Getting the Marketing Cloud Consultant exam in the books…

With a certain routine in Salesforce certification (I hold 12 currently, including all four consultant certs), I have to admit that my latest addition, Certified Marketing Cloud Consultant, was indeed one that I seriously struggled with. So – first time ever – I decided to have a blog post on that one. Maybe someone will find it helpful.
The most important thing to know is that currently, that means Summer 16, the Certified Marketing Cloud Consultant is actually rather an ExactTarget consultant. You need the Marketing Cloud Email Specialist as a prerequisite (which I took as a beta), and it is indeed Email only.

Besides that, you rather need some solid Marketing Cloud / ExactTarget hands-on experience, and/or a Marketing Cloud instance to build thingsĀ alongside the documentation. Otherwise, a pass might be something you can only do with remarkable memorization skills.

The most important parts are – from what I experienced:

design scenarios from customer stories – most of them trigger some “either this or that” decisions. The easier once are LISTs vs. DATA EXTENSIONS. If you are into Salesforce products, you probably know that the showcase company, which is Northern Trail Outfitters (NTO) for Marketing Cloud, always thinks big, so one of the important points to discover is when to choose the simple way. You should really really know what the implications of either way are. Lists allow for Standard Profile Center and a Subscription Center. Data Extensions don’t. So what would you do if you had to choose DEs but need a subscription center?

rather simple but tricky disambiguation style questions – basically, that’s pure knowledge of components and features. But more often than not, they are wrapped in scenario based questions. For example, you should know what triggered sends are as compared to user-initiated sends. What actually makes the difference between simple and guided sends? What is the thing that Enhanced FTP adds as compared to (S)FTP Locations. How and why do Triggered Automations start as compared to Scheduled Automations. Somethings, things are far to obvious. If you are tempted to click and go on within a second. Think twice! Can a query really execute? Does have all the words in the exact order? Think of that one study that showed that you can read aynthnig properly as long as all required letters are in the word and in any given order, but the first and last letter are correct. Yes, you got one or two questions of that kind. You’ll mark my word when you get to that one question where everything is there, but in bogus order. And do you really know immediately from which point in time a wait time is calculated? If you have the chance to actually click the topics of the Study Guide in a real org, do so. It’s worth the time.

questions where input/prerequisites and outcome are most important – sounds obvious, but it’s so easy to forget. Automation Studio is a set of pipes, so you have to make sure that each action receives something that it can work on, and outputs something into the next action. Know what goes in and out. If you need to filter or query something, WHAT is it that you want to filter, where does it come from, where does it go? Query a CSV or XML file – seriously? Send output of a query by email to someone – seriously? If you invite people to a party, you always invite their partners, too. If you have a file transfer, an import has to follow. An extract returns a file, which can then be sent or transferred. Transfer and decrypt/unzip are a couple, if you use Enhanced FTP, but you still need the import, not to mention that you hardly ever read anything about the Safehouse location.

questions that focus on the order of events or items – this generally picks up the loose ends of the former hints. But know the order of events for core processes by heart. Really. Really really. Know how to pull data from third party systems in, know where to get statistical data on your sends, especially all that has to do with success of your campaign: engagement, spam etc.

When your knowledge fails you, put some faith on your instinct and logical thinking. Most wrong answers can be identified by reading word by word, always checking:

  • is the wording correct? There is no ambiguity, words mean EXACTLY what’s written there. NEVER interpret or assume some deeper meaning. If it reads “preference lists”, it NEVER means “preference center”. It is a made up feature (or non-feature).
  • is any part of the answer contradictory with the rest? is any part of it consistent with other questions in the test?
  • if the answers was correct, what would that mean for the others? does it make sense combined with the other solutions.
  • in cases where you have to choose 2 or 3 answers, but more than the required number makes sense: Decide whether something is covered twice. For reply mail management, for example, you can think of two important things: For it to work, you have to activate it. So there are things that are required to do so. Some others are optional, and these are optional as answers. If something fails, don’t bother why it failed if it shouldn’t do so, but rather think of how you’re going to catch it when it fails.
  • to make it short: there are are always 4 or 5 answers. If you have to pick one, one is correct and another is either quite likely to be right, but is quite the opposite of the correct option. Or it’s the answer that catches everyone who’s quick to click. Most often, the bogus answer is even more easy to find. And then there’s just the “rather-bogus” answer left.
  • For those “choose 2 / choose 3” questions, again: Don’t answer in a way that the interpretation or implication of your choice is the answer to the question. Again and again: Questions and answers literally are what they are, just the way they are written.
  • Workaround are never-ever the correct answer. Finding tricks to make something is not best-practice, so they won’t teach you. Why should you trigger something first and wait for an uncertain amount of time if a fully scheduled task would do? Why should you replace things that can be achieved with a viable solution at minimum tradeoff?

