ActiveCampaign: Complete step-by-step MEGA GUIDE


ActiveCampaign is not just your standard email service provider for creating Newsletter. It is a complete email marketing automation and CRM platform.

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If you’ve already used Aweber for example, you’ll be familiar with core features like sending emails (called campaigns) and creating web forms. What the CRM features of ActiveCampaign give you (Plus plan only) is more control over your contacts than you’re probably used to.

But what really makes ActiveCampaign stand out are its impressive automation features. It includes a powerful visual automation editor that allows you to create some amazing email workflows that few other email service providers can match.

ActiveCampaign has the concepts of tags, which you will use frequently to segment your lists. Email segmentation is super important because it allows you to send highly segmented emails. The more targeted your emails are, the more responsive your subscribers will be.

Think of tags as attributes that you define for the people on your list. You could have tags for particular interests like “email marketing”, “SEO”, etc. Or you could create tags for “buyers” and “non-buyers”. It’s up to you to decide what kind of tags to use.

What are the best parts of ActiveCampaign

Build any email automation you can think of: ActiveCampaign has one of the most flexible visual automation builders on the market. First, it supports a wide variety of triggers to start your automations.

So you’ll be able to use common triggers like joining a list or adding tags, but more advanced ones like starting an automation when a subscriber visits a certain page on your site.

ActiveCampaign also offers you a wide variety of actions that you can perform as well. Not only can you perform standard actions such as sending emails, waiting, updating tags and custom fields, but you can also create SMS campaigns, send messages to a webhook and other advanced actions.

My only disappointment is that you have to upgrade to a Plus account to be able to automatically add subscribers to a custom audience.

For maximum reusability, you can even have automations pass through to other automations, neat!

Basically, any email automation that can brainstorm ideas can be created with ActiveCampaign’s automation builder.

Although not as good as ConvertKit’s automation workflow editor, it is still fairly simple to use. You can also split test automations that allow you to improve every step of your automation workflow.

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You can share your automations

Is there an automation you’re trying to build? Chances are someone has already built one that you can import directly into your account.

Or maybe you just want to share with others the automations you have built yourself. ActiveCampaign allows you to do this and it’s a very nice feature.

On the automations page, if you click on the drop down arrow next to the automation, the “Share” menu item appears. Select this option, you will get a single shared url that you can give to someone else and they will import it into their account.What do you think?

Personally, I’ve had success creating automations that can be shared. Or you can even sell a set of automations. There are a lot of intriguing opportunities you can do with this as a creative marketer.

It fits well with your business, whatever it is

If you’re just starting out with email marketing, ActiveCampaign’s Lite plan may suit your needs, I have that one. You get a good balance between functionality and affordability.

Most common automation workflows can be built using this plan, and the price is comparable to less powerful alternatives such as Aweber and MailChimp.

It has a great affiliate program

ActiveCampaign has a standard 30% recurring lifetime recurring commission program that you find with other email services. But there are a couple of reasons that make it stand out from other similar affiliate programs.

First, the fact that you can share automations gives you a great selling point for someone to try ActiveCampaign using your affiliate link.
It allows you to provide incredible value and create a win-win for you and your referrals.

The second reason I love promoting ActiveCampaign as an affiliate is that it has these more expensive plans that cater to larger companies. This means that you can earn some massive commissions with just a few referrals.

You can resend your campaigns

Another cool feature of ActiveCampaign that I like is the ability to resend your campaigns.

Let’s say you have a campaign that really performed well. However, in the 3 months after you sent it out, you may have added another thousand new subscribers to your list.

Well, ActiveCampaign gives you the option to resend this campaign again, only to new contacts who have joined since your original broadcast. Your contacts who have already seen your campaign will not receive it again. You avoid spam, something you always like.

Resend Campaign

Not to be confused with the previous one. ActiveCampaign also gives you the ability to send broadcast emails to contacts who did not open your original email.

The trick here is to resend your campaign but using a different subject line. Since they didn’t open your email in the first place, they never saw the content, and you can keep it the same.

There are many legitimate reasons why someone may not have opened your email previously, and this forwarding option gives you the ability to broaden your reach by targeting these people.

What I don’t like about ActiveCampaign ?

It’s not that easy to do affiliate marketing with it. If you are planning to use ActiveCampaign for any affiliate marketing purpose, you may have to think twice.

They have a pretty strict policy on overly promotional emails that link directly to affiliate products. So I would stay away from ActiveCampaign in general if you do solo ads and/or plan to promote WarriorPlus, JVZoo and ClickBank type offers.

