Watch the previous episode of Heroes of Marketing Cloud here.
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Anthony: Hi Michiel! Welcome to this series.
Michiel: Hi Anthony, nice to meet you again.
Anthony: Always a pleasure for sure, I’m very glad to have you here today with us, but… we already know each other, but for our audience, could you please introduce yourself?
Michiel: I’m Michiel van Gaalen, father-of-three, married to Emily living in the Netherlands in Utrecht, near Amsterdam in daily life for my work I’m a freelance Salesforce consultant, application architect. I’m also a baker together with a brother of mine, I bake ‘worstenbroodjes’ in America they would call it pig in a bun. And as a freelancer I’m currently working for KLM and in the past I worked for the Dutch ‘yellow pages’, the lottery and Sanoma and also for a lot of agencies, so that’s my professional background.
Anthony: That’s quite a background for sure, now a lot of your work has to do with Marketing Cloud. Can you tell me how your own SFMC journey has started?
Michiel: To be honest that started not with Marketing Cloud. I started in 1998, 1999. I started my first email marketing agency RapidSugar. For me, I’ve always been half marketer and half tech guy, even in the time, back in the day when you said you were an IT guy. That didn’t do well at parties.
Anthony: It wasn’t very exciting.
Michiel: No, no. It’s like an accountant, boring. Don’t have any stories to tell. Back in the day, my motivation was to be able to measure people’s behavior, being able to report on that, see the effectiveness, and what’s from the campaigns. At that time, we would do mass mailing, mass emailing with a little personalization and we already reported on clicks, everything you can report on… an email opens but really just to look in measurements you had to do more than just send the email and store who you send it to so over the years oftentimes I built systems or created systems that close that loop where you can report if there was an actual transaction taking a place after a click for example or value developments of the customer base so my mission was always to use traditional guided marketing concepts and CRM concepts and put them into a linear space and usually that was a lot of work, a lot of manual work, a lot of programming. To be quite honest email marketing has been dead until 2015, 2016. So everyone is doing it but the recipients who we were doing it with didn’t have a lot of evaluation [editor: value] in that.
Anthony: Just blasting you mean?
Michiel: Blasting, maybe better building of the content and the tools but in terms of connecting data and connecting all kinds of systems together and closing that loop there was no real development. Up until, there’s Marketing Cloud you have the IBM with Uniqa, there was Adobe a larger enterprise market started building systems that would take into account all data Salesforce servers and Marketing and they would be able to integrate that also on your website and build smarter marketing campaigns and that’s… I’ve always worked with a lot of systems but I also found out that area was becoming so complex that it wasn’t enough just to have a generic view of how these things operated. I really felt the need, if I was able to explain what I do as a freelancer. I really need to be specialized in one of those systems and Salesforce was you know from all the systems, you know, they all lie about how integrated they are and Salesforce was lying the least.
Anthony: Well, I do like the good Dutch political incorrectness – much appreciated.
Michiel: I’m still amazed by the better job they are doing but it has come a long way.
Anthony: For sure. There’s actually one thing you said that to me having a background in psychology that stood out. You said you’ve always been interested in measuring people’s behavior and see how it can be influenced. So, where does that come from?
Michiel: Well, I did marketing background and specially direct marketing and that’s what we did during studies but mainly by analytics so in regular direct marketing you would send out postal mail and we would expect certain kind of behavior and we would measure usually after months looking back into their customer database. And see what happens and make the assumption that our campaign was the campaign that influenced that specific piece of behavior. There’s no act because of education. And I like pushing people’s buttons so
Anthony: You like pushing people’s buttons, so listeners beware. I find it interesting though. It’s interesting to understand a little bit better the history of marketing, I think, even as a digital marketer as a technical marketer. Just recently I was reading the Boron Letters. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but it’s all about direct postal mail, kind of curious, because you’re doing all these systems these days, do you think there’s still a place for postal mail in today’s marketing?
