Personalization techniques for SFMC from Marketing Champions

Personalization is critical for any successful marketing campaign, so in our hunt for more pro tips, we asked a couple of experts to share some of their personalization techniques for SFMC. Here’s what they had to say.

Swati Bhalla, Sr. Specialist Email and Digital Channel at Salesforce

Personalization in SFMC is something every marketer dreams of, and we have many ways to personalize content and reach your audience at the right time with the right message.

Here are just a few personalization tools at your disposal:

  • Personalization string.
  • AMPscript.
  • Einstein.
  • Dynamic Content module.

I want to focus on the Dynamic Content module and how it helped me increase an open rate by 27% (and CTR by 4%) in just 30 days.

 

What is a dynamic content block?

A content block allows you to tailor your email campaign so that different contact groups receive different content, specific offers, images, copy, or calls to action. For example, you can send one campaign with multiple targeted messages for various customer groups.

 

How I used it

We were running a loyalty program campaign where all the members received similar content despite their loyalty level (e.g., whale, elephant, rhino. etc.)

We used a dynamic content block to tailor the content based on each loyalty level, personalized images, the sender’s signature, and subject lines.

We also used Einstein features for the campaign to understand the best open time for our audience, thus targeting them better. 

Having witnessed great results, we are now scaling it further by using the new SFMC feature – released trigger campaign messages. I’ve always been a fan of Journey Builder, and now, with this cool feature, I can target my audience based on their preferred channel by analyzing real-time data.

 

Ben Briggs, Solution Lead at Lev

Automating Serialized Coupon Codes

Regarding promo codes in emails, it’s ideal to have a proper integration between your commerce platforms, such as Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Salesforce Marketing Cloud. This way, you can push personalized promo codes directly into Marketing Cloud on a 1:1 basis.

While that’s not always practical, you don’t have to settle for giving everyone the same “WELCOME20” promo code and lose all redemption tracking and the impact of serialized codes.

In such situations, the claimrow function in AMPscript is particularly handy. This simple AMPscript function allows you to assign serialized promo codes for bulk importing.

There are many ways of achieving similar results, but I usually start by creating two data extensions:

The first data extension will hold all promo codes, regardless of redemption status. The promo code field will be your primary key. This data extension should never be overwritten or purged. It must have a ‘Claimed’ or similar boolean field that will flip to True as each code is claimed by the AMPscript while logging the code claim date/time and the associated SubscriberKey. This is the data extension that the AMPscript will both pull from and update to.

The second data extension will hold only those codes that are unclaimed/active. This data extension is not critical for sending promo codes, but it allows us to trigger automated alerts when the volume of active codes drops below a certain threshold.

The first data extension would be populated by two sources:

  • Import automation that’s triggered by your promo code file. This could be as simple as a single-field PromoCode add-only import.
  • The claimrow AMPscript will update each PromoCode row as codes are claimed. This ensures that we don’t send the same code to multiple recipients while also allowing us to lookup an individual’s existing assigned code for use in reminder emails – rather than sending them a new code each time.

The second data extension is populated by a query. A simple query, pulling all records from the PromoCode DE where ‘Claimed’ does not equal True, as we want a count of all active codes.

The next step in this automation is a verification step, set to send an alert to the individual who manages the codes. For example, sending an email alert that the count of active codes has dropped below 15,000.

The last piece of the puzzle is the AMPscript. As mentioned above, this code does more heavy-lifting than simply pulling a value from a data extension field.

Here’s an example of how this might look:

				
					console.log( %%[
Set @subkey = _subscriberkey
/* Check if this is a preview rendering */
if _messagecontext == "PREVIEW" then
    set @PromoCode = "TESTCODE"
else
    /* Check if this subscriber already has a code assigned for this campaign */
    SET @PromoCode = Lookup("ExampleCampaignPromoCodesDE","PromoCode","SubscriberKey", @subkey)
        IF Empty(@PromoCode) THEN
            /* Subscriber does not already have a code assigned so we claim one */
            set @PromoRow = ClaimRow("ExampleCampaignPromoCodesDE", "Claimed", "Subscriberkey",@subkey)
                if not empty(@PromoRow) then
                    set @PromoCode = Field(@PromoRow, "PromoCode")
                else
                    /* No unclaimed codes exist so we log the error and stop the send */
                    InsertDE('ExampleCampaignPromo_RaisedErrorLog','SubscriberKey',_subscriberkey, 'Email',emailaddr, 'ErrorMessage','No promo code was located','EmailName',emailname_)
                    RaiseError('No promo code was located',false)
                endif
        endif
    /* This could pull expiration date if present */
    SET @ExpirationDate = Lookup("ExampleCampaignPromoCodesDE","ExpirationDate","Subscriberkey", @subkey)
endif
]%%
 
Here is your promo code: %%=v(@PromoCode)=%%
It expires on %%=v(@ExpirationDate)=%%
'Code is Poetry' );
				
			

This process takes more time than hardcoding “WELCOME20” into your email and calling it a day. But it provides the benefits of serialized promo codes in email without many typical hurdles.

Want to take it a few steps further?

In the example above, we check if the ClaimRow function successfully retrieves a previously unclaimed row. We do this by ensuring that @PromoRow is not empty. In cases where @PromoRow is empty, we utilize the RaiseError ampscript function. This allows us to halt the entire deployment or skip the current subscriber. In this case, we have elected to halt the entire send. We are also logging the error to a data extension (‘ExampleCampaignPromo_RaisedErrorLog’).

Open tracking has always been tricky as it relies on a rendered tracking pixel and has become less reliable with recent privacy settings. An email open also doesn’t guarantee that the individual redeemed the code. However, if you can create an extract from your commerce platform of the redeemed codes, then a nightly refresh of your PromoCodes data extension could flip an IsRedeemed boolean for those records. You can use this data to either exit applicable records from the journey or skip any resend/reminder steps.

Speaking of opens, you may not want to chew through your promo codes when previewing your emails in Marketing Cloud. To prevent this, simply nest your claimrow ampscript inside an IF statement that checks whether the _messagecontext == “PREVIEW”, as seen in the example above.

 

Conclusion

Special thanks to Ben and Swati for sharing their tradecraft. Personalization is a hot topic in marketing, so we remain keen to share actionable advice and tips on getting the most out of it. You might therefore like to read our eBook, How Can You Improve Customer Experience With Personalized Data in Salesforce Marketing Cloud? 

We understand the commercial importance of data and marketing. So we wrote this eBook to ease the process of understanding personalization’s nuances and technicalities. The book provides actionable advice regarding the use of personalization by leveraging data. You can download it here.

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Anthony Lamot: Hi, everyone, and welcome to this webinar organized by DESelect. Today we’re going to be talking about the state of marketing. Thank you all for joining our webinar, as we are going to take you through some top trends to get the most out of your personalization. And AI for this year for 2024. My name is Anthony Lamot. I am the CEO and co-founder at DESelect. I’ll be your host for today, but, more importantly, I am joined by 2 guests, Evgeniy and Helen. Evgeniy, could you please introduce yourself?

Evgeniy Kulevnich: Yes. Hello, everyone. My name is Evgeniy Kulevnich. I’m connected to you from Sweden. Yeah, from a dark darkness already, and I work at Boozt.com for more than 5 years, and I’m working with the Salesforce Marketing Cloud instance that we have in terms of data, automations, personalization, all technical questions, together with and together with all data model questions and integrations that we have in our Boozt ecosystem. Thanks for having me today, and nice to see you all.

Anthony Lamot: Great, and thanks for being here with us again. It’s not a second webinar We do, so I’m pretty excited. I know we had very good conversations last time. Next is Helen. Helen, could you please introduce yourself as well?

Helen Clements: Yes. Hello! From slightly less dark England here. So my name is Helen Clements, and I’m the head of community experience at the Brain Tumour Charity. We’re a charity based here in the UK, and we are the world’s leading brain tumour charity with the largest dedicated funder of research with brain tumors globally. So you know what we do really matters. And within my team we look after everything that sits within Marketing Cloud, both from the journey planning persona, audience, segmentation side. But I also have in my team all the way through to website and marketing insights as well. So we have that complete marketing optimization suite across lots of different channels. This is a really exciting topic.

Anthony Lamot: It’s amazing. Thank you for the introduction. I myself, though my accent wouldn’t betray it. I myself am actually sitting in sunny Texas, producing this webinar.

With the introductions out of the way, let’s cover the agenda real quick, so we’ll start with a quick retrospective but throughout the whole presentation, we’ll share a few insights from our State of Marketing Report. It’s unique research that we do at DESelect once a year. We’ll share the link to that report later on. But of course, throughout the presentation, we’ll have a lot of conversation with some very examples, and we’ll start with the impact of personalization, which is all about creating new opportunities that resonate with your customers.

Following by AI adoption. AI is still, I would say, a buzzword, but it’s probably something that’s not going to go away. At least that’s what our results indicate as well. And so, very interested in exploring those subjects. And lastly, what can we do to optimize our marketing campaigns, our marketing automation activities in 2024, we’ll round it all up with key takeaways and Q&A. By the way, if you do have any questions throughout, feel free to post them in the Q&A section of the Zoom Webinar, and we’ll try to tackle them as we go, as well as we do a catch-up at the end.

To kick things off, and just to, you know, get everyone’s interaction a little bit going. We have a quick poll, and we’ll have a few polls throughout today’s presentation. So the question is, what aspect of recent marketing trends interests you the most? Is it 1: personalization? Number 2, generating content through AI, AI-powered content marketing, or number 3, optimizing your marketing operations, and if everything’s alright, you should see that poll popping up right now.

And I see some people are replying. Thank you for that. Meanwhile, maybe quick check with our panelists. Have you given your choice?

Don't miss an update

Evgeniy Kulevnich: Yeah, my choice would be personalization.

Exactly as it goes. Maybe I will switch AI-powered content marketing with optimizing marketing operations. But it again depends on what we understand behind the AI-powered content marketing. But personalization is definitely the number one

Anthony Lamot: For sure. Well, meanwhile, we get the results. And what I can tell is that our audience apparently has a very similar preference. So the majority of the votes, 63 of the votes, actually went to personalization. So that’s good to know because. That’s gonna be the first subject we’re going to tackle today.

I will stop sharing my slides here just for a second, and instead, just head over to some questions started where you have gaining. I know you’re more the technical side. What are some of the things? If you look back at the past year that you implemented to further enhance and automate your campaigns

Evgeniy Kulevnich: well from from my technical side. And we we tried to be as much relevant to in our communication with our customers and as much optimistic as we could be. So I would say personalization. It was quite a big deal for 2023, and it will be definitely a goal for 2024.

So we try to be more relevant. So everyone says for a long, long time that third party causes dying, and you can’t really rely on it. So of course, first party data in 0 party data issue kind of steroids is especially this high like this 0 party steroids. So we try to use as much the euro party data from our users as we could to to make our communication more relevant, and, of course, to increase our automated sense as much as we can, because you set up at once, and you just track it. How relevant it is. And you can slightly just rules. So it it’s slightly operating with the optimizing marketing operations in this, in in some sense.

So I would say, yes, it was. And it will be 2 main focus areas for from our site, for for the past and for the future.

Anthony Lamot: Very interesting. And since we’re going to be talking more about personalization a second. But if you look back at 2023, seeing the interest of the audience in personalization, was there some something specific in your setup or something specific. You implemented that you thought was really interesting.

Evgeniy Kulevnich: We have a couple of new campaigns, email campaigns where we try to to use is set as 0 party data. And we see it works. Really good in terms of looking at KPI’s of our emails and emails that are based on 0 party data are most profitable, are most engaged across all hours, and we added a couple of more journeys from from our site where we use this data into, try to promote and remind people about their favorite items, favorite brands and purchases they might have any future. So this was recent our recent enhancement in our campaigns.

Anthony Lamot: That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that, Helen. If we go over to you, you’re more on the operations side. What was the biggest operations change you undertook in 2023. And what was the impact of it on marketing performance?

Helen Clements: But I think I think for us, really implementing both the segmentation tool from deselect. But also engage has really been a kind of a game changer for us. And I think, yeah, I’ve been working across emails, journeys, digital marketing for 20 plus years and highly skeptical that anyone would actually be able to solve the problem around kind of consumer saturation, and how you allow journeys to be but for the sending dates at the very simplistic way to be customized and personalized to that person when. So when they took an action, it was 4 days later versus the date you wanted. So always, really skeptical to be able to yeah, allow so control while solving. You know that allowing to keep that areas of of personalization. So I think what’s been really nice for us is that we’ve been able to take Engage. Take something that yeah, that kind of AI, like a black box, AI that can seem quite scary and unknown. Put some controls around it and say, right well, here are our boundaries. This is what’s most important to us. So these are the emails that are most important, these the ones that we want, our supporters and those people that we support to get every time, and these are the ones that can be delayed, etc. But we’ve also really kind of integrated it across absolutely everything that we do, every single journey we send, every email that we send out. We use the Engage tool both to see in terms of helping, you know, with with how we actually schedule things across the organization. But also, you know, every single journey at every single point before an email goes. Yeah, has this person, you know, been saturate? Have they sent too many emails? And we’re constantly testing this. So you know, to begin with, we didn’t really know what our saturation points were. So yeah, through putting it into everything that we do. We’ve been actually being able to test that we’ve actually been able to go back to the organization and say, well, actually, we’ve got really strong evidence that highest engagement rates come from people receiving either 1 or 2 emails within a 3 day period, and that really shocked people because they were very much holding onto no more than one email a week that that was your limit. And actually, we’ve been able to test and show that that’s not the case, and we’ll keep testing or keep trying new ways of of putting it in. But knowing that that is just happening in the background has been brilliant, and I think it’s also it’s one of those things that’s as you say. AI is a buzz word, and I think sometimes it can be quite scary an organization to be pulling these things in. And this is being something that we’ve been able to bring in and integrate into all of our operations in a really non scary way we’ve been able to bring people through. And now we’ve got a little bit more freedom to do a little bit more exciting stuff as well.

Anthony Lamot: That is super interesting. And first of all, thanks for the call out, but really interesting that you actually found. So it sounds like you found out that you could be sending more than people thought. But you now have data to support that, and you can do it in a way that you’re not over saturating people within that 3 day framework.

Helen Clements: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And we’ll and we’ll keep testing. And it might be that, you know, the more we test, we’re able to segment that data we’re able to truly understand. You know, other different saturation points for different personas, for different audience segments. Yeah. As I said, in a way, we can both understand it and then implement or find things in a way that we just couldn’t before

Anthony Lamot: Alright, thanks for sharing that. I think it’s very insightful for for those who are new in this subject, or just getting familiarized for that. Let’s go back to the slides for a second. So with that we have quickly touched upon 2023 in retrospective I think one sentence from our report. I really like this action and adaptability create opportunity, because so much has changed. And it’s still changing. I think it’s truly what makes our domain so interesting and so fascinating. And for a somewhat switch of topic that we’re going to talk a little bit about personalization.  We’ve already touched upon the subject. But it’s a key part of the study. And what’s interesting is that you know, we have historical data to compare what our respondents, who are people working in Martech, people working with Marketing Cloud and people in marketing operations, how their responses are evolving year over year. And what we see is that 52% of marketers believe personalization tactics actually impact their company’s ability to generate revenue. But that’s an increase, right? So whereas in the past it was probably sort of the top of the class that actually saw the impact of personalization. It seems that more and more people are actually seeing the impact of that. And I think, personally. And this was discussed at a user group that we held recently as well.

