ActiveCampaign Tutorial

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Step-by-step: Set Up ActiveCampaign To Run Email Marketing Automation

This ActiveCampaign tutorial will explain how to create email marketing automation campaigns & workflows (e.g. Drip emails, automated follow-up) in ActiveCampaign.

We will include email marketing automation campaign examples in this ActiveCampaign tutorial.

Marketing Automation is a set of events that runs specific pre-defined conditions are triggered.

ActiveCampaign, a Email Marketing Automation tool, lets you combine triggers, actions, and logic through its automation builder to create automation workflows.

The workflows let you communicate with (or send automated emails to) your lists of contacts (i.e. customers, subscribers, etc).

Examples of email marketing automations that can be created through ActiveCampaign include:

  • Welcome emails (to subscribers of your newsletters)
  • Drip emails (i.e. timed sequence of emails)
  • Automated follow-up emails (triggered by the reactions of contacts in your emails or on your website)

To improve sales process of small businesses, new leads acquired through email marketing campaigns can be automatically (and based on pre-configured actions):

  • Placed in different lists.
  • Assigned with specific tags.
  • Assigned with lead scores (for later evaluation).

Let’s start setting up and using ActiveCampaign. The topics that we will cover in this ActiveCampaign tutorial include:


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ActiveCampaign Plans and Free Trial

ActiveCampaign offers 4 paid plans.


  • Sending unlimited emails
  • Normal email marketing and marketing automation
  • Up to 3 users to login to ActiveCampaign account at the same time


  • Lead scoring for contacts
  • Deep data integrations
  • Custom branding
  • Everything from Lite plan
  • Up to 25 users to login to ActiveCampaign account at the same time
  • Custom user permissions


  • Site messaging
  • Attribution
  • Split testing (or A/B testing) automations
  • Best time email sending (or predictive sending)
  • Everything from Plus plan
  • Up to 50 users to login to ActiveCampaign account at the same time


  • Custom mailserver domain
  • Custom reporting
  • Everything from Professional plan
  • Unlimited users to login to ActiveCampaign account at the same time

ActiveCampaign Plans (Toggle)

You can toggle the number of contacts to see the change in monthly fee for each plan.

Before signing up for one of the paid plans, you should always try the free plan: A 14-day free trial.

Sign Up a New ActiveCampaign Account

ActiveCampaign offers a 14-day free trial.

Sign up free trial (ActiveCampaign)

To sign up for a new free trial account, go to the ActiveCampaign’s free trial page (

Enter your email address and click the “Try it free” button.

You will receive an email from ActiveCampaign and be required to confirm your email.

Create a List

What is a list in ActiveCampaign?

An ActiveCampaign email campaign can only send emails to contacts (or people) in lists.

A list usually consists of your contacts (or people). The contacts should at least have their information such as email address, sometimes also first name, last name, phone number, address, company name, etc.

Create a new list

To create a new list, go to “List”, and click the “Add a List button”

Add a list (ActiveCampaign)

List name: Enter a name for your new list. e.g. Newsletter, eBook, whitepaper, sales leads, etc.

List URL: Enter your website URL. e.g.

List description: A reminder for the contacts (who are to receive your emails) to know why they’re receiving emails from you.

Click “Add”.

Examples when using lists

A unique contact can be placed in multiple lists.

For example, a contact may be in the Yoga sports list, Fifa football gaming list, and organic food list all at the same time. When you send newsletter to each of the specific lists, this contact may get three different emails each for a different topic.

Another example is you have this one contact in your digital marketing list. You’ve created an automated campaign to send him several emails. One email has content which is about Google AdWords optimization with a link (pointing to a landing page you specifically discuss paid search advertising in details). When your contact clicks the link, a condition is met (in your pre-configured automation workflow), and it triggers an action to add her to a new list (e.g. PPC list).

Create Contacts

You need to have contacts (i.e. the actual people) in your lists before you can send emails.

ActiveCampaign lets you add contacts in many different ways, including:

  • Import contacts from a csv file.
  • Import contacts with copy and paste.
  • Add contacts one by one (manually). i.e. You import a single contact each time.
  • Collect contacts through web forms that you’ve created (using ActiveCampaign) and placed on your website (or landing pages).
  • Collect contacts through web forms (that you’ve created from the integration of other third-party tools) and then have the contacts automatically sent to ActiveCampaign using API.

Create a contact

This method is for creating a single contact, one at a time.

Add a contact (ActiveCampaign)

Go to “Contacts” on the left side menu, and click the “Add a contact” button.

