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3 Act-On Automated Programs You Didn’t Know You Needed

3 Act-On Automated Programs You Didn’t Know You Needed

From time to time I like to geek out on tactical marketing topics, and this is an uber nerd topic relating to my favorite Marketing Automation Platform, Act-On Software.

Also, for some reason I use caps like an old person. It’s late. I’m old. Leave me alone and let me pontificate.

Real Marketing Automation

When most people say “Marketing Automation” they are typically referring to its simplest form of “Email Automation” which is essentially a trigger for set of scheduled messages. While this has some amount of utilitarian value, if that is all you get from your Act-On Marketing Automation efforts, the idea and potential value in marketing automation will soon lose their luster.

As most of my readers know, I had the privilege of working at Act-On for just shy of 5 years and was honored to serve as the Lead Marketing Automation Strategist for much of that time. In this capacity, I was afforded substantial amounts of time to research trends in Act-On and identify opportunity for Act-On customers to enhance their use of marketing automation. It’s no surprise that a significant amount of this time and energy was invested into researching and developing Automated Programs.

Having worked directly with more than 2,000 Act-On accounts and nearly 10,000 Act-On users, I often found myself explain “Marketing Automation isn’t just scheduling email, it is automating your marketing processes so you have time to do more valuable things.”
You see, Act-On isn’t just for scheduling emails. It manages your marketing lists, improves your data, facilitates reporting, and interacts with your human resources.

How? Allow me to share…

Form to Master List Management

 Act-On Forms write to selected Form Submission lists. We very often want to track how many people registered for our Spring Event, so they must go to their own submission list.  But I ALSO want them to go to my Non-CRM Master List.

I could configure a new List Maintenance Program (LMP) every time I build a form, but that is tedious and painful.  Also, the LMP will keep overwriting the original submission data to my Master List every time it runs (e.g. they submit “PHILIP” as their First Name. You scrub the data and change this to proper case “Philip”.  The LMP will keep overwriting the bad data.)

This one is simple.  Use an Automated Program!  All you have to do is add your Form Submission List to the a single Act-On Automated Program.

May have mentioned this… any time an event should occur one time, you should always use an Automated Program.  In this case the logic is simple:

Automated Program Source List:
Each new Form Submission List

AP Workflow:
Copy to Non-CRM Master List

Marketing Stage or Sales Stage Management

 Many people use List Maintenance Programs (LMP) for this, and that’s just inviting disaster.  For example, imagine a lead hits a target Marketing Qualified Lead Score of 40 points. They enter a segment and an LMP sets their Sales Stage to MQL.  Job done, right?

Except sales takes the lead and sets the Sales Stage to “SQL” because they are pursuing the opportunity.  That night, your LMP changes the Sales Stage BACK TO MQL!

 Anytime an event should occur one time, you should always use an Automated Program.  In this case the logic is simple:

Automated Program Source List:
Segment: MQL (Lead Score = 40+)

AP Workflow:
Change Field Sales Stage to MQL

Reporting Augmentation

This one is similar to Stage Management but serves an entirely different purpose.  At Tactical Marketing Automation, we believe “Everything is a funnel.” Call us old school.

Marketing = Funnel

Sales = Funnel

Prospecting = Funnel

Going to lunch?  FUNNEL.

In our workflows, when someone enters a funnel stage they start a stream of emails designed to move them through that stage and advance them towards qualification.  We typically have 3 stages before MQL.

Here’s the problem, I like reports.  I use them to make better decisions. Act-On doesn’t do that.

(Before someone comments about the native “Funnel Reports” – it’s an abomination.  You don’t know what you’re talking about.)

So the fix is easy.

When someone enters one of my email workflows, I set their current stage in a field.  I also note this as their “Previous Stage” immediately before they leave. Now I’m tracking what stage are they in, and what stage did they come from.  To get even slicker, I create counters that increment by 1 each day which gives me the ability to track exactly how long they were in that stage.

