Best practices on what marketers should do before you implement a journey in Marketing cloud

Building out a journey can be daunting, even if you have had plenty of practice! We as marketers within the SFMC ecosystem tend to be the end of the funnel when it comes to projects and campaigns. That means the pressure is abundant to execute – and execute correctly. So how can we, as SFMC Marketers, loosen the top on this pressure cooker? Plan ahead! 

Primer Questions

Many would say that the first step in planning out your journey, is to sketch out your blueprint. False! Start by first understanding your business use case and ask yourself some starter questions: 

  • What channels do I want to engage my contact with? 
    • This could range from just email to email, SMS, direct mail, push notifications, etc. 
  • Is SFMC required to execute on all of these channels? 
    • Your company could have third party vendors handling some of these channels. Understanding where these communications will come from is vital 
  • How often does your journey need to run? Is the cadence of your journey depending on your data source?
    • Does your organization’s data refresh or update on a specific schedule that would determine the best time at which you should schedule your journey? 

Once you know which channels you want to include within your journey, try to organize them based on which channels are touched directly by SFMC – this can vary from organization to organization, and even between business units within the same organization. Remember, this would include subsequent channels that while not executed by SFMC, are driven by data within SFMC

For example, you could start by sending out an email to contact. After one week, you want to send another email to the contact if they have not engaged with the initial communication. You wait another week, and decide that email may not be the best way to communicate with this contact. Now you’d like to gather a list of all the contacts who have not engaged with either of your email communications and send them a direct mail, possibly from a third party vendor outside of SFMC or the SF ecosystem. This should still be tracked because your data is being driven by activities within SFMC! 

On the other hand, you may have a call center making calls to your contacts that may not rely on engagement data from SFMC. While this is important to note in your overall flow of communication for your members, this can be organized separately from your actual SFMC touchpoints. 

The differentiation of channels that are directly impacted by SFMC and those that are not will help you have a clear vision when creating your journey blueprint. These starter questions will also help give you clarity on how to move forward with your build and help set the foundation for a bigger underlying component: data. 

Data

Before you can sketch out your journey blueprint, it is important to understand where your data is being sourced from and what that data will look like. There are a number of options on how to bring data into your journey and it is important to know which one you’ll need to use as it will help construct a fundamental piece of your journey: the entry source. 

  • Data Extension
    • Do you already or will you have all the data you need within SFMC? Can that data be accessed and put into a Sendable Data Extension? 
    • Is your data being sourced from an organizational marketing data warehouse (MDW) that has the capability of sending you files via an FTP? 
    • Do you need flexibility in the scheduling and cadence of your journey? 
    • Do you envision the need to make updates, refreshes, or troubleshoot a campaign often? 
  • API
    • Is your data being sourced from an organizational marketing data warehouse (MDW) that has the capability of reaching SFMC via API?
    • Do you need to target your contacts in real-time based on data that is outside of SFMC?  
  • CloudPages
    • Is your data based on the submission of forms or specific activity on a CloudPage? 
  • Salesforce Data 
    • Are your contacts entering your journey based on changes or events in Sales or Service Cloud? 
  • Event 
    • Are your contacts expected to fill out a form on a Cloud Page to enter a journey? 
    • Is an event configured in Contact Builder and Journey Builder to inject members into a journey? 
    • Do you wish to send your contacts through a journey based on a date in your data (anniversary, birthday, membership or subscription expiration) 
  • Audience 
    • Based on a schedule of your choosing (recurring, one time, upon contact creation), records in a Mobile Connect list enter a journey 

Simplified Solution in Marketing Cloud: 

 

  Data Inside SFMC Data Outside SFMC
Flexible Scheduling Data Extension Data Extension
Real-Time Scheduling   API
Cloud Pages  
Event  
Audience  

Now let’s sketch! 

Sketching out your entire flow can be extremely helpful. It gives you clarity and flexibility to understand how different moving parts come together before you actually have to build. Using a platform like Visio, LucidChart or Draw.io are great resources to create, edit, and share your blueprints. 

Since you already have your channels organized by data source and you know where your data is coming from – sketching becomes much easier!

Now you can answer two final questions in building your journey and make edits as necessary: 

  • What does the end to end flow look like from a contact experience? Does it make sense for the contact? 
  • What does the end to end flow look like from an internal organization perspective? Does this fulfill the business use case? 

Once your blueprint is completed, you can begin to build out your journey with all of the various parts and pieces with less confusion and hopefully less troubleshooting! 

Summary: 

  1. Understand your business use case and what you are trying to achieve
  2. Organize your communication touchpoints related to or touched by SFMC and those that are not 
  3. Know your data source(s)
  4. Sketch
  5. Build! 

 

 

mm

I am a Salesforce Marketing Cloud Certified Consultant and Email Specialist and have been named a Marketing Cloud Champion. I have been working with Marketing Cloud specifically for five years with periodic opportunities to work with Salesforce CRM. I strive to bridge the gap between organizational architecture, business needs, and SFMC. I am passionate about my work and helping others grow within the ecosystem!

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