I think that might have to do a little bit with the fact that so many departments are under budget constraints, resource constraints. It’s a very recurring theme. And this drives marketers towards better tactics. Just like before. I would like to do a quick poll at this point and check with our audience what personalization strategies you mostly use when working, working with the Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Number one. “We personalize few campaigns”. Number 2: “using strings or dynamic content”. Number 3: “AmpScript” and number 4: “leveraging segmentation to prepare the data”, so structuring the data in such a way that you can just personalize right off the bat that could be through SQL deselect, or something else, and that

Poll should now pop up. and while we wait for people to reply to that Helen, what is your most used tactic? And what’s maybe your favorite tactic? Maybe those are different things.

Helen Clements:  I love a good content block. And I and I think being able to personalize who gets a content block allows you to, I think, elevate. Your journey is from something relatively linear to something, you know, beautifully personalized. And I think what we’ve also started to investigate and look at is, you know, this kind of kind of evergreen dynamic blocks that we can change. But we, you know, program right? Using AMPscript a a block into a journey. And we’re not having to go in and find it. We just update that block that sits somewhere.

So yeah, that’s what we’re really, you know, we’ve found works beautifully within, you know, Marketing Cloud. And then, you know, being able to leverage the segmentation that we’re doing through this the deselect segment tool. And then using those those dynamic blocks around script I think, has really kind of taken our, you know, our emails and our journey is from something quite basic of, you know. “Oh, look! We’ve got a first name in the subject line that we feel good to something that really shows that we we really know our audience”.

Anthony Lamot: That’s great. And I think that’s maybe something that our audience can learn a little bit from as well, when I share results, I think it’s interesting how just spread out of this. Not too many people, apparently, are using the dynamic content block option. Some people aren’t even personalizing their campaigns, and the others are kind of spread out between segmenting to drive personalization and AMPscript itself.

So. Interesting result! Thanks. Everyone for answering those questions. Let’s go back to to the panelists with some additional questions on on the subject of personalization. Starting with you, Evgeniyi. How do you influence or convince the 2024 consumer to purchase? How do you know you have the right offer at the right time for them?

Evgeniy Kulevnich: It’s a good question, a good question. But again, personalization at scale, it’s it’s quite 20 sentence. But personalization scale is I would believe that would be the 2025 topic for a quite hot topic for everyone, especially in retail, because we have tons of items to to promote to you, and the people consume in general quite a lot. It depends on area. It depends on the industry, but it’s a quite intensive in the industry, I would say so. We will try to personalize our communication, but we’ll try to be as much personal, as relevant to the customers as we could be based on data that we have based on finding some trends trends across our data that we which we we use on our daily basis. So try to be as much irrelevant is, it could be personalization. It’s what what we believe in in 2024, together with automations. Because automation since only saves your time for all the campaigns and for other stuff, but it’s also produces cost for all your ongoing campaigns.

So it’s also another another topic to to suggest, AI is another hot topic for recent years, and for an upcoming years. AI is a good to have a look, but for me personal feeling is, people more talking about AI rather than using it at the moment it, it again depends on the industry. It depends on where it could be used or not. But I think, AI, it’s really good tool to find hidden patterns that you can find with the people in some specific. AI generated content. I would say it’s a bit more questionable for now. So we are. We are looking at it. We are looking at this direction, but we if we start using it, we’ll start it like slightly, because auto-generated copy could be super nice. But we operate in 15 different markets and English. For example, if we’re talking about auto-translation translations with AI, English is our less populated market  across out because we’re number one in the Nordic department store. So Nordic languages are not at the top of least. For example, for tools we’re using that if if they want to include it as a language for translations for AI and a loyalty, loyalty is another big topic for us for 2020 phone, because loyalty drives people to go to your website. Loyalty brings your revenue. If if you look at this, at the, at the business, but with working on a loyalty. You can make your customers more happier and more engaged with you.”

Anthony Lamot: For sure. Thanks for sharing that so comprehensively. I think we’re going to dive even more deeply into AI, and the caveats surround it in a second. But I want to take a little bit longer with your 24 strategy. You’ve already highlighted things like automation personalization. What about the content? And how does that tie in for you?

Evgeniy Kulevnich: Well, in this case, I think if you want to work more in a personalization strategy and content on here, you need to own a lot of data because personalization personalization will be based on data. So we’re already on a quite a journey of controlling and gathering data on our own.

Anthony Lamot: Great thanks for sharing. If I would synthesize that, it’s that data drives your personalization which in turn will drive your content. And I think there we would all agree that marketing cloud is, and uniquely data-driven platform uniquely suited for that kind of activity held on somewhat similar question for you, how do you factor in personalization when strategizing 2024 content and campaigns?

Helen Clements: Yeah, I mean, I would say that it’s, you know, one of the very first things that we think about. Both in terms of our marketing cloud. Journey, but actually across all channels and many of our campaigns are multi-channel.

Anthony Lamot: we’re constantly thinking about it, and how about them reflects into our various websites. Social media we’re still doing, you know, print for and telemarketing.

Helen Clements: we are constantly kind of building this spaghetti architecture of what all these different campaigns are, how all these different journeys interact, all these is, is this a journey that is a one time journey for someone, enter it, go through various things and then leave. Or is it a longer term journey? So we are constantly kind of thinking kind of with 4D chess in terms of how that personalization fits together. But I think for us as a not for profit. It. It’s particularly important. Because yeah, we need to be talking to the people that are supporting us and who we’re supporting. But how we talk to them. What we tell them about is just so important that we get right.

Anthony Lamot: That’s a really interesting consideration that you have to take into account. One thing that, by the way, I love the 4D chess analogy really appreciate that one which leads me to ask many people using marketing cloud or other marketing automation platforms. They will. They sometimes wonder how to maintain the overview in the face of so many automations, and then some ad hoc campaigns going on. What would you answer to them?

Helen Clements: There’s various different ways. I mean, for us engage has been brilliant at being able to do that in a really visual and kind of practical, useful way. You know, just through schedule and calendar, and being able to go and look at it and see how it works. But I think, you know, fundamentally for us, it is constantly looking at the data constantly looking at what the evidence is showing us. Constantly looking at, you know. How can we evolve things, you know, in really small pieces? So that we don’t get kind of overall and daunted by what it is that we can do. But no, it yeah, it is. It is a challenge. But, as I said, having engaged is that kind of small thing in the background? That means that we can. You know, we don’t have to sit up at night worrying about it cause that’s taking care of it for us.

Anthony Lamot: Great! Thank you for sharing that. I’m going to jump back into the slides. At this point. Evgeniy already touched upon the subject of AI very briefly. And that’s exactly the next thing we’ll discuss. Obviously, since the launch of ChatGPT 3.5, but especially ChatGPT 4.0 last year. There’s been a lot of buzz about this, and a number of new providers on the market, and so on.

And so we asked, our respondents, have you personally used AI tools or technologies in your marketing efforts? And really, interestingly, already the majority of people have used it, although, you know, this question itself doesn’t answer how thoroughly, which is something we explore more in the study itself.

But basically, our takeaway was that as knowledge of AI becomes more integral to marketing efforts, across industries, geographies, and so on. Marketers will need to learn this technology to not only create impressive results stay competitive.

And I think that kind of ties into with what we’ve seen. Management consulting firms, venture capitalist firms publish about this.

So let’s going to skip this survey, for now let’s go back to our panelists here. Question for both of you. How do you see AI enhancing the impact of campaigns, or maybe the ease of creating them.

Helen Clements: I think as it’s already been touched on, you know, Chat GPT. As a tool to go and go. “Oh, wonder what it does when you do this”, or what you type it. You know it’s fascinating. You can get lost in it for for days, frankly, you know, but I think from in terms of kind of AI-driven content created content.

Yeah, I mean, there’s always been templated emails that you’re able to look at as a as a marketer. That have existed on the Internet. So it’s it’s it’s interesting. But I don’t think here marketers need to fear for their jobs quite yet. And I think what would be, you know, amazing is if you could have your own kind of AI content, generating model. That was very personalized. Your own kind of voice, your own brand. You could put a whole load of content into it.

But I think until we get to that point, III think for us it’s not something that we’re kind of actively using other than it can be a great way of generating ideas when we’re looking at brainstorming, a new journey and AI in the broader sense, though, as I said, we’re very much using it for our saturation control. And you know, we’re we’re using it for making sure that you know people are getting things at the right time and the way in the way that works for them. Yeah. But then, yeah, I’m sure that ChatGPT, just from my perspective, just suddenly popped up. I’m sure there’ll be new tools that will just suddenly pop up.

And you know, maybe in a year’s time it will be possible to create your own model. That would be brilliant. If you need a new thing to work on, that would be my request.

Evgeniy Kulevnich: Yes, I think I completely agree that on, on, on individual level, people use it a lot. And if we can train this model. Now I want it would be super beneficial for for us, and if I’m not mistaken, a couple of vendors on the market already trying to suggest your tools that way you can train your own model based on your own data. If I’m not mistaken. So we are quite close to it, I hope. And on the other hand, how can how can we benefit from AI in this case? It’s of course, it’s a cost operation. And it might replace some manual work when you create your campaigns. If you’re talking about marketing area, a reducing cost of copy to create a copy, to to generate a new content and etc.

But, as I mentioned, it’s maybe it’s not as trustable yet, is, it could be used in on a commercial on commercial side, because it’s interesting to look at. But when it’s when, when the question is, if I go into man implemented? Maybe. No, not yet. We’re we’re we’re closely looking at it. But what we see is the results are not really ready to be implemented in a, you know, commercial communication, promotional communication site and etc.

But from other perspective AI could really enhance customer experience. For example, I know that there are a new AI tools on the market where you can use computer vision. So you don’t need to have an attribution model for your product catalog.

And just AI can look at your pictures of any pictures whatever you have on your in your on your business. And based on computer vision. It get give you results. So computer vision based on picture and search in general that I think it’s quite interesting area to to have a look at.

And to find in different patterns in the data that you have in the user behavior. This, I think AI is really good already, really good at that. You can use and try. And your own business, of course, through AB testing, test out everything, test always.

But this, how you can measure and see their results. and yes, speed of maybe speed of different operations, as also could be quite beneficial. But at the same time I read and read really interesting research, saying that when people rely on ChatGPT or AI tools a lot, they can reduce the creativity of people. So because AI models give you the wider range of results that are more average in any topic that works. For most of the majority of your customers or majority of your people who try to use their models. But if you are on a different size, different range of of the this average model, you can struggle a bit, because creativity reduces.

Really custom, related solutions or custom, any custom solutions that will be more valuable, and only people can provide it. So if you want to go faster. And maybe in a wide range of solutions, go with AI. If you need unique custom solution, you still need people to an expert in the area to to be able to provide like the best for that. What you can get from it.

Anthony Lamot: I love how you summarize it at the end. And, by the way, on the visual recognition part I really liked. It’s bit of a personal note. But I really liked the the Demo by OpenAI recently, because now in the mobile application, they also have visual recognition, and they have this demo where they show someone struggling with a bike, taking a picture of the bike lock. And then ChetGPT figured out the solution based on online resources. So I think we’re only really scratching the surface of what’s possible.

But I would agree that we have to be really careful when it comes to content creation. I’ve tested this for myself. I post a lot on Linkedin, for instance, and there was a short period when I had CPT write my posts, and what I noticed was when I didn’t edit them a lot. The engagement immediately plummeted. I think there’s just something  unnatural generic about it. If you don’t train it if you don’t tweak it. However, meanwhile I’ve I’ve worked a little bit with that, and what I do find is that, provided I have a long session going where I’ve for instance, shown the AI examples of my writing. How? What? What? My style is, what people like. It starts to adopt, that it’s still not there, and maybe it will never be 100% what I want. But it does do like 80% of the heavy lifting. And that’s been a time saver for me.

On top of that looking at our own marketing operations, we’re also starting to experiment with it. But that includes sometimes for internal things. So, for instance, just the other day I had to provide. I was preparing a memo for a marketing department to look at something in the CRM system, and I actually wrote out my ideas to ChatGPT, and then it just wrote it out in a whole memo. So I think sometimes even for internal processes, or making sure you cover all metrics. So hopefully, those suggestions help our audience. I wanna switch back to Helen for a second. You’re a nonprofit. Are there some unique ethical considerations that you keep in mind when dealing with AI?

Helen Clements: very, very much so, and I and I think kind of touched on it. Earlier. In terms of you know, we are dealing with people in what can be frankly, the very worst times in their life. When they’re reaching out to us for support. And sometimes yeah, the the data the evidence can throw up some areas and things where, if you were to do it, it would be really, really damaging. So really, good example of this is, you know, one of us, like many other kind of charities that deal with you know, serious health conditions and concerns. Is that very often people can do fundraising and donate after they’ve lost a loved one.

Now, if you were to do a model to say, when is the best time to contact someone, though you’re most likely to get a donation from them. The data might tell them well, straight, after somebody has reported that they’ve lost a loved one.

And if you were to just let AI run with that that could lead to some really, really damaging things going out. So we have to be very careful with that. And this really interesting example from a big mental health charity in the US where they had, you know, a similar thing to ChatGPT, that they put on their website to run the to run that kind of their chat bot on there. And it went from seeming helpful to giving out devastating advice to people in under a month. And they had to quickly remove it. 

Yeah, we’ve just here in the UK with a big career company, you know, had a had a thing in the press where the AI on this website. Somebody got it to write a poem about how awful this Courier company was, and it sounds quite amusing and and quite funny that yeah, oh, you got the yeah, the AI on a website to swear and to do these funny things. But actually, when you’re dealing with really, really serious areas. Yeah, you just have to be really sensitive to you. Just can’t you know you, you can’t take a chance with it. And again, I kind of apologize almost for that kind of trivializing. You know, people who aren’t in, not for profit. But again, I kind of use a kind of sock thing if you tell somebody about the wrong size sock, it’s not devastating. If you tell someone give someone the wrong advice at the wrong time within the not-for-profit it it can be in very, very real ways. So yes, we have to be incredibly careful, incredibly cautious. Constantly testing, you know, constantly speaking to our community, we have an amazing group of people, who from within our community, who are directly affected, who we can go to and say, How does this sound does this work? We can test things out as well as testing on our kind of broader AI integrations. And the way that we’re using it.

So sometimes it’s not that we don’t, you know, as marketers, we’re not incredibly excited about it. We want to run really quickly and try new things. But there’s real real-world consequences if we if we do it wrong.

Evgeniy Kulevnich: I would want to quickly remark here that I completely agree that AI in communication should be used really, really carefully because it’s because of the communication, as you just mentioned, it could be not on the road, not to the right person, not at the wrong time in the wrong communication in general. So this is maybe not fully trustable, but I know that some big players on the market, are trying to put like a trust layer in between AI model in your systems. And it is just so you can really trust the AI answers in generated content, etc. But at the same time, AI, I think, could be used in social communication, but to listen to our customers. I think it’s really good with the huge amount of data, big mess of data.

And if you can teach or create a model that can listen and combine it with your CRM plan, communication plan, and etcetera. Then you can find really good moments and results.

Helen Clements: You know the drives. I’m not drives your communication in, etc. So now I’d agree. You know we use it in terms of our market research that we’re doing. We’ll use it across kind of text response on that. And that’s lovely. And within social media. So yeah, lots of other, you know, exciting things. And I think it’s really good for you to bring them up. I think sometimes those things get forgotten about with the kind of really all your chat Gbt and chatbox, and all the kind of things that buzz, wordy kind of area of AI.