Then I create reports like this… Well, I don’t, Mike does.  He’s cool like that.


I believe most things are possible in Act-On.  I regularly solve “impossible problems” in hour long consulting calls that I do for free.  I can admit it, I’m better at marketing automation than I am at sales (that’s why I have Stu).

Act-On is not perfect but damn, it’s powerful, and I love it.

About Phil Bosley

Philip, CEO, has nearly 20 years of marketing experience and has served as a consultant, advisor, and resource for thousands of companies like yours.

4 Very Simple But Very Helpful Everyday Marketing Tools

4 Very Simple But Very Helpful Everyday Marketing Tools

Marketing is a field made up of about 85 different disciplines rolled into one job title.  Other departments think of marketers as wizards who have mastered all the arts. They don’t even know fire wizards don’t like the cold.

Take me for example, I’m strategy, operations, and tech.  I’m pretty sure my application developer is color blind, and I’m not all together certain my graphic designer knows what a funnel is.

Unless you’re a magical marketing unicorn, you probably have some skill set gaps.  Hopefully one of these tools will make your day just a tad bit easier.



Many marketers have developed skills to write great copy, but that doesn’t mean their proofreading is always up to par.  In fact, if you’re like me, you’ve read something 7,000 times before you publish it and don’t see the typo until the moment after you’ve hit “send”.

Grammarly is a great free tool that layers into any browser based interface and highlights the mistakes for you so that you can fix them.  It does more than spell check and is a must have for anyone who frequently writes copy.



I remember I used Red (#FF0000) in a presentation and my Graphic Designer told me it made his “eyes vibrate”. He suggested I used a contrasting orange as a highlight and so I did (#FFA500).  That was also wrong and he explained I was supposed to use a specific Dark Orange (#FE8C00).

For those of us who didn’t memorize color wheels, it’s all about Paletton.  This handy browser tool let’s me drop in a base hex color and creates entire color palettes with easy to copy hex or RGB color codes.



If you’re a single person marketing team, two things are almost certainly true. No one actually understands what you do and they definitely don’t give you enough budget to do it.

Free stock images sites come in handy when you need a great image on a limited budget and Max Pixel is my go to source for free stock photos.



I was recently asked “If blacklists are so common, why aren’t more people concerned?”  My answer was sad, “Because they don’t know they are blacklisted.”

If you send email, blacklist monitoring is critical.  The fastest, easiest way to monitor your listings is to drop your domain into the MX Toolbox Blacklist checker.  If you are listed, it will link you to the appropriate delist tool so you can get your reputation back on track.



Why am I advertising for these companies? Was I paid? Nah, I’m just a beggar telling another beggar where I found bread. 

Every now and then you find a few tools that make your day a little easier, hopefully something on this list will help you.

If you’re still reading – my favorite tool is ColorPick Eyedropper which helps me easily select and copy any color from a webpage.  Very handy when I need to remember the hex code from my web font and don’t want to dig out my brand guideline doc.  Check it out below.

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Put The Mayonnaise Away

I was 15 and I thought I was invincible. I was the kid who didn’t have to (or thought I didn’t have to) study and could still show up and ace a test.  This is one of those “skills” that does not serve you well in the long run.  School, work, and life inevitably get...

3 Act-On Automated Programs You Didn’t Know You Needed

From time to time I like to geek out on tactical marketing topics, and this is an uber nerd topic relating to my favorite Marketing Automation Platform, Act-On Software. Also, for some reason I use caps like an old person. It’s late. I’m old. Leave me alone and let me...

Marketing Misaligned: Your Buzzwords Aren’t Helping

You probably already know this, but there is a problem in marketing. Specifically, marketers are not getting the job done. They are not getting the results they were hired to achieve. It is my opinion this is because businesses don’t really get marketing, and marketers don’t really get business. Simply put, marketing is out of alignment.

