There are 3 different types of test approaches in Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
- Single Production Enterprise Account
- Single Production Enterprise Account + Sandbox
- Multiple Production Enterprise Accounts
Based on the approach, you can understand how many SFMC accounts you need and how much effort is required for an implementation.
Unlike Sales Cloud, SFMC doesn’t come with a free sandbox (AKA Production support). To be frank, there was no sandbox concept till recent past within SFMC. To know more about SFMC sandbox, refer to my blog Salesforce Marketing Cloud Sandbox!.
Single Production Enterprise Account
The customer purchases a enterprise org with multiple Business Units. Create a Test Business Unit (BU) and develop and test everything in Test BU. After testing, its shared with Production BU.
This is a quick and dirty approach.
- you get access to all the features purchased.
- Minimum cost (You don’t have to pay for sandbox)
- Easily share Data Extensions, emails , contents etc with Production Business unit
- If using Multi-org you can connect a BU with a sales org
- Easily switch between production & test BU
- Limited to Email Studio. cant share other channel configurations
- Multi-org is new feature and comes with its own limitation.
- Some configurations has to be manually replicated. Not everything can be shared from Test BU to production BU
- If not multi org, only 1 sales cloud can be connected at a time.
- If only 1 sales cloud is connected, only 1 Data Stream is available.
- All Subscribers will be shred with all BU, hence test data gets into All Subscribers
- Once a change is required, it has to be done in Test BU and then has to updated manually in production
- After go live, you cannot switch sales cloud connection
- After go live, future enhancement or bug fixing (with sales cloud integration) will be complex
Single Production Enterprise Account + Sandbox
Th Customer purchases a enterprise org and a sandbox org. All the development related to Email (sandbox is only for Email Studio) is done in the sandbox and after testing, its manually replicated in production.
This approach is recommended only for Email Studio features without sales cloud integration.
- Get access to new features early and test it in sandbox
- Production data is separated from sandbox (especially All Subscriber data)
- Initial production configurations are copied to sandbox
- response time is not good with sandbox (delay in loading and navigation)
- Sandbox are not reliable (experiences server issues)
- only Email application is supported (No journey builder, automation, mobile push etc)
- sandbox has a separate endpoint (test.mc.exacttarget)
- sandbox doesn’t support Sales cloud integration
- sandbox doesn’t support Data Stream
- Everything has to be replicated manually in production
- Double effort required since everything is manually created in production
- Extra cost is involved for sandbox
- Emails sent will be deducted from existing usage volumes
- 3rd party integrations like Inbox Tools are not available.
- custom features like data export are not supported
Multiple Production Enterprise Accounts
This is my favourite and recommended approach for Salesforce Marketing Cloud implementation.
The customer has to purchase 2 identical production Enterprise accounts. One will be the production and other one will be used as sandbox. we call it as Production Sandbox Account.
- Production environments have good response times and are very stable
- All channels except premier features will be supported since its a production
- Data is separate from account to account
- Can connect with different sales cloud (SFMC production account with SFDC production org. SFMC production sandbox account with SFDC sandbox org)
- Data Streams can be used from different sales cloud org
- Easier and faster to develop
- High cost is involved (if you have good relationship with Salesforce, try to get this for free)
- Premium products will be activated only in a single account
- You cannot push configurations or contents from one account to another. this has to be manually replicated in each account
- Account configurations cannot be copied
I will highly recommend using third approach. Higher cost is involved, however its the best and neat way for implementing Marketing Cloud.
Just in case, if you are wondering that do customers go with this approach?, trust me, I know a few of them and have worked on the same. End of the day more than money, we will have to look for delivering the value to our customers.