Salesforce Marketing Cloud Segmentation Cheat Sheet: 4 Ways to Find Your Target Audience

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Segmenting your data in Salesforce Marketing Cloud can enable you to get granular with your campaign audience, especially if you have built up rich profiles of each subscriber.

However, applying a set of filter criteria, and validating the results, be a drain on your time – even more so if you have a hard time answering these questions:

  • Do you know which customers to target next?
  • Who to include in your nurturing campaign, or who’s the best fit for your remarketing campaign?
  • Do you know how to skillfully apply a set of filter criteria to exclude customers who just bought something?

You may be losing time every day – but, it’s completely understandable! Salesforce Marketing Cloud can be confusing as it has 4 main options to segment your customers. Treat this as a cheat sheet – we’ll go over each one and provide the pros & cons, so you can make a choice for how to create your segments.

1. SQL Queries

The first way to segment your customers is to write custom SQL queries. Technically speaking, this is the most challenging way to segment your customer base (just check the screenshot below!); nonetheless, it also provides you with the most flexibility.

SQL allows you to write unique queries that are tailored to your business needs. Do you need to target a very specific segment? You can devise a query that returns exactly those customers.

Unfortunately, this requires a high level of technical knowledge, as you need to be able to write the SQL queries fast and efficiently; plus, you may need to collaborate with your IT or your BI department to get your target list.

When you do succeed, and you execute your SQL query, the resulting list of customers is stored in a specific data extension. A neat trick is that you can also automate the execution of your SQL queries via Automation Studio; for example, this allows you to retrieve a daily list of everybody who purchased something in the last 24 hours.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Completely adaptable to your needs
  • Include data from different data extensions into your filter criteria

Cons:

  • Requires technical knowledge
  • or, relying on other colleagues
  • SQL query execution timeout after 30 mins

2. Data Filters

A data filter is an ‘easier’ (less technical) way to segment your customer base; however, it’s less flexible to define complex filters compared to SQL queries.

You create data filters via an easy visual interface. You drag and drop the fields you want to include in your filter, and you can even apply some basic logic with ‘AND’ and ‘OR’ operators.

You’re basically creating a subset of that specific data extension. This, unfortunately, means you’re limited to the information that is stored in that particular data extension. You can only filter on the columns in that data extension, and so, you cannot include any other information that is related to those customers.

Let’s make this more clear with an example.

Let’s say you only want to target people between 18 and 25 that purchased something yesterday. If you have an ‘AGE’ column in your ‘Sales data extension’, you can perfectly create this segment with a data filter; however, it’s unlikely that the AGE information will be present in the ‘Sales data extension’ (you’re not really asking for a customer’s age when they buy something, right?) – AGE will more likely be stored in your ‘Client data extension’. In this case, it’s impossible to create that segment with a data filter, because you cannot look up the AGE variable in the ‘Client data extension’. To create this segment, you’ll need to fall back to SQL queries.

Pros & Cons

Marketers, themselves, can easily use data filters to segment their customer base. Unfortunately, you’re limited to the information that is stored in the 1 data extension that you’re targeting. When you need to create complex filters you still need to fall back to SQL queries.

Pros:

  • Easy visual interface
  • Requires no technical knowledge

Cons:

  • Filter criteria are limited to the columns in the data extension
  • No possibility to create complex filters

3. Audience Builder

Audience Builder is the most elaborate, out-of-the-box segmentation tool that Salesforce Marketing Cloud offers. Audience Builder also features a drag and drop interface, just like data filters – but, what makes it different, is that it also has the capability to filter across data extensions and append data to audiences. These Audiences* are also static in nature, which means that you need to refresh them daily to keep them up to date.

*in Audience builder, segments are called ‘Audiences’.

When looking at it from a technical perspective, you end up with some mixed feelings. On one hand, you have an easy to use visual interface, but on the other hand, you have a wide array of options you need to configure; this means that Audience Builder can be easy to use when creating simple or semi-complex segments, while being tricky to set up.

The best advice is to get an expert on board who knows the ropes to get you up and running quickly. In addition, Audience Builder also requires some training to be able to reap the full benefits of the tool.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Easy visual interface
  • Requires limited technical knowledge
  • A vast array of options to filter customers

Cons:

  • The vast array of options can also cause confusion
  • You need an external expert to set it up properly
  • Requires training

4. 3rd Party Apps

One of the great benefits of Salesforce, in general, is that people can create apps for the Salesforce ecosystem – ones that can be easily connected to your Marketing Cloud environment.

DESelect is one such app, that is a valuable, non-technical, alternative to other segmentation tools, providing the flexibility of SQL queries, with the simplicity of data filters – so you can create a complex segment with easy drag and drop filters which query all your data extensions. It’s fully integrated, so don’t have to worry about any connectors, either.

Pros & Cons

3rd Party tools can provide you with the best of both worlds. Create complex segmentations yourself based on all available customer data via an easy-to-use, visual interface and cut down on your campaign launch time.

Pros:

  • Completely adaptable to your needs
  • Include data from different data extensions into your filter criteria
  • Requires no technical knowledge

Cons:

  • You have to rely on a 3rd party tool

Summary

I hope these minutes were well spent! Now, you can make an informed decision on how to segment your customers with the 4 options available. So, you finally know the reason why you were still losing so much time finding the right target customers in Salesforce Marketing Cloud!

Want to catch up? Feel free to reach out on Linkedin.

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