Best Practices for a Seamless Salesforce Marketing Cloud Data Migration

Best Practices for a Seamless Salesforce Marketing Cloud Data Migration

Data migration specialists adhere to essential best practices to ensure a seamless transition and preserve data integrity and reliability. Following migration best practices also minimizes risks and saves you time, resources, and potential headaches in the long run.

Whether you are transitioning to Salesforce Marketing Cloud from a legacy system or transferring data from other platforms, it is imperative to follow established best practices. Your efforts will significantly influence your ability to build audiences, personalize campaigns, and ultimately drive business growth.

In this article, we delve into Salesforce Marketing Cloud data migration best practices tailored for migration architects and business process owners to position you for success. While each business context and use case may introduce unique complexities that we cannot cover in this brief post, we can provide you with an overview that will prove valuable for your upcoming migration project.

Follow these recommended data migration best practices for a seamless transition and achieve the highest data quality outcomes for your migration.

data migration salesforce marketing cloud process

Stage 1: Determine Why, When, and How Data Will Migrate

Define Objectives Clearly

Commence the migration process by establishing clear objectives from the outset, a pivotal step in ensuring the efficiency of the entire process. Begin by precisely defining the scope of your data migration endeavor, including the specific datasets you intend to transfer and their respective volumes.

To make informed decisions regarding data quality and relevance, engage in meaningful discussions with business process owners and data custodians. Their insights can help you determine the significance and reliability of the data you plan to migrate. In some cases, these conversations may lead to the realization that migrating only essential data is the most prudent course of action, aligning with industry best practices and ensuring a more focused and streamlined migration effort.

Additionally, it is imperative to establish a requirement to articulate the precise purpose and utility of significant data sets. This clarity not only aids in decision-making but also serves as a valuable reference point throughout the migration process, helping you stay aligned with your objectives and deliver a successful Salesforce Marketing Cloud migration.

To successfully execute a substantial migration project, it’s essential to engage the following key stakeholders:

  • Project Sponsor: This role provides the necessary funding and support to ensure the project’s success.
  • Business Process Owners: This group comprises various roles responsible for the effective operation of impacted business processes. Their insights and cooperation are vital for alignment.
  • Product Owner: An experienced professional well-versed in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, guiding the project with domain expertise.
  • Migration Architect: This role is responsible for designing and overseeing the migration strategy and architecture.
  • Specialized Developers: Salesforce Marketing Cloud Specialists who possess the technical skills required for executing the migration tasks.
  • Salesforce Marketing Cloud Implementation Partners: These partners can provide specialized developers and expertise to augment the project’s capabilities.
  • Salesforce Marketing Cloud Account Executives: They play a pivotal role in driving the project by facilitating communication, coordination, and alignment with Salesforce resources and solutions.

Engaging these stakeholders is crucial to ensure that all aspects of the migration project, from funding to technical execution, are effectively managed and successful.

Assess Existing Data Quality

To establish a robust foundation for your data management processes, it’s imperative to give priority to data cleansing. This involves a meticulous examination of your dataset to identify and rectify any data issues that might compromise its integrity and usefulness. These issues may include fields left empty when they should contain information, mandatory fields that have been unintentionally left incomplete, or problems related to the formatting of data.

A critical aspect of data cleansing also involves ensuring that your understanding of Boolean definitions aligns harmoniously with the actual data present within your dataset. Boolean values, such as “true” or “false,” can sometimes lead to misinterpretations if not closely examined and validated. By verifying that Boolean definitions accurately correspond to the data they represent, you can prevent potential misconceptions and ensure the reliability of your data for future use and analysis. This meticulous approach to data cleansing forms the cornerstone of a data management strategy in a way that ensures the quality of your information assets.

Choose the Right Technology

For optimal data migration to Salesforce Marketing Cloud, it is advisable to migrate data from the Salesforce CRM. Many SFMC customers choose to connect their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to the platform. Use the CRM as your definitive repository for master customer records, serving as the singular point of truth.

Subsequently, you can execute the migration from Salesforce CRM to Marketing Cloud by leveraging the Marketing Cloud Connector. This approach is considered best practice for several compelling reasons:

  • Salesforce Support: You will get the support you need as Salesforce provides comprehensive support for the data ingestion process, ensuring a robust foundation for your migration efforts.
  • Timely Data Synchronization: With data synchronization occurring at intervals as frequent as every 15 minutes, you can maintain near-real-time data consistency between Salesforce CRM and Marketing Cloud.
  • Effortless Updates and New Data: The migration process exclusively encompasses updates and newly acquired data, rendering it seamless and eliminating the need for manual handling of file drops or direct API integration.
  • User-Friendly Configuration: Setting up the Marketing Cloud Connector is a user-friendly experience, facilitated through a straightforward wizard-based process.