Evgeniy Kulevnich: Yeah. Yeah. So, and you also mentioned that. Brand, you know tone of voice from your brand and branded content from AI, it’s also like, if AI can provide you just an average picture, an average copy, or that works for most of the people, that’s it’s not like what your brand communicates. But I know this company is already working in this direction, so they make they can make a model that will be trained on your brand book, on your photos, on your copies, etc., and then it can generate the voice of your company, and if you’re talking about generated images, it can generate images according to your brand book. So it’s where, at the beginning of this, but it’s, I think, companies already working towards this direction.

Anthony Lamot: I also love the idea for market research. We do this too. Obviously, we’re B2B, and it’s really important for us to know our customers are seeing in calls about the market, about the product, and so on. And we start to use call listening and then AI on top of that to sort of surface the newest insights for those topics that were really interesting to us. And then the marketing team can take that and feedback to sales for learning and education, but also the product team to figure out, okay, what do we need to build next?

We’re going to switch to the last part of this webinar which is about optimizing marketing campaigns in 2024, and like before, I’m going to start off with a little poll here for the audience this time about ROI.

Which is the most important factor when calculating the ROI of new tech? Is it cost reduction? Is it revenue increase, time value, adoption? If there’s any other that we haven’t listed there, we’re always welcoming you to post it in the chat. I’m just going to grab that poll real quick.

And it should be showing on the screen right now. And as we gathered results like before, I will ask maybe starting with you, Evgeniy. How do you measure the ROI? Maybe let’s stick with AI for a second, because we were still talking about it before. How do you measure the ROI of AI.

Evgeniy Kulevnich: Oh, it’s a good question. I can’t really say because I’m not sure that we actually adopted AI. Oh, on a scale for the whole business because the business is quite big, and we have millions of customers so good to know. But I think it’s from our technical perspective and in within marketing area, I think good. If we see on our main KPIs how engaged your customers are when you start using AI. If they are more engaged with your communication, if you have more clicks, if you have more items in a basket. If you’re talking about retail and retail as a business.

If you see average order of value for every basket that you have, every purchase that you have. I think that people would add more items to the basket to buy, and you see that everything leads to more revenue that you can get from one single email, from one single communication, or from one single campaign. So increasing in everything cost reduction as well. I like all the other answers. I think all of them are correct, and all of them are really beautiful to me. And if you’re talking about cost reductions, yes, of course, if, I think you already mentioned it, average campaign takes 12-14 weeks based on your reports the average time for one campaign with the across market years. So of course, it’s also a quite important moment. But it’s really depends on what type of campaign, what type of business, industry, and etc.,

But what what I would really want to highlight. It’s time to time to value in time to market. Now we live in a quite a complex world, and we have a lot of ideas, and everyone is super busy with the road maps and projects and etc. So time to market, I would say. It’s one of the main questions that you that you need to ask when you implemented or thinking about something because you can always do it on yourself much better than everyone. But if you can provide it and deliver it within the 3-5 years, maybe the world will be changed so much that it won’t be relevant anymore. It will be wasting of resources and time.

Anthony Lamot: Absolutely. I can really endure the time to evaluate as well as CEO when we purchase new software for our company. It’s one of the key questions. Anything that doesn’t, you know, if it doesn’t help the business within 3 to 6 months. It’s probably not something that we’re going to be looking at. And how long have you been using AI?

Evgeniy Kulevnich: In marketing? I don’t know. It’s a good question. It’s a long journey, so it started. If you’re talking about simple things, yes, as you mentioned, personalization. It’s also like an area, and the area of the AI, and we started implementing it in our company since, I don’t know, 2012 maybe 2013, something like this.

Anthony Lamot: And you’ve seen a good improvement over the years. And you’re glad that you started using it when you did, or do you wish you would have started earlier?

Evgeniy Kulevnich: I think that we started just in time for the business for the business at the moment when we implemented it. It was a really good moment because we already had quite a good quality data, a lot of things. That we had time to do before we started with this AI, and it was like for example, for average e-commerce store. If you’re talking about our size. It would be a waste of money because you don’t have a constant. You don’t have like good constant data and etc. So I think that we started really in a good moment.

Anthony Lamot: Alright, good to hear. I see we’re getting some results on the poll. We got about half the audience participating. And we’ll see if that changes here in a little bit, but most of them are leaning towards revenue increase.

And some are saying cost reduction. And those are the top two, of course. Which makes sense. That’s what we’re usually looking for in any kind of investment is, you know, how much is it going to cost me, and how much am I going to make from it?

Anything you’d like to add to that, Helen?

Helen Clements: I mean, I think probably our view will be a little bit similar. It’s kind of a mix of all of them, because I think time to value is, you know, really key, but that’s because the quicker you get a return on your investment. And, you know, we’ve probably got less in terms of a large amount of data, but you know, still quite a bit. And I think, you know, to show that we can do this quickly and kind of test and learn is really key.

And I think so obviously, revenue increase is always one that you know. That’s why we’re all here to make more money, I suppose. But then that obviously naturally leads to cost reduction, because if you’re working smarter, and if you’re not having to produce as much and you’re not having to do things as quickly, and you can be a bit more considered.

So I think, for me, it’s kind of like a journey, but it’s kind of, it’s it is about balance because you need to have a kind of a steady flow and I don’t think you can really say one is more important than the other. But yeah, for me, I’m probably saying revenue increase. I think that’s the ultimate goal for us, obviously.

Anthony Lamot: Great, thank you. We did get one question here in the chat.  It says, if, and I’m not sure if this is relevant to our conversation, but I’m gonna ask it anyway. If possible, could you please share examples of how you measure the ROI of AI in your work?

Or if that’s something you can’t share, maybe some suggestions on how others can measure the ROI of AI in their work.

Evgeniy Kulevnich: We are we. The main KPI for us is how our customers are engaged and how many items they can add to the basket. How much money they spend on the platform on the on our side. And I think these KPIs are really basic and would be relevant to most of the businesses. If we are talking about a small retail store.

If we are talking about the huge e-commerce marketplace, like we have at the moment. And it’s more for CRM for communication and for stuff like that. And I think in every every step, every small thing that you do you need to think about time, time to value, and how quickly can you deliver results. And you need to plan it carefully. I think that in today’s world, it’s one of the most important things, how you can plan and carefully and quickly deliver results.

Anthony Lamot: Yeah, absolutely. I’m gonna I’m gonna check on the poll real quick. Let’s see. It looks like revenue increase is in the lead at 56%. Followed by cost reduction at 22%. And then we got a few for adoption and time value. So it seems like most of the audience is leaning towards the revenue increase. So that’s good to know.

Anything else that you guys would like to add on this topic? Before we move on to our last part.

Helen Clements: Yeah, I think, for me, it’s kind of just how do you prove the ROI for it? And, you know, we’re trying to do that by all the things that we’re talking about is, you know, speed to market, we’ve kind of pushed, you know, with some of our tech suppliers where we’ve had kind of these pilot phases for a very long time. And you kind of go to these conferences, and you hear all these amazing things, and you’re like, wow, we want to do that, and then you try and do it, and it takes like a year and a half.

And actually, that’s kind of gone now because we’ve got to do all these other things. So we’ve really kind of just pushed to kind of do things quickly, which has been really successful. So, yeah, for me, it’s kind of, you know, be really clear on what you want to achieve and kind of challenge suppliers, I suppose.

And I think sometimes you have to be a little bit brave and kind of push people a little bit out of their comfort zone. But actually, you know, the results are really great. And actually, it’s just being really clear on what you want to do.

Anthony Lamot: Right, yeah. No, that’s great advice. Ok, let’s move on to our last part here.

So what’s the future of AI in marketing? Where do you see this going in the next, you know, three to five years? Is there anything that you’re excited about? Maybe any challenges that you foresee? Who wants to start?

Evgeniy Kulevnich: I think we are still at the very beginning of AI implementation in marketing. I think we have a lot of. Still, we have a lot of possibilities.

And it’s going to be something that we will see in the future in a couple of years. For example, for us in our industry, the fashion industry, I think one of the important things is going to be how we can use it for production.

For example, now we are still seeing clothes that are just being sold out after we produce it. We still produce a lot of things that are being thrown out or are not sold out. And I think that the next big thing for our business is going to be how we can use AI to predict demand. And how we can produce things based on the information that we have.

For example, one of the. Examples that I can give you is that we have such information because we have a lot of bloggers and influencers. And we have influencers and bloggers in all the countries. And when they post something in one country, we see that it’s being sold out in the next couple of hours or days, sometimes.

But we still don’t have this perfect mechanism of sharing this information between our departments, and we are still working on it.

Anthony Lamot: Yeah, yeah. Predictive analytics for the fashion industry, I think that’s gonna be really big. Helen, do you have any thoughts on the future of AI in marketing?

Helen Clements: Yeah, I mean, I suppose it’s slightly different. But it’s still data and kind of, I suppose. Kind of customer centric. And I think for us, it’s kind of the Holy Grail is kind of being able to do predictive modeling on the whole business.

So, you know, you can take your supply chain, and you can take your kind of you know, your sales and all those things. And we kind of, we’re really trying to kind of work towards that, but it’s really difficult because there’s so many different factors that kind of, you know, make your business go round.

But I think that’s probably the kind of the Holy Grail, I think, for kind of retailers and kind of the product that we sell, because obviously, our business is seasonal. So, you know, the better that you can predict kind of what is going to happen, the less stock you have to kind of, you know, carry over, which is obviously costs. And then you can kind of be much more kind of considered and how you go to market.

Anthony Lamot: That’s a great point. Yeah, using AI for predictive modeling across the entire business. Alright. Well, I think we’re we’re coming towards the end here. And I really appreciate both of you joining me for this conversation. And I hope the audience found it valuable. I know I did. And I look forward to maybe doing more of these in the future.

So thanks everybody for joining, And have a great day!

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Episode 12 | Transcript

Genna Matson: Technical Architecture in SFMC, Email Marketing and SFMC Learning Resources



Anthony Lamot: Genna, welcome to the show!

Genna Matson: Hello, thank you.

Anthony Lamot: It’s such a pleasure to have you here. How have you been since the last time we spoke at Connections?

Genna Matson: Good. Busy, but very good. I like to keep things busy.

Anthony Lamot: That’s awesome. Well, I really appreciate the time you’ve taken off your busy schedule to be here with us today. And talking about being busy, you had a very active career up to this point. I see you’re currently engaged in multiple projects, which is pretty cool. Can you tell us a little bit about your trek and what drove you to establish HowToSFMC?

Genna Matson: I’ve been doing this my whole life. I grew up with my dad owning a trade bindery. They work in the printing industry, and I started selling his folders when I was 11, collecting direct mail pieces that were being shipped all over the country. So I feel like I’ve come to this naturally and organically.

Next in my career, I did a short stint in college and dropped out. I claim that now, though I was embarrassed about it for a long time when I was younger.

Anthony Lamot: There you go! I love the confidence.

Genna Matson: Eventually, I ended up back in direct mail and wound up doing data architecture for direct mail, using systems to pull targeted audiences for direct mail, architecting databases that are being used in direct mail, doing mail marches and all that good stuff.

Anthony Lamot: What technology was it back then?

Genna Matson: Microsoft Access and XMPie were what we were using for print at the time. XMPie power is great. It was a Xerox product that allowed for dynamic images to be created and put on direct mail pieces. We were using a technology called Easy Pearl, which would allow personalized URLs. It was honestly not that different from what we use today.

In 2007, we had a client that came to us and said, “We want to try this new thing called email and see if it’s productive for us.” My boss assigned that client to me and I got to work.

Spent a lot of sleepless nights trying to figure out how to make that work. We were using XMPie and Easy Pro to actually send emails.

However, in 2011 XMPie was just not fitting our needs anymore. We needed timeliness in reaching the inbox, and it would take 24 hours for a million records to go out. So if you were trying to do it at the last minute, that’s a problem. So I started kind of poking around the backend of XMPie to fix that, and I saw the term “ExactTarget” everywhere. I did some research on it and that’s how I discovered Salesforce Marketing Cloud. And I was like, “Wait a second, XMPie is just sitting on top of ExactTarget!”

Anthony Lamot: But this was before Marketing Cloud AppExchange was even a thing!

Genna Matson: Yeah, we’re talking before Salesforce.

Anthony Lamot: I didn’t know there were apps that were even layered on top of that. Was it some kind of white labeling?

Genna Matson: Yeah, it was. I don’t know exactly how to describe it because I’m not a web developer and I’m not an app developer, but they had built an application that only used the relays. XMPie had built their own platform, and they were using ExactTarget’s relay. So I don’t know if that’s white labeling exactly … it’s more like an app sitting on top of another app.

This reminds me of a project that I worked on not too long ago. I remember developing one of these back in like 2005. It was horrible. It was a web-to-print solution that allowed marketers to just go in and select, like, a postcard background, layout, etc, and choose the geographical area. But if this was an app for print products, it took me back to my old days. But anyway, email is much more complex than web design.

Anthony Lamot: Interesting, so you kind of stumbled into ExactTarget by exploring the backend of XMPie. What made you say, “Oh, I’m going to make a career out of this thing?”

Genna Matson: I just rolled with it. I say that I’ve done most of everything by accident. That’s why I’m here, you know. We talk about being leaders, and I like to say I’m a reluctant leader. I’m kind of nomadic by nature, and I like to go where I’m curious. It’s because I’m curious that I have this career that was established by accident. I guess you could say I’m not very goal-oriented.

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Anthony Lamot: Yes, curiosity is definitely a characteristic that I look for when I bring people into my team.

Genna Matson: I say I’m kind of a reluctant leader because I might decide to jump over a cliff, and I don’t want people to necessarily follow me because they might not see the parachute I’m holding.

Anthony Lamot: Would you say you have a high-risk appetite?

Genna Matson: I think it depends. That’s contextual. I say this after having just left Vegas and only lost $17. I set a budget to gamble only $20 and I was there for 4 days. I’d say I’m risk-averse when it’s not statistically possible for me to win. So, for instance, gambling, it’s too much of a risk – the house is always going to win. They are there to take your money. But as far as careers go, in terms of pushing the boundaries of the platform that we work on, I would say that I’m a risk-taker. I’ll jump over that cliff!

Anthony Lamot: Is that what brought you to HowToSFMC? 

Genna Matson: Kind of. HowToSFMC was not my idea, but we are all co-founders.

There are six of us who started it all. It was born out of an email conversation where we were complaining about the lack of support and documentation for Marketing Cloud. We had so many complaints from folks who were promised a lot, but then realized it was not as easy to use the platform as it was described to them in the sales process.

We decided that we wanted to change this. We didn’t want to just make another document repository or blog site, so we started creating these challenges. Cam Robert came up with most of the challenge ideas, including the “Baby Shark” challenge. At the time, he was in our team’s leadership before he joined Salesforce. I also need to give a shout-out to Leslie Higgins. She actually wrote the lyrics for “Baby Shark” in the shape of a shark using AMPscript. It’s on our website, go see it!

Anthony Lamot: Wait, what is this “Baby Shark”? Can you elaborate a little bit on that? 

