Intro to Dotdigital Programs

Kyle Tarbuck
Kyle Tarbuck
  • Updated

Wouldn’t it be great if you could do all of your segmentation, plan out a series of email campaigns, and then set your customers off on automated, tailored journeys based on who they are, their booking history and how they interact with your mailings?

Well, look no further than email automation – you can do exactly that, and without having to manually work out which customers to include in which campaigns. It’s a tool which allows you to go far beyond the basics of sending generic marketing emails, instead creating targeted, customer-specific marketing journeys – or programs – that differ depending on how each customer interacts with your organisation.

Spektrix provides various tools to help with this, from the powerful segmentation options available in Customer Lists, to a thorough integration with dotdigital allowing for the creation and execution of email programs based on customer Tags.

We’re using the term programs here – a program is the technical term for what you’re setting up in dotdigital, the tool that will allow you to set your customers off on specific journeys through different email campaigns.

In this article, we'll look at:

What’s the benefit of email automation?

There are two key benefits to making use of email automation – the ability to engage with your customers in a personalised, targeted manner, and the time-saving benefits of being able to set everything up and then let it run without having to be directly involved at every stage.

Customers react best to marketing which is tailored to their interests and needs, so any tool you can use to personalise your email marketing is going to be beneficial. If you can take that another step further and send not just individual email campaigns but sets of emails which lead customers through journeys that you tailor to their specific needs and interests, you’ve got a very powerful marketing tool.

In theory it’s been possible to do that for as long as email marketing has existed but, if you tried to do it manually, it would require a tremendous amount of time and effort. Automating the process makes it realistic to do this, and frees up your time to be spent on other things.

What can Spektrix offer?

The Spektrix system provides powerful segmentation and automation tools in the form of Tags, Auto Tags and Customer Lists, which allow you to identify particular segments of your customer database in endless ways. If you’re not already familiar with these tools, take a look at the following articles:

Spektrix also integrates with dotdigital to provide a single, integrated email solution, and dotdigital comes with a powerful tool allowing you to create automated programs. A program is essentially a visual representation of the journey that you want customers to go on in terms of the emails you want them to receive.

One of the benefits of the Spektrix/dotdigital integration is the ability to tap into the features of both tools and combine them in order to get the best out of them both. Individually the two systems are very powerful but, when used in conjunction, they offer a huge amount of flexibility and utility.

It’s also not just about programs – the integration also allows for information to be passed from Spektrix to dotdigital. The main use of this is to send Attributes and Tags from Spektrix to dotdigital in order to power personalisation and dynamic content. For more information on what you can do with this, see these article below:

How do Spektrix and dotdigital work together for email automation?

The integration between Spektrix and dotdigital to allow for email automation is just an extension of the basic integration which allows you to generate Customer Lists in Spektrix, pass those to dotdigital, and then send dotdigital-created campaigns using those lists. For the purposes of email automation the process is a little more complex, but essentially very similar.

The main difference is that the actual segmentation of customers – i.e. choosing which customers to enrol on which programs, and when to remove them – is done in dotdigital, using the data that has been synced from Spektrix.

There are two things you need in Spektrix:

  1. A Customer List to include in programs – chances are you’ll want to include pretty much everyone who has an email address and who’s agreed to be contacted by email. You may, however, want to exclude some people (VIPs, donors, etc.) that you might never want to be included in an automated program
  2. A Tag Group containing the specific Tags that you want to sync with dotdigital

NOTE: the Support team will need to set these up with you when you first come to set up this feature.

Each night, Spektrix syncs that Customer List and Tag Group with dotdigital, providing dotdigital with an up-to-date pool of customers to draw from, and Tags which become contact data fields in dotdigital and power the decision-making in programs.

In dotdigital, you set up specific campaigns for use in programs, and then create one or more programs using the synced Spektrix tags and the dotdigital address book to determine which customers to include.

We've put together a two-part video explaining the basic concepts of email automation with Spektrix, which you can see below. 

  • Part one: the basics of email automation, and creating lapsed attender programs
  • Part two: creating birthday campaigns, and using dynamic content



For example, you might create an Auto Tag called LAPSED_BOOKER which applies to customers who haven’t purchased tickets with you for two or more years, and a series of campaigns designed to encourage those customers to book with you again. This LAPSED_BOOKER Tag will be translated into a contact data field in dotdigital, called TAG_LAPSED_BOOKER.

You'd set your program so that all customers that are a) in your synced address book, and b) have the LAPSED_BOOKER Tag/TAG_LAPSED_BOOKER contact data field held against them are enrolled into it, and are sent the various campaigns over a period of time. You'd also make losing the LAPSED_BOOKER Tag/TAG_LAPSED_BOOKER contact data field an exit criteria for the program.

If one of your customers with the LAPSED_BOOKER Tag/TAG_LAPSED_BOOKER contact data field were to purchase tickets after being enrolled in the program, the Auto Tag would drop off their customer record in Spektrix. When the nightly sync occurred, that customer would still be included in the Customer List (and therefore the synced address book) but without the Tag (and therefore without the contact data field), which means they would no longer be eligible for the program. As a result, they would exit the program and not receive any more of the campaigns within it.

Are there any limitations?

The email automation feature is very powerful, but there are a few things worth being aware of when you’re deciding whether to start using it or not.

Firstly, the initial setup is a little more complex than most Spektrix features and requires you to plan ahead and work closely with the Spektrix Support team. This isn’t something that you can turn on and start using in a flash, so make sure you’ve got time set aside when you come to start getting it set up.

The other main point to be aware of is that the integration is one way, from Spektrix to dotdigital. What this means is that once the data has been synced with dotdigital and customers have been enrolled in programs, you won’t get mailing data back in Spektrix – you’re using dotdigital alone to send each email, so they won’t create Mailing records in the way your usual integrated emails do.

Don’t worry though, this isn’t a problem. Remember that you would normally want to be able to segment on customers’ interactions with the emails you send – opens, link clicks, etc. – so that you can use the data to inform future segmentations. In this case with programs, dotdigital is doing all of that segmentation for you, so you don’t need that data in Spektrix.

NOTE: if you do decide you need to be able to keep track of which customers go down particular pathways, exit at particular points, or receive certain campaigns, you can add Add contact nodes to your programs that will add every customer who passes through them to an address book. You could then use this address book in an import to apply a Tag against the customers within it. There's more information about Add contact nodes on dotdigital's support site, and you can contact the Spektrix Support team to talk about importing data.

The only other considerations at this point are that synced Tags' names must be sixteen characters or fewer in length, and that a maximum of 100 Tags can be synced – this means you need to be thoughtful about which Tags you sync, based on exactly what you want to achieve.

Further reading

For information on how to set up email automation, click here to read our article on Setting Up Dotdigital Programs.

You might also want to read the following articles to familiarise yourself with the various elements involved in setting up email automation:


If you have any questions about email automation, or would like to discuss anything further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Support team.