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Salesforce Audience Builder retirement: What are my alternatives?

Salesforce is retiring its Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) Audience Builder. What should marketing teams use instead? Discover alternatives to the no-code, marketer-friendly audience segmentation tool.

Chris Sell

Chris Sell

There have been plenty of software shakeups in the last two years, but arguably one of the most disruptive for marketers has been the retirement of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) Audience Builder. 

Marketers and data-driven organizations are now faced with the task of finding a Salesforce Audience Builder alternative that offers similar segmentation features.

How did Salesforce Audience Builder work?

Before diving into alternatives, let’s look at what the SFMC Audience Builder offered.

Integrated directly with SFMC, Audience Builder provided a no-code, marketer-friendly way to pull audience segments. Although the tool’s pre-built filters didn’t allow for complex, customized segments, marketers didn’t have to write SQL queries to pull audience lists. 

While Audience Builder was easy to use, it relied on prepared data in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, which meant teams could only launch campaigns based on data that lived inside the SFMC or CRM. If any customer data lived elsewhere or couldn’t fit the format for SFMC (such as product usage data), marketers couldn’t incorporate it in their campaign segments. 

Why does this news matter?

Perhaps the most significant result of this product retirement is its effect on marketing and data teams. Marketers who use SFMC no longer have a no-code solution to build targeted campaign segments. 

Without a self-serve audience builder, marketers who use SFMC must:

  • Learn SQL to pull segments themselves.
  • Rely on data teams to create audience segments for them, taking data team resources away from other projects.
  • Purchase Salesforce Data Cloud (which has a self-serve audience builder) and migrate SFMC data to the Salesforce Data Cloud. 

All these options will result in slower campaign execution and reduced productivity for both marketing and data teams. Ultimately, fewer campaigns and lackluster productivity negatively affect business ROI and revenue. 

What are my alternatives to Salesforce Audience Builder?

If you’re a marketer using SFMC and looking for an Audience Builder alternative, there are four primary options. 

Here’s what you need to consider when vetting a customer data solution that also provides audience segmentation and activation:

Option 1: Migrate your data to the Salesforce Data Cloud

Salesforce bills its Data Cloud product as a packaged or traditional customer data platform (CDP). With a CDP, you can store all your customer data in one location and launch campaigns based on that data. You’ll need to migrate your SFMC data to the Salesforce Data Cloud to do that.

Pros and cons of migrating to the Salesforce Data Cloud

Pros of the Salesforce Data Cloud (CDP) option

  • Built for marketers - The Data Cloud product is billed as a marketer solution, providing no-code access to customer data and audience segmentation. It also provides customer journey and advertising tools. 
  • Supports a variety of Salesforce connections - Out of the box, Salesforce Data Cloud supports various data sources and destinations with native integrations. However, these are primarily Salesforce destinations (like their email platform or CRM), so make sure to check if they fit your marketing and advertising needs.  
  • Centralized data - Any team using Salesforce, including marketing, sales, or customer success, can unify data with the Salesforce Data Cloud. This provides a full customer 360 view, allowing for more effective insight and personalization.

Cons of the Salesforce Data Cloud (CDP) option

  • Data migration timeline - You will need to migrate data from SFMC product to the Salesforce Data Cloud product. This data migration requires engineering time or a contract with a service integration partner. Aside from the long timeline for data migration (sometimes 12-18 months), data copies and migration can create risks for inconsistent or incorrect data.
  • Increase in total cost of ownership - The Data Cloud platform starts at $108,000/year. Keep in mind that there are additional costs for creating segments and ad audiences on top of this fee, as well as charges for additional data storage.some text
    • Audience segmentation and activation is $1,000 per 100,000 records processed 
    • Paid media audiences are $2,400/audience 
    • Additional data storage is $1,800/TB
  • Data source limitations - Although your data is centralized in the Salesforce CDP, there may be limitations in the types of data it can store and how it’s structured. These limitations pose challenges for marketing teams because they may not be able to get a complete picture of the customer for targeted audience segments. And data teams may face challenges in extracting and analyzing data for business intelligence.

Option 2: Build an in-house solution

Some organizations may decide to build their own version of the Audience Builder that taps into Salesforce data.  While it may be the most customizable option, it relies heavily on engineering support and may take significant time to build.

Pros and cons list of building an in-house solution

Pros of building an in-house Audience Builder alternative

  • Created for your use case - Your engineering team can work closely with marketing and data teams to customize the solution to fit your business’s needs. You can tailor data sources, destinations, and the user interface to support goals and KPIs.
  • Built for marketers - Because you’re building the audience builder from scratch, your teams can ensure it’s created with non-technical marketers in mind. Remember to consider whether this approach will be easy to maintain and scale.
  • No need to migrate data - Wherever your data is stored (SFMC or a cloud data warehouse), you can customize the builder for that storage solution.

