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Salesforce Marketing Cloud Self-Help

How to find answers to your technical marketing cloud questions

Have you heard this before?

“There are a thousand ways to do everything in Salesforce Marketing Cloud.”

Or this:

“Well, that’s one way of doing it.”

Technical implementations of Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) come in two flavors: There are general ways of making SFMC motor along happily and there are the other ways of turning SFMC into a custom, high-performance machine.

Many of the official resources for solving technical challenges in SFMC focus on high-level architecture and presume a certain Salesforce product implementation exists. Frequently, key architecture decisions have already been made by the time SFMC pulls up to the stoplight and starts revving. So, if you want to build something that aligns more intimately with your systems and their requirements, where should you turn?

Here are my favorite resources — both official and unofficial — that, collectively, power my clients down the road.

The usual start: Official Salesforce sources

Trailhead, Partner Learning Camps & Certifications

As for the foundational sources for implementation the way Salesforce intends — it all starts with the massive Trailhead ecosystem. The themes represented in the Certification Program exams demonstrate the overarching happy path. If you’re a partner, the formalized enablement through Partner Learning Camps and related assessments (PLCs) offers direction on larger-scale or cross-cloud implementation.

The Help Site

As the name suggests, the official Help site is the one-stop-shop for help from Salesforce products. Results include official product and developer documentation, knowledge articles, community posts, Known Issues, Trailhead modules, etc.

If I were to index these sources in order of helpfulness, with #1 being the most helpful:

  1. Community Posts — Good, open forum to ask broad or specific questions. Salesforce employees do respond to these, but most of the responses are from folks in the community volunteering their time.
  2. Knowledge Articles — These are official statements on or solutions for some of the “weirdsies” in the platform.
  3. Product Documentation — What it is and how it’s supposed to work.
  4. Trailhead — High-level concepts, but not solutions
  5. Developer Documentation — Comprehensive, difficult to navigate and very stale. Use code samples at your own risk.

Chatter-based Community Groups

As I mentioned previously, of the official sources I find the community groups most helpful — mostly because they’re geared toward answering specific questions.

  • Official Marketing Cloud Group — The primary community group focused on Salesforce Marketing Cloud. You’ll find official SF announcements sprinkled in among individual question and answer threads.
  • Groups Tagged Marketing Cloud — These are groups associated with Marketing Cloud. Includes local/regional user groups. There are several active local groups that will do very informative webinars on occasion.
  • All Community Groups — This page lists all the groups for all the “Clouds”.

Known Issues

Through some mysterious internal process at Salesforce, platform issues can be officially acknowledged and incorporated into the Known Issues database. Known issues are assigned a unique identifier and can move through a series of statuses (In Review -> Scheduled -> Release in Progress -> Fixed or No Fix). The index of these issues is organized by tag.

NOTE: If you log in with your SF credentials, you can click the “This Issue Affects Me” button to get notified any time the status changes.

I find it difficult to find anything within a category on this page. So, I built my own tabular, searchable and sortable front-end for this data on my blog. There are often good workarounds and clarifications of functionality published in these acknowledged issues. Any time I’m thinking of opening a support case, I’ll search on this page by description. I’ve found answers to many questions here.

If you’d like to be notified any time one of these issues is added or updated, you can download my OPML file and import it into your favorite RSS reader. You can also incorporate this data into your own application. I made a simple service endpoint that’ll return matches by keyword in JSON format. Contact me through my blog if you integrate this data…I’d love to hear all about it!

Salesforce Support

If you’ve reviewed the Known Issues and you have a solid understanding of what needs to be resolved or provisioned, Salesforce Support can help you. Here are some tips for a speedy resolution:

  • Don’t forget to grant login access to Support before you originate the case. Be sure and mention that access has been granted when you write your first note.
  • Write your case text outside of your browser. If your login expires or there’s an issue submitting the case, your case summary is not lost.
  • In the case notes, provide as many details as possible. Include all the troubleshooting steps you’ve taken.
  • Upload screenshots to clarify any locations, names or error messages.
  • If there’s an offer from the Support Rep for a screen-share, DO IT. Doing this allows you to quickly provide additional details and potentially demonstrate the issue.
  • If the resolution to your case is not publicly documented, request that it be submitted to the Documentation Team.
  • Don’t fear escalating. If the Support Rep isn’t understanding what you’re describing or is not responding with certainty, click that Escalate button.
  • If you feel the Support Rep is rushing to close the case, push back. If it’s still not resolved, keep it open.
  • Fill out the survey after the case is closed.

Keep this in mind: Salesforce Support engineers are good problem-solvers, but they’re not solution builders. That’s you.

IdeaExchange

Occasionally Salesforce will direct you to IdeaExchange for Marketing Cloud if you inquire about a platform feature that’s not currently on the roadmap. You can (and should) submit your ideas so others can cast votes. You’ll also have a set of votes to cast if you find other ideas that resonate with you. Similar to the Known Issues, if you vote on ideas, you’ll get notified if/when the status changes.

I’m mentioning IdeaExchange here only so you can use it to rule out aspects of your solution. If it’s not currently “a thing”, it’s probably not going to be one anytime soon. Because, unfortunately, there’s a huge backlog of good SFMC ideas that have been on this list for years. (“Hey, ExactTarget Developer Edition, how ya doin?”)

Unofficial Sources

Ask The Google

Have you tried Googling it?

