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Salesforce Marketing Cloud Basics: Connect with Potential Customers

Salesforce Marketing Cloud Basics: Connect with Potential Customers

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It’s a Salesforce Marketing Cloud basics 3-parter, y’all. In this three-part series, we’ll uncover the fundamental skills you should master when you’re getting started with Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement (SFMC). 

You’ll learn how SFMC allows you to easily connect with potential customers, nurture their interests, and convert that interest into sales. In Part 1, we review all the ways SFMC can help you connect with potential customers.

Connect with Potential Customers via SFMC

The word ‘connect’ can mean different things to different people. There’s connecting from a business lens perspective, which is where we’re making connections with prospects on different channels as well as connecting those various channels for a customer across a user journey, like Journey Builder from a platform perspective.

Connecting From a Business Lens

When we think about it from a pure business lens, Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement allows us to connect with existing customers but can also help make a connection with prospective customers and leads via form capture. 

Lead acquisition and generation is a top initiative for all marketers and a critical component of the Engagement platform. Over the years, the lead capture functionality has really evolved and is now pretty easy for a non-technical person to implement. 

There are two main features of SFMC for lead acquisition and capture: 

  • Lead Capture
  • Smart Capture

Lead Capture

Lead Capture is actually an app, available on the Salesforce AppExchange (click here to view the listing).

The app is free to use. It enables you to collect leads from Facebook and Google and have them enter directly into Engagement. 

This lead capture app and functionality allows you to collect lead data from your paid ads, which is awesome by itself. But more importantly, you’re able to capture first-party data, which is the future when a cookieless world finally arrives. This first-party data in turn can be used to help nurture your prospects and drive transactions. 

Lastly, highlights of the app include: 

  • Capture is real-time via a secure connection (not like we would expect anything less)
  • Leads captured can get added directly to a lead nurture journey and therefore can create more targeted intent-based content
  • You can do both via a simple and intuitive user flow

Smart Capture

Smart Capture is another tool, this one native in Email Studio, that you can use to create lead capture forms that you can then include on your landing pages. 

When a lead completes the form on the landing page and clicks the Submit button, the Smart Capture form automatically adds the information to a subscriber list, data extension, or outside data source such as an integrated CRM system like Sales Cloud. Smart Capture forms are super easy to use within a much better UI, unlike the previous form functionality.

 Some common use cases for Smart Capture forms include:

  • Generate leads from people who sign up to receive a newsletter or attend an event.
  • Create tasks in Salesforce to follow up with leads.
  • Send automated emails to people who complete the form.
  • Send email messages through Salesforce CRM.

Connecting from a Channel Perspective

When we think of the concept of Connect from a channel perspective, Salesforce Marketing Cloud allows us to connect with prospects and customers through a variety of channels. 

These channels include: 

And while with Engagement you have access to all these channels, email still remains the workhorse. 


I’d like to focus on an underutilized feature of Email Studio that can help you better connect with prospects and clients: Interactive Email Content Block as well as Mobile Studio.

Interactive Email Content Block

If you are a long-time user of the system or industry, you will remember that this tool was an acquisition — formally known as Rebelmail. But, I digress. 

The Interactive Email Form block in Marketing Cloud Content Builder allows marketers to receive subscriber information like profile data, product reviews, and sales leads directly from an embedded form in an email. Allowing subscribers to submit forms without ever leaving their inbox helps increase customer engagement and gives marketers more data to use for segmentation.

There are several templates available to solve these use cases: 

  • The Empty Form Template allows you to start from scratch and create any type of form you want.
  • The Reviews Template allows subscribers to complete product reviews or other feedback surveys.
  • The Progressive Profile Template collects or updates subscriber preferences and demographic data, such as name, birthday, product preferences, and interests.
  • The Case Form Template allows subscribers to create or update a support case via Journey builder. 
  • And finally, the Lead Form Template captures or updates subscriber information from your leads.

Yes, I’ll say it again — users can respond to forms, reviews, and update cases right from their inbox!

Mobile Studio

And yes, while Email is the bread and butter of SFMC Engagement, Mobile Studio is another great way to connect with your customers and prospects. 

So, what do we mean by Mobile Studio? Well, at first thought most people automatically think Mobile Studio equals SMS. But, that’s really not true. (I, too, am guilty of using both these terms synonymously!) 

