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Salesforce’s Platform for the Analytical Marketer

Ross Jenkins , CEO and Salesforce Marketing Champion. Revised October 31, 2022 at 2:34PM EDT

A flexible, cloud based, marketing data platform that features multiple solutions for improving data integration, reporting, analysis, and optimization. As a part of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud suite, it's popular among agencies, but flexible enough to support advertisers working in health and life sciences, automotive, retail and gaming, or even publishers of any size. But, upon scrutiny, what does it do and does it deliver the promise of Marketing Cloud Intelligence? We lay the argument out below.

What You Should Know

Let’s drop the hyperbole and review some of its most recognized and useful data capabilities. Along the way, we’ll answer a few of the most commonly asked questions, regarding the platform. What you’ll learn by reading this article: What is it, What does the platform do, practical use cases it solves, known competitors, origins, is it a CDP, costs, and features and benefits, to name a few.

An Overview

Datorama, now called Marketing Cloud Intelligence, is an analytics tool used to onboard, integrate, and visualize marketing performance data of all types. It is easy enough for the analytically driven Marketer to use, but powerful and familiar enough for seasoned Business Analysts looking to connect with traditional BI tools, like Tableau and Data Scientists that wish to further integrate data models and automated insights.

What Is Datorama?

Although it is SaaS, Datorama is a surprisingly flexible platform that you can make your own. It can be comfortably used as a stand-alone unit supporting simple data storage, data modeling, ETL and visualization or used in conjunction with potentially competitive data management platforms like Azure Databricks or Looker. It serves a number of data use cases, but its primary focus is Performance Marketing. Marketing Cloud Intelligence is often confused as a traditional Business Intelligence, Analytics or Data Visualization platform, but is more accurately defined by data management and to a lesser degree, visual communication capabilities.

Humble Company Origins

Its roots are from the ad technology space, in fact, the largest media holding companies in the U.S. use it to support automated, client and agency side reporting. A typical use case for agencies is to use a premium feature called, Media Cost Center where media plan data is connected to delivered impressions. However, Marketing Cloud Intelligence works well for retailers, publishers, gaming, pharma, automotive, and device makers, too. An Israeli based technology firm that was founded in 2012. For many years, it remained independently owned by Ran Sarig, Efi Cohen and Katrin Ribant. This small company of dedicated technologists grew rapidly and became a favorable alternative for delivering client facing, media performance reporting. Datorama is now owned by Salesforce as of 2018. Although several of the original founders have moved on, its core engineering team remains.

Flexible Data Onboarding and Connectivity that Works

Pronounced, “day-tah-rah-mah”. What does it do? For starters, it has an impressive set of robust and reliable data connectors as well as easy-to-use retrieval mechanisms for exporting and ingesting data from popular, and often competitive data management platforms such as SAP Hana, AWS, Oracle, Vertica, and SQL server. Detailed, event level data can be ingested, but it focuses on the ingestion of often messy, aggregated data. See our video on onboarding data for a 20 minute walkthrough.

More recently, its storage can be extended greatly due to a premium feature known as Data Lake, giving Marketers the opportunity to ingest highly granular information from log files, creative dimensions, clickstream, keyword details and bid level activities.

What makes Marketing Cloud Intelligence useful for organizations working across Martech is its flexible and customizable support for rapidly onboarding existing and emerging data platforms including, ad servers, demand side platforms, SSPs, site analytics, and points-of-sale systems.

Six Critical Marketing Data Use Cases

Datorama is a channel and partner agnostic platform that can help marketing organizations in 6 specific ways:

  • Build a single source of all data, at enterprise scale — augmented with Data Lake and CDP
  • Natively integrate with other Salesforce Cloud platforms such as Marketing, Service, Sales and Pardot using available API connectors
  • Connect and harmonize (structured and unstructured) data across third party data platforms
  • Draw insights from data and action it through alerts and customizable publishing tools
  • Take advantage of powerful data integration capabilities and tackle persistent areas such as pacing, goal setting, marrying 1st to 3rd party data platforms, and end of month billing challenges through Salesforce and Total Connect.
  • Produce impressive dashboards through Data Canvas which supports the integration of javascript libraries such as D3, High Charts, Chart.js, and other popular frameworks. You can produce basic dashboards in the platform, as well as award-winning Datorama Dashboard examples with highly polished user interfaces. Actual client deliverables are on display, below.

