Walkthrough: How to use ActiveCampaign's automation builder

In this article we’ll cover the specifics of how the automation builder works. By the end, you should be feel comfortable using the builder to create automations by combining triggers and actions.

To enter the automation workflow builder, first click "Automations" on the leftside menu to navigate to the Automations Overview screen. Then click the “New automation” button in the upper right-hand corner.

The automation modal

We've created a variety of automation workflow recipes you can use as a starting point. You can build on top of these workflows and customize them to what makes sense for your business. 

Click an automation's name or description to select a workflow and then click "Continue":

Create an automation modal

You'll be redirected to the Automation Builder where you can see a preview of the automation recipe. If the automation fits your needs, click the "Get Started" button to set up the automation in your account. If it does not, click "Never mind" to go back to the "Create an automation" modal.

If you just want to create a new automation that does not use a prebuilt recipe, click the "Start from Scratch" option in the "Create an automation" modal then click the "Continue" button.

Adding triggers

Automation triggers are the conditions that, when met, begin automations. You are able to define those conditions by adding triggers to your automation. You are able to have multiple triggers so your automation can begin more than one way.

Start trigger modal

You can add triggers two ways:

  1. When you create a new automation, you’ll be asked to pick a trigger immediately after giving it a name. You add a trigger by clicking it. If you aren’t sure yet what you want the trigger to be, you can click the “x” in the upper right-hand corner or select “Or don’t have a trigger for your automation.” Either way, you’ll have the option to remove or add triggers at any point in time later on.

  2. From the automation workflow builder, you can add a trigger at any time by clicking “Add start trigger” or “Add new start” at the top of the workflow you are building.

After selecting a trigger, you’ll be presented with options related to that particular trigger. Most triggers have the “Runs” setting in common.

The “Runs” setting has two options:

  1. Runs “Once”
    This will make it so a contact can only enter the automation once, no matter how many times they meet the triggering conditions.

  2. Runs “Multiple times”
    This will make it so that a contact can enter the contact repeatedly each time the triggering conditions are met. For instance, if the trigger is “Opens email,” the automation would run each time an email is opened by a contact. You should be careful using the “Runs multiple times” setting when the automation sends a message because a contact could receive the same message over and over each time they do something.
Action options modal - runs option

Segment contacts entering the automation

This is a useful option that allows you to target specific contacts by filtering them. You create a segment so that only the contacts who match your segment will enter the automation.

For example, if you only wanted an automation to run for contacts who haven’t yet made a purchase, you could create a segment that looks for the “prospect” tag or looks for the absence of the “customer” tag.

Action options modal - segment

Adding actions

You can add actions to your automation two ways. They both offer the same options so which one you use is a matter of preference:

  1. The modal window
    The modal window is accessed by clicking the “+” symbol anywhere it appears in your automation. The action you choose will appear at the node you clicked. After selecting an action by clicking it you will be presented with the action options modal window.

  2. The sidebar
    The sidebar is the dark grey column to the far right of the workflow builder. You can minimize or expand it by clicking the double arrowsi n the top left of the sidebar. To place an action at a specific spot of your automation, you click and drag it to the node you want it to appear on. When you release the click, you will be presented with the action options modal window.

Removing triggers and actions

To delete triggers and actions you hover over it and click the delete icon that appears in the upper right-hand corner.

If you remove an “If/else” condition that has actions below it under the “yes” and “no” paths, you will be prompted to choose what to do with those actions:

Deleting an if/else statement

Saving your automation

As you work, the automation builder will automatically save your work. You can rollback to a previous version of your automation by clicking the "turn back time" icon:

Automation revisions

Viewing your workflow

If you are creating a large automation, it might not be possible to view the entire workflow within your browser window. In that case, you have two options:

  • You can scroll the window vertically and horizontally. To focus on the area of interest, you can center it in the screen by scrolling up & down and left & right.
  • You can zoom in and out. To view more of the workflow in your browser, you can click the “-” symbol on the zoom controls in the lower left-hand corner of the window. This will zoom out making the workflow smaller. Each time you click it, you’ll zoom out further. This is a good way to go through and check your automation but it becomes more and more difficult to read the labels on automation actions the further you zoom out. To zoom in closer, click the “+” button.

However, we recommend creating multiple, smaller automations instead of one, large automation as a best practice. Read this guide to learn more.

Making an automation "Active" or "Inactive"

It is a good idea to keep your automation "Inactive" until it is complete. Once it is "Active," contacts can start entering into it by triggering the start conditions.

Learn different methods for making an automation "Active."

Learn different methods for making an automation "Inactive."

Naming your automation

Usually it’s a good idea to be descriptive of what the automation does rather than being terse or vague because managing your automations can become confusing when you have quite a few.

You can edit your automation's name by opening it and typing a name in the upper lefthand corner and clicking "Save."

Naming an automation

Labeling your automations

To keep your automations organized and make it easier to find automations, you may want to group them together. How you choose to organize them is up to you. For instance, you could have labels for: pre-sales marketing, post-sale marketing, and pipeline automation.

Learn how to create automation labels.

Editing your automation

When making changes to an automation after you have made it live, such as adding and/or removing actions, make sure to switch the automation from "Active" to “Inactive” on the top right of your screen. This pauses the automation while you make your desired changes so contacts won't skip steps and/or end the automation prematurely. Once changes are complete, you can switch back to Active status and contacts will resume at their respective steps within the automation.

More resources for creating automations

Feel free to play around with the automation builder. You can’t mess anything up and there isn’t anything you can’t delete or undo. Just be sure you keep your automation inactive so contacts don’t enter it until you are ready!

As with so many other things in life, practice makes perfect. The more experience you get with creating automations, the more aspects of your business you’ll be able to automate and the more sophisticated you can make your marketing and sales processes. Becoming “good” at making automations is largely just becoming familiar with what each trigger and each action does, and its options, so that you can combine them in novel and creative ways.

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