How to set up and use Goals in ActiveCampaign

by | Jun 7, 2021

Goals are a type of step you can add in ActiveCampaign automations.

They are transformative wonders that make magical things happen once you have the measure of them.

But they are also one of the least intuitive, most opaque and downright pesky ActiveCampaign automation actions to figure out.

I can help you get to grips with ActiveCampaign goals fast, right now.

Follow these steps to understand and use goals in ActiveCampaign:

Discover what Goals are in ActiveCampaign

An ActiveCampaign goal is a weird hybrid of wait, if/else, a magical teleporter, a turnstile gate, and it also measures stuff.

Imagine an automation as a marble run, and the contact is the marble, trickling down through the automation.

  • A goal behaves like a Giant’s hand that is ready to pick up the marble from where it is on the run, and drops it back in, just past the goal step.
  • The conditions you set in a goal tell the Giant when a given contact-marble can be picked up and teleported to just past the goal step. 
  • When the goal conditions are met, the Giant swoops in, grabs the marble, and re-positions it, skipping the bits in between, and setting it down just past the turnstile gate. Like it has a golden ticket or an all-access pass.

So far so good.

We also get to choose what happens if a contact-marble makes it as far as the goal step just by gravity.

  • When the contact-marble doesn’t meet the conditions on its way down to the goal step, the Giant just leaves it to trickle on down the run as far as the goal, without skipping anything.

When a contact-marble gets to the goal step under its own steam, we have extra options to decide what happens:

  • Let the marble pass through the turnstile and carry on 
  • Make the marble wait there until it meets the conditions 
  • Keep the gate shut, and kick the marble off the run 

ActiveCampaign also keeps a record of goals achieved, skipped, waiting on, or not achieved, stashing lots of juicy data to call up anytime.

Here’s the full ActiveCampaign help doc for goals – I think they’re easier to understand using giants and marble-runs though!

Understand what ActiveCampaign Goals can do in automations

Here are the four most common times I’ve used ActiveCampaign goals in automations:

1 – The nudge-skipper

Use a goal to have a contact skip reminder emails when a they have already done did the thing you were trying to get them to do.  

For example, if someone has made the appointment, or purchased, you do not want to keep sending reminders or nudges via email.

Use an ActiveCampaign goal to jump the contact to the end of the automation when they have met the goal conditions.

2 – The gate-keeper

This is the Gandalf “You Shall Not Pass!”

Use a goal to end the automation if they reach the goal step and have still not done the thing you want them to.

For example, if they did not click on the lead magnet link, or anywhere in the first three emails you sent them, they’re not a good lead.

Use the ActiveCampaign goal to stop bad leads from going any further.

Check out my tutorial on how to set up an easy lead magnet funnel in ActiveCampaign to see this one in action.

3 – The marble-dropper

Sometimes you need to get a contact, or a whole bunch of them, into the middle of an automation, or move the marbles already on the track to a different spot.

Set the goal to look for a tag like [FIX: lost my marbles] and then add the tag to the contacts. The Giant’s hand will drop them in, or move them, to just after the goal step.

Use the ActiveCampaign goal to drop contacts midway through an automation.

4 – The date-teleporter

Getting more advanced now.

If you have a custom field that contains a date, with a goal using the wait setting, you can hold contacts until the date is reached.

Use ActiveCampaign goals to hold or jump contacts to the right point in an automation based on the date.

Want a step-by-step walkthrough of building and using a goal?
Sure you do!

Go join my free training, Accelerated ActiveCampaign and I’ll walk you through the whole thing and make it feel easy.

Learn how to set up Goals in automations

So there’s this giant, and a marble on a marble-run, and some conditions the giant uses to figure out whether to move the marble, and it all leads to a turnstile gate.

4 important steps to set up goals in ActiveCampaign automations:

1 – Goal name

Does what it says on the tin – it’s a name, for this goal.

You’ll see it on the automation step, and it’s what you use to find this goal in searches, reports, contact activity etc.

Say what the goal is looking for, in as few words as you can sensibly manage, eg. “clicked to lead magnet” or “purchased” or “tag FIX exists”.

2 – Goal conditions

This is where you set the rules for when the Giant will go pick up the contact-marble and move it past the turnstile.

It’s the same conditions editor we see all over AC. 

Start simple with single easy conditions, eg. Tag > Exists > FIX: lost my marbles.

3 – “And when this goal is:”

You can almost always leave this set to the default option of “Below contact’s position”.

It tells the Giant where marbles are allowed to be picked up from on the marble run. If you want the Giant to pick up marbles after they’ve gone past the turnstile, and put them back at the goal step, choose the second option “Anywhere”.

If in doubt, leave on the default.

4 – What to do if the contact does not meet the goal conditions

This is for when a contact-marble gets to the goal step under its own steam, having not come to the attention of the Giant, because it has not yet met the goal conditions.

