Learn about Salesforce Marketing Cloud, the feature-rich marketing automation platform, and how it helps increase customer engagement and provide a personalized experience.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) is Salesforce’s platform (or “Cloud”) in the area of marketing automation and customer engagement. It is a SaaS platform made up of four “base versions,” each with different levels of functionality and multiple additional at-cost components that further increase functionality.
Briefly looking back at its history, the core of SFMC was not initially developed by Salesforce, but rather gained by Salesforce in their acquisition of ExactTarget in 2013. This is meaningful since there are occasions that you still come across the usage of “ExactTarget” when referencing Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
In the same acquisition, Salesforce also acquired Pardot, which ExactTarget had previously purchased. Pardot was initially developed as a B2B marketing automation platform for SMBs (as opposed to ExactTarget that was more B2C-focused), and Pardot still exists today in the Salesforce ecosystem. It hasn’t been integrated or merged into SFMC/ExactTarget, nor was it renamed as a Salesforce “Cloud” product.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud is a marketing platform that has capabilities to support many facets of marketing including multi-channel campaign execution, dynamic customer journeys, pre- and post-campaign analytics including audience building and segmentation, social media engagement and advertising, and a data management platform. SFMC does this using components they call “Studios” and “Builders:
- “Studios” are used to manage and engage with channels of communication. In SFMC, this includes Email Studio, Social Studio and Mobile Studio.
- “Builders” are used to manage data, content and customer journeys in the Salesforce Marketing Cloud platform. They are often used by the Studios but don’t have to be (e.g., Analytics Builder).
What can you do with Salesforce Marketing Cloud?
Salesforce Marketing Cloud is a feature-rich platform that has capabilities across the marketing domain. This includes the following:
- Customer engagement in real-time
- Email and marketing automation
- Social media engagement, listening and advertising
- Mobile (SMS) messaging and push notifications
- Customer marketing analytics
A customer journey enabled in Salesforce Marketing Cloud helps illustrate some key capabilities mentioned above. In SFMC, you can use Journey Builder to create automated multi-channel journeys using many of the capabilities above to provide your customers with a personalized, 1:1 customer experience.
The tool can deliver messages to each contact based on the individual’s current data and then trigger new messages based on real-time customer data changes and interactions. The journeys can have multiple branches (like a tree) – and decisions can go on different branches based on:
- Contact data – This is data in the Marketing Cloud related to the contact you send information to. The data associated with a contact, or any change in their data, can determine which journey branch to take. For example, a contact could be in a communication journey for prospects but then converts to a customer. The change in their contact data in SFMC could automatically remove them from a prospect journey and place them into a new customer journey.
- Journey data – This is data about how the contact has interacted with the SFMC journey (e.g., email opens or clicks). One example is a welcome journey. After purchasing a product, a customer may receive multiple emails (Email 1 – welcome, Email 2 – product registration, Email 3 – product usage tips, and so on). Salesforce Marketing Cloud can detect who is opening and interacting with each email. This enables you to send a customer down a branch to resend Email 2, for example, after a certain configurable time (e.g., five days) if someone doesn’t open or click, or alternatively send them down a branch to receive Email 3 if they have opened and interacted with Email 2.
SFMC Journey builder allows you to construct journeys that consist of email and SMS messaging (and can also include direct mail using AppExchange partners). There are multiple uses cases for having multi-channel messaging, including:
- Service and support case communication – Use emails to communicate content related to service and support for a customer. Use SMS to communicate more timely information (e.g., service personnel on their way, a change in your service/support case status such as a closure).
- Post-purchase communication – Use emails and SMS to share post-purchase communications. For example, you can create a journey with emails for shipment status — up to the point that something is delivered — at which time SFMC sends an email to the customer to inform them the package was delivered, and then follow with a product registration email and possibly a customer survey, later.
