Journey Builder Entry Sources – Which to use, and when

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Have you ever wondered what all the different Journey Builder Entry Sources do?

You’ve probably been mostly using the Data Extension entry, and maybe Salesforce Data. If you’re like me, you are curious to find out all the other options that might be available. I will take you through 9 Entry Sources in Marketing Cloud, advising you on when they are good to use, and scenarios where they are not suitable.

What are Journey Builder Entry Sources?

A Journey Builder Entry Source injects data into a Marketing Cloud journey, based on the settings specified in the Journey Entry Event (that a user has configured). These settings differ based on which of the Entry Source options you are using.

At its core, the activity defines:

  • The source of your data,
  • The attribute fields required by the journey,
  • Filter criteria (optional).

Think of this as a means of transport for your contacts: collection point (data source), all the baggage they need on their travels (attribute fields), who are allowed onboard (filter criteria).

1. Data Extension

Data extensions are there to support you in any way, shape, or… data requirements you may have. They are the most common, reliable, and flexible option!

You can choose to filter the records going into the journey or insert them all at once. Data Extensions work well with Automation Studio, where you can configure how and when data can be processed for journey injection.

  • Best for: batch sends, recurring or one-off, complex segmentation criteria, and personalization requirements.
  • Not ideal for: real-time, one-to-one triggered communications, such as a form submission confirmation, or an event-based trigger.

2. Salesforce Data

This Entry Source is driven by something happening in Salesforce, such as a record being created or updated, which triggers a related Contact, Lead or User to be inserted into the journey, based on the filter criteria defined in the entry source.

Additional record types within this option include Campaign Members (insert Contacts or Leads when they’re added to a Campaign in Salesforce), Community (Experience) Cloud Members or Person Accounts.

  • Best for: triggered, real-time, one to one communications such as confirmations, reminders and welcome emails and any transactional communications in general.
  • Not ideal for: big batch, campaign type audiences with complex personalisation requirements, spanning multiple data objects or sources. This option is subject to all APEX & Governors limits within the CRM platform.

3. Audience

Probably the least used option of them all, unless you’re using Audience Builder to create and publish audiences. If Audience Builder is not available in your account, the only other use case for the Audience Entry Source is Mobile Lists for either SMS or push notifications; however, you can achieve the same, or even better, results with Data Extensions.

  • Best for: simple messages sent to Mobile Lists.
  • Not ideal: for highly targeted and personalised communications to mobile subscribers.

4. CloudPages

Yes, you guessed that right, this Entry Source is used to inject data submitted via a Smart Capture form within a CloudPage.

  • Best for: confirmations triggered by data captured via Smart Forms.
  • Not ideal: if you prefer data to be created in Salesforce first then this Entry Source is not for you. Creating records in Salesforce first will mean you can leverage the Contact ID as the Subscriber Key when sending out communications (which is recommended!)

5. Event

Use this Entry Source for date based events such as, birthdays, anniversaries, reminders, renewals, etc.

You’ll need a date attribute from Contact Builder for configuration and the contacts injected into the journey need to exist already in Marketing Cloud.

  • Best for: date-based triggers.
  • Not ideal: for data that doesn’t reside in Marketing Cloud.

6. API Event

In contrast to the “Event” Entry Sources, you can use “API Event” Entry Sources to admit new data into journeys coming from a website or another system that may not be integrated with Marketing Cloud. This needs to be used in conjunction with a Data Extension where data will be stored.

  • Best for: one to one triggered communications, based off an event happening outside of the platform, such as a form submission on your website.
  • Not ideal: for batch sends. The API is designed to send one record at a time.

7. Inbound Chat

The newest addition to the list! You need Whatsapp Chat Messaging to configure it. The entry criteria is based on keywords which can also be used in the Wait Until Chat Response activity.

  • Best for: Whatsapp messages.
  • Not ideal: for everything else.

Only available with additional products

8. Audience Studio

Formerly known as Salesforce DMP, it requires an integration between Audience Studio and Marketing Cloud.

  • Best for: cross-channel promotional campaigns including email, mobile and advertising.
  • Not ideal: unless doing advertising and using lookalike audiences.

9. Google Analytics 360

Use an Audience straight from your Google Analytics 360 account and add it to a journey in Marketing Cloud.

To use this option, you need the two accounts to be integrated and Google Audiences configured in your GA account. Only contacts matching between GA360 & SFMC will be admitted into the journey.

  • Best for: retargeting website visitors with different promotions based on their behaviour.
  • Not ideal: for targeting unknown visitors or any data that doesn’t exist in Marketing Cloud.

Summary

If you’ve ever wondered what all the different Marketing Cloud Journey Entry Sources are, then hopefully this guide has enabled you to explore 9 Entry Sources, fast. Be sure to use the most appropriate one for each Journey you’re building, too.

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