Michiel: Maybe more show now, because who is expecting to get something through the post, if it’s about attention and getting the attention that’s the canal you should incorporate. And the fun thing now you can… maybe that’s also good for Marketing Cloud for Journey Builder activity, there are postal services they got API, in your automated campaigns send a postal message a card you can leave some picture and the text you have to merge in that would go out. I would be amazed if I would get that.
Anthony: Oh yes, that would be great, I mean so much I comment on this one. We are talking actually with a Swiss insurance company that still wants to use our product to segment their data and the output has to go to direct mails. On the other hand, I’ve actually been toying with this idea of doing a direct mail campaign for our own company. So I’m glad that someone like you said “mhm, that could work”. So I am already backing myself up to this idea.
Michiel: So that is one, but maybe if you were to ask my kids… I saw an envelope yesterday laying in the kitchen from my elder son, he’s 18 and it was from the IRS, our tax service company, and he was taking money from the IRS, he’s getting a refund, but he just didn’t notice, he’s not waiting for the mail. We put it on the counter, but he’s just not looking at it, so..you have to test probably. So the older people are more responsive to direct mail than the young ones.
Anthony: Oh there’s always know your audience, right?
Michiel: yeah, and test.
Anthony: So you have extensive experience both in email marketing and tech, so I suppose you feel pretty at home with SFMC right now.
Michiel: Yes, that’s a sweet spot for me, yeah.
Anthony: So asides Marketing Cloud, you also became a certified Salesforce application architect. Can you explain to our viewers what that means?
Michiel: Okay, so you probably know the certifications for Marketing Cloud developer and consultant and now it’s the basics you need to level up to demonstrate your …. The next one in Salesforce, maybe it’s hard to imagine from the Marketing standpoint. First there was Salesforce Sales Cloud and Service Cloud, already I believe since 99, so that was first a CRM a contact and a funnel in the market as a Cloud solution, which was weird, because back at that time you want to have functionality or a program you want to install something on your computer, but they were the first cloud base, I think, that was nice, but you also have certifications for that and if you think, Marketing Cloud is complex, depth, and they have a double approach of how you should go further.
The top-level, the top dogs in Salesforce Marketing Cloud in Salesforce CRM are certain technical architects. I think there are 250 worldwide and they really know everything about the platform. You have two streams to achieve that level. One is Application Architect and that’s more on a functional side of the system so to know the features and the data structure. And there’s also the system architect, but that’s more the development process and programming side of Salesforce. If you have both those architect exams you can apply for Technical Architect, I did, not only the knowledge you need to have but also extensive experience. So on the one side of that pyramid I’m now the application architect, but I need to be way more technical to be able to apply for Salesforce Technical Architect that’s not in my scope now. I really enjoy the functional and business side of things. I assume Application Architect that really broadens how you look at the solution. So it’s easy to say that there’s a feature for this and start using it but as an Architect, you also have a new how the backend of the system works and how it impacts … limits of the system. Maybe on the long-term of the application development, yeah, the Architect, a few I really like.
Anthony: Well you mentioned, it gives a view on how things work and how it should work long-term back end. Were there any takeaways or things that surprised you as you did this?
Michiel: In relation to Marketing Cloud what really surprises me if you deviate and it’s probably normal for Marketing Cloud, if you deviate from the standards, then for the long-term things some things can’t work for example Marketing Cloud Connect, Marketing Cloud Connector, and you did some odd things with accounts and contacts, or personal accounts then it wouldn’t function the way you expect it to do. And that’s what Salesforce architects work, a lot of the work is also integrations. That’s a very important one for us. That’s kind of surprises me, for me the whole new domain was get my PD1, platform developer 1 in which I learned Apex I did a little bit of programming but that’s not usually what people hire me for but that was really educating also really useful, because now I’m able to make quick demos and do more fun stuff or understand what developers I work with are actually doing.
Anthony: Right, so you can challenge them?
