The Marketing Associate Certification is the most recent Salesforce certification (at the time of writing). This is a foundational certification, with a recommended experience of up to six months with Marketing Cloud Engagement (i.e. Email Studio, Journey Builder).
The certification will also test your broader understanding of marketing concepts including data management, content formats, and how a marketing strategy applies to Marketing Cloud.
About the Marketing Associate Certification
Released on January 25th, 2024, I was itching to find the time to investigate (and pass) it. As someone who is certified in both Marketing Cloud and Account Engagement (Pardot), this certification held quite some mystique. I had questions, such as: how much would be technology-agnostic? How much focus would be placed on Salesforce Marketing Cloud features? How technical would the questions be?
My overall impressions of the exam and study process are:
- It’s a nice, friendly exam that gives you an entry into Marketing Cloud – not only the features (when to use which), but also everything else that goes into being a successful (and compliant) marketer.
- This certification does focus on Marketing Cloud Engage (the exam does not test any Account Engagement features or concepts).
- In my case, there were 44 questions in total; 40 contributing to your score, and 4 unscored (but you never know which ones!). Salesforce often does this for new or updated certifications to test out the questions.
- The number of answer options per question is three. Oftentimes, the options will trip you up (I seem to remember spotting double negatives in some questions) which makes re-reading every question and answer options highly important.
- In terms of how ‘technical’ (i.e. Marketing Cloud feature focused), my thoughts were that it was more technically testing than I expected – but this can only be a good thing for those who pass it and who want to work further with Marketing Cloud.
- About half of the questions were scenario-based. You should read, re-read, and absorb the scenario. These questions are asking about a trade-off between two ways of achieving something – you will see that I mention feature trade-offs (i.e. which to use when) later in the key topic breakdown.
What has also been on my mind, are the overlaps between Marketing Associate, and the Email Specialist and Marketing Cloud Administrator exams. Being certified in both, I see the Marketing Associate as a gateway to the knowledge that will be tested in more depth in Email Specialist (Email Studio, sending, validation, deliverability, privacy) and Marketing Cloud Admin (subscriber management, data extensions, business units, import). Stay tuned for more content coming soon…
Marketing Associate Key Topics
The official Trailhead exam guide presents the sections the exam will cover in the following order:
- Marketing Concepts (28%)
- Marketing Cloud Engagement Basics (22%)
- Email Sending and Journeys (22%)
- Data Management (18%)
- Reporting and Analytics (10%)
In the individual topic sections, I will highlight the key points to know that can often be the trickiest concepts to grasp. This does not mean you should apply blinkers and only study these points.
Marketing Concepts (28%)
The technology agnostic section (i.e. applies to anyone doing email marketing). As an existing marketer, it’s likely this will be familiar to you – even second nature.
- Regional nature of privacy laws:
- GDPR and CCPA ‘rights’ for consumers (data subjects).
- CAN-SPAM requirements for staying compliant with email design.
- GDPR/CCPA versus CAN-SPAM.
- Effective opt-in process: How to gain consent. In the exam, this involved weeding out options that were not compliant or impractical.
- Transactional versus commercial email: When it is okay to use a commercial email type, and when it’s not (for staying compliant – even in cases where the organization is concerned about negative metrics, such as unsubscribes).
Marketing Cloud Engagement Basics (22%)
- Regional or business related account structures: Business units versus permissions. When to create a business unit, when to use the existing sharing infrastructure instead (e.g. for sharing data extensions).
- Essential features of Marketing Cloud Engagement: Email Studio stages of creating and sending emails, Content Builder.
- Salesforce resources for assistance, training, and support:
- Know the difference between Trailhead, Salesforce Help, and Support.
- Understand the purpose of the AppExchange, i.e. to find apps to extend Marketing Cloud functionality.
- Subscriber keys, contact keys, and contact IDs: Thoroughly understand the difference between these, and which to utilize as a unique identifier in a given scenario. For example, use a subscriber key when you wish to track individuals that could share the same email address.
