Setting Up Dotdigital Programs

Kyle Tarbuck
Kyle Tarbuck
  • Updated

This article looks at how to set up email automation in Spektrix and dotdigital in order to create and run ongoing programs. If you have already set up the basics of this then you can skip ahead to the section creating and starting a program; otherwise, you'll want to make sure you go through this in order.

NOTE: if you haven't already read our Intro to Email Automation, we would recommend you go back and read that first.

Here's the overall process of how Spektrix and dotdigital combine:

  • Create a Customer List specifically for the purpose of email automation
  • Create a Tag Group and relevant Tags to sync with dotdigital
  • The Customer List and Tags will sync nightly with dotdigital
  • The Support team will create a dotdigital address book called Dotdigital Sync
  • You'll need to create contact data fields in dotdigital for each of the synced Tags
  • You can then create programs based on the synced data

In this article, we'll cover:

  • The initial setup required in Spektrix and in dotdigital
  • How to create and start a program
  • A few things you'll need to remember when setting up and running dotdigital programs
  • Further reading

Initial setup in Spektrix

Before you can do any setup in dotdigital, you need to create a Customer List and a Tag Group (plus Tags) in Spektrix to sync with dotdigital.

NOTE: at this stage everything needs to be set up in a very specific way, so it's very important that you get in touch with the Support team before you start setting things up in dotdigital. They'll make sure everything is ready behind the scenes, and advise on how best to set up your Customer List and Tags.

A couple of things to point out here:

  • When you're setting up your Customer List, think about whether there are any customers you want to exclude from ever being entered into a dotdigital program – stakeholders, VIPs, donors, etc.
  • There is a character limit for contact data fields in dotdigital, which means each Tag you set up in Spektrix needs to be no more than sixteen characters long (including spaces)
    • As all letters are capitalised and spaces are translated into underscores when a Tag is synced to dotdigital as a contact data field, you might consider formatting your Tag names accordingly, e.g. LAPSED_BOOKER rather than Lapsed Booker
  • You can sync up to 100 contact data fields in dotdigital, so it's worth planning in advance what to set up

Once this initial setup is done you won't need to do it all again, but if you want to add further Tags then you will need to add them into the same Tag Group – only a single Tag Group can be synced with dotdigital.

If you're not sure where to start with creating these, have a read of our articles on Normal Tags and Auto Tags and the Customer List Builder for guidance.


Initial setup in dotdigital

The first thing to do in dotdigital is navigate to Contacts > My Contacts and make sure that you can see an address book called Dotdigital Sync. This should contain all of the contacts in the Customer List you created in Spektrix, minus any which are on the suppression list in dotdigital.

Next, you need to create a new contact data field for each Tag that you've synced to dotdigital – check your Tag Group in Spektrix and set up one contact data field in dotdigital for each Tag.


If you're not familiar with setting up contact data fields in dotdigital, see our article on Personalisation in dotdigital for more information.

These contact data fields need to be named using the same naming convention:

  • Set up each custom field as a Yes/No field type
    • You can create up to 100 of these Yes/No custom fields
  • Each one should start with TAG_
  • Spaces should be replaced by underscores (i.e. _ )
  • They should be entirely in uppercase

For example, if you had a Tag in Spektrix called Lapsed Booker you should name the contact data field TAG_LAPSED_BOOKER in dotdigital.

Default fields

As well as Tags, there are a number of other default fields which are automatically synced from Spektrix to dotdigital. 

These do not need to start with TAG_ but should be written exactly as below: 

    Type: Date
    Customer's Date of Birth field.

    Type: Yes/No
    If the customer has only ever purchased tickets for one Event.

    Type: Yes/No
    If the customer has never purchased tickets.

    Type: Number
    The total unexpired account credit balance on a customer's account.

    Type: Number
    The average number of days before Instance Date the customer purchased tickets. This metric is calculated overnight. Does not include instances not in metrics.

    Type: Number
    The mean average Ticket spend per Order for the customer. Does not include instances not in metrics.
    Type: Number
    The mean average Ticket spend for the customer. Does not include instances not in metrics.

    Type: Number
    The number of weeks since a customer's last purchase of unreturned Tickets. Does not include instances not in metrics.

    Type: Number
    The number of weeks until the date of the next future Instance. Does not include instances not in metrics.

    Type: Number.
    The number of weeks since the date of the most recent Instance. Does not include instances not in metrics.

Creating and starting a program

Preparation required in Spektrix

There's not a lot that needs doing in Spektrix when you want to set up a new program, as long as you've correctly set everything up beforehand. Your Customer List and Tag Group should be syncing with dotdigital overnight, so it's just a matter of using dotdigital to select which customers to include and which campaign to send.

If you want to use any new Tags that you haven't yet synced with dotdigital then you'll need to add those into your existing Tag Group; they'll sync overnight and then be available to use.

That's all you need to do – the rest is done in dotdigital.

Creating and starting a program in dotdigital

There are two main aspects involved in setting up programs – creating the campaigns to send, and setting up the logic of the program itself.

You can't use existing ‘standard' dotdigital campaigns in programs; you need to use specific triggered campaigns that you can create in Automation > Triggered campaign content.

Once you've created your triggered campaign(s) you can set up a program by going to Automation > My programs and clicking the New program button. Dotdigital provides a few sample program templates which might be useful when you're first learning how to create programs, or you can open a blank template and start from scratch.

