Solutions keyboard_arrow_down keyboard_arrow_up
Our Solutions
Ontraport's solutions work together to give you everything you need to run your business in one centralized, easy-to-use platform.
Select your industry to see how our CRM and marketing software can support your growth
Learn more
Resources keyboard_arrow_down keyboard_arrow_up
Find free content on the latest marketing strategies, using Ontraport in your business, and finding the right software.
Visit the blog
Pricing Chat
Try our free interactive customer portal demo!
Want to offer the convenient, self-service experiences your customers are looking for? Check out this free demo to see what you can create in Ontraport without code or developers.
Get your free demo

Want to offer the convenient, self-service experiences your customers want?

Check out this free customer portal demo to see what you can build in Ontraport without code or developers.

Get your free demo

HomeGetting startedSet up > Import contacts
Home > Set up  >  Import contacts
Import contacts
Learn how to add contacts to your system by importing your list in bulk in Ontraport.
You'll learn:
  • Different ways to add contacts to Ontraport
  • How to export a contact list from another system 
  • How to prep a file for import 
  • How to import a contact list
Sam Flegal
Import contacts
Learn how to add contacts to your system by importing your list in bulk in Ontraport.
You'll learn:
  • Different ways to add contacts to Ontraport
  • How to export a contact list from another system 
  • How to prep a file for import 
  • How to import a contact list
Course Instructor
Sam Flegal
Related resources
[Block//Author//First Name] [Block//Author//Last Name] on [Block//Date Added %F j, Y g:i a%+0d0h0m]
Importing contacts into your Ontraport account is kind of like going to a party — it’s pretty lame when you’re there alone.

You’ll want to import your whole list to get the party rolling. 

You might have been using another CRM before, or maybe you stored your list on spreadsheets. Either way, you’ll need to get those contacts moved into Ontraport to start creating great experiences for them. 

To add contacts to your account, you can either collect their information via forms, add them manually, use Ontraport’s API or import them all in bulk. In this video, you’ll learn how to import your list in bulk with the Import Contacts feature.

I’ll show you how to do this in three steps:

First, you’ll export your contact list from wherever it is right now.
Then you’ll do a few things to prep your file before importing.
And finally, you’ll import your list of contacts.

Let’s get this party started.

The first thing you’ll need to do is take your contact information out of whatever system it’s been living in. Since every system is different, I can’t tell you exactly which button you’ll have to press. But whatever tool you’re working with should have some sort of “export” feature.

There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind to ensure this party goes smoothly and your sanity stays intact:

First, make sure you export in a file type that’s compatible with Google Sheets or Excel. You’ll be using a spreadsheet to clean up your data, so don’t skip this part. If you’re in doubt, a .CSV file is always a good choice.

Also, at some point in the process, your system will ask you to pick which segment of your list to export. In most cases, you’ll export the whole list — but there’s one big exception.

If people have opted out of your mailing program, don’t lump them in with the rest of your contacts. Once they’re imported, Ontraport won’t know they opted out, and they’ll start receiving your mail again. That can eventually lead to spam complaints, which is a bummer for everyone. It’s like the marketing equivalent of asking someone out on a date, getting rejected, and showing up at their door with flowers anyway. Even though it might be an innocent oversight, it will hurt your mailing reputation leading to poor inbox delivery and even risks breaking spam laws. 

It’s easy to avoid all that drama, though. If you have contacts on your list who’ve opted out of mailing, simply leave them out of your export. Or if you still want to keep those contacts in your account, you can import them separately and label the whole list as opt-out contacts. Crisis averted.

One more thing! You may have multiple lists — for example, maybe you keep one list for clients and another for leads. Make sure you label these. I’ll talk more about this in a second, but you’ll save yourself some time later on if you clearly identify these lists up front. So, you’d export each list in a separate file, and then import and tag them separately into Ontraport later.

Ok, Once you’ve double-checked all that stuff, you can export your .CSV file. Then you’re done with step one! Take a second to enjoy the sweet taste of accomplishment. 

When you’re done with that, it’s time to prep your file for the import.

Open your exported file in a spreadsheet program, like Google Sheets or Excel. This won’t be a spreadsheet nightmare that takes all day — it’ll be quick and painless.

Take a look at your headers in this top row. These will identify all the different fields you’re importing, like “First name” and “email address.” Go through each column and make sure each one has a clear header. That’ll make your import go more smoothly.

You’ll also need to double-check the format of your field values. For date fields, like appointments or birthdays, make sure the dates start with the month, then date, then year. Like this.

Date and time fields are a little more complicated, because you need to import them as a unix timestamp. Unix timestamps are just another format for displaying time. So you probably prefer that your clock shows you 4:02, or 16:02, but computers like to tell time by unix. If you happen to have a time stamp that includes date and time, I suggest you Google a unix timestamp converter tool and use that to adjust your field. Some platforms can convert this for you, so check on that. But if your field just includes a date, you’re off the hook — don’t worry about this stuff. 

For states and countries like these, make sure your abbreviations are 2 or 3 letters. So use “IN” for India, USA for the United States, and so on. 

I’m almost done with spreadsheets. The last thing to look at is tags. You’ll use these to identify different groups within your list.

If you have those multiple lists that I mentioned earlier — maybe for “clients” and “leads” — tags will be the easiest way to keep them organized. 

To create tags, add a new column and label the header — you guessed it — “Tags.” Think of a simple word or two to identify your contacts. For example, if you’re working with a list of clients you’d label your header “tag” here, then add “client” to all the appropriate contacts below. 