Michiel: Yes, they take me more seriously now.
Anthony: But what I think is what you said staying close to standards is really maybe a little bit counter-intuitive, I also experienced that in the previous projects where. I mean the power of Salesforce is just so recognizable especially if you go that route over time you will miss out on the releases that overstand that functionality.
Michiel: Yeah, that’s important to take into account also if you just stay within Salesforce Service Cloud it’s the same way if you deviate sometimes there is functionality that you can use that fits 90% of your use case and there are companies that say well we want it to fit 100% so we going to build that functionality ourselves. If you do that then future updates of that functionality won’t be for you and that’s a shame so… I think the downside of a system that serves the general purpose.
Anthony: So something entirely different, in your intro you also referred to a bit of unusual business you ride on the side, I think the English translation is pigs in blankets is that right?
Michiel: Yes, pigs in blankets
Anthony: Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Michiel: I usually find that work shouldn’t be everything in your life, there should be more that is for you and for me I’m usually really occupied with my work so I really needed an additional activity besides sports that I could use to empty my mind and baking. Baking things for hours, that was something that I picked up. Sometimes I cook at other restaurants. One time I was, I don’t know the English word, patissier, the person who makes desserts and bread in the kitchen, it was a Michelin star restaurant it was one day working with one of those guys. I really sprouted my love for baking bread and pigs in blankets or “worstenbroodjes” is a very traditional thing in the province I come from and I’m not living there anymore so I decided that for myself.
Anthony: The heartaches?
Michiel: Turned out that there are a lot of people missing that pigs in blankets, so I started making it in a professional way so now we do between 2000-5000 pigs in blankets a week and we also bake a Bossche bollen, I don’t know how to translate that.
Anthony: I don’t think it can be translated. Serious business for sure.
Michiel: I’m totally e-commerce. We don’t have a chef, we deliver it at home, and for me this is also kind of a playground to do all the marketing things my customers once didn’t allow or some sort of new features of Facebook or Google. I like to play around with that, so this way I know what’s happening at that place.
Anthony: Interesting, have and try them, I would recommend for the listeners in the Benelux area who can order it. I don’t think that you ship to the US, so our viewers there can be a bit disappointed but.
Michiel: We’ll put the link in the short notes.
Anthony: Oh yeah, sure, we’ll do that for sure. Let’s go back to the Marketing Cloud for a moment though, because asides from all the things that you’ve already mentioned you’re also running a Salesforce Marketing Cloud user group in the Netherlands, so what is that all about?
Michiel: Yes. Well that started I think 3 years ago at that time the user group wasn’t that big in the Netherlands there was hardly any documentation or things online that you could share knowledge with people so I thought I’d like to have a beer sometime every once in a while, so people who are users, I started writing down I did that for a year I note down all the companies that were using Marketing Cloud which I overheard in Salesforce which I found online and I invited them for … I don’t know if you’ve been to the first one?
Anthony: I don’t think so I’ve been to a couple of them and they were pretty big already.
Michiel: Okay, so now we serve between 30 and 60 people per session. We started and we still want that to do, but because of the Covid that a bit difficult, but usually, we start we have food we always have nice foods we have one or two speakers and of course beers afterward and the fun thing here is that it’s a very social group, people come to talk to their peers. Lots of consultants, agencies, developers also end clients. I think it’s one third and it all mixes and mingles and can talk to Salesforce and all kinds of other things. Currently, because of the Covid, I’m really hesitant to do a live session.
Anthony: I was about to ask, how has that shift been?
Michiel: I always have my room set up to do record sessions. One thing we’re doing. So we had our third online session and the first two times we organized it through BlueJeans we also had Beffy virtual platform we organized that one. I must say it’s different, because the social part is less it’s more on the content, what we also see is that fewer people are actually attending We have really high numbers, 60+ also from abroad so that’s nice, a wider audience so that means you could have more niche topics because we get audience anyways. What we also see is that live attendance is also lower and the no-show rate is higher than what we are used to.
