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3 steps to setting up successful email marketing using Salesforce

By January 15, 2013

ryan_ozimek_salesforceThe Foundation is pleased to feature this guest blog post by Ryan Ozimek, CEO of PICnet, the company behind Soapbox Mailer, the first native Salesforce mass email app built for nonprofit organizations.

So your organization has adopted Salesforce and you’re on your way to data management success. You’ve customized Salesforce to streamline your collecting of data from donors, supporters, and constituents and now you just want to send an email to a segment of your contacts to keep them inspired and informed about your programs.

Then, you hit the wall: the outbound email governor limits (what’s a governor limit?). Do you have more than 500 people you want to send a group email at once? Sorry. Would you like to send more than 1,000 emails a day to supporters to say “thanks”? It’s not going to happen using the native Salesforce email tools. With even the smallest of organizations looking to send email to more than 500 people at once, nonprofits quickly realize that the daily outbound email limit in Salesforce is going to require adding a mass email service provider that integrates with Salesforce CRM to their technology tool box.

Where should you start the search? What are the best practices around sending emails from Salesforce and recording the data? And how should you archive this data for long-term storage and data retention?

Let’s dive in!

1. Choose a service that fits your needs

There’s plenty of mass email services available, and at the time of writing this blog post, about 15 of them integrate with Salesforce. Choosing the right one for your organization depends on a few important items.

Salesforce offers organizations analytic tools to use their data to inform strategy. For your email marketing, it’s good to make sure the tool you select at least allows for the tracking of the following data points:

  • # sent
  • # opens
  • # clicks (along with link performance)
  • # unsubscribes and opt-outs
  • # bounces (along with type of bounce and reason for bounce)
  • spam complaints

Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that the tool is easy for your accidental techies on staff to use effectively. The top mass email services today all make it relatively painless to send an email after your initial setup, but that’s just the first half. Taking the time to analyze the inbound data via reports and dashboards are the other half. You can avoid data silos by making sure that the mass email provider is either a native app, or has an integration that automates the data collection directly into Salesforce in real-time. To see a good report of some of your options, check out the

2. Limit your data footprint

Now that you’ve found the perfect mass email service, you’re sending mass emails like a champ. It doesn’t take too long, however, to realize that another limit is coming up around the corner, and fast: data storage. Each user in your Enterprise Edition Salesforce organization is allowed up to 20MB of storage space, with a minimum of 1GB of space for your entire organization. That seems like a lot of storage, right? Some quick math will help set your mind straight.

Imagine that you have an email newsletter that you send out weekly to 15,000 supporters. If your integration with Salesforce uses custom object to represent each email sent, by the end of one year, you’ll have used 1.5GB of disk space. And that doesn’t count anything you’re doing within Salesforce other than simply recording the sending of emails.

A strategy for reducing your data footprint is critical in deploying an email service within Salesforce. Here’s a few key items to keep in mind as you’re going through the planning process.

Do the math – estimate your data footprint

An easy starting point is to do the math on the expected impact of using an email integration will have on your data storage. First, determine where the bulk of the data is being stored for the email service tool you’re investigating. Most likely, this will either be in a custom object or the campaign member object. The benefit of using the campaign member object is that Salesforce counts each record as only taking up 1KB of storage, not the standard 2KB for most other objects. Now, simply multiply the numbers of email campaigns you’ll send in a year (newsletters, action alerts, etc) by the average number of recipients per email. This will give you a rough understanding of your estimated data footprint.

Did you end up with big number? Let’s start chopping away at your data storage number.

3. Devise a manual archiving strategymass

Does knowing the exact links that Jane Smith opened in your 2008 summer newsletter really matter in 2013? Do you really need to know how long it took John Doe to open your action alert email three years ago? The relevance of individual data points lowers as time passes, since the that data is typically most useful for more immediate, direct engagement with constituents. Over time, it’s less likely you’ll be using a distant past call to action to drive a new action.

Since most of the mass email apps and integrations in some way track data about each email recipient, determining an archiving strategy is important. To start, determine an aging schedule for your collected data. A typical rule of thumb is to consider an archiving date after about 6 months. After that length of time, the value of knowing which links someone clicked becomes much less relevant.

Still loathe to delete individual send records going back two years? Consider deleting only records that indicate individuals who clicked a link in an email. Clicks are what count, and retaining only email metrics for recipients who clicked can offer a much smaller data footprint while still retaining this important communications engagement information.

What are the key fields you want to have long-term aggregation on?

Just because we’re putting individual recipient email records on ice doesn’t mean that we should necessarily do the same with the aggregate data. For instance, it will be helpful for your organization to quickly run a report to compare the efficacy of your past two end-of-year fundraising campaigns.

When planning your archiving process, determine which aggregate fields should be kept, likely in a campaign record, to provide long-term metrics across all your mass email campaigns. Fields such as the open rate, click-through rate, unsubscribe rate, and bounce rate are all important data points to keep active for much longer periods of time. Additionally, corollary data points, such as link performance within emails, provide key insight without taking up much data space.

What’s the easiest way of actually doing the reduction?

Now that you’ve determined what’s on the data chopping block, how can you most effectively clean up your data storage? This ultimately depends on the data model created by you mass email service of choice within Salesforce. Some email services utilize the campaign object to represent each email sent, and some use custom objects. Regardless of where the data is being stored, the three-step approach will likely look something like…

  1. Backup your data, using an export tool like LexiLoader.
  2. Ensure that the long-term aggregate data you wish to collect is stored in a separate object than the object you’re about to delete records. For instance, if your mass email provider stores the email campaign information in the campaign object, and all the recipient data in the campaign member object, create custom number fields on the campaign object and then manually enter the aggregate data points in those custom fields.
  3. Delete away! Remove those data hungry individual email recipient records.

This all sounds a bit time-consuming, is there a faster way?

This manual data deletion process can be time-consuming, and every minute spent cleaning up data is a minute you’re not focusing on raising money. Some providers are actively investigating automated archiving processes, making this process a one-button effort. Today’s reality, however, is that very few have made it this far, so for now, custom development with a Salesforce developer might be your best approach to automation.

Salesforce provides organizations an incredible opportunity to manage and analyze their marketing data. Combining the right mass email tool with a proper data collection and archiving strategy can lead to successful fundraising campaigns and accidental techie bliss!

Check out a full list of email service providers that integrate with Salesforce CRM on the Salesforce AppExchange or read about more options in Groundwire’s 2012 Email Services Provider report.