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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

Segmenting contacts is one critical element to making an email marketing strategy successful.

Along with Tags and Custom Fields, ActiveCampaign Lists can be a powerful tool that can be used to segment contacts.

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

The answer?

It depends.

In this article, I talk about scenarios where using multiple lists may be useful.

What are ActiveCampaign list?

An ActiveCampaign contact is a record that holds details about someone who wants to receive marketing emails. The only information required in a contact record is an email address. Contacts must be unique across an ActiveCampaign account.

A list is a collection of contacts.

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

Should because now I need to deal with one ActiveCampaign myth.

A contact does not have to be subscribed to a list to be sent marketing emails. That’s it.

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

Why use ActiveCampaign lists

The main reason to have contacts in a list is to give a recipient a way to unsubscribe. If a contact is sent marketing emails and selects the unsubscribe link, they can’t unsubscribe because they’re not subscribed to a list.

Another reason to use lists is to segment contacts into groups of contacts that are smaller than the entire contact list.

Depending on your business needs, you may consider having more than one list.

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

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

To make a good decision to stay with one list, let’s consider the two questions I ask:

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

If the answer is yes, then use one list.

For the second “What do I want to happen when a contact unsubscribes?”.

If the answer is stop sending them marketing emails. Then use one list.

John has started a photography business. To help build his list, he has a sign up form on his website where visitors can opt-in to receive weekly photography tips.

The form builder he is using can add an email address to an ActiveCampaign list, but it can’t add a tag or a custom field to the new contact record.

A contact submits their email address and are subscribed to John’s Master List.

Each week a photography tip is sent to all subscribers on his Master List.

Advantages of this approach include:
When a recipient unsubscribes, they’re unsubscribed. They won’t receive any further marketing emails.

It’s very easy to identify unsubscribed contacts and remove them.

Segmentation is simplified because all subscribers are sent the weekly tips.

The case for multiple lists

There are multiple situations where more than one list will meet a business need.
The scenarios presented below cover most situations.

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

Scenario one

In this scenario, the question being considered is ” Can what I want to achieve be done with one list?”

Do you recall that the forms on John’s website can add an email address to an ActiveCampaign list, but it can’t add a tag or a custom field to the new contact record.

John now offers several lead magnets based on a website visitor’s interests, so he wants a way to segment subscribers based on the lead magnet they access.

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

John has a list called Master List. All contacts are to be associated with this list.

When the visitor submits a form to opt-in to John’s weekly tips, the form adds them to a list called Photography Tips. When a contact is subscribed to this list, an automation is triggered.

This automation adds a tag to segment the contact which also starts the lead magnet delivery process. 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 John’s website.

John has another lead magnet related to his photography tours.

Someone who wants to receive information about his tours is added to the Tours list. When they’re subscribed to that list, an automation adds a tag to segment them and trigger an automation to deliver a welcome series. That automation moves them to the Master List and unsubscribes them from the Tours list.

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

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

Scenario two

John sends weekly photography tip to contacts who opted in for that lead magnet. Each month, he sends an email to contacts who subscribes to receive information about his photography tours.

There would usually be contacts who want to receive both emails.

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

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

John sends a monthly email related to his tours.

Sandy is one contact who receives both emails.

Now, she is no longer interested in receiving information about John’s tours.

She wants to continue receiving John’s weekly tips.

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

But remember, Sandy wanted to receive John’s photography tips.

One solution.

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

Sandy would be subscribed to the Tours and the Photography Tips list.

When John sends tour related emails, he sends them to the Tours list.

When Sandy unsubscribes from the tour email, she’s unsubscribed from the Tours list.

She’ll remain subscribed to the Photography Tips list.

What if Sandy doesn’t want to receive any emails from John?

The emails John 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 information about my weekly photography tips, click here.

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

Is there another way?

ActiveCampaign is weak in allowing subscribers to manage preferences such as those presented above. There is an article available on their help site that talks about creating a Subscription Preferences form.

It involves creating custom fields and an automation to subscribe and/or unsubscribe a contact from lists.

If you wanted to continue with a one list strategy, change the suggested automation to add or remove tags or update custom fields based on the contact’s preferences.

Here there be dragons

A word of warning.

For each ActiveCampaign list, a contact can be one of:

A contact could be subscribed to one list and unsubscribed from another.

This is important if you have multiple lists and doing a clean-up. If you search for contacts who have the status of Unsubscribed, they could also be subscribed to another list. 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?

The answer to either one of these should guide you.

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