As much as we would love for our marketing automation platforms to sync seamlessly with Salesforce right out of the box, let’s be real; the technology still has a long way to go. However, while we wait for the technology to catch up, we do have the power to enforce best practices to avoid data disaster and technical debt! Over my years of marketing and sales operations consulting and administration, here are some of my top tips for success with your marketing automation platform and Salesforce (although, truth be told, quite a few of these apply for any systems you connect to Salesforce, including sales operations platforms like Salesloft and Drift):


1. Claim your territory.

Who is the lead administrator for your marketing automation system? What about Salesforce? Make sure that you limit the amount of administrators as much as possible, and give your teammates the roles that best suit their level of responsibility and experience in the platform. The more control you give out to colleagues, the higher risk you face of someone accidentally reassigning 100,000 contacts to themselves (yes, that is a true story, although it was not my system, PHEW).


2. Standardize picklists between your marketing automation system and Salesforce.

Make sure to audit all of your fields and align any fields that can facilitate specified picklist values between all of your systems. Some great examples include Country and State fields; are you going to use abbreviations or long-form values? Better to lock these down now, rather than later, as many businesses base their sales territories upon these fields — not to mention, reporting can become tricky if there are typos or data in all sorts of formats.


3. Make sure you set your form fields to always display when it makes sense for the user experience.

If you have a form on the Contact Us page of your website, be sure to set your fields to always display; generally, it is confusing UX if someone fills out your Contact Us form, and then goes back to find a blank space or thank you message there if they return to that page to submit more information or to clarify their entry.


4. Do NOT have a form with only the email address field, unless you have a data enrichment service (and sometimes, even then…)

Speaking of forms, I beg of you: do not create a form with only an email address field. While this seems nice to use for your leads, you will not be able to personalize your communications with them or qualify them at all, unless they choose to submit more information on their own time. I recommend, at the bare minimum, including First Name, Last Name, Email, and Company. Even better if you can include a Job Title bucket field or other valuable fields for your targeting/segmentation.


5. If you want to segment based off of a field, work with your sales team to create a few “buckets” of target values and make that field a drop-down.

A great example is the Job Title field — instead of letting someone enter in their specific job title free-form, allowing room for extremely unique titles and typos, you can target these different personas more effectively.


6. Also, facilitate a conversation between marketing and sales to decide if you want to accept personal email addresses.

There are pros and cons to this one; some people really do prefer to use their personal email address and will become frustrated if they have to input their work email address; however, it also can be hard to track down more information on if she doesn’t give you a whole lot of information to go off of (see #4 — so important).


7. Don’t forget about your integrations/apps!

Remember; your integrations feed into your marketing automation and CRM as well, so be sure to enforce the same data hygiene rules wherever possible, and make sure that you follow opt-in rules for relevant countries if you plan on sending marketing emails to leads that come from services like GoToWebinar, Eventbrite, and more. Also, audit those services in general, as you may find strange native behavior; for example, I discovered that Salesloft is set to reassign leads based on who imports the leads into Salesloft, so I had to create an automation rule within Salesloft to make sure that Salesloft and Salesforce owners always aligned. Better to catch these quirks sooner than later, before they balloon into bigger data cleanup! 😰


8. Be selective about the data you keep in your marketing automation platform.

You’re better off keeping people that you will never email out of your MAP, unless you need to hold on to activity history for sales, or some other extenuating circumstance. Paying for API calls or more contact blocks for dead leads makes no sense, and having non-actionable leads creates more complexity and technical debt to work around.


9. Create dynamic/smart lists that will capture poor data entry practices.

Whether it’s a dupes list in Marketo, or a “Need Name” FN/LN dynamic list in Pardot, you can set up lists to review daily to catch incorrect data before it balloons (the first thing you’ll probably notice is some new sales reps entering in data incorrectly — totally cool, just remind them nicely of best practices 🙂 ).


10. Keep your users aligned between your systems.

This way, each system knows who to pass leads to when synced between systems. Otherwise, you may miss out on being able to spoof the sending email address of assigned sales reps, or other personalized content based upon a lead’s assignment.


11. Know where your sync errors queue is, how to read the different error messages, and how to run a debug log in Salesforce.

Is your latest lead sync making Salesforce angry? Make sure you know how to diagnose and fix (or how to make great recommendations to your Salesforce Administrator) syncing errors due to data issues. Here’s some documentation on the Debug Log.


12. Make sure that you are collecting any required data for the Salesforce Lead object as a lead comes into your MAP.

Or, at least before you try to pass off your leads to sales. Salesforce will reject your shiny new lead if you don’t have the required data.


13. Identify and understand tricky field types between Salesforce and your MAP.

If you are using Salesforce and Pardot, make sure you and your Salesforce Administrator(s) are familiar with Pardot-friendly and Pardot-not-so-friendly field types. Memorize/bookmark this documentation page and never let go. Here’s a fantastic resource for Marketo Admins.


14. Make sure you create your campaign structure with your campaign influence model in mind.

Even if you don’t have your campaign influence/attribution models set up yet, be sure to think about parent vs. child campaigns, etc, sooner than later.


15. Define and enforce processes!

For example: what are the default fields that are to be required on every form for your organization? What are your campaign naming conventions? Jacqueline Fassett made this amazing data hygiene worksheet that you can use for your organization.


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Sara McNamara is a Marketing Operations Manager and former top-tier Salesforce Pardot Partner senior consultant. She has a special place in her heart for marketing operations, Kanye West, huskies, and people who don’t call her about something that could have been a text/don’t request a meeting about something that could have been an email. She is honored to be the very first B2B marketing Trailblazer to be recognized and featured by Salesforce Trailhead, as well as featured in the first Trailblazers in B2B Marketing | Powered by Pardot magazine. She is also a Marketo Certified Expert and cosigned by Jill Rowley, the greatest sales professional of all time. 🐐

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