However, you can still promote affiliate offers indirectly. Use a story-driven approach for your emails, and promote affiliate products indirectly through bridge pages or blog posts. I’ve done it, and it works well.

Top learning curve

ActiveCampaign is packed with features. So learning all these features will definitely require a bit of a learning curve. Fortunately you have a well-documented knowledge base, so if you’re willing to browse through the documentation, it will help you get up to speed faster.

The live chat feature is also very helpful, and I found their support techs to be very knowledgeable when it came to explaining the technical questions I had about building my automations.

What’s in my ActiveCampaign account

ActiveCampaign Dashboard

When you log in for the first time, you will start in the dashboard, which gives you a bird’s eye view of your ActiveCampaign account. It consists of different widgets, which you can customize and move around to your liking.

ActiveCampaign control panel

The first widget you will see shows all the contacts you have in your account. It can be changed to see your active contacts, which is the number of people who actually open your emails and haven’t unsubscribed.

Another nice thing about ActiveCampaign is that your unsubscribed contacts do not count towards your paid subscriber limit. Many other email service providers charge you to unsubscribe, which I’ve always found annoying.

For quick navigation, you can also see links to your most recent campaigns and the most recent automations.

The Top Contact’s widget is also very interesting. You can see the contacts who have interacted the most with your email marketing. These are usually your best customers or hot prospects, and you might want to give them a little extra attention and keep them happy.

ActiveCampaign Contacts Screen

This is where you can access all the contacts in your account. The contacts can be conveniently filtered by tags or lists.

ActiveCampaign contacts page

A nice feature is that you can select multiple contacts and perform actions on them such as adding them all to a list, or giving them a specific tag.

From here, you can also import and export contacts. For example, you can export your shopper lists and import them into your Facebook Ads account and create a custom audience. This is ideal for creating highly targeted ads.

If you are migrating from another email service provider, you can easily do so from the import screen. ActiveCampaign is compatible with several third-party applications, such as Basecamp, Stripe and Zapier.

Or you can import a direct CSV export file that you would get from a service such as Aweber or GetResponse.

Drill down on a specific contact allows you to see more information about them. Once you add a contact, ActiveCampaign will pop out and pull additional information about them, including their image and social network profiles from various sources.

ActiveCampaign contact profile

I personally like the contact activity stream where you can easily see how they are interacting with your list. If you have site tracking enabled, you can even see each and every page that your contact has visited on your site.

ActiveCampaign reports

Once emailing becomes an integral part of your business, the reporting screen is where you’ll spend a lot of time. It allows you to easily see what is working and what is not working with your email marketing.

In the overview report and you’ll see a graph of your daily open rates. What I found most useful are the summary statistics. Here you can see your open rate, click rate, unsubscribes and bounces.

ActiveCampaign sample report

The email clients report is also very useful. You can see which email clients are the most popular and change your strategy accordingly.

For example, if most of your subscribers use Gmail, you may want to pay more attention to make sure your messages get through to the main Gmail tab.

If your subscribers are using mobile mail clients, then you’d better make sure that their emails look good on the small screen.

How to create ActiveCampaign automations

Automations allow you to create a workflow of actions that are triggered based on specific criteria. If your goal is to build a passive, automated business, then automations are really where it’s at.

According to HubSpot, marketers who implement marketing automation increase their sales by an average of 10%. Fortunately, ActiveCampaign makes it simple to create workflow automations.

When you create an automation, you are first asked how you want to trigger the automation.

ActiveCampaign triggers

As you can see, some of the most useful triggers that they include are:

  • Clicking a link in an email message
  • A page on your site is visited
  • When an event is recorded, such as when someone buys your product.
  • Each time a tag is added

Once you have added a trigger, ActiveCampaign gives you a variety of actions you can perform. For example, you can:

  • Send an email or SMS
  • Add or remove a tag
  • Create a conditional if/then branch
  • Wait X number of days
  • ActiveCampaign-Actions

Building your automation workflow is just a matter of clicking and adding new actions until you’re done. You can even create more complex automations by composing them from other smaller automations.

You can use the automation quick links to easily navigate between nested automations.

This ability to reuse automations across multiple lists is very powerful and will save you a lot of time if you use automations a lot. You can also share automations with others like vimols before, which is also very useful.

ActiveCampaign is also the only ESP I know of that allows you to split test automations. This allows you to do things like split test the time of day that each of your automated emails goes out.

6 Email Marketing Automation Ideas

What kind of automations can you build? Almost anything really. You’re limited by your own creativity

A key to many automations is ActiveCampaign’s site tracking feature, which is just a javascript code you need to put on your site.

This allows you to see what pages your subscribers are visiting and, more importantly, provides a useful trigger for many of these automations.

To get your juices flowing, here are 6 ideas for automations that you can implement using ActiveCampaign.

  1. Tagging products of interest: As your contacts visit specific product pages on your site, you can give them a tag. This allows you to better segment and send targeted offers.
  2. Create a custom welcome sequence: Perhaps you’ve been implementing content updates on various pages of your site. Then it’s ideal to send a custom welcome sequence that revolves around the list your contact subscribed to. With a service like Mailchimp, you would have to create a new list for each automation. In ActiveCampaign, each sequence would simply be your own automation, and you can use tags to make sure a contact doesn’t enter their welcome sequence more than once.
  3. Perform periodic list cleanup: The key to email marketing is not having the biggest list. It’s having the most responsive list. Every 60 days (or whatever number you specify), this automation can check to see if a subscriber has opened any emails in your sequence. If they haven’t, it will send a couple of emails to check their responsiveness. If a contact is still unresponsive, removing them from your list is the best option.
  4. Cart Abandonment Automation: Let’s say you’re selling a product on your site. If a contact visits your checkout page but doesn’t buy your product within an hour, this automation can email them asking if they have any questions and reminding them to complete their purchase. This is called cart abandonment workflow.
  5. Email retargeting:Have you noticed that when you visit a particular website, you’ll often start seeing ads for that website on other sites you visit? That’s called advertising retargeting. You can do this similarly with emails. Let’s say you have a blog post on your site that talks about the benefits of list building. When a contact visits this page, you can trigger an automation to email them promoting Lead pages and how it’s the perfect email list building solution.
  6. Rank Your Best and Worst Leads:This automation idea comes courtesy of Justin Brooke and takes advantage of ActiveCampaign’s scoring feature, which is available to Plus members. Give 5 points to anyone who opens an email and 10 points if they click on a link. Now create an automation that starts when someone subscribes to one of your lists. After 30 days, check what their lead score is and anyone with 50 or more points will be labeled as a VIP.

ActiveCampaign prices

With all these features that ActiveCampaign offers, you’d think it would be in the upper tier in terms of pricing. But at least the Lite plan is quite reasonable.

There are 4 levels with ActiveCampaign: Lite, Plus, Professional and Enterprise.

The main difference is that Pro includes CRM and Lead Scoring features. Professional adds Site Messaging, Attribution and support for 50 users.

However, the Lite plan still gives you all the basic email autoresponder and marketing automation features. And for most businesses, that’s more than enough.

Just to test things out, you can start using the basic plan with 500 contacts for only $15/month. And that’s how you test things as the number of contacts increases.

As you can see, this pricing structure compares very favorably with the competition. And while I don’t see many discounts at ActiveCampaign, if you opt to pay annually you can save a bit more.

As I mentioned earlier, ActiveCampaign does not charge you for unsubscribed contacts, and a single contact on multiple lists is only counted as one subscriber.

ActiveCampaign vs. competitors

When it comes to choosing an email service provider, you’ll have a lot of options. So how does ActiveCampaign compare to some of the other popular autoresponders

Based on my experience, very well, actually.

With its marketing automation capabilities, it is without a doubt the most powerful email service provider I’ve tried.

Aweber, which remains a popular email service provider for bloggers and marketers, currently has very simplistic automation support.

ConvertKit has a really nice automation editor, and in some respects is nicer to use than ActiveCampaign’s. However, one limitation I found with ConvertKit’s automations is that it lacks some list cleanup actions I want to be able to perform.

However, for sheer power and flexibility, ActiveCampaign really shines above the rest.

And then there’s the price. ActiveCampaign is actually one of the most affordable email service providers on the market. It’s cheaper than Aweber and even cheaper than MailChimp on most levels.

You even get a 14-day free trial to try it out, without having to hand over your credit card. After those days, they will contact you to make a guide with you and answer your questions.

Concluding remarks

Overall, I have been very impressed with ActiveCampaign so far. It really has all the capabilities I would want as an active email marketer, and it does it at an affordable price, which doesn’t mean it’s cheap.

I spent some time mastering the power of their automations and you’ll really be able to take your email marketing to the next level. It takes a bit of creativity, but you can implement any type of automation you can think of.

If email segmentation is something you’ve been looking for, take advantage of the free trial offer from ActiveCampaign and give it a try. I think you’ll like what they have to offer.

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