Salesforce Marketing Cloud is a powerful platform to execute your marketing strategy, but implementation and usage aren’t easy. Learn some of the pitfalls and the solutions to get the most out of SFMC.
Once organizations see the benefits of Salesforce Sales Cloud, a natural next step is the implementation of another Cloud. For many companies, Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) is the next addition. It is Salesforce’s marketing tools platform, and its capabilities include multi-channel marketing automation, social media marketing and digital advertising. The platform enables the organization to use the information in Sales Cloud to improve engagement with customers and prospects.
Marketing Cloud also provides engagement and interaction data to Sales Cloud or other platforms to create a more complete view of your customers. It’s a robust and feature-rich platform that requires expertise and experience to implement—and when done well, one that can yield significant benefits.
How can you ensure you realize all benefits the platform can provide, including meeting your business goals and making it a positive investment? Success with Marketing Cloud depends on avoiding some of the most common pitfalls – and doing so will make a huge difference in your results.
So, what is the most obvious indicator that there are problems?
Underutilization and Stagnation in the Use of Salesforce Marketing Cloud
If you’re considering investing in Marketing Cloud or have recently implemented it and are responsible for ensuring it was a worthwhile investment, you want to avoid underutilization and stagnation at all costs. And if you are experiencing this now, learning the solutions to your current problems will help you get back on track.
In working with numerous clients, I have found several factors that can cause this stagnation. Let’s take a look at a few of these.
Lack of SFMC Knowledge and Technical Expertise
Our clients who are using Marketing Cloud may understand their instance in its current configuration, but they don’t have the technical knowledge to advance their use. This often occurs in smaller teams where there may not be a strong technical person on the team, and where the marketing people have various marketing responsibilities – not just Marketing Cloud – and are spread thin.
This may also occur on larger teams, especially IT teams supporting SFMC, where they are responsible for multiple tools, but don’t have deep expertise in any of them – they are in a primarily administrative role.
Identify an individual in your organization whose responsibilities will include developing Marketing Cloud expertise, including obtaining certifications. Then, allow this person dedicated time to devote to this, and include it in his or her development goals.
You should also hold a manager accountable for SFMC knowledge as well, which removes the burden from being solely on the team member. The downside to this solution is a reduced capacity for other work for those people that you will need to accept and plan for.
Lack of Team Capacity
The people or team responsible for Marketing Cloud are often very execution based and operational in focus. They may not have the capacity to do projects to increase the use of the platform’s capabilities, even if they know how.
This issue can incur in small companies as well as larger organizations. Even if you add more people to the team, they often tend to get consumed with either a backlog of existing work or become used to increase the overall throughput of existing work types instead of working on projects to advance the use of Marketing Cloud.
Provide dedicated time to your team member(s) to do platform advancement projects. Include these improvements as a department goal that both the manager is accountable for, and the team is responsible for completing. Incorporate this capacity into team and personal work plans, and build support for these projects internally and externally for the team.
Finally, communicate and broadcast the success and capabilities of these projects as a catalyst for future projects.
Insufficient Data Available to Salesforce Marketing Cloud
Marketing Cloud frequently does not receive all possible data or could from other sources, or it may not receive it on time. Even if you integrate Marketing Cloud with Sales Cloud, it may only receive a small subset of all the possible data the marketing team could use for communications. Another common scenario is there may be data in another system, besides Sales Cloud, that could be providing valuable and actionable data to Marketing Cloud.
The more timely and relevant data the Marketing Cloud received, the more likely you’ll see the following benefits:
- Advanced usage, resulting in increased data to the marketing and sales teams to develop a more complete view of the customer
- Increased customer insights
- Ultimately delivering a better customer experience.
When you develop your yearly marketing plan, map those goals to the objectives that Marketing Cloud will support, and the data required for that support. This will serve many functions, including:
- Becoming aware of where (and if) the data exists in your organization
- Understanding what teams you may need to involve in any integrations — including the communication, coordination and prioritization necessary
- Securing any budget necessary as part of annual financial planning.
Ideally, the marketing team has access to the data collected throughout the organization and understands it. Then they can develop a vision for how to use that data. A holistic view of the customer experience through understanding all of the data available from Marketing Cloud and the other platforms in the martech stack is a sign of marketing maturity.
Lack of Marketing Maturity
Your marketing team may still be growing in its understanding of the customer journey, and this is not uncommon. This should include having a developed customer lifecycle, the use of analytics (not just reporting), defined strategies that align with goals, and a roadmap to get there.
This includes understanding how to use marketing technology to its greatest potential. For example, Marketing Cloud can support the customer experience across the entire customer lifecycle in many different ways (see the image below), and often it is only used for a small portion of the possible engagements.
Develop a plan to mature your organization aligning the people, processes and technology with your current state and your planned future state. This should also encompass the data, content and analytics components of maturity (reference). This step requires doing a roadmap to coordinate all of these components, and while it’s an investment, it will definitely pay dividends.
A part of the future state will also include increasing the knowledge of the marketing team. It can also entail educating other parts of the organization regarding their role and value in the larger picture, and the benefits that you and your business will receive.
Lack of Strategic Ownership
Within an organization there is a need for strategic ownership of the martech stack, including Salesforce Marketing Cloud, to ensure it receives the resources necessary to fully develop and to best use it as part of the larger overall strategy. The person with ownership should be able to think about Marketing Cloud strategically and how it can enable, deliver and advance the business and marketing goals of the organization.
This ownership includes defining strategic and business goals and the associated metrics that show the impact of using Marketing Cloud as part of the overall martech stack. This step goes beyond Salesforce Marketing Cloud data and reporting and into “business outcome reporting,” where you can quantify the true benefits of the platform and overall martech stack in measures the business understands and cares about. For example, some of these business outcome metrics often include incremental revenue, quicker sales conversions, increased customer engagement, and increasing product downloads or product usage. Business outcome reporting is a topic in and of itself that I will write more about in the future.
Give strategic Marketing Cloud ownership to a person or team with executive sponsorship. This level of ownership can assist in securing the necessary resources as well as prioritizing driving forward Salesforce Marketing Cloud advancement projects. This person can also provide business justifications for SFMC advancement investments based on known priorities. This justification is important since the projects to advance Marketing Cloud may require support from, or impact, multiple teams across the organization, not only marketing.
Common examples of impacts to other teams include integrations between platforms owned by different teams and changes to processes (or data) used by other teams (e.g., Sales).
Finally, the SFMC strategic owner may also need to develop a consensus on the business outcome reporting metrics that you will use, as well as driving the generation of this reporting and associated analytics, and it’s use across the organization – another instance where executive sponsorship can be very valuable.
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In closing, Salesforce Marketing Cloud represents a significant investment, both financially and organizationally, and it’s in your best interest to learn how to make the most of this investment. Developers are constantly evolving and updating Marketing Cloud with new features via multiple releases each year. These releases provide great value, but they also require customers to actively engage in ownership of their instance of Salesforce, and not take the “set it and forget it” approach.
Don’t view Marketing Cloud as a one-time launch, but as a constant evolution with a well-orchestrated approach to constant advancement. Thoughtful planning, including avoiding the most common pitfalls mentioned, will go a long way towards being successful.
Finally, don’t let the potential pitfalls overwhelm you. Many companies choose to use Salesforce partners to assist with avoiding the pitfalls and advancing their SFMC instances. This has many advantages, including providing technical expertise for advanced projects beyond the team’s current knowledge, not impacting your team’s capacity, and providing strategic guidance on the use of Marketing Cloud, including how to mature into your usage at your own pace.