I found these decision extremely hard to make, that’s why I wrote this post – I really failed this exam and needed a retake. Keep your heads up when taking this one – have faith and confidence even if you’re knew to the product, but read closely and take your time. There are 90 minutes for a 68% pass score, so you need to get only 41 answers that you can put your trust in, which gives you over 2 minutes per decision. Mark and skip the real hard ones and leave them for the end if you still have time and have less than 41 trusted answers.

Remember the credo of agile work: Failure is good, failing allows you to learn. Eventually I passed, and from the very first day being a Certified Marketing Cloud Consultant, I could really help my team and guide them because of all the extra learnings that I took from preparing the retake. Failure is good, as long as you’re ready to learn from it. So – go and get it. Marketing Cloud is a tough one, but it’s a fun and thrilling product to learn. Good luck!

3 Replies to “Getting the Marketing Cloud Consultant exam in the books…”

  1. Thank you for the great tips! I’ve failed this marketing cloud consultant exam and I’m struggling to study as there aren’t much material or sample questions to practice. If you have any other tips, would you kindly share? Thank you

    1. Thanks for commenting. First all, I did some Marketing Cloud training in the past and do have access to a non-productive Marketing Cloud instance where I could try out some stuff. As I wrote, the most essential thing is to know how data will get into the Marketing Cloud and how to proceed from there (you should know these questions very well, by now).

      What I found really helpful is reading the guide closely, and then try to discover every feature or process that is mentioned in the exam guide in the exact target help section.

      From the email that you get, you can tell where you did the best and where you lost a lot of points. Focus on the really valuable sections (that is: lot’s of questions) and focus on the area where you didn’t do well.

      You’ve got 60 questions, and the exam guide tells you the percentage for every section. If you calculate this against your exam score, you know how much you can gain by getting one or two more questions right (and how closely you failed)

      The formula is
      (total number of questions * percentage in exam outline * exam percentage)

      Calculate this for “Discovery”, which has a weight of 13% and you probably had 51% as an exam section total

      So that’s 60*0.13 = 7,8 (roughly 8) Questions in the exam 60*0.13*0.51 = 3,978 (roughly 4) correct.

      Pass score is 68% so you will “only” need 41 questions correct.

      Start from the email that you got and calculate your section percentages to learn how close you were and where to gain some quick wins:

      • Discovery 13% = 8 Questions
      • Conceptual Design 12% = 7 Questions
      • MC Connect 7% = 4 Questions
      • Account Config 10% = 6 Questions
      • Reporting 7% = 4 Questions
      • Data Design 13% = 8 Questions
      • Automation 8% = 5 Questions
      • Email Build 6% = 4 Questions
      • Contact Builder 14% = 8 or 9 Questions
      • Journey Builder 11% = 7 or 8 Questions

      Build your formula in Excel and you can identify how narrow you missed.

      What you can see here is that Contact Builder is really important, and the study guide gives just 4 segments as key learnings. So that’s really tricky! Focus on what the options do when you join data. Learn the limits, e.g. what the high water mark is and when it is relevant, and what would happen if something is below/above the high water mark. Questions for these kind of questions are: Configurations is so and so, This and that happened (or this and that didn’t happen). What could be the reason for that? / How do you resolve the issue? Again, it is best to try contact builder, join some data to other data, try the options and the outcome, try to use the data you just build and learn what is working and what is not so easy.

      Note that Content Build was not part of my exam – this might have changed, but if Content Builder is not mentions explicitly, read everything as “in the old buider…”

      The Connector seems to be a small topic, but there are some easy wins (for good reasons, the exam only asks for the Salesforce side of the connector, and everything points at how to install and enable the new connected app connector, why it is better than the old connector, how it helps to stay within the governor limits etc. Really nothing big here, so these are easy points.

      And have a lot of looks into how you setup flows that pull data off ftp, decrypt, and use the data in the marketing cloud. What are the EXACT steps. What’s the safehouse? When and where is it involved? If you start from the details and by that, learn how to think and design integration, you will perform better in the scenario based discovery and consulting questions.

      Does that give you a bit of orientation?

  2. Thank you again for more helpful tips! Truly appreciate this! I’ll focus on these points. I haven’t got the enough hands on experience with MC so these scenario type questions are tough, but as you said failing allows you to learn more so will keep trying šŸ™‚ please keep sharing your great tips.

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