Automate campaigns with the campaign canvas


Applies To: Dynamics Marketing


Microsoft Dynamics Marketing has been discontinued and is no longer available. All customer data related to this product has been permanently deleted from all Microsoft servers and is no longer available for extraction. This documentation is being provided for historical purposes only.

Use the drag-and-drop campaign canvas to assemble a sequence of automated actions that are triggered as your prospects progress from tile to tile. Build up your campaign by combining outgoing communications (such as marketing emails or text messages), logical triggers that react to contact interactions and other criteria, registrations for events and webinars, internal task assignments, and more.

Working with the canvas

  1. Go to Marketing Execution > Campaign Management > Campaigns, and then create or select a campaign. More information: Create and manage your campaigns

  2. On the Campaign maintenance page, click the Automation top-level tab.

  3. Start by dragging a Static or Dynamic marketing list tile from the Activities pane to the first position on the canvas. This list establishes the selection of contacts to be targeted by the campaign (for example, by sending a marketing email).

  4. Double-click your new list tile. This will switch the Activities pane on the right to the Properties pane, which shows settings for your selected tile. In this case, you’ll see the marketing lists that belong to the same company as the campaign you’re editing. Select one of these to see a few details about it, and then click the Select button to choose it. This pane also provides buttons that let you create a new list or edit an existing list without leaving the canvas. If you don’t see the list you’re looking for, click the Show all/View My button to see lists not created by you.

  5. Continue designing your campaign by adding more tiles to the canvas and configuring them as needed. See the sections below for more information about other types of tiles. Your work is saved automatically as you work with the canvas.

  6. To test your setup, click the Validate button. Dynamics Marketing will check your tile arrangement and settings; for any tiles that are not configured correctly, or are misplaced, a warning or error symbol will show in the bottom-left corner. If no symbols appear, then your design is valid.

    Campaign canvas error symbol

    Example of an error symbol: You can’t activate a campaign that includes errors. Hover your mouse pointer over the error symbol to open a tooltip with more information.

    Campaign canvas warning symbol

    Example of a warning symbol: Warnings indicate a configuration that is likely to produce unexpected results, but that won't prevent you from activating the campaign. Hover your mouse pointer over the warning symbol to open a tooltip with more information. Consider the advice carefully before activating the campaign; usually you should fix the problem before continuing.

  7. To run the campaign, click the Activate button. Provided it passes a validity test, your campaign automation will run continuously throughout the date range defined for the campaign on its Summary top-level tab. Note that you are not able to edit your campaign while it is active; if you need to change an active campaign, then click the Deactivate button first.


    The activation status is not related to the Status value set for the campaign. More information: Create and manage your campaigns. Activated campaign automations for "Deleted" campaigns (with a campaign Status of "Inactive" or "Canceled") will continue to run during the time interval established by their Start Date and End Date settings. To prevent even hidden or deleted campaigns from running their campaign automation, you must also deactivate the automation by going to the Automation top-level tab and clicking Deactivate.


The campaign canvas does not update tile displays (such as email send/open/bounce statistics) while the page is open—you must reload the page to update the displays.

Here are a few more tips for working with the canvas:

  • Right-click to delete, copy, or paste a tile.

  • Click the Multi-selection mode button in the top-right corner of the canvas to enable or disable the ability to drag-select several tiles at once (for example to delete several tiles).

  • Click the Zoom button in the top-right corner of the canvas to zoom in and out. When you are zoomed out, the tile info displays are hidden.

  • Some types of tiles can be stacked onto a single pipeline position (including marketing list tiles). The tile graphic will change to look like a stack when you do this. Click a stack to see all members of that stack (for example to edit or delete a member).

  • Some types of tiles can be linked (for example, emails can be linked to offers or landing pages). Linked tiles work closely together and show a chain symbol between them.

  • You can create parallel and/or branching paths by dragging a tile below an existing tile. A gray shadow directly below the existing tile indicates that, if you drop there, a branch/parallel path will be created. Drag a marketing list/query under the first position to create a parallel path. Drag any tile under any other position to create a branch, at which point all contacts will travel down both branches simultaneously. (Use a trigger to create a branch where contacts will only travel down one of two available paths.)


