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Salesforce Data Management 101: The Essentials You Need to Know

Today, customers mostly interact with brands online over multiple channels. These interactions are not limited to buying from you. Customers ask questions, request technical support, demand refunds, and write comments on social media. As a result, each of them generates large amounts of data.

Keeping track of all this information would be nearly impossible without customer relationship management (CRM) systems. The most popular among them is Salesforce – a SaaS solution with nearly 24% revenue market share and more than 150,000 companies using it every day, including industry leaders such as IBM, Canon, Cisco, Mercedes-Benz, and more. 

Simply put, Salesforce is a go-to solution when it comes to picturing your company’s clients and coordinating teams around customer interactions. However, without proper management, the amount of valuable data accumulated by Salesforce can quickly become a problem. How so?  

Why is Salesforce data management important?

Customer data can be a source of valuable business insights that can improve the decision-making process significantly. However, it is only true for high-quality data: updated, accurate, and complete information. 

On the other hand, businesses today often become burdened by the amounts of complex data that grows exponentially. The problems stemming from this include, but are not limited to: 

  • data duplication
  • loss of valuable records
  • inconsistency and ambiguity of the information gathered
  • abrupt or fragmented data
  • hindered dashboarding and reporting
  • privacy, security, governance issues, and more.

To avoid these and other setbacks, it is important to manage Salesforce data properly and on time. How? By implementing standard operating procedures and policies for data acquisition, assessment, processing, and storage. This way you will make data available to stakeholders and teams, and make it more reliable and suitable for decision making. Fortunately, Salesforce has all the means to help you connect technology to your business needs and manage data effectively. 

Options for the real data management Salesforce provides 

If you google this, you may stumble upon confusing information. Salesforce seems to have a data management platform (DMP) called Audience Studio, and a customer data platform (CDP). The difference between the two is seemingly small yet essential:

  • DMPs mostly work with third-party data typically acquired from cookie files. This allows you to accumulate massive volumes of information about your customers, but poor quality, ethical ambiguity, and low latency (the lag between customer interaction and media reaction) make it less valuable.
  • CDPs operate with first-party and second-party data – the information gathered either by your company directly, or by your partners. This is a safer way to gather valuable intel about your customers: the info you collect is often unique and acquired ethically through informed consent. 

The thing is that although Audience Studio is still listed on the Salesforce website, it is no longer available. In other words, you cannot do data management in Salesforce with a DMP.

Audience Studio: Salesforce data management platform… gone forever?

audience studio

Formerly known as Krux, Audience Studio was purchased by Salesforce around 2016. This AI-powered DMP had everything you needed for customer profiling, marketing strategy planning, communication, sales, dashboarding, and analytics. 

However, presumably due to the setbacks of working with third-party data, in autumn 2019, Salesforce launched a pilot of Customer 360 Audiences – a better alternative to Audience Studio that eventually surpassed and consumed it, nowadays known as Salesforce CDP.  

Salesforce customer data management made easier

salesforce cdp

Salesforce CDP has everything you need to gather all the knowledge you have about your customers in one place using a simple drag-and-drop interface and industry-leading software. The CDP comprises numerous solutions such as Datorama, Insight Builder, Interaction Studio, Tableau, MuleSoft, and others – each powering Salesforce with functionality meant to improve your customer interactions.

What data management in Salesforce includes

Data management opportunities provided by Salesforce include but are not limited to:

  • Backup. When you operate with large data arrays, protecting yourself from the loss or corruption of valuable data is paramount.   
  • Import/Export. This functionality is crucial when your data needs to be accessed from external devices, applications, or web services, and converted to/from popular file formats.   
  • Reports and dashboarding. Organizing data by defined criteria and representing vital information graphically are powerful ways to quickly gain insights into particular areas of customer interactions.
  • Integrations. You can combine Salesforce functionality with the features of third-party solutions to cater to the needs of your teams in full.   
  • Governance. Establishing the principles on which data is handled and used is crucial for maintaining data privacy, quality, and consistency. 
  • Data quality assessment. Only good data contributes to driving your customer interactions forward, so before using acquired information, you need to separate the wheat from the chaff. 

