Eloqua wait steps

At first glance, using wait steps in Eloqua couldn’t be simpler – you set them up to make contacts wait before they progress with their journey. However, it’s easy to get confused with when to set the step to wait for a specific number of hours/days/weeks/months and when it should be configured to wait until a specific date and time.

This small difference is more important than it seems, as you may be using either one or the other depending on what you are trying to achieve. Campaigns (or parts of them) with a specific time frame will require the use of wait until a specific date step. In short, the difference is:

  • Wait until specific date and time: contact will wait until the date and time specified in the step and will continue their journey as soon as that date and time comes. If the contact reaches the wait step after the date specified in it, they will progress to the next step immediately.
  • Wait for a defined number of hours/days/weeks/months: countdown starts as soon as a contact reaches the step, regardless of when the contact enters the campaign.

To put the above into a practical use case, here is a real-life example:

A client of ours was planning a sale and wanted to promote a special offer for their existing customers, where from 2nd until 16th January, they could get an extra 10% off with a promo code they would receive in an email. The client wanted to first send an email informing their customers about the upcoming sale, and then they wanted to follow-up with a separate email containing a promo code that could be used in the sale.

The initial planned set up of the flow in Eloqua was the below:

Campaign canvas - single waitstep

The goal was to send the first email (information about the sale and the offer) as soon as a contact enters the campaign and then to send the second email (the promo code) on 2nd January. However, after 2nd Jan, the client noticed that contacts were getting both emails on the same day.

The reason was that the wait step in between the two emails had been set up to wait until a specific date – 2nd Jan. The campaign was still active after that date, and so any contacts that entered it after 2nd Jan got the first email and, as the date specified in the wait step had passed, they received email 2 straight away.

We suggested a slightly more complex workflow instead, which is pictured below.

Campaign canvas - workflow paths

The email at the very top is the initial email containing the information about the upcoming offer. Then the date is checked for when a contact enters the next step. The decision step used here was “compare date” and it was set up to evaluate if the date when a contact enters the step is below 2nd Jan (which is the first date of the sale). The step setup is pictured below.

You can find more information on how “compare date” and other decision steps can be used in this Eloqua Help Center article.

Compare date step configuration

Notice how the flow splits in two here.

The first day of the sale is 2nd Jan and the last day is 16th Jan. The path on the right is for contacts who enter before the sale beings – they are sent to the wait step until 2nd Jan and that’s when they get the second email with their promo code.

If they enter after 2nd Jan, another check is done to see if the sale is still running. If the date is past 15th Jan (1 day before the last day of the promotion), the contact simply exits the flow. If it’s no later than 15th Jan, the sale is still on and so the contact is entitled to their promo code. To avoid sending two emails to one person on the same day, we introduced a 1-day wait step, after which the email containing the promo code is sent.

Setting the flow in that way helped us manage both the contacts who entered the campaign before 2nd Jan, as well as after that date. Another way to make sure that the two emails in your flow are sent on different days would be to use a wait step with the wait defined as a specific number of days, rather than a date. However, if your offer is time-sensitive, you would need to make sure that no contacts are allowed to enter the campaign after your offer has ended minus the amount of days specified in the wait step. Good practice for campaigns with time-sensitive content also includes setting the campaign’s end date, as well as considering using tools which help you clearly communicate that your offer has expired in case your email gets open a long time after the send date.

For more ticks and trips related to marketing automation and strategy, follow us on LinkedIn. We’re always happy to talk about your marketing needs too – you can get in touch with us here or book a free consultation.


  • Judyta Sidor

    I'm a Marketing Automation Specialist and a project manager who spent the last few years working in various marketing automation agencies in London. I now live in Poland and in my spare time enjoy dancing Lindy Hop and travelling.

View other posts in related categories:

 Campaign Production  Eloqua  Marketing Automation  Marketing Operations  Tips & Tricks