If Salesforce CRM is not your chosen data source, you can explore alternative strategies to ensure a smooth and efficient data migration process, as outlined below:

  • Leverage MuleSoft for Automated Imports: You can leverage MuleSoft for automated data import tasks. Utilizing Mulesoft’s Salesforce Connector in conjunction with the Salesforce API is a viable option, particularly for extensive and/or batch data synchronization. This setup enables external systems to interact with Salesforce in batch operations, encompassing data access, modifications, deletions, or additions. MuleSoft is able to efficiently handle substantial data volumes.
  • Utilize Automations in Salesforce Marketing Cloud: To migrate cleansed data into Salesforce Marketing Cloud, you can establish and employ Automations. These Automations can be configured to trigger file drops, import and script activities. Consequently, your data is ingested into specific Data Extensions specified within the Automation, streamlining the migration process.
  • Implement a Marketing Cloud REST API: The Bulk API 2.0 is built upon the Salesforce REST framework, providing a seamless way to asynchronously insert a significant volume of records. The interface is user-friendly and simplifies the process of loading extensive datasets into your Salesforce organization.

Document All Activities

Before moving forward, it is essential to develop thorough documentation. This documentation should encompass various aspects, including mapping and tracking details, such as:

  • Activity Ownership and Timelines: Clearly define ownership of tasks and activities, specifying their start and end dates. This ensures accountability and a structured timeline for all involved parties.
  • Pre-Go-Live, Migration, and Post-Migration Procedures: Document the procedures and steps to be followed before, during, and after the migration is complete. This comprehensive approach helps in planning and executing each phase effectively.
  • Object Mapping: Create a mapping framework to capture the sources of data and their respective sizes. This enables a clear understanding of the data sources, helping in the Salesforce Marketing Cloud migration strategy.
  • Field Mapping: Record detailed information about field names and their corresponding object names. This field mapping documentation is crucial for maintaining data integrity during the migration process.

By developing this comprehensive documentation, you establish a solid foundation for your data migration project, ensuring clarity, accountability, and a structured approach from planning to execution and beyond.

Stage 2: Prepare Data for Migration

Follow an ETL Process and Cleanse Data

Extract the agreed-upon data from the source system to raw files. Remember to keep certain legacy ID information, which can be created as customer fields in Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Custom fields have the attribute “External ID.” During the data migration validation stage, you will be able to use this field to build custom data validation reports.

​Cleansing your data is an important step, as clean data is accurate and will ensure accurate analytics. Without this step you may end up with duplicate data, which will impact your reporting results and future campaigns. By following this approach your data will be trustworthy and sortable.

The following steps are usually required:

  • Remove duplicates
  • Delete information you don’t need
  • Correct Spelling and punctuation
  • Enforce naming conventions
  • Complete all missing data

Transform your cleansed data where Salesforce Marketing Cloud has specific requirements. These are the requirements you will always need:

  1. Add a column for a record owner. It must be the Salesforce ID of the owner of the record (Marketing Cloud user).
  2. Add a column for account id, which must be the Salesforce record ID.

Review Your Data Model

Now is the best time to revisit your data model if you had one in place already. The data required for a Salesforce Marketing Cloud migration will need to be organized as your data model intends, along with standardized data elements. During the cleansing and transforming process of your data, new data elements may arise, and you will need to add and edit data relationships in your data model.

Here are two common data model structures that can form a solid foundation and be tailored to accommodate how your team stores and handles data.

1.  The Basic Data Model

basic data model sfmc

Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s basic model that accounts for your sendable data, which is the Lead, Contact, and User.

2. The Traditional Custom Data Model

The customized data model includes your subscriber preferences and additional subscriber attributes that you will need to create.

Data Security and Compliance

Data security and compliance are non-negotiable when handling subscriber data. To safeguard sensitive information during the migration process, it’s imperative to implement robust security measures.

Adhere to data protection regulations like GDPR or CCPA, and employ encryption for sensitive data to shield it from unauthorized access. Avoid transferring sensitive data, such as credit card information.

Furthermore, it’s essential to respect subscribers’ consent preferences such as:

  • Explicit Consent: Only import subscribers and their data if you have received explicit consent to retain their information.
  • Consent Records: Maintain a comprehensive record of subscribers who have provided their consent (opted in) and those who have requested to be excluded (opted out).
  • Publication Lists: Set up publication lists to categorize subscribers based on their preferences. Keep track of subscribers who have opted in to receive publications and those who have opted out of specific publication lists.

