Ensuring Data Is Ready For Marketing Campaign Launch: Optimal Data Storage, Taxonomy, and Deployment to Journey Builder

Ensuring Data Is Ready For Marketing Campaign Launch: Optimal Data Storage, Taxonomy, and Deployment to Journey Builder

In today’s digital landscape, where customer experiences reign supreme, the strategic use of data has become a pivotal factor in achieving success in each marketing campaign launch. Your ability to harness and leverage data effectively often means the difference between a captivating customer journey and one that falls short of expectations.

To navigate this data-driven world with finesse, one tool stands out as a beacon of opportunity: Salesforce Journey Builder.

We’ll embark on a comprehensive exploration of how to prepare your data for seamless integration with Journey Builder.

This isn’t solely about automation; it’s all about creating personalized and meaningful experiences for your audiences. Come along with us as we explore the details of data storage, taxonomy, and deployment, making sure your data is prepared to power the vibrant customer journeys you’ve envisioned.

The path to success begins here, as we decode the secrets to maximizing the potential of Journey Builder through smart data practices.

Buckle up, and let’s prepare your data for a journey of a lifetime.

The Foundation: Optimal Data Storage

Benefits of Best Practice Data Storage

A top-notch data storage strategy has numerous advantages if carefully planned and implemented. For example:

  • More secure data: This is because measures are taken to mitigate threats and provide ongoing visibility into data access patterns and potential risks.
  • Compliance: Ensure data and storage management complies with applicable regulations and can meet auditing requirements.
  • Continuous use: Systems, processes and data protections are put into place to ensure ongoing availability and reliability, resulting in greater user productivity and customer satisfaction.
  • Long term use: Storage devices provide the capacity necessary to meet current and future workloads, while accommodating different types of data, without over-provisioning storage hardware.
  • Adaptable operations: Storage systems are flexible enough to scale as demand fluctuates, while reacting to changing requirements and accommodating new storage technology.
  • Comprehensive: Storage systems are easier to manage and monitor, and deploying storage devices is faster, often without the compatibility and integration issues that come with siloed or piecemealed storage systems.

Data Storage Options For Marketing Cloud Teams Within SFMC

In the world of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, the choice between Lists and Data Extensions is a pivotal decision, one that can significantly impact the efficiency and effectiveness of each marketing campaign launch. Both options come with their unique advantages and disadvantages, making it essential to evaluate which aligns best with your campaign needs.

What Are Salesforce Marketing Cloud Lists?

In Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Email Studio, lists serve as a foundational approach for managing subscriber data. Essentially, a list in this context is akin to a digital roster, compiling a group of subscribers. This setup facilitates the task of dividing your audience into distinct segments for targeted communication.

When you add subscribers to a list, you have the capability to assign various attributes to them. These attributes act like labels or markers, offering insights into each subscriber’s current engagement or status in relation to that specific list. For instance, you might track whether a subscriber is active, inactive, or has opted out of communications.

However, it’s important to note that the use of lists is more suitable for scenarios where the total number of subscribers doesn’t exceed 500,000. This limitation is crucial to keep in mind for scalability and efficiency reasons. Lists are particularly effective for straightforward subscriber models, where the primary focus is on basic subscriber management without the need to delve into more complex data like transactional history or detailed commercial interactions.

Moreover, lists in Salesforce Marketing Cloud are also adept at handling personal subscriber data. This means you can manage information such as email addresses, names, or other personal details within these lists, ensuring that your communications are personalized and relevant.

using lists for your marketing campaign launch
Image: Lists use ‘Profile Attributes’ which are applied consistently across all Lists in SFMC

Advantages of Lists:

Simplicity: Lists are straightforward to create and use, making them an excellent choice for simple email sends. With Lists, you can quickly import email addresses and start sending campaigns without intricate setup.

Basic Segmentation: Lists enable basic segmentation based on attributes like email addresses, suitable for simpler campaigns.

Disadvantages of Lists:

Data Duplications: Duplicate email addresses across different Lists can lead to data inconsistencies and maintenance challenges.

