Creating email campaigns using WordPress and ActiveCampaign

Speed up your workflow by using your existing content, and 5 other reasons not to use your email software for design.

By Stephen Pratley

  • Posted January 12, 2016

I’ve had a lot of conversations with other email marketers recently about how badly the design and editing tools suck in a lot of email marketing platforms.

It seems like the smarter the functionality in the platform, the worse it gets.

Mailchimp and CampaignMonitor are actually OK in this respect, but they’re pretty dumb tools, really only for blasts to small volume lists.

The higher up the ladder you go, to ActiveCampaign (not toooo bad), Infusionsoft, ExactTarget and onwards, the worse it gets. I think the guys selling these tools expect their clients to have a team of email designers and coders on staff.

Well I teach a lot of these big corporates at the Institute of Direct Marketing and I can tell you. It ain’t so.

So, what I’ve always tried to do is use the company’s content management system, or their ecommerce platform, to create their emails too.

This video is an example of using WordPress to build up and email from existing content, then pull it into ActiveCampaign.

6 reasons to do it…


This is a run-through of how we’re going to create an email campaign, building in WordPress and then importing the design into active campaign. We’re in WordPress here and we’ve created a custom post type of email. Normally, you’ve got your blog post going here, your pages are there as well, and we’ve got a couple of other types. We’ve set one up specifically for emails. We can either create it by clicking add new there or up here. The first thing is to give it a title. This title has nothing to do with the subject line for the email. It’s just our own reference, so I’m going to give it something based on today’s date. It’s just a test email, so we’ll just put that in. The bulk of this is done by this area here, which is created by a plugin called Advanced Custom Fields Private. Basically what we do is just click on any existing blog post, and we can pick other types as well. We can pick our event type that we’ve got over here, and add those in. That’s literally it. We just click those in. There’s no cutting and pasting a lot of content. I’m going to save this draft here before we set it live. If you right click, open that in a new tab, and you can see the campaign has been created already.

We’ve got some standard parts of this email that links back to the logo that links back to the site. I’ll strapline it. These are the three blog posts and the event that we’ve added in to this email, and then all the footer with our social links and the copyright notice is down there. You’ll notice that there’s no unsubscribe link at the bottom of this. That’s because active campaign puts that section in automatically itself. All right, a couple of other things you can do. Let’s say we want to delete that, and we want to change the order of these. Make sure our event is in there because that’s what our next … You can just add, delete, shuffle those things around, save them, refresh that page, and you can see that new content. It would be useful to have a little bit of an intro to this email, so this is done by the excerpt section. If we put something like, we are taking bookings for our China marketing localization workshop, then you’ll see where that appears as an intro. We can fill out some more copy on that on the real campaign.

The last thing to do is we can set an image that sets the tone for this as well. As we’re talking about localization, we can put some … I think there’s an image in here for translated text or books or something. Put preferably a landscape format image in there. Right. You need one that’s going to be big enough for about six hundred pixels. Let’s pick another one. That’s a bit small. What else have we got in here? Let’s just use that same one again then. Okay. That’s our email. When we’re ready, we can publish that. It won’t appear on the front end of the site at all, so people won’t stumble across that by accident. Only really if they’ve read the email. You can also tweet links to this as well. It makes quite a nice landing page for Facebook ads, Twitter ads, LinkedIn comments, things like that. That’s our email built. That’s all good. The link’s here, work through, linking to our workshop, and that blog post. You’ll see it uses the same featured image and the same excerpts. Let’s have a quick look at these, these little, short excerpts. Pull through into the email campaign. Email there. Let’s go back, and that’s the same text. That’s where that comes from, so you need to make sure you’ve got the featured image in excerpt setup here.

The next step is going to be to actually pull the campaign through into active campaign. Now we’re in active campaign, and this is the screen that we get to immediately after we’ve logged in. We want to pull our campaign into, or create it into a new campaign. Click on the campaigns tab. Create a new campaign. We may as well give it the same name as we’ve used in WordPress, just so we can tie the two together should we ever need to. I’m going to send this just to our test list. You can choose whichever list you want to use. Normally we send it to all of the lists if it’s a general interest newsletter. We’re going to build from scratch, and we’re going to use custom HTML. We’ll put a subject line in here which can be changed later. Chinese marketing localization workshop and Chinese New Year. That’s coming from Domanica, the CEO. Now to put our code in, we go to our Preview page. In fact, as this is now published, you can see that. We go insert, content from URL, and we paste the link to our email campaign. There’s two options, fetch now and put it in the editor so I can edit before sending, or fetch at time of sending. Pretty much always just leave it with the first one, that way you know what contents gone into it.

This is all the HTML code, which you don’t really need to touch, and this is the campaign itself. That’s how you saw it on the webpage. You’ll notice this will also fold itself up neatly if it’s on narrower devices, so it works nicely on my bar. This is the section that active campaign is added in, which has got the unsubscribe link and it will say who it’s been sent by, and then just the active campaign footer as we’re on one of the low-cost plans with them. I click on next, and the next thing you can do is send yourself a test email. Send that, and you will notice this little flag at the top. We’ll look at one other thing to turn on. It’s Google Analytics. Any clicks to the website from the email campaign will be logged in Google as well. The rest of it you can leave as it is. The next thing to do is we’re going to go and have a look at this in, hopefully, it’s arrived in our email. Here we are. Here’s our preview email. Our images. Our track links through to the different blog posts. Our links through to our LinkedIn page all working happily, and the Twitter account.

You can see it’s got sent by Emerging Communications and the address in there and who it was sent to, so if the person needs to check exactly which emails on their list, they’re there. That’s your campaign. To actually finally send out, if you click on … You can either schedule it for sometime in the future, or just leave it there and hit the send now button.

That’s all there is to do.

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