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Implement Email Campaigns in Marketing Cloud through Automation Studio and Journey Builder

  • colm_barry

One of the main goals of any Salesforce Marketing Cloud solution is to provide users with the ability to create customisable email campaigns that allow for interaction with customers. Both the Automation Studio and Journey Builder applications provided in the Cloud can be implemented to meet these requirements.

Automation Studio focuses on creating automated processes that use various starting sources to trigger the execution of activities defined by the user. The activities available in the application range from Email sends to data filtering. Once an automation has been created, it can be scheduled and monitored.

Journey Builder introduces Journeys to Marketing Cloud. Journeys encapsulate the path that a customer will take in an email campaign. Journeys can be created from multiple entry sources and can use ‘Activities’ to perform ‘Messaging’ and ‘Flow Control’, among other functionalities. Journeys may also be validated and tested to ensure that they execute as intended.


The Journeys created in Marketing Cloud have the potential to personalise how a customer's path through an email campaign is executed. Using different ‘Flow Control Activities’ allows users to take different customers through different branches of a Journey. These branches can be based on customer details, behaviour, or based on a random percentage using Splits. If any branches need to align back onto a single path, a ‘Join Activity’ can be used. Similarly, ‘Wait Activities’ can be utilised to delay other actions in the Journey based on customer attributes, a specified duration, or a specified date.

The available Wait Flow Control Activities in Journey Builder

The various amounts of ‘Entry Sources’ available in Journey Builder provide multiple ways to trigger customer Journeys from Marketing Cloud. From Data Sources such as ‘Data Extensions’ and ‘Audiences’, to standard and API Events, Journeys can permit different customers based on their relationship to the sources. Journey Builder also allows for the connection between Marketing Cloud orgs and Sales and Service Cloud orgs to trigger Journeys using the Salesforce Data Entry Source. Inbound Chat messages and CloudPages forms are also available for triggering Journeys through user input.

Once the design of the Journey has been created and its entry source has been defined, different activities can be added to it in the Journey Builder. ‘Messaging Activities’ allow for the sending of Emails, SMS, and Push Notifications, while ‘Advertising Audiences’ and ‘Campaigns’ can be created and Contacts can be updated as well. As well as in ‘Entry Sources’, Sales and Service Cloud can be integrated so that Custom Objects, Contacts, Opportunities, leads, and others can be created, updated, or both directly from the Journey.

Overall, the ease-of-use of Journey Builder is one of the major benefits of the application. The user interface of Journey Builder is straightforward and allows for the quick development of Journeys. ‘Goals’ can be set by the user to measure a journey's success and even exit a user from a Journey if they meet the specified goal. ‘Validation’ can be used once a Journey is created to check for any potential configuration errors that occur, and ‘Testing’ can be implemented using the ‘Classic Test Mode’ or ‘Journey Testing with a Data Extension’ features to ensure that Journeys perform as intended. Analytics for a Journey is also readily available from within the application.

Validation Error Example in Journey Builder

Use Automation Studio to Schedule Actions

Unlike ‘Journey Builder’, ‘Automation Studio’ focuses less on the personalisation of customers' experiences in an email campaign and instead concentrates on the process of the campaign and the actions it performs within the system.

In the application, three main starting sources are available, ‘Scheduled Automations’, ‘File Drop Automations’ and ‘Trigger Automations’. Each of these automation types provides ways to perform the actions available in Automation Studio that are not otherwise available. ‘Scheduled Automations’ allow for triggering based on time, frequency, and end time; ‘File Drops’ let users place files on a configured File Transfer Protocol directory to trigger automations (which can itself be automated), and ‘Trigger Automations’ utilise trigger APIs to monitor External Systems and begin automations based on their activity.

The ‘Activities’ in Automation Studio can perform many actions on the system, including Sending Emails, Transforming Data, and Transferring Data both into and out of Marketing Cloud. Data Transformations in Automations are crucial in ensuring that automations are performed on the correct customers and that the data provided is up to date throughout Marketing Cloud. Activities such as Filter, SQL Query and Refresh can be configured to meet this requirement. Data Extract, File Transfer and Import File are examples of ‘Data Transformation Activities’ that can be used to send and retrieve data securely to and from Marketing Cloud, as well as allow for the encryption of sensitive data.

Example of a File Drop Automation which utilises multiple Activities

Once Automations have been created in Marketing Cloud, they are available to review and monitor on the Automation Studio Overview Page, which provides highly detailed information on the current status of running Automations and the success (or failure) of ones created previously. Managing Automations is easily available from this page, which includes the ability to pause, copy, and delete created automations.

Combine The Applications to Minimise their Shortcomings

While "Journey Builder" and "Automation Studio" each have their drawbacks, they both deliver a good user experience and great functionality, making them suitable tools for Email Campaigns. Moreso, the two applications can be used together to enhance each other's capabilities and minimise their weaknesses.

Journey Builder's main drawbacks are rooted in the inability to create Journeys that are triggered from within a scheduled process of changing data and in permitting groups of segmented users to join Journeys simultaneously. By utilising an ‘Automation Data Extension Entry Source’, an existing Automation can be used to add customers retrieved in the Automation to the Journey and allow for a specified schedule using the relevant Starting Source.

Example of a Data Extension Journey, which, if configured to have ‘Automation’ Schedule, can use a previously created Automation to trigger the Journey on completion

On the other hand, as ‘Automation Studio’ struggles with the personalisation of users' experiences in email campaigns, combining Automations with Journeys allows users to go down paths that can vary for each user that enters the Journey, which would be otherwise impossible in ‘Automation Studio’ as it processes contacts in groups. The ability to measure Goals in Journey Builder is also a huge benefit to the application, as otherwise Automations will finish as designed and cannot use any goals as exit criteria. Also, while not impossible, the implementation of Testing is more readily available in Journey Builder, so Automations that integrate with Journeys can be easily tested before deployment.

Overall, the ability of both applications is of great benefit to any Marketing Cloud User, however, to reach the full capability of both, they must be used in conjunction to provide highly complex and highly customisable email campaigns for customers.


Today’s post was written by Salesforce Developer, Ian Gilligan.


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