As soon as you start working on the canvas, your campaign becomes classified as “automated”. The Campaigns list page displays an Automation button Automation Status button for each automated campaign; click this button to go straight to the canvas for a listed campaign (click elsewhere on a row to go to the summary page). The button is blue for campaigns with activated campaign automation and black for campaigns with deactivated (or not yet activated) campaign automation.

Understanding the pipeline

When Dynamics Marketing runs a campaign, it starts by taking a contact from the configured list, and then steps that contact through each tile of the campaign (it actually processes all contacts in parallel). So, for example, the start of a campaign might proceed as shown here.

Campaign canvas example

In this example, each contact is processed as follows:

  1. List tile: Loads Contact A from the list and passes it to the next tile.

  2. Email tile: Sends a marketing email to Contact A.

  3. Trigger tile: Holds Contact A and waits for some condition to become true. In this example, the trigger is waiting for Contact A to open the email, at which time the trigger will send him or her down the top (true) path. (Here, the top path leads to a task tile, which creates a new task linked to contact A and assigns it to an internal user.)

  4. Scheduler tile: All trigger tiles are linked to a scheduler tile, which establishes a time limit for the trigger. If time runs out on the scheduler before the trigger conditions are met (for example if the mail is not opened after four days), then the contact is sent down the bottom (false) path, which might lead to a new, follow-up email tile. If no time is set for the scheduler, then the trigger will wait until the end of the campaign and drop any contacts that remain.

Dynamics Marketing processes all contacts on the list in parallel, and as quickly as possible, as soon as you activate the campaign. If new contacts are added to the list while the campaign is running, then those contacts will also be processed. This is why it is important to set start and end dates on the Summary top-level tab; you don’t want people added to a list sometime next year to start receiving last-year’s automated emails.

For a detailed example of a workflow setup, see Set up a webinar, send invites and track responses.

Working with tiles

Dynamics Marketing provides several types of tiles that let you design the logic of your campaign. Each is categorized as a list, action, or response tile, as described in the following subsections.

Marketing lists

The first tile of your pipeline must be a list tile. You can use both static and dynamic lists (there is a separate tile type for each of these) and you can combine lists of both types by stacking them. This establishes the collection of contacts that will be targeted by your campaign. If new contacts are added to the list while the campaign is running, then those new contacts will also be targeted.

Dynamics Marketing Segment Type tile

Find these tiles under the Marketing Lists heading on the Activities tab of the right pane of the canvas.

Here are some tips for working with lists:

  • To add a list, drag a Static or Dynamic list from the Activities pane to the first position of the pipeline.

  • Double-click a list tile to select a marketing list for it using the Properties tab of the right pane. You can also create new lists and edit existing lists from here.

  • You can combine lists by stacking them on the first pipeline position. Drag a new list tile over an existing list tile to combine the lists. You can combine both subscription and suppression lists in this way (subscription/suppression status is established by the configuration of each list). Click the stack to see the member lists.

  • To design a parallel path, drag a new list tile from the Activities pane to the space just below an existing list tile. While hovering over the new tile, you will see a gray block below the target tile, which indicates you are about to create a parallel path; drop the tile to create the new path.

  • Though you can place list tiles anywhere in the pipeline, you should usually only place them in the first position. If you place a list later in the pipeline (even after a trigger or scheduler) those lists will also begin processing immediately when you start the campaign (though this can sometimes be useful if you want some contacts to skip early stages of the campaign).

For more information about lists, see List management and segmentation


The following table contains information about action types in campaign automation.

Action Type  


Email button


This tile represents a marketing email. When added to your pipeline, it will send a copy of the email to all contacts that arrive at that tile. The email must be valid and activated before you can run the campaign (note that you cannot change the email after you have activated it).

Once you have configured the tile with a marketing email message, it will show the current sent/opened/blocked statistics. (For more information about how to interpret these and other email performance stats, see Analyze the performance of email marketing.)

If you want to track offers, landing pages, and/or webinars included in the mail, then drag tiles for these onto the mail tile; these tiles will appear as linked to the mail (and stacked if you use more than one). Adding these tiles to the canvas also lets you create trigger logic that reacts to contact interactions with these elements (such as landing page submissions). If your email message is not yet activated, then dragging these tiles will also append a link to the landing page, offer, or webinar to the bottom of your message.

