Chronicles: The Evolution Of Autoresponders


There is a formula for success that is relevant to every business, in every market, in every product or service… whether you run an online business or pastor a church.




How true is that?

Let me ask you a question… when have you implemented a new software application that immediately automated a component of your business for you – without having to change the current process?

The answer most likely is… never.

Every business requires  a system to support processes, and through those processes – must transform inputs into value.  Without a process, you have no system, and without effort to work the process, you cannot create value.

In this article, I want to drive this point home by examining a recent change in our own business here at Plugin Results.

… specifically in the area of email marketing.

Now before I continue, let me say that changing email platforms is no small task.  But the benefits can be significant… especially when switching to a platform with such robust features as dynamic tagging, behavior action based automations, and an intuitive user interface.

Sometimes, change is just a good and necessary action to take.




When I started Plugin Results I was totally new to the concept of email marketing and the need for such a platform.  After some research I settled in on aWeber.

As the business grew and technology continued to improve I decided that I needed more flexibility in my marketing campaigns and wanted more control over the system.

In January 2014 I departed from aWeber and married up with arpReach – a self hosted application. arpReach offers nice tagging features and it appeared that in terms of functionality was a step up from aWeber.

I thought to myself, “Self, you know your way around software and systems so you can manage your own email platform and have more control over how you use it.”

But that opened up a whole new can of worms I wasn’t ready for.  SMTP email, SPF records, DKIM… the acronyms made me dumb.  Yet I stumbled through them, learned a few things and after some trial and error I added Mandrill to improve deliverable and ended up with a pretty decent system.

In fact, here’s a snapshot of our ‘Sender Score’.  Anything above 90 is apparently pretty good.





Not bad, eh? (yeah I’m Canadian)

With arpReach we could build better funnels and have greater insight movement of our subscribers through my business.

But alas, it wasn’t enough.  The application felt kind of mechanical to navigate, couldn’t track unsubscribes from specific emails very well, and didn’t allow subscribers to change their email address (this one if big).

Coupled with the lack of  ‘life’ and updates in the arpReach product I knew that if we wanted to really maximize the whole ‘Smart Funnel’ approach to online business we needed to make yet another change.

So last month we pulled the trigger on ActiveCampaign.

… and I can tell you it was one of the ‘Smartest’ decisions we’ve made in our business.

With ActiveCampaign we can create ‘Automations’ using dynamic tagging and webhook tools that make most other applications look like a McDonald’s kids meal toy.  The drag and drop sequencing and ‘if/then’ tools are absolutely excellent.

The intelligent behavior based emails allow you to trigger follow up emails based on contacts’ actions, interests, or behaviors on your website.




But getting to the point of actually using ActiveCampaign was no small task.




Fortunately we use WordPress based membership sites (via MemberSonic) to delivery our products to our customers.  If you use a membership site (regardless if it’s MemberSonic, Wishlist Member or any other for that matter), then you too can easily tag your subscribers with individual product purchases.

Why would you want to tag them?

Well for starters, if you know what they’ve bought, then you can let just those customers know when there is a product update.

And if you know what they’ve bought, then you also know what they HAVEN’T bought… and can market to those prospective customers.

Tags give us the power to segment our subscribers, without needing a bunch of lists to do it.

So back to our example…

In order to migrate from arpReach to ActiveCampaign, we needed to export everything into Excel – both the arpReach database and each WordPress membership site database.  Then we perform some cross-checks, delete unmatched records, add tags based on purchases, and then import the subscriber lists into ActiveCampaign.

This process allowed us to ensure that we knew exactly which subscribers bought what products, and created tags for each one of those products.  It also ensured we didn’t add people to our mailing list that had never subscribed, or unsubscribed at any point in time.

Here are the detailed steps we performed to pull this together.

Step 1:  Export subscriber list (from the old system – for us that’s arpReach).  This creates a CSV file that you can manipulate and ‘cleanse’ in Excel.

Step 2:  Clean the emails.  I use a service called BriteVerify Be prepared to lose a fair percentage of subscribers.  This service will identify bad email addresses that can be removed (helping to improve your deliver-ability and to improve your sender reputation).  Run your exported emails through their online service, then delete the bounced emails from your CSV file.

Step 3:  Export members list (from your membership site – for us that’s MemberSonic).  Again this creates a CSV file, but this one includes the membership level(s) for each member.

Step 4:  Combine the arpReach tab with the MemberSonic tab (separate tabs within one CSV file).

Step 5:  Now use an Excel vlookup formula to compare email addresses in the arpReach tab to email addresses in the Membership site tab.  If a match, the formula will display the email address.  The formula looked something like this… =VLOOKUP(B$2:B$6,arpreach!B$2:B$6,1,FALSE).  This will give you the exact list of active email subscribers that are contained in your membership site list.

Step 6:  Filter out the records that are not listed in the arpReach tab and voila… you now have a list of subscribers for each product they have purchased.

Step 7:  IMPORTANT – The tag column can contain only one tag so you will need to create separate import files for each tag and import it multiple times. We created tags that matched each product purchased.

Step 8:  Import each new CSV file.  During the import you will be prompted to match the file field names (first name, last name, email address, tag).  You will then be prompted to add additional tags to the import process (We added a ‘customer’ tag, an ‘aprreach’ tag, and an ‘indoctrinated’ tag at this stage).

That’s it!  Now we have an email/contact list that contains tags for each product they purchased, and we know they were imported from arpReach.  we also know they’ve been previously ‘indoctrinated’ into our business (received a ‘know/like/trust’ email sequence).

Of course we needed to create some lists and automations before the actual migration, but we’ll save that for future article. 🙂

Now we can email customers of specific products with updates, or email special offers to subscribers that don’t already own the product, or enter them into an automated email sequence for products related to what they already own.

Now that’s smart email marketing using smart funnels.

If you are interested in learning more about ActiveCampaign and how you can use it to create automations and smart funnels, CLICK HERE.



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