Choosing the Right Charts for Your Custom Marketing Reporting

Choosing the Right Charts for Your Custom Marketing Reporting

Data Visualization is the creative side of reporting. It’s the pretty charts and graphs that your colleagues “ooo” and “aww” over in your team meetings, and if done right, you can set the standard by which other departments are measured. However, many marketers are not also data analysts and therefore struggle to develop effective data visualizations for their reports.  Consider this example: Mary wanted to show the revenue generated from her marketing campaigns with an emphasis on which campaigns had contributed most significantly to accomplishing their companies quarterly revenue goals. She had tracked and measured the data, but the monochromatic bar chart she used just didn’t seem to tell the story. After a brief consultation, she realized that since her goal was “to compare the success of campaigns” a visualization highlighting comparison was more appropriate, in this case, a pie chart.  While either would work, the pie chart is more effective and helping others understand the data by representing the relative contribution visually.

So what graph should I use?

There are many, many ways to visualize data and what you should use depends largely on your audience and the meeting context.  Many marketers have had their data challenged due to a lack of granularity, and many have had ignored because it was too specific or jargony.  The most important thing is that your data visualization be effective! Here are some basic considerations* for determining the type of chart you should use:

Line graph

Line graphs are used to track changes over short and long periods of time. When smaller changes exist, line graphs are better to use than bar graphs. Line graphs can also be used to compare changes over the same period of time for more than one group.

Pie Chart

Pie charts are best to use when you are trying to compare parts of a whole. They do not show changes over time.

Bar Graph

Bar graphs are used to compare things between different groups or to track changes over time. However, when trying to measure change over time, bar graphs are best when the changes are larger.

Area Graph

Area graphs are very similar to line graphs. They can be used to track changes over time for one or more groups. Area graphs are good to use when you are tracking the changes in two or more related groups that make up one whole category (for example public and private groups).

X-Y Plot

X-Y plots are used to determine relationships between the two different things. The x-axis is used to measure one event (or variable) and the y-axis is used to measure the other. If both variables increase at the same time, they have a positive relationship. If one variable decreases while the other increases, they have a negative relationship. Sometimes the variables don’t follow any pattern and have no relationship.


We hope this information has been helpful.  Data Analysis and Visualization are an entire field on their own.  We have not tried to be exhaustive. As always, feel free to contact us for a free consultation!
*Source: https://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/help/user_guide/graph/help_menus.asp
Using Salesforce Campaigns to Create Custom Lead Score Rules in Act-On Marketing Automation

Using Salesforce Campaigns to Create Custom Lead Score Rules in Act-On Marketing Automation



This article is an advanced use case for lead scoring using Act-On Marketing Automation.  Here we will explore the use case where a company is conducting multiple live events every year, and these events are being tracked through Salesforce Campaigns.  Act-On provides an out of the box feature called “Custom Touch Points” that allows a user to upload an event list and apply scoring based on this.  However, for companies that do many events, the manual process of uploading data is a tedious waste of time. In our use case, we want Act-On to apply lead scoring based on event participation without adding steps to the process after every event. This is an excellent use case for Act-On as true Marketing Automation and not just email automation.

A note for those not using lead scoring

Lead scoring is perhaps the most valuable, least used feature of virtually all Marketing Automation Platforms.  According to MarketingSherpa, “Organizations that use lead scoring experience a 77% lift in lead generation ROI…”  If you aren’t using lead scoring yet, this article won’t help you, but Act-On’s Marketing Automation Strategy Guide will!



While Act-On has native functionality that allows users to load event lists and apply scoring, organizations with many offline or untracked activities can find this cumbersome to manage. When using integrated Salesforce CRM, many organizations use the Salesforce Campaign feature to track and manage this activity. The Salesforce Report serves as a data source for any custom scoring model using Act-On Marketing Automation.

These are the types of creative solutions Tactical helps our customers with every day!



Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

Step 7

 Step 1 – Create a Salesforce Report

Configure your Salesforce Report to include all relevant Campaigns and the appropriate fields and Campaign Statuses.  Once you are satisfied with the contents of your report, save your work to the Unfiled Public Reports folder.

Additionally, make sure you configure your report to automatically refresh itself using the “Schedule Future Runs” option. (SF Article Here)

In this example, these Campaigns will have three custom Salesforce statuses:

  • Registered
  • Attended
  • Booth Visit

Remember to include the Contact ID and Email Address on these reports or Act-On will not be able to recognize the records!

 Step 2 – Sync the Salesforce Report to Act-On

Act-On’s native integration to Salesforce equips you to Import these reports in the Act-On Marketing Lists dashboard.  When you select “Import,” a complete list of Salesforce Campaigns and all Reports in the Unfiled Public Reports folder will be visible in alphabetical order.  If you have many such objects, the browser find function (Control + F on PC, Command + F on Mac) will help you locate your specific report easily.

 Step 3 – Configure the Recurring Report Sync

Once you have imported the Salesforce Report into Act-On, you need to schedule a recurring sync on the Report so it remains updated.  This sync will typically be scheduled to run once per day, and usually outside of business hours.

 Step 4 – Create Salesforce Fields for Your Custom Scoring Criteria

After you have defined what your custom criteria are, you will need to create fields on the Lead and/or Contact record to store this data.  In this example, we will use three custom Salesforce statuses:

  • Registered
  • Attended
  • Booth Visit

These three criteria will be created as the new Lead and Contact fields “Registered,” “Attended,” and “Booth Visit.”

We will populate these later in our workflow with True or False values.

Remember to add these new fields to your Salesforce Lead and Contact syncs, and to your Standard Field Names!

 Step 5 – Configure Segmentation

Now that you have your Salesforce Report and the appropriate fields, navigate to the synced Report in Act-On.  Configure segments that meet the criteria for your custom scoring requirements. Each criteria should be a subsegment of a general category.  For example:

Top level segment – Event Date is after 90 days ago

3 Subsegments:

  • Status = Registered
  • Status = Attended
  • Status = Booth Visit


This can be done using Act-On’s native “Profile” segmentation and relative date functionality:

 Step 6 – Configure Automation

Now that you have the appropriate segments, create an automated program that will manage updating your Salesforce fields automatically.

The Source List for the Automated Program should be the top level segment you created “Event Date After 90 Days Ago”.  If you would like contacts to reenter the program, Act-On Support will need to enable “program reentry” functionality.

Now add your conditional segments to the program:

Configure the program logic to update the Salesforce Lead or Contact field as True when a contact meets the program criteria. The program should look like this:

 Step 7 – Configure Scoring

At this point, all events are being captured in a Salesforce Report and this data is being synced to Act-On. Using an Automated Program, we have updated relevant Salesforce fields to hold the scored values, and when the scored behavior expires, the scored behavior will be updated as false. All that remains is to apply the Scoring Rule. In the Scoring Rules section, configure a “Profile” Score Rule based on the value of your Salesforce Field. In our example, we will score Registered as 5, Attended as 10, and Booth Visit as 40.

The Profile Scoring rules are configured as follows:

If you do not see your custom fields, it is likely you forgot to add these to the Standard Field Names as outlined in Step 4. Otherwise, your scoring should now look like this.

Based on the automated rules we have configured, Contacts will now be scored the given points for 90 days at which time the score will decay like any other behavior.

3 Costly Mistakes When Integrating Salesforce and Act-On

3 Costly Mistakes When Integrating Salesforce and Act-On

A Little Context on Salesforce Integration with Act-On

Act-On is well known for its seamless integration with Salesforce.  Having spent more than 10,000 hours working with Act-On technology, I believe that the ease of setting up a complete, dynamic, and automatic sync to Salesforce truly is industry leading.  A typical Salesforce user with basic admin capabilities can walk through the process in about 45 minutes. It’s a simple yet powerful platform feature that provides maximum flexibility for Salesforce admins. However, if you haven’t defined clear data rules for your organization, the ease of use and flexibility can lead to serious errors in the configuration.  Here are the top 3 mistakes made when integrating Salesforce and Act-On.

