ActiveCampaign Lists Explained [Simple But Effective!]

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When you think of ActiveCampaign lists…

You should consider them to be to ActiveCampaign what solid foundations are to a high-rise building!

Everything else you do is built on top of them so the way you choose to set them up will either allow you to use all the other features to the fullest…


Make things so confusing that every time you attempt to set something up, you’ll never use more than the basic features and ActiveCampaign will be just another expense eating away at your bottom line every month.

So in this post, I’m going to show you the two most common causes of poorly organized lists and a setup that I find works well for the majority of businesses.

I’ll also explain how you can safely make some changes if you’ve already made a mess of your lists too.

… and make sure you stick around for that because if you get it wrong, you could accidentally delete all of your contacts.

And there's no undo button if you do!

The Two Most Common Causes Of Disorganised Lists

1. First Time Users

People who’ve never used something like ActiveCampaign before do the best they can to set up their account and basically just add whatever lists make sense on the day.
This isn’t always well thought through because, in the beginning, you don’t really understand the consequences of your choices or even know if you’ll continue to use it past the free trial.

2. Integration With Other Apps

ActiveCampaign as a stand alone app is without doubt very powerful but it becomes even more powerful when you integrate it with other apps.

In most cases, when integrating with another app you have at least two choices.

Integration Option One

Integrate with the use of webhooks and API.  If you don’t know what a webhook or API is then check this out…

Integrating Via API

If you understand what all this means or got excited to learn something new, then integrating via API might be for you!

If not…

It’s probably a good sign that you should consider option two or have someone who can do it for you.

The upside to this type of integration is that it allows total flexibility and customization. On the downside, it requires some technical knowledge.

Integration Option Two

Integrate via a more user-friendly integration such as Zapier or Integromat.

If you’re not familiar with these apps, in simple terms they allow you to pass information from one app to another without any coding knowledge at all.  So as long as you can follow simple on-screen prompts you can do it yourself.

Zapier is more well-known and popular because it is much easier but personally I don’t like it and don’t use it.

It has a linear workflow that is easier for beginners to use but if you have a more complex integration with multiple steps, Integromat is more flexible and affordable which is why I use it and recommend it.

The trade-off though with the easy integration option is you often lose the ability to customize the integration however you want (less of a problem with Integromat than Zapier).

In some cases, when it comes to lists there are some apps that will force you to create a new ActiveCampaign list each time you want to set up a new integration.

So let’s say for example you are a personal trainer and you want to use a landing page builder app to create marketing funnels to capture leads.

If you did this using LeadPages you’d find that there’s a problem!

Let’s imagine you build two funnels, one targeting people who want to lose weight…

Example Lead Magnet Opt-in

… and one targeting people who want to build muscle.

Example Lead Magnet Opt-in

Doing this through Leadpages, if you want to separate your lose weight and build muscle leads, the only integration option you have is to create two separate ActiveCampaign lists.

This might not sound too bad but typically when people create marketing funnels they add lots more over time and you end up with ActiveCampaign contacts separated over many different lists when technically, all those contacts would fit perfectly under one list…

A list called Leads!

I learned about this specific problem with Leadpages during a consultation call with a new client.  she had her leads spread over more than 50 lists and had no idea if those lists were leads, customers, or a combination of the two.

Tip: If you need an integration like this, don’t just assume the app integrates with ActiveCampaign the way you want simply because Activewcampaign was listed on their website’s integrations page.  Setup a free trial and make sure the integration allows you to add tags to contacts as well. In a minute I’ll explain how this will help.

If you do need to build marketing funnels or landing pages there are now more landing page builder apps available than you could ever possibly research.  If you need it to integrate with ActiveCampaign I would cross Leadpages off your list of possibilities. 

The landing page builder with the most users worldwide is ClickFunnels but I have a hard time recommending that as well because you can get everything available through ClickFunnels with this website subscription.  The only difference between the two is with ClickFunnels you pay more and still need to build the website yourself.

How I Like To Set Up Contact Lists

Before I get into this, I want to be clear that I don’t believe this is the right way to configure your lists and every other possible solution is wrong.  This is how I like to do it because I’ve found it makes it easier to use all the features of ActiveCampaign and clients seem to understand it without the need to explain what has been done.

Depending on how you use ActiveCampaign you might prefer a different system.

6 Most Common List Names I Use

Now this is really simple!

Forget about the fact that you are using ActiveCampaign just for a minute and imagine you were helping your new employee John on his first day. When John gets his first email inquiry to handle…

What word would you use to describe to John the person who sent the email?

ActiveCampaign Lists Explained

Or maybe something else?

These six different possibilities cover off about 95% of the names I ever use for ActiveCampaign lists and very rarely do I need to use something else.

The Benefit Of This Approach

The benefit of clearly separating your contacts in this way is that it makes it very easy for you to create automation rules such as “In list Leads” or “In list Clients”.

segment clients and leads

Or create an automation that is triggered when someone is added to your clients list which then automatically removes them from your leads list…

unsubscribe clients from leads list

These types of automation rules mean that you won’t be pestering your clients with marketing messages tailored for your leads and if you need to send something that is for clients only, then you can set that up in about 5 seconds.

Personally, I consider this to be really important.

A couple of years ago I signed up for a $6,000 course and just 24 hours later I received an email promoting a 3 day sale offering the same course for $4,500. Seeing that email instantly gave me buyers remorse and the only thing that made it okay was the fact that it was a very good course.
If they had configured automation rules I would never have seen the discounted price and would have been completely happy with my purchase.

Segment Your Lists Further

You can then use ActiveCampaign tags to segment your leads based on the topic they are interested in, in this case weight loss and build muscle…

Using lists in this way is much easier to manage and will help you make sure that the right contacts get the right messages!

So what do you do if your lists are a total mess already and you want to clean them up?

How To Organise ActiveCampaign Lists Without Deleting Contacts

It’s an easy fix but you need to follow a very specific process otherwise it’s possible to accidentally delete all of your contacts. I’m going to walk you through that process right now.

Step 1. Find the list you want to remove and click on the number representing the number of contacts in the list…

fix lists safely step 1

Step 2. Click edit all…

Step 3. Here you are going to apply 3 actions all at once:

  1. Add to the new list that you want them to be in (such as leads of clients)
  2. Unsubscribe them from the current list that you want to delete
  3. Add a tag using whatever description you would like to use to segment these contacts (from our example it would be build muscle or weight loss)…
  4. Once you’re happy with your three actions click apply.

Step 4. Now that you’ve moved your contacts to a different list and applied a tag so you can clearly identify them, it’s now safe to delete the original list that you want to remove.

Tip: Quickly check to make sure the number of contacts showing in the list is now 0 before deleting it.  If you delete a list with contacts in the list, the contacts are deleted as well.

Step X. Continue step numbers from where you finished previous screen capture but continue on from 002_SC09_1

The good news…

After you repeat this process for all of the lists that you want to remove, you should have all your contacts grouped into leads, clients, members, wholesales or whatever naming system makes sense for your business.

Then you should have those contacts segmented even further with the use of tags.

The bad news…

Tags can become even more messy and confusing than lists if you don’t have a good system for organizing them.

But don’t worry!

I have a tagging system that will help you get the most out of AcvtiveCampaign as well which is exactly what I cover in my post ActiveCampaign Tags Explained.

Did I miss something?

My goal is to make this blog post the best resource available on this topic. If you didn’t get the answer you were looking for, something wasn’t 100% clear or maybe you did get the info you wanted… Either way, I’d love for you to comment below so I can make any necessary improvements.

Look forward to hearing from you!


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