You can always add more than one tag per contact. Just toss in a comma to separate them.

Once your data looks sharp, save your file again as a .CSV. This is the final product you’ll import into Ontraport — I’ll show you how that part works.

To import your list Go to your Contact settings, and you’ll find this “Import Contacts” button. 

When you click it, you can upload your shiny new .CSV file. 

Now you’ll see this preview of all the data you’re about to import. If you used headers, make sure they match up with the information beneath them. Then check this box so they don’t get mixed up with the rest of your import.

When all that looks good, click next.

This is where you’ll choose your import settings. This first section lets you tell Ontraport how to respond if there are two contacts with the same email address. You have three options:

First, you can merge the contacts and underwrite with the new data you just imported. This is a good option if you’re importing an older file, and your Ontraport data is more up-to-date. So, for example, say you’re importing a contact named Johnny Rose. If he has the same email as a contact in your account named Moira Rose, It’ll prioritize the name “Moira,” since that’s the name you previously stored in Ontraport.

Your second option is to merge the contacts and overwrite with your new imported data. This is the opposite of what I just talked about, since it prioritizes the data you’re importing over Ontraport’s existing data. Use this option if the list you’re importing is the most up-to-date version of your data. Using our previous example, if you use this option, you’d stick with the name “Johnny” instead of “Moira,” since his name was on the file you just imported. 

Or you can create a new entry for any duplicates that might show up. That means you’d keep the contact in Ontraport named “Moira Rose” AND add a new contact named “Johnny Rose,” and they would both share the same email. Most of the time, this isn’t a great option since you’ll end up with a bunch of repeated contacts. But in some cases, it can be useful.

If you’re importing your list for the very first time and your account is blank, you can pick whatever option your heart desires here — it doesn’t really make a difference. So let’s use “merge and overwrite,” just to make sure all the data on your list comes in as expected.

Next, you’ll have to pick a field to be your unique identifier. This means Ontraport will use whatever field you choose to identify duplicate records. By default, this is set to the “email” field. I recommend sticking with that, unless you have a particular reason to change it.

For example, you might pick another field if your contacts’ email addresses have changed. If you’re able to use some kind of contact ID number, that could replace email addresses as your unique identifier.

But aside from weird situations like that, the “email” field is usually your best bet.

OK, almost done with this step! You can also choose to import these contacts with bulk mail set to “transactional only.”

I won’t get too deep in the weeds about bulk mail status right now. All you need to know is that when you check this box, you’ll only be able to send transactional emails to these contacts. That includes stuff like receipts and order confirmations — but not marketing emails, newsletters, or photo dumps of your cat. Resist the temptation.

Use this setting if you’re importing contacts who haven’t given you permission to email them yet. Or if you’re moving in a list from a previous system, and some of your contacts have opted out of receiving your emails. 

Before you move on, read the usage agreements carefully — Really. Read every word! Check them off when you’re done, then hit next.

Now you’ve got this “select fields to be imported” screen.

You’ll see all the headers from your file here on the left, along with these dropdowns for Ontraport’s pre-existing contact fields.

Now you get to play a fun little matching game. Go through each of these fields on the left and use the dropdowns to tell Ontraport where that data should go.

For example, you’d look at this email address header and match it to the “email” field on the right. Boom! One point for you. 

Ontraport will do its best to automatically read and match your headers, but make sure you review it yourself too — you can’t be too safe with this stuff. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for any blank drop downs.

Ready? Hit next.

Now you’re on the last step — rules. You’ll use these to decide what happens to your contacts as you import them.

For example, you might want to add all these new contacts to an automation. Or maybe you’ll add tags to everyone once they’re imported. Maybe you want to bless everyone with a postcard showing off an adorable picture of your cat. The world is your oyster here.

To add an automation, click here. If you only want this automation to run for some contacts, you can add conditions and use whatever criteria you’d like — maybe you only want your current clients to receive your cat postcard. 

Once your conditions are all set, click “add action” to tell Ontraport what to do after you import.

When you’re ready, click “import.” This is where the magic finally happens.

You’ll end up back in the contacts collection. You should see this prompt letting you know that your import is in progress. When it’s done, you’ll get another notification.

Keep in mind that Ontraport automatically scans every new list users import. There’s a chance yours may get flagged for manual review, but I wouldn’t get concerned about that. If it happens, don’t fret — we won’t banish you from Ontraport or anything like that. You’ll just need to answer a few questions about your list. The team will likely approve it within a day or so. Until then, your contacts will be “pending.” You’ll be able to send them emails once the approval goes through — or cat postcards, or free cinnamon rolls.

Once your list is done importing, click into a few records to make sure everything looks right.

If you find an issue, don’t panic! You can always re-import the same list and fix the issue the second time around.

For example, let’s say you forgot to set up your “state” field before importing and all your contacts’ states are blank. Obviously that isn’t ideal — if you want to mail out a heart-melting cat postcard to clients, you’ll need to access that info in Ontraport. But hope isn’t lost! It’ll be easy to re-import the list with those merge and identifier settings I talked about earlier. Then you’ll know all that data made it into Ontraport.

That’s all there is to it! Now you know how to import contact data into Ontraport — one of the most import-ant steps to get your account up and running.

If you have more than one contact list to import, you can repeat these steps until all your data is up-to-date.

Or you might start grouping your contacts together to get things organized. Check out our video on “Organizing your data with groups” to learn more about that.
About Ontraport
Partners & Integrations
Getting Started

Turn your business on with Ontraport.