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.
Applies to: ONTRAPORT Pro and above accounts.
General Sequence FAQs
Q. What's the difference between a Step Sequence and a Date Sequence?
Step Sequences perform actions such as sending emails, postcards, SMS, etc. in order after a contact is subscribed. Time between steps can be selected in the "number of days after last step" field. Date Sequences have steps that are triggered by a date, either a literal date like "February 14, 2019" or a date field in the Contact Record.
Q. What if I leave the scheduled time blank for a step?
The step will fire at 10 AM in the account's time zone as set in the Administrator's account. To find the setting click your email address at the top right, then select Manage Users, and open the Administrator's account for editing.
Q. When I click on Settings and select "Show this sequence on the Subsription Management Page" there is a field for "Public Name" and "Public Description" - where do those show up for my contacts?
When a contact clicks on the unsubscribe link in a bulk email they will see the sequences with this information filled out. This allows them to unsubscribe from a particular sequence rather than opting out of all email. We recommend using a name and description that indicates the frequency of the email you are sending, such as "Weekly Tips Update" and "Monthly Digest of Recommendations". Your contacts can then choose to opt out of more frequent messages and still hear from you.
Q. When setting the time for my sequence step to fire, I notice a time code there. Where does that come from and how can I change it?
The time zone setting comes from your Administration user account. To change it, click your email address at the top right, then select Manage Users. Select the Admin User and edit the time zone there.
Q. What is "unsubscribe contact after last step" and why is this used?
This setting is found in Step Sequences only. By default your contacts will stay on a Step Sequence forever, on the last step if they have completed all the steps. This ensures they cannot resubscribe to that same sequence and get duplicate emails from earlier steps, and makes it easy for you to add another step to the end and be sure all the subscribers will get it. But there are some circumstances when you want contacts unsubscribed from a sequence. An example is a sequence set up to re-engage a contact that visits a product sales page but does not buy, because the contact may do that again in the future.
Modifying and Editing Sequences
Q. What happens if I add a step to a sequence with people already on it?
Step Sequences: Everyone on the last step of the sequence will progress to the step you just added. This can happen even before you stop editing and save the sequence, as ONTRAPORT may auto-save the step during editing. It is best to pause the Sequence before editing it, and then resume the sequence after it is edited. This freezes the subscribers and they will not advance to the next step during editing. To pause or resume a Step Sequence, select it in the collection view and choose the option in the Actions menu.
Timing: For new steps set to fire "Immediately" a special condition exists, and the step will fire the next time 10 AM comes around (based on the account's time zone). For steps set to "0" days after the prior step but at a specific time such as 2 PM, the step will fire the next time 2 PM in your account's time zone comes around.
Date Sequences: The step will fire only on the date specified. If that is a literal date such as "February 14, 2016", the step will fire for all subscribers on that date. If the step is for a relative date such as the birthdate field in the Contact Record then the step will fire for each subscriber when the calendar date matches that field date.
Q. What happens if I re-arrange the steps in a sequence when someone is still on it?
Step Sequences: This is not recommended. Contacts stay on the step they are on, and you move them earlier or later in the Step Sequence. They may miss steps, or have steps repeated.
Date Sequences: The order of the steps on screen does not matter for Date Sequences. The steps will fire based strictly on the date.
Q. How will the next step be affected if I were to pause, then un-pause a Sequence?
Step Sequences: Like Rip Van Winkle, the sequence sleeps while it is paused. When unpaused, it resumes, but does not count the days while it was paused.
Date Sequences: The steps honor only the date triggers; when the Date Sequence is unpaused, it resumes checking for date triggers. It will not "catch up" and send out birthday emails to contacts who had a birthday while the sequence was paused, etc.
Q. The steps of my Date Sequence are appearing out of order. Will they still fire when they are supposed to?
Yes! The steps only look for the date triggers in a Date Sequence. You can safely re-arrange the steps if you like, but it isn't necessary. The steps will fire based on the date trigger only.
Birthdays & Other Dates
Q. I would like to receive email notifications a few days before my contact's birthdays. How do I do this?
Use a Rule Step in a Date Sequence. Set the Rule to fire a few days before the contact's birthday. In the Action section, under Then Do This, select Notify Someone With An Email. Select a system email address or choose Custom Email to enter any email address. Select or create an email to notify yourself; the merge fields you use, such as [First Name] and [Email] will be replaced with the contact's information. Remember to check off the Run This Step Every Year check box to ensure the step fires each year!
Q. I have contacts added to a birthday Date Sequence, but the steps are not firing. Why not?
Make sure you select the Run This Step Every Year check box to ensure the step fires each year!
Q. What if I don't have a birthday for someone in my list and they get subscribed to the birthday sequence?
Because the birthday field is blank, none of the steps will fire for that contact.
Q. Are Rule Steps retroactive?
Unlike global Rules that fire whenever an event happens, Rule Steps in sequences act based on the sequence timing only. In a Step Sequence, the Rule will only check for the trigger when the Sequence runs the Rule; if the trigger happens after that point in time the Rule will not act. In Date Sequences, the Rule step runs only on the date trigger, and is not affected by events happening at any other time.
Rules in sequences will check for the current state of a field, a tag, sequence or product purchase, and in that respect they are retroactive.
Q. What if I add a Rule to day 0 in a Step Sequence?
Whenever you edit a Step Sequence new steps are added to the end of the sequence. Any contact on the current last step may advance to the new step while you are editing the Step Sequence. To avoid this, pause the Step Sequence, add the Rule step, and then move it into position. Then, Resume the Sequence. Pause and resume the Step Sequence by selecting it in the collections view and choosing the appropriate option from the Actions menu.
The Rule at the top of the Step Sequence will then fire only for new subscribers; any current subscribers will already be past the Rule step and will not be acted on by it.
Q. Is a condition necessary in Rule steps?
No, conditions in Rule steps are optional.
Q. What is the difference between Rule steps and global Rules?
Rule steps are not triggered by an event happening. They fire based on the sequence timing, and are only active based on when the sequence calls the Rule. Global Rules wait for an event to happen, such as a tag being added, to see if they should act.
Q. How do I set up a Rule in a sequence based on not having performed an action (like doesn't click an email link)?
Most Rule conditions allow you to set the number of times an event, like an email click, has happened. Set the number of times to zero.
Q. How do I set up a Rule in a sequence to stop someone from hitting a future step?
After naming a sequence and saving it, it will appear in the drop down box for the Rule action "Unsubscribe contact from ". Simply select the name of the sequence. Note that this action can allow the contact to be added back to the sequence receive all the steps again. You can also choose to pause the subscription to the sequence. While paused, a contact cannot be added back to the beginning of the sequence.