Genna Matson: Baby Shark was the most popular coding challenge we did. The idea for challenges came from us realizing that what Trailhead teaches you is kind of limited. You get to a point where you want to do more, but you can’t learn it from Trailhead. So we thought, “Let’s do code challenges, because Trailhead doesn’t teach you AMPscript.” For the Baby Shark Challenge, we asked people to output the lyrics of Baby Shark using AMPscript.

There were three categories. First, we were looking for the least number of characters, so the shortest code, to output the entire lyrics of the song. The winner used only 156 characters, so kudos to them. That was incredible. The second category evaluated creativity. The judges were me, Adam Spriggs (co-author of The AMPscript Guide), and Greg Gifford (co-author of Automating Salesforce Marketing Cloud). I can’t remember what the third challenge was…

We had tried to give out prizes to encourage the audience, but what we found was that we were leaving out a lot of entry-level folks who wanted to participate in our challenges, but couldn’t because they didn’t have the knowledge. We realized that wasn’t fair and we wanted to make sure that we were including everybody in the Marketing Cloud community. So we decided to kind of shift focus and build the website up, adding content from anyone who would send us stuff.

Anthony Lamot: So are you all pretty active on Slack?

Genna Matson: Yes! Come, talk to us, and ask us questions. The interesting thing is that it’s not just our leadership team that answers questions. We’ve created a self-supporting community, so anybody can participate. So you get feedback from different people with different perspectives from around the world, which is hugely important for even folks like myself who have been on the platform for a decade or longer.

Anthony Lamot: I can testify to just how helpful this community is. We here at DESelect have been exploring additional ways to suppress communications from Marketing Cloud, so I asked about that in your chat and I remember being really surprised by how extensively people answered.

Genna Matson: Thank you. We’re very proud of our community and everybody who participates in it. Even us “dinosaurs” who have been in the industry for a long time learn something new every day.

Anthony Lamot: So what did you discover today?

Genna Matson: I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve just recently learned that when you do a “guided send” from Email Studio, it now creates a User-Initiated Email and stores the send definition there. I didn’t know that, because I usually use either Automation Studio, Journey Builder, or CloudPages.

Anthony Lamot: Wait, you can make a send from CloudPages?

Genna Matson: Oh, yes! Absolutely. It’s probably my favorite part of the platform, along with Automation Studio. In CloudPages, you can do anything you imagine.

Anthony Lamot: But why would you use CloudPages instead of another platform?

Genna Matson: There are lots of reasons. There is a web form that you can collect information from. Additionally, if you want to send an email telling users that they submitted this information or something like that, you could trigger it from that Cloud Page. It’s the same thing as a transactional send, you’re just doing it from a Cloud Page.

Anthony Lamot: I see. Going on a tangent here, when did you learn that “guided send” was remodeled into “transactional send”? Was that a big discovery?

Genna Matson: Yes. That and discovering that it writes a send definition, meaning that it now creates a record of every detail of the send that I can go back and look at. I can check which creative was used, what data set, what classification, etc. Before that, once an email was sent, it was gone. So having that information right on the platform is extremely helpful.

Anthony Lamot: Yeah. And, of course, we all love Salesforce, but we also know that they are notorious for changing their names. You know. It’s funny; I used to be a huge gamer. And some of these games, especially online games, have these sort of “patches” where they can constantly change the rules and the mechanics just to keep the players engaged. I wonder if that same strategy is used by software companies to keep their users interacting with the community.

Genna Matson: I’ve never thought about it that way! I honestly think it’s because they have turnover internally and a lack of documentation – hey, we’re all at a fast pace! Some of us don’t have time and we all fail when it comes to documentation. And that goes true for the people who build the platform, too.

Anthony Lamot: Or they never read the documentation!

Genna Matson: That happens too! They don’t read the documentation, or they don’t ask questions because they think they know the software, but then they go in and break something.

Remember that outage a couple of years ago when the Internet went down on the East Coast, and it ended up being someone at Google who had pushed the wrong code base? Poor guy! I don’t know if he didn’t read the documentation or what the problem was, but he probably got fired.

Anthony Lamot: And in this industry, I feel like people are very smart and more likely to want to do things their own way. The thing is, a lot of times they will waste time trying to solve a problem that already has a solution, but they don’t know that because they haven’t read the documentation.

One recent example that I remember was in CRM mapping, relating to lead sources and original lead sources. After a second group of employees came on board, they started developing a function that was already there.

Genna Matson: There is a lot of redundancy generated from people turning over and transitioning roles. We’re human, we make mistakes.

Anthony Lamot: Absolutely! And as long as we’re willing to learn from them, we will become better.

Moving on, you have a very interesting career path. Starting out in direct mail until, through sheer curiosity and ambition, you find yourself working with Marketing Cloud. Eventually, you start ‘HowToSFMC’.

I’m curious, to what extent have you still been able to tap into your direct mail roots? I know there are some direct mail options out there, such as Optilyz on the Salesforce AppExchange. Have you heard of anything like that?

Genna Matson: Yeah! In fact, there was an AppExchange offering that was a direct mail provider. It can be plugged into the Journey Builder application to send emails and direct mail pieces.

Anthony Lamot: That sounds quite cool. What is it called?

Genna Matson: They’re not public yet so I can’t disclose the name. But when it’s released, I will shout it from the rooftops because it’s pretty cool! It still has to go through security review and all that good stuff. You know how that goes.

Anthony Lamot: Yes, I do. Although, to the credit of our engineering team, we have done a total of four applications, and we’ve always passed the security review on our first try, which our partner manager on the sales side tells us is unheard of. Shout out to our product team!

Genna Matson: That’s impressive, congratulations! But yes, the offering I was telling you about is still working out some of the kinks in their application, it’s in Beta right now.

Anthony Lamot: Just to clarify, the Security Review we’re referring to is a screening that every app needs to go through before being added to the AppExchange. It is notoriously complex to navigate.

Genna Matson: And it should be a difficult process. There is a lot of data there, so there should be a lot of security. There are a lot of ramifications if something goes wrong. I mean, they have every right to scrutinize the apps the way they do, and I think that they do it for the end users and for us engineers.

Anthony Lamot: So Jenna, in your prior roles, what was your most interesting project in SFMC?

Genna Matson: First of all, shout out to Aaron Graves for working with me on that hell project that turned into something beautiful. I say it was a “hell project” because we kept postponing the end date and it ended up becoming a two-year project. They wanted to create a portal for mortgage lenders to go in and enter lead information for loan providers. They wanted it to trigger emails to the loan provider with a list of leads, and then possibly trigger an email or a direct mail piece to those leads from that loan provider.

It was supposed to be a simple automation project, but we ended up building a whole admin section, with reports and everything else. When we were done, it had turned into a direct mail environment.

Anthony Lamot: It sounds like you built your own Salesforce portal.

Genna Matson: Exactly, it was a portal. They didn’t want to go in Marketing Cloud and only wanted one administrator. Back in the day there weren’t a lot of content management systems for websites and things like that. So you would get requests to build out portals, which was hard.

We have the capabilities to do that, but should we? The portal we had built was not the most secure. This was before a lot of security standards that we have today were implemented. I would do it differently today, but it was a good learning experience, and I’m proud of what we produced.

Anthony Lamot: Yeah, it’s fascinating how far you can go with custom development in Marketing Cloud. I keep being amazed at use cases that come up.

Genna Matson: Yeah, and still have documentation for it somewhere.

Anthony Lamot: Oh, look at that! You actually wrote the documentation.

Genna Matson: I did! I used to write really good documentation, and I believe in telling people to write really good documentation, and I do write it for clients who pay for it.

Anthony Lamot: Fantastic. So if there’s one key takeaway from this interview – write and read your documentation.

Genna Matson: And use AI! It will help you write your documentation. I’m using it!

Anthony Lamot: That’s interesting, I hadn’t considered that. Well, since you brought up the subject, let’s switch gears to AI, starting with ChatGPT. How do you use it to write documentation, for example?

Genna Matson: I actually like writing technical documentation (post-bill documentation). I enjoy recording every step of the process of creating a portal or any other project. So I am actually using AI to help me with grammar, or scenarios and edge cases that I might not have seen. It can point out if I missed anything, which is extremely helpful. I also sometimes use it for blueprinting prior to the build because I hate doing documentation in advance.

Anthony Lamot: Can it also be a source for creativity during the early planning stages?

Genna Matson: Absolutely, if that’s your process. Personally, I like to go in guns blazing. You know, some people have different processes. I worked with a developer in the past that liked to do what they called “slamming” into other codes. If they were working with another developer, they would take the codes built independently and “slam” them together. That was their process.

My process is to go in and just start building. I like to have a clear idea of what the goal is, what the pain points are, and who the end stakeholder is. I usually get clients to sign off on blueprints, timelines, pre-build documentations of that sort.

With ChatGPT, I can test scenarios. I can say, “I need to build a journey that has five touchpoints and that has X criteria” and see what it outputs. Then you can engineer and tweak your prompts to better suit your needs.

Anthony Lamot: A really interesting prompt I’ve seen going around the internet is “tell me how to write better prompts.”

Genna Matson: That is a good one. And we have to remember that AI is only as good as what we tell it and as we code it. It does statistical analysis at incomprehensible speeds, something humans just can’t do. However, sometimes it outputs things that are just silly. So you’re gonna have to edit it, you’re gonna have to work it into what you need it to be. It’s not perfect because we’re not perfect, and we created it.

Anthony Lamot: I really like the phrase you used there, “statistical analysis at scale.” It’s closely aligned to our company’s mission statement, which is to “elevate engagement through human intelligence at scale”. I know everything was very different five years ago, when we started.

Genna Matson: It wasn’t that different, though. The first Logic Engine was created in the 1950s. That’s when the term artificial intelligence was coined. It’s more than 70 years old! The term neural networks was coined in 2012, so that terminology is a bit newer, but that branching neural network algorithm has been used for a long time. Even Siri uses it, all your personal devices. Marketers have been using AI for over 20 years. I’ve created algorithms myself before Salesforce’s AI, Einstein.

What is new is the open source base of the code. There are multiple series of conditional statements that the neural network is creating for itself. That’s badass.

Anthony Lamot: So despite having been around for a while and despite all the innovations, there has always been a person in the center of it.

Genna Matson: Right, there is always the human element. Someone needs to prompt the AI. It can get out of control if people use it for nefarious means. I mean, putting aside all the philosophical conversations, AI is just code. It is not alive, and it won’t grow legs and take over the planet.

Anthony Lamot: Opinions vary on that. Some very smart people I know speak up very strongly against AI, but then you have others who fully embrace it.

But as we approach the end of our conversation, I wanted to ask you: What is your favorite part of being a member of the Marketing Cloud community?

Genna Matson: I love the people. I want to thank everybody who sends me messages and shares a little bit of their day-to-day with me. Keep sharing your victories with not just me, but the community in general. It’s you that makes us great!

Anthony Lamot: What was your favorite moment at Connections this year?

Genna Matson: Probably seeing Dan Levy. He is very special to a lot of us, and he might not know a lot about marketing, but his message about acceptance hit really close to home. The special keynote speakers are always the best part of Connections. I’ve seen some really cool ones, like John Lewis. What I also appreciate about Connections is the chance to meet people in the industry. That’s where I first met you!

Anthony Lamot: I will never forget how much Dan Levy appreciates simple newsletters.

Genna Matson: You know, I agree with him!. Thank you for saying that, Dan Levy. I’m on the pro-newsletter side. I love my newsletters. Keep sending them, please!

Anthony Lamot: Genna, you’ve given so much valuable advice throughout this conversation – be curious, remember to document, and newsletters are great. Do you have any other parting advice to Marketing Cloud newbies, or maybe even veterans?

Genna Matson: Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. If you don’t want to do it in public, do it in private. And every single one of us that have been around for a long time, and I am speaking for everybody, we all love when people reach out and ask us questions, even if they’re silly.

You can ask us something like “Hey, is there a way to turn the sky green on Tuesday, using Marketing Cloud?” The answer would be no, but you’re still welcome to ask. We’re all still learning.

Anthony Lamot: Thank you, Jenna, for taking the time today and for doing so much for the Marketing Cloud community. Your passion and curiosity are very inspiring. Thanks again for being here with us today.

Genna Matson: Thank you for having me. This was a lot of fun.

Discover how our platform instantly optimizes your Marketing Cloud

Discover how our platform instantly optimizes your Marketing Cloud

To be the best, you have to learn from the best. For that reason, we profiled Kaleem McGill, who became one of the illustrious Salesforce Marketing Champions back in 2020. More on this later.

Currently an Implementation Specialist, Kaleem has over a decade of experience working with CRMs and Marketing Cloud. We talked to Kaleem about his unconventional start to Marketing Cloud, how that led to some of his career highlights, and how others can advance their careers in a similar manner.

How did you start your journey with SFMC, and what’s happened since?

My journey into SFMC started unconventionally, much like many others. While working in a full-time client success role managing digital marketing campaigns, I realized the need for hard skills in digital marketing.

To gain these skills, I enrolled in a 6-month marketing program offered by Kenzie Academy, a coding school. Through Kenzie’s partnership with Pep Up Tech, I became a member of their Marketing Cloud Cohort and underwent 8 weeks of intensive training to achieve my Email Specialist Certification. I successfully acquired the Email Specialist and Marketing Cloud Admin certifications and landed my first role working in Marketing Cloud.

My hard work and dedication paid off when I was nominated to be part of the Salesforce Marketing Champions program, where I received valuable mentorship from some of the top professionals in the field. I worked in that role for almost a year before transitioning to a full-time marketing strategist position.

Currently, I am working as an Implementation Specialist at Fast Slow Motion and I am thoroughly enjoying my experience here. I aim to hone my skills and advance my career with the organization for many years to come.

What’s your favorite Marketing Cloud project you’ve worked on?

One of my most rewarding experiences thus far has been my involvement in a project for a prominent barbershop franchise, where I was tasked with implementing Marketing Cloud in conjunction with Community Cloud and Distributed Marketing. Throughout this project, we encountered a multitude of complex issues that required careful consideration and strategic solutions.

Notably, I was given the opportunity to take a leadership role in implementing the Distributed Marketing solution, which proved to be particularly challenging due to the vast amount of data involved – the organization had over one million contacts to manage. It was truly an eye-opening experience to witness seasoned consultants design comprehensive architecture and problem-solve with such expertise.

As the SME for the Distributed Marketing connection between Marketing Cloud and Community Cloud, I took great pride in deep diving into the product and sharing my knowledge with my colleagues. All in all, it was an immensely gratifying project that allowed me to contribute to the success of a large-scale initiative.

What is the biggest issue you see the Salesforce community facing right now or in the near future?

I believe that the Salesforce Community is eagerly anticipating the impact of AI on Marketing Cloud consultants and developers. This has been an ongoing challenge for the broader tech community as we have learned to integrate AI into our work rather than fight against it. As Marketing Cloud professionals, we must also adapt and determine how AI can be utilized to support us in automating recurring tasks.

By doing so, we will free up time and mental space to delve into more innovative strategies for our clients, which often require both creative thinking and complex architecture. It is only by embracing AI that we can fully leverage its potential to enhance the quality and efficiency of our work in the Marketing Cloud space.

What advice do you have for Marketing Cloud newbies trying to learn the platform?

For those just starting in Marketing Cloud, my advice would be to approach the tool with an open mind and a willingness to learn on the fly. It is impossible to know everything about the platform, and you will undoubtedly encounter issues along the way.