Top Six Competitors

Its primary competitors are Domo, Adverity, NinjaCat, Improvado, Looker, and Google Data Studio. Besides the 3rd party competitors, our experience is that the biggest competitors are often excel and other homegrown, data analytics tools. With patience, MCI scales to support the primary marketing performance data use cases; onboarding, integration, visualization, reporting, and alerts in ways other competitors either don’t or can’t.

What is Datorama Reports in Marketing Cloud?

Salesforce Marketing Cloud offers an efficient method for creating, viewing, and sharing campaign level, email campaign performance and Journey Builder insights at no additional cost to corporate and enterprise level clients. A solid solution for Marketers seeking quick access to delivery, engagement, and journey metrics within the Marketing Cloud UI, as well as within a helpful pivot table for additional analysis. There’s a similar solution called Reports Advanced, which is a premium upgrade for Marketing Cloud offering more features, functionality, and analytics. However, the Advanced upgrade comes with an additional cost. See your Salesforce AE for details.

What’s the difference between Tableau and Datorama?

Salesforce continues to make strategically placed bets by acquiring analytical partners and technologies. Tableau and Datorama are great examples of this, but why would Salesforce purchase both? At the core, Marketing Cloud Intelligence is a flexible SaaS, data management platform and Tableau is undeniably the markets best visualization, and data exploration tool. Yes, there are nuances and overlaps between the platforms as they serve similar audiences but with very different use cases. Which use case is right for you? Why choose? Use them both.

Top buyer segments and industries

The most common buyer segments supported are marketers and advertisers. The top industries (by volume) include communications, media, and technology with a particular emphasis on mid to large agencies (performance marketing) and media holding companies. However, the data management capabilities serve Health and Life Sciences, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Automotive, Retail and Publishers, too.

The platform allows advertisers, agencies and publishers to pull data from a myriad of data sources, blend and create custom KPIs, and quickly build informative dashboards to analyze and draw insights.

Entertainment Datorama Dashboard

4 Data Ingestion Methods

Its most impressive feature is arguably the Data Model which becomes evident the first time any data source is onboarded. Datorama now supports four primary methods of data ingestion:

  • API connectors – supports various native APIs for a wide range of platforms
  • Total Connect – For the data sources that do not have API support, data can be ingested as a flat-file. 
  • Custom Connectors – provides the ability for developers to use scripting languages for building custom API connections
  • Data Lake – offering the ability to onboard billions of data rows and data granularity at the keyword, geo, event, log and visitor levels, to name a few

Through Machine Learning, the platform understands an array of common data types and instantly suggests possible relationships among data entities greatly speeding up historical approaches of mapping using fuzzy logic, pattern recognition and clever, albeit cumbersome look-ups. 

Datorama TotalConnect

Marketing Cloud Intelligence provides harmonization and data blending capabilities to assist analysts with quickly pairing parent-to-child data relationships, custom classification based on external files, calculation types, or common naming patterns.

Datorama Harmonization

Is Datorama a CDP?

Marketing Cloud Intelligence is an exceptional data platform, but it isn’t a Customer Data Platform CDP, and beyond the capabilities of unifying performance data and data orchestration, the comparison just isn’t appropriate. It’s true that customer level details can be ingested into MCI, but often with significant impact to data row consumption rates. Check your contract before proceeding. MCI was designed to ingest aggregated marketing performance data. Conversely, CDPs were developed to ingest customer or user level detailed data. MCI does not focus on audience activation, identity resolution, segmentation, personalization, or the customer journey. These are hallmark features often associated with a CDP, therefore, by our definition, MCI is not one. However, it could be argued that if you review the totality of the Marketing Cloud ecosystem, all of the elements of CDP do exist, but not in MCI, alone. The good news is that Salesforce has a CDP and it does integrate with MCI to extend this growing use case.