  • Let the marble pass through the turnstile and carry on = Continue anyway
  • Make the marble wait there until it meets the conditions = Wait until conditions are met
  • Keep the gate shut, and kick the marble off the run = End this automation

Set up ActiveCampaign Goals that work with dates

I bet you have appointments, events, webinars, renewals or some other date-specific thing you want to automate.

Goals in ActiveCampaign can make the contact wait until a particular date and jump them to the right place if they need to skip the earlier parts of the automation.

This is so useful for things like appointments, or evergreen webinars – sometimes they book weeks ahead, and you want to give them some nurture emails to keep them ticking over, but if they only book two days out you need them to skip to the vital pre-event prep email.

First, set your event date

Create a custom date field and populate it with the date of the event. 

You can populate it in an automation with the update field step, or using a bulk edit, or via an integration field mapping, or even by entering the date manually.

Next, set your goal

To have something happen 2 days before the event date:

  • Goal Name: “2 days prior to demo event date”
  • Goal Condition: demo event date > is on or before > current date > plus > 2

To have something happen 4 days after the event date:

  • Goal Name: “4 days after demo event date”
  • Goal Condition: demo event date > is on or before > current date > minus > 4

For both options:

  • “below contact’s position”
  • “wait until the conditions are met”

And then test it

Test all the things, always. Rig up a test contact and add them to the automation to be sure of your goal settings. Playing around with date-goals in a test automation is a great (and safe) way to get to grips with this skill.

Want a step-by-step walkthrough of building and using a goal?
Sure you do!

Go join my free training, Accelerated ActiveCampaign and I’ll walk you through the whole thing and make it feel easy.

Read Kay Peacey’s pro tips for using Goals in ActiveCampaign

I’ve spent years falling into all the bear-traps in ActiveCampaign, so you don’t have to.

Here’s what you need to be aware of when you use goals in ActiveCampaign.

1 – Patience

Goals run on 15-minute cycles, as each contact gets tested to see if it meets the conditions, so be patient when testing.

2 – Remember just once

A goal can only be achieved once per contact pass through an automation.

3 – Make a note

Adding a note to the goal step is a great idea, otherwise you have to click into it to see what it does exactly, eg. I typically add a note to say whether it’s a wait, end, or continue turnstile.

4 – Wait time

Remember to change it to a “wait until” if that’s what you need – but beware of over-using it and leaving contacts stranded in there forever.

5 – Sensible name

Name it sensibly, and if the conditions get an edit, the name gets an edit too.

6 – Start simple

Goals are like sharp kitchen knives – wondrously useful, but dangerous if used without due care and attention.

7 – Check you need a goal

Sometimes an if/else step, or a wait step, may be a better choice than a goal. This is especially true if you don’t want the teleporter aspect to happen.

8 – Connecting automations

You can use “Goal is Achieved” to trigger a separate automation – can be handy, but also vulnerable if changing or removing the goal in the future.

9 – Goal completion

You can see goal completion rates on the main automations screen, but they are “all time” rates, and count every contact pass, and if you have more than ten goals in an auto you can’t see them all.

10 – Duplicate naming

Anywhere a goal is referred to will show its name, but not the automation it’s in. If you create more than one goal with the same name this may (will!) cause you a big headache one day.


Level up your ActiveCampaign account using Goals

Goals are the gold in the ActiveCampaign hills, but as with all the golden valuable shiny things, they require some effort, and maybe taking a risk here and there. They’re totally worth it.

Start simple, with a goal that waits until a contact has a tag. Test with your dummy contact, then try it in a real automation.

Then add a goal that will teleport a contact to jump into an automation mid-way if they have a particular tag. Goals are tested immediately when a contact enters an automation, so it’s a great way to drop contacts in somewhere further down.

Try one that boots a contact out if they didn’t meet your requirements – like not opening the first 3 emails in an automation – Not interested in my emails? You Shall Not Pass!

And when you’re feeling game enough, tuck into a goal using the date in a custom field – these things are so useful.

Play, play, play. Experiment, learn and explore, so it becomes second-nature.  

My biggest ActiveCampaign regret is being too scared to even look at Goals until I was 18 months in. 

Come tell me your wins with ActiveCampaign goals in my free Facebook group!

Watch the video below for my full expert walkthrough of ActiveCampaign goals, how to use them, and why they’re awesome.

ActiveCampaign Goals training video with Kay Peacey

To catch my free ActiveCampaign training sessions live, visit my awesome ActiveCampaign Facebook community, the safe place to freak out and geek out about ActiveCampaign.

Want a step-by-step walkthrough of building and using a goal?
Sure you do!

Go join my free training, Accelerated ActiveCampaign and I’ll walk you through the whole thing and make it feel easy.


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