Add a contact (ActiveCampaign)

Enter the basic fields for the new contact: Email, first name, last name, and phone number.

Click “Add”.

Import contacts

This method is to import contacts (into ActiveCampaign) from a CSV file.

Add a contact (ActiveCampaign)

Go to “Contacts”, and click the “Import” button.

Import contacts (ActiveCampaign)

Click “Import From File”, and you’ll need to select and upload a CSV file from your computer.

Or you may copy and paste your contacts, by clicking the “Copy & paste your contacts” link.

Add ActiveCampaign Tracking Code to Website

Enable site tracking (ActiveCampaign)

On the left side menu, go to “Settings” and click “Tracking”.

Enable Site Tracking.

Add website URL (ActiveCampaign)

Under the “Whitelist and Install Code” section, enter your domain name or website URL (e.g.

Tracking Code (ActiveCampaign)

Copy the tracking code. Add this tracking code to the footer section on all pages of your website.

When you have a WordPress website, usually in the WordPress theme there is a footer file that is shared by all the pages. You need to only add the ActiveCampaign tracking code once in the footer file.

Create a Form

Your website and/or landing page should provide a web form for visitors who want to leave their information (such as email address) to you. Some of the possible reasons include:

  • Your website visitors want to receive newsletter from you on a regular basis.
  • People want you to reply to their enquiries.
  • Users want to receive your eBook.

Small business owners grow their user base with list building through the use of web forms on their websites.

To create a new form, go to “Forms”, and click the “Create a form” button.

Create a form (ActiveCampaign)

Enter a name for your form.

Choose a form style. i.e. Inline form, floating bar, floating box, or modal.

Select an action. i.e. add a tag, email results, subscribe to a list, etc.

  • When you select “Add a tag”, type a tag name.
  • When you choose “Email results”, enter an email address. e.g. Your email (so you can be notified).
  • When you choose “Subscribe to a list”, specify a list (that you’ve previously created).

Design web form (ActiveCampaign)

You may update the text, the fields, the button, and they style of your form. The email address field and a submit button are compulsory.

After form submission (ActiveCampaign)

After the user has successfully submitted the form, you need to provide a feedback.

Under “On Submit” of the Options tab, specify whether you will display a text (such as “Thanks for signing up!”) on the page, or you will redirect the user to a thank you page.

Click “Integrate”.

Integrate your form (ActiveCampaign)

Get your web form code from the “Integrate Your Form” screen. You can copy one of the code formats:

  • Simple Embed: A JavaScript code
  • Full Embed: An inline CSS

And have the code pasted on to the web page that your form should be displayed.

You can install the form code using the WordPress plugin if you have WordPress website.

Click “Save and exit”.

Create an Email Campaign

To start creating a regular email campaign, select “Standard” and click the Next button.

Select a list (ActiveCampaign)

Select a list which already has contacts added to it.

Select email template (ActiveCampaign)

Select from one of the pre-built templates including welcome email, abandoned cart, single product, review and feedback, call-to-action, app announcement, and more.

Or you can build your email from scratch.

Enter the sender name, sender email address, and email subject.

email layout design template

Now design how your email layout should look.

ActiveCampaign email design blocks

To design your email, use the pre-defined blocks including text block, image, button, video, line break, spacer, RSS feed, social links, and HTML block.

When you’ve finished entering the content of your email and design, click Next.

Campaign summary (ActiveCampaign)

The campaign summary lets you review (and edit) all the details of your email campaign including:

  • Subject
  • Pre-header text
  • Sender email address (i.e. From)
  • List/lists
  • Address (i.e. the physical address you’re to include in your email)
  • Schedule (i.e. You may schedule your email to be sent automatically at a later time)

You can turn on or off the tracking of open/read, links, replies, Google Analytics, etc.

  • Open/read tracking: Track when a contact opens (or reads) your email.
  • Link tracking: Track when a contact clicks a link in your email.
  • Reply tracking: Track when a contact replies to your email.
  • Google Analytics: Allow data integration with Google Analytics.

You can send a test email to yourself. Enter your email address, and click “Send Test”.

Click “Email client preview” and/or “Desktop preview” to view a preview of your email.

Spam Check Feature (ActiveCampaign)

Review and fix all the potential issues reported in the Spam Check section, before sending the email to your contacts. Doing this can prevent your email getting caught in the junk mailbox of their email programs.

Send Now (ActiveCampaign)

When you believe everything is ready, click Send Now.

Create an Autoresponder

To create an autoresponder email, the process is similar to creating an email campaign.

