Active Campaign – how we use ‘goals’

Active Campaign - how we use Goals

As part of our business, we run online events called #TheWPshow (‘The WordPress Show’). The show is aimed at non-techy businesses and website managers who want to stay current and improve their knowledge & their WordPress sites – we regularly have guests on to talk about specialist topics (e.g. SEO etc).

#TheWPshow runs as Facebook Live events over in our Facebook Group. People can tune in to the event, post questions, and even watch a replay over on our youtube channel.

Event Overload

I am very aware that there is now no shortage of online events for people to attend (especially this year when Zoom etc has really taken off!) and just because someone says they will attend an event, does not mean that they will. For that reason, I use marketing automation (via Active Campaign), to help encourage them along.

Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is where you create rules which then automatically execute in the background. I appreciate that sounds a little vague, so let’s jump straight into an example to shed some light….

Fig. 1 - Example of our event sign up button

Fig. 1 – Example of our event sign up button

In fig 1 above, you see an example of the typical  ‘Register Now’ button for any of our upcoming online events.

The button will take you to an Active Campaign form which looks like:

Fig 2 - Active Campaign form

Fig 2 – Active Campaign form

When submitted, the above form creates a contact within our Active Campaign database. The business rules we’ve set up within Active Campaign then kick in, and do the following:

  • Send a ‘thank you for registering‘ email
  • Send a reminder email when 10 days to go
  • Another reminder when 3 days to go
  • And then a final one on the morning of the event
  • Then we send a follow-up email after the event

The reminders are important as people lead busy lives – just because they fancied attending the event one day, does not mean they’ll make time for it on the day. Therefore we run a couple of emails to remind people about the event, and to join our Facebook Group (as they’ll need to do that to take part).

This automation helps take the strain out of what would be a lot of manual email work.

What does an ‘automation’ look like?

Let’s take a look at this ‘automation‘ within our Active Campaign account. As you see from below, Active Campaign (like many marketing automation systems) lets you create your automations via a graphical interface.

In Fig 3 below, we see the start portion of this automation:

Fig 3 - example of automation within Active Campaign

Fig 3 – example of automation within Active Campaign



It may look a bit confusing at first but the general idea is that relevant contacts flow into the top, and then progress through the process, step by step, depending on what conditions they match.

Our sign up form assigns a ‘tag’ to a contact called EVENT_27_NOV_2020. The above automation detects that tag being added and, when it does,  moves the relevant contact to the next step – which is ‘wait 5 minutes’.

We then update the contact record with some information we wish to keep hold of, followed by sending them their first introductory email.

So far, that should make sense.

However, the next bits may well need a bit more explaining….

Wait 1 year?

You may be wondering – why on Earth is that wait one year there!? In truth, you don’t really need that step, but it helps me know where the contacts are (see there are 16 in the queue there?).

To make sense of this, you need to look at the next step called  ‘GOAL: T-minus 10 days‘. This is the bit which sends out the email when there are 10 days to go till the event.

Further down the automation is another goal for the 3 days to go condition.

And there is another automation still for the day of the event.

….but before we go on, we need to understand something about GOALS.

Goals in Active Campaign

Simply put, a ‘goal’ in an Active Campaign automation allows you to set some criteria which a contact must meet so that it can jump to that point.

Let’s have a look at the criteria for GOAL: T-minus 10 days:

Fig 4 - what triggers a 'Goal' in Active Campaign

Fig 4 – what triggers a ‘Goal’ in Active Campaign

The way Active lays this out in Fig 4 above is a little quirky but the gist is this:

A contact will jump to this goal if and when today’s date is 10 days before the event.

When that goal is activated, we send out the ‘10 days to go!’ email (not shown in Fig 3). After that, the automation goes back to ‘waiting’ for the next event (which will be when there are only 3 days to go before the event).

So a goal allows people to jump around an automation, rather than simply flowing through it in a strictly sequential manner.

Aren’t you making this more complicated that it needs to be?

Good question!

You might be thinking “Who is this Joel?! He is a complete idiot! I’m so annoyed with how he has overcomplicated this that I want to smash him in the face!‘ – actually, I hope you don’t think that. But yes, you are right to question whether a simpler solution could exist e.g.:

  • contact enters the automation
  • we simply set the date for when the 10 days email needs to go out (i.e. ‘send email out on 17th of Nov‘ etc)
  • we set the date for when the 3 days email goes out
  • …and the same for the ‘event day’ email

The problem with this approach is that you forget that people can join at any point!

  • When you first announce the event (i.e. 10 days to go email not sent)
  • With 5 days to go
  • With 2 days to go
  • ….on the day of the event

…and therein lies the problem. A poorly executed automation may be coded thinking that each contact must receive the ‘10 days to go‘ email, must receive the ‘3 days to go’ one and so on. But, because contacts can sign up & enter the automation at any point during the run-up to the event, your logic needs to be much more flexible – planning for & handling ‘late joiners‘ is key.

Copy & Paste

Another benefit of the approach I’ve taken is that it is much more copy and pastable. E.g. I’ll be booking in the Feb event soon, I can then copy the above automation and have minimal changes to make (outside of changing the actual email content). If I had hardcoded dates all over the place, that job would have been made considerably harder – and I run the risk of missing one (which would ultimately mean people do not receive the appropriate emails on time).

…and there’s more

Automations in Active Campaign also offers a lot more fun here as well. For instance, you can make decisions (this is the IF/THEN logic I referred to earlier):

Fig 5 - IF/THEN step in Active Campaign automation

Fig 5 – IF/THEN step in Active Campaign automation


This is the final part of our automation. At the top of Fig 5, we send the ‘Post event‘ email – thaning people for attending (well, if they did attend), and prompts people for feedback.

We then look at our contact record and ask: ‘are they signed up to hear about other upcoming events?‘.

If they are not, then we send them (and only them) a final email to try and encourage them to sign up.

The End

Hopefully you can see how Active Campaign can help automate various aspects of your business.

If you have any questions about this post, feel free to jump over to our Facebook Group and ask away.





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