Limited personalization: Profile Attributes in SFMC are essentially standard fields that store subscriber information. When using Lists, these attributes are applied universally across all lists. This means that every list you create will share the same set of Profile Attributes, such as name, email address, and other basic subscriber details. Lists may not offer the level of personalization and dynamic content that Data Extensions provide.

Scalability: Lists are suitable to Subscriber counts below 500k records and for a simple (flattened) data model.

Usability in Journey Builder: Journey Builder does not support the use of lists as a data entry source.

What are Data Extensions? 

In the realm of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Data Extensions offer a versatile and robust way to manage and manipulate subscriber data, going beyond the basic capabilities of lists. Think of Data Extensions as sophisticated, customisable tables capable of storing vast and varied types of data, akin to spreadsheets but with enhanced functionality and integration capabilities. 

Unlike lists, Data Extensions allow for a more intricate and detailed structuring of subscriber information. You can create multiple columns in a Data Extension, each designed to hold specific types of data, such as text, numbers, dates, or even Boolean values. This flexibility enables a deeper and more nuanced understanding of your subscribers, allowing for highly targeted and personalized marketing campaigns.

One of the key strengths of Data Extensions is their scalability. They comfortably handle large volumes of data, making them ideal for organizations with extensive subscriber bases or those dealing with complex data sets, including transactional details, behavioral data, and more.

Moreover, Data Extensions are not just siloed data repositories. They are designed to seamlessly integrate with other parts of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud ecosystem, such as Journey Builder and Automation Studio. This integration means that the data within Data Extensions can trigger specific actions, feed into automated marketing workflows, and inform real-time interactions with subscribers.

Furthermore, Data Extensions provide advanced segmentation capabilities. You can use SQL queries to segment and manipulate data, offering a level of precision in targeting that goes beyond basic lists. This feature is particularly valuable for creating highly customized marketing campaigns or for performing in-depth data analysis.

using data extensions to power your marketing campaign launch
Image: Data Extensions allow you to create Fields/Attributes specific to each Data Extension

Advantages of Data Extensions:

Flexibility: Data Extensions are highly adaptable and can store a wide range of data fields, making them suitable for comprehensive customer data storage.

Robust Segmentation: Data Extensions offer advanced segmentation capabilities, allowing targeted campaigns based on multiple attributes.

Personalization: Data Extensions empower you to create highly personalized and dynamic content, catering to individual subscriber attributes.

Disadvantages of Data Extensions:

Complexity: Data Extensions can be more intricate to set up and manage, especially for handling large volumes of data and complex relationships.

Data Hygiene: Greater flexibility necessitates diligent data hygiene efforts to maintain data quality.

In summary, Lists are ideal for simpler campaigns with basic segmentation and uncomplicated list management. On the other hand, Data Extensions offer more flexibility, segmentation capabilities, and personalization options.
However, they require a deeper understanding of Salesforce Marketing Cloud and additional attention to data hygiene.

Ultimately, your choice should align with your specific marketing campaign launch needs and your team’s familiarity with Salesforce Marketing Cloud. For complex, personalized campaigns, Data Extensions are often the preferred choice, offering the versatility and capabilities needed to drive marketing success.

External Data Storage: How To Connect to SFMC

Integrating Salesforce Marketing Cloud with external data storage solutions presents both opportunities and challenges. The choice between local Marketing Cloud storage and external storage hinges on data volume, complexity, and specific use cases. Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches:

Integrating with External Data Storage

While many businesses use an external database or CRM as their primary source of customer information, integrating these systems with Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) is essential for effective email marketing. In practice, businesses often synchronize key customer data from their master database into SFMC.

This approach allows for maintaining detailed and specific records externally while leveraging SFMC’s robust email marketing capabilities. The synchronization process involves importing essential information into SFMC that is crucial for segmenting and personalizing email campaigns. For more nuanced and detailed data, SFMC can access the external database via API calls. This method retrieves additional insights and information as needed to further tailor and enhance email communication.

