We currently do not have SalesCloud set up but it is on the road map. We are looking to first setup MC and will be emailing current customers and any newsletter signups.

How do I generate a Subscriber Key and/or Contact Key for these contacts who are not in any type of CRM? And is there any planning I can do, knowing that one day in the future we will be adding SFDC Sales & ServiceCloud and will want to use Contact/Lead id so that data passes across the different clouds?

1 Answer 1


Your scenario isn't a very complicated one so no need to overthink this.

As you do not have the CRM when starting out, there are no restrictions on what you can or may set as the SubscriberKey.

Ideally you should generate a unique value for each subscriber, and it should not be the Email address or a phone number. Data type should be text, even if you use a numeric value as the SubscriberKey.

The only thing to consider is that after connecting Sales Cloud these non-CRM concacts will not synchronise any tracking to Sales Cloud and should not be used together in automations / data extensions together with Sales Cloud records.

Here's what I would recommend:

  1. Create a unique key for every subscriber as SubscriberKey, data type as text.
  2. Do your emailings/automations by using the custom SubscriberKey until you get Sales Cloud in place and integrated.
  3. Import the non-CRM subscribers to Sales Cloud as new records and honor their subscription preferences. This way they will be re-created in Marketing Cloud in synchronised data extension as new lead/contact records with Sales Cloud Contact/Lead ID's.
  4. Export send history for the non-CRM contacts from Marketing Cloud.
  5. Delete the non-CRM contacts from Marketing Cloud.

This way you'll end up with a clean database in Marketing Cloud where your contacts are properly recognized by their Salesforce record ID's and history tracking is synchronising back to Sales Cloud.

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    It is worth mentioning, that all the native tracking history on SFMC will be lost. If you want to maintain it, you would need to perform Subscriber Key migration once you connect Sales Cloud: salesforce.stackexchange.com/questions/265607/… Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 15:43
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    If they don't have a CRM and it's temporary I wouldn't be opposed to using email address as the key. It can still be recommended to have a dedicated 'Subscriber/Contact Key' data extension field that's text, but it could be populated with an email address. