not relevant to that contact. For instance, let’s say you intend to send new leads two follow-up emails, with the goal being to produce more product demos. Say a contact schedules a demo earlier in the automation than you anticipate. The contact already achieved your goal, so you would want to avoid sending that contact the unnecessary follow-up emails.

The goal: Schedule a demo
The actions bypassed: Any of the two emails the contact was queued to receive

In other words, you can use goals to automatically nudge goal-fulfilling contacts through the automation and proactively manage the messages such contacts receive. In the above scenario, the contact skips over those follow-up messages once they schedule a demo and move directly to the automation’s next step.

It’s like going to a nightclub and being on the VIP list. When someone’s name is on the list, they skip past everyone else in line and enter the club.

Such functionality epitomizes how ActiveCampaign allows you to truly personalize interactions with your leads and customers. You can determine the volume of content customers are exposed to based on their individual behavior.

And remember, behavioral-based marketing is one of the most powerful tools your business can deploy.

Using Goals In ActiveCampaign

The first thing you’ll notice about goals in ActiveCampaign is that they indeed measure performance and enable auto-progression. Our platform automatically calculates a goal’s conversion rate and displays it next to the automation the goal belongs to.


The conversion rate is the amount of total contacts that enter the automation divided by the number of contacts that meet the goal. That is the first metric of many to come that gives you actionable data to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing.

If you create multiple goals in an automation, the conversion rate of the highest-positioned goal in the automation (the goal you hope is achieved first) is displayed. Hover over the progress bar below that conversion rate to see the success of the automation’s remaining goals.


The Anatomy Of A Goal

A goal consists of four elements: name, criteria, location, and action. Each is explained in detail below.


As it sounds, the name is the label you create for your goal in the Automation Builder. The name you choose should describe the goal’s desired outcome. That way, you easily remember what your automation is designed to do, and you find simpler the use of goals to trigger automations, adjust contact and deal scores, and create segments.



Setting the criteria determines the nature of the goal. Using the Segment Builder, you set the very conditions you want contacts to meet. You can be ultra specific and comprehensive in your goal creation. In fact, our goal editor is just one unique tool that distinguishes ActiveCampaign in marketing automation. While other platforms are limited to purchase and tag-based goals, ActiveCampaign equips you with hundreds of conditions. Here are some examples:

  • Visited a web page
  • Opened an email
  • Clicked a link
  • Submitted a form
  • Lives in a certain geographic region
  • Custom field value changes
  • Score range

Additional flexibility exists in AND/OR conditions. That is, you can create multi-conditional goals, such as:

  • Visited my contact page AND lives in Illinois
  • Filled out a form OR clicked a link in an email
  • Has a custom field value AND has a tag named “Applicant”



The location setting determines if contacts are eligible to achieve a goal, based on their current position in the automation. You can choose between these conditions:

  1. Below contact’s position: If you set the location to “below contact’s position” a contact can achieve that goal only if the goal is below their position in the automation. Once the contact is positioned below the goal, he or she can no longer achieve said goal, even if the criteria is met. In other words, contacts can flow down and past those goals, but never back up to them. You will most commonly use this configuration if your automation is very linear and absent of if/else conditions.
  2. Anywhere: If you set a goal to “anywhere” a contact can achieve that goal and move to it from any position in the automation. That configuration allows criteria-meeting contacts to flow both downward and upward in the automation. You will most commonly use this configuration when you have if/else conditions that result in paths of unequal length.

Here is an automation with two goals, one set to “below contact’s position” and the other set to “anywhere”:


The “Scheduled Demo” goal in the “yes” branch has a location configuration of “Anywhere”. Contacts in the “no” branch of the if/else condition who meet that goal are automatically moved to that stage in the automation, despite their position below it and/or in an adjacent branch.

Alternatively, contacts in the “no” branch who are below the “Download Whitepaper” stage are not redirected to that goal if they download the whitepaper. Instead, they are automatically moved to the start of the “yes” branch. Thus, time is saved, and you don’t risk losing a potential customer due to confusing, redundant interactions.



Lastly, you decide the next action for contacts who arrive at the goal stage but do not yet meet the criteria. There are three actions to choose from, each of which takes effect immediately after the contact reaches the goal stage:

  1. Continue anyway: When contacts reach the goal stage, they proceed in the automation whether they meet the criteria or not.
  2. Wait until conditions are met: Contacts remain paused at this goal position until they meet the goal criteria. There is no time limit to how long contacts wait at a goal that is configured this way.
  3. End automation: In this scenario, contacts end the automation when they reach the goal stage.

NOTE: Those actions occur only when contacts reach the goal in automation and do NOT meet the goal criteria. Contacts who meet the goal criteria simply continue in the automation unaffected by whatever action you select.

Golden Rules Of Goals

Aside from understanding how to configure goals, here are some important principles to keep in mind:

  1. One-time achievement: If a contact meets the criteria of a goal, that achievement is permanent. That is, goal-fulfilled contacts always skip to the goal position the moment they enter the automation.
  2. Connected path not required: Goals do not need to be on a connected path in order for the contact to jump to the goal and pass through them. The automations pictured below achieve the same outcome when the “Enrolled in Course” criteria are met.
  3. No outsiders: In order to achieve goals, contacts must be in the same automation the goals are in. If contacts meet the criteria but are not in the correlating automation, no action occurs.

Closing Remarks

We do our best to provide the most flexible, powerful, and comprehensive goal editor. Now that you understand how goals work, we hope your automations become simpler, easier to follow, and more effective. As always, we recommend thoroughly testing your automations (especially with goals) to ensure they function as planned.

Are you using goals in your automations? If so, share some of your use cases below. If not, let us know how we can help you implement them.