- Financial communications – Use emails and SMS to communicate financial status related to loans or credit. For example, emails help remind customers of upcoming loan payments if they have not yet been made (e.g., three days before the due date). An SMS message can be useful on the actual due date to ensure they don’t miss their payment and face late payment penalties.
SFMC has some dynamic components that create personalized experiences for email recipients and further increase engagement. These include:
- Dynamic content – This includes creating personalized email content and subject lines based on an individual’s attributes and associated data and rules applied to them. The email content will populate based on who the message recipient is, delivering a personalized experience without crafting multiple versions of a single email.
- Dynamic sending profiles – This enables creating custom sending addresses for an email; a common use case is building one email and having the sender vary based on the salesperson that has the relationship with the message recipient.
All the above helps drive customer engagement with your brand and ideally creates a strong customer relationship through timely communications of relevant content. These journeys are the foundation of creating automated and personalized experiences with your brand through communications.
SFMC also provides a wealth of data about the communications it orchestrates and executes, which helps with reporting, analytics and insights. This SFMC data augments the existing contact data received from other systems integrated with it. This can include the Salesforce Marketing Cloud integration with Google Analytics 360 to enable tracking customer journeys more thoroughly.
You can put this data to good use for various purposes, including campaign performance analysis, segmentation and audience building, the latter of which makes use of SFMC’s data management.
What are Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s benefits?
Data management in Marketing Cloud is done using data extensions (a table) that can be associated to form a relational database, which is supported with SQL.
This, coupled with SFMC’s the ability to store various types data and create your specific data model, is an advantage compared to some competitive platforms that support a limited data model restricted by the data they can import and manage.
One of the reasons this is important is that it allows for more complex audience building and segmentation within SFMC.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud has extensive integration capabilities that can provide data from various sources (another factor in why the data management features are so valuable).
In addition to the expected connection to Salesforce’s Sales Cloud and Service Cloud (via Marketing Cloud Connect), SFMC also has various APIs, including a REST API and a SOAP API.
Common use cases for these APIs include the following: augmenting your existing contact information in SFMC, importing content, and initiating triggered sends.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud has an extensive set of third-party applications available, including those from the Salesforce AppExchange, to increase its capabilities and customize it to your specific business goals. Think of the AppExchange as the Apple App store or Google Play store for SFMC (and other Salesforce Clouds).
Beyond the AppExchange, there are other numerous third-party products from Salesforce partners that integrate with SFMC to increase its functionality and value.
Application of Artificial Intelligence
Salesforce’s artificial intelligence technology, which has been branded “Einstein,” features some interesting applications within SFMC, including:
- Engagement scoring to predict who will interact with messaging
- Sent time optimization to predict the best time to send a message to each individual, so it’s most likely to be opened
- Engagement frequency to understand how many messages to send each individual.
All of these serve to increase the engagement that consumers have with your brand while at the same time providing a personalized experience (and hopefully preventing disengagement).
Can any company use Marketing Cloud?
Salesforce Marketing Cloud usage spans many industries and company sizes. While Marketing Cloud is often thought of as an enterprise-level platform (which it can be), the different editions make it flexible enough for organizations of various sizes.
Additionally, with the a-la-carte style selection of add-on features, you can tailor SFMC to your specific needs, and it can adapt to your (and your customers) changing needs.
As previously mentioned, Salesforce Marketing Cloud was designed mainly as a B2C platform, but that does not mean B2B companies do not use it. SFMC’s use in B2B is increasing as customers, especially decision-makers within a company, expect to be provided with customer journeys like those of B2C customers. While SFMC is not the least expensive product in its space, it is an extensible platform that can evolve with your company, and it is not a tool that your organization will outgrow. This is an important consideration for any tool in your technology stack.
In addition to the cost of any replacement platform, you also have to consider other impacts: integrations; data it will provide for analytics and reporting (and impact to existing metrics); ability to support your enterprise data model; data migrations; overall impact to your company (training, organization structure, ROI); and the ability to deliver an improved customer experience while driving your desired business outcomes.