More information: Email marketing, Create, design and manage your email marketing messages

Landing Page button

Landing Page

Associates a landing page with a marketing email and enables triggers placed later in the workflow to incorporate landing page interactions into their logic. Configure the tile by specifying a landing page setup for it (you can choose an existing page or create a new one directly from the canvas).

If the email message does not already have a landing page link and the mail has not yet been activated, then dragging a landing page tile onto an email will append the link to the bottom of the message. The link will target the stand-alone landing page hosted by Dynamics Marketing.


See the next section for more important information on how to set up a landing page for use together with a trigger tile.


If you prefer to import the landing page into your own site using an iFrame, then you must manually add the correct link to your message design. However, this means that if you add a landing page tile later, the tile will not recognize your custom iFrame page, and will still add the stand-alone landing page link to your message design (provided it is not yet activated). If you don’t want to include the auto-generated link, then go back to your message design and remove it manually; the tile will not re-create it.

More information: Create and customize landing pages

Task button


For each contact that enters the tile, a new task is created and linked to that contact, and assigned to an internal user. Triggers placed later in the workflow can incorporate task status into their logic.

More information: Manage tasks

Scoring button


Updates the score for all leads that use a selected scoring model.

More information: Set up automatic lead scoring

Social Media button

Social Media

Posts a social message to Facebook or Twitter. The message is posted just once—the first time that a contact flows through the tile. If necessary, you can control the timing by placing a scheduler tile before the social media tile.

More information: Create, update, send, and schedule social media messages

Edit Marketing List button

Edit Marketing List

Adds or removes contacts from a list specified for this tile. For example, you might add contacts to a VIP list or remove contacts from a list if the email has bounced.

Printed Mail button

Printed Mail

Associates a piece of printed collateral with the campaign.

You can specify the following:

  • The electronic version of the document that will be used for creating the print copies.

  • Instructions for the employees or vendors responsible for fulfillment.

  • The associated component for the printed collateral.

More information: View and manage fulfillment activity

Event button


Use events to manage and plan marketing trade shows, conferences, exhibits, meetings, briefings, and other scheduled activities. The event tile can automatically register specific items or sessions in an event for each contact that enters the tile.

More information: Set up a webinar, send invites and track responses, Event management

Offer button


Drag this action onto an existing email tile to enable tracking of the offer and the triggering of actions based on it.

If the message does not already have an offer link and the message has not yet been activated, then dragging an offer tile onto an email will append the link to the bottom of the message; however, we recommend that you instead embed the offer link into your design using the message editor so that you can add other details in the surrounding text.

More information: Create offers and track the response

A/B Testing button

A/B Testing

Use this tile to run a small test send of two different (but related) email designs, track the response of each, and then send to the rest of the contact list using the winning variant. Your campaign will pause here until the winning variant is identified. Here are a few tips for working with A/B testing using the canvas:

  • You are able to create a new A/B test setup directly from the canvas. You will be presented with a three-stage wizard, which will guide you through the test setup. Alternatively, you could select an existing setup.

  • Click the A/B Testing tile to expand it, revealing its two email version tiles. To select an email for a version, choose one of these tiles. This automatically assigns a copy of that email for the other version tile, which gives a convenient starting point. You can change the setting for the second tile if you prefer to use a different message instead.

  • You can define a different send time for each email version by choosing the email version tiles individually. Use the settings under Version Send Time on the Properties tab to modify the send time for each version as needed.

  • Right-click the A/B Testing tile and select Compare to see a comparison of A/B test activities.

  • While the test is active, the A/B tile’s Properties panel will display results with charts indicating the progress of the two versions.


If you choose the Use a marketing list option while configuring the A/B test, all the contacts in that test list will become part of the campaign workflow going forward. Even contacts that were not part of the campaign until the A/B Test tile will participate in the remaining flow.

More information: Use A/B testing to test response rates

Webinar action type


Drag this action onto an existing email tile to enable tracking of a webinar and the triggering of actions related to the webinar.

