Salesforce Marketing Cloud Sandbox

Salesforce Marketing Cloud Sandbox – is it really required?

Many of our customers, based on their previous experience with the Salesforce CRM always insist on having sandbox environment setup in the Marketing Cloud in a form of a separate business unit. This notion is usually comes from Salesforce AEs, who use separate business units as a substitute for Sandbox environment.

However, not only having separate business unit as a sandbox is a wrong approach, but also create a huge number of further complications. We will discuss five reasons why there is no need for a sandbox in Marketing Cloud and why using Business Unit isn’t the right approach.


Most of the customers are requesting Sandbox environment to be created due to one or combination of three reasons:

1. Previous experience using CRM where sandbox can be created within less than 5 minutes.
2. Lack of experience using Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
3. Internal corporate policy which dictates usage of sandbox for testing.

As part of the implementation we strongly recommend having an experienced marketing cloud business analyst or consultant working on a client side, to devise a testing strategy and run a set of workshop explaining how Salesforce Marketing Cloud operates and why sandbox does not really add any value.

Risks are minimal.

As with the previous reason, lack of knowledge urges users to request sandbox environment to be created. As it is the case with Salesforce CRM sandbox is mandatory, the changes in the objects, schema, workflow rules can have a devastating and long lasting negative effect if executed incorrectly in the production environment.

While with Marketing Cloud risks are mainly associated with sending wrong message(s) to a wrong audience, at a wrong time. However, this can’t be avoided even if initial testing has been done in the sandbox environment. On contrary having a properly designed testing plan offers a long lasting and risk free approach to Marketing Cloud usage.

Testing approaches.

We always recommend our customers to approach lack of sandbox environment by following four simple rules:

1. Use proper naming convection for both: content and data. It is important to have test data and test content and identify them by !Test_Data and !Test_Content in the system while production should be labeled as !!Production_Data !!Production_Content

2. Educate and train users. The fundamental, don’t let monkeys driving a car, why would you let untrained personnel use Marketing Tool?  Once specialist is trained the risks with sending out a wrong campaign are minimal.

3. Have an approval rules in place and a proper QA process. Each campaign should be approved by a designated approval person, each campaign, change within data model, or data extensions should be followed by QA process.

4. Data testing and contact builder testing offers users to have multiply schemas, therefore, PoC can be created in the same instance and then replicated using prod data within the same instance.

Lack of migration tools.

One of the key cons of using separate business unit for Marketing Cloud sandbox is lack of migration tools. There are some tools internally in Salesforce (echo) and by 3rd party vendors. However, these tools do not offer full migrations capabilities, and the testing will have to be still done in the production business unit which makes obsolete all the reasons for having separate BU as a sandbox. Manual reproduction is prone to the same errors and risks.

Cost associated with migration.

Usually business units cost extra money, depending on region and AEs costs can range from $5,000 USD to $50,000 USD – no reason to spend this money to create additional work, additional complexities and still not get the desired result. Separate Business unit is not a replacement of a sandbox.

Moreover, a lot of the work done in one business unit will have to be manually replicated in a prod business unit, and testing will still have to be done again, therefore effectively doubling the work and costs of implementation.


Based on insiders info Salesforce estimated that the cost of development of Sandbox functionality in Marketing Cloud is around $35 millions. I doubt that it will be developed this year. In the meantime however, common sense should prevail and a sustainable testing approach should be developed, driven by knowledge of Salesforce Marketing Cloud and not by unfounded desire of having a separate Business Unit being used a sandbox, as ultimately a separate business unit is not a sandbox, not by any means.