8 common pains of Salesforce Marketing Cloud (we said what we said)

“It is very hard to use and visualize the actual email output, and I have a hard time learning it on my own.” 

“I found that setting up triggered campaigns are clunky and difficult to understand.”

“The customer service and sales team was probably the worst I’ve seen from an enterprise product.”

“The UX is absolutely terrible. Can’t make segments easily, everything is so unbearably slow. I cannot believe SFMC is so ‘talked about’ in the industry. It’s awful.”

Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) is one of the most commonly used platforms in SaaS, and when polled, most users say they’re content with it. Yet, in the same breath, you’ll also hear how it ranks poorly in some really important areas. The quotes above are just a handful of the many real-life examples of SFMC user reviews

So where’s the disconnect? We’d argue that SaaS leaders, like those at SFMC, have buyers fooled that this is just the way things are. 

They’ll gaslight you into believing you can’t do any better and SFMC is as good as it gets. Then you’ll be stuck feeling like the software is “working” as you cobble together workarounds and slap bandaids on the problem to try to get what you need out of it. 

In reality, you can do so much better. In this blog, you’ll find eight common pains of SFMC and how many large enterprise brands are learning to eliminate the inefficiencies, limitations, and roadblocks that are common in legacy platforms like Salesforce.

Pain 1: Disconnected data

SFMC is not built to utilize your data where it lives. To leverage your customer data, you first have to define your audiences and build messaging campaigns, make a copy of your data, and ship that data to SFMC. The mapping and syncing process alone can take hours – not to mention the time it then takes to actually deploy a campaign. 

So by default, the data used in “real-time” messaging is not real-time at all. That means your campaigns will be informed by partial, stale, or even incorrect data. You’ll also be on the hook for extra data storage fees, on top of the fees you pay for your central database or modern data warehouse. 

Making things even more complicated, not all of the SFDC data connectors support import AND export capabilities, making it necessary for complicated (and often expensive) workarounds if you need to integrate with tools outside Salesforce’s ecosystem. Chances are, they don’t natively integrate with Salesforce’s CDP, and you’ll have to build your own pipelines or upload CSV files manually.

What you know about your customers versus what you say to your customers

When brands can directly connect to their data, these inefficiencies, limitations, and roadblocks inherent to executing sophisticated marketing campaigns are eliminated. This is an advantage that the team at Frontdoor recognized right away.

Using MessageGears’ direct data access, Frondoor can create highly dynamic, visual segmentations powered by the live customer data in their Snowflake data cloud. In their old way of working, they had to copy their data to activate it, leading to delays, inaccuracies, and complicated workarounds. 

Pain 2: Limited personalization and data usage

These days, personalization is a necessity at every level of a customer’s journey, on every channel. Customers want to know that your brand knows them and cares enough about earning their business to cater to their individual needs and interests.

Marketers know personalization is table stakes, yet delivering the level of personalized experiences that we’re striving to create can often feel impossible – particularly when platforms like SFMC penalize you with storage overages as you try to leverage more of your highly relevant data for personalization. 

You’re stuck depending on precious internal tech resources to craft complex scripts in their proprietary language to create the kind of sophisticated content that will truly impress your customers, and there’s often no time and limited resources.

Even worse, SFMC users are using old data for personalization (as we talked about in the previous point). The message may very well be a moot point by the time the customer sees it.

Quick-service restaurant Chick-fil-A battled this challenge, and by working with MessageGears, the brand doubled down on personalization to increase mobile app engagement. They implemented strategies like a real-time “Congratulations on your first mobile order!” message, including a picture of what each customer ordered.

This focus resulted in a conversion rate lift of more than 20% and a remarkable 500% increase in membership on the Chick-fil-A One app.

Pain 3: Complicated cross-channel strategies 

You need to be wherever your customers spend their time – and more often than not these days, that’s on mobile. In the meantime, that’s also one area that SFMC seems not to be.

SFMC hasn’t invested in native mobile solutions and, as a result, execution in this area is extremely difficult. Limited mobile capabilities and a separate mobile studio result in fragmented cross-channel strategies for brands who can’t afford to miss connecting with their customers through their favorite medium.

Brands are stifled with limited personalization for push notifications, and in-app messages require development resources and come with limited triggering and formatting options. Geotargeting is not integrated into SFMC Journey Builder, so location-based marketing is a no-go. Going beyond mobile engagement, SFMC also has no native support for over-the-top media (OTT) and smart TV software development kits (SDKs) – instead, you’ll have to rely on a partner (along with an additional contract) to achieve these types of modern use cases. 

For today’s enterprise brands to succeed, a strong integrated mobile and email strategy that offers a cohesive cross-channel experience is a necessity, not a nice to have.

Cox Communications, the largest private telecom company in the US, faced this challenge. They needed to anticipate and respond to the needs of every customer accurately and in true, real-time.

The team used MessageGears’ mobile messaging capabilities to elevate app engagement and boost feature adoption with perfect-time, perfect-place messaging, increasing feature usage on their mobile app by 220%.

Pain 4: Limited scalability

The largest enterprises have unique marketing needs that aren’t being served by legacy marketing platforms like SFMC. Brands need to be able to confidently collect and leverage data for an endless number of personalization points – all while assuring customers that the information they’ve provided will remain secure and protected. 

Adding an extra layer of complexity, we often find that when it comes to messaging solutions, what works for one enterprise-level company won’t work for another.

When SFMC was built 20 years ago, the unique challenges that modern enterprise marketers face were simply unheard of. Users regularly report performance issues with increased data that are particularly noticeable in large audience segments. That’s just not acceptable when you’re a brand trying to set the standard.

