Understanding Flows

A flow defines the sequence of actions that Online Marketing will perform after the dialog is deployed. The flow consists of a series of steps (actions) defining how you will reach the dialog’s target audience and how you will handle respondents and subsequent follow-up interactions.

Certain actions in the flow are scheduled to occur at a specific time. Other actions are triggered by a response from an individual in the target audience, such as displaying a particular web page.

Flows are created in the Flow tab of the Dialog Designer and can be as simple or as complex as needed.

The following sections describe the actions in a flow.

The dialog flow contains two broad categories of actions: those used to reach your target audience, and those that occur as a result of audience members' responses to the actions reaching them.

The actions are executed in order based on when they were scheduled. At a minimum, a dialog must have at least one trigger —either a Date/Time trigger or an External Event trigger. Date/Time triggers can have broadcast email or custom action extensions following; External Event triggers can have a Landing Page, Web Link Promo, Standalone Web Page, or Single Email.

  • Each section of the flow starts with a Date/Time Trigger or External Event Trigger. Date/Time Triggers specify key dates for the dialog, around which all the actions in that group will be scheduled. Repeating Date/Time Triggers, an option in the Date/Time Trigger, specify details about actions that are performed on a repeated basis. External Event Triggers specify a way that an external system can reach the dialog (either by a Landing Page, a Web Link Promo, or a Standalone Web Page, or via the Case integration).

    A flow can use as many Date/Time Triggers as needed, and must have at least one action attached to each trigger (scheduled based on the date of the trigger). When the specified date and time is reached, Online Marketing fires the trigger and executes the actions that are attached it.

  • For actions requiring a response from the recipient, each section of the flow starts with an External Event trigger and is followed by a Landing Page or Web Link promo. All the steps in each section will be executed in sequence based on the respondent’s input. A Landing Page or Web Link Promo action is accessed directly by a respondent entering the page’s URL in the web browser, or by a link from an email document or another web page.

Whereas actions reaching out to customers use Date/Time triggers with actions that are executed when the specified date is reached, actions requiring a response from the recipient do not automatically execute any action unless they are in response to an action by a respondent. For this reason, these actions under different Landing Pages will not execute simply because all of the actions in the preceding section have been completed. They must be accessed explicitly.

The following steps describe a typical dialog flow:

  1. The dialog begins by contacting a target audience with an offer. On the date and time specified in a scheduled action in a Date/Time Trigger, the target audience is reached through a broadcast email.

  2. People from the target audience respond by using their browser to open the specified Landing Page, which is the entry point to the dialog. On this page, the respondents will typically have to make some choices or provide information to the dialog.

  3. The flow continues by:

    • Displaying additional web pages to the respondent (Intermediate Page or Final Page)

    • Sending a follow-up email to the respondent (Single Email)

    • Sending an email to an individual, such as to a sales representative, to notify of a hot lead (Single Email)

    • Updating the database with new information from the respondent (through profile attributes in the web documents or an Update Profile action)

  4. At some point during the dialog, you may want to send another broadcast email to the same audience (such as a deadline reminder), or to a different audience.

  5. Once the dialog is over, it can be stopped (stopping broadcast and follow-up emails and making the web pages of the dialog unavailable to the outside world.)

At any time during the dialog, you can monitor the responses using ACE reports or Dialog Performance Reports.

See Application Fundamentals.

Note: If you are designing a complex dialog flow in which parts of it can re-execute, and if the flow contains multiple paths that converge into a common input action (such as an Intermediate Page), you should make sure that all paths leading from that common input action result in a web Submit action before they reach the input action the next time through the flow. Doing this will prevent your dialog flow from experiencing an error such as an infinite loop.