Data Cloud For Dummies (like me)

At the end of each school day, I ask my 8-year-old daughter some version of “what did you learn today?” Yesterday, she flipped the script on me “what did you learn at work today?” she asked. I paused. Smiled. And then began to explain Data Cloud. About 10-seconds into my response she said, “that sounds complicated.”

Turns out, she is darn right. It is complicated. It also represents ground-breaking innovation for Marketers and therefore a critical concept for my non-technical brain to comprehend.

With my daughter, I used the relevant analog of Data Cloud to her new jewelry box. My daughter is in a jewelry phase at the moment. Jewelry she makes. Jewelry her friends make. And, jewelry she buys. The trouble is she struggles with organization. Each piece of new jewelry is worn and wantonly discarded in her room. Then, each morning, she attempts to prepare her matching outfit (jewelry and all) and begins a daily search party to find just the right color necklace, bracelets, or earrings. We recently purchased a jewelry box to help her organize her habit and simplify her morning routine. The box has a slot for each jewelry type and encourages organization by color and style. She is proud of the jewelry box, looks great every day and has an easier morning routine. Salesforce Data Cloud is the jewelry box for enterprise data.

71% of Company Applications Are Disconnected.

Because of the islands of disconnected data, Marketers spend much of their time passively building manual bridges: exporting, uploading, emailing, ingesting, matching, cleansing, and … repeating. 

Data Cloud is that bridge: one central automated cloud solution to unify, process, and harmonize data regardless of the source. And, because Data Cloud is built inside Salesforce, the platform also seamlessly connects to activation points, like CRM and Marketing Cloud. It removes the manual steps from the Customer 360 model and empowers true customer-centricity.

I am FAR from a technical expert, so was quite happy when Salesforce positioned Data Cloud as “Genie” in 2022 – it was all just magic I didn’t need to understand.

Here's How Salesforce Visualizes Data Cloud's Operation.

And Here's Ira's Data Cloud For Dummies Definitions.

Data Sources: these are all of the places that your brand currently collects and stores data. This includes all of those spreadsheets titled “10/4 Webinar Attendeess – DO NOT DELETE” and “2023 Users for Targeting_Final_Final_For_Real_Final”. Here’s a nuance of Data Cloud that is a hige time-saver: Zero-copy Federation. This means data from multiple sources can be combined together without any Control-C, Control-V.

Connectors: these are the technical tools you use to take data from these disparate sources and bring them into the Data Cloud environment. In most marketing use cases, the out-of-the-box connectors apply (especially the Google Sheets one). Some connectors are live streaming and others (typically from legacy siloed systems) operate on a batch process. You’ll want to keep the live and batch elements in mind when you consider your activation strategy.

Harmonizations: These are the ways you configure Data Cloud to read data from different sources. For instance, if you have three data sources that each use their own field naming conventions you likely have three things that all mean “First Name” (maybe its “Name” in one, “FName” in the second and “FN” in the third). Harmonizations allow you to properly map input data to Salesforce object types. Data Cloud’s UI for harmonization is very intuitive.

Activations: Once you’ve harmonized, you have your Customer 360 view. To generate value from all of this effort, you have to activate. You can do this in so many ways: target and personalize your Google Ads strategy based on email interaction data, increase basket size through your chatbot channel with customized recommendations informed by website browning history or nail your holiday email promotion by targeting last year’s top in-app converters. Today, the best activation points are within the Salesforce environment with additional activation-point integrations in development.

For the Overachievers.

Salesforce just released new Data Cloud certifications on Trailhead. If you are ready to be the SME in your organization, check them out.

And, if you are ready to give this functionality a try today, Data Cloud is now offered free! Drop us a note at and we’ll help you get started.

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