Employing this integrated approach ensures that email campaigns are both personalized and relevant, drawing on a comprehensive understanding of customer profiles from both the SFMC and the external database systems. This strategy strikes a balance between the richness of data from the external databases and the specialized marketing tools available in SFMC.


Data Consolidation: External storage centralizes customer data from multiple sources, providing a comprehensive view of your customers by consolidating data from Salesforce, external CRMs, and third-party systems.

Data Enrichment: External storage enriches customer data with additional information, such as demographics or behavioral data, augmenting your understanding of customers.

Advanced Analytics: Data stored externally can be more accessible and amenable to advanced analytics tools, offering deeper insights for personalized marketing campaigns.

Real-time Data Sync: Many external data storage solutions offer real-time data synchronization, ensuring you have the latest customer information available for your campaigns.


Complex Integration: Integrating external data storage with Salesforce Marketing Cloud can be intricate and may require custom development, APIs, or middleware solutions.

Data Security: Maintaining data security and compliance across external storage can be more challenging and may necessitate additional security measures.

Data Latency: Depending on the integration setup, accessing external data may introduce some latency, potentially affecting the real-time nature of your marketing campaigns.

Using Local Salesforce Marketing Cloud Storage

Using local Salesforce Marketing Cloud storage as an alternative to integrating with external databases involves importing larger quantities of data directly into SFMC.

This approach is particularly viable when businesses prefer to have immediate access to a substantial amount of data within their marketing platform for quick campaign launches. However, it’s crucial to import only data that is relevant to the marketing campaigns to maintain efficiency and relevance.

Mirroring the data architecture of the source system within SFMC is recommended to ensure consistency and ease of navigation. The data can be imported either through a Batch File Import Process or via API, depending on the volume and frequency of data updates required.

It’s important to note that in this model, SFMC serves as a “slave” to the source system, meaning it reflects the data from the primary database but does not override or become the master repository of data. This approach allows SFMC to utilize a comprehensive set of data for enhanced targeting and personalization in marketing campaigns while maintaining the integrity and primary control of data in the original source system.


Simplified Setup: Local storage in Salesforce Marketing Cloud is straightforward and requires no external integrations. It’s an out-of-the-box solution.

Data Privacy: Local storage provides a higher level of data privacy and control. This is a critical factor for businesses that need to adhere to strict data security and compliance standards.

Out-of-the-Box Integration: Local storage seamlessly integrates with Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s native features, making it suitable for standard use cases.


Storage Limits: Salesforce Marketing Cloud has storage limits that may be insufficient for organizations with large volumes of customer data.

Data Fragmentation: Using local storage may result in fragmented customer data, particularly if data is spread across different Salesforce instances.

Data Security and Compliance: The importance of maintaining data security and compliance with relevant regulations 

Getting ready for a campaign launch is a meticulous undertaking, with each detail carefully planned to secure success. Amidst many strategic factors, it’s vital to keep a keen focus on data security and compliance.
In the contemporary landscape, ensuring data security and compliance with applicable regulations is not merely a recommended practice – it’s an absolute necessity.

Data Security: Protecting your data from unauthorized access and breaches is paramount. Whether it’s customer information, transaction records, or sensitive campaign data, robust data security measures are essential. Implementing encryption, access controls, and regular security audits are just a few strategies to fortify your data’s defenses.

Regulatory Compliance: When it comes to data protection regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, or CCPA, it’s not just a matter of checking boxes – it reflects an organization-wide commitment to treating data with respect and responsibility. Failing to comply can result in significant consequences, from legal penalties to reputational harm. To maintain compliance, it’s crucial to stay updated on the latest regulations, put the necessary processes in place, and routinely conduct audits.

Customer Trust: Beyond legalities, data security and compliance play a crucial role in building and maintaining customer trust. When your customers know their data is handled with the utmost care and in line with legal standards, they’re more likely to engage with your campaigns and share their information with confidence.

In conclusion, data security and compliance are integral components of campaign readiness. They ensure that your data is not only prepared for campaign success but also protected from potential pitfalls. Prioritizing these aspects safeguards your reputation, strengthens customer trust, and enables your campaigns to thrive in an environment of data privacy and security.

