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When clients start planning journeys in Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Journey Builder they are usually focused on the stakeholder experience they want to deliver. What are the channels they want to use, what should the creative look like, what is the main call-to-action; all important things that deserve time and deliberation.

While they are thinking and creating, there are things that we as implementation partners should be considering for our clients to ensure that technical issues don’t get in the way of delivering a great experience. These include things like the reliability and scalability of each journey.  Based on our experience with implementing Journey Builder for hundreds of clients, here are three uncommon recommendations that will help you deliver reliable and scalable journeys for clients and stakeholders. 

#1 –Bring Salesforce Data Into Marketing Cloud Before Using It

Always be able to see the data you are using. As service professionals we are responsible to our clients for the data we use in their projects.  In my opinion, if we cannot see it, we should not be using it. There are numerous ways to bring data into Marketing Cloud which we won't cover here. 

After you have the data in Marketing Cloud, look at it, and run a couple of filters to make sure it looks clean and has all the information you need for the journey. Then when you are ready to go, implement an automation with SQL queries to verify the records are meeting the client’s requirements.  Only then should you build the entry data extension. If you take the time to actually look at real data before you start building Marketing Cloud infrastructure around it you'll save yourself and the client lots of time and frustration down the road.

#2 - Use Update Contact Activities for Journey Builder Logs

A standard part of any journey should be the “journey log”. As its name implies, this is a record of when contacts reach each defined point in a journey. To make the most of these logs, combine the data extension with specifically labeled event fields and create an “update contact’ activity after each milestone activity. This will provide a clear insight for troubleshooting, and will help validate that contacts are moving through the journey as expected.

We also recommend a business unit level journey log that could provide a higher-level view of a record’s involvement in multiple journeys over time. Using journey logs at a business unit level can provide a valuable suppression tool to ensure that records are not in competing Journeys.    

#3 - Trust, But Verify - Live Test Your Journey

Salesforce has made some great improvements in their verification and testing tools for Journey Builder. That said, the tools are not perfect and won’t catch every potential problem. You can never really be sure how elements in the journey are going to perform without testing them. So, the best thing to do is to use your first version of the journey to do a live test. Create some test records, use an email address you can access and shorten all timed activities. Then run those test records through the entry automation and watch them flow through your journey. Once you are done you will be able to verify each record’s process and make sure the its behavior meets your expectations.

These are not revolutionary recommendations, but they are not commonly used because they take time and can make things more complex initially. However, implementing these recommendations will dramatically improve the performance of Journey Builder journeys, making them more stable, predictable and easier to understand and maintain. It’s hard to imagine NOT doing this for such a critical part of an organization’s digital infrastructure.

If you want to learn more or need help getting Marketing Cloud and Journey Builder up and running at your organization, KELL Partners can help. We’ve helped over 1,500 nonprofits and higher education institutions go faster and farther in the Salesforce ecosystem, and we can help you.  Contact us today.

Heather Ilsley McCullough is a 2021 Salesforce Marketing Champion.