There are three main offerings under this studio: 

  • MobileConnect
  • MobilePush
  • GroupConnect

MobileConnect is where you can create, send and receive and track SMS and MMS text messages (this is what comes to mind for most folks). Typically these messages are transactional in nature to alert subscribers as well as allow marketers to automatically respond to incoming messages based on established keywords.

MobilePush as the name suggests allows you to send notifications to encourage the use of your app. A few examples to consider based upon industry include:

  • Flash sale from your favorite retailer that has an app to make purchasing on mobile a breeze
  • A strategically sent time of day message before dinner time from your favorite food delivery app provider
  • Time-based notification 24 hours before your flight letting you know you can check in on your airline carrier of choice
  • Proximity-based notification using beacon technology for in-store coupons at your local nationwide pharmacy

GroupConnect allows you to send messages via the LINE messaging app and Facebook Messenger via messaging API. (this offering is not as widely used as the others, but is still valuable — especially for those based in Asia – history of LINE)

(There’s also WhatsApp Chat Messaging. But that’s not truly considered part of Mobile Studio and is positioned as more of an add-on to Marketing Cloud.)

Connecting from a Platform Perspective

 And finally, from a platform perspective, through Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement, specifically Journey Builder you can connect all your communications across varying channels to reach customers with the right message at the right time.

Journey Builder 101

Journey Builder is a campaign planning tool in SFMC Engagement that allows you to design and automate campaigns that guide customers through their journey with your brand. You can begin with a blank canvas or an existing template and select various activities based on how you want to communicate with your audience. These activities can range from types of messages (by channel), decisions, updates, or a combination of these elements and are grouped in the builder panel as the following categories:

  • Messages
  • Advertising
  • Flow Control
  • Customer Updates
  • Sales & Service Cloud 
  • Custom

The possibilities of journeys you can create are quite endless. Take a look…


Messages supported in Journey Builder include email, SMS, LINE message, push notifications, inbox message, in-app message, as well as WhatsApp. 

If you’re just getting started, we recommend starting simple with email. When you drag and drop the email message activity you will notice it is grayed out — this is because you need to finish configuring this activity. You have the option to select an existing email (we recommend this), or you can create from within Journey Builder from scratch. 

You’ll also notice you can update the name of the email or really any activity by hovering over the text and clicking the pencil icon.


There are currently only two activities under the Advertising section:

  • Ad Audience
  • Campaign

Ad Audience allows you to create an advertising Audience for any activated channel (Pinterest, Facebook, and so on) in Journey Builder. A common use case would be for targeting new customers who haven’t engaged with an email — perhaps a paid ad will be better suited for driving engagement. Don’t forget, you’ll need to navigate to the activated channel for further targeting and to complete the ad campaign setup.

Whereas the Ad Campaign activity will allow you to create a Facebook Ad Campaign directly in Journey Builder. This can be helpful if you have a new simple Facebook campaign you want to test out or one that isn’t already set up. 

You configure the creative elements of your advertisement and set campaign specifications, including total and daily advertising spend settings, within Journey Builder. You can also set a Retention Period for campaign members to prevent oversaturating their social media feeds with your advertisement.

When you activate the journey, it creates an advertising campaign, too. As the journey continues, customers populate the advertising campaign and see your advertisement.

Two important things to call out: 

  1. Customers who exit journeys aren’t automatically removed from that Advertising Audience, so it’s important to add in a suppression step to avoid retargeting the same customers. 
  1. You can edit the campaign outside of Journey Builder, but not all changes will be reflected in that running journey.

These activities allow marketing teams to easily build cross-channel journeys that extend the reach of email campaigns.

Flow Control

Flow Control activities are by far the most numerous — with 15 to be exact options for ‘controlling’ the flow of your journey from splits and joins to wait by/until how your journey flows is up to the marketer’s discretion!

But builders beware, Flows can get quite complex if you’re not careful. Thankfully the Validate function, which didn’t always exist, helps identify when you’re missing a Join or have a ‘dead end path of sorts’ occurring.

Typically for those just starting out, Decision Split and Engagement Split are good ones to include in your journey. 

Did you know that using an Engagement Split to resend an email with an updated subject link to those that didn’t Open can result in tremendous payoff and engagement lift? 

