In this article, I’ll show you how to progress subscribers who have been stuck in an automation and marked as being ‘on-hold’.

How to fix ‘on-hold’ subscribers in a ConvertKit automation

If you’ve already created your first visual automations in ConvertKit, then you may well have experienced your first ‘on-hold‘ subscribers.

However, you might not know how they ended up being ‘on-hold‘ or how to resolve it – in this article, I’ll explain both.

It’ll show up looking something like the image below, with at least one subscriber appearing as ‘on-hold‘ inside a visual automation.

 

 

What causes subscribers to be placed ‘on-hold’?

It all starts with your email sequence.

In the ‘Settings‘ tab of your email sequence, you have the ‘Sequence Behaviour‘ section.

In this section, one of the configuration options is how to behave when subscribers are added to a sequence.

There are two possible options to choose from; either force subscribers to exit a sequence after they have been sent the final email in the sequence, or to let them stay in the sequence.

 

Why would you choose each of the two options?

1️⃣ The first option, to make them ‘exit the sequence‘, will do exactly that – it’ll release them from that stage of the automation and they’ll move to the next logical step (which can include exiting the automation, if it happens to be the final step).

2️⃣ Selecting the second option will keep subscribers in the sequence, even if they’ve already been sent the final email in the sequence – this is the option that can lead to subscribers being placed on-hold .

Why would anyone ever choose the second option?

That’s a good question, and I have a good answer for you.

If you’re crafting an ‘*evergreen‘ email sequence that you will continue to add more emails to, then you’ll want your subscribers to remain in there so that, even if they reach the last email, they’ll still receive any new ones when you add them.

*An ‘evergreen’ sequence is one that contains emails that do not become outdated and can be sent to new subscribers in a drip-fed manner, no matter when they join.

But therein lies the problem.

If you have an email sequence configured to “stay in the sequence” as part of an automation that includes subsequent steps, then that’s when the ‘on-hold’ status is applied, letting you know (at a glance) that there are subscribers who are ‘ready‘ to move to the next step, but because of the sequence configuration (i.e. ‘stay in the sequence‘), they can’t move on.

How to prevent subscribers being placed ‘on-hold’

It’s pretty simple, really.

And by now, you’ve undoubtedly figured it out – don’t configure your email sequences to ‘stay in the sequence’, in your sequence behaviour settings.

But, what if I haven’t yet finished crafting all my sequence emails?

Well, you have a few options…

  1. Wait until you have finished all the emails for your sequence.
  2. Only have ‘evergreen’ sequences in automations that don’t have any subsequent steps in the automation flow (i.e. they are the final step).
  3. Add a “door wedge” to your evergreen email sequence.

A “door wedge”? 🤔

Yes, it’s what I like to call a temporary email that I add to the end of my ‘evergreen’ email sequences when I haven’t yet added all the emails I want to add – it acts like a metaphorical door wedge, keeping it the sequence ajar until I add the final email.

Once I complete my final email, I kick the door wedge out (i.e. delete the email) and the sequence is now complete.

Here’s how the temporary “door wedge” works…

⚠️ Firstly, I’ll say use this tactic with caution – only use it if you’re currently working on an email sequence, but you want it to be running in the background as you’re adding more emails to it.

Step 1 of 4 : An an email to the end of the sequence with a subject line of “Please ignore – test email“.

Step 2 of 4 : Inside the body of the email, write the words “Door wedge” – this will serve as a note to your future self.

Step 3 of 4 : Set the “Send this email” interval to something way out in the future (I use 999 days), meaning it’ll take a long time before it’s due to be sent to anyone.

Step 4 of 4 : Publish the email – this part is key, otherwise the automation will ignore it.

Now you have an email in your sequence that will extend the time you have to complete it. Once you have added your final email, DELETE the “door wedge” email, meaning your sequence will be just as you want it to be.

Below, you can see how a “door wedge” email looks in the editor;

 

How to move ‘on-hold’ subscribers inside an automation

In Convertkit’s automations, each step in the flow will be triggered as and when it’s the right time, based on your logic and subscribers’ meeting certain conditions.