Data Quality Assurance: Ensuring Data Integrity and Cleanliness

As marketers, we understand the power of data in crafting compelling and effective campaigns. It’s the lifeblood of our strategies, driving us toward our goals and objectives. However, data alone is not enough.

It’s the quality of data that truly makes the difference. That’s where Data Quality Assurance steps in, playing a strategic role in ensuring data integrity and cleanliness for a campaign launch that hits the mark.

Data Integrity: The first pillar of Data Quality Assurance is maintaining data integrity. This ensures that your data remains accurate, dependable, and consistent. Inconsistencies or errors within your data could potentially lead to costly mistakes and the dissemination of inaccurate information, ultimately undermining the effectiveness of your campaign.

Data Cleanliness: Data must be free from errors, duplicates, and inconsistencies. Ensuring data cleanliness is crucial to prevent costly mistakes in your campaigns, such as sending multiple emails to the same recipient or reaching out to the wrong audience.

Data Readiness: Data Quality Assurance involves making sure that your data is ready for marketing campaign launch. This means it’s well-structured, properly formatted, and available for immediate activation when you need it.

By giving prominence to Data Quality Assurance, you’re not just avoiding costly mistakes but also guaranteeing that your campaigns are founded on precise and trustworthy data. This, in effect, boosts the accuracy and effectiveness of your marketing endeavors, resulting in superior outcomes and a deeper connection with your audience.

Organizing Your Data: Taxonomy

Data taxonomy involves creating a hierarchy of categories and subcategories used to classify and organize data consistently and logically so datasets can be understood quickly.

The Benefits of Implementing Data Taxonomy

  • Better Decision-Making: We’ve all been in a situation where the power of hindsight would have been helpful when deciding to create a more positive outcome. However, you can access a similar superpower to help in these situations simply by accessing the correct information in an efficient manner.
  • Better Clarity and Communication: When the definitions of specific terms are clear, the data’s sources and meanings are clear. With these definitions and data organized, you can achieve more clarity and communication within your marketing operations.
  • Better Data Quality: Building a data taxonomy within your business gives greater confidence in the quality of your data. Because there is a clear understanding of the structure of your data and a consistent naming convention and concise definitions, it helps to avoid errors and highlight if there are any inconsistencies in the data.
  • Avoid Duplication: Another benefit of data taxonomy is the avoidance of duplication. A clear understanding of your data shows what datasets have been created so you can easily see if what you need already exists.

For example, if someone in marketing was looking for the lifetime value of a set of customers, they could check the database to see if this exists before requesting it.

Creating a Data Taxonomy Framework

Preparing your data for a successful marketing campaign launch is a pivotal step in ensuring that your marketing efforts hit the bullseye.
To achieve this, it’s crucial to establish a robust Data Taxonomy Framework. This framework encompasses three key elements: Categorization and Hierarchy, Naming Convention, and Metadata and Tagging.

  • Categorization and Hierarchy: Start by categorizing your data into logical groups. Create a hierarchy that reflects the relationships between these categories. This structure aids in organizing data, making it easier to locate and work with, ultimately enhancing campaign precision.
  • Naming Conventions: Consistency is key. Implement a standardized naming convention for your data elements. Having a well-established naming convention simplifies data comprehension and utilization for team members. It minimizes mistakes and guarantees that everyone is aligned and working together smoothly. 
  • Metadata and Tagging: Metadata provides context to your data. It describes its characteristics, origins, and usage. Coupled with tagging, metadata allows for quick and searchable data discovery. Properly tagged data simplifies the process of finding the right elements for your campaign.

By establishing a Data Taxonomy Framework that incorporates these elements, you create a solid foundation for your data.

This, in turn, guarantees that your campaign launch is not only seamless but also customized to engage the right audience with the right message. Be sure not to underestimate the significance of these fundamental data preparation steps – they can be the decisive factor in your marketing success.

