How to Succeed with Salesforce Marketing Cloud


As a digital platform architect for Shift Paradigm, Heather McCullough is a subject matter expert in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, the pioneer cloud-based digital marketing platform used by enterprise-level companies worldwide. 

But even she has her days when she spends most of her time trying to solve complex problems without blowing everything up.

“Salesforce Marketing Cloud is a great platform for people who want to do amazing things with data and email,” she says. It also takes time, energy and training before users will be able to get the most out of SFMC’s features.  

Other cloud-based marketing platforms might have shorter learning curves. But they don’t provide the flexibility, and automation power an enterprise-level organization needs to run a complex, data-driven marketing program.

“These platforms allow you to do some cool things quickly and easily with data,” she says. “But you just can’t beat the relational database set-ups in Salesforce Marketing Cloud that work in many different ways, through automations or contact builder connections, to create sophisticated email marketing programs.”

SFMC experts like Heather have completed extensive training and gained certifications through official Salesforce Certification exams guided by Salesforce’s comprehensive Trailhead program. Heather is a Salesforce Marketing Champion, and is 4x certified, with three certifications in SFMC  and one in Pardot.  

If you or members of your marketing team have just signed on with SFMC or are struggling to succeed with SFMC, Heather has these three tips:

  1. Accept that the learning process will go on – and on and on.

“It’s important to be comfortable in not knowing everything in the SFMC space, because there’s no way to know absolutely everything,” she says.

“You’ve just bought this wonderful tool. Now you have to learn how to use it. You need to give yourself a chance to learn it.  Get involved in the SFMC community and build relationships so you can reach out to friends or to a trusted resource to help you get past the roadblocks and point you in the right direction.

The solution could be a technical fix or a new strategic direction. In her client work, Heather also evaluates the resources clients have now and recommends a vision for the program and how to use SFMC’s tools to achieve it.  

Once you figure out a solution, you have one more step to complete, especially if other SFMC users came to your aid.

“Make sure to give back when you can so you help someone else,” Heather says.

  1. Be willing to fail.

“Keep trying to make things work,” she says. “Have perseverance, and allow yourself to fail. And you will fail. Just try again. If you fail again, try something else. There’s almost always another approach or a little detail to tweak.

“If that doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  The solution will come, and along the way you’ll learn things that will help you the next time around.” 

Suppose you use an API, but the integration fails. Or you tried to use AMPScript, SFMC’s scripting language for dynamic content, and that didn’t work, either. Don’t  fall back on manual processes. Try something else, or ask for help, Heather says. Stick with it, and you’ll find a solution.

  1. Shift your mindset. 

To get the greatest value from SFMC’s powerful toolset, users have to shake off the “we’ve always done it this way” mindset, especially if the old ways rely on manual labor for personalization, customer intelligence and relationship management and other data-driven operations. 

Using data and automations to create relevant and personalized emails isn’t a concept unique to SFMC. Advanced technology, cloud-based systems and competition give even low-cost and free email platforms features once reserved for enterprise-level applications. 

SFMC’s advantage is its powerful suite of tools that can tap richer veins of data to reduce manual work, centralize and automate message creation and sending, and add even more value to messaging programs.

Rewards for persevering with SFMC

When you stay open to learning new ways to use platform tools, when you keep trying despite setbacks, and when you shift your mindset, you’ll discover more possibilities for using SFMC tools and automations. 

These are just three of the tools for a scalable email program that improves your marketing processes now and capitalizes on future growth:

Working with APIs: “The API tools are invaluable. They make it easy for an organization at the business-intelligence level to tightly control the data being used in their SFMC instance,” Heather says. “But you have to be careful working with such powerful tools. It’s best to bring in only the data you plan to use. Often, a client will create a use case and provide data maps for the data elements they want to add or create.”  

Take, for example, the price of popcorn at your local theater. 

An API call to a product pricing table in Marketing Cloud feeds local popcorn prices dynamically into transactional emails in different regions. The API automates the price changes of the popcorn. A different API call kicks off the message deployment process. All of these steps eliminate the manual labor needed to edit and build the email being sent, each featuring a different price based on local costs. 

Instead of building 12 different emails, the marketer builds a single template, and the API and dynamic coding do the rest!

Automated recommendations: When you want to populate dynamic content blocks to feature specific products from your website’s product catalog, you can either code content blocks that dynamically select products based on specific use case criteria. Or you can leverage the power of Einstein Email Recommendations to serve up next-best content based on business rules to automate content or purchase recommendations. 

Centralized email management: Does your company divide email responsibilities among different teams? Maybe one team runs CRM and loyalty, while another handles triggers and transactional messages, and a third team sends promotional campaigns.  

Centralizing all of your email initiatives on a single platform gives you greater control over email quality, and deployment schedules, and a unified view into reporting and analytics, Heather says. 

“It does add a layer of data complexity, but depending on how your organization is structured, you might already have a database resource, like a data lake to push data to and to pull from. Keep  your system of record in mind, particularly for subscriber status to be sure you comply with privacy laws and email regulations.”

 When in doubt, ask for help

Salesforce’s Trailhead service includes an active user community focused on problem-solving and sharing knowledge. But sometimes you need someone to look over your shoulder, see what you’re doing, and help you find the answers. 

Shift Paradigm’s certified SFMC experts can help you get over a day-to-day roadblock, work out strategic and technical solutions or partner with your team to map out a new plan for marketing success. Drop us a note – we’d love to help you make the most out of your SFMC investment.

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