Action Network Help & FAQs

Ladder components and rules -- rungs, triggers, and action, decision, and wait steps

Ladders are made up of various components that control how activist move through them, as well as some rules that guide logic within a ladder. The types of components are rungs, triggers, and steps, of which there are three kinds -- action steps, decision steps, and wait steps.

 

Rungs

Every ladder must contain at least one rung. Rungs can be thought of as containers of steps that belong together, as well as entry points into a ladder. After entering, an activist moves through from top to bottom. You can click to add a new rung when editing the ladder using the green plus buttons. You can add new rungs below or above existing ones.

Each rung must have at least one trigger, though you can add more than one trigger to a rung. If you add more than one, if the activist triggers any of the criteria they will be added to the ladder at that rung.

 

Triggers

Activist enter ladders via triggers that you can add to each rung. Each rung must have at least one trigger, and each trigger describes the action an activist must take to enter the ladder at that rung.

When you add a rung, you will be prompted to add the first trigger. Choose an option and click save to add it. You can add another trigger to that rung by clicking the "Add Trigger" button next to that rung. You can edit or optionally delete a trigger by clicking the edit icon next to it to bring up the editing window. Make your changes and click save to update the tigger, or click the delete button and confirm to remove it.

If you remove the last trigger in a rung, the entire rung, including all steps following it, will be deleted. You will be warned before you do this.

You can add notes on each trigger by clicking the notes icon, writing notes, and saving them. These are internal-only but may be useful in explaining to colleagues what each trigger is supposed to be doing.

Because triggers are used to determine where in a ladder an activist enters, you can only have each trigger once in each ladder. For example, you cannot have the "Subscribed" trigger twice in your ladder on different rungs. You'd have to make separate ladders to have different things happen when someone subscribes.

There are 9 different types of triggers you can use:

Received any email

An activist will enter the ladder at this rung when they receive any email from your group. (Not including emails generated by ladders.)

Opened any email

An activist will enter the ladder at this rung when they open any email from your group. (Not including emails generated by ladders.)

Clicked any email

An activist will enter the ladder at this rung when they click a link in any email from your group. (Not including emails generated by ladders.)

Received a specific email

An activist will enter the ladder at this rung when they receive the email you choose from the dropdown list. (You can choose emails that are in draft, so you can set up a ladder before the email is sent and trigger activists to enter the ladder when you send the email.)

Opened a specific email

An activist will enter the ladder at this rung when they open the email you choose from the dropdown list.

Clicked a specific email

An activist will enter the ladder at this rung when they click a link in the email you choose from the dropdown list.

Subscribed

An activist will enter the ladder at this rung when they subscribe to receive emails from group. This can be a brand new subscriber or a change in their subscription status from unsubscribed (or bouncing, or spam complainted) to subscribed.

Took Any Action

An activist will enter the ladder at this rung when they take any action sponsored by your group, such as signing a petition. You have the option of including upload-type actions or not. If you do not check that box, uploading an activist will not trigger them entering the ladder. If you do, uploads and similar things (like the person signup helper on the API) will trigger them into the ladder.

Took A Specific Action

An activist will enter the ladder at this rung when they take the action you choose in the dropdown menu.

 

Steps

Once activists enter a ladder at a specific rung because they triggered that trigger, they will immediately proceed to the following steps, one after another, until they run out of steps and reach an exit, at which point they will exit the ladder. You can have as many steps as you'd like in your rung.

To add a step, move your mouse (or click, if you're on mobile) on the red plus icon between rungs and steps to add a step at that point, then choose one of the three types of steps to add, which are explained below. You will be prompted to choose the parameters of the step type you've chosen. When you're done, click save to add it. You can edit or optionally delete a step by clicking the edit icon next to it to bring up the editing window. Make your changes and click save to update the step, or click the delete button and confirm to remove it.

You can add notes on each step by clicking the notes icon, writing notes, and saving them. These are internal-only but may be useful in explaining to colleagues what each step is supposed to be doing.

There are three types of steps:

Actions

Action steps perform actions on the activist if they reach that step. Choose the type of action step from the dropdown menu after you add it, then save to add it to your ladder.

There are 5 types of action steps:

Send An Email

The Send An Email action sends an email to the activist if they reach that step, assuming they are subscribed to receive emails from your group. (If they are not subscribed, the step will be skipped.) You have the same options on the email that you have when writing any email in our system. You can choose which page wrapper you want to use, set a subject line, from line, and reply-to email, and customize the body of the email with the visual editor and personalization clips. See the emails section for more information on how emails work generally.

You can test your email by using the testing section at the bottom of the email window when editing your action step.

Add Tags

You can add one or more tags to an activist when they reach this step by choosing the tags you want to add out of the list.

Remove Tags

You can remove one or more tags from an activist when they reach this step by choosing the tags you want to remove out of the list.

Subscribe To Group

You can subscribe the activist to the group when they reach this step. 

Note: Do not resubscribe activists if they did not opt in. Doing so and sending spam can result in your account being deactivated.