Salesforce data management best practices 

To manage Salesforce data effectively, you can adhere to some of the best practices that include:

  • Identifying the data you need 
  • Improving the quality of the acquired data
  • Establishing data governance and ensuring privacy
  • Importing / Exporting to or from third-party applications 
  • Automating reports.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these practices to help you do data management for Salesforce effectively. 

Identify and collect necessary data in Salesforce

The degree to which your data can influence the decision-making process is crucial. You can use it to develop more accurate theories about your target audience and back them up, identify potential problems proactively, and plan strategically. 

Depending on what you need, you might want to know more about: 

  • User identity. This is all about your customers’ age, gender, geographical location, occupation, family status, and so on.
  • Engagement. This type of data reflects how, why, when, and to what extent are your customers using your product or service.  
  • Feedback and attitude. Are they recommending your product or service or advising against it? Learn what’s on your customers’ minds.
  • Outcomes. This data shows how (and whether) your product or service has changed the lives of your customers in the short, middle, and long-term perspectives.

There are other types of customer data that you can collect. The easiest way is to use in-built Salesforce Forms to encourage customers to provide the data you want on their initiative. You can also create forms using software such as FormTitan or FormAssembly.

Improve your data quality

To ensure data quality from the very beginning, you need to: 

  • Set data quality KPIs that are interconnected with overall performance metrics.
  • Have optimized and polished data processes (acquisition, assessment, analysis, storage, and distribution). 

Perform regular quality audits to determine whether the info you operate with matches quality criteria:

  • accuracy
  • uniqueness
  • accessibility
  • completeness
  • timeliness
  • relevance
  • consistency.

In case it doesn’t, here are some actions you can take to solve this problem:

  • Find and remove duplicate data. Use Salesforce in-built tools for maintaining clean databases free of duplicates, containing only unique records.
  • Normalize your data. Customers tend to make mistakes when they input information into online forms. Finding and correcting these mistakes is one of the basic yet effective ways to improve the quality of your data dramatically. 
  • Assign a data steward. Every department needs a specialist to monitor and assess gathered data, and take the actions necessary to improve its quality.
  • Eliminate silos. Often, different teams and departments independently accumulate separate, isolated arrays of data, which tend to overlap. As a result, large volumes of information become useless because they either duplicate or mutually exclude each other. Getting rid of silos is crucial for improving data quality. 
  • Democratize data. Gate-keeping valuable information or making it exclusive to specific business units hinders decision-making and the efficiency of the business as a whole. Contrarily, when data can be accessed by anyone across the organization, it quickly becomes a source of valuable and sometimes unexpected insights. 

Only the data that matches quality criteria is useful for informed decision-making.

You cannot gather any information regarding your customers without their consent: meeting legal requirements recorded in the regulations such as GDPR is mandatory. Salesforce consent data management model lets you ensure compliance and make your user’s privacy integral.

Salesforce stores users’ data privacy preferences in the form of objects. These objects fall into different categories such as authorization form objects, communication subscription options, data use purpose, and so on. These objects correspond with four levels of consent:

  • Level 1. The person providing consent
  • Level 2. Consented channels of communication
  • Level 3. Specific contact addresses
  • Level 4. Types of content a user consents to.

Relationships between different consent objects in Salesforce can be reflected with the help of the following scheme. 

Salesforce consent relationships

Import and export your data in Salesforce

Salesforce has a lot to offer, but importing/exporting acquired data to/from other applications gives you more flexibility than default tools.

Import

To import data into Salesforce from a third-party app, you can use two standard options: 

  • Data Import Wizard. You can use it to manually import up to 50,000 objects such as contacts, leads, and accounts.
  • Data Loader. Use this client app if the data you need to import is not supported by Data Import Wizard, or if the number of imported objects exceeds 5,000 items.  

Regardless of which tool you choose, here are the steps you need to take to prepare data for import into Salesforce:

  • Assess the quality of the to-be imported data and clean it
  • Create an export file in a program you will be importing from
  • Check whether data fields in the imported file match with the appropriate Salesforce fields
  • Make corrections and add new fields, if needed.

