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Martin Cogburn


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    Sequences Overview


    Note: Sequences and Rules are legacy features and are not enabled by default in new accounts. We strongly recommend you use Campaigns instead of Sequences and Rules. This documentation is provided for legacy clients still using these features.

    About Sequences

    Sequences (commonly referred to as autoresponders) are a series of steps that a contact is taken through. The steps can be an automatically delivered communication to the contact (emails, postcards, sms, etc.) or a reminder to you or someone else in your company to call the contact or to perform some other task. Each step is completed on a time-released schedule of your own design.

    Once contacts are subscribed to a Sequence, they will begin receiving the steps as scheduled by you. Although fundamentally all Sequences work the same way (automatically performing actions or steps on a pre-arranged schedule), ONTRAPORT features two different types: Step Sequences and Date Sequences. The way in which you schedule the steps on your Sequence depends on the type of Sequence you’re creating as both types of Sequences are used for different purposes.


    Types of Sequences

    Step Sequences

    Step Sequences work much the same way as "auto-responders" or "drip email" processes. Step Sequences start on day 0 when the contact is subscribed to the Sequence. Every contact always starts at the first step, and moves step-by-step through the Sequence. A contact recently subscribed to a Sequence may be on step 1 while someone subscribed weeks ago may be much further along in the process.


    Steps are scheduled in increments of days from the previous step. Therefore, if the first step fires on day 0 ( immediately) and the next step is scheduled for five days later, that second step will go out on the fifth day. If the third step is scheduled for five days after that, the third step will go out on the 10th day from when they were subscribed, and so on.


    Usecases for Step Sequences

    • Welcoming new members to your website
    • Providing drip content over a set period of time
    • "Evergreen" content that does not expire


    Date Sequences

    In Date Sequences, all contacts subscribed go through the steps based on the date specified, NOT based on when they were subscribed. If a contact is subscribed to a Date Sequence after the dates for the first two steps they simply skip them; they will start with the next upcoming step. The dates you use can be a specific calendar date, such as February 14th. Or, you can use any date field in your Contact database such as birthday, a membership renewal date, etc. The step can optionally be set to fire every year, and you can offset the step to fire up to 30 days before or after the target date.


    Usecases for Date Sequences

    • Reminder emails before an event
    • Annual birthday messages
    • Holiday related messages
    • Newsletters


    Example of using both

    You have an event planned in six months and will accept registrations up to the date of the event. You want to acknowledge any contact who registers right away, no matter when they do so. For this action, create a Step Sequence that sends the thank you email on "Day 0" (the day they register).


    You also want to engage the contacts who register early. But you don't want to overload them with dozens of emails if they register one week before the event. And you don't want to have to un-subscribe them manually so they don't get dozens of emails after the event is over. A Date Sequence is ideal. You can even use a Rule Step in the Step Sequence to subscribe them to the event's Date Sequence!


    In the Date Sequence you can set reminder messages to go out on specific dates, perhaps starting once a month at first and then weekly during the last 6 weeks. And, starting a few days before the event, send a daily email. A contact added to this Sequence six months in advance receives all your nurturing messages, but one who starts a week in advance skips the prior messages, and receives only the messages dated after the subscription date.


    When combined, you have automated your event welcome Sequence; every contact gets an immediate "thank you", and joins the Date Sequence at the appropriate point. And after the event you don't have to worry about ill-timed messages about an "upcoming event" that is in the past!



    How to Create a Sequence

    1. Go to the Navigation bar > Sequences 

      Sequences in the Contacts Navigation Bar

    2. Click the New Sequence button 

      new sequence button

    3. Select a type of Sequence to create

      Select Step Sequence or Date Sequence

    4. Add and schedule steps

    5. Save


    Adding, Deleting and Editing Steps in a Sequence

    • Pause sequences with active subscribers prior to editing. Pause the sequence by selecting it from the Collection view and selecting Pause in the Actions menu.

      Pause or Resume Sequences

      After editing, repeat this process to Resume the sequence. 

    • To add a step, click one of the Add a Step icons across the top of the sequence edit window. Steps are added at the end of the sequence.

      Add a step

    • To delete a step click the trash can icon at the right.
    • To collapse a step after editing click the up arrow on the right: collapse step icon
    • To move a step, click the position icon and drag the step to your desired location. move step icon

      Note: We do not recommend moving steps in a Step Sequence that has Contacts on that step. Contacts will move with the step, changing their position in the Step Sequence. This means they will either skip or repeat steps based on the new position. Contacts who have already completed that Step will repeat it if the Step is moved to later in the Sequence.


    Sequence Settings


    Run this Sequence only on weekdays

    This setting allows you to set the steps on your Sequence to fire only on weekdays (Monday through Friday), skipping Saturdays and Sundays.

    Unsubscribe contact after last step

    This is where you indicate whether you'd like someone to remain on the Sequence after the last step has fired for them, or to have them removed from it.

    If you want it to be possible for a contact to end up on this Sequence again, then select this option.

    ONTRAPORT keeps track of a contact's place on a Sequence even if they are "re-subscribed" while on it. This prevents them from repeating steps and, as an example, receiving duplicate emails from email steps. When a contact is unsubscribed from a Sequence and then re-subscribed they go through each step again. If you do not want a contact to go through the Sequence again, leave this option unchecked.

    Show this Sequence on the subscription management page

    When checked, this will show the Sequence on the subscription management page so that a contact can opt out of this specific Sequence if they choose to, allowing them to choose something other than the default "Unsubscribe me from all future mailings" option.

    unsubscribe page

    You should check this box for all marketing type Sequences, however, if there's vital information that customers must get in order to fully make use of a product they've already purchased, or say, emails letting them know about the time/date of a webinar they've signed up for, then you should leave this unchecked so they don't accidentally opt-out of it.