  • Select “Auto Responder” and click the Next button.
  • Select a list.
  • Select a pre-built template, or build your email from scratch.
  • Enter the sender name, sender email address, and email subject.
  • Design how your email layout.
  • At Campaign Summary screen, edit the settings (if you need), and/or click “Finish”.

Create a New Automation

A trigger is a condition which must be met before any action in an automation can occur.

Let’s create the automation workflow.

To create an automated email campaign, select “Automated” and click the Next button.

Let’s create an automation that will start when a contact subscribes to a specific list or any list (depending on your choice of lists).

Add a start trigger (ActiveCampaign)

Select “Subscribe to a list” and click “Continue”.

Select a specific list, or leave it as default i.e. The trigger applies to all lists.

Assume you want to notify your salesperson (to follow up with this contact) when a new contact is added to a list, perhaps the contact signs up to a free demo of your product/software.

Add a new action (ActiveCampaign)

You’ll select “Send a notification email” and specify the email address of your salesperson.

Create notification email (ActiveCampaign)

Enter the “From Name”, “From Email”, and “Subject”. Type a short message.

You may click “Preview message” to see a preview of the message your salesperson will receive, when a new contact gets added to the list.

Click “Add”.

As a good practice, add “End this automation” to the end of your automation workflow.

Automation workflow (example)

This is your newly created and simple automation workflow.

Enable automation workflow (ActiveCampaign)

Click “Active” to enable your automation workflow.


Triggers are conditions. For any subsequent automated actions to begin, triggers (which are specific to those actions) must be met.

ActiveCampaign has made the following triggers available.

Get this automation examples list (which reveals examples that can be applied to your automated email marketing campaigns).

Subscribes to a list

An automation begins when a contact subscribes to a specific list or all lists. When opt-in confirmation is enabled, the automation will not begin until the contact confirms his/her email address.

Unsubscribes from a list

An automated action begins when a contact unsubscribes from any list or when a contact unsubscribes from one specific list.

Submits a form

An automation begins when a contact submits to a specific web form or any form. When opt-in confirmation is turned on, the action will not begin until the contact confirms his/her email address.

Opens/reads an email

An automation begins when the contact opens an email. You can specify exactly which email campaign should trigger the action, or leave the trigger to all emails in all campaigns.

Clicks a link in an email

An automated action begins when a link in an email campaign is clicked by the contact. It can begin when any link is clicked or a specific link is clicked.

Web page is visited

An automation begins when a contact visits a web page of your website. You can specify whether the automated action should be triggered when any web page, a specific web page, or a group of web pages is visited.

Event is recorded

An automation begins when a contact performs a custom event you specify. You can use Event Tracking to monitor and respond to behavior on your website or in your app.

Shares an email

An automated action begins when a contact shares the web copy of your email campaign on a social network. You can specify which campaign, list, and social network should begin the automation.

Forwards an email

An automated action begins when a contact submits the forward-to-a-friend form from a campaign.

Replies to an email

An automated action begins when a contact replies to an email. When a contact replies, the message is routed through a unique email address (so the replies can be tracked).

Tag is added

An automation begins when a specific tag is assigned to a contact.

Tag is removed

An automation begins when a specific tag is removed from a contact.

Field changes

An automation begins when a contact or deal field changes or changes to a specific value.

Goal is achieved

An automation begins when a Goal you specify is achieved or skipped.

Date based

An automation begins relative to a specific date field. The automation can begin days, weeks, months, or years, before, on, or after a date.

RSS based

An automated action begins when an RSS feed is updated. You may specify how many new items should appear in the RSS feed before the automation is run and when the feed should be checked.

Dismisses a site message

An automated action begins when a contact closes a Site Message without reading it.

Conversion occurs

An automation begins when a specific conversion event occurs.

Makes a purchase

An automation begins when a contact makes a purchase. You can choose whether the automation begins on any purchase or when a specific product is purchased. Deep data ecommerce integration is required for this automation to work.

Abandons cart

An automation begins when a contact abandons a cart. You can trigger the automation to send: a specific amount of time after cart abandonment, when specific products are abandoned, or when a target cart value has been abandoned. To set up this automation, deep data ecommerce integration is required.

Score changes

An automation begins when a score is above or below a value you specify.

Enters a pipeline

An automated action begins when a deal enters a specific pipeline.

Deal stage changes

An automated action begins when a contact moves from one stage you specify to another stage you specify in a pipeline. This trigger is useful for many sales automations.

Deal status changes

An automated action begins when a deal status changes to open, won, or lost.


I’ve written a Chinese version of this ActiveCampaign guide.

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