Creating Cross Channel Journeys: How To Combine Print and Digital in Journey Builder - KELL Partners
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Creating Cross Channel Journeys: How To Combine Print and Digital in Journey Builder

Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Journey Builder is a great way to set up automated and customized communications flows to connect with students throughout the recruitment and admissions processes.

Your institution is probably already communicating with students across multiple channels including email, SMS text and print/direct mail. The great thing about Journey Builder is that you can create journeys that incorporate all of these channels of communication directly within your marketing automation tool.

In this post, we’ll describe three real-world examples of how higher ed institutions have created journeys that include print mail either indirectly or directly into Journey Builder. We’ll use the admissions process as an example, and will focus on the formal offer of admission. This is a moment where you can showcase your school’s unique culture while demonstrating to prospective students that you’re making a real effort to impress them.

The process of offering admission may look something like this. Today, you send emails and letters at about the same time with offers of admission. Then you wait some period of time for the recipients to formally accept their offers.  Those who formally accept are progressed into a different process. Those who haven’t accepted their offer are sent another letter.

If we want to replicate this process in Journey Builder, how do we incorporate the physical letter into the journey? There are three options to achieve this with varying levels of integration.

Option 1: No Integration

The first option is “no integration”, meaning print and digital campaign elements are completely separate and do not work together directly. You can, however, make these two channels work together indirectly if you build your digital journeys with an offline print process in mind. The best way to do this is to use Salesforce campaigns and a Wait step in Journey Builder as shown in the diagram below.


Journey Builder sends Email 1 and then adds each contact to a Salesforce campaign with status = ‘Email_Sent’. The journey then includes a long Wait step to account for the offline print process. After the Wait step, students who haven’t accepted their offer are added to another Salesforce campaign to be used by the offline print process again.

The offline print process requires that someone download a list of campaign members and format that list to send to the print shop. You’ll also want to notate in Salesforce that the letters were sent for each contact. One way to do this is to update the campaign member status to a new value (ie. ‘LTR_1_Sent’).

In this example, the campaign is being used as a sort of “bucket”. Journey Builder is filling the bucket and the manual data export is emptying the bucket.

This option accounts for an offline print process without actually integrating it into Journey Builder.  If you’re willing to do the manual downloading and data manipulation and want the ability to use any print resource, this option can work fine.

Option 2: Semi-Integrated

If you want to avoid manual process steps and are willing to invest in a bit of Apex code development, you can create a “semi-integrated” solution.  We recently implemented this for a higher education client who wanted to use their in-house printing resource but didn’t want to do a lot of manual data downloads and updates.


The solution is similar in design to the ‘no integration’ option but uses Apex code to replace the manual data download and updating. Journey Builder is still adding contacts to a Salesforce campaign (filling the bucket). But instead of a manual process, custom Apex code pulls a list of campaign members with a specific status and automatically delivers that list (via email or FTP) to the print shop in an electronic format that is ready to use. The code then updates each contact’s campaign member status to reflect that a letter has been sent.

This approach largely automates the data export and updating portions of the process to save time and improve efficiency, but it does require an investment to build and maintain Apex code. If you want to avoid manual processes, but don’t want to mess with creating or maintaining custom code, there is another way.

Option 3: Fully-Integrated and Automated

There is a fully-integrated and automated solution for building cross-channel journeys that include digital and print.  A company called Print for Less (PFL) has partnered with Salesforce to fully integrate print mail as a native activity within Journey Builder.

When you create a step in your journey that requires print mail, you can simply choose the “PFL Activity” and select appropriate print details. PFL automatically fulfills the print job for each relevant contact and updates each Salesforce contact record with information about what was sent and when.  The journey looks something like this:


For “lumpy mail” (ie. 3 dimensional acceptance packages) you can include carrier tracking information and you can even receive automatic tracking updates and notifications. Using PFL to integrate print into digital journeys checks all the boxes – it’s easy to set up, it’s fully integrated and it delivers a seamless experience for your prospective students (or any audience.)

If we sound like a cheerleader for PFL, we are. Many of our clients have implemented PFL successfully and the level of Salesforce integration PFL offers is compelling. To learn more about PFL and how to get started, visit their website.

Admissions communications are increasingly happening in the digital world, but there are still times when a physical letter or creatively crafted package can have a big impact on the excitement level you create with prospective students. If you have a question about integrating print into your digital journeys, or want some help creating your first print-digital journey, KELL Partners can help! We’ve assisted over 1,500 clients with starting or expanding their use of Salesforce. For more information about how we can help your team, contact us today.