Maximize Your Marketing Cloud Data with Automation Studio

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Segmenting data in Salesforce Marketing Cloud means you can reach your target audience. While that’s obvious, it’s not always smooth sailing. Do you find you need to segment (or apply filters) to your data on a regular basis to get the latest data? Think about the times you prepare to run a campaign, even as small as sending an email.

Marketing Cloud provides a manual process to filter data extensions or lists, but there is also another option to automate your frequently used segmentation: Automation Studio. First, let’s understand where you can access your data in Marketing Cloud.

How is Data Stored in Marketing Cloud?

Before you can start segmenting Marketing Cloud data, it’s key to understand what data points you are starting with. Marketing Cloud typically stores your data within Lists or Data Extensions. Here is a quick overview of both Lists or Data Extensions:


You would typically use Lists when you have less than 500,000 subscribers and also prefer simplicity over performance. Lists also limit the number of attributes you can use for a subscriber and are not recommended for when you are connected to Salesforce Sales Cloud.

Data Extensions

You would typically use Data Extensions (DE) when you have more than 500,000 subscribers (but can be used when you have less). DEs support multiple data sets and relationships with complex subscriber attributes.

When using Salesforce Sales Cloud Connect, the Salesforce Objects synced are automatically created as Data Extensions, which provide more long-term capabilities than Lists. Data Extensions are recommended for advanced segmentation and email personalization.

How Do You Speed Up Marketing Segmentation?

You have a List or Data Extension ready and want to segment this data set down – so, use a Data Filter.

Data Filters allow marketers to select specific attributes or combinations of attributes as filter criteria. The results of this filter makes a Data Extension, which is called a Filtered Data Extension.

Note: once you’ve created the Filtered Data Extension, you should remember that it will not automatically refresh for you in the future – so be careful when using old filtered Data Extensions! There is an option to manually refresh the Filtered Data Extension; this will re-apply the filter to the Data Extension and show you new records results.

One of the drawbacks is that it’s a manual process. To automatically refresh a Filtered Data Extension, we recommend you use Automation Studio.

Tip: There are use cases when you do not need to refresh the filtered Data Extension automatically, such as a one-time email send or a ‘moment in time’ you want to preserve for a future marketing campaign. Our takeaway here is to be sure you note your requirements on segmentation before you set up anything automated.

How to Refresh Your Data with Automation Studio: Filter Activity

With the power of Automation Studio, you are able to create a scheduled refresh of your key Filtered Data Extensions.

Use case: Birthday Email campaign

You have a Data Extension of Contacts with a ‘birthday’ attribute. You want to send an email to those contacts with a birthday in that month.

You can achieve this by creating a Filter Activity that includes a Data Filter where the Contact’s birthday is in the current month. An Automation Studio job would be set to run monthly.

A refreshing Filtered Data Extension, starts with the Data Filter:

Step 1: Data Filter in Email Studio

Navigate to Email Studio and create a Data Filter from a Standard Data Extension. Ensure that you save this filter so that you can reference it within Automation Studio later.

Once you are satisfied with the results of your saved Data Filter, you can now move over to Automation Studio.

Step 2: Create an Automation Studio Job

In Automation Studio, create a new Automation Studio job.

Give it a name, then drag over a Filter Activity Action.

Filter Activity Actions are composed of a Data Filter from Email Studio. The second step on the filter will be to name the resulting Data Extension (when these Filters are applied within Automation Studio, they result in a New Data Extension).

Every time these filters are run, it will automatically refresh or apply the listed Email Studio Data Filter, therefore, refreshing your Data Extension.

Tip: If you need to make a change to the Filter, you can do so in Email Studio. Data Filters and the Automation Studio Activity Filter will automatically be updated with the new filter criteria. The first time you run the Automation it will create the Data Extension (be sure to add a description to the Data Extension so that you know it’s from Automation Studio).

Step 3: Schedule the Automation Studio Job

The final step is to set the schedule of the Automation Studio job. The schedule will determine when and how often this automation will run. You can also add additional Automation Studio Activities as needed to string key processes together.

Select the ‘run once’ option or ‘save’. Once saved, you can activate the automation and you’re all set with your automatic refreshing Data Extension.

About Ad Victoriam

Looking to gain a competitive advantage over the competition through automation? Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud™ can benefit businesses of all shapes and sizes if correctly implemented into your organization, and Ad Victoriam’s certified consultants will learn your business, and skillfully guide you through the entire implementation process. Let’s get to work today!

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