Integration With Journey Builder

Salesforce Marketing Cloud Journey Builder is a dynamic and powerful tool designed to create personalized customer journeys. This studio allows marketers to craft tailored, multi-step interaction paths based on customer behavior, preferences, and data.

Think of a journey as a roadmap that guides each customer through a series of customized experiences and interactions with your brand. Journey Builder enables the orchestration of these experiences across various channels like email, mobile, social media, and more. It leverages real-time data and customer actions to adapt the journey dynamically.

In an example scenario, when a customer abandons a shopping cart, Journey Builder triggers a personalized email to bring them back. It’s not just about sending messages but about creating meaningful, timely, and relevant interactions that resonate with each customer. With its drag-and-drop interface, Journey Builder makes it easy to visualize and design these complex customer journeys, enhancing the overall customer experience and fostering deeper engagement.

Salesforce Journey Builder Integration is a multi-step process that requires careful planning and execution to maximize its potential. Let’s explore the key aspects of this studio.

Understanding The Significance of Journey Builder

Journey Builder goes beyond a mere marketing automation tool; it’s a strategic platform that empowers you to craft customer journeys that captivate and convert.

Delve into its core features and advantages to unlock the full potential of Journey Builder, making it a cornerstone of your marketing strategy.

journey builder overview

Quick Journey Builder Intro

To begin, let’s dive into some of the key features and advantages of Journey Builder:

Multi-Channel Marketing: You’re empowered to interact with your customers through a diverse array of channels, spanning from email and SMS to the vibrant world of social media.

Segmentation: You can segment your audience for highly personalized messaging and offers.

Automation: Automation simplifies and streamlines your marketing efforts, saving time and resources.

Tracking and Reporting: Comprehensive analytics provide insights into your campaign’s performance. 

Key Components of Journey Builder

Before diving into data preparation, let’s briefly review the fundamental components of Journey Builder:

Entry Sources: These are key repositories for where journey data comes from. They include Data Extensions, APIs, Cloud Pages and more. Note that you cannot start a journey using a List.

Activities: These represent the steps in a customer journey, such as emails, SMS messages, and wait times.

Triggers and Events: These initiate journeys based on customer actions or external events.

Decision Splits: These allow you to branch your journey based on actions, conditions or customer attributes.

Goals and Exits: These help to determine when a customer journey is considered successful and how it should end.

Data Preparation for Journey Builder Integration

Now that we have a basic understanding of Journey Builder, let’s focus on preparing your data for a successful integration. The effectiveness of your customer journeys heavily relies on the quality and structure of your data.

To make the most of your integration process, ensure data is thoroughly reviewed and cleaned to maintain data accuracy and consistency. This proactive step will ensure whatever data used for marketing campaign launch or impactful customer journeys will unlock the full potential of Journey Builder.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of the key steps to ensure your data is Journey Builder-ready.

Data Mapping: Aligning Stored Data with Journey Builder Requirements

Mapping your existing data to Journey Builder requirements is the first step in the data preparation process. It involves identifying and aligning the data fields in your current storage with the fields required by Journey Builder. This step ensures that your data seamlessly flows into the Journey Builder without any hiccups.

Key Considerations For Data Mapping

  • Identify the essential customer data fields for your journeys
  • Match your existing data fields with Journey Builder’s data extension fields
  • Ensure data consistency and accuracy throughout the mapping process 

Data Formatting and Transformation: Ensuring Data Is in the Right Format for Seamless Integration

Once you’ve mapped your data, the next step is to ensure it’s in the right format for integration. This involves cleaning and standardizing your data to ensure consistency. Inconsistent data can lead to issues during the integration process. Data formatting and transformation are crucial for a smooth Journey Builder experience.

Best Practices for Data Formatting

  • Date Formats: Use a consistent date format (e.g., YYYY-MM-DD) to avoid confusion.
  • Currency Symbols: Standardize currency symbols and ensure they are consistently applied.
  • Duplicate Data: Remove duplicate entries to maintain data accuracy and reduce redundancy.
  • Data Completeness: Verify that customer records are complete with all necessary information.
  • Data Cleanliness: Cleanse data to remove any inconsistent or irrelevant information.