I know, I know… among us tech professionals, it’s cliché. But seriously, Google it first. There’s an ocean of SFMC content that’s indexed and ready for your search. So, plop that question in the search box, and hit enter. You’ll probably find the answer.

Salesforce StackExchange

Back in 2012, Matt Lacey proposed the idea of a Salesforce-specific site on the StackExchange network. It graduated from the Area51 beta program in 2013. Circa 2014, with the help of some enterprising Developer Advocates at ExactTarget, the [marketing-cloud] tag was born and started building momentum.

Psst… (leaning in to whisper): Some feel Stack Exchange/Stack Overflow is a stuffy, harsh, and unforgiving place — full of egomaniacs who are ready to pounce on poor unsuspecting learners. I’ve experienced the fear and trepidation of not quite understanding what I’m asking and — true to form — I caught the “you should know better, NOOB” drift in the ensuing responses. My advice is: approach the community interactions like you might approaching any other internet melting pot. Don’t let the internet-ness of it foul your view of what it really is — one of the most amazing moderated reference platforms that exists.

In my view Salesforce StackExchange (SFSE) is the single greatest resource for finding answers to technical Marketing Cloud challenges. Not only is it a good place to learn — by challenging yourself to find the answers to questions — but it’s also a comprehensively indexed, tagged, searchable and expertly moderated database of questions and answers on all SFMC topics.

Searching

When you’re searching, type these tags (including the square brackets) in your search to only return questions and answers that are associated with them:

  • [marketing-cloud]
  • [ampscript]
  • [ssjs]
  • [query]

If you’d like to further narrow your results by type or “accepted status”, use one of these qualifiers:

  • isquestion:true
  • isanswer:true
  • isaccepted:true

Asking Questions

Besides the official SFSE “how to ask” tips, here are some of my own. First and foremost, do your homework and focus your question as narrowly as possible. Broad questions don’t get much interest. If you put a good faith effort into figuring it out on your own, folks will notice and gather to answer.

In my opinion, good questions have these qualities:

  • They describe a specific problem.
  • They include formatted code blocks. Use the Markdown triple backticks (```) at the beginning and end of your code blocks to pretty them up.
  • Sample code is indented and organized so the structure is plain to see.
  • Additional details about the context and/or inputs are provided.
  • The desired outputs are articulated with some examples
  • They are appropriately tagged.
  • Good answers are accepted and not left hanging. Accepted answers float to the top.

Answering Questions

As I mentioned previously, SFSE is a great place to learn if you’re the type that learns by getting your hands dirty. If you’re inclined, cruise the unanswered SFMC question list and see if you know the answer to any of the questions. While you’re on that page, go ahead and click that Watch tag button. The platform will send you notifications of new questions via email.

While you’re hunting for answers for your predicament and you encounter a good answer (or question), upvote it. Upvotes build reputation and indicate excellence. Quality answers float to the top, both on the site and in Google searches. The more visible the answers are, the more likely others in the same boat will find the solution that you did.

Blogs & Tools

One thing that’s great about the SFMC community, is that there is a plethora of contributors that post content on their own websites. These sources usually include full, battle-tested solutions for common SFMC pain points and challenges. Take a look at my list of favorites. I’d suggest bookmarking them all and spending some time going through all of the posts.

Slack

Everyone seems to love Slack, don’t they? It’s definitely great place for the social interaction. For SFMC-related topics it can be a worth posting a quick question on one of these Slack workspaces:

  • EmailGeeks — I believe this group has been around the longest. Lots of smart folks are involved here. Includes more than just SFMC.
  • HowToSFMC — HowToSFMC is a private workspace that’s keen on being a go-to resource for how-to questions relating to SFMC. You can request access on their website.
  • Salesforce Partner Enablement — Salesforce created this workspace back in 2021. It has a slew of private partner enablement channels. Invites are mostly by company through the Partner Program. Here’s the one for SFMC enablement/troubleshooting: partner-mc-engagement-troubleshooting

While Slack is great for many reasons, it’s not a great way to find reference material or previously posted questions and answers. That’s why I much prefer un-gated or moderated public resources like Salesforce StackExchange.

YouTube

For audio-visual learners, there are some excellent resources on YouTube. Here are some channels to which I’ve subscribed:

I respect those who invest in producing these videos.

Public Code Repositories

Of all the sources, this one is probably the most obscure — GitHub Gists. For me personally, I use Github Gists as a snippet repository for blog content, but others use it for their own simple source control and reference. Gists are just cloud-hosted files that are public or private. Public ones are searchable, so if you’re hunting with specific keywords or code fragments, give it a shot.

Once you’ve created GitHub account, you can “star” Gists as a tip-of-the-hat to the author and as a site-specific bookmark. You can also subscribe to Gists and get notified when they change.

Posts are tagged by language and you can search using GitHub’s code searching operators.

  • file contents
  • file path
  • by organization
  • file location
  • language
  • file size
  • filename
  • file extension

Here are all the details of the GitHub search syntax.

Conclusion

I hope you feel empowered to explore more of these resources when you’re in the process of delivering Marketing Cloud solutions to your company or for your client. Beyond that, I hope you’ll participate and share what you know in some form or fashion. It’s my opinion that resourcefulness — knowing where to look — is a super-power that makes you more valuable. And in the wisdom of Paul Rudd, “ Hey, look at us.

Slalom is a global consulting firm that helps people and organizations dream bigger, move faster, and build better tomorrows for all. Learn more and reach out today.

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