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Salesforce Marketing Cloud Contact Delete Best Practices & Tips

Apr 23, 2024

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Pretty much all our marketing cloud conversations this week were about ‘data’. Therefore we thought it timely to provide some Marketing Cloud Contact Delete Best Practices. We’ve added some related data tips as well.

Marketing Cloud Contact Delete: it’s permanent!

The most important thing to remember is that you can’t restore deleted contact information in Marketing Cloud Engagement.

With such deletepermanence in mind, let’s look what you can do to get Marketing Cloud Contact Delete done right:

  • You can delete a single or up to 1 million records per operations. But it all begins with you, an SFMC Admin or Consultant with admin rights, enabling Contact Delete for your account in the Contact Configuration section of Contact Builder. 
  • This feature works differently for the types of SFMC tenants as their needs and use cases are different. Things are straight forward with a Core tenant, which simply includes a single top-level account with one MID. Other type of tenants:
    • Enterprise 2.0 accounts require deletions to originate from the parent account.
    • On-Your-Behalf accounts require deletions to originate in the parent account and cascade to child accounts.
    • Lock-and-Publish accounts and Agency and Agency Client accounts isolate deletions to that account, no matter which accounts exist in the larger structure.

When you delete a contact using Contact Delete in Contact Builder, Marketing Cloud Engagement removes all contact information from all your sendable Data Extensions (“DE” hereafter) in your account. This removal includes any tracking or preference information. Then, if you add this contact back into Contact Builder at a later time, the record will get a new unique ID and doesn’t retain any of the previous contact record’s information.

Contact Delete and Syncronized DE

  • For Synchronized Data Sources, it’s Best Practice to delete the information from the original data source in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, or another cloud first. This action deletes the corresponding record in the Synchronized Data Extension, but it doesn’t delete the contact record from Engagement.
  • If you stop syncing a Contact in Marketing Cloud Engagement, the Contact is removed from the synchronized DE, but not from Contacts. To remove a contact, submit a contact delete request with Salesforce Support.

Business Units & Contact Delete

  • Contact Delete removes your contact information from across the entire enterprise for Enterprise 2.0 accounts. That is from every BU that share ClientID value as the MID of the account that initiated the deletion.
    • Got multiple Enterprise 2.0 accounts? Then perform the Contact Delete process for each account. As a result, you’ll need more time to perform this deletion process to remove contact information across a large number of business units.
    • Tip: Child business units can include contact records created by triggered sends, data operations such as queries or filters, or Synchronized Data Sources. Delete those records using the child business unit MID in your request.
  • To actually delete the contacts, you can either use ContactKey or ContactID values.
    • If you linked more than one SubscriberKey or ContactKey values to a contact record, you should perform the Contact Delete process for all values.

The Contact Delete Process

  • There are 3 stages in the Contact Delete Process:
    • Stage 1: Deletion process initiated
    • Stage 2: Suppression period—Contact information remains in your account, but you can’t view or access it. Consider this your “safety valve” (“did I do it all correctly?”) and ‘reflection period’ (“do I really want to delete it?”)
    • Stage 3: Final deletion—Engagement removes deleted contact information from your account
  • To request the status for a single contact, use an API request. For large batches of deletions, the suppression status shows for contacts when the entire batch processes.
  • To speed up the Contact Delete Process, break large requests into half a dozen smaller requests, set 5 minutes apart.

Regulatory compliance means data mgt policies & effort.

There many be several reasons for you to remove contact information from Marketing Cloud Engagement: poor data quality causing poor reporting results and perhaps even harm sender reputation and deliverability; speed of your SFMC org’s journeys and automations, data overage and unnecessary send costs, etc. And last but not least: regulatory compliance.

  • But, just having DE data-retention policies doesn’t mean you’ll be regulatory compliant. For best results, implement both Contact Delete and Data Retention policies to help ensure full removal of data: who, when, why, how.
  • The best time to set data retention policies for a DE is when you create the DE. You can apply data retention policies to new and existing data extensions. But, only DE with (less than) 100 million records can accept retroactive data retention policies.

Suppression and Data Delete

  • You can’t reintroduce a contact that is in suppression or in the process of being deleted after the suppression period is over. During this time you can’t perform any sends, including transactional sends, to that contact.
  • To more quickly remove contact information from your account, set the suppression period length to 0. Then, the delete request is immediately eligible for processing. Deletion begins when the system has identified all the related contact data.
  • Navigate to Contact Analytics in Contact Builder to see the status of all deletions up to 30 days old (including those initiated through contact delete APIs).

Data Delete vs other SFMC processes

  • Marketing Cloud considers other account activities, such as sending, imports, automations, and query activities more urgent than the deletion process and lets them take precedence over deletions. If you have a lot of such activities running in your SFMC account, your deletions will require more time.
  • The deletion process scans all sendable DE in an account to remove the specified contact records. You can delete any unnecessary sendable data extensions in your account to help improve the speed of your data deletion process.

Backup, a Data Delete Best Practice

  • An obvious safety reminder: export any list or DE to a backup file before you delete anything. This will enable you can restart the contact delete process in case an error occurs.

Best method of Contact Delete for your Org and Use Cases

Marketing Cloud Contact Delete can be an important and substantial project. There are different ways to perform Marketing Cloud Contact Delete: via the out-of-the box features mentioned above, the API, manual…

Without getting too technical here, it’s best to discuss your specific needs with one of our friendly experts. We are happy to help you with your Salesforce Marketing Cloud requirements, be that via our advisory or done-for-you services.

Interested to learn more?

We would be very happy to help you.

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