By adhering to these principles, you not only ensure compliance with data protection regulations but also demonstrate a commitment to respecting your subscribers’ preferences and data privacy rights.

Stage 3: Executing the Salesforce Marketing Cloud Migration

Test and Practice the Migration Process

It is essential to rigorously test and practice the migration process. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you achieve this:

  • Define Testing Goals and Scenarios

Start by clearly defining your testing goals. Identify the scenarios and data periods that are critical for your organization. Consider the specific data sets and use cases that are central to your marketing efforts. These goals and scenarios will serve as your benchmarks for successful migration.

  • Vary Batch Sizes

Test the migration process with different batch sizes. This will help you understand how the system handles varying data volumes and optimize the process accordingly. Smaller batches may be more manageable, but larger batches can test the system’s scalability.

  • Consider Time Zones

Account for time zone differences when testing your migration process. Ensure that data timestamps are accurately converted to the appropriate time zones. Test scenarios where data originates from various time zones to validate the system’s capability to handle such variations.

  • Address File Migration Limitations

Salesforce Marketing Cloud may have limitations on the types and sizes of files that can be migrated. Identify these limitations and develop strategies to address them. Test different file formats and sizes to ensure compliance and avoid data loss during migration.

  • Perform Comprehensive Data Validation

During testing, thoroughly validate the migrated data. Check for data integrity, consistency, and accuracy. Verify that all necessary data fields are transferred correctly and that relationships between different data elements are maintained.

  • Test Data Transformation and Mapping

If you are transforming or mapping data during migration, extensively test these processes. Confirm that data mappings are accurate and that transformations do not result in data corruption or loss.

  • Simulate Real-World Scenarios

Go beyond basic testing and simulate real-world scenarios. Consider scenarios where unexpected issues may arise, such as duplicate records, missing data, or data conflicts. Ensure your migration process can handle these situations gracefully.

  • Monitor Performance and Scalability

Assess the performance of the migration process under load. Test it with a large volume of data to gauge scalability. Identify any bottlenecks or resource constraints and address them proactively.

  • Document and Analyze Results

Keep detailed records of your testing efforts, including any issues encountered and their resolutions. Analyze the results against your defined testing goals and scenarios. Use this information to fine-tune your migration process.

  • Iterate and Refine

Migration testing is an iterative process. Use the insights gained from your initial testing rounds to refine your migration strategy and make necessary adjustments. Repeat the testing process as needed until you achieve the desired level of accuracy and completeness.

By considering various factors and scenarios, you can identify and address issues proactively, reducing the risk of data reliability after the migration process is completed.

Validate the Data

To ensure the accuracy of your migrated data, use the following best practice validation techniques, as recommended by Salesforce.

  • Custom Reports: Create custom reports to validate record counts and obtain an overview of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud migration process. These reports offer a comprehensive snapshot of the data migration.
  • Spot Checking: Perform spot checks on the migrated data. This involves randomly reviewing specific data points to ensure their correctness and completeness.
  • Exception Reports Review: Examine exception reports to identify any data that was not successfully migrated. Additionally, provide explanations for why certain data could not be transferred.

Supplemental Reading: Migrating from Audience Builder

Users of Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Audience Builder segmentation tool know it offers a way to create audiences that all marketers find easy, regardless of technical acumen. Unfortunately, the days of Audience Builder are limited, as Salesforce plans to shutter the tool and no longer offers it to new customers.

As this is a question many Salesforce Marketing Cloud admins face, it’s important to begin planning the migration process now to a solution that shares the same benefits…and improves on some shortcomings.

DESelect Segment shares many of Audience Builder’s strengths, including a SQL-free interface, complex segmentation capabilities, and an ability to handle high volumes of data. Unlike Audience Builder, it’s a Salesforce AppExchange plugin with a one-day setup and super easy adoption – ensuring campaigns experience minimal disruption during the transition.

Learn more about the transition from Audience Builder here.


Pulling off a successful Salesforce Marketing Cloud migration requires a meticulous adherence to best practices and a well-thought-out strategy. The importance of data integrity and reliability cannot be overstated, as it directly impacts your ability to build audiences, personalize campaigns, and drive business growth.

By following the above best practices, you can set the stage for successful marketing campaigns, informed decision-making, and data-driven business growth. Remember that each migration may have unique complexities, so adapt these practices to suit your specific needs and circumstances.

Suzaan Groves Cloud-Vision

Suzaan Groves

Suzaan is a Project Director at Cloud-Vision, where she specializes in managing projects related to Salesforce Marketing Cloud implementations and development.  She has been part of project implementations in various sectors including automotive, retail, government and financial services.  Suzaan is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), and she holds an MBA from the University of Stellenbosch.

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