How to automate your email marketing system using ConvertKit’s ‘Rules’.

What are ‘Rules’ in ConvertKit?

‘Rules’ are best summed up as this…

“If this event happens, do this ‘thing’.”

The first part of this is the ‘trigger‘ and the second part is the ‘action‘. Triggers cause actions to occur.

Here are a few examples; (It’s easier to wrap your head around these things with contextual examples);

  • If a subscriber clicks on this link, add the ‘tag’ – “Interested in Pottery“.
  • If a subscriber buys my digital course, add them to a drip-fed email sequence called “How to Get Started with Pottery“.
  • If a subscriber joins via this ‘form’ (“I want to become a Potter“), invite them to a free 30-minute consultation call with me.
  • If a subscriber selects “beginner” as their level of pottery proficiency, store that answer in the custom field called “pottery_proficiency_level“.

You get the gist, right?

What’s the difference between ‘Rules’ and ‘Visual Automations’?

If you’re familiar with ConvertKit, you’ll know you can create powerful automations using its visual builder tool – which is great for navigating your subscribers through various paths using conditional logic combined with your bespoke business rules.

But why use ‘Rules’ over ‘Visual Automations’?

Well, ‘Visual Automations’ are more powerful and flexible than ‘Rules’, so you’re most likely to use them for the bulk of your automation, but ‘Rules’ complement them perfectly by working in isolation, no matter what else is going on for a subscriber.

Also, another point worth noting is that with ‘Rules’, every subscriber who meets the trigger criteria will have the assigned action (or actions) applied to their profile, whereas, inside a Visual Automation, only the subscribers who are currently going through that automation are affected. A subtle, but important, distinction.

Creating a ‘Rule’ in ConvertKit

To create a ‘Rule’ in ConvertKit, navigate to the menu option, ‘Automate‘ > ‘Rules‘;

This will bring to a screen that looks something like the one below; (your list may be empty if you haven’t yet created any ‘Rules’);

To create a ‘Rule’, click the ‘+ New rule‘ button at the top-right of the screen; this will bring you to a screen that looks like this one below;

Down the left-hand side of the screen, you’ll see a list of ‘triggers’ that you can select; there are 7 to choose from;

  1. Subscribes to a sequence: this is when a subscriber subscribes to an email sequence that you have already created in ConvertKit.
  2. Subscribes to a form: this is when a subscriber submits their details via an opt-in form or landing page.
  3. Completes a sequence: this is when a subscriber has been sent every email in an email sequence.
  4. Clicks a link: this is when a subscriber clicks on a specific link in an email.
  5. Tag added: this is when a tag is added to a subscriber’s profile.
  6. Tag removed: this is when a tag is removed from a subscriber’s profile.
  7. Purchases a product: this is when a subscriber purchases a product via a provider you’ve integrated with ConvertKit (i.e. NOT ConvertKit’s ‘Commerce’ platform), e.g. Gumroad, Woocommerce, Shopify etc.

Down the right-hand side of the screen, you’ll see a list of ‘actions’ you can associate with the triggers;

  1. Subscribe to a sequence: this is when you add a subscriber to an existing email sequence.
  2. Unsubscribe from a sequence: this is when you remove a subscriber from an existing email sequence.
  3. Subscribe to a form: this is when you subscribe a subscriber to an existing form.
  4. Unsubscribe from a form: this is when you unsubscribe a subscriber from an existing form.
  5. Add a tag: this is when you add a tag to a subscriber’s profile.
  6. Remove a tag: this is when you remove a tag from a subscriber’s profile.
  7. Set custom field: this is when you set a value for a subscriber’s custom field.

Multiple triggers and actions

When creating your ‘Rule’, it’s possible to have multiple triggers and multiple actions, with the following logic being applied;

If (trigger 1 OR trigger 2) happens, then (do action 1 AND action 2 AND action 3).

Checking the historic ‘Rule’ use

Underneath each ‘Rule’, ConvertKit shows when each one was fired, triggering the associated actions, together with details of which subscribers were involved in the ‘Rule’; see the example below;


Rules‘ are great for automating certain tasks that are the result of an event happening, for example, when a subscriber clicks on a link inside your email, you can assign a relevant ‘tag’ to their profile.

For more complex needs, it’s best to use ‘Visual Automations’ as they offer more flexibility when it comes to having multiple sequenced steps that can be controlled by other factors like time-based conditions (e.g. days lapsed) and number of days since they last opened one of your emails.

If you haven’t yet created your free ConvertKit account, you can get it here. When you sign up, you get a 14-day free trial of all premium features.

The Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing gives you everything you need to know to design, launch, and run an effective email marketing system in your business.


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John Bellingham
John Bellingham

Starting out as a software engineer over 30 years ago, I began working for large corporates before realising solopreneurship was my 'thing'. I've had many businesses over the years, which have taught me many lessons.

I now spend my time helping other solopreneurs to implement the strategies and tactics that worked for me, whilst avoiding all my expensive mistakes.

If you're a solopreneur who's either starting or running a business, then connect with me and let's have a chat.

I love Formula 1® so that's always a good conversation starter if you need one! 🏁 🏎

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