Anthony: I guess there’s a lower threshold to attend so they don’t have to move.
Michiel: Yeah and it’s just a Zoom so you don’t have to be embarrassed to get up [and present]. What we do see because we publish the recordings, they make up for the missed attendance a little bit, it’s also a long tail of content so that’s I’d like to have more people live because that’s good for discussion, but they try to rewatch it anyway which was kind of surprise for me because I don’t know how it is with you. There’s a lot of sessions that you miss as well? You’re a no show as well do you watch the recordings afterward?
Anthony: I have so many recordings bookmarked. I do have to say that the sessions you guys are hosting are very very good and you have very catchy headlines so I try to attend it or re-watch it and if I don’t re-watch it I distribute it to the company here so…
Michiel: The headlines come from… last year I attended Salesforce Dreamforce and there was a community group leader session, they organized for all the group leaders worldwide and someone got a prize for the most catchy headline so I was like that’s for the next year.
Anthony: I want to have that!
Michiel: Yes, I really focus on the titles now.
Anthony: You mentioned roadmap, do you have any other things on your user group road map so to speak?
Michiel: For me, one of the next sessions would be on careers. A lot of people are entering the job market at the moment, I also hear from other freelancers that every freelancer does a lot of different jobs, and oftentimes it’s hard to be very specific in what you do, and to be recognized you need this person for this type of thing. In the past I did mobile marketing, online marketing, develop mobile apps, all sort of consulting, business intelligence I couldn’t explain what I did and I think a lot of freelancers have the same feeling and a lot of professionals in the market as well, so this gives a little bit of a recognizable profile for people, sessions on career planning and educating yourself on Salesforce and Salesforce Marketing Cloud that’s what I like to have a session on. Usually, what I do now people ask me and I do one-on-one sessions but that also takes a lot of time. Maybe I can record the session and just send the link.
Anthony: It’s a form of e-learning, right? Actually, since you brought up Marketing Cloud career planning is there some piece of advice you have for people who have just started with SFMC?
Michiel: Get certified, that’s the way to start, the basics is email specialist, for people having a background in email marketing is fairly easy, if you also want to do migrations, implementations and consultancy it’s a must-have, but that on a knowledge side. Attending the user group is important, especially mine of course, but there are other user groups and that’s a good thing that everything is online now. There are some user groups that do really good sessions London one and Melbourne are very good, and there are lots more. So that’s important and there are a couple of web blogs that write about how to do things in Marketing Cloud, HowToSFMC, you probably already got that. I would suggest following the authors of those web blogs on Twitter because Salesforce has a very active Twitter community.
I stopped using Twitter until I started specializing in Salesforce. I follow not only authors but Salesforce MVPs. Those are people who demonstrated a lot of skills and they are also very…they are very easy to reach out to and they are really willing to help you with any question you have. And for Marketing Cloud you can search for MVP and Marketing Cloud and you’ll probably have a list of 20, I don’t know, who you can add who also publish regularly. How did it start for you?
Anthony: Oh, Marketing Cloud experience, actually, I came from the Pardot side, originally my first CRM project was even Veva so the pharma vertical built on top of Force.com and then Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Force.com projects, apps from AppExchange and then eventually Pardot and I really liked the marketing automaton, so then kind of naturally, first you’ve done a few Pardot projects and then Marketing Cloud comes up, but then you realize very quickly it’s an entirely different beast and that’s how that started really, and then doing Marketing Cloud projects. Along the way, we realized “mhm…segmentation probably we can provide something for it”.Voila! DESelect.
Michiel: That’s really something that is missing, but it didn’t prove my SQL skills up until you came then. And Pardot, I did some with HubSpot, but I’ve never worked with Pardot before. I’m really looking forward to doing a project in the future with Pardot because that is kind of a different game in the Marketing Cloud spectrum.