If you are in a network, you can also decide to subscribe activist to one or more child groups (or groups set up for ad-hoc syndication) by choosing them out of the list. Activists subscribed this way who entered the ladder via the subscribed, took any action, or took a specific action trigger will bring with them to child groups any tags and custom fields they entered when they took the action that triggered their entry into the ladder. For example, if the trigger that entered the activist into the ladder was "took any action" and they just signed a petition, any tags or custom fields that were added to their record when they signed that petition will carry down to child groups.

As usual, data will also flow up from the child group to parent groups.

Unsubscribe From Group

You can unsubscribe the activist from the group when they reach this step. 

If you are in a network, you can also decide to unsubscribe activist to one or more child groups (or groups set up for ad-hoc syndication) by choosing them out of the list. 

Decisions

Decision steps evaluate the activist's record against custom parameters you enter and move the activist into the "Yes" or "No" path coming off that decision based on the results of that evaluation. Decision steps require a title that is internal, so you can describe what the decision is supposed to do in plain English, and offer the an interface for you to choose your parameters.

The interface is the same as our interface for building queries, so you can choose any filters you can use for email targeting (such as lives within 10 miles of a certain zip code, took 2 actions in the last month, is a donor, etc...), add multiple parameters while also choosing the logical ANDs and ORs that go between them, and include or exclude certain parameters. See the help documents on queries for more information on the options available, as well as the help document on email targeting for the filters you can use.

Note: Some parameters are not available immediately because they are the result of background processes. For example, after a new activist subscribes to your list, their legislative districts aren't immediately available. They will be filled in after a few minutes. This means that we recommend adding a wait before decisions that use these parameters, so time is given to allow that data to be added. Parameters where this is an issue are noted in the query builder interface, in the help question marks.

Enter your title, choose your parameters, and click save to add the decision. You will notice that devisions split your rung into two paths, a "Yes" and "No" path depending on whether the activist matches the parameters in the decision or not. You can add different steps for each path so activist who match certain criteria receive different steps from activists that don't. You can have as many nested decisions as you want, each with a "Yes" and "No" path.

You can edit parameters later or delete the step by clicking the edit icon. If you delete a decision step we will ask you which path's steps you'd like to keep, the "Yes" steps or the "No" steps. Whichever path you do not choose will be deleted.

Waits

Wait steps pause an activist in the rung for a certain amount of time. Choose the type of wait step from the dropdown menu after you add it, then save to add it to your ladder.

There are two types of wait steps:

Wait A Number Of Days

Activists will wait for the number of days you enter, then proceed on to the next steps. This is useful to allow you to space out messages your activists receive over the course of a period of time.

Wait Until A Specific Date & Time

Activists will wait until the specific date and time you specify (using the Eastern timezone), then proceed on to the next steps. This is useful to build campaign plans, so you can automatically send activists the next message in a coordinated campaign on a specific day.

 

Exits

Exits are automatically added at the end of each path in your rung. Once an activist runs out of steps they will automatically exit the ladder at that point.

 

Rules

Some overall rules govern ladders and how activists move through them. Understanding these rules will help you construct ladders that move activists in the way you want them to move.

Activists can only be in a ladder once

If an activist is not in a ladder and they trigger a condition for entering the ladder, they will enter at the rung which they triggered, even if they've previously been through the ladder and exited.

If an activist is already in a ladder (say, waiting at a wait step) and they trigger a condition for entering the ladder again, they will not re-enter the ladder, however...

Activists can move down to another rung (but not up)

If an activist triggers a condition for a rung that's below the rung they are currently at, they will be moved out from their current step and enter the ladder at that rung, and proceed with the steps from there.

This "pull down" mechanism can help clarify your ladder logic and avoid replication of steps. For example, let's say you wanted to trigger an activist to enter a ladder when they receive a specific email kicking off your campaign. That email asks them to sign a petition. Three days later, if they haven't signed the petition yet they'll be sent an email asking them again to sign and if they have they'll be sent an email asking them to make a call to an elected official. If someone signs the petition after they receive the email asking them to sign again, they should also get the call email.

You could accomplish this with decisions, but you'd have to repeat yourself. You'd set up a rung with a trigger that adds activists to the ladder when they receive the kickoff email for the campaign, then a wait step waiting 3 days, then a decision which asks whether the activist has signed the petition. In the yes path you'd then have the call email, and in the no path you'd have the petition sign email. You'd also have another wait in the no path, another decision (Did they sign the petition after we sent this followup email?) and if yes, the call email again.

Instead, you can use rungs to simplify this logic. You'd have one rung up top with the trigger being received the campaign kickoff email, then a wait step of 3 days, then the can you please sign this petition email, then another wait of 3 days. Then you add a second rung below with the trigger being signed the petition, then a wait of 3 days, then the call email. This way, if at any point while an activist is waiting in the first rung they decide to sign the petition, either because they responded to the initial kickoff email or the second followup email they'll automatically be pulled down to the second rung, enter there, and after a wait get the call email.

By thinking about your rungs and triggers carefully, you can make elegant and simple logic for moving your activists in ways you want, without overly complicating them with nesting decisions and repeated steps.

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