I had been a Salesforce user for most of my sales career, and I initially wanted to become an admin in Sales Cloud because that was all I knew. When I started my Trailhead journey, I didn’t know how many tools were available under the Salesforce umbrella. I was on the Trailhead site and found the Career Path page. I immediately lit up because I saw there was a path for Marketers. I studied marketing in college, and it aligned with my career aspirations.

I immediately started taking Marketing Cloud trails and realized they spoke my language. A few months later, the Pep Up Tech opportunity arose, and it truly felt like the stars aligned for me to dive into Marketing Cloud head first. I later discovered that Marketing Cloud practitioners were in high demand, and I just fed my fire to remain on the Marketing Cloud path.

That said, aim to gain a solid understanding of the entire tool so that you can speak to it confidently and know where to turn for support when faced with unique challenges. It is also valuable to specialize in an area that particularly resonates with you – whether it be data, email creation, or cross-cloud integrations – and to develop expertise in that area.

By doing so, you will be able to identify the skills that your team is lacking and contribute in a meaningful way. Ultimately, it is the combination of both breadth and depth of knowledge that will make you a valuable asset to any Marketing Cloud team.

What is your experience (if any) with DESelect?

I’ve referred DESelect Segment to several clients who wanted to do advanced segmentation beyond our engagement but did not have the coding knowledge.

Conclusion

Salesforce Marketing Champions must obtain significant product skillsets and rigorous community involvement. These maestros hold expertise in automation platforms, complete numerous Salesforce Certifications, and consistently share knowledge via the Trailblazer Community, workshops, and User Group Meetups.

As Kaleem mentioned, finding ways to automate repetitive tasks actually helps your career, as you can shift bandwidth to tackle more strategic challenges. If you want to better understand how DESelect provides that type of automation for audience segmentation, get certified in our Academy courses.

Questions

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Marketing Champions Spotlight – Vicki Moritz-Henry

We decided to find out what makes a Salesforce Marketing Cloud marketer a real Marketing Champion? To gain some insight, we spoke with Vicki Moritz-Henry, a Salesforce Certified Instructor who was previously a Freelance Consultant for Salesforcemums. Vicki shares her inspiring story about making it as a Marketing Champion with no educational background in marketing! We are sure that her experience will inspire you.

How did you start your journey with SFMC?

I’ll let you in on a secret – I actually didn’t have a background in marketing before starting to learn SFMC. I had a few years of experience on the core Salesforce platform learning different products such as Experience Cloud (Community Cloud back then). I had been leading our Admin courses at Supermums. We wanted to be able to support our trainees as they continued their journeys, and so many had a marketing background, so SFMC seemed the way to go. I’m so glad we did because it has been an amazing journey, and I can now proudly say that we’ve helped grow the SFMC community.

Which feature in Salesforce Marketing Cloud is your favorite and why?​

This may be a pretty common answer, but I have to go with Journey Builder here. It’s the tool that makes Marketing Cloud stand out from other marketing automation tools, and there are endless possibilities. You can make such rich and complex journeys to tailor content for your customers on any channel, making it so that no two customers have the exact same experience.

By the way, check out the guide we recently wrote about Journey Builder in Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

What was the most exciting SFMC project you worked on?

Does creating and launching the Supermums Marketing Cloud course in partnership with Trailhead Academy count? We were the first course of its kind and a pioneer for using Trailhead Academy Bootcamp content within workforce development programs. Since we started our course, Trailhead Academy has gotten involved with other workforce development programmes. Leading those courses and sharing my love of Marketing Cloud with new talent is one of the highlights of the week. My absolute favorite part is when we get the demo orgs to be able to get some hands-on practice, and I’m able to lead the class through case studies and hands-on exercises. The trainees never cease amazing me!

What was the most challenging campaign in SFMC?

Since I’m mostly involved with courses, I would have to say troubleshooting for the whole class as we’re walking through exercises is the most challenging and, likewise, rewarding part of my day-to-day. We have a few ground rules when doing the exercises, such as ‘No man or woman left behind’, so we make troubleshooting issues into a learning opportunity, and everybody comes out with a bit more knowledge.

What is your advice for people starting with their Salesforce Marketing Cloud career without having experience working in digital?​

Be curious! You don’t necessarily need to have experience in digital to work in Marketing Cloud, and I definitely didn’t. But you do need to be curious enough to read up on marketing best practices, tips, and advice. I’ve read quite a few fantastic marketing books in order to have an understanding of the marketing business case in order to best leverage the technical aspect of the tool. Some great ones to start with are Email Marketing Rules by Chad White, anything by Seth Godin, and Building a StoryBrand. Also, follow some of the Marketing Champions on social media as there is a wealth of ideas and blog posts out there to help you develop ideas and campaigns of your own!

As head of training at Supermums, can you describe what you do? And what advice would you give to working mums?​

I do a little bit of everything – from launching new programs, teaching Marketing Cloud and the occasional Admin course, and forging new partnerships to leading the Supermums team and contributing to our marketing efforts. I’ll soon be moving on from my current role, but keen to stay involved with Supermums to deliver great Marketing Cloud content and excited about some new opportunities in store!

What are your biggest lessons learned since you started working with SFMC?​

The importance of email deliverability and authentic marketing! Email deliverability will help to make sure that your messages get to the customer in the first place, and authentic marketing will help you to keep them. You’ll lose subscribers pretty quickly, or they will become disengaged if you don’t provide high-value content without overwhelming them with too much noise.

We hope that this interview gave you some food for thought. Here at DESelect, we definitely found it insightful our own team consists of professionals coming from different backgrounds who are all on a quest to become better Marketing Cloud experts. Our biggest takeaway from a conversation with Vicki is that you should never be afraid to start learning something new. Even without a background in digital marketing, you can score as a marketing automation professional, like Vicki or many of her students have. Salesforce creates many possibilities for marketers to learn about the platform via Trailhead educational playground, trailblazer communities to talk with like-minded marketers, or subscribing to Salesforce-related blogs, like ours, and always stay updated with Marketing Cloud features.

Make sure to sign up to DESelect to receive more inspiring stories from Salesforce Marketing Cloud champions, SFMC best practices, and DESelect updates!

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SFMC secrets from Marketing Cloud professionals

“Secrets”, we say?! Yes indeed… We asked a select number of top Marketing Cloud experts about their experience working with the platform. Actually, our simple question was: ‘What do you wish you had known before starting with Marketing Cloud?’

These insights don’t just revolve around technical advice, but also general suggestions for people starting out with Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and tips for those already use the platform and who are eager to level up. They say ‘learn from your mistakes’, but in this case, we hope it’s less painful to learn from the mistakes of others.

Rachid Mamai

Rachid Mamai

founder of SFMCify kicked things off for us, with his wishlist. Here’s what he shared:

“Never make assumptions”

Having worked on Sales/Service Cloud as well, often I made assumptions and didn’t test functionality in Marketing Cloud as it should be — especially at scale. 

Let go of any developer background

I like innovation and problem-solving, and Java offers an ocean of problem-solving possibilities. The fact is that SFMC offers a lot as standard, so there is often no need to look further. I wish I’d worked more often with standard functionalities, instead of building custom and complex solutions.

There are no guide rails

Marketing Cloud will let you do whatever you want. Sometimes it’ll show you a warning (like when you want to disconnect a data extension in Data Designer), and more often, you’ll be left without warnings, like deleting a data extension that’s actually used in a Journey, deleting an activity used inside an Automation Studio automation… Because of this, you must proceed with caution. “

Michiel van Gaalen

Michiel van Gaalen

Salesforce Application Architect & Marketing Cloud Consultant shares his experience.

“Never try to implement without experience”

I have a ton of experience installing email marketing and CRM systems, so usually, I’ll read up and I’ll manage. In Marketing Cloud you can take so many bad decisions that come back to haunt you, that it’s not funny. So you need to have someone by your side, who is experienced in that type of process. Don’t try to ‘wing it’.

Never use the email address for Subscriber id

Back in the day, this wasn’t well documented. Assigning Email as the Subscriber id is not wise, especially when you use both Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud. It duplicates the contact activity as there’s no data sync back to Service Cloud.”

Mateusz Dąbrowski

Mateusz Dąbrowski

Marketing Automation Consultant and author of the blog mateuszdabrowski.pl shares the following

"Understand the different Salesforce Clouds"

I wish I knew more about the multitude and variety of Salesforce Clouds. Before I started working on Marketing Cloud, I decided to fill in my skill gaps. I heard SQL is helpful, and neither of the Marketing Automation platforms I worked on before used it. So “Salesforce SQL” I googled, and that led me to learn SOQL. It took me some time to catch that Salesforce Marketing Cloud is not using Salesforce Object Query Language 😉

Register on Trailhead and leverage microlearning

What would I recommend instead to anyone just getting into the Marketing Cloud world? Register on Trailhead, and follow the Email Specialist Trailmix. It will be a smooth start into Marketing Cloud, prepare you for the initial certification, and jumpstart your path to being a Salesforce Ranger. And with Trailhead Go App, you can do all that wherever and whenever you want.”
Markus Slabina

Markus Slabina

Cross-Cloud Architect/Consultant and the author of the blog markus.codes shares his SFMC hindsight

“Investigate List Detective”

There’s a lot I’d love to have known before starting with Marketing Cloud, but one of the most important things is knowing about List Detective and how it might impact your email sends. A lot of marketers only find out about the “role-based email address filter” as customers feedback that they didn’t receive any emails. This filter blocks messages to email prefixes like office@, sales@, info@, and so on — even for transactional sends! So especially in a B2B context or when working with small businesses, this can potentially have a huge impact. The good thing is that you can reach out to support and ask to deactivate the filter for whatever’s relevant to you.”
Kaelan Moss

Kaelan Moss

also known as MinuteAdmin, Salesforce Marketing Cloud Program Director and Instructor at Revolent Group.

“Share your learnings”

I wish I’d known about the power of providing value to others. It’s so important to share what you’ve learned, whether that’s ‘Best Practices’, ‘Industry Tips and Tricks’, ‘Real World Use Cases’, ‘How To Troubleshoot’, or anything else. Someone else out there is always going to find your insights valuable — victories and failures alike!”
Manish Thaduri

Manish Thaduri

Salesforce MVP, Technical Architect, Blogger at sfdcFanBoy.com.

“Salesforce Marketing Cloud isn’t like the others”

Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud product is completely different from its other Cloud products. No matter how many years of experience you have in the Sales, Service Cloud, or any other Clouds platforms by Salesforce, you’ll be starting from zero when you begin your SFMC journey. This is a good thing for freshers, though, as it puts them on an equal footing with those who may have been in the Salesforce ecosystem for a long time but are also new to SFMC. There’s no headstart for anyone.”
Nathalie Starr

Nathalie Starr

blogger at SFMC Geeks.com, Snr. Solutions Consultant at Acumen Solutions shares her insights

“Take full advantage of the SFMC community”

The biggest thing I wish I had known about is the community resources — especially the ‘SFMC’ channel on the ‘Emailgeeks’ Slack channel, and SFMC Stackexchange. There are so many amazing admins in the community, who are happy to help if you get stuck, or want to learn more. My world exploded as I realized I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Seeing what others were doing expanded my concept of the possible.”

Conclusion

We hope that this article provided a little help for you to navigate the complex world of Salesforce Marketing Cloud and that some of your questions have been answered. A lot of these insights aim to save your time navigating on the platform,  but it’s not only insights that can save your time, there are also actual tools for that. If you’re interested in saving 50% of your time spent on data management in SFMC, leverage our no-code segmentation solution, DESelect. You can book a demo with one of our professionals here.

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Digital innovation and Salesforce’s roadmap, with Eric Stahl

Video Recording: Digital innovation and Salesforce’s roadmap, with Eric Stahl

Find the links to the mentioned resources at the bottom of this page!

Transcript: Digital innovation and Salesforce’s roadmap, with Eric Stahl

Anthony: Hi, Eric, welcome to the series.

Eric: Good morning, thanks for having me.

Anthony: We are very happy to have you, thank you for making time. So I’m sure that many of our viewers have actually already seen your posts on LinkedIn cause you tend to share a lot of interesting Marketing Cloud content, but just to be sure could you please give us a quick intro to our viewers?

Eric: Sure, so I’m Eric Staahl. I run digital here at Salesforce. I’ve been here for almost thirteen years, which is kind of incredible to see Salesforce grow from just a few thousand people to the company it is today. I’ve had a lot of different roles. I started off at a relational database software company. I worked in it at a middleware software company and I came to Salesforce in 2008. I worked on our platform, I’ve worked on our Marketing Cloud, our Commerce Cloud, our Community Cloud, I helped with Mulesoft for a while getting them on board, and when they joined the company I was over in London for a couple of years running our EMEA product marketing team. So I’ve had a lot of different roles and for the last year or a little more than a year. I have been rethinking our old digital strategy and rethinking the platform and the Org, kind of how we operate. How that’s all going to manifest in a completely different and really exciting new digital experience.

Anthony: I’d love to dig deeper there, but it was one thing that you mentioned which was you know, Salesforce wasn’t a company it is today when you joined 13 years ago. What was that excited you back then to join them?

Eric: It’s a great question because it was very specific I remember. So I worked in an on-premise Enterprise software back in the late 90s the mid-to-late 90s. So you would get a server and you’d have an operating system and you would load up all these you know the whole stack on your local on-premise hardware and back then I was working for Informix Software, which is a database like Oracle or Semantics. And the big players in tech were like SON and HP and Pyramid in SGI like these big hardware players that were the center of the universe and yeah there were software companies like Oracle, but you know, you don’t hear about them these days. So I worked for on-premise software vendors and middleware come to call BAE Systems, you might have heard of Tuxedo or Wet Logic and you know, Java and j2ee came along and I just saw the cost and the complexity of buying, installing, and configuring a whole software stock and then all of your custom code on top of that and just what a complete Dark Art, it was to get all that working properly, you know, very few people are very few companies could do that right? Maybe big Banks or you know, big government institutions. But like this is not that long ago this was the late 90s. And coming into the early 2000s Salesforce came along and they were like don’t worry about any of that stuff. We will host the CRM around at the time. It was just Salesforce automation, don’t worry we’ll host it for you, you just log in and don’t worry about the back and it was like ‘wow, that’s a totally different approach’ and you know for big Enterprise applications that were a novel concept back then and Marc Benioff said why can’t enterprise software be like Amazon.com where you just go to Amazon and you just buy stuff and you know, like why can’t Enterprise be that easy and I was like, ‘oh my gosh’. Enterprise software is a nightmare to manage and run and configure and do what you wanted to do. That is a really big idea. And so I looked at a keynote Marc Benioff was doing about the platform and how you could not only use the Salesforce applications, but you could build custom applications on top of the Salesforce platform. Not only could you do that, but you could also do it with clicks not code. Just kind of point-click-create a custom object, move some things around on the UI, and boom a non-developer could create an application and deploy it and a hundred thousand people could use it the next day and I was like, oh my gosh, that is unbelievable.

Anthony: Gamechanger.

Eric: I just remember thinking. That is a big deal and it was before the term cloud computing was popular like it is today. It was before, you know, all those kinds of Workday and all the other applications came along and I was like that’s unbelievable. So I joined the company and I’ve been here ever since.

