Understanding Contact Counts in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

This post was last updated on 11/07/23.

Understanding Contact Counts in Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC)

One of the things we hear from clients again and again is "Why am I over my contact limit in Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC)?" The answer isn't as straightforward as you might think! Knowing what counts and what doesn’t count towards your contact limit can make the difference and help your organization avoid overage fees, disruptions to service, and keep your SFMC instance free of technical debt.

Contacts in All Subscribers List 

It's easy to check how many contacts you have on your All Subscribers list. Keep in mind that in SFMC, all contacts on your All Subscribers list count toward your contracted contact amount, not just your active subscribers. If you have a large number of bad/undeliverable emails, those count. If you have a large number of unsubscribed emails, those count.

If your SFMC instance is integrated with Salesforce, you can easily go through a contact delete process to remove bad emails. Keep in mind, though, that you will need to mark these in Salesforce so that they don't get added back into SFMC later on and undo all your hard work! 

Contacts in Synchronized Data Extensions

An area that we often see cause confusion is around synchronized data extensions in SFMC. If your SFMC instance is integrated with Salesforce and you are utilizing synchronized data extensions, any contacts, leads, or user records that are synchronized between SFDC and SFMC also count toward your total billable contacts in SFMC. 

Even if you have not sent these records an email or SMS, they still count. To view these records, take a look at your All Contacts list in Contact Builder. It will show you how many records you have in total, including those without a channel (ones who have not been emailed or messaged via text or app). 

Help! I’m over my contact limit!

Receiving warnings that you’re over your contact limit? 

Here are some steps to take to help bring that count down. 

  • Review your All Subscribers list. Do you really need to keep 10,000 bad email addresses in SFMC? Probably not. As long as you clearly mark these records in Salesforce and educate your team to exclude these from any reports and sends, you can delete these in SFMC. 
  • Determine the contacts you truly want to sync and create a “gating” field in Salesforce using this criteria. By creating a Boolean “gating” field, you can specify for SFMC to only sync contacts that meet this criteria. 
  • Review your contacts without a channel. Did you start synchronizing your Salesforce objects into synchronized data extensions before realizing they counted against your contracted contact count? You can remedy this in a couple of different ways. 
  • Remove contacts with no channel through a contact delete process. You can identify these records using a data extract in Automation Studio, then delete them. You can add them back in if needed – preferably using the gating field technique mentioned above.

Need additional help understanding why you have so many contacts in SFMC, or in cleaning up those contacts? Kicksaw is here to help! Just fill out the Contact Us form at the bottom of this page, or message CEO Kenny Goldman directly using the chat box.

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