Understanding Salesforce Marketing Cloud Contacts

Arjun Sharma

2 minute read

Salesforce Marketing Cloud Contacts and Your Contract

Trendline’s Solutions Consulting team has been receiving questions about Salesforce Marketing Cloud contacts, and how they relate to your invoice and charges. We are going to help clear up the confusion, and show you how to pare down your contact count to maximize your marketing dollars.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud contracts used to be based on two things–a software fee and a message fee, or CPM. Now, Salesforce Marketing Cloud users are paying a third fee—for sendable contacts.

This is a charge for any contact that you have ever emailed. Even if you only have an active population of 500,000 subscribers, if you have ever sent to the 2,000,000 contacts you have, then 2,000,000 contacts is what your invoice fee will be based on.

To make matters worse, there are no tools within Salesforce Marketing Cloud to help you understand what your active user count really is, and the numbers Salesforce comes back to you with are often wrong.  So what can you do?

Who are your Active Users?

The first thing to do is to identify your active users.  Active, in this sense, means people you would like to send to again.  It might be in a week, it might be in a year, but you do not want to delete these people.

The second thing to do is examine your data. Are you using a unique subscriber key for each email address or mobile number, or does one email address have multiple subscriber keys?  Believe it or not, this is the most common reason the Solutions Consulting team sees accounts with over-inflated contact numbers—the same contact exists in the account two or more times. In one account we saw one contact represented by 10 different subscriber keys. Utilizing good data management practices is an important part of keeping your costs low.

How do you remove Inactive Users?

Now that you know who your active users are and you know your data represents a one-to-one relationship, you can query against all subscribers. This will produce a data extension containing the subscriber key of all inactive contacts that can be removed.

From here, you go to Contact Builder, then into All Contacts and click on the trashcan in the upper right corner. Next, you’ll select “Delete contacts from data extension”, follow the prompts to locate the data extension, and finally proceed with the deletion.

The default setting is to put each contact into a 30-day hold period. You can adjust this down to as little as 0 days to make the change immediate.  This is set in Contact Builder, under Contacts Configuration, then Contact Delete, under Manage Settings.

If you do not have the trash can in the upper right corner, you can enable it by going to Contact Builder, then into Contacts Configuration, then selecting Contact Delete and checking the “On” option.

Looking Ahead

By clearing your account of inactive contacts, you can save some money on your database contract. This will become more important when Salesforce decides to start charging for data storage, as every little bit will help.  While Salesforce has not announced data storage costs, you can bet it is coming. In the meantime, clear out some old contacts from your account.


Looking for more Salesforce Marketing Cloud tips? Contact Trendline.

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About the Author(s)

Arjun Sharma

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