Anthony: Absolutely, and now it’s been two or three years since I touched the product and I’ve seen release popups all the time and I’m sure a lot of capabilities have been added, but when it all as started a lot of the things were out of the box, the main thing with Pardot was understanding, just like with Marketing Cloud, how the Connector works. And in the case of Pardot, it’s almost like the extension of Sales Cloud the way it works now it’s more geared to B2B marketing, not completely true, you can do B2C too it’s more of a positioning statement but having said that it is usually used for B2B linked to Sales Cloud and it’s more about understanding how my leads are going to go to Sales Cloud how that links to a Lead or Contact. Because, for instance, if someone is already known as a Contact in Sales Cloud and then that someone submits a form that information would be updated on Contact record it would bot generate the new lead, so you need to re-think your lead management process.
Michiel: Which is complex enough already.
Anthony: Well, I can share the templates that I used to use after I have figured it out after one or two projects. The structure works pretty well, was even completely manageable with structures like process builder in Force.com so it was still drag-and-drop configuration, so it was fine. I mean we can take that offline. Given your extensive experience, I would be interested to learn. What were the Marketing Cloud projects that you were most excited about?
Michiel: I think it was the beginning of my work at Marlies Dekkers. There was an e-commerce and retail operation, but they sell luxuries in their stores and on their webshop and through partners, they usually have excess stuff and twice a year there’s a stock sale. Marketing Cloud they use for their email marketing they have Service Cloud that’s their customer base, that’s the customer 360 exists there, that’s their master database. Their service operations use those to handle customer service.
For the stock sales, they usually have space they rent with a limited number of people that can be in that room like shops work nowadays as well But for stock sales, you need to register for specific time slots in those stores and we built a campaign, a Marketing Cloud application, where people could register also do some follow up with Journey Builder emails and also reminding people that they needed to attend a couple of hours before also we did registration at the venue so people could bring their QR codes, we could scan them, Marketing Cloud can generate QR codes, one of the things I learned. But the fun part of the project was for the non-marketing cloud people involved in the project so we had people managing the venue capacity, because customers needed to see who registered, who didn’t, people unregister or tag a friend so all management of that side we would do in Service Cloud.
We created a special management app, extended our service operations as well, so people with their mobile phones could manage those processes that were there up until senior management who had dashboards on their phones.
Anthony: From mobile? They could manage that way?
Michiel: Yes, they could also see how many people registered that day for example, and management usually used to call every hour how we are doing. That’s the fun thing because you’re really used to the platform when it’s on your full screen. You have the server and Marketing Cloud and use the integrations that they offer that’s really nice.
Anthony: Alright. Asides from success stories I’m also convinced personally that we can learn from each other’s failures for sure. And I’m sure many of our viewers agree so if you don’t mind me asking. Could you share the biggest or one of your biggest fails with us and of course how did you manage that?
Michiel: Usually its features not functioning the way expected in Marketing Cloud and actually having mitigated the risk of finding out the new things. One of the things that happened fairly recently. Having started the Contact deletion process and a lot of Salesforce clients have been notified to exhibit the number of contacts you have in Marketing Cloud, I see you laughing.
Anthony: Yes, that sounds familiar.
Michiel: And they requested us to reduce that number since I think 2 years, there’s a process I think is called contact deletion. That based on the subscriber id will go to the entire Marketing Cloud org, to delete every instance of that Subscriber id in the system. So really powerful and if done well, it could reduce your contact count, what they also offer Is data extract on the people without the channel reference. I’m making this art too technical, but we started the deletion process and we deleted far more than we expected. What I learned that…
Michiel: We did tests, but we didn’t account for every scenario. So, we should put more effort into thinking up the testing parts. Also, these kinds of things we need to do in maintenance. We are always up and running and we didn’t have any maintenance at times. That’s kind of the way it worked, and we need to accumulate before we do this kind of structure of things. That is basically a lot of bad nights, but luckily because we have the data served in Service Cloud, so it has just refreshed in the end.
