Learn about Salesforce Marketing Cloud, the feature-rich digital engagement, marketing, and personalization platform that increases customer engagement, provides personalized experiences, and improves customer satisfaction.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) is the name of Salesforce’s platform for multi-channel engagement, digital marketing, marketing automation, analytics, and personalization. The platform is a set of software as a service (SaaS) products with different types of functionality and additional add-on features provided by Salesforce and other vendors via the Salesforce AppExchange to further increase their capabilities.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud is Salesforce’s “umbrella” brand name for a family of related products capable of supporting many marketing processes, including multi-channel campaign execution, dynamic customer journeys, marketing performance analysis, personalization, digital advertising, and data management.
Here are the products under the Marketing Cloud brand and their core functionalities:
Salesforce has its own artificial intelligence (AI), called Einstein, woven into the Marketing Cloud products. The functionality varies by product, but it is impressive across the whole suite. For example, Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement can provide personalized email content recommendations, individually optimized email send times for increased engagement, and messaging performance monitoring with insights.
(At this time of this writing, Salesforce is releasing the initial capabilities of its generative AI product, Einstein GPT – which includes Marketing GPT to support marketing. Marketing GPT’s planned initial features will be Segment Creation and Email Content Creation.)
What Beneficial Features Does Salesforce Marketing Cloud Offer?
As mentioned, Salesforce Marketing Cloud is a set of feature-rich products with capabilities across the marketing domain, including:
- Real-time customer engagement, including real-time personalization.
- Email and marketing automation.
- Mobile (SMS/MMS) messaging and push notifications.
- Marketing performance analytics.
- Digital advertising across social media platforms.
To provide an example of how one of the Marketing Cloud products works, let’s look deeper into Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement to illustrate some of these key capabilities.
Marketing Cloud Engagement has two fundamental types of components, called Studios and Builders:
- Studios manage and engage with channels of communication. Marketing Cloud Engagement includes Email Studio, Automation Studio, and Mobile Studio.
- Builders manage customer data, content, and customer journeys. Marketing Cloud Engagement includes Contact Builder, Content Builder, Analytics Builder, and Journey Builder.
You can use Journey Builder, specifically, to create automated multi-channel journeys – using many of the capabilities mentioned above – and provide personalized experiences for contacts.
Marketing Cloud Engagement can deliver messages to any contact (lead, prospect, customer, employer, partner, vendor) based on their specific data and trigger new messages based on the contact’s real-time data changes and message interactions. Journey Builder engagement paths can have multiple branches (like a tree). The following types of data can define the paths that these branches take:
- Contact data is any data associated with the contact and can include demographic, geographic, psychographic data or any data on their contact record in CRM. One example could be a contact in a nurture journey for prospects that then converts to a customer based on a purchase. The change in their contact data from prospect to customer could automatically remove them from any prospect journeys and place them into a new customer journey.
- Journey data is about customer behavior and engagement data tracked by Marketing Cloud, such as email opens or clicks. One example to illustrate this is a customer welcome journey. After purchasing a product, a customer may receive multiple emails (email no. 1 – Welcome, email no. 2 – Product registration, email no. 3 – Product usage tips and soon). Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement can detect who opens and interacts with each email.
If a customer doesn’t initially open email no. 2, the platform could automatically send a customer down a “branch” to resend email no. 2 if they don’t open or click it initially after a designated time. Alternatively, if desired, it could also send them a different version of email no. 2. (e.g., possibly with a different subject line).
You could also build the journey to wait until the customer interacts with email no. 2 before sending them email no. 3 or send email no. 3 after a pre-set time period has passed after receiving email no. 2 (regardless of their actions).
Marketing Cloud Engagement Journey Builder allows you to construct journeys consisting of email and SMS messaging and direct mail (the latter using AppExchange partners). Multi-channel messaging enables better customer experiences for marketing campaigns as well as the following non-marketing use cases:
- Service and support case communication – Use emails to communicate service and support content unique to each customer. Use SMS to communicate more timely information (e.g., service personnel on their way, an important change in your open service or support case status).
- Post-purchase communication – Use emails and SMS to share post-purchase communications. For example, you can create a Marketing Cloud Engagement journey with emails for shipment status — up to the point that something is delivered — at which time an SMS is sent to the customer to inform them their delivery is complete. Then, follow up with a product registration email, possibly followed by a customer satisfaction survey.
- Financial communications – Use emails and SMS to communicate financial status related to loans or credit cards. For example, you can send emails to help remind customers about upcoming loan payment due dates if they have not yet paid by a designated date (e.g., five business days beforehand). You can automatically trigger an SMS message on the payment due date to remind them so they don’t miss their payment. Or, you can send an SMS in the case of a scheduled automated payment failure.