Anthony: It is interesting that the game-changer that attracts it’s also the philosophy we felt we needed to adopt. So we also developed our own software that plugs into Salesforce obviously, so plug-and-play and drag-and-drop so completely aligned with that. Now a large part of your career has actually centered one way or another around Marketing Cloud. How did that begin specifically?

Eric: So, in my different jobs at Salesforce. I remember I was in London and I came back to the States and I worked on our website back in 2011 and we had a Marketing Cloud at the time but it was just two small acquisitions company that was Radion6 which was a social listening and analytics company called BuddyMedia.

Anthony: Oh I remember the acquisitions. 

Eric: And they were like, ‘hey, will you work on Marketing Cloud’ that was kind of a new concept at the time, and I was ‘sure’ and I came over. I was like, well, these are two very interesting products. And by the way, we have some amazing leaders at Salesforce to this day who came from these acquisitions. So they’ve had incredible value on this company, but they’re very narrow in terms of the full scope of like Marketing Cloud marketing spans a lot of things. Social media tools and then one day in June of 2013 we announced the acquisition of ExactTarget and ExactTarget was you know, a huge player in email marketing and they also acquired Pardot which was a B2B marketing automation company and at the time it was our largest acquisition ever. It was like…

Anthony: 2.3$ billion.

Eric: Yes, something like that. People were like that is crazy that you guys are spending that much money on this company and, boy, that was really truly one of the most successful acquisitions this company has ever made.

Anthony: double-digit growth since then I think.

Eric: I’m sorry?

Anthony: double-digit growth since then I think.

Eric: Oh yeah, more than, very healthy growth. And it took us a long time, it was a publicly-traded company with thousands of employees and thousands of customers, but you know, it really pushed us in two dimensions. One, it made us a more credible player in marketing because email marketing as we all know it is the workhorse of digital marketing, and ExactTarget was deep very very large complex accounts with very very deep capabilities and scale. And so that was good and then it also pulled Salesforce towards consumer, kind of the consumer universe, in the past our earliest days we did B2B primarily B2B sales automation right sales reps selling to other companies and they needed a place to keep track of their accounts and contacts and leads and opportunities and cases, it’s very B2B. And then ExactTarget, and then some of our subsequent acquisitions like Demandware for Commerce and really pulled us in the direction of consumer marketing and so that has also had a profound impact on the company and the bigger we’ve gotten over the years the more we realized that most companies of size do both B2B and B2C and you need to have all the right tools in the tool chest to be able to engage customers the right way whether it’s you know, an accountant to contact an opportunity or whether it’s you know, what the consumer who needs, you know kind of a transactional email or in the email newsletter. So anyway back to your question, that’s ExactTarget and then we acquired Datorama and Krux and lots of other companies and so I was very close to that for many years, and only in 2019 did I leave the Marketing Cloud to take on the digital team and kind of restart to rethink our own digital stock team methodology and experience.

Anthony: This actually brings me to the next question. I saw that recently you were promoted to VP and GM of digital experience. So congratulations on that first, but could you tell us a bit more about the goals that come with a new title?

Eric: Thank you. I am just a small Cog in a very big machine here at Salesforce and I’m truly humbled to lead this team. We have got an incredible team. We are going to do some incredible things together. We have some big ideas that we’re excited to work on. Couple of things have happened over the last year for one and it kind of leans into this idea of a general manager. For one, I think Salesforce is like a lot of companies. We had marketing. Digital marketing capabilities spread out across many different teams and email teams in one org and analytics team in another org, a social team in a different org a web team development team in a different org like things were just kind of all over the place and I was sure it’s like this in many companies. So one thing we’ve done recently is consolidated not all of that but a lot of that into one organization where I now have the Architects, the Product Managers, and the Developers who are building the platform experience. As well as the production teams that are using the platform and the experience to run the business. Whether it’s the website or e-mail or some other areas and so we consolidated the large parts of the organization to give us a common it’s a V2Mom in Salesforce language, but a common vision and values and methods and you know the budget and all the things that come along with that.

Anthony: Oh, yeah. I’ve read the Trailblazer I’m familiar with the terminology but maybe for the audience, we’ll put the link of the video.

Eric: Great, there’s also a Trail on Trailhead about that. The other thing that we’re doing is that there is a big mantra that we’re going to build our digital experience Like we build our products. Right? Salesforce knows a thing or two about building software, right?

Anthony: Oh I’m sure.

Eric: And so. It was like we had teams building the Sales Cloud, the Service Cloud platform, and Marketing Cloud over here. And then we have teams building our digital experience over here in a very different way. And basically what we’ve concluded is let’s adopt all of the roles, tools and methodology used that we used to build our products to build our digital experience and that’s been a really simple but powerful guiding principle for us in terms of how we are organizing scrum agile teams. It’s an important concept for us in terms of the tools that we usually use an internal tool called Gus for building our products we’re going to use Gus for building our own digital experience and it goes all the way down into a lot of the org, structure, the roles, the role names, role definitions how we manage the roadmap, how we manage sprints, you know, we are fully adopting all of the Salesforce product team methodologies, wherever we can we will make exceptions if we absolutely have to but that Mantra has really helped shift the mindset for how we’re approaching our digital experiences. And by the way, it’s not just marketing experience marketing its marketing, its commerce its support. It’s helping training, it’s how we integrate with Trailhead and it’s how we integrate with the AppExchange. We have a really big vision for how all these things are going to come together in a more integrated and dynamic and personalized way vs. what you see out there today.

Anthony: It’s an interesting way, it’s like a great shift and in an interesting way somehow it reminds me of Toyota where I’ve seen shifts of what used to be silo being grouped into what they call customer experience similarly just like you guys can learn a lot internally from software making they are applying the techniques such as Kaizen and continuous improvement which also influenced Benioff’s thinking.

Eric: Yeah digital is moving to the front especially during Covid. You know, we’re in a time where there’s never been a better time to work on digital because in-person events are not possible in-person meetings are not possible flying around is not possible taking your customers golfing is not possible. The only thing really truly possible in 2020 is what we’re doing right now, which is a virtual experience through this recording but that should extend to all of digital and you know, I’m optimistic that things are going to turn and get better soon, but it’s really made digital the focus and Salesforce, you know is deeply committed to not impose our org chart on our customers which we do in many ways today, but we’re really investing to rethink all of its stack, the data strategy, and the front-end experience in ways that are centered around the customer and not around our org chart.

Anthony: You did touch on Covid-19 how did it actually impact how you personally organize your work?

Eric: Well, welcome to my home office. I live in San Francisco. I used to go to the Salesforce tower downtown every day. So we, like everybody, have been working from home. Salesforce has a very conservative approach to it. I haven’t been to the office since February and I don’t think we’re going to open our offices until the vaccine is very widely distributed and I’m up again hopeful that it will be sooner than later, but we had to rethink a lot of things we’ve gone through a lot of change. One of the interesting things for Salesforce was the recognition very early on that the world has changed and we need to change and I’ll never forget because Marc Benioff is so actively involved in so much of our every aspect of the business, you know, he uses the word relevance and if we’re out talking about our products and we’re not talking about Covid and the shelter in place and quarantine then we’re not relevant. We can’t pretend life is normal, life isn’t normal right now. So we’ve adapted our business in many ways, and we’ve adapted our message in many ways, and you know to be relevant in 2020 you have to be thinking about the impact of Covid, and quarantine some of our industries, the industries that we sell to are impacted. Profoundly in you know, if you’re an airline or you’re a hotel right now, if you’re not really, you know, thinking about a new CRM system, but if you are you know, a government rolling out, you know public service is whether it’s you know, relief or healthcare services or other vaccines we can help them with that and lots of other businesses are investing in digital right now and it does give us an opportunity in certain other areas. So it’s been a big year of change. We have adopted the org we’ve adapted our strategy and so far so good. So we’re looking forward to better days and hopefully, there are not too far out but it’s been impressive to see how Salesforce not only adapted our products but adapted to the company, the company itself to kind of recognize that this is a new reality that is now going to work. You know, we’re probably never going back to the prior world. I just want to give one final example of how well people adapted to working remotely. I think that’s going to have a very profound impact on office space, remote workers, our ability to recruit in places other than San Francisco, and how we’re going to think about, you know, distributed workforce forever, vaccines or not. I think that is going to really stay with us.

Anthony: Oh, I agree. I think some of these changes are going to stay for better or worse. I do think that now many countries are forced to think more digitally. They’re going to rethink the way they engage with their own teams or customers and overall. I hope it’s at least some more efficiency that extends into the future. Are there some tips and tricks of things that you found helpful? Like you mentioned earlier that you can’t take your customers golfing anymore. So are there other alternative ways of engaging with your customer or your own team that you found particularly helpful?

Eric: Oh that’s a tough one. I’ve got people on my team who are constantly going to try to find good ways to re-engage the team, keep them motivated to keep them connected. A person on my team just constantly organizes get-togethers that have nothing to do with work whether it’s cocktail-making or you know pasta-making or she’s been so many I can’t even think of them all but, you know, really trying to keep the team connected. She also does a wonderful job sending out physical, you know packages so that people can feel a connection. We are really gathering as a by policy now and so I think anything we can do we’re also working very hard to set expectations that we need to take care of ourselves. And we need to take care of our families as our number one priority and that should always be the case, but it’s never been more important during Covid. I tell my team all the time we’re working very hard but Covid is impacting us each differently. I don’t have kids, I don’t have sick parents, I’ve got a lot of flexibility in my life right now. I work with people who have very small children crawling all over them during meetings. I have co-workers with very sick parents who they’re trying to take care of whether it’s Covid or something else. The job one is in wellness and us being mindful of each other. And you know, I always tell people don’t wait for me or someone else to look out for your wellness. You have to set your own boundaries of what you are capable of doing during this very difficult time, especially for people with children who are homeschooling etcetera. Set your own boundaries and we will flex in and out around that and if you can help someone else who’s in a more difficult situation, that’s great, too. But I think you know if we can’t maintain wellness and by wellness, I mean mental health and kind of physical health. I personally prioritize exercise very very highly. I have it on my calendar. I’ll do it and you know if Stephanie our CMO or Marc Benioff wants something I’ll cancel my workout but it kind of has to come from that altitude for me to forego what I consider to be a personal priority. Not just physically but helps me psychologically get through such a crazy time.

Anthony: And if you stay well, you’ll perform well anyway.

Eric: Yeah, absolutely.

Anthony: And for those of you who aren’t in California we’ve had Covid, we’ve had crazy politics, we’ve had fires in California that were just darkening the sky with smoke and ash everywhere, and then we all have our own personal things going on. So, you know, it was, it was a challenging year and people need to be well above all else and we as the company need to make sure that that is the priority beyond that we can work out kind of what work we prioritize what we can get done what we can’t get done but that’s been another really key theme on 2020.

Anthony: I think it’s a great message, Eric. I’d like to switch back now for a moment to discuss the software itself throughout your career. You’ve been involved in different sales products. As you already mentioned. I was kind of wondering if there was something that sets Marketing Cloud apart for you.

Eric: So I was new, so Marketing Cloud. First of all is a broad umbrella of products including the DMP and Datorama, and lots of things. So that’s the first thing, I think you know, Marketing Cloud is not a specific thing. It’s a broad portfolio of products. Are you asking kind of the email of Marketing Cloud or are you asking about the whole portfolio?

Anthony: Well I find your answer in itself interesting because I think most customers think Marketing Cloud, they are thinking about Email Studio whereas of course there’s Datorama, of course, there’s a social studio that is connected to it, but we can focus on Email Studio here. 

Eric: Okay. Email Studio is part of Marketing Cloud and by far the biggest part of Marketing Cloud is really laying down the foundation for the CDP strategy that is a cross channel. Email, SMS, push notifications, custom audiences that we can advertise to, etc. All that comes from our friends in Indianapolis and ExactTarget and I learned a lot when we acquired ExactTarget. I learned a lot about email marketing. I was not in that space before I thought “email marketing how complicated could it be?” and it turns out there’s a lot to it.

Anthony: It’s really hard.

Eric: It is hard indeed. The power of Email Studio formerly known as ExactTarget is in the ability to set up relational data model to do very powerful scripting for personalization and to be able to do all the kind of deliverability things that you need to do to get an email into someone’s inbox and I didn’t really appreciate that prior to ExactTarget but you know if you’re a small corner, a pilates studio and you want to send out an email newsletter to your people, it’s probably not the right product for you. It’s way too complex for a very small business that wants to do very simple things. Where the product shines is high-end, higher complexity, data-driven personalized email at scale and that is the sweet spot for the product nicely into our broader concept of CRM where you know through the magic of Email Studio we can embed lots of data within an email from a kind of a CRM system or other places. We can include personalized content. We can include product recommendations and we can do all kinds of interesting things. So there’s still work to do on that product to bring it closer into the core kind of Salesforce stack. There’s work to do to make that product easier to use. There’s work to do to make it smarter and more kind of AI-driven around, you know, send time optimization or you know, multi-channel journeys, etc. But it’s a very powerful product and has been very successful. It’s got a huge following and we’re just excited to keep that investment going.

Anthony: And so are we since we build on top of it. Most viewers know we are DESelect. We offer a segmentation solution for Marketing Cloud and we are very happy to build on such a strong platform like Salesforce and be listed on AppExchange by the way. So here’s my next question being an independent software vendor or ISV as it’s known from the digital point of view. What role do you see the AppExchange and actually ISV partners in particular play in the years to come?

Eric: So you know, the partner ecosystem and extensibility of Salesforce products have always been incredibly core to who we are as a company. We provide as a company a base platform, we provide a base of applications, and then we have literally thousands of partners who customize or extend on the platform and solutions. We will never be able to do it all and so we invest in facilitating that kind of partner ecosystem. We want to drive awareness and drive to help you be successful in your business and we want to help our customers find the solutions that help them be successful in what they’re trying to solve. It’s always been near and dear to us. All of our partners on the AppExchange, which is like the equivalent to the AppStore and that team is very very busy working on a big vision for how to continue to make an AppExchange better for both partners and the people buying products from it. And so yeah Salesforce is also tripling down on our industry strategy and, you know, every permutation of every industry solution across Sales Service, Marketing, Commerce, etc. It is just something we will never attempt to do ourselves and our partners like you guys are critical for us to be able to help our customers succeed and what they’re trying to do. 

Anthony: Maybe a fun side story. Today I’m onboarding someone new to our team, he’s actually new to the ecosystem and he was asking so why do you guys exist actually? Well, I’m telling him that Salesforce is counting on us to fill this little niche needs because I think that’s the beauty of the whole AppExchange platform. You guys can solve so many different needs in collaboration with ISVs. But looking at your own offering and especially digital offering. What are the solutions that you’re currently excited about?

Eric: So Salesforce is very focused on this idea of Customer 360 and it’s been around forever but no one has ever really truly successfully solved it in terms of a package solution that companies can buy and actually deliver on and by Customer 360. We mean an actual single source of truth for every prospect and customer that a company has; it drives a more personalized experience on the front end across Sales, Service, Marketing, Commerce, and Custom Apps. As well as better insights and engagement on the back end with your sales teams, your support teams, your marketers, etc. And so that is our strategy as a company. To really build out a kind of core data model that allows you as a company to build a single view of your customers to build better experiences and better engagement. And so we in Salesforce digital are working on exactly what we’re saying, okay, where is our single source of truth? How are we stitching together lots of different back end systems into this kind of golden record that we can use to personalize the website, personalize emails as well as personalize, you know, ‘Hey, here’s some training that might be right for you, here’s a community group that might be right for you, here’s an ISV app that might be great for you’. So our vision at Salesforce digital is to put the customer in the center of everything we’re doing. Break up these walls that we currently have today and really understand who you are. Who you are, where you are? What industries you’re in, what segment you’re in, what role you’re in, and instead of you having to find a trail on Trailhead or a community group on the community or a nice ISV app in the AppExchange or an article on our blog what if we could just push all that to you and push that to you through our website, push to you via email, and other places. That is what is exciting today and we are working on that as we speak to build the truth profile to stand up our content in taxonomy internally to stand up our personalization engine based on another Marketing Cloud product called Interaction Studio and to surpass all that through kind of multichannel experiences. And that’s my work cut out for me for the next couple of years and we’ll see how this all plays out. But that is what I get out of bed thinking about every day.

