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If you’re using Email Studio from Salesforce Marketing Cloud integrated with Salesforce CRM and want to send to an audience from the CRM, you have two options: send the email to recipients in a Salesforce report or to members of a CRM campaign. So which is best? 

We usually recommend using Salesforce campaigns, but that may be because we’re usually working with pretty complex marketing campaigns. Each option has its strong suit. Let’s dig a little deeper.

Clarifying What We Mean by “Campaign”

First, let’s be clear about the competing use of the term “campaign”. A campaign in Salesforce CRM is a completely different concept than a campaign in Marketing Cloud, and they don’t map to each other in any way, even if the two systems are connected via Marketing Cloud Connect. 

A campaign in Marketing Cloud is effectively a tagging system that can be applied to different send activities within the Marketing Cloud platform. It provides a convenient way to link related activities and ultimately report on them.

For defining an audience within Email Studio, we typically use the term “campaign” to mean a Salesforce CRM campaign, which offers much more sophisticated and powerful features, especially for defining audiences. And, when we refer to a “campaign” in Salesforce CRM, we’re actually talking about two data objects - Campaign and Campaign Members. 

The Campaign object holds information about certain marketing or sales activities and their status. The Campaign Members object is essentially a list of individuals (contacts or leads) that are targets of the Campaign. When we talk about “sending to a Salesforce campaign”, we’re actually talking about an audience made up of individuals in the Campaign Members object associated with a specific campaign.

What Makes a Salesforce Campaign So Useful?

There are a couple of features of Salesforce CRM campaigns that make them particularly useful for defining an audience. First, you don’t have to define strict criteria for a contact or lead to be a campaign member. You can simply add whomever you want to the campaign via “search and add”, data import, report results or API. If you use a report to define an audience, then the member list will only include individuals that match the exact report criteria at send time. In our experience, it’s easy to define strict criteria for most of a target audience, but there are usually some additional “dogs and cats” to include or exclude. Campaigns are an easy way to deal with this reality.

Second, using campaigns allows you to further refine the audience using a status field on the Campaign Member object. This can be either the default "Status" field or a custom version provided by Marketing Cloud called the Campaign Member Activity. Without going into too much detail you can select a campaign as your audience and specify that any campaign member with a "Status" of "Responded" be excluded (the thought being that the member already responded to a previous call to action). This allows you to define audiences based on more than one dimension - standard lead/contact data and historical campaign activity data. This is particularly useful when campaigns include multiple email sends over time. 

Warning About Using Campaigns With Email Sends

We’ve seen clients in both the higher education and nonprofit worlds take our advice about using Salesforce campaigns a little too far by creating a unique Salesforce campaign for EVERY email send. This is not a good idea. Salesforce campaigns are designed to track a group of related activities rather than individual activities or email sends. If you want to track individual email performance, there are much easier, better and more efficient ways to do that directly in Marketing Cloud.

Creating a campaign for every email send can also eat up your Salesforce data allowance as each campaign member of each campaign takes up 1KB of storage.

When Might You Want to Use Salesforce Reports?

There are a couple of instances where using a Salesforce report to define an audience in Email Studio is preferable to using a campaign.

  • Truly one-off emails - If the email send is really a one-off effort and is not part of any larger set of recruitment or advancement activities, using a report may be easier.
  • Simple membership criteria - We noted above that members of a Salesforce campaign don’t have to fit any specific criteria - you can add whomever you want. This is great when your criteria are complex or hard to define based on your data. If, however, your audience can be defined by a simple set of criteria (filters in a report), then using a report may be a good option.

This post has just skimmed the surface of the power of using Salesforce campaigns to define a target audience in Email Studio.  

If you’re struggling to turn your marketing strategies and plans into efficient and effective actions in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, contact KELL Partners today.  We’ve helped over 1,000 higher education and nonprofit clients go farther and faster with Salesforce and we’d love to help your organization, too.