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The Fundamentals of Marketing Cloud Journey Builder

Send targeted and personalized emails to your subscribers through Marketing Cloud Journey Builder. Here’s everything you need to know about using Journey Builder.

Marketing Cloud Journey Builder is a drag and drop tool that allows you to take your email marketing campaigns to the next level by reaching your subscribers at the right time and place, and through their preferred channels for messaging. It is a powerful tool and has plenty of intricacies to understand. We put together this comprehensive guide to help you get started and realize all the benefits of Journey Builder.

Before we get into it, let’s review common Journey Builder terminology.

Glossary of Terms

  • Canvas Activities: These are available message actions, decision points, updates, or a combination of these elements that guide the customer journey until the subscriber reaches a goal or the endpoint of the journey.
  • Customer Updates: This activity prompts the Marketing Cloud system to update a contact’s information in a data extension.
  • Data Extension: A data extension in Marketing Cloud is a table within the application database that contains your data.
  • Entry Sources: This tells Journey Builder the data source for a particular journey. Entry sources include Data Extensions, API events, audiences, CloudPages, Salesforce data, or events. All journeys must begin with an entry source.
  • Flow Control: Flow control activities are how you manage your contact’s experience through the journey.
  • Multi-Step Journey: Build a journey that sends cross-channel messages based on marketing logic and audience behavior.
  • Sales & Service Cloud Activities: Activities in Journey Builder that allow you to create or update Sales and Service Cloud object records for connected Marketing Cloud contacts.
  • Single Send Journey: Quickly build and send a single personalized message in any available channel.

Marketing Cloud Journey Builder – Lay of the Land

The first important step is to understand the layout and user interface of the Journey Builder platform. The dashboard and the canvas are the most-used areas for creating journeys.

Journey Builder Dashboard

  1. Journey Folders: Store journeys in folders so they’re easy to find. You can organize your journeys immediately after creating and saving them, or you can add journeys to folders from the Journey Builder dashboard at any time.
  2. Journey: View a list of all journeys or those available within each folder. This list includes status, performance, and when the journey was last modified.
  3. Analytics: View basic analytics including how many journeys are meeting their goals and your highest and lowest performing journeys.
  4. Search Journeys: Looks at journey titles and descriptions to help you find specific journeys.
  5. Create New Journey: This is your starting point to create a new journey from scratch or a template.
  6. Entry Sources: View the entry sources previously used for your journeys. Entry sources can be unique or shared among journeys. From here, you can also test, copy, or delete entry sources.
  7. Journey History: Use the ContactID to view a contact’s path through a journey, or journey version.
  8. Journey Templates: Contains predefined, editable journeys that show in-context guidance based on common use cases, and marketing best practices. Get a head start creating your journey with Journey Templates.

(source: Get Started with Journey Builder)

Journey Builder Canvas

The canvas has four components:

  1. Journey title and description
  2. Entry sources and canvas activities
  3. Journey Canvas
  4. Journey Builder toolbar

(source: Get Started with Journey Builder)

Building a Journey

Let’s get to building!

Step 1: Plan Your Journey Campaign

Launching your first journey requires strategic thought and planning. Think about the message you want to send out and who you want to send it to. Set a goal and the purpose of the journey. Select the right audience and create personalized content to reach the desired goal. 

We recommend you start small with your first journey to learn more about how Journey Builder works. The most common first journey is a Welcome Journey. It’s a great way to send a series of emails that provide ways to interact with your brand. A few examples of this include:

  • A customer makes a purchase and receives a thank you email. The second email prompts them to follow the company’s social media. The third email asks for a product review and provides related products of interest. 
  • A business owner downloads a piece of content and receives the content in an email. The second email provides more related content. The final email is a personal 1-1 email from a salesperson asking about interest in other products and services.
  • A customer creates an account on your website and receives a confirmation email. The second email provides more information about features included with their account. The third email contains a referral code.

Define what you want this journey to accomplish and the content creation will follow. Setting your goals is always the most important first step.

P.S. Marketing Cloud Journey Builder provides a Welcome Series Template that can help you get started!

Step 2: Prepare Message or Advertising Activities

Create your emails for the journey in Email Studio’s Content Builder. In the example of the Welcome Journey, create your series of email messages and plug them into the journey. If you want to get more familiar with Content Builder, check out this Content Builder Trailhead.

Step 3: Prepare the Entry Source (Your Audience)

Next, create the entry source, which is the audience that you’ll send these targeted messages to. Here are the options available for you:

  • Data Extension: The data extension entry source lets you choose a sendable data extension, then admit batches of contacts in that data extension into a journey. You can configure a filter to control which contacts enter or admit all contacts in the data extension.
  • API Event: The API event in Journey Builder connects the journey canvas to an API to admit contacts into a journey. When the API fires an event, the contacts entering the journey are stored in a Marketing Cloud data extension you choose. You can set a filter using Marketing Cloud data attributes to ensure that only intended contacts enter the journey.
  • Cloud Pages: Use a CloudPages Smart Capture form and Journey Builder to admit Marketing Cloud contacts into a journey using the CloudPages Form Submit Event.
  • Salesforce Data: A Salesforce Data Event is an action in Sales or Service Clouds. For example, creating or updating an object record injects a contact into a journey. When the primary object meets rule criteria and reference object filtering criteria, Salesforce Flows initiates a Journey Builder event.
  • Event: An event prompts one or more contacts to enter a journey. The records Journey Builder evaluates for events are stored in a data source, which Journey Builder monitors on a schedule you set.

(Source: Entry Sources)

Step 4: Build the Journey

1. Select either a Template Journey or Blank Journey. There are several templates to help you get started:

  • Abandoned Cart – Everyday Purchase: Convert customers who leave the buying process without a purchase by reminding them of the items in their cart.
  • Abandoned Cart – Significant Purchase: Support customers who leave large-ticket items in their cart or who abandon a funnel by helping them make an informed choice.
  • Anniversary Send: Influence customers at a meaningful moment, encouraging repeat business or renewed customer engagement.
  • Birthday Journey with Coupon: Cultivate happy customers. Remember their birthdays with a special offer.
  • Event Follow – Up: Follow up with attendees after an event.
  • Welcome Journey: Start simple. Welcome new customers to your brand with a series of emails.
  • Welcome Journey with Engagement: Introduce yourself. Show customers your brand’s personality and respond when they engage.

Once you select a template or decide to do a blank journey your canvas is ready for you to plug and play. 

2. Start with the Entry Source you created for this journey. Then, follow the steps to finish setting up the entry source.

3. Next, select the activities. This is where you set up the emails or messages you created prior and seamlessly insert them into the journey.

Once you’ve set up your emails you can add Flow Control activities. These activities help spread out the messages or help you take certain actions based on a customer’s action. Here is a breakdown of each flow control activity:

  • Wait By Duration: Any contact is held in the journey until that duration period is over.
  • Wait By Attribute: A wait that ends based on the value of an attribute in the Journey Data.
  • Wait by Date: Any contact is held until that specific date is reached.
  • Decision Split: Split the bath based on data. If someone has these criteria they follow this path, but if someone else’s criteria are different then they follow this path.
  • Random Split: Place contacts on different paths at random.
  • Engagement Split: Split the path if a contact opened or clicked a link in an email.
  • Join: Allow paths to merge back together.

(See Flow Control Best Practices for more)

  • Use Sales & Service Cloud Activities (only available if you have the Marketing Cloud Connector installed): If you use Sales or Service Cloud, this helps you create or update records that are connected to Marketing Cloud.
  • Task Activity: Creates a task in Sales and Service Cloud for each Marketing Cloud contact that reaches this activity.
  • Opportunity: Creates an opportunity record in Sales and Service Cloud. Use Marketing Cloud contact attributes to populate the fields in the opportunity record or populate each record with fixed values you choose.
  • Lead: Creates or updates a lead from Sales or Service Cloud using Sales or Service Cloud data brought into a journey or Marketing Cloud contact data.
  • Contact: Creates or updates a contact from Sales or Service Cloud using Sales or Service Cloud data brought into a journey or Marketing Cloud contact data.
  • Case: Creates a case and associates it to the Sales and Service Cloud contact that matches the Marketing Cloud contact’s ID. Or create a Sales and Service Cloud contact to associate to the case.
  • Campaign Member: Creates a connection between campaigns, contacts, and leads, which helps define a relationship to the status within a campaign. Use this activity to track important moments of engagement throughout the journey.
  • Account: Creates or updates an account in Sales and Service Cloud for each contact that reaches this activity. If you have Person Accounts, you can create or update both Business and Person Account activities.
  • Object Activity: Creates or updates a Salesforce object record, such as a lead, task, or custom object, when a contact in the journey reaches this activity. 
  • Convert Lead: Converts qualified leads from the Sales and Service Cloud into a contact or account. This activity schedules important actions, such as assigning a lead owner, creating an opportunity or task, and changing the lead’s conversion status.

Step 5: Test and Launch the Journey

Once your journey is set up, use Journey Builder’s test features to confirm that a journey behaves as it should once it has launched. When you use a data extension as the entry source, you can configure a test to simulate a journey with real contacts. Journey Builder requires you to validate and save the journey before you test it. Validation ensures that all elements of the journey’s design are complete and ready to test. Once everything looks good, then you are ready to launch your first journey!

Check-in on your journey regularly to ensure everything is working as expected. Then, find any takeaways for you to prepare and optimize your next journey program. 

We hope this was helpful to you as you create your first or next journey in Marketing Cloud. Our certified Marketing Cloud consultant team is always here to help! If you have any further questions feel free to contact us for our best tips and best practices. 

About Adrianna Ramos
Adrianna is a marketing consultant for Kadence Collective and Kadence Digital. She is a content creator fanatic and loves creating campaigns both paid and organic to help companies meet their goals. In her free time, she likes to explore the city of Austin, trying new restaurants, going to concerts and networking with others.
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