Personalization with Dynamic Components
Marketing Cloud Engagement has dynamic components that enable personalization for email recipients to further increase engagement. These include:
- Dynamic content – This includes creating personalized email content and subject lines based on an individual’s specific contact or journey data. The email content will populate based on who the message recipient is and their specific characteristics based on their data, delivering a personalized experience without crafting multiple versions of a single email.
- Dynamic sending profiles – This allows you to create custom email sending addresses that appear on email communications. A common use case is building a single version of a sales email and varying who appears to be the email sender based on which salesperson has a relationship with the message recipient.
Note that the dynamic components mentioned above are in Marketing Cloud Engagement and don’t even include all the additional enhanced personalization capabilities possible with Marketing Cloud Personalization.
You can use all the above Marketing Cloud Engagement capabilities to drive engagement with your brand and, ideally, create strong and lasting customer relationships by delivering relevant and timely content. These journeys are the foundation for creating automated and personalized experiences with your brand through more intelligent communications.
As you may have come to understand from reading so far, data is the foundation of Marketing Cloud Engagement, which can accept and use data from many sources within your organization (or from outside of it), and there are multiple ways you can import data.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement uses a relational database for data management. It allows you to design your specific data model based on your needs and planned usage. This capability distinguishes it from many other competitive products. Even with this ability, it’s important to remember that “just because you can put it into Marketing Cloud Engagement doesn’t mean you should!”
Primary considerations regarding what data to put into Marketing Cloud Engagement include data you may use for segmentation or personalization or data, that when changed, should trigger a communication or other automated activity.
Marketing Cloud Engagement is also a data source and provides a wealth of data related to the communications it orchestrates and executes and the resulting engagements. You can provide this data to other systems through various integrations or data exports, depending on your requirements. A primary use of this data is to assist in developing a 360-degree view of the customer you can use throughout your organization.
Is Salesforce Marketing Cloud Right for Your Organization?
While I wouldn’t say Salesforce Marketing Cloud is right for any and every organization, its users span many industries and company sizes.
For example, at Coca-Cola Germany, the SFMC platform spurred a 30 percent increase in email open rates by delivering personalized content and offers to customers. And, when Adidas used Marketing Cloud’s automation email campaign features, their solution resulted in an average cost reduction of 40 percent and an 8 percent year-over-year increase in channel contribution for dynamic newsletters in 2020.
It’s important to emphasize two of the primary products under the Salesforce Marketing Cloud umbrella that have some overlap in engagement capabilities:
- Marketing Cloud Engagement – Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement was initially designed as a B2C email marketing platform (called ExactTarget), but as it has evolved, many B2B companies use it. In fact, the use of Marketing Cloud Engagement for business-to-business communications is increasing as more B2B clients expect a customer experience and journey like those of a B2C customer.
- Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (formerly Pardot) – Salesforce Marketing Cloud Account Engagement was originally designed as a B2C marketing automation platform (called Pardot), and as such, has some robust capabilities related to lead scoring and management, web tracking, object alignment with Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, and features designed to support account-based marketing features that are not native in Marketing Cloud Engagement.
Both products can support common use cases that exist in both the B2B and B2C domains, such as:
- Nurture campaigns – These are designed to engage leads based on where they are in your lead lifecycle and often include personalized content based on the lead’s behavior. This includes automatically triggering communications based on a change in contact data (Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement) or lead score (Salesforce Marketing Cloud Account Engagement).
- New customer onboarding – These are usually multi-message communications to new customers to educate them about your products or services they purchased. Both Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement and Account Engagement can trigger these communications based on several different variables, including time periods (e.g., time since purchase or communications spread over a defined period) or tracked data related to interactions with communications, product usage, or service engagement.
With the à la carte selection of add-on features and AppExchange applications available to both products, you can tailor them to your (and your customers’) evolving needs.
As with any software or platform selection, there are factors beyond the financial investment you should consider before choosing any Marketing Cloud product. In addition to the product licensing costs, think about additional impacts, including:
- Integrations and any associated projects to complete them (native connectors, APIs, custom).
- Data, reporting and analytics and the impact on any existing metrics.
- The ability to support your enterprise data model and data migrations.
- The overall impact on your company (training, organization structure, ROI, and so on).
- Availability of training (such as via Salesforce’s free learning management system called Trailhead), trained resources, and professional services.
Some of the above factors may weigh in favor of Salesforce Marketing Cloud versus competitive products, as well as influence you towards a specific Marketing Cloud product (e.g., Engagement vs. Account Engagement) – especially if you have other Salesforce products in your existing technology stack or are planning to in the future.
The Salesforce Marketing Cloud product suite can provide any organization with the ability to deliver improved customer experiences while driving your desired business outcomes.