Anthony: It sounds like you’ll keep busy for the next few years. I’m just trying to paint a picture here so if I’m a customer as you mentioned, I might be working multi-channel some of my activities might still be a silo. To be more concrete, I might be using paid ads on Adwords, I may be using Facebook ads are these also things that would be integrated into this CDP? 

Eric: So CDP is really kind of the data layer. We want to be able to create audiences. We want to be able to activate those audiences across channels and those channels include paid media. So yes 100% that you could also include email. It can also include the website and so yes, we want to be able to create experiences. That includes the website email paid media. As well as other channels as they come up. 

Anthony: I mean, it’s been a struggle even in our own company today to be honest. But I’ve seen that many clients when I was still a consultant of getting the complete full picture of a customer sure, you can maybe see like the lead source of someone coming in the lead form for a little bit better. You can even do a bit of tracking on the website, but what you want to know as the SAAS vendor, for each dollar I earn how much the paid ads did that contribute, how much the sales contribute, that’s so hard, it’s tricky.

Eric: So multi-touch attribution is a very very difficult problem. I’m as a practitioner think about that a lot. We have certain capabilities internally. We have some big gaps and I think we can close some of the gaps. I think that the frustrating thing with marketing is there are some things that are just not quantifiable and you just have to live with that reality as a marketer if someone comes to your website and then calls a sales rep. It’s very hard to attribute that back to the website. Some of the digital things that you can kind of associate a campaign and track it all the way through are more tractable. So I hear you I think marketing is both Art and Science and we want to get the science part. You know, we believe in science. We believe in data, we believe in data science and all the things we can do around that. There will always be a part of marketing that you can’t measure as much as you want and a more subjective part of marketing it as well.

Anthony: It’s very interesting. You’re the second person today to call Art and Science. Although the other person, he’s actually a CEO of a very large well-established ISV as well. He was talking about sales, It’s Art and Science. You can have as many KPIs and metrics but there’s a certain art to this profession in this case sales, but on the marketing side. I had the same discussion today with my co-founder like we should invest more in brand awareness. How do we measure that? Well, that’s hard.

Eric: We have those conversations every day at Salesforce.

Anthony: That’s a relief though that you’re facing the same challenges. It’s not just us. 

Eric: On the practitioner side so we have lots of challenges. We’ve managed to be very successful over time, but there are a lot of things that we’re not able to measure as well as we would like to in a perfect world. That’s said I think you just have to move on from some of that and you know, we can attribute how much traffic comes to the site where that traffic is coming from. Is it paid? Is it organic? How much of that traffic converts to a lead? How many you know, we have core offers, likes, free trial, view demo, contact me, inbound call, chat. Like we have a lot of metrics around those core offers. We can look at things like lead to opportunity conversion rate by offering, tight, and trace those from you know down the stages of the cell cycle down to an ACV which is our booking metric. So, you know some days I think oh my gosh, it’s so hard to really deeply understand all this, on the other hand, I think we have a wealth of data and we can optimize for that funnel which I don’t think was really possible 10 or 15 years ago. And so, other days I’m very thankful for all the incredible metrics we have and just now let’s use that and we can maybe AB test and optimize that forward. And we’ve been really successful doing that so just depends on which side of the bed I get out of each day to shape my thinking on that. It can always be better. We can always do better. It’s never done. But I’m also thankful for all the hard work the team does to provide us with the insights and the analytics that we got. 

Anthony: Maybe it depends on which time of the day it is, which side of the brain it is, do you want to have better branding, positioning, color schemes like even to that level, or do I want to jump into the lake of data and metrics we have, right? This one specific question that I would be interested in knowing more about personally. It has to do with paid ads because at least in my experience and with what I hear from other people who run SAAS businesses it’s sometimes hard to get the immediate return especially if you’re doing B2B Enterprise SAAS, but it seems to help especially with retargeting and so on but this is us comes back into the whole campaign attributions / multi-touch issue we just spoke about. Is there a way that you gauge the effectiveness of the Paid Ads yourself?

Eric: So we spend a lot of money on what we call paid media and it’s a critical part of our marketing motion to track traffic to the site that we attribute back to paid and then we can track it all the way back to leads pipeline and ACV and so yes, on one hand, we measure very closely because we spend many millions of dollars on paid media on the other hand. There’s always an argument from the paid media team that paid media has a larger benefit than what we can measure indirect attribution that they feel strongly and I understand this argument that paid impression or many paid impressions could lead to someone just typing www.salesforce.com in their browser and also they show up in our organic metrics and I totally get that and so we’re currently having a lot of discussion about this and we said well, let’s run some experiments in to see if we can quantify some of the best where we kind of turn certain things up and down and look at the downstream effects of things that we can’t do direct attribution on because we are literally spending tens of millions of dollars in certain places. It’s important that we have a kind of directional understanding of these things rather than just guessing.

Anthony: It’s literally worth finding out, I’d say.

Eric: It’s worth finding out, it’s a lot of money. And so we’ve debated some of the things for years and we’re like well, let’s do some tests and let’s accept the fact that you know, the test might impact the business in the very short-term, but that might give us an insight that will help us do the right thing for the long-term. And so we are literally in the middle of a large discussion about some of that right now and we are taking up some tests and we’re going to try to look at causality which is really hard to do because how long do you run it? How can we interpret the data? But we have some very smart people looking at this and we’ll see what happens. 

Anthony: That sounds super interesting, I can honestly say that. But as we round up do you have any closing thoughts that you would like to share with our audience?

Eric: No, I would just like to thank you for the opportunity to share our story. My goal is to be really transparent about our digital transformation at Salesforce. I’m happy to share what we’re doing. I’m going to try to share what’s working and what’s not working, try to share some of the things we’ve learned about the organization, the methodology, the tech stack, the design. I want to try to be radically transparent in our own journey. It is going to be a multi-year journey. So if you have any questions, or if you’d like me to post on a specific topic, I’m happy to do that.

Anthony: Okay, fantastic. For our audience are there any specific places where they should follow you? I know you’re very active on LinkedIn any other things that we should know about?

Eric: No, not really, I am not. I know I should invest more time and, I’m pushing my team on this, to instead of just cranking out a quick post on LinkedIn to actually do what I should do as a digital marketer, which is write a blog post that goes on our blog that drives traffic to our site that potentially converts to leads and opportunities to drive our business. And so I’ll say that giving myself a hard time, it’s just easy for me to open up Linkedin and write something out without really thinking about it. But that is where I want to go. I want to actually start blogging more formal communications about these things but haven’t started yet. 

Anthony: Well shout out to the audience, if you have any questions for Eric feel free to comment on YouTube, LinkedIn, wherever you’re following, and Eric the pleasure was absolutely mine. Thank you for being on this episode, and thank you so much for your time. 

Eric: Thank you.

Resources mentioned in the interview:

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How to boost your career with Salesforce Marketing Cloud with Kaelan Moss from Minute Admin

Find the links to the mentioned resources at the bottom of this page!

Transcript: How to boost your career with Salesforce Marketing Cloud with Kaelan Moss from Minute Admin

Anthony: Hi Kaelan, welcome to this series.

Kaelan: Hey there, Anthony. Thanks for having me.

Anthony: Well, you know my pleasure really we’re glad to have you here. Could you please introduce yourself to our audience?

Kaelan: So my name is Kaelan Moss also known as Minute Admin or people who are following my YouTube channel. I am a Marketing Cloud, basically Email Specialist, Consultant, Administrator anything you want to you know, anything besides the developer role. I’m also a Marketing Cloud instructor, so about a month ago I was actually certified as a Salesforce Marketing Cloud instructor.

Anthony: Congratulations!

Kaelan: Thanks, that was a very thorough process. I’m definitely glad to have that under my belt now, so that’s probably my most proud achievement right now in the Marketing Cloud spaces. Being certified by Salesforce having that stamp of approval to be able to teach their courses.

Anthony: That’s great. I’ve seen the courses, I’m a big fan. So we’ll make sure to put the link in the comments of the video. I’m curious though, the name Minute Admin. Where did that come from?

Kaelan: Yeah, that was actually, you know something that really just came to me out of the blue. I was in San Antonio at the time and I was thinking about how difficult it was for people to really grasp Salesforce. And really I’ve always been someone who enjoys videos over reading even though I do both but I started thinking about how I could make videos that would teach somebody a subject in a minute or less. And so I was like, I’m going to teach people how to be an Admin. Marketing Cloud Admin, Salesforce Admin, any sort of admin in a minute or less and that’s where that idea spark from. Showing them what they needed to know without spending years teaching them a subject.

Anthony: Yeah, I love it. It’s a catchy name too, so good pick. When did you start on your own SFMC journey?

Kaelan: I started in 2017. So September October of 2017 and it really started as you know, just kind of there was a need. I was kind of an accidental Marketing Cloud admin. So, you know, you hear those stories about accidental Admins for Salesforce, but that was me for you know for Marketing Cloud. So yeah really started in October of 2017.

Anthony: Why I must say it’s pretty impressive. You’re already an instructor sounds like you’re doing pretty good at doing this fast-track. So if anyone can teach people how to be an Admin in under a minute, I think you’re the guy so Kaelan are you working on any courses we should be excited about?

Kaelan: Yes, I’m glad you asked you know, I am working on actually putting together three courses into one bundle right now. So it’ll be like a full Marketing Cloud course which will help people get certified as Email Specialist and Marketing Cloud administrators. So, you know, there’s a lot of overlap between the two and I decided to just go ahead and put a course together and really just, design a course that shows people the Marketing Cloud system since a lot of people don’t have access to it, showing how to do things through video and also through documentation that I’ve created to show people what a data extension vs. a list is, what a data filter vs. SQL query activity is, Automation Studio vs. Journey Builder and when you would use one or the other as well as the study guide, so there are not many study guides for people.

So I started creating an Email Specialist study guide and Marketing Cloud Administrator study guides as well. So people have not only the types of questions they’re going to see on the exam but they’ll also have every single definition they need to know for each section of the exam. So yeah, that way people aren’t confused when they see certain jargon or lingo when they go and take the exam, they’re not confused as to what you know, what Contact Builder is or something like that if they’ve never been exposed to it and, we can talk about attributes in the study guide before they go and see that on the exam that way, you know, I’ve shown them that definition, I’ve told them what it is. I’ve also given links to the official documentation to go learn more about that and then for each section. I’ve done that for each section of each exam and then also given exam questions on top of that. So that’s just that’s the second piece and then I’ve also created 35 to 40 Marketing Cloud interview questions with exactly the types of questions I’ve been asked and what other people have been asked and should be there.

Anthony: Sorry, to interrupt you. These are interview questions for job interviews?

Kaelan: Yes, for job interviews. You know I obviously want to teach people Marketing Cloud but not just stop there. I wanted to also help people get prepared for a real world Marketing Cloud job interview. So one thing I’ve seen on LinkedIn a lot, you know in my direct messaging box as well as email messages. I’ve been receiving a lot of people want those interview questions once they understand Marketing Cloud. So I’ve gone ahead and just created about 40 interview questions and people can have access to that once they sign up for that course. So it’ll yeah, hopefully it provides a lot of value to people and they not only learn Marketing Cloud but they learn the types of questions that will show up in an interview.

Anthony: I’m sure and I also love the interview questions because you give a real world practical application also like the dictionary. I remember, gosh, when I had to study for these exams there’s just so much jargon. So it’s good to know that you’re doing this because several people on my team are getting certified, so, you know, I’ll point them in the right direction. In general, who can benefit the most from your courses and who are the courses for?

Kaelan: So it’s obviously for anyone starting out in the Salesforce ecosystem. What I really want people to understand is when you come into the Salesforce ecosystem, you don’t just have to go and be a Salesforce Administrator or a Salesforce Developer. Now that’s the biggest, you know, the biggest media hype I guess you could say whenever someone comes into the Salesforce ecosystem, but I really want to show people you can start off in Marketing Cloud.

So this course is really for beginners as well as people who may have already started as a Salesforce administrator and they’ve been working as a Salesforce admin, but they want to get another certification. They want to go get it, you know, learn that Marketing Cloud platform and really get Marketing Cloud certified so really anybody who’s not Marketing Cloud Email Specialist certified or Administrator certified, you know, definitely that’s who the course was designed for also, you know, the course is designed for people to you know prepare for a job interview as well, which is why I’m throwing in those job interview questions, so it can be a refresher for somebody who does have experience for Marketing with Marketing cloud and have a place to you know, refer back to is kind of like a one-stop-shop to really just basically learned everything when it comes to marketing cloud and refresh on their skills when it comes to Marketing Cloud.

Anthony: Yeah, staying with the topic of the interview questions for just a little bit longer. Is it something that people asked you about?

Kaelan: Yes, I’ve been getting a lot of requests. I’ve been getting, I would say, I mean just within the past two weeks I have 10 people asking me real-world interview questions. So I was like, you know, there was a point where I was just calling them on the phone or sending them one-on-one like just typing it up and say “here’s what I’ve been asked” that was like well if this is a need, you know, what are the people who aren’t asking me these questions struggling with and they may be struggling with the same things. These are just people who’ve reached out and maybe you found me or you know, were courageous enough to reach out to me and ask me those questions. So I just went ahead and you know I feel the need that I’ve been seeing is there and hopefully, that helps a lot of people.

Anthony: Great. I think it justifies good entrepreneurial instincts. And so you mentioned though the Specialist certificate you mentioned the Admin certificate. Will there be a Dev certificate at some point?

Kaelan: I hope to work with a developer to create that course, so I have been creating the courses that the Admin and the Email Specialist cert courses. I’ve also been thinking about how I’m going to create the consultant certification course, which will come up next after this but you know, my biggest thing is I’m not a developer. I’m not someone who knows Server-Side JavaScript and gets really heavy into the development tools like API. But I would love to co-create a course with a developer or with a team of developers and just really utilize the knowledge that we both have or maybe myself and a team have and come together and create a course like that. So that’s definitely on the horizon, but I will need some help with that.

Anthony: Well, I will do a little shout-out right now. If there’s a really good SFMC developer listening to this you know who to go to. I think it’s a good opportunity to co-create something that could be really useful to the community. Now going back to your own learning experience, you’ve come a long way, obviously, you justifiably an expert but how long does it take, let’s stay, until you feel proficient with Marketing Cloud?

Kaelan: I would say it wasn’t really until I started teaching it to other people and that was just you know, that wasn’t even Marketing Cloud instructor certification. I was really teaching this to people just out of pure passion and just helping people and I would say that probably took me about honestly a year-and-a-half maybe two years after I was using it every single day because it’s such a big platform, it’s such a big system. There’s so much to do and at my first job, I was actually using the entire suite of Marketing Cloud. So there was so much coming at me from all angles whether it was Email Studio, Mobile Studio, Interaction Studio, you know and Automation Studio, Journey Builder and I just I was kind of like, you know, what are they saying fire hydrant drinking from a fire hydrant?

