Stuck in Salesforce Journey Builder? Here’s why…

The Salesforce Journey Builder demo is so appealing – a gorgeous, drag and drop canvas for marketers to orchestrate complete customer journeys across all facets of the business. Marketing? Sales? Service? Yup! … Emails? SMS? Social? Digital ads? Bring ’em on.

But, Salesforce, we have a problem: Everyone I meet at conferences and see complaining in online forums is saying the exact same thing: “It looks so easy to set up and we tried to do it ourselves but couldn’t get anywhere…How do I set up Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Journey Builder?”

I built my first journey 2014 in the infancy phase of the bleeding edge product and I have been giving my clients and prospects the exact same piece of advice ever since:

“Don’t go in alone.”

Self-implementation of Journey Builder is – at best – a recipe for stumbling out of the gate and wicked frustration. At worst, it’s a quick way to accumulate gobs of technical debt without having a single executed campaign to show for the added grey hairs. Success requires the assistance and help of an expert. You may even consider more permanent help on the platform since successful ongoing campaigns require constant attention, testing, and evolution. With Journey Builder, Salesforce is correctly attempting to simplify the day-to-day work of marketers to help them get more nuanced journeys out the door faster. In many ways, it’s been very successful. But, the reality is that Journey Builder is very much like the iconic picture of the iceberg where the majority of the iceberg is underwater and not visible on the surface.

Above the water in Journey Builder, we see an intuitive interface that allows us to drag on campaigns, splits, and joins and set goals. Lovely!

Beneath the waterline, things get more menacing for the average marketer. Synchronized Data Extensions, Entry source filtering, Decision Splits, Contact Keys…that Hub and Spoke Contact Builder thing sure looks cool, but aaaaah! They didn’t teach me any of this when I went to college for marketing!

Having been down this road with more clients than I can count, let’s talk a little bit more about what’s “below the waterline” and discuss the topics a good partner or consultant should be exploring with you prior to journey launch: Data, content, and skills.

Data: This one’s pretty obvious and the first place where new “Journey Builders” usually get stuck. A successful journey will likely require multiple data sources. These data sources often live in disparate parts of your company such as your CRM, Data warehouse, customer portal, CMS or – my personal

favorite – in an Excel spreadsheet on a jump drive in the IT manager’s file cabinet. Not only do you need to figure out how to get these data points into the Marketing Cloud, the data needs to be modeled correctly so that you can instruct Journey Builder on when to split, when to wait, when to send, and when to listen.

Content: While data is the most common hurdle, it’s the lack of content that usually forces the journey launch date into next quarter. Marketers almost universally under-prioritize and under-plan for their content needs in dynamic marketing programs. Journey Builder enables us to talk to our customers on a 1-1 level anywhere and anytime. Why would we go in with just a single piece of content that the agency made for us and a cool photo off of iStock? With Journey Builder as your engine, you must have a robust and dynamic content strategy in place before you can be even remotely relevant. At minimum, you should have basic personas of your customers and understand their customer journeys. You need to have content ready for all possible scenarios.

Skills: As you’ve probably gleaned by this point, success in Journey Builder requires a unique blend of technical and marketing skill sets that is hard to find in the current talent market. These folks are so rare, that they’ve earned the title of “Unicorns.” While it’s a catchy term, I instead advise my clients to hire whole-brained marketers. These folks will have a laser focus on the customer experience over brand guidelines and a strong affinity for constant testing. A consultant or partner can train you and help you get rolling in Journey Builder, but, before cutting the cord completely on outside help, you’ll want to make sure you have the skills in house to tame the Journey Builder beast.

Now, take these three topics and multiply them by all of the complexities in your business and it should be pretty clear why you need a Journey Builder sherpa.

Salesforce Journey Builder is here and it’s big and complex and powerful and ultimately … awesome. You should work toward making it the tool of choice for your marketing team.

Just be aware of the iceberg