Each program needs a number of nodes – you can add as many of these in as you need, but here are the essentials:

  • A Start Condition: this determines which customers should be included in the program, based on the following:
    • Enrolment scheduling (optional): when the program should start
    • Enrolment rule (required): how customers should be included. See the section below on how to enrol customers for more information on this
    • Enrolment limits (optional): whether customers should be re-enrolled or not
  • At least one Action plus as many Delays and Decisions as you need
    • There are various types of Action, but the most relevant one will be Campaign
    • You can create a triggered campaign when adding an Action, if it's not already been created
  • An End node: this is the final point of the program, so any time you link another node to it, that represents the conclusion of the program
  • Exit conditions: by default customers will leave the program when they reach the end node, but you can also set conditions which allow them to leave early – for example, if a Lapsed Booker Auto Tag drops off because the customer has made a purchase, or if customers leave the synced address book

NOTE: dotdigital doesn't automatically save your programs, so make sure you remember to click the Save button. You also need to Activate your program before it will start working – dotdigital will validate your program and tell you if there are any errors before activating it.

Here's a sample program that we've put together, to give you an idea of what it might look like:


If you would like to see some example program structures you can check out the sample templates already in dotdigital.

How to enrol customers in a program

It's a fairly straightforward process to choose which customers to include in a program. We've provided a link to dotdigital documentation on setting up programs in the Further Documentation section below, but here we'll give a quick overview of this initial step.

When you create a new program, you'll automatically have a Start node which looks like this:


When you select your Start node and choose Create a start condition you'll see the following options:


From here you can set your Enrolment scheduling and Enrolment limits to whatever you need, but we'll focus here on setting up an Enrolment rule.

There are two options here, allowing you to trigger your program based on a contact date field or a segment – choose Trigger from a segment to select a Tag which has been synced from Spektrix and turned into a contact data field, and specify which address book to use. Here's what you'll see if you do that:


You've got various options here, but you'll want to use a combination of two of these – Data fields and Address books. The Data Fields are the Tags that you've synced from Spektrix as Contact Data Fields, while the address book is the dotdigital address book that's been created as a result of the nightly sync from Spektrix.

Here's what to do:

  • Click on the Data Fields segment and drag it over to the Include contacts that match any of the rules in this group section
  • Choose a contact data field from the list
  • Repeat if you want to base the program on a combination of segments
  • Click on the Address books segment and add it to your Data Fields segment(s)
    • Make sure you select And when adding this segment – see below
  • Add in any further segments you need to the Exclude contacts that match all the rules in this group section if you want to exclude certain customers
    • Think of this like selecting the NOT option in a Customer List in Spektrix
  • Click the Apply button when you're finished

IMPORTANT: when you add in a second segment (whether it's a contact data field or address book), you'll see the option to use an And rule or an Or rule here:


This works much like when you're creating Customer Lists in Spektrix – choose And if customers need to have both/all Data Fields to be included, or choose Or if customers need to have one of the Data Fields.

Customers leaving the synced address book

Customers who fulfill the exit conditions that you've set will be automatically removed from the program, but it's also possible for customers to be removed because they've left the synced address book.

The address book is synced every night between Spektrix and dotdigital, and contains all of the customers in the specific Customer List you've set up in Spektrix. Chances are you'll have set this to include all customers who have given consent to be emailed, and potentially to exclude any stakeholders, VIPs, donors, etc. who you don't want to ever include in an automated program. If you change any of those rules (for example, choosing to exclude another group of customers) then the number of customers in your Customer List will change; likewise if any customers change their contact preferences.

Further documentation

We've only provided a very quick guide to how to create a program, largely because it's a really easy, intuitive process. If you would like some additional documentation, however, dotdigital has a range of great support articles which take you through every aspect of creating programs.

We would suggest you start with this dotdigital support article on working with the program builder canvas interface, which provides a simple overview of the tool along with links to other articles about lots of specific areas.

It's worth noting that the dotdigital support articles include information on elements of the email automation tool which are not relevant to Spektrix users, due to the way that Spektrix and dotdigital are integrated. You should be able to tell quite easily which subjects aren't relevant, but here are a few worth pointing out straight away:

  • Anything to do with dotdigital's API
  • Anything to do with address books and contacts – that's all handled in Spektrix
  • Extensions – these are not compatible with the Spektrix integration

Things to remember

Creating dotdigital programs is a relatively straightforward process, but there are a few things that it's worth bearing in mind when you're doing so:

  • You can't edit a program once it's active, so make sure you plan it out properly before you activate it; if you do need to make any changes, you'll have to pause the program to do so
  • You can only have up to 100 contact data fields and their names must be sixteen or fewer characters in length, so consider these as well when planning
  • You can't recycle existing ‘normal' campaigns; make sure you set up any campaigns you're going to need as triggered campaigns
  • A contact can only ever be in a single program once at any one time, so no need to worry about them being re-added to the same program again while they're still in there
  • You may want to make sure that any customers who you know are going to be in an automation campaign are excluded from your regular mailings. You can use Tags to do this – add Tags in Spektrix, then use those to power exclusions in your programs

Further reading

For some email automation, you might not need programs – if you're looking to create something a little more simple or that doesn't need to be responsive to how a customer interacts with an email, Customer List Schedules might fit the bill!


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