Anthony: I was just about to ask, were you able to retrieve them? Because normally it shouldn’t be possible.
Michiel: Yeah, in that way Marketing Cloud is a slave system. You cannot delete anything, there are sync processes that run and it will just re-enter the system, but some people got kicked out of the journey so that’s not a good thing.
Anthony: That actually ties a little into what I was about to ask next, what did you wish you knew about Marketing Cloud as a platform when you just started out?
Michiel: Mhm, what I wished? A couple of things. You can’t do implementations if you don’t have the experience. So, also in selecting a partner… I have a ton of experience installing email marketing systems and CRM systems, usually, it gives me the documentation I’ll read up on testings and I’ll manage. In Marketing Cloud you can take so many bad decisions that will come back to haunt you in the later stages, that it’s not funny. So you need to, obviously, have someone by your side, who is experienced in that type of process. And one thing to name is, back in the day it was really documented, but you cannot have an email address as a subscriber id, that’s not a wise thing, especially in the situation where you have Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud. These are the stupid thing you…
Anthony: Because it would duplicate the number of contacts I suppose.
Michiel: Yeah, that too, but it doesn’t sync the data back for example to Service Cloud. So if you wanted to see on a contact which emails did he receive or she, what was clicked, what was opened. If you used an email address as a Contact Id, but the sync process doesn’t work and that wasn’t documented properly at that time. Now it is really stated in the documentation. Yeah, that may be good, back in the day, I got my consultant certification by just reading all the help files so there was no Trailhead no trial environment just the production environment of the client. So yeah, that came a long way. That was four years ago, so that seems…
Anthony: Yeah, that might be tricky, and at least you had the production environment. I know people who had to get certified without even having access to Marketing Cloud in the first place.
Michiel: I don’t think that it’s very wise.
Anthony: Alright, that’s great advice, asides that do you have any closing thoughts that you would like to share with our audience?
Michiel: Yeah, maybe a bit more generic. Depends also on your role but in my role, I usually have a lot of contact with people who are responsible for the CRM and the campaigns that are running on the Marketing Cloud platform, and what you see is that they are running a very operational business, but do not concern themselves too much with the improvements. There are a couple of reasons, they don’t have strategic planning. So they run the campaigns and they worry about whether the campaign will go out in time but they don’t plan for all the lifecycle of campaigns what can be improved and which campaign do we need to focus on. And usually, I introduce them to a prioritization method called the pie score, potential impact of modifications, to think about what you can improve and how you can prioritize that to make a kind of a program a road map on how to bring your marketing to the next level. And also what goes hand in hand is, think beyond the click, so a lot of marketers are really pointing at open clicks that are the metrics they do, and then maybe they report to sales in the website reporting tools in Google Analytics for example. But the effects you normally have with your marketing usually extend just the direct sales resulting out of that email. For Marlies Dekkers for example, it’s store visits. Then if you just look at the engagements of the emails that’s not enough you need to have other metrics, use a very old-fashioned method called RFM, Recency, Frequency, Monetary Value to segment your audience to see how the value development is.
Anthony: It’s all test and proving. I think many companies still do use it.
Michiel: Yeah, but there’s one more method that I see lots of marketers many also at bigger companies really rely on their agencies to serve them on the Marketing platform and they don’t have the knowledge of their own SFMC platform, so they know it can send mails and it can do also certain things, but by increasing your own knowledge you’re a better partner also for your agencies. You can steer them towards new features for example or you can challenge them on certain things you become a better marketer if you also know the tech side, the actual side of the tool you are working with.
Anthony: Completely agree with that! That’s great stuff and tons of great advice out there, I feel like we could continue there but our time’s up for today. So I really want to thank you so much for being on the series.
Michiel: Okay, well, nice to talk to you thank you.
Anthony: Alright, bye.
Michiel: Bye, bye.
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