I would like to introduce you to three different ways to segment Data Extensions (DEs) in Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Those are: how to use data filters in SFMC, how to create SQL queries and how to use a third-party addon, DESelect. I hope that after reading this article the process of segmentation will take less of your time and increase the overall performance of your SFMC campaigns.
Segmentation in SFMC using data filters
There is a solution to filter subscribers within SFMC which is called ‘data filter’. This filter will segment your audience in DEs according to the criteria you set.
How to filter on DE in SFMC?
- Go to the Email Studio in your SFMC environment
- From the drop-down menu in the ‘subscribers’ field, you can find an option of ‘data filters’
- Find data extensions that you would like to filter on drag-and-drop attributes from the available fields of your data extension
The biggest advantage of data filters for data extensions in the Salesforce Marketing Cloud is the fact that they are easy to use and they do not require any technical knowledge to work with them. You can choose various filters for one DE and select various types of filtering using parameters like (not) equals, (not) exists, is greater than, begins with, ends with, (doesn’t) contain, (isn’t) empty as well as AND/OR parametres.
How far your segmentation can go with data filters in SFMC?
Even though data filters are a nice option for basic segmentation that is introduced by SFMC, it is not enough because it is only possible to filter on one DE at a time, unless you are using data relationships, which allow filtering on two DE’s.
However, filtering using data relationships proved to be unreliable. Eventually, the filtering options for data filters are rather limited and would not be suitable for more targeted campaigns.
Consequently, knowing how to use data filters in SFMC might help you to perform a basic segmentation without the employment of technical skills, however, they’re not the ultimate solution for segmentation in SFMC.
Segmentation in SFMC using SQL queries
If you want to do advanced segmentation using data extensions in SFMC, then SQL queries can be a solution for you. They allow a lot of freedom for targeting but you need to have substantial technical skills to write those queries. Otherwise, you would need to ask for the help of your IT colleagues which can slow down your campaign’s go live.
Before starting to write a SQL query, you need to create a target DE for it with all the fields you would like to see in it. Next, you jump on to the Automation Studio (under ‘Journey Builder’) where you choose the option ‘create a SQL query’.
How to write a ‘basic’ SQL query?
- Use ‘select’ from where you choose the field names you would like to define
- You can rename fields using ‘as’ (e.g. your initial DE contains a field ’email’ but your target DE ’email address’)
- Use ‘where’ to indicate you will specify criteria. (e.g. you have a field with a type of a company and you would like to filter only on the ‘prospect’ type)
- You can combine criteria using ‘and’, ‘or’ and ‘not’ (e.g. you would like to filter not only on the ‘prospect’ companies but also on the ones who are classified as ‘clients’ in the ‘type’ field)
- Choose ‘from’, where you define from which DE you are extracting the data
- Validate syntax to check for mistakes in the query
How to segment on multiple DE’s using SQL queries?
To segment on more than one DE in SFMC, you can make use of ‘joins’. The ‘join’ clause is used for combining data from multiple DEs. There are 4 kinds of joins:
- (Inner) join: Returns records that have matching values in both tables
- Left (outer) join: Return all records from the left table, and the matched records from the right table
- Right (outer) join: Return all records from the right table, and the matched records from the left table
- Full (outer) join: Return all records when there is a match in either left or right table
Then, when you are happy with your query and you validated it, you can choose how you want to save it in your target DE. There are 3 ways to save the data:
- Appending data – add new data to target DE
- Updating the data – match data when it is found or add new data if there is none
- Overwriting – replace the current data in the target DE
Is writing a SQL query the best solution for segmentation in SFMC?
It depends on how technical your team is and your willingness to learn. Writing a SQL query requires not only the additional knowledge of SQL but also a lot of time. The creation of that kind of segmentation may lead to errors and requires a lot of attention and expertise. However, if you ace in writing SQL queries you will be able to create advanced campaigns since knowledge of SQL allows a lot of freedom in the segmentation process.
Segmentation in SFMC using DESelect
If you don’t want to learn SQL but still want to do more advanced segmentation than filters in SFMC allow, then DESelect is an option for you. You can use the drag-and-drop interface to create segments and save the result in data extensions directly in your SFMC environment.
In three steps you can create a ‘target DE’ ready to use for your future campaigns. Here is how you can do it:
- go to the DESelect app and click on ‘create a new selection’
- choose the DEs that you want to combine and filter on and drag-and-drop them to the right
- choose the relationship between DEs: with/without matching data, with matching data, with all matching,…
Next, you can move on to the filtering option where you can set various filters on all the fields from the selected DE’s. This process is quite similar to filtering in SFMC itself that was introduced above.
Using filters you can create AND/OR statements, choose various parametres: (not) equals, (not) it, (doesn’t) contain, begins/ ends with, (isn’t) empty, (not in) results and add as many filters as you want to for your target DE.
DESelect comes with a wide range of additional segmentation techniques, but those are beyond the scope of this article.
How to create the target DE?
DESelect provides a few options for this. You can either create a DE on the fly or choose an existing DE and overwrite it with data from your new selection.
If you want to create a DE in the DESelect environment, you need to choose the fields that you want to have in your target segment. Then, drag-and-drop from the available fields on the left to your desired DE on the right. If you already prepared a target DE, then just choose it from a drop-down menu.
Before saving your final DE, DESelect allows you to preview the data to check if everything is correct. At this stage, you can check the results with your colleagues or save your DE for later editing.
Eventually, if you are satisfied with the results you can save your selection and it will be automatically populated in the target DE in the SFMC environment.
Is DESelect the solution for a better segmentation in SFMC?
If your team is not technically savvy and you don’t feel like learning SQL, DESelect can be a solution for you. Moreover, even if you are familiar with SQL, it is really a time-saver. Last but not least, you can create advanced campaigns already in the SFMC environment, which is very handy.