Cons of building an in-house Audience Builder alternative

  • Employee cost - The cost of employees’ time can often total more than the cost of a new CDP solution. If you pay two to four engineers $175,000 (plus benefits) for a year to build an in-house audience builder, that totals at least $350,000-$700,00 per year — even more expensive than the traditional CDP. Remember you’ll also need staff to maintain this product and potentially onboard new hires for additional features.
  • Resources for API changes - You will pay engineering costs to develop the audience builder and maintain and update the platform. The engineering team must adjust the in-house builder if the Salesforce API changes. 
  • Opportunity cost - By dedicating engineering time to creating an audience builder, you’re giving up the chance for this team to work on your core product. Your differentiation in the market isn’t creating no-code audience builders; it’s serving your customers and your market. 
  • Domain expertise - Do your software engineers have expertise in creating audience builders? If not, you’ll likely have to introduce product managers and other experienced professionals into your organization. With more individuals dedicated to this tool, other areas of your business will have fewer resources.

Option 3: Use a composable CDP for audience building and activation

If your organization has already invested in a cloud data warehouse like BigQuery, Snowflake, or Redshift, a composable CDP solution can be a faster and more cost-effective alternative to the Salesforce Audience Builder. 

A composable CDP provides a no-code audience builder that creates segments based on customer data in the cloud data warehouse. It then activates those segments to various marketing and sales destinations, including Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Pros and cons list of using a composable CDP

Pros of using a composable CDP for audience building

  • Unified data you don’t have to transfer - A composable CDP sits on top of the data in your cloud data warehouse, which means you’re able to tap into a larger pool of data sources rather than relying on the data that only lives inside your CDP or CRM. This helps feed more personalized segments. You also own and control your data and reduce risk of security problems during a customer data transfer. 
  • Built for marketers - Similar to the traditional CDP, a composable CDP is designed with marketers in mind. That means the audience builder and customer journey tools in these platforms don’t require SQL knowledge.
  • Future-proof audience data sources - As your organization grows, your customer data sources will likely grow, too. While a traditional CDP may have limitations on the data types it can ingest, you won’t have to worry about this with a composable CDP. Since it doesn’t ingest or store data, the composable CDP audience builder will create and activate segments on any data in your data warehouse.   
  • More sophisticated AI - Although traditional CDPs and the Salesforce Data Cloud have AI capabilities, composable CDPs can tap into the more sophisticated AI models built within the cloud data warehouse. 
  • Faster onboarding - If your organization’s data already lives in a cloud data warehouse like BigQuery, Snowflake, or Redshift, you can get started with a composable CDP in days or weeks. Traditional CDPs, especially those that require copying data, can take months to implement. 
  • Cost - Composable CDPs, including GrowthLoop, are more cost-effective than their packaged counterparts due to their architecture on the data warehouse. Moreover, the GrowthLoop platform doesn’t scale pricing for every audience segment you create or activate to destinations. Whether you activate 500 audiences or 5,000, the price is the same. 

Cons of using a composable CDP for audience building

  • Requires a cloud data warehouse - Not everyone may see this as a negative, but composable CDPs require a cloud data warehouse. These platforms involve some time and financial investment but can also provide more security and scalability. If you don’t yet have your data in a warehouse, tools are available to expedite the data transfer process from your CRM or other data sources.
  • Benefits from a unified vision and data strategy - Organizations that get the most out of their composable CDPs have a unified data strategy and vision. This means that data and marketing teams are aligned on the value of first-party data, centralizing that data in a cloud data warehouse, and making the data accessible to teams across the organization.

Check out use cases for integrating GrowthLoop with Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

Revenue grows faster with unified data and unified teams

The retirement of Salesforce’s audience builder is undoubtedly a wrench in many marketing strategies. But when one door closes, another opens: You can use this sunsetting as an opportunity to establish a more unified, long-term data solution for your organization. 

With a composable CDP, all customer data remains unified in your cloud data warehouse, and marketers access that data through a no-code audience builder. 

  • With better data access, marketers can test and execute segments without having to go through the data team. Faster execution leads to quicker results and ROI.
  • A unified data strategy supported by a cloud data warehouse means marketers can access a full view of the customer instead of the data only available to them in a CRM. 
  • Since they’re not tied up pulling segments for marketers, data teams can focus on critical business intelligence that influences company growth.

Curious how a composable CDP like GrowthLoop can help your organization accelerate growth and ROI? Get in touch for a custom demo

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