Enterprise teams need a modern tool designed for high performance and scalability that can effectively handle large volumes of data and audiences.

Rakuten Rewards’ marketing team had been struggling for nine months to build out and execute a key email program because of the complexity of the setup and data syncing needed to make it function correctly with their marketing cloud email service provider.

Leveraging MessageGears’ customer engagement platform directly connected to their internal data stores, Rakuten was able to keep their customer data behind their firewall to eliminate data lag and syncing issues that were costing valuable time. As a result, the team was able to begin sending emails with the program in less than one day.

Pain 5: Too technical 

There’s a reason why there are so many SFMC consultants in the market. To use the platform, teams need to write and have knowledge of SQL queries, proprietary AMPscript, and more to manage the full campaign lifecycle.

The demos, documentation and Trailhead community make it seem like users can do magic using Journey Builder without any other behind-the-scenes work, but that is simply not the case. 

Marketing teams are left dependent on their more technical counterparts, and IT teams are buried with requests and unable to execute more strategic goals because they’re stuck helping marketing pull lists and write queries.  

Enterprise teams need to reduce the need for extensive technical knowledge so marketing and IT teams can work in sync and collaborate as partners.

Musictoday turned to MessageGears to help them send more personalized, dynamic content and were thrilled with the level of flexibility they now have in terms of the data they use for campaigns.

“I have used other email service provider platforms extensively, and MessageGears is one of the simplest ones to use. It has an intuitive interface, which is key for people on the frontline. Even if you have never used the MessageGears platform, you can still find a way through it,” said Ben Whitlow, Marketing Technology Manager at Musictoday. “MessageGears provides flexibility of data, ease of use, and the reliability we need.”

Pain 6: Too expensive

While we have this pain listed as number six, it’s really one of the most commonly cited complaints about SFMC.

Brands face high implementation costs, with additional expenses for ongoing management and support. Run into an issue? They’ll show you how you can “easily” fix it – by buying another one of their products or paying extra for support services.

Before you know it you’re caught in a web of Salesforce-branded products, locked into long-term contracts that are difficult and expensive to break.

That doesn’t even take into account the extra fees you’re paying to store a copy of your data in their cloud just to make things work. 

When the team at OpenTable decided to replace its legacy cloud-based ESP with MessageGears and directly connect to its Snowflake data warehouse, the company recognized a 50% reduction in martech spend. This streamlined data strategy also helped the team identify new areas of opportunity and thanks to the cost savings, OpenTable was able to bring on two new team members focused on those areas.

Pain 7: Too rigid

While it brands itself as being a true cross-channel marketing platform for the enterprise, the way SFMC is built simply makes it antiquated and too email-centric in its architecture. 

This architecture presents challenges in adapting to emerging channels like mobile or OTT. Meanwhile, even their core channels lack flexibility. For instance, the email editor in SFMC requires the use of their proprietary AMPscript coding language. Don’t know how to write in AMPscript? That’s another consultant or full-time employee you need to be ready to compensate.

While there are a million examples of SFMC’s rigidity, one of the most frustrating examples is the Journey Builder tool. 

Even when you think you’ve got a good read on your customers, the journey from awareness to purchase will always be at least somewhat unpredictable. However, in SFMC’s Journey Builder, customer journeys are linear and each campaign needs to be set up individually on its orchestration branch. 

The tool lacks intuitive guardrails for when messages can be sent, resulting in a really large operations lift in defining different logic for exclusion and inclusion across different campaigns. 

Meanwhile, MessageGears provides you with all the same functionality as Salesforce while using FreeMarker, an open-source language that many developers are already familiar with and translates elsewhere easily.

And because consumer journeys are not linear, we cohesively combine different journeys into one master view, making it easier to set up sophisticated customer experiences in a way that allows an individual to easily and automatically flow between campaigns based on their actions, without needing a ton of stacked entry and exit logic built into each specific workflow.

Meanwhile, in SFMC, marketers spend an inordinate amount of time and resources acquiring new customers and carefully tuning their campaigns, nurturing them to make sure they don’t become overwhelmed with too many messages. 

However, it doesn’t take long after Journey Builder is implemented for your one Journey to grow into five, 10, or 20. Once that happens, all of that control is lost as the journeys take on a life of their own. 

Pain 8: Support won’t help

Salesforce is quick to point out its massive customer support team. They’ll say the expertise is there to get you through any challenges you might encounter, whether it’s in the transition or after you’re fully onboarded.

It’s not all lies. They certainly have a massive customer support team, and they do what they can for a lot of customers each day. What Salesforce won’t tell you is that they’re doing much of that for extra fees, for those who go into their “premier queue.” And, even then, it’s still a queue. That queue can seem endless to the customers waiting for a callback.

Once you’re able to speak with someone, get ready to spend your valuable time explaining your unique implementation and the challenge you’re trying to overcome to each new support person you’re routed to. There’s no frustration like trying to troubleshoot something super-custom that your implementation partner – who’s long gone – created but is now broken. 

Users often rely on third-party vendors for implementation and support, which can lead to higher costs and less direct problem resolution.  In other words, a huge pain in the 🍑.

Enterprise-level brands deserve enterprise-level support. At MessageGears, we have a dedicated customer success team that provides someone who’s available to you 24/7 to help in whatever way we need to ensure your team’s success. 

“MessageGears is more than just a customer engagement platform. Their teams are always on hand to support us whenever we need strategic direction or guidance on how we can further elevate our messaging campaigns,” says Thomas O’Brien, Digital Channel Manager at PTSB.

MessageGears was built around the philosophy that you’ve spent a lot of resources collecting and organizing your data, and you should be able to use it without technology getting in the way. And we want to provide all the resources you need to make it work for your team.