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How to use ActiveCampaign Lists

How to Use ActiveCampaign Lists

Shane Herring
Shane Herring

Course Developer at Atomic Education

Last Updated: May 4, 2022

Along with Tags and Custom Fields, ActiveCampaign lists can be used to segment your email list subscribers.

Because you can create more than one list, doesn’t mean you should.

One question that is often asked about lists is, should I use one or more than one?

The answer?

Have as many lists as you need. No more.

In this article, I present three scenarios that may help you decide on how many lists you need.

What are ActiveCampaign list?

An ActiveCampaign contact is a record that holds a unique email address. Unique within the ActiveCampaign account.

A list is a collection of contacts.

Every contact that is being sent marketing emails should belong to at least one list.

I say ‘Should’ because there’s a myth in the ActiveCampaign community that to be sent marketing emails, a contact must be subscribed to a list. That’s incorrect and that’s all I’ll say on that subject.

For this article, I’ll be assuming that every contact is associated with at least one list.

Why use ActiveCampaign lists

My golden rule for Lists is to use as few as possible.

But what does that mean?

When considering whether to create another list, I ask myself two questions.

Can what I want to achieve be done an existing list?

What do I want to happen when a contact unsubscribes?

The answer to either question guides me to making the decision about whether to create another list or not.

How to use ActiveCampaign lists

My golden rule for Lists is to use as few as possible.

But what does that mean?

Two questions come in to play. The answer to either question should guide you making the decision about when another list is required.

Can what I want to achieve be done with one list?

What do I want to happen when a contact unsubscribes?

The one list approach

With this approach, there is only one list. Every new contact is associated with that list.

Using one list for your email marketing can be a good approach especially when starting out.

Robert owns a photography business. To help build his list, he has a form on his website where visitors can opt-in to receive his monthly newsletter.

Robert asks himself the question “Can what I want to achieve be done with one list?”

The answer here is yes. Using one list will achieve what he wants.

When they unsubscribe, he doesn’t want to send any further marketing emails.

For the question “What do I want to happen when a contact unsubscribes?”, the answer is stop sending them marketing emails.

Using one email marketing list can achieve this.

Robert also sends his existing clients special offers and invitations to special events.

If any of his existing clients unsubscribe, he doesn’t want to send them any future marketing emails.

For the question “What do I want to happen when a contact unsubscribes?”, the answer is stop sending them marketing emails.

Using one email marketing list can achieve this.

The advantages of the one list approach are that it’s easier for Robert to manage his contacts.

He regularly removes contacts who have unsubscribed or bounced.

Another advantage is that segmenting his contacts is simplified because he’s using tags and custom fields.

The case for multiple lists

The one list approach may not suit everyone’s business needs. There is a case for considering more than one list.

Remember, only have as many lists as you need. No more.

Solving a problem

As well as a newsletter, Robert wants to offer website visitors weekly photography tips.

His website uses a third party form. It can add an email address to an ActiveCampaign list, but it can’t add tags or update custom fields.

He wants a way to segment subscribers based on the lead magnet they opt-in for.

Can what he wants to achieve be done with one list? The answer is no.

The form builder he’s using can only add new subscribes to a list. With a one list strategy, anyone submitting their details will be added to that list with no way to segment them.

He could change the form builder he’s using but there is another solution.

Robert creates a list called Photography Tips.

When the website visitor submits their details to receive Robert’s weekly photography tips, the form adds them to this list. This also triggers an automation that adds the relevant tag to segment the contact. The automation also subscribes them to the Master list and unsubscribes them from the Photography Tips list.

The Photography Tips list overcomes a deficiency with the form used on Robert’s website.

To segment his contacts who sign up to his newsletter, he creates a list called Newsletter. A website form adds new subscribers to this list. An automation is triggered, appropriate tags added, the contact is subscribed to Robert’s Master list and unsubscribed from the Newsletter list.

Robert sends marketing email to his Master List based on the tag that has been assigned.

If a recipient unsubscribes, he wants to stop sending any future marketing emails.

For the question “What do I want to happen when a contact unsubscribes?”, the answer is stop sending them marketing emails.

The advantage of this approach is that Robert can segment his contacts based on the form they use to submit their details. It overcomes a deficiency with the website form he’s using.

The disadvantage is that care needs to be taken when identifying contacts who have unsubscribed. More on that later.

As I mentioned earlier, Robert could change the form builder he’s using on his website but why? This solution works for him.

Control the conversation

As well as his weekly photography tip, Robert sends a newsletter to subscribers who are interested in his photographic tours.

Many contacts receive both.

He has multiple lists to overcome the deficiencies in his website form builder.

Remember, he’s currently sending marketing email to contacts who are subscribed to one list. Master List.

Sandy receives both emails but is no longer interested in receiving information about Robert’s tours.

She wants to continue receiving his weekly tips.

She selects the Unsubscribe link and is unsubscribed from Robert’s Master List. She’ll no longer receive any marketing emails from Robert.

Robert does have an unsubscribe process where anyone who unsubscribes is redirect to a form where they can opt-in again to other types of communications.

Using this process, he’s not in control of the conversation. He’s reliant on his recipients to sign up again.

Let’s consider the second question. “What do I want to happen when someone unsubscribes?”

John wants to give the recipient the option to stop receiving specific types of emails or to stop receiving all emails.

To make is easy for contacts to opt out of specific types of email, Robert should leave new contacts in the list they were placed in by his opt-in forms.

Paul submits his email address to receive Robert’s weekly photography tips. The form adds Paul’s email address to the Photography Tips list. No automation is triggered, the list is used to segment subscribers.

Robert sends his weekly tip emails to the Photographic Tips list.

Paul also submits his details to receive Robert’s tour related newsletter. The form adds Paul’s email address to the Photography Tours list. Again, nothing more happens in ActiveCampaign.

Robert sends tour related emails, the Photography Tours list.

The emails Robert sends to his Tours list has a footer that reads:

If you no longer wish to receive information about my tours, click here.

If you no longer wish to receive any marketing emails from me, click here.

His photography tips emails has a footer that reads

If you no longer wish to receive my weekly photography tips, click here.

If you no longer wish to receive any marketing emails from me, click here.

If Paul select the link to stop receiving tour related email, he’s unsubscribed from the Tours list.

He remains on the Photography Tips list and receives his weekly photography tip.

If Paul doesn’t want to receive any emails from Robert, he select the link to stop receiving all marketing emails.

Here be dragons

If you choose a list strategy that involves multiple lists, use caution.

For each ActiveCampaign list, a contact can have a status of:

Paul could be subscribed to the Photography Tips list and unsubscribed from the Photography Tours list.

Unless Robert specified a list, if he searched for contacts who had the status of unsubscribed, Paul will show in the results.

If he searched for contacts who had the status of Active, Paul could also show in the results.

Before deleting an unsubscribed contact, make sure that they’re not subscribed to another list.

Wrap up

Whether or not you choose to use a single list strategy in ActiveCampaign should depend on your business needs.

Multiple lists have a place but remember, only create as many lists as you need.

If you’re not sure whether to create another list, ask yourself two questions.

Can what I want to achieve be done with one list?

What do I want to happen when a contact unsubscribes?

Did I miss anything? Do you have other ideas about using one list or more than one?

Head over to the Atomic Education Facebook page and join the conversation.

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