Data Lake Expands Row Count Flexibility without a Premium Price Point

Data Lake is a premium, paid feature designed for ingesting raw granular data. This granularity requirement can allow Marketers to ingest hundreds of millions or even billions of rows without artificially inflating the cost associated with data row usage. Much to the delight of long time users, when Data Lake is purchased, usage and pricing does not apply by the row count but rather by terabytes of storage space. You can also think of Data Lake as cold storage. Some examples of data types that work best with data lake data streams are keyword level data, bid activity, event level data, and granular geodata similar to what you might see in large media agencies or as required inputs for Mixed Media Models. You should expect to pay about 20% of the total cost of your license to take advantage of Data Lake, but it may be worth it, depending on your needs.

How Often is the Platform Updated?

Frequent product release cycles matter. The platform is updated monthly, focused around enhancements around Analyze and Act, Visualization, Connect and Unify and Marketplace Apps. In July of 2022, the community received notable features including database exports, custom font integrations, Sprout and Instagram connectors, and improved visualization widgets. Here’s the entire list of July improvements.

How to monitor data row usage in Marketing Cloud Intelligence

Since Marketing Cloud Intelligence often prices its software based on tiers and data row counts, it’s important that you occasionally monitor your progression, particularly if you intend to onboard granular data. For example, DMA or keyword level breakdowns. To verify your row count, consider the following.

At the admin role, you can see your overall and current row usage at both the account and workspace levels. Keep in mind that row usage refreshes every hour.      

To monitor row usage:

1) To the right of the navigation bar, click the dropdown arrow, and click the Account Settings gear icon.
2) In the account menu, select Data Rows Usage.
3) View live row usage, and a breakdown of workspaces by row usage.

There are two system measurements reflect the total row count of a data stream in a workspace:

  • Data Stream Effective Total Rows
  • Data Stream Total Rows

SOURCE: https://help.salesforce.com/s/articleView?id=sf.dato_getstarted_manage_data_usage.htm&type=5

How much does the license cost?

Considering the overall capabilities of the platform it is relatively affordable when compared to similarly positioned competitors. Pricing can start as low as $36,000 per year, but there are always deals to be made, particularly at the end of a quarter. See your Salesforce Account Executive for details.

Training and Certification

If you are new to the platform or just interested in improving your skills, we recommend you login to the platform and visit the Trailblazer community forum. The articles, webinars and videos are essential reading, regardless of your level of experience. If you’d like to get certified, consider receiving some formal training.

Summary: A Formidable Tool for Analytical Data Marketers

Datorama is an affordably priced, formidable data management and visualization platform and was created for the Analytical Marketer needing tools to onboard and manage performance marketing data. Salesforce’s acquisition of the platform means the future of this platform is bright. This partnership should continue to meet today’s marketing data challenges with progressive tools and technologies and a strong product and engineering roadmap.

The Future of Salesforce’s Analytical Data Platform

Marketing Cloud Intelligence is indeed a flexible, AI-driven, data platform that features multiple solutions for the agency and the advertiser, but does it deliver cloud based, Marketing Intelligence as promoted? Salesforce provides a strong response to a fragmented but commoditized data management and visualization ecosystem. Look for it to continue to pair Tableau’s stronger data exploration capabilities with MCI’s data management excellence to shore up the marketplace. The immediate challenge is that there are less expensive, but nimble competitors forcing MCI to drop their pricing, further. A race to the bottom rarely works. Beyond the rebranding, it’s possible that the name change could shed light on the future of the platform. My prediction, will the product and engineering group extend integration efforts across the Marketing Cloud ecosystem to bolster utility, or will this analytics tool remain beneficial, but separate? If the continued cost reduction of the license is any indicator, perhaps it’s the latter? Let’s see how Salesforce promotes the features and benefits of MCI, moving forward. Dreamforce 2022 may give us early answers. Decision Foundry will be there. Will you?

Certified Support Partners

Decision Foundry is a top-tier Salesforce implementation partner providing training and support for non-partner, certification. Our global team of 140+ includes Salesforce Marketing Champions and some of the industry’s leading practitioners in data analytics and visual communication. Ask for a product demo and see our short portfolio of award-winning dashboard examples then, consider us for your next implementation project.

About the Author

Ross Jenkins is the CEO of Decision Foundry, a Salesforce Integration Partner and certified ISV. He is neither an employee of Salesforce nor a shareholder. The views expressed in this article reflect his experience with the Marketing Cloud Intelligence platform over eight years. He is a Salesforce Marketing Champion, and a frequent Analytics conference speaker including the most recent ’22 Dreamforce.

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