“If you haven’t defined clear data rules for your organization, the ease of use and flexibility can lead to serious errors in the configuration.”

Mistake # 1: You’re Pushing Too Much

In Act-On’s Salesforce settings, it gives you the ability to configure the “Push” settings from Act-On to Salesforce. Many Act-On customers will commonly opt to “Add new records to Salesforce” and subsequently select all available fields. This is a mistake.  Consider the following example:
(Above) The correct PUSH settings from Act-On to Salesforce.

1. I submit a form and am pushed to CRM with the following data. This data is synced to Act-On.

 Name: pHIL bOSLEY Company: Tactical MA Title: head jelly bean Email: Phil@Tacticalma.com

2. Sales realizes this is incorrect and updates my record to:

Name: Phil Bosley Company: Tactical MA Title: CEO Email: phil@tacticalma.com

3. Because Act-On pushes before it pulls data, the changes that sales made are now erased, and the record reverts to:

Name: pHIL bOSLEY Company: Tactical MA Title: head jelly bean Email: Phil@Tacticalma.com

4. If Sales get’s frustrated and just deletes the record.  It won’t help…

If Act-On is configured to “Add new records,” the bad record will get added back to Salesforce on the next sync. So then, we don’t add records in a sync, unless we have a specific reason to do so, and we only push fields that generate Act-On info (e.g. Lead Score).

Mistake # 2:

You’re Not Removing Records

In an extension of the problem discussed in Mistake #1, it is extremely common to see a long list of errors on your Salesforce sync, where Act-On cannot identify the record to update.  This results in the highly annoying “invalid cross reference id” error.
(Above) The correct PULL settings from Act-On to Salesforce.
The solution to this is easy.  Simply check the “Remove records from this list that are not found on this list in Salesforce” option in your Pull settings, and Act-On will know to delete the records that have been removed in Salesforce, and no longer attempt the invalid sync.

Mistake # 3: You forgot the Admin Layer

(Above) This Salesforce Admin Layer in Act-On has not been configured.

This is a relatively new feature in Act-On, and part of their consistant push to improve data management in the platform.  The CRM Admin Layer provides settings for syncing Account and Opportunity information to Act-On, as well as manages syncing Opt Outs and and Hard Bounces to and from CRM.

Additionally, if you intend to segment based on Account or Opportunity information (functionality provided in Act-On’s Account Based Marketing add on), the CRM layer provides the connection to pull this information into the platform!

Next Steps:

Without reliable data, no marketing effort can reach its maximum potential.  These three mistakes are often the difference between success and failure with your Act-On/Salesforce integration, and there are so many more considerations.  For example:
  • How often should I sync Salesforce and Act-On?
  • How should I push forms to Salesforce and Act-On?
  • How do I integrate my lead stages and automated programs?
If you would like to review your Salesforce + Act-On integration, Tactical MA provides a 1 hour free consultation, and we can look at your sync settings and data management practices with you.  Our goal is always to have your sync optimized by the end of our session, and if you feel we can help in other areas, we’re happy to do that as well!
3 Things Act-On Support Can’t Help With (But an Agency Can)

3 Things Act-On Support Can’t Help With (But an Agency Can)

As a former Technical Solutions Engineer at Act-On, I loved how much our customers loved us. It was normal for a TSE to help 20 customers each day, and we always prioritized the customer experience.  My leadership had a very clear directive on the limits of how far we should go, summed up in a single word mission statement: “Help.”

