Exploring Marketing Cloud

Those who read the Marketing Automation Canada blog with any regularity will know that the primary platform I write about is Pardot. Every now and then, however, I catch wind of some of the interesting capabilities afforded by other applications. Marketing Cloud, especially has always been of interest, with its comparatively exotic SMS text capabilities. Wanting to pull back the curtain on the platform, I thought I would interview my colleague Krishna Vijayendra, our resident expert on Marketing Cloud. My ensuing conversation with Krishna threw some light on the subject and touched on an interesting use case.

JS: What would be a unique feature that sets Marketing Cloud apart from other platforms?

KV: One of the main things would be Marketing Cloud’s data handling capabilities. It enables advanced segmentation by allowing you to create your own data models and establish relationships between multiple data-sets. In my experience, these kinds of capabilities are rare in most other tools. Although this introduces some degree of operational complexity, it also results in considerable flexibility. The advanced data handling utility enables companies to map data streams surprisingly close to their actual business practices.

JS: So if I am understanding you correctly, we are talking about something more beyond basic filtering and advancing into the realm of developing segmentation through relational database work.

KV: Yes, when you start with Marketing Cloud you are starting with a clean slate. You build your database from the ground up. Data is expressed in tables that can then be related to each other through primary keys, foreign keys or other means. The resulting structure can allow for joins, and unions, that can exceed the outputs of basic filtering.

JS: You mentioned primary keys and foreign keys, can you briefly describe what those objects are?

KV: Sure, a primary key is a unique identifier that is associated with data points on every row in a table. The primary key can also be used to join different tables. This can reference a unique value which can in turn be used to serve as a join to a different table, thereby making use of data attributes from multiple tables. A foreign key by definition is a field (or collection of fields) in one table, that refers to the Primary Key in another table. For example, an email address might be a primary key on the contact table but a foreign key on the product purchases table. The ability to link primary keys through to foreign keys establishes the means through which the relational data model is defined.

JS: It sounds as though this flexibility is what makes Marketing Cloud more applicable to ecommerce scenarios.

KV: Yes, Marketing Cloud in general is more friendly to B2C scenarios, but B2B customers also make use of the platform.

JS: How many tables can you have in Marketing Cloud

KV: You can have as many as you want.

JS: Can you tell me a bit about how Marketing Cloud is evolving. As a product of Salesforce, are they pushing the product forward in terms of introducing new features or are they letting it stand as is?

KV: Salesforce definitely seems to be committed to improving on Marketing Cloud. In general they have a new release every couple of months to update it to make it more user friendly and further align it with Sales Cloud’s architecture. On the user side they are ramping up the user experience to be more in line with the Salesforce Lightning platform.

One of the newer feature additions is the ability to provide interactive emails. Here you can let your customers interact with an email by selecting different options or by submitting surveys. All without them having to leave their email inbox. This eliminates steps and results in higher levels of engagement. It can be deployed to deliver star type rating surveys, or solicit choice selections through a drop down menu.

JS: When was this feature released.

KV: The interactive email feature was released around the end of 2019. So far, people are just starting to get familiar with it. There are also a few caveats to be noted; for example some of the more older information managers such as Outlook do not support it yet. New platforms such as Gmail do recognize the feature, so client adoption in part depends on how sensitive they are to the mix of their client base’s email infrastructure. Even so, you can always have a fall back link which can direct to a landing page so they can still access the survey when the feature is not supported.

JS: Will this substitution happen on the fly?

KV: Yes it will. Exactly.

JS: Do any situations come to mind where a client has leveraged this feature to good effect?

KV: Yes, with one of my recent projects we developed a one question survey. This survey resulted in the largest downstream revenue boost recorded in a one year period.

JS: I don’t want anyone to give away any company secrets, but what kind of question was it?

KV: The question related to an idealized lifestyle choice.

JS: Did the client pursue this strategy as a result of a recommendation that we made, or did they come to us with a request to help them realize the project.

KV: They had heard about the feature, but they were not sure of the pros and cons as well as best practices. We stepped in to assist them with the strategy implementation, as well as build out the post engagement sales flow for the sales department.

JS: So in your view, could a feature as potentially powerful as this warrant a charge of platforms?

KV: Quite possibly. Apart from that there are other features as well that would warrant moving toward Marketing Cloud. Especially if the client is a B2C who is inclined to use cross-channel marketing. Just touching on the basics, Marketing Cloud has capabilities in the area of SMS, Ad Studio, email, Social Studio and now it has things like WhatsApp and other messaging platforms. Additionally, you can integrate all of these channels in a single journey builder environment.

JS: That’s powerful stuff. Especially when you consider that the impact of a message is magnified when it’s delivered across different channels. Krishna – thank you very much for revealing the secrets of Marketing Cloud. It was a great discussion.

KV: You are most welcome.

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Krishna Vijayendra