    How to Add Contacts to a Sequence


    • Using ONTRAforms and ONTRApages with Forms: You can set the Form Settings to automatically add anyone who fills out the form to any (or all) of the Sequences in your account! See the section Manage Form Fills in our Knowledge Base article for more information.
    • Using Legacy Smart Forms: Like ONTRAforms and forms on ONTRApages, you can set up Smart Forms to automatically add anyone who fills them out to any Sequences in your account. See the "Adding Contact Tags, Sequences, and Rules to Form" section in the Smart Form Builder Overview article.
    • Using global Rules: Automatically add contacts to your Sequences based on all kinds of events or actions using global Rules.
    • Using Rule Steps: Rule steps in Sequences can add a contact to another Sequence; you can add optional conditions to filter the contacts added.


    You can add a single contact, or a Group of contacts, to a Sequence manually. See the section Performing Actions on Your Contacts in the Contact Management Overview article.



    How to Remove Contacts from a Sequence

    Removing contacts from sequences can avoid having dozens of entries in the Sequences section of the Contact Record, and enables the contact to start the sequence at the beginning again.


    • Using ONTRAforms or forms on ONTRApages: Use Rules on your forms to remove contacts from Sequences when the form is submitted. You don't have to worry if the contact isn't on that sequence already; ONTRAPORT doesn't create an error and just ignores the request. This is a great way to remove a contact from a "prospect" sequence in preparation to adding them to a "buyers" sequence. See Always On and Conditional Rules in our ONTRApages Knowledge Base article for details. 
    • Using Legacy Smart Forms: Use Rules in the settings of your Smart Forms to remove contacts from Sequences based on a form fill-out or if a particular Field is selected. See Using Smart Forms for more information.
    • Using global Rules: Automatically remove contacts from your Sequences based on all kinds of events or actions, including purchases made, page visits, or subscription payment failures. See the Rules Overview article for more information.
    • Using Rule Steps: Schedule a rule step within a Sequence to remove a contact from the current Sequence or another Sequence if the conditions of the Rule are met. See Using Rule Steps in the Adding Steps to a Sequence article.
    • After the Last Step: Select Unsubscribe contact after last step in a Step Sequence's Settings to remove contacts automatically when they finish the Step Sequence.
    • Date Sequence Removal: Remember that to remove a contact from a Date Sequence, you can use a Form Rule, Global Rule, or Rule Step, or remove them manually (there is no "Unsubscribe contact after last step" option for Date Sequences). 


    You can remove a single contact, or a Group of contacts, from a Sequence manually. See the section Performing Actions on Your Contacts in the Contact Management Overview article.


    Do you always want to remove a contact from a sequence? No! One great reason for leaving everyone on a Step Sequence is that they never repeat the steps. If they re-opt in on a form you don't send them the "welcome" email again, or provide another free trial membership to your exclusive content. For evergreen Date Sequences, like a "Birthday Greeting Date Sequence" you would want the contact to continue to get the greeting every year. 




    Step Sequence FAQs

    ► Why is my Contact stuck on a Step Sequence?


    ► How do I set up my Step Sequence to run all the rules before the email fires?


    ► My Step Sequence is sending blank usernames and passwords!


    ► Why am I not on the Step Sequence when the form puts me on it?


    ► Which sequence sent this client this email?


    ► How did this Contact get on this Step Sequence?


    ► If I add an Email step to the end of a sequence set to fire “Immediately” when will my contacts already on the sequence get the email?


    ► How can I add a step and send the message the same day?


    ► How can I add a step in the middle of a Step Sequence?


    ► In a Step Sequence, what does “Immediately” mean if the step is set to fire the next day?


    ► What happens if I delete a step and my contact is on that step (but it hasn’t fired yet)?


    ► What happens if I rearrange the steps in my Step Sequence?


    ► My Contact received an email from the Step Sequence twice!


    ► Can I put a Contact into a Step Sequence in the middle?


    ► Can I have a Contact skip a step in a Step Sequence?


    ► The Rules in my Step Sequence are not firing.


    ► Some of my Contacts were supposed to be put on a Step Sequence but aren’t there. What happened?


    ► My Step Sequence is set to send a message after 3 days, but sometimes it sends it 5 days later.


    ► My Contacts keep getting the same email from the Step Sequence!


    ► An email step isn’t working. The Rule steps before and after it have run 842 times but the email has only been sent out 750 times.


    ► What if I rename a Step Sequence, delete half the steps, add 12 new steps, then rearrange them, delete some more and then duplicate previous steps that I deleted before, inserting them between steps that have already fired for most of the contacts and switch everything to only fire on weekdays?



    Date Sequence FAQs

    ► Current date is January 15. I edited a step in a Date Sequence from January 2 to January 20 and it didn't send to my contacts.


    ► The Rules in my Date Sequence did not fire first, even though I moved them to the top of the stack.


    ► The Rule in my Date Sequence has a date now in the past and isn’t firing for my subscribers even though it is the first step!


    ► My birthday sequence is not firing!


    ► I want to send a birthday greeting but I don’t want to change the birth date to the current year each year.


    ► I want to start someone in the middle of the Date Sequence.


    ► I want to send an immediate “welcome” email as part of my Date Sequence.



    Other Resources

    Several ONTRAPORT Projects feature using Sequences. ONTRAPORT Projects are step-by-step in-app instructions with a checklist to track your progress. Make sure you are logged into ONTRAPORT, then click the links below to see how Sequences can be used:


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