If the email does not already have a webinar link and the mail has not yet been activated, then dragging a webinar tile onto an email will append the link to the bottom of the email; however, we recommend that you instead embed the webinar link directly into your email design using the email editor so that you can add other details in the surrounding text.

More information: Set up a webinar, send invites and track responses


The following table contains information about the response tiles.



Scheduler button


Use the scheduler to add a delay, where contacts travelling through the pipeline will wait a specific amount of time or until a specific date. You can also set a scheduler to run on a recurring schedule, which will cause the tile to remember all contacts that enter it and to re-send them down its path again and again, according to the schedule.

A contact waiting at a scheduler will remain there even if, in the meantime, that contact has unsubscribed or otherwise been removed from the marketing lists that feed the start of the pipeline. So for campaigns with scheduler tiles set to repeat or delay for a long time, you may risk sending marketing emails and other communications to contacts who have opted out, which will not only annoy your contacts but may also be illegal in some countries/regions. To design a campaign that removes unsubscribed contacts from long-running schedulers, you can configure each scheduler to validate its waiting contacts against one or more static marketing lists. A scheduler that has audience validation enabled only forwards contacts that are also on at least one of its validation lists—other contacts are blocked. Audience validation works as follows:

  • On the scheduler's Properties pane, you can see all current validation lists in the Audience Validation Lists field. If you don't see any list names here, then validation is currently disabled for the scheduler.

  • Click the Edit button on the Properties pane to open the Select Audience Validation Lists dialog, which shows each static list currently added to the campaign. Select the checkbox for each list you want to validate against.

  • You can only use static lists for audience validation, not dynamic lists (queries).

  • To validate against a marketing list that is not part of the campaign, open the Select Audience Validation Lists dialog and start typing the list name in the Add a List Type-ahead field and then select the list when its name is found. Click the Add button to add the marketing list as a validation list.

  • Marketers often design campaigns that target a segment defined using one or more dynamic lists placed at the start of the campaign pipeline, but contacts manage their subscription by joining or leaving static lists provided on your subscription center (see also Create a subscription center). To implement audience validation for this scenario, add the relevant subscription lists to the audience validation for each relevant scheduler, as described in the previous section.

Configure validation lists


Be careful setting up validation lists because choosing the wrong ones can prevent legitimate contacts from being processed by your campaign. For example, if you choose to validate against a list that isn't part of your campaign, and that list doesn't include any of the contacts that are being targeted by your campaign, then the scheduler will block all contacts from continuing through your pipeline.

Trigger tiles (see below) also include a scheduler, which determines when the trigger should stop waiting and continue down the negative path.

Trigger button


The trigger introduces conditional logic to your workflow. For example, you might use it to test whether a contact attended an event and, if so, send a follow-up email. In most cases, the trigger is only able to respond to events associated with tiles placed before it in the workflow; this is one reason why you might add tiles for offers or events, even though these are already embedded as part of your email design. For example, you can schedule subsequent activities based on (but not limited to):

  • Email bounced.

  • Email was viewed by a contact.

  • Contact clicked an email link.

  • Contact clicked landing page.

  • Contact submitted a registration form.

Triggers have two types of settings: Simple and Advanced. These are presented as two separate tabs under the Properties tab. Use the Simple tab to set up a quick yes/no check for a single state/result from a previous tile. Use the Advanced tab to build a more complex Boolean expression with multiple conditions.

You can create a multi-branch trigger node by dragging one or more additional triggers to the space immediately below an existing trigger. In this case, all contacts will flow into each trigger and all triggers will execute simultaneously at that stage of the workflow. You can use this type of arrangement to simulate switch or if/then/else logic. This technique, combined with the triggers’ Advanced logic settings, enables you to create sophisticated automated-campaign logic.


Be careful when designing your trigger logic, especially when using the Advanced settings and the “not” operator. One common error is to set the trigger with a condition of “email not opened”; as a result, nearly all contacts get sent down the positive (green) path immediately because the email is created in the not-opened state, and the trigger is likely to execute before any contacts have had time to open it. Even if a contact eventually does open the mail, it will be too late because they would have already passed the trigger.