And so it was pretty tough at first so it took me a while to really understand what I was learning and understanding how to put all of that together is probably what took me the longest but to the point where I would say I felt comfortable with it as whenever I started teaching that to people which was I would say about a year-and-a-half to two years after using it. But that was you know like I said that was because I was using the full breadth of the system from day one and it was just like where do I go from here? I didn’t have any guidance so there wasn’t a Trailhead whenever I first started. There was a Trailhead, but not for Marketing Cloud, and yeah and everything was just pure help documentation. So that was my dilemma, which is also why I created the courses that I’ve created so I could put it all into one place and not you know prevent someone else from having 70 tabs open like I would normally have when I was learning.

Anthony: You become proficient the moment you teach. I think therefore Marketing Cloud admin is probably a good role in teaching their company about the product and it’ll make them better admins. So your courses are very interesting, but what distinguishes a Minute Admin course from the others?

Kaelan: Like I said I’m making sure you understand the concept you understand what you need to know. I’m one of those people that you know, I watch a YouTube video and I’m like, let’s cut straight to the chase here. You know, I don’t want to see five minutes of you talking about why you created the video, you know, a really quick intro and then go straight into it.

Anthony: Right, when you google for a new YouTube video and then skip the first five minutes because they’re just talking about themselves.

Kaelan: Exactly, and that’s where I think I differentiate. I get straight to the point, you know, my courses are designed to just get straight to it. Here’s what I’m going to cover, let’s cover it. If you have questions here is documentation about it, you can also join the Facebook group. What I’m trying to do is build a community around people who are trying to learn Marketing Cloud, so it’s really… there’s a lot of communities out there. But there’s no one-stop-shop community where people can go that are specifically learning what it takes to pass these exams and to get a job in my courses. That environment, that community that people can join to really say, hey, I’m a part of this community. This is exactly where I need to go, this is the one place I need to be at I don’t need to have a hundred tabs open. I can be here to learn every single thing I need to know step by step to pass the certification without having to do a hundred Google searches for a data extension versus a list, you know, it’s all there for people who are learning. So yeah, it’s just it’s all put together.

Anthony: Actually, I’m going to jump at the one question I wanted to ask later, but 2020 been a pretty interesting year for the world so far I’m kind of curious have you seen a change in the way that your visitors on your website consume your courses given there’s a pandemic, has it changed?

Kaelan: It definitely has, it’s really crazy I didn’t really start doing this really heavy until the pandemic. Right up until I would say about a month or two before the pandemic. I started getting serious about teaching Marketing Cloud. So I don’t have too many metrics to go off of compared to pre-covid-19. But I will say that there are a lot more people who are interested in learning skills that they can use online. There has been an increasing demand for not only learning online but for trainers. Like before the pandemic I would tell people “Hey, I want to train Marketing Cloud. I want to teach Marketing Cloud”. That’s all I want to do. Like I can do an implementation that is cool. But I want to teach this to people to give them back what I already know and there was really not much interest for that up until the pandemic really because then there was this influx of people who are like hey, I want to learn this, and now all of a sudden they need to be a trainer to come over here in and teach these people and that’s the biggest shift that I’ve seen is beforehand learning and development. It wasn’t that big of a deal in terms of Marketing Cloud or Salesforce. But now I’m seeing there’s a big uptake and in the learning and development space.

Anthony: Oh, absolutely. I think you hit the timing just right on this. I also remember at the start of the pandemic even Salesforce themselves started to create more awareness about Trailhead and so on and then suddenly I saw a stream of people having their certificates on LinkedIn. Yeah, kudos well done. Maybe a bit more general just beyond Marketing Cloud even what do you think for marketers are the biggest challenges today given the situation? 

Kaelan: I would say really for marketers it’s relating to people, you know, focusing on creating a campaign that matter to people and not coming off like you’re trying to just sell the people, you know, the biggest thing that I’ve seen for marketers, in general, is there’s a push for, hey, we have email marketing for a reason we have products we want to sell these products to our customers but really, you know, the biggest thing I would say is to focus on helping the customer and making sure that you’re providing value, you know to your customer base to your subscriber base. I would say especially with the pandemic people are looking for how people are looking for ways to improve their lives and I would say if you can give them a way to do that with your product I would say you’re going to set yourself off for a lot of success. Because if you can help somebody get further in life increase their value increase their status, you know, especially in this in this day and age, I mean people’s lives have been changed completely some not so much some drastically and if you can come in and then provide any sort of, you know, positive help to that change, I think that’s the biggest thing marketers can do now.

Anthony: That’s great. And how has your life changed by the way?

Kaelan: It’s funny that it didn’t really change that much other than the fact that I can’t just travel anywhere I want to. You know working in the Salesforce ecosystem is amazing like you can work remotely, I’m sitting here in my room. I’m sure you’re sitting somewhere either at home or at the office, but you don’t have to go into the office and it’s not a requirement. So I would say, you know, that’s the biggest thing about Salesforce that I really was attracted to when I first started but it hasn’t changed much other than the fact that I’m not traveling as much with that freedom to work anywhere I want to.

Anthony: Yeah, pretty much we have been lucky enough to be allowed to go back to the office, you know, where I’m based in Europe. But, of course, yes less travel. But fortunately enough as you said in the Salesforce ecosystem remote work is definitely possible. I think you know being able to work with marketers, marketing automation specialists, and just work with technical profiles. It seems that it’s very ingrained into the culture in business.

Kaelan: Yeah, really is not and that’s the biggest attraction for me is out. I want freedom, you know, freedom to basically work wherever I want as long as you get the job done, you know, that’s what really matters.

Anthony: Freedom of space in a sense. I’d like to go back here to something you’ve mentioned earlier in the interview that I thought was very interesting. I think you said that in your first project you were exposed to all modules?

Kaelan: Yes, I was so I worked at a company in Basin, Oklahoma City and we had the full suite of Marketing Cloud. So I was using everything like mobile push like I would you know, I would test all the messages that we were sending to our app, I would set up the SMS campaigns, I would set up the email campaign, make sure that the data was set up correctly do SQL, dabbled in some AMP script some HTML literally like when I say that the reason it took me so long to learn Marketing Cloud is that I had to learn so many different, you know things.

Anthony: You did it all?

Kaelan: Yeah, I would go to conferences like Connections in Chicago, learn about Interaction Studio or Mulesoft and you know, come back and start working on that. So it was like we were using everything that we could possibly use to get the most out of the system.

Anthony: So, of course, I have to ask which module did you like the most, and which module did you like the least?

Kaelan: I would say honestly, I like Automation Studio the most. It’s not the prettiest tool. It’s not like Journey Builder, but I like Automation Studio the most. I’m someone who thinks in terms of, you know, creating the right processes like this board right here this these boards are literally just the processes of how I do things jot it down on the board and I’m, you know, trying to recreate the process to make it as efficient as possible. And I think when you do that and you put that into an automation tool, like Automation Studio your life is just so much easier as you can segment your data you can you know, just basically you can import your data segment it, you know, export your data, transfer all of that without you know having to do it every single day, you know making sure that the process that is correct. And I like the fact that I don’t have to do tons of data work every single day once it’s set up.

Anthony: Yeah, I can relate. And which module do you like the least and why?

Kaelan: I honestly, I couldn’t say what I like the least.

Anthony: If not a module, the feature is fine.

Kaelan: I’ll tell you one thing. I do not like it whenever you create a data extension, you can’t change the order of the fields. I don’t know why that hasn’t happened yet but ever since I first started in Marketing Cloud in 2017, I’ve messed up. I created a data extension with like 50 fields and I messed up on the order of 1 maybe like somewhere between 36 and 37 and I was like, can I go back and change this? And I was like, yeah oh gosh, you can’t go back and change that order. That’s what I dislike the most but hopefully, there’s an update to that soon.

Anthony: Or you create a DE and you realize field number 7 out of whatever has the wrong field format and you just don’t care anymore. You’re like, oh God, this is from now on this number field is going to be a text field. That’s the way it’s going to be from now on.

Kaelan: Yeah, that’s definitely the most disliked feature, but I can’t say I dislike any module or anything like that or studio or builder. Definitely that feature right there.

Anthony: Now about your favorite module Automation Studio, I’ve heard feedback a couple of times it is still pretty technical to what extent do you think that marketers today should become technical?

Kaelan: I do think that you know marketers should have some technical abilities in Marketing Cloud whenever we’re talking about technicalities obviously we’re talking about the whole system being a technical system. So you have to understand obviously the basics of Marketing Cloud and at least understand how you know how to operate Marketing Cloud, but what I tell people all the time is if you know pretty much where to click buttons in Marketing Cloud you can get 90% of the job done. Like you can it’s like going to Facebook if you can go to Facebook and you know, which group you need to go to if you can like if you know the step by step process to creating a page or a group in Facebook, you can utilize Facebook if you know how to add friends. It’s the same thing, you know if you just know where to go.

That’s what I tell people when they’re learning Marketing Cloud, they know where to go, know where things are at. And once you get their know what you’re actually doing when you press that button which is why you know Salesforce is so great because they’re all about clicks not code in so that leaves me into saying, you know, as far as technical abilities, I would say I do encourage people to learn some SQL as well as AMP Script and I don’t really go much further than that after that. They want to learn HTML Server-Side JavaScript, you can learn that but there are so many different ways to get around things like that. So which is what you guys offer the DESelect so, you know, that’s why I am not super big on telling people you have to learn SQL anymore because their solutions like yours are so great that allow people to continue to just know where to click and still get the job done.

Anthony: Thanks for bringing that up. You know the Salesforce ecosystem is very open. That’s one of the reasons why partners like it, customers like it, and obviously, we like it. Now you’ve had a try at DESelect as a segmentation solution so I’m kind of curious, what was your experience working with it?

Kaelan: I loved it. Especially, when I found out that you can create a resulting data extension in DESelect when I first used it I was like, okay, I’ve got to create this filter this, you know to create what would I need to create and then I realized I hadn’t created a resulting data extension and I was like, okay I’m going to have to either save this or delete all my progress leave out to exit out of DESelect go back create resulting data extension and it was like, “what do you want your resulting data extension to be named” and I was like, okay, this is legit because I mean you can do everything that you need to do with SQL with DESelect I was like if I had access to this when I first started off in Marketing Cloud the amount of “a” time I would have saved would have been like mind-boggling.

People would have been like, “how are you getting all this done that fast” that would have increased productivity also probably got me, you know some more recognition or something like that at my company because you know if you’re getting the job done extremely fast then people are going to recognize that be it would have just allowed me to also save time on having to learn “a” SQL and “b” refer back to SQL code and whatever just allowed me to do the same exact thing without having to learn that entire language to do it. It’s like I tell people all the time, you know like I’ve mentioned a little bit earlier if you get the job done, it doesn’t matter how you get it done as long as it’s obviously legal which good thing we’re doing is you know…

Anthony: We would assume this.

Kaelan: Yeah, it doesn’t matter how you get it done. And I think that’s the biggest thing people, especially through this pandemic are going to realize is that normal isn’t always the best, you know, you can adapt, you can overcome certain societal, I guess, societal norms and that’s just like a philosophical way of thinking about it, but that’s you know, also with your product DESelect is that you don’t have to learn a new language to get the job done. Like for example, you know, I don’t know if you got the new update on the iPhone, but there’s an app here on the iPhone if I could pull that but it’s like a translate app you don’t have to learn a new language to speak to people nowadays. You can just translate it on your iPhone. Technology has come so far it allows us to still do the same thing and get the job done without having to spend a ton of time learning how to do it. It’s just here now and that’s, you guys offer it’s something that’s here easy that you know easy learning curve, pick it up really quick, start working on it day one still get the same job done, you know, so.

Anthony: Thank you for sharing that and I do like the philosophical note that you left there. I guess obviously, it is so covid-19 pandemic has been horrible for the world and everyone in it, but it is anything good that it’s maybe that now we can think of more unconventional ways of getting things done remotely. Either at the way we learn and teach and maybe even how we do our own operations. To sum that up actually, not just DESelect but any apps on AppExchange in general do you think that people should have a look there and should also learn about and educate themselves about what apps are available there?

Kaelan: I think they should, I think that should come you know after they have an understanding of the platform and where they’re going to need to use it but for you know for somebody starting out learning the platform, but once you learn the platform definitely get an understanding of what is out there to help you make your life easier because at the end of the day if you make your job easier, you’re making your life easier. You know, I always look at it like this. I want to be the type of Marketing Cloud consultant that creates a solution that allows people to still get paid possibly even get paid more than they would normally get paid but by doing less work because your productivity is increased tenfold a hundredfold, you know, so if you’re still outputting either the same or more, you know output in less time, you still deserve to get paid the same or more.

That’s why I’m saying the whole societal norm is, you know, I think we’re so used to trade in our time for, you know, money. Yeah, and I think it should be the other way around. I think it should be you should be getting paid for what you produce and I think that you know, it’s important to know the tools that are out there that allow you to produce more. So if you can figure out the tools on that the AppExchange that allows you to get more done than in less time and without also, like I said “a” less time actually doing the activity “b” less time learning about how to use something difficult and just using a solution that’s already built to get the job done. I think that’s at the end of the day the only resource we can’t get back is time. So if you find a solution that saves you that, you know, you’re literally increasing, you know, I think life happiness overall.

Anthony: Oh yeah, I think it’s a beneficial thing for society obviously you’re increasing efficiency and I’m very much aligned on whether we should reward people on results and not just how much input they give. You know I think it’s a great note to end up with but are there any closing thoughts that you would like to share with our audience?

Kaelan: I would say the biggest thing is to stay hungry. Stay hungry for knowledge. Stay focused choose the niche you’re going to go into when you come into the Salesforce world Marketing Cloud is an amazing niche to come into, it’s only growing, I’ve heard regional managers, regional directors managers at Salesforce say “learning a Marketing Cloud is like becoming a brain surgeon” like you’re becoming so specialized and you’re going to be in such high demand. And everybody’s going to need marketing for their company so why not learn Marketing Cloud to get into this niche do that.

But also stay hungry to continue learning because, at the end of the day, we’re living in the information age. The more you learn the more you earn so that that goes back to figuring out which sort of apps you’ll need to increase your productivity. If you learn about an app, that’s because you put in the time to figure out which apps are going to help increase your productivity and more than likely going to earn more because you’re more productive to stay focused and stay hungry for learning. I think that’s the biggest thing in our society. There is so much that’s changing and it’s constantly changing especially in tech, but now the world is seeing that life is changing and if you don’t learn something new and you don’t adapt that I think it’s going to be hard to keep up. So learning is the best way to keep up. The powerful thing we have is our mind. So, utilize that that’s my biggest thought. That’s all I ever tell people. It’s to continue learning whatever it is that you know, you’re interested in yeah continue doing that right stuff.

Anthony: Yeah, so stay hungry, stay focused, keep educating yourself. Kaelan, I want to thank you so much for coming over to our series. Thanks

Kaelan: Thanks Anthony, thanks for having me.

Anthony: Our pleasure.

Video Recording: How to boost your career with Salesforce Marketing Cloud with Kaelan Moss from Minute Admin

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