‘On-hold’ subscribers will be held in the email sequence (as I’ve described above) because that’s how we configured the email sequence.

Now that I’ve shared how you can prevent subscribers being put on-hold, now I want to show you how you can move any that have already been placed ‘on-hold’.

Add a temporary step to your automation

By adding a temporary step to our automation, just below the step in which subscribers are ‘on-hold’, we can force them on to the next step in the automation.

To do this, we can add an event of a ‘tag‘ being applied.

For example, we can add a ‘tag’ called ‘Move On-hold Subscribers

Here’s a step-by-step solution to follow;

Step 1 of 6 : Click the ‘+’ icon, just below the step in the automation where the subscribers are being held.

Step 2 of 6 : Click the option “Event” from the pop-up menu.

Step 3 of 6 : Click “Tag is added” as the trigger for invoking this step.

Step 4 of 6 : Select the tag to add (in my example, I use ‘Move On-hold Subscribersyou can create ‘tags’ on the fly from this screen).

Step 5 of 6 : Click “Add Event” option from the menu.

Okay, let’s pause for a moment to understand what we’ve just done…

We’ve introduced a temporary step into our automation, purely for the purpose of moving our ‘on-hold’ subscribers onto the next step in the automation.

Once we’ve ‘pulled‘ the on-hold subscribers down into our temporary step, they’ll then be free to flow into the next step in the automation.

The final step, once they’ve flown through the temporary step, we can then delete the temporary step and allow the automation to then behave as normal.

NOTE : Remember to fix the cause of the issue, otherwise it’ll continue to flag subsequent subscribers as ‘on-hold’.

To do this, you need to edit the settings in the sequence, changing the sequence behaviour, as shown below; (change from ‘Yes‘ to ‘No‘).

Okay, back to the step-by-step solution…

Step 6 of 6 : Now we have the temporary step added to our automation (see image below), we now need to apply the newly created ‘tag’ (‘Move On-hold Subscribers’) to the subscribers who are on-hold.

Click on the panel that has the number of subscribers currently on-hold (i.e. panel text in image below reads “CURRENTLY 3 Subscribers);

When you click on the 3 subscribers who are ‘on-hold’, you’ll see their email address details listed; you now need to select all affected subscribers by clicking the little checkbox at the top-left of the screen;

With the affected subscribers selected, click on the ‘Bulk Actions‘ drop-down box (top-right corner) and select ‘Add Tag‘.

Then choose the relevant tag from the list (in my example, it’s ‘Move On-hold Subscribers’), and then click the ‘Save’ button.

By selecting the on-hold subscribers, and applying the temporary tag to their profiles, the automation will now detect that these 3 subscribers meet the criteria for progressing onto the next step in the automation, and pull them out of the sequence that they were stuck in.

Job done! Yay! 🙌

I know that was a bit of a long explanation, but hopefully it all makes sense and you’re clear about how to move your on-hold subscribers.

It can take a few minutes for ConvertKit to refresh and update the information you see in the automation, so be patient and check back in 5 minutes.

What you should now see is that the on-hold subscribers have now passed through the sequence they were stuck in, moved through the temporary step, and finally onto the next step that’s in your automation (whatever you have set up).

The automation clean-up

Once you’ve moved the ‘on-hold’ subscribers, you need to remember to clean up what you changed in your automation and remove the temporary step.

Click on the top-right corner of the temporary step, where it reads “edit step‘;

Now click the grey ‘Delete Event‘ button;

You have now successfully progressed your subscribers and tidied up the temporary step that you introduced.

Don’t forget…

Remember that it’s normally your selected configuration in your sequence that will have caused the on-hold issue, so before you pull subscribers out of the sequence they’re stuck in, change the sequence settings so that it doesn’t continue to happen.

If you have any questions or you’re struggling with my solution, let me know.

P.S. ‘On-hold‘ subscribers are different from those who are ‘Waiting‘ – I’ll explain what ‘Waiting’ means and how to fix those in a separate article.

 

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Explainer video: How to move 'on-hold' subscribers in ConvertKit

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