Ignite Growth: Getting Started with Salesforce Data Cloud

By Daniel Mulvahill

Published on 2 May, 2024

The bar is high for today’s marketing team – deliver highly personalized, just-in-time messaging built on past engagement and predicted future interests. This level of marketing execution requires data that is often siloed across multiple systems and channels.  How can marketers unify and activate this data? Enter Salesforce Data Cloud. 

What is Salesforce Data Cloud?

Data Cloud is an exciting new offering from Salesforce that enables orgs to stitch together contact and engagement data from all sources and then orchestrate contextual, timely marketing based on that data. Contact data is harmonized into unified profiles, and engagement data is collated to give a true 360° view of the customer – across website, app, email, SMS, ads, social, e-commerce, loyalty program, and more.

Even better, Salesforce provides a free tier of Data Cloud for existing CRM customers in the Enterprise Edition or above. This tier, called Data Cloud Provisioning, enables you to get started building your data streams and data model mapping, then access paid features when you are prepared to segment and activate that data.

However, Data Cloud is a complex product with a wide range of potential benefits – where should you start?  Here is our recommended approach to building value quickly with Data Cloud.

Step 1 // Envision

Host a workshop with your leadership team and thought leaders across marketing, sales, customer success, customer service, and other customer-centric functions.  We recommend that you also include a Certified Data Cloud Consultant , so that they can share what is possible (and occasionally, what is not) to stimulate the group’s thinking.

In line with design thinking methodology, spend the first part of the workshop dreaming big on impactful interactions with prospects and customers that could be possible if data from all sources were combined.  Avoid critiquing ideas – anything goes!  Mix times of silent sticky note idea generation and out-loud sharing of, and building off of, ideas to maximize input and ideation from everyone in the room.

Here are a few of the potential ideas your team could come up with:

  • The Interested? Promo – send a promotion to prospects who have visited your website 3x or more in the last month but haven’t bought anything
  • The White Glove Mea Culpa – send a valuable coupon or credit to customers with high lifetime value (CLV) who just experienced a service incident or a return due to a quality issue
  • The New Brand Loyalists Invite – identify your most loyal customers over the last 5 years, create a lookalike segment from new customers in the last year, and invite them to an exclusive event

Okay, you have a (hopefully long) list of interesting ideas on interactions you could build that would delight your prospects and customers.  Now it’s time to critique and whittle that down.  Group related ideas, then employ dot-voting to build consensus on the top 3-5 interactions that would have the highest impact for low or medium effort.

Time to pull in the tech people…

Step 2 // Evaluate

Enlist a small team of the following people:
1) someone who knows your data sources well,
2) someone who knows your data pipelines and tools (e.g. APIs, middleware, AWS) well, and
3) a Certified Data Cloud Consultant.  Ask them to work backward from the 3-5 use cases you identified to determine the data needed to drive those interactions.

Then they evaluate and summarize – for which use cases does the data exist today?  Of those, for which is the data easiest to connect to Data Cloud?  A basic “order of ease” to follow is:
1) native connector to Data Cloud, then
2) data can be programmatically exported on a schedule to AWS or Google Cloud, then
3) none of the above.

The use case that looks the best from a data availability and accessibility perspective is now your MVP (minimum viable product) use case to get rolling in Data Cloud!

Step 3 // Engineer

With a clearer understanding ofthe end goal and the beginning data sources, it’s now time to unleash the data team and Certified Data Cloud Consultant(s) to connect the dots with your Data Cloud build.

This team will build out Data Sources, Data Streams, Data Lake Objects, Data Model Objects, data mapping, data transformations, formula fields, Identity Resolution, Calculated Insights, Segmentations, Activation Targets, and Activations. This might sound overwhelming, but much of the work is automated and performed in the background by Data Cloud, making it exponentially faster than hand-building this functionality in AWS or another cloud infrastructure environment.

The end result? Data Cloud enables you to activate a highly targeted segment to your channel of choice!

Step 4 // Engage

You have your segment; now create the engagement.  Whether it’s an automated journey in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, or a one-off send or automation in another platform, operationalize the campaign and let it go to work.

And now for the unofficial step 5 – enjoy! Enjoy the results of engaging your prospects and customers, at the perfect time, with meaningful content, for high impact in their engagement with your brand.

Need support with your personalization and growth strategy?
Contact us if you’d like to discuss your unique challenges and get support from our strategists and Certified Data Cloud Consultants in your Salesforce Data Cloud journey!

Written By Daniel Mulvahill

Daniel combines strategy, process, and technology expertise to partner with SH/FT clients in building user-centric, low-maintenance, lead-to-order technology stacks. Daniel leads SH/FT's Salesforce core practice and enjoys hiking, reading sci-fi, and traveling with his wife and 4 kids in his free time.
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