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How to get hands-on experience with SFMC

You want to learn Salesforce Marketing Cloud. And the best way to learn is to get your hands dirty. So, how can you get access to the SFMC playground?

With more and more people looking to learn about Salesforce Marketing Cloud, there are recurring questions about how to get a real-life experience with the platform. For Salesforce CRM, it is incredibly user-friendly through Trailhead Playgrounds and full Dev Orgs. Salesforce Marketing Cloud, unfortunately, doesn't have such options. About a decade ago, there was a brief moment when Developer Edition accounts for Salesforce Marketing Cloud were available, but now it is much more complicated. Let's talk options.

You Should Know

There is an idea to bring SFMC Dev Orgs back, and while I encourage voting on it, don't have high hopes.

Access through your company

This is probably not the answer you are looking for, but the easiest way to get hands-on experience with the SFMC is to work for a company using it. There are three scenarios here:

1. Any company that bought Salesforce Marketing Cloud

This one is straightforward. If the company has a licence, you can try to get access to it to learn and play. However, due to compliance, security and user licence limits, it might be hard if you are outside the digital marketing/marketing automation team. An excellent option here is to look for a nonprofit organisation using Marketing Cloud and offer them your support for free. Knowledge for you and tasks done for the Nonprofit. There are also internships available in the ecosystem.

2. Salesforce Marketing Cloud Consulting Partner

Registered Salesforce Consulting Partners can request a special non-production account for learning, development, testing and demoing. If you work for an SF Partner, they should have that account already. If not - they can request it through Partner Program Support Case. It's a nice account with many SuperMessages, Business Units, User and features like Marketing Cloud Personalization available.

3. Salesforce Marketing Cloud ISV Partner

That special non-production account is also available to Salesforce ISV (Independent Software Vendor) Partners. However, they must prove that they are building a Marketing Cloud AppExchange app to be eligible for one.

Access through Mentor

While the official Salesforce Mentorship program is no longer live, there are still people in the ecosystem that offer their mentorship - and in some cases they are able to provide an access to SFMC as well if their company allows that.

Access through Trailhead Academy

In 2023, Salesforce added another - more available but paywalled - option to the Trailhead Academy. It offers a 6-weeks-long Virtual Bootcamp for Salesforce Marketing Cloud with hands-on experience on the platform as a part of the course. Multiple languages are available, and the price for the English one is $225 (it varies based on the language, so be sure to check the planned classes for the cost to you).

Access through SuperMums

There is also much pricier, unofficial but fuller option: SuperMums SFMC Bootcamp. For £2400 you are getting a 7-weeks live course with 4-weeks access to the platform that hopes to prepare you fully for your first Marketing Cloud job.

Access through Trailblazer Community

If you want something free, some community-driven bootcamps offer temporary access to Salesforce Marketing Cloud for learning purposes. The best group to follow is the Salesforce Marketer Group in Pheonix, US led by the knowledge-sharing powerhouse Jyothsna Bitra (JB).

Access through HandsOnSFMC

Last (but definitely not least) full-access option I'm aware of is delivered by the fabulous Tim Ziter through his knowledge-packed HandsOnSFMC website. It's a weekly event focused on building stuff directly on the SFMC platform. Short term access to Marketing Cloud included.

Limited access through MCSnippets

Yet another free option is offered by the Salesforce MVP Pato Sapir. This one, however, is not full-blown access to the Marketing Cloud, but rather a set of web apps (MC Snippets for AMPScript and SSJS and MC Snippets for SQL) that provides option to write proprietary code on the SFMC Platform. Perfect for polishing your dev skills and preparing for Salesforce Marketing Cloud Developer certification.

What else for beginners?

I'm unaware of any hands-on access options besides those listed above (and I'm all ears if you know some more!). What's left for beginners is read-only learning on Trailhead and watch-only learning on SFMC-focused YouTube Channels. I especially recommend checking out the following:

  1. Trailblazing Together channel packed with Marketing Cloud Bootcamps recordings.
  2. Cameron Robert's channel full of step-by-step video guides on all things SFMC.

After you grasp the basics, the whole Salesforce Marketing Cloud blogosphere opens for you with its broad knowledge.