Creating a Hierarchy to your Automated Programs

Robert Kohnke Act-On Team

Automated programs are an integral piece if not the crux of marketing 'automation' - so, we usually end up with a slew of them - which is a good thing!


Except, you do not want your prospects (or customers) getting inundated with emails multiple times per day/week. So, how do you have 2,3,a dozen APs that your prospects meet the criteria to enter (are in the source list for) without having them receive the emails for all of them and get 'spammed'?


Enter - the AP Hierarchy!


With three simple components, you can create a streamlined, simple, and effective hierarchy to control which APs your prospects/customers flow through and in which order.


You need:

  1. The source list for your AP
  2. A segment off of that list that shows when someone has exited that AP
  3. A 'Wait until in' step in all of the APs (see below)


Source List

Every AP starts with a source list (or at least has one at some point) - this is the list that determines who can enter your AP. In this example, I will be using this simple sample hierarchy: Credit Unions > Wealth Management.


I have two segments off of my Master List - one that shows who can enter the wealth management AP and one for the credit union AP ( MasterList-Prospects-Ind-WealthManagement and MasterList-Prospects-Ind-CreditUnion respectively).


These are simple segments that look for prospects within the specified industry.

Exit Segment

Off of each of the above mentioned segments, I create sub-segments that look like this:

I use 'in the last 90 days' in this example, but you can use any time period that suits your business needs.

Wait Until In


The key to this setup is the 'wait until in' step - this step lets you specify a list-condition and a schedule. On that schedule, the program will check to see if anyone in the wait step is in the specified list, when they are, they get moved to the next step.


This allows you to hold people in this step until they have finished your specified AP.

In the above example, everyday at 8am, the program checks to see if anyone in this step is in the MasterList-Prospects-Ind-CreditUnion-ExitedAP segment and allows them to move along in the program.

Putting it all together


Here is a sample flow from one of our internal APs that shows how this works.

The participants enter the Wealth Management program and immediately are checked to see if they exist in the source list for the Credit Union AP (we have defined that the Credit Union AP should be finished before the Wealth Management begins).

If they are in the source list (MasterList-Prospects-Ind-CreditUnion), then they are branched to B-1 to wait until they exit the credit union AP - if they are not, they flow down to A-2.


B-1 will check every day at 8am to see if they have entered the MasterList-Prospects-Ind-CreditUnion-ExitedAP segment (shown above) so that they do not continue through the Wealth Management AP until they have completed the Credit Union AP.

That is it!


You can add any number of these branch > 'wait until in' setups to allow for multiple levels in a hierarchy (we have over a dozen defined in some programs).

Have a great day and Happy Marketing!

Robert Kohnke
Marketing Operations Strategist, Act-On Software, Inc.




  • Comment author
    Permanently deleted user
    • Edited

    Just thought I would add some clarification on this flow.

    For this APs hierarchy to work we do need to select which program would be 1, 2, 3.

    My APs  examples would be Air Sealing =1, Insulation =2, Indirect =3

    My AP Air Sealing would be first program so no need to add any conditions/check at the beginning.


    Program 2. Insulation would be checking if contacts are in the AP 1.Air Sealing and wait until contacts exit that program before proceeding any further.

    Here is my list that is matching to 1 contact above that entered and exited AP 1. Air sealing.


    Program 3. Indirect has now 2 checks (branches and wait steps) for AP 1. Air Sealing and AP 2. Insulation


    My list again is matching to what I am seeing in the program flow.

    Hope this help further. 

    Happy marketing


  • Comment author
    Kelli Bunting

    Hi @..., Can you tell me how you created the view of the lists above? It has the First Name, Last Name, Email, and then which automated program the contact is in. I'm curious how to create this for my programs! Thanks!

  • Comment author
    Michal Blazek

    Hello, unfortunately, I cannot see images from the article. Despite being logged in Connect, I see only 403 errors in JavaScript console:

  • Comment author
    Tatiana Lea Act-On Team
    • Edited

    Sorry guys just to clarify the screenshots I have provided are the images of my Marketing list, it is NOT a view of lists in my Automation programs.


    Also I have updated the images in the original post, hope everyone can see them now.






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