At Act-On Support, I would help with anything a customer needed; but I knew that some requests I was not a good resource for.  Now, being part of Tactical MA, I realize these are things that you would be better served working with an agency on, rather than calling Tech Support.

marketing strategy for all businesses

Planning Campaigns

There are two things that a Support Engineer who just picked up the phone lacks that are vital to strategic consulting: experience and ownership.  I had neither of these, so it was never in your best interest to ask me to guide your strategy.

I was frequently asked to help design strategy or plans for customer campaigns at Act-On.  While I had a lot of experience working with the software, I had little to no experience in developing a strategy.

I was trained in how the software functions and how to solve technical challenges, not how to design campaigns.  At best I could share ideas I had seen, or even refer the marketer to the Strategy Guide, (authored by the CEO of Tactical MA) but that was it.


Why you should contact an agency instead

If you need help planning out a strategy, working with an agency is a far better path to take.  Marketing agencies have experience building out and managing proven strategies.  They take ownership of each client or partner and work to get the best results in the long term.

The best analogy I’ve come across for it is to look at your marketing as a ship setting sail.  Your strategy is the path you plan to take and the navigation along the way.  For that, you want a navigator who has handled plenty of ships and gotten them where they’re going.  You want to save the phone call to tech support for when the boat springs a leak.

Creating and Managing Content and Automation

In a similar vein to the point above, support staff cannot create or maintain your content for or with you.  This includes the building of automation, the design or creation of content, and any follow-ups to make sure things are running properly.

This goes back to experience and ownership.  Without alignment to your company goals, this experience was highly transactional, and I was laser-focused on defining and solving a problem.  Automation requires ongoing monitoring, response, and revision.  I always wanted to help to the best of my ability, but the nature of any support person’s job is to open and close cases; this is not conducive to the type of help you need.

As a technical resource, it was always unwise for you to gamble that I had the marketing experience needed to properly advise this process.

Page Design

Why you should contact an agency instead

The keys to content creation are time and expertise.  The best way to guarantee that someone with expertise is spending the appropriate time on developing your content or automation is to contract with them for it.  Content design and development is one of the key services offered by a good agency, and they have decades of experience that you can leverage to make your content or programs awesome.


Integrated Systems

Due to the connected nature of marketing automation, there are a lot of systems working together that need to be made to “play nice.”  This means that the lines of “who should be supporting what” get blurry, and many times I was asked to help with customization to systems outside of Act-On.

While I could have helped with native connectivity to Act-On, I had limited exposure to CRM functionality, your WordPress plugins, or any system outside of Act-On.

As Act-On Support, I had thorough training and complete access to your Act-On account, but I was totally blind to the settings, configuration, and use case for any of your other systems.

Why you should contact an agency instead

In this case, there is an issue beyond time and expertise that matters most: liability.  A Support Engineer is limited in what they can personally do by the fact that they represent the company they work for.  This means that they are not able to accept or use your login credentials to work in your other accounts or platforms.

Good agencies specialize in data, integration, and technology. If you provide them with login credentials, they can jump into your systems and do what needs to be done.

One of the most liberating parts of my transition to working with a marketing agency was being able to log into all of the relevant systems for a project and set things up myself.  As a member of Support, I had to provide the information related to our platform and hope that the customer’s team could get things set up properly.  I have since received extensive training in many systems, and I work with experts across multiple platforms.

If there is setup or work that you need to be done in your CRM, website or another third party system that is beyond your team’s current understanding, reaching out to the right marketing agency can be a massive help.

In Closing

I can’t stress enough that Technical Support, especially the team I worked with, is often a highly motivated, talented group of brilliant people who want to help you solve your problem; but they are limited by regulations and experience for their specific product.

Successfully resolving your current situation boils down to the question, “Who is the best person to help with this?”  If the marketing automation software you’re using is not broken, Tech Support is not the right answer.

A specialized marketing agency like Tactical MA is often the answer you’re looking for.  The best part about Tactical MA is they are a premiere Act-On partner, staffed with former Act-On employees, and provide free consultations. Feel free to browse our site and see if we are a good fit.

Helping you is what we’re here for!