Testing and Validation: Strategies for Checking Data Integrity Before Deployment

Testing and validation are pivotal in the data preparation process. Before you launch your journeys, it’s essential to thoroughly test the data’s integrity. This includes checking for any missing or incorrect data, as well as verifying that the data flows correctly within Journey Builder. Comprehensive testing minimizes the risk of errors during deployment.

Data Validation Steps

  • Conduct data integrity checks with data validation tools.
  • Test your journey flows and interactions with sample data.
  • Ensure that your data extensions are up to date.

Issues You Can Encounter in Journey Builder When Creating New Versions

Journey Builder is a dynamic tool, and as with any technology, updates and new versions are common. In this section, we’ll explore potential issues that you might encounter when creating new versions of your customer journeys.

Being aware of these challenges can help you proactively address them, ensuring a seamless transition to the latest Journey Builder version.

Common Challenges in Journey Builder Version Updates

  • Compatibility issues with existing journey configurations
  • Changes in data extension requirements
  • Impact on existing customer journeys and their performance

Each of these may require manual quality assurance upon every update – testing, diagnosing, and remedying.

Setting a Data-Driven Course: Your Journey Begins Here

As we conclude this comprehensive guide, we hope you’ve gained valuable insights into preparing your data for seamless integration with Salesforce Journey Builder. It’s been a journey, exploring the critical foundations of data storage, mastering data taxonomy, and unlocking the potential of Journey Builder.

Now, let’s take a moment to pause and look back at the journey you’ve embarked upon. In this concluding section, we’ll bring together the essential lessons, strengthen your grasp of best practices, and ensure every one of your data-driven marketing campaign launch can set off with confidence.

In the opening chapters, we emphasized the significance of optimal data storage. You learned how proper data management is the bedrock of any successful marketing campaign. Remember, maintaining clean, well-organized data leads to streamlined processes and insightful decision-making. 

Taxonomy: The Art of Organization 

Our journey through data taxonomy revealed the art of structuring your data. By creating a robust framework, you set the stage for data that’s easy to retrieve, analyze, and activate. The use of naming conventions, metadata, and categorization helps your data become a powerful asset.

Journey Builder Integration

As we ventured into the realm of Journey Builder, you discovered how this tool can propel your marketing efforts to new heights. The importance of data mapping, formatting, and thorough testing cannot be overstated. These are the pillars that uphold your data’s success in Journey Builder. Keep in mind that Journey Builder does not work with Lists.

Best Practices for Data Governance

Data governance and documentation are not the final destination but rather a continuous process. Establishing protocols and routines for data management are key to maintaining the quality and security of your data.

Continuous Evolution 

The world of data never remains static. It’s ever evolving, much like your customers’ needs and expectations. Ensure that your data strategies are scalable and future-proof, allowing you to adapt and grow as your data requirements change.

Your Data-Driven Journey Awaits

It’s important to remember that the road ahead has hurdles. You might encounter challenges, but armed with the knowledge you’ve gained, you’re more than equipped to navigate them. Whether you’re a seasoned marketer with years of experience under your belt or someone just beginning to explore the possibilities, always keep in mind that data is not an adversary but a trusted ally by your side.

Your success lies in your commitment to data excellence, from storage to integration, and beyond. It’s a journey where data becomes a powerful asset, and Journey Builder becomes your canvas for crafting remarkable customer experiences.

So, what’s next for you? It’s time to put theory into practice, to experiment and explore. Your journey begins here. Take those insights, experiment, and make data your trusted companion in your marketing endeavors.

Thank you for joining us on this data-driven expedition. Safe travels, and may your path be paved with data-driven success.

DESelect makes it easy to standardize how your team uses SFMC for maximum efficiency. Learn how marketers instantly find any object in Marketing Cloud with DESelect Search – free on the AppExchange!

Table of Contents

William McMahon

William McMahon

CEO & Founder at Gravitai, William has over 15 years experience in the CRM world as both a top UK Salesforce Partner and Ex-ExactTarget Principal Solutions Architect.

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