4 Questions to Ask Before Installing Marketing Cloud Connect - KELL Partners
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4 Questions to Ask Before Installing Marketing Cloud Connect

When planning the installation of Marketing Cloud Connect to integrate Marketing Cloud with Salesforce CRM there are a few key questions to answer to avoid duplicating work and to keep your project on time. How you answer these questions will help determine the best timing for your installation and whether to start in a sandbox or not.

A Little Background on Marketing Cloud Connect

In case you’re not familiar with Marketing Cloud Connect, it’s worth a quick introduction. Marketing Cloud Connect integrates Marketing Cloud with your Salesforce CRM to enable three main areas of functionality.

  1. Send Marketing Cloud emails to Salesforce segments directly from the CRM.
  2. Track email engagement metrics at the contact level in your CRM.
  3. Allow Journey Builder to update CRM records based on certain milestones, and to listen for events or actions in the CRM to trigger specific journeys.

Marketing Cloud Connect is a managed package, but it’s not an “out of the box” feature nor is it available via the Salesforce AppExchange. As with any managed package, Marketing Cloud Connect cannot be migrated from a sandbox to production. You must reinstall it into production. Technically it is being “installed” because it is a completely separate install link from what was used for the sandbox installation.

Before you plan the timing of your Marketing Cloud Connect installation, make sure you have answers to each of these questions:

When Will You Create Key Metadata and Custom Fields?

If your CRM sandbox is still in its early development and you have yet to create or provision critical custom fields and objects, it’s likely too early to install Marketing Cloud Connect. There may be no tangible return on such an early install because the advanced criteria for building segments won’t be available for testing and training.

What & How Much Data Has Been Loaded or Migrated?

Even after metadata and custom fields are in place there is still a need for a realistic dataset closely resembling your production data in order to conduct any robust testing. Don’t just create a simple set of test records to get through a few basic test scenarios. This is one of the most common mistakes we see clients make in their testing and deployment processes. (See our blog post about loading data – Data Migration-Partial vs Full Loads.)

If an actual data load is not possible, you’ll need to construct and import a simulated dataset that spans contact records and other related data objects (ie. course and/or enrollment records in the Education Cloud or opportunity/donation records in the Nonprofit Cloud.) In the absence of this, installing Marketing Cloud Connect at this stage may not be worth the effort.

What Does Your Training Plan Look Like?

We typically advise clients to install Marketing Cloud Connect just before training begins. While users can learn how to create an email or template without this integration in place, they won’t be able to actually send an email to a Salesforce CRM segment. Unless you’re ok with a sizable gap in your training schedule, you should plan to install Marketing Cloud Connect before you begin training.

How Do You Plan To Use Journey Builder?

Be aware that any journeys you create in a sandbox environment do not seamlessly transition to a production environment. Because a Marketing Cloud business unit can only connect to one CRM org at a time, moving to production requires that you first disconnect from the sandbox. When you connect to the production CRM, you’ll have to reselect any objects and fields used in Journey Builder decision splits.

This doesn’t technically affect the timing of your Marketing Cloud Connect install, but rather how far you go in developing journeys before installing to production. If you create a lot of complex journeys in a sandbox environment, you’re signing up to redo all that work in production. This leads to the question of where you should initially install Marketing Cloud Connect.

When to Skip the Sandbox and Go Straight to Production

If developing complex journeys in Journey Builder is a key reason that your organization is adopting Marketing Cloud in the first place, you may want to skip the sandbox and install straight to production. Many of our clients are in this exact situation, and are anxious to get started developing and testing journeys right away. In this scenario, we strongly recommend clients start in production.

Starting in production helps avoid duplicating work in Journey Builder but it doesn’t eliminate the need for testing. You’ll need to create a test dataset in production that is “real enough” to use for rigorous tests. You’ll also need to devise a way to avoid using production data for your tests.

Here are a few suggestions for testing in production:

  1. Make sure your dataset includes objects that will be relevant for creating segments for future email sends. This would include applications, enrollments and courses for educational institutions and donations or event registrations for nonprofits.
  2. Create a custom checkbox field on the Contact object (or any other critical object in your test dataset) to clearly identify records to be used for testing. We suggest a super-creative name like “IsTestRecord”. You may also want to restrict visibility to this field or make it read only for most end users.
  3. Use this test flag to build relevant sharing rules, filters, etc. during the training and testing cycles. The goal is to significantly restrict the availability of non-test data from the CRM to Marketing Cloud.
  4. Be sure to use a few test email addresses that are outside of your organization (gmail, yahoo, etc.). In a few rare cases, your corporate firewall may block email appearing to be from its own domain, which in effect is what happens when a subdomain is delegated to Marketing Cloud for sender authentication.

Ready to Get Started?

The questions of “when” and “where” to install Marketing Cloud Connect are more complex that you might initially think. If you’re looking to get started with Marketing Cloud and Marketing Cloud Connect, KELL Partners can help. We’ve helped over 1,000 nonprofit and education clients get started and go farther and faster with Salesforce and Marketing Cloud. Contact us today!