How to Get Your Data into Salesforce Marketing Cloud

By Chester Bullock, Mark Pollard

Once you’ve chosen the data you need for your online marketing campaigns and your Salesforce Marketing Cloud data model is ready to accept that data, it’s time to import the data!

The simplest way to import data into Marketing Cloud is to use flat files — text files that have one record per row and that use a character, usually a comma, pipe, or tab, as a delimiter that signifies where one field ends and another begins. you think of a flat file like a spreadsheet, a field is like a column and a record is like a row.

flat data file Marketing Cloud
Sample of a flat data file that could be used in Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

Importing to subscriber attributes

Read this information if you’ve decided to start by using the subscriber-and-list model. If you’ll be using a relational data model instead, you can skip this info.

Because the subscriber attribute model contains all necessary data in one big All Subscribers list, preparing the file to populate this table is straightforward.

You put the data you want to import into a single file, where each subscriber’s data is a separate line in the file and each piece of data is delimited by a character, usually a comma or a tab. The file is actually a text file, but you might be able to open it in a spreadsheet program to help you review the content more easily. If you’re exporting data from a different business system, that system might be able to generate a properly delimited file for you.

Marketing Cloud gets confused if the character you choose as a delimiter also appears in one of the fields. For example, if you have a comma-delimited file and a comma appears in the middle of an address, Marketing Cloud will think that the comma indicates the end of the address field. If the content of your data includes the delimiter character, choose a different character as the delimiter.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud delimiter
Delimiter types for file import to Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

Use these steps to import your data:

  1. In the Email app, pause your mouse pointer over the Subscribers menu in the toolbar, and choose Lists from the menu that appears.
  2. In the list, find the list you want to import to, and click the import icon in the Actions section, on the right side of the row.

    The import icon is shown in the margin.
  3. Complete the steps in the Import Wizard that appears.
    People have been importing to Marketing Cloud lists for a long time, so this wizard is a useful and time-tested aid to get your content into the system.

Importing to data extensions

This information is relevant if you’ve decided to use a relational data model.

If you’re using a relational data model, you must import more than one file of data; you import one file for each data extension. Other than that, the import process for data extensions is similar to the import process for subscriber attributes.

Use these steps to import your data:

  1. In the Email app, pause your mouse pointer over the Subscribers menu in the toolbar, and choose Data Extensions from the menu that appears.
  2. In the list, find the list you want to import to, and click the import icon (shown in the margin) in the Actions section, on the right side of the row.
  3. Complete the Import Wizard that appears.

Utilizing a CRM integration

If your company uses a customer relationship management (CRM) system, it may be the single richest source of customer data that your Marketing Cloud campaigns can use. Obviously, if you use the Salesforce CRM, you have a prime opportunity to connect the two systems so that customer data can flow directly from one into the other.

  • Integrating your Marketing Cloud account with your CRM system has several benefits, such as the following:
  • Leverage knowledge of individual leads
  • Enable your sales team to reach out to individual leads but enforce your branding standards on their communication
  • Maintain customer data in a centralized location so you don’t have to manage updates in two systems
  • Provide a more in-depth view of customer interactions within the CRM environment

The process to integrate your account may require additional configuration, but, if the company does a good job of keeping your customer information complete and current in your CRM system, you’ll be glad to have access to it through Marketing Cloud.