On the crossroads between Audience Builder and CDP

On the crossroads between Audience Builder and CDP

What to choose when it comes to segmentation in SFMC?

When it comes to Salesforce Marketing Cloud, it’s not uncommon for marketers to find themselves unsure of what decisions to make that best suit technology to their business needs. Many users facing audience segmentation problems are offered native addons like Audience Builder or a novel product like Salesforce CDP. In this article, we’ll do a comparison between Audience Builder and CDP to help users in the market for segmentation make a choice that best suits them. 


Let’s start with the basics: 

Audience Builder – what is it?

Audience Builder helps users build a single customer view by integrating data from any source with robust contact management. With Audience Builder, you can segment subscribers in a drag-and-drop interface using any combination of attributes. It utilizes an external non-relational database to build segments much easier and faster than using data filters or SQL in SFMC.


(example of an Audience Builder UI)

Where does the data come from?

The tool allows you to use data from any of your sources (e.g. Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, web analytics, and offline data), to truly expand your customer view.

What problem does it solve?

Audience Builder also allows you to manage the complexities of your data, by transforming raw information into marketer-friendly and usable data, whereby you can quickly find and use key attributes to personalize customer conversations of any size and in any channel.

The tool allows you to filter data from multiple sources instantly. The personalization functionality means you can send messages based on purchase history, browsing activity, and customer attributes to precisely targeted audiences. With Audience Builder’s dimension-based approach, you can discover new opportunities and spot trends more quickly. The tool also allows for instant audience validation, whereby you can engage customers at any moment along the customer journey.

Audience Builder’s Salesforce Einstein means you can use predictive scores to engage customers based on smart assumptions of their future behavior. So with Audience Builder, you can better understand customer segments by combining your first and third party and even your predictive data. Audience Builder’s flexibility continues in that you can use any list or data extensions to collect your contact information. Moreover, you can add attributes without dimensionalizing them. Then, subscriber segmentation is easily managed with their drag-and-drop interface.

As with so many tools, Audience Builder has pros and cons that you should consider. On the plus side, it segments SFMC data in a drag and drop manner and marketers need not have any experience to hit the ground running. On the downside, Audience Builder data is updated only once per 24 hours. It’s also not possible to add new data extensions unless you’re an experienced Salesforce professional. Audience Builder is also rather expensive and inflexible.

So while Audience Builder certainly has some incredible benefits, this Salesforce solution requires a Salesforce professional’s help to set up and configure the dimensions of the tools. Also, it doesn’t suit flexible data models.

Salesforce’s CDP for segmentation

Let’s kick off by asking the obvious: What’s a Customer Data Platform (CDP)? Well, a CDP is a software package that creates a cohesive database of customers, or potential customers by offering a 360 view of them.

Traditionally, there are two types of CDPs currently available: organization systems and engagement systems.

Systems of Organization are built for marketing exploration and segment creation, rapidly locating, editing, and utilizing those segments. Not all CDPs are the same, but every CDP should share key features and characteristics.

Systems of Engagement are kind of like real-time databases which access customer profile data in real-time. The system’s real-time efficiency is what drives managing customer experience and satisfaction. 

With a CDP, Salesforce brings a company’s moving parts together via the cloud. Able to organize data from multiple sources, a CDP works well for companies needing to store and organize customer and behavior data, to generate insights and triggers for marketing actions and campaigns. So Salesforce Customer Data Platform might well be a great fit if you already have multiple Salesforce products and are keen to unlock the potential of a more robust system.

Salesforce CDP distinguishes specific roles that stretch across your company – from marketing managers, marketing specialists, data-aware specialists, and more. As such, a team effort is required to make the best use of the tool. Therefore, your company must be organizationally ready for CDP, which requires a great deal of planning and support from your more data-savvy colleagues who can ensure a smooth implementation.

Salesforce CDP screenshot

(Marketing Cloud Customer Data Platform UI)

Salesforce CDP is a powerful asset, with intricacies offering much-added value. Salesforce CDP supports all Salesforce standard languages, allowing worldwide connectivity. 

Because segmentation is crucial in any effective marketing campaign, breaking it down is equally as important as actually doing it. With that in mind, it’s important to note that there are four main types of segmentation:

Geographic: Segmenting and targeting potential customers based on their geographical location and factors. 

Demographic: Segmenting based on a potential customer’s physical traits, for example, age, gender identity, occupation, family status, sexual orientation, and so on. 

Psychographic: Segmentation taking into account the beliefs and held values of your potential customer base. 

Behavioral: Segmentation around potential customers’ spending patterns, which instantly increases your chances of making a sale. 

Understanding whether Salesforce CDP is right for you is a multi-fold task since this decision impacts the future of your business. The crucial imperative is to understand what Salesforce CDP can and cannot do, which is why Salesforce suggests that you review all Data Model Procedures. While Salesforce CDP can support data from multiple Marketing Cloud Business Units and Customer Relationship Management systems, users are required to keep the information updated to avoid data flow disruption. Equally, CDP is cost-prohibitive and therefore likely a better fit for larger corporations. In addition, CDP requires a team to manage it (e.g. a data expert and CDP manager), as it’s too complex to be managed simply by a marketer. With this level of complexity in mind, implementation can take months

The alternative: DESelect Segment

A wonderful middle-ground to consider in this space is DESelect Segment – a robust segmentation tool in SFMC.

With DESelect Segment, all data extension types are accessible and the tool provides data views as well as advanced segmentation (including CASE WHEN, Picklists, Subqueries, etc.). As it stands, DESelect Segment is the most cost-effective solution on the market, with new release updates every two months, and a structured program of onboarding training. 

No implementation tracks or external support is required and the tool can be automated. One of the primary benefits to DESelect Segment is that absolutely no experience is required. So even your new marketing intern can become a dab hand at segmentation using this tool. And with that in mind, users also need no understanding or experience of code or SQL. Naturally, there are a couple of disadvantages to DESelect Segment. Data must be inside of SFMC, and the tool has the same technical limits as SQL queries.

DESelect Segment simplifies SQL


No matter your business size or needs, between the three tools mentioned in this article, you’ve got audience building and segmentation covered. As with all such things, it’s about what’s the right fit for your business now—and in the future. Scalability is an equal consideration after all.

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