Salesforce Marketing Cloud Data Health Checklist

By Alina Makarova

Organizing your Salesforce Marketing Cloud account data might not be at the top of your priority list. Still, it’s a valuable and essential practice — let me explain why. A messy Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) account can lead to many problems; not being able to find content or data extensions in SFMC quickly is only the start, as inadequately stored data can soon result in losses to your company — in more ways than one.

Your company will benefit from more agile working efficiencies by ensuring your Salesforce Marketing Cloud account is up to date. All team members know exactly where data is and how to use it. To help make this a reality for your business, we prepared a checklist of actionable advice on keeping data in your Marketing Cloud Business Units organized.

1. Which connected data sources does Marketing Cloud use?

You need to understand all the company’s external data sources to configure how your data arrives in Salesforce Marketing Cloud. For example, if you use Salesforce CRM, you need to know how Marketing Cloud Connect works and how the data coming into SFMC is stored and retained. Other data sources include web pages, online stores, CloudPages.

Remember that Marketing Cloud isn’t a data repository. Therefore, you don’t need to store EVERY data point in it. Instead, think which data points are useful for marketing automation, which would be redundant, and sync only the required data into SFMC.

Keep a list of your Marketing Cloud account’s data sources so everyone in your team understands what data is feeding the platform – even better if you can also list data subjects (users) and data categories (Data categories are used to help find and classify articles, questions, or ideas. You can use data categories to control access to a particular set of articles, questions, or ideas), given privacy regulations.

2. Check Marketing Cloud Connect

Is your Marketing Cloud connected to the Salesforce core platform using Marketing Cloud Connect? If yes, take these steps…

  1. Check Salesforce core for redundant data that no longer needs retaining, so it doesn’t sync unnecessarily to SFMC (this is a checklist and will depend heavily on what data you collect and your internal data retention policies.)
  2. Check the Contact key.
  3. Only sync contacts or other Salesforce core ‘objects’ (SFMC data extensions) needed for Marketing Cloud campaigns. Remember, Marketing Cloud isn’t a data repository, so you should store only useful information.

Above: synchronized Leads in Salesforce Marketing Cloud Contact Builder.

3. How complete is your data? (record completeness)

If you’re missing data, run an Automation to retrieve it. For example, to check if your subscribers have a subscriber key assigned to them, create an SQL query that will run on a scheduled basis to retrieve data, and decide how you want to tackle these subscribers afterwards.

Alternatively, you can manually check them, or create a suppression list with these subscribers.

4. Manage Marketing Cloud users using roles

Provide and restrict data access to the right users. By creating custom roles, you can adapt your account specifically for your team’s needs. It’s ABC in terms of data protection and in preserving your Marketing Cloud account.

Pay special attention to users who have access to ‘All Contacts’ within Contact Builder. With this permission, users from any SFMC business unit can see the contacts in any other business unit. For example, if you work with a marketing agency that creates some content that needs adding to a Content Builder, ensure they don’t have any access to the actual data and your contacts.

Above: Users setup in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

5. Do data extensions require a data retention policy?

Data retention is a longstanding feature, but considering privacy regulations, it is actually very useful. What should the retention period be? Also, check which data extensions have one. Leveraging this functionality will mean you can store only the relevant data in your account.

6. Determine a storage strategy for your data extensions.

What will you do with outdated or test data extensions? Define your internal policy.
Decide whether you want to delete the records, archive them, or store them in an external FTP.

7. Are subscriber and contact keys used properly?

What is a subscriber key and what is a contact key?

  • The subscriber key in SFMC is a user-defined identifier that represents a subscriber. It can be a user’s email address or a random set of numbers connected with each subscriber.
  • The contact key is a unique value you assign in Contact Builder to identify a contact within your Marketing Cloud account. The contact key is essentially a subscriber key in Email Studio.

Tip! Don’t confuse these with Contact Id and Subscriber Id. These are Salesforce-generated IDs used for the system to identify contacts and subscribers.

8. Create a primary key for data extensions that require updates.

What is a primary key in Marketing Cloud? The primary key is a unique field on a data extension that identifies a specific, individual data point. For example, this can be the contact key, but it can also be something unique to the data, like a stock-keeping unit (SKU).

Creating a primary key will help you have a unique field to identify and manage existing records. For example, you can choose “Customers Id” as the Primary key in your Customers data extension.

Above: indicates which field is the Primary Key when creating a data extension.

9. How are automations impacting data extensions?

When using automations, only update or add records to data extensions, and avoid overwriting data unnecessarily.

This practice results in better processing times and can help avoid overwriting the wrong records.

10. Check for duplicate subscribers

Do you have duplicate contacts? Salesforce charges per number of contacts, so with duplicates, you’re paying more because of this fundamental lack of attention.

To fix it, either run an automation with the necessary SQL queries to identify potential duplicates in your subscriber list or leverage a no-code segmentation solution like DESelect. This way, you can stop paying for useless additional contacts in Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

11. Establish a naming convention

Be consistent when creating and naming content or data extensions. Make sure all your team members are acquainted with it. For example, group the data extensions in folders per campaign, like <Webinars – 2021 August>.

12. Limit the amount and content types of stored data

This way, your SQL performance improves along with your data processing times. Another reminder to add only relevant data to your SFMC account!

13. Check data extensions use the correct data types

Verify that data extensions use the correct data types for the data you plan to store in them, for example, for storing dates use the ‘date’ type and not the ‘text’ type.

Missing this could lead to mistakes in content personalization and longer processing times (or even timeouts) of SQL query activities.

Above: choose the correct data types for your data extension.

14. Limit column lengths

Limit column lengths to what’s necessary and the overall table size of your data extensions. This way, SQL queries will run faster, enabling you to work in a more agile way.

Above: limit column length in your data extension

15. Review your audit findings

Review and document the findings after your audit, ensuring all team members have access to the information. We recommend keeping a log which you update every year.

Want more?

For more tips and tricks on how to improve your data hygiene in the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, download the checklist created by DESelect for Salesforce Marketing Cloud users here.

The Author

Alina Makarova

Alina is a Digital Marketing Consultant at Capgemini.

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