For triggers set to react when a contact clicks on an email link, you can choose to set the trigger to react to all clicks, or only to react on clicks on specific links. By default, the trigger will react to all clicks. To choose which link(s) from the message will pass the trigger, click the Choose Links button Choose Links button to open the Choose Links dialog box, and then select the check box for each link that should pass the trigger.

Choose trigger links dialog in Dynamics Marketing


Most links from your message are listed twice in the dialog. The links that show a value in the Friendly Name column are those from the HTML version of your message; the others are links from the text-only version. Dynamics Marketing tracks the HTML and text-only versions of each link separately. Usually, you should select both versions of each link you want to use with your trigger, though you could treat them separately if needed.



One common use for the trigger is to place it after a landing-page tile and set the trigger to respond when a contact visits and/or submits the landing page (for example by sending a thank-you email and/or registering for an event). This will work, but the following restrictions apply:

  • To trigger on landing page visits, the landing page must be configured to generate leads and include a website behavioral-analysis script. Use the Web Site setting on the Landing Page maintenance page to assign the script; if you import the landing page onto your own site using an iFrame, then you must also add the behavioral-analysis script to the page that hosts the iFrame. This script is also important for matching previously anonymous website visit records to the contact record created (or matched) when someone submits a filled-out landing page. More information: Create and customize landing pages and Create a website behavioral-analysis script.

  • Only those contacts on the original send list(s) will be considered by the trigger. If other people submit the same landing page, a new contact will be created based on their info, but that contact will not be drafted into the campaign or be processed by subsequent tiles, including the trigger. Landing page visitors not on the original send list(s) will be recorded as visitors to the website (provided the behavior-analysis script is present), but will likewise not be drafted into the campaign or pass the trigger.

  • On submission of a landing page, existing contacts are identified using the matching criteria established by your site’s Duplicate Detection setting. All of the values considered by your matching criteria must match a contact on the campaign send list in order for the trigger to consider that contact as having submitted the form. If any one or more of the required values don’t match, then a new contact will be created but not drafted into the campaign (or processed by the trigger). For complete details about the available duplicate-detection options and the matching criteria they employ, see Configure site settings.

Follow the progress of a campaign

While a campaign is active, it executes and refreshes itself periodically. In addition, each tile has its own execution schedule, which may or may not align with the global campaign schedule, depending on the tile type, tile settings, system load, and other factors. As a result, the campaign executes as a series of discrete steps, in which contacts are processed and passed from one tile to the next, separated by pauses.

While your campaign is running, you can follow its progress by examining the pipeline, its various tiles, and tile properties. Each tile displays a set of key performance indicators (KPIs), which show how your contacts are progressing through the pipeline and may provide other details about each tile’s results. Often you will notice that contacts are waiting on various tiles, which is normal, and might be because (for example) an email message is waiting in the send queue, a scheduler tile is holding a contact according to its settings, or because of a trigger waiting for contacts to open a message.

The following illustration highlights the information displays shown on the campaign canvas.

Campaign canvas progress indicators


  1. Tile status and results: Most tiles provide one or more symbols that indicate how many contacts are waiting or being processed by that tile, plus important results so far. This example shows an email tile, which displays symbols showing the number of messages sent, opened, and blocked (left to right). Hover your mouse pointer over a symbol to read a tooltip that describes the information being shown.

  2. View/edit record button: This button is shown on the Properties tab for a selected tile (double-click a tile to open this tab). Click this button to open a menu that shows the maintenance page for the record assigned to the current tile; this lets you fully inspect (or create) a record without leaving the campaign canvas. In this example, an email tile is selected, so this button will open the email message assigned to that tile. The email maintenance page provides complete details about the message results so far, including those summarized by the tile symbols, plus many more details, like the reasons why a message was blocked for some contacts, and for whom.

  3. Tile status and schedule: This information is shown on the Properties tab for a selected tile (double-click a tile to open this tab). It shows the last time the tile executed and the next time it will run, plus a few other details, which vary according to tile type.

See Also

Video: Campaign Management (4:01)
Walkthrough 3: Behavior analysis and campaign automation
Manage campaigns
Create and manage your campaigns