- CloudPage form submission setup: Know the difference between Web Collect, Smart Capture, and CloudPages.
Email Sending and Journeys (22%)
- Sending an email: There are multiple ways to send an email in Marketing Cloud, you will need to understand the options.
- Journey activation and entry criteria:
- Know the different types of entry sources.
- Understand troubleshooting steps, for example, if an entry source you wish to utilize is not available for you to select.
- Email send wizard settings: This includes send classifications, i.e. sender vs delivery profiles and their purposes.
- Email template components and content blocks: Particularly A/B testing versus dynamic content.
- Which journey functionality to use:
- Know the different nodes and activities.
- Also, how to edit a journey in a given scenario (journey versions versus cloning).
- Content rendering validation:
- Know the differences between subscriber preview and test sends.
- When to use a test data extension (note the number of recipients the question scenario includes).
Data Management (18%)
Perhaps the trickiest section of the exam outline – nail this, and you’ll have a head-start for the Marketing Cloud Admin certification.
- Data import mechanisms and requirements: For me, how to import data into a data extension came up in the questions, but I suggest studying all types of import methods available in Email Studio, Contact Builder, and Automation Studio, including what FTP is and its purpose.
- Creating new data extensions, identifying which data should be included in an existing one:
- Know the properties of a data extension (‘Is Sendable’, ‘Is Testable’, etc.).
- Understand attributes.
- Also, like before, thoroughly understand the difference between subscriber keys, contact keys, and contact IDs – plus, when to use which one.
Reporting and Analytics (10%)
- Specific data can be found in Marketing Cloud Engagement:
- Know the difference between Email Studio reports and Analytics Builder.
- Know about journey reports.
- Interpret undesired send results and possible deliverability consequences:
- The questions were phrased as a “what happened in the period of time between two email sends”.
- Questions test your understanding on the difference between hard and soft bounces, and how to identify these in email send reports.
The first place to start is the official Trailhead exam guide. This will give a breakdown of the topics, and concepts that each section will hit upon. While the exam outlines are concise, I often find that granular topics are disguised in the high-level information.
Then, you should take the Marketing Associate Trailmix. This will ensure that you cover all topics in enough breadth and depth – and don’t skip out on the documentation links, these contain valuable nuggets of information.
My approach to every certification exam is to tackle the section with the highest weighting, and move through to the smallest.
When exam day finally arrives, there are a few things you can do to give yourself the best chance of passing.
- If there are any concepts that you are struggling to get to grips with, then print them off in a cheat sheet style. Whether you’re traveling to a test center, or working on your day job, having these to glance at in the run up to the exam is beneficial.
- When taking the exam, pay particular attention to the question, and read it through a few times.
- Some people find writing and mapping thoughts out on the paper calming. At in-person exams, use the paper provided to draw out any scenarios, e.g. data models, to help you visualize.
- When deciding on your answer, use the process of elimination to reject the answers that are definitely incorrect. With the remaining ones, you may find that some answer options are curveballs – these may sound right, but a small detail in the question does not make that answer feasible/the optimal option for the use case.
- Use the “Mark for review” feature, which is a checkbox to mark questions if you are unconfident in the answer at that moment. Personally, I use this option extensively because I get exam jitters (the first few questions I’m fazed by adrenaline). At the end of the exam, you can revisit these questions (although, I will go through all the questions again).
- With the paper you are allowed in the exam, start a column for ✅ (I’m confident I’ve got this correct) and another column for❓(I’m unsure). The tally in each column after the first round will give you an idea of where you stand. Keep reading the questions you’re unsure of, again, and once more (you have plenty of time!) – you may find that something triggers your memory.
The Marketing Associate certification is for those marketing professionals who have up to six months experience using Marketing Cloud.
This guide has shared my experiences working towards passing the Marketing Associate certification so that you can make the most of the opportunity and avoid the same mistakes I made when studying towards it. Regardless of your outcome, remember that each certification exam is a valuable learning experience.
Are you ready to book your exam? This guide will help you navigate the Salesforce certification registration platform.