Check out these stats:

  • 54.7% increase in the overall email reach
  • CTR is 51.1% greater than your first email
  • An email (with a different subject line) resent a week later has 30% more openings
  • Additional email open rates of 11%


To learn more about other flow actions stay tuned for Part 2 of 3 of this Series: Nurturing your Prospects & Customers

Customer Update

Customer Update Activities include:

  • Salesforce Personalization Activity
  • Update Contact

The Salesforce Personalization Activity will only appear for those customers that have purchased Personalization (formerly known as Interaction Studio). This activity allows you to pass data from Journey Builder to Marketing Cloud Personalization during the course of a customer journey. You can include custom action names that indicate the journey or journey step. After you share the data with Personalization, you can use it to personalize the experience your customers have with your website or mobile app based on recent journey interactions. 

This integration allows you to tie all your customers’ experiences together — from the website as mentioned to calling your call center, or entering a loyalty number on point of sales. 

A few use cases to consider are: 

  1. A retail customer recently purchased a snow jacket for the upcoming winter season. The Personalization activity could suggest matching a hat and gloves to complete the look based on the color and age/gender category of the snow jacket purchased. 
  2. A banking customer applies for a home mortgage. The personalization activity could suggest a credit card with 0% interest for 12 months to help with the moving expenses associated with a new home purchase.

Update Contact, as it sounds, allows you to update a contact to a specific attribute of a selected data extension. 

Some common use cases for use of this function in a journey include: 

  1. Updating Customer Tier based upon a previous activity or perhaps based upon the length of time as a customer. For example, as an airline loyalty customer — after reaching x miles you update their status to ‘gold’.
  2. Updating the date field using current time to timestamp for the most recent visit to a doctor’s offer perhaps so you can remind them of the next visit.

Lastly, Sales & Service Cloud activities require integration with Sales and/or Service Clouds to be able to leverage. Here’s a quick rundown of what each specific activity entails: 

AccountCreate a New Record or Find and Update using a Salesforce look-up field whose data matches a Marketing Cloud attribute to identify the correct record to update. If you have a Person Account, you can create or update both Business and Person Account activities.
Campaign MemberAdd a new or existing contact or lead to an existing campaign in Salesforce and optionally set their activity and status as you see fit. Use this activity to track important moments of engagement throughout the journey.
CaseCreate a case and associate it to the Sales and Service Cloud contact that matches the Marketing Cloud contact’s ID. Or create a Sales and Service Cloud contact to associate to an existing case.
ContactCreate or update a contact from Sales or Service Cloud using Sales or Service Cloud data brought into a journey or Marketing Cloud contact data.
Convert LeadConvert qualified leads from the Sales and Service Cloud into a contact or account. This activity schedules important actions, such as assigning a lead owner, creating an opportunity or task, and changing the lead’s conversion status.
LeadJust like contact, except for Lead object – Create or update a lead from Sales or Service Cloud
Object ActivityUse this activity to create or update a standard Salesforce object record, such as a lead or task, or a custom object record.
OpportunityCreates an opportunity record in Sales and Service Cloud. Use Marketing Cloud contact attributes to populate the fields in the opportunity record, or populate each record with a fixed value.
TaskCreate a task in Sales and Service Cloud for each Marketing Cloud contact that reaches this activity based upon their assigned sales or service rep.

Common use cases include: 

  • Create a lead when a Marketing Cloud contact enters a journey.
  • Update a lead based on engagement within a journey.
  • Create a CRM contact record when a Marketing Cloud contact reaches the activity.
  • Update a CRM contact record with Marketing Cloud contact data.
  • Update a custom object based on engagement within a journey.
  • Create a task when another object, such as a lead or contact, enters a journey.
  • Associate a case or task to an account.
  • Update a task based on a contact or lead’s response in a journey.
  • Update a person or business account.


As you can see, Marketing Cloud allows marketers to connect with potential customers in many different ways — from acquisition and driving engagement on various channels to uniting communications across a customer journey. My hope is your one takeaway is: it’s a pretty powerful tool that can meet the unique needs of any organization, regardless of size, vertical, or industry.

To keep it going, check out this quick reference that explains the basics things to know about each tool within SFMC Engagement.

Next up…

Part 2 of 3: Nurturing your Prospects and Customers. While you’ve got a sneak peek of what Journey Builder can do from our 101 section, we’ll discuss more of the how-tos: from concept to execution.

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  • Kirsten leads the Sercante Salesforce Marketing Cloud Engagement practice. With over 15+ years of experience working in the digital marketing industry, she's passionate about helping organizations (both B2B and B2C, alike) go from good to great, including Fortune 500 brands such as CVS Pharmacy and Delta Airlines. When she’s not working, you’ll find her supporting Atlanta local sports teams, Atlanta United and Hawks, or on the soccer pitch playing the best game in the world!

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