A good idea would be to run the procedure using a small test file before thousands of actual data objects. 

Export

Exporting data from Salesforce with default means implies using:

  • Data Export Service. An in-browser solution that lets you export information manually or automatically once in seven or 29 days, depending on the edition (Enterprise, Performance, Unlimited, Professional, Developer).
  • Data Loader. A more convenient way to move your customer data to a third-party application that can automate the export process and integrate into another system.

We’ve prepared a comprehensive guide to help you figure all this out. Instead of wading through the confusing official documentation, learn how to export data from Salesforce the easy way.

Salesforce reporting automation with Coupler.io

Salesforce involves a lot of tedious, manual labor when it comes to synchronizing data between applications and organizing it into reports and dashboards. Although you have access to a variety of report types, your report customization options are limited. Additionally, sharing reports repeatedly in Salesforce is inconvenient. 

To optimize these processes and avoid drawbacks, you can do reporting outside Salesforce. There are simple no-code automation tools that let you implement automated report exporting on a schedule, without having to do everything manually.

Coupler.io is one of the solutions expanding the options of data management Salesforce offers. It is a data consolidation tool used to move information from a CRM or app you are using into Google Sheets, Google BigQuery, or Microsoft Excel. This process requires zero coding knowledge, making the tool a go-to solution when it comes to Salesforce data management.    

Figure 2.4.3. Coupler.io to import data from Facebook into Excel Google Sheets and BigQuery

In particular, Coupler.io can:

  • Create backups of your essential data in the form of spreadsheets
  • Set specific dates and hours of the day for automatic data exporting
  • Directly connect spreadsheets with exported data to visualization tools such as Google Data Studio or Tableau
  • Integrate with Salesforce, WordPress, Trello, Jira, JSON, Airtable, Clockify, HubSpot, Slack, and other systems.

It takes about five minutes to export data from Salesforce with the help of Coupler.io:

  1. Configure Salesforce as a source application
  2. Configure the destination application
  3. Configure the schedule for automatic data refresh

Here is what the setup may look like for the Salesforce to Google Sheets integration.

coupler export step6

Now that we’ve glanced at some of the best data management practices in Salesforce, let’s briefly review the tools used for their implementation.

The limitations of data management in Salesforce 

Although Salesforce is arguably the best CRM out there, it has its limits: 

  • Working with data in Salesforce involves lots of tedious manual labor
  • Users with little technical knowledge might find it difficult to use Salesforce
  • Salesforce’s functionality is limited to subscription plans
  • Standard Salesforce tools offer limited visualization and sharing options.

Fortunately, these and other drawbacks can be minimized or even negated completely with the help of numerous tools for data management.

Salesforce data management tools

Tools to manage Salesforce data

Along with the tools we’ve already mentioned, there are many in-built and third-party solutions you can use to implement Salesforce data management best practices. Some of the most popular among them are: 

FunctionTools
BackupBackup & Restore
OwnBackup
Gearset
CloudAlly
Import / ExportCoupler.io
Dataloader.io
Apex DataLoader
Coefficient
Jitterbit
Reports and dashboardsTableau
Google Data Studio
Power BI
Zoho Reports
Klipfolio
Data quality assessment and normalizationData Quality Analysis Dashboards
Duplicate Rules
RingLead Field Trip
ZoomInfo
AddressTools
Salesforce Merge
Cloudingo
Duplicate Check
DupeCatcher

Boost your data management Salesforce opportunities 

Salesforce might be the most popular CRM system, but as any out-of-the-box solution, it has its limits. When working with CRM this large, you do not have to adhere to default, in-built options. With the help of smaller third-party applications, you can customize Salesforce’s functionality for your own needs and purposes. 

To simplify data management and expand the pool of available options, Salesforce users often use third-party solutions instead of the default tools. For example, OwnBackup or CloudAlly are often used to backup and restore essential information. Reporting automation and customization are easier with Coupler.io – especially paired with data visualization tools such as Tableau or G-Connector. Improving data quality would be difficult without DupeCatcher and other similar apps. 
The true data management Salesforce power is in its flexibility and compatibility with external software. So use it to your advantage!

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