Implementing a new instance of Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) begins with the challenging question: What and how much data about my customers should I bring into this platform?
There is often confusion about the platform itself. Is SFMC a data lake? No. Is it an enterprise data warehouse (EDW)? No. Is it a customer data platform (CDP)? No, but check out Customer 360.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud is a powerful marketing platform, and what makes it powerful and what creates a more personalized experience for your customers is the data you store in it. How do you get the most out of the data you store in SFMC and keep the amount of data optimal?
We tackle this question nearly every day and have found that considering the following three criteria optimizes the data you store in the SFMC platform.
First, and foremost, your data should include a unique identifier for each of your contacts. Ideally, this would be the unique identifier from your customer relationship management (CRM) platform, data lake, EDW, or CDP.
Pro tip: Email address is not a good candidate for the unique identifier. Chances are your contacts have more than one email address! Using email addresses as the unique ID also presents issues as mobile phone numbers are introduced, contacts change emails, and as the contact profile is extended to include mobile device IDs and social handles.
Your SFMC data should also identify the lists or publications and the format—email or SMS—your contacts have opted in to receive. Other identifying fields to consider include loyalty/rewards IDs, ecommerce platform IDs, and any foreign keys needed for reporting. Finally, be sure to include keys needed for relational tables, like order history, in SFMC.
SFMC includes tools—filtering, queries, and Audience Builder—which allow marketers to quickly segment audiences without depending on IT experts. Using these tools relies on the data stores in Marketing Cloud.
Consider which audience segments are used regularly by your marketing team. What data drives these segments?
Journey Builder, a tool within SFMC, also uses data to segment and drive contacts along different paths to receive varied communications. The data you load into Marketing Cloud makes these decisions and drives powerful one-to-one messaging. So, you should consider including data about customer account status/tier; favorite location; points accumulated; and purchase recency, frequency, monetary value (RFM).
Information about each contact can display in their messages using personalization strings in SFMC. First-name personalization is prevalent in digital communications. A birth month or anniversary data can also be powerful in creating personalization.
Take care to not overload the platform with extraneous data for personalization that may never be used. Is there a use case for displaying the customer’s spouse’s middle name? Probably not.
SFMC also includes powerful tools to present dynamic content to your contacts. Dynamic content and AMPscript use data to determine what is displayed in emails, mobile messages, and on CloudPages (landing pages, mobile pages, microsites). Your contacts’ favorite store locations or account representative’s contact information can be displayed according to the data in SFMC.
Refreshing your SFMC data
Underlying these three areas is the amount of data you retain in SFMC and how often the data is refreshed. Data retention should be carefully considered based on how long the data stored is relevant to identification, segmentation, and personalization. When considering how often to refresh your data, keep in mind the intended use. Will there be timely updates to relevant data?
The potential behind SFMC is largely dependent on the data you have available within the platform. Keep these three criteria in mind as you build—or enhance—your Marketing Cloud platform.