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Ask an Architect: Incorporating Marketing Cloud into Your Salesforce Platform

By July 13, 2018

“We’ve been using Salesforce across our organization for a while now and are moving all of our communications over to the Marketing Cloud. How do I ensure we’re incorporating the Marketing Cloud into our Salesforce ecosystem in a way that sets us up for long-term success?”

Marketing Cloud ExplorationThis advice is for you if Salesforce has already become the source of truth in your organization, providing your team the 360-degree view of your constituents critical for supporting and growing your mission. You’ve decided to introduce Marketing Cloud and are eager to begin leveraging all of the insights stored in Salesforce to better engage your constituents at the right time, in the right ways, with the right content.

You begin digging into the documentation and exploring all of the new powerful features at your fingertips and you’re hit with a mix of both excitement and anxiety. Adopting new technology can be daunting. You’ll want to keep two goals in mind as you navigate your way forward: maximize near-term performance, and prepare yourself to be scalable and successful in the future.

Define Your Digital Communications Strategy

Marketing Cloud is a powerful tool that helps you engage with your constituents in new and personalized ways. The sophistication and flexibility of the platform, particularly when coupled with data from other Salesforce Clouds, offers a limitless selection of engagement paths and possibilities.

With so many possibilities, it’s essential to evaluate your unique needs and technical vision – for now and for the future. Where you can go may not always be where you should go. And moving in the wrong direction early on is a quick way to build unnecessary technical burden.

A digital communications strategy is meant to provide you with your true north, the heading to maintain when all of the other distractions are calling your name. If you don’t have one, consider starting with the Trailhead module linked above. If you do have one, revisit it in the context of the depth and scale now available to you with Marketing Cloud.

Mapping Engagement Flows

A successful digital communications strategy should include mapped engagement flows, defining entry points, major transitions, and standard interactions that constituents have with your organization. Additionally, you’ll want to identify the ways you want to connect with them at various points in their engagement. This mapping process helps solidify internal alignment around communications and provides you with a common point of reference for execution down the line. Consider further organizing your engagement flows around standard constituent personas (e.g. Student, Volunteer, Major Donor, Board Member).

With a digital communications strategy in hand and a clear picture of your constituent engagement lifecycles, you’re better prepared to begin executing on those strategies within Marketing Cloud.

Consider the following three steps when incorporating the Marketing Cloud into your existing Salesforce ecosystem.

1.Understand Your Data Requirements

The key to maximizing your engagements with constituents is having the right data. The Marketing Cloud database allows you to store, query and transform any data you need for your digital communications. That data will typically fall into one of these three use-based categories:

  • Subscriber – used primarily for the purpose of identifying the recipients of a send (e.g. id, email, name, etc.)
  • Personalization – used for the personalization of content being sent and may or may not have a direct relationship to your constituent (e.g. address, programs, program interests, events, event registrations, etc.)
  • Decision Making – used in automation decisions and query logic for populating data extensions (e.g. interests, giving history, event attendance, etc.)

Use the engagement flows that you mapped out in your digital communications strategy to help you identify your requirements across these categories. Consider documenting your requirements in a table, specifying data name, type, format, category, and current location. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to identify all field requirements until you’re focused on specific automation decisions or content assets, but this exercise should give you enough to move forward with your planning.

2. Plan Your Data Flow

Now that you know what data you need to identify your constituents, personalize their communications, and make automated decisions, you’ll need to import that data into Marketing Cloud? The good news is that there are many options available and, depending upon where your data currently resides, you’re likely to use more than one. Consider the following three scenarios:

Location Import Options
Salesforce Marketing Cloud Connect
Install and configure Marketing Cloud Connect to integrate Marketing Cloud with Salesforce. The integration enables both the access and synchronization of your Salesforce data with Marketing Cloud with options as simple as selecting pre-existing Salesforce Reports and Campaigns or as complex and flexible as Synchronized Data Sources.

External Files Import Wizard – Use the Import Wizard to manually map and import flat files into the Marketing Cloud.

Automated Import Activity – Schedule automated imports to run, pulling from files placed on your advanced FTP site.

Third Party System Marketing Cloud APIs
Consider leveraging a Marketing Cloud API when your environment demands a tight data integration with another enterprise system.

With the Marketing Cloud Connect integration in place, you also have the flexibility to bring Marketing Cloud data back into Salesforce, including send statistics and Salesforce record updates. Consider these options as you think through your engagement flows and reporting needs.

3. Evaluate Your Existing Practices

Anytime a new toolset is introduced into your workflow you have an opportunity to re-evaluate your current practices and processes for improvement. Not only does the Marketing Cloud introduce a new and powerful toolset, but it leverages your data and impacts your processes in a way that naturally demands more scrutiny. While this is just the tip of the iceberg, consider beginning with these questions:

  • Where am I currently sending communications from within Salesforce? Should I consider moving any of these over to the Marketing Cloud for content and preference alignment?
  • How am I ensuring my data is clean and accurate? Are there any additional steps I need to be taking to ensure duplicates are minimized and quality maximized?
  • How does this change what data I should or should not store in Salesforce? Is there anything that would benefit me from a reporting perspective or minimize the number of external files I’m importing?
  • What can I do with this new data, will I be able to segment differently, change my content or drive actions on other channels?

Following these steps and considering these questions will help to ensure you’re headed down the right path for long-term success and growth as you use the Marketing Cloud within your existing Salesforce ecosystem.

About the author
Brian WeldonBrian Weldon is a Principal Customer Success Architect at He plays a critical role within Advisory Services to help Higher Ed and Nonprofit customers accelerate their use of Salesforce technology and best practices.

This blog is part of our larger “Ask an Architect” content series. To learn more about engaging a Customer Success Architect in your organization, please contact your Account Executive.