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Making the Most of Marketing Cloud Account Engagement: The Importance of Campaign Hierarchy

3.12.20 By: Kirsten Kippen

In this year of presidential campaigns, we are obsessed with a completely different sort of campaign: the ones in Salesforce and Marketing Cloud Account Engagement. This is the first in an occasional series where we’ll be shedding light on various aspects of Campaigns, from Campaign Hierarchies to Connected Campaigns and Campaign Influence. Have a burning campaign question? Tweet us and maybe we’ll write about it!

When I was new to Salesforce many years ago, I thought Campaigns were both the coolest and most maddening object to wrap my head around. The coolest, because they automatically de-duplicate and give marketers an easy way to group leads and contacts together for one effort. The most maddening, because my wearing-too-many-hats junior marketer brain could not fathom how Campaign Members worked differently than Leads and Contacts, or why it was so dang hard to actually send an email to these people. I was not alone; according to Salesforce itself, Campaigns are one of the most underused features across Salesforce users.

Fast-forward ahead a few years, and I still find Campaigns both the coolest and most maddening objects, but today my reasons are different and the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. 

To use Marketing Cloud Account Engagement (MCAE) to its fullest in 2020, the best thing you can do is to embrace campaigns. Eventually, this will include enabling Connected Campaigns and Campaign Influence, but for starters you just need to have some solid campaign hierarchies in place, then you can build on this foundation later. Let’s do this!

A breakdown of how Campaigns work with MCAE and Salesforce today

If you’re at all uncertain of how campaigns work in Salesforce, I highly recommend starting with this Campaign Basics Trailhead. Salesforce seems to be realizing that the definition of campaigns is evolving and in this Trailhead they define campaigns as a way to track marketing initiatives, analyze results, and group programs into hierarchies. A lead or contact may be attached to multiple campaigns. 

MCAE (powered by Pardot) also has campaigns, and typically Campaigns are described as a prospect’s first touchpoint. MCAE campaigns are also used to organize assets: in fact, in MCAE you can’t create a new form, landing page, or email without selecting a campaign. Of course, campaigns can influence people at any stage in their buyer’s journey. 

If you have ever used Salesforce and Marketing Cloud Account Engagement separately or before 2019, you likely are super confused by these two different definitions. Furthermore, you probably got used to using Salesforce Campaigns as a simple way to build lists for different efforts. Now, you can use MCAE's dynamic lists for that.

With the 2019 introduction of Connected Campaigns and MCAE Lightning, the distinction between Salesforce and MCAE's Campaigns is blurring. Increasingly, to make the most of MCAE, you will want to rely on Salesforce architecture. Once you enable Connected Campaigns, every campaign you create in Salesforce will also be in MCAE, so your days of maintaining separate definitions for campaigns is over.

Now, set up those hierarchies

Salesforce Campaigns come with the ability to create hierarchies to make reporting easy by rolling up similar initiatives into similar groupings. But how deep should you go? Most organizations find that 2-3 layers of hierarchy is sufficient. I find that nonprofits and businesses think of campaign hierarchies differently and that is 100% ok, because the most important thing is to develop a campaign hierarchy that works for your business model and is easy to maintain. 

Start by brainstorming a list of all your marketing tactics this year: it’s ok if it’s long. Do this outside Salesforce or MCAE, ideally with all team members who might interact with your campaigns. 

As the popular marketing blog The Drip says, Type and Tactic can be one of trickiest places to iron out. Type is a high-level category of campaigns you run, such as Event. Tactic is the multitude of ways you would drive prospects to the campaign, such as individual emails or ads. You can accommodate both through campaign hierarchies, as long as you decide early on and stick to one convention.

Here’s what I recommend for parent-child hierarchies:

Top level: overall strategic focus or year (Brand Awareness, 2020)

Mid level: different aspects of that focus (i.e. Events)

Bottom level (optional): individual marketing efforts that build awareness (i.e. individual emails or ads) 

The bottom level is pretty granular and you can get data on individual marketing assets connected to one campaign in different ways, but if you know you need to see results connected with a specific email or ad, I recommend creating this as a campaign.

Remember as you are setting these up, naming conventions can be incredibly helpful toward organizing as well. I recommend the convention “YYYY-MM_Title of The Thing - Type of Thing” as the bottom level naming convention. 

Now here’s a pro tip, you can use the mid level for MCAE folders too! Double duty, and one less organizational tactic to keep track of! 

Next, think about record types

While you are in the realm of organizing your campaigns, if you have different departments doing different types of campaigns (for example a Digital team vs. a Direct mail team) I highly recommend using different campaign record types. This will set you up for success later when you enable Connected Campaigns and Campaign Influence.

A note on Source vs. Campaigns

Remember how MCAE treats the first campaign that a prospect is attached to when they convert as their first touchpoint? Source is a native field in Salesforce that auto-populates in MCAE (formerly Pardot), and can be helpful when you’re using UTM parameters or if you want to create Pardot automation based on original source. You may find that you can create sources that mirror one level of your campaign hierarchies. Since organizations typically have data connected to the Source field before they start using MCAE, I recommend keeping this field around, but as you get more comfortable using campaigns and reports, you may find you no longer need the Source field.

And while we’re on the top of streamlining and reducing redundancies, why not use the hard work you did thinking up campaign hierarchies to organize your MCAE folders as well? Out of the box, MCAE just has one main folder called “Uncategorized” with folders for each asset underneath, but this can quickly get out of hand. I recommend mimicking your campaign hierarchies with MCAE folders. Every time you create a new campaign in Salesforce, create a folder with the same name in MCAE. 


We’ve covered a lot, so here’s a summary of what I recommend as your sequential steps in starting to think about leveraging the power of campaigns in Salesforce and Marketing Cloud Account Engagement: 

  1. Take the Campaigns Basics Trailhead unit.
  2. Stop thinking about Campaigns as a way to group people. You have dynamic lists in MCAE for this.
  3. Set up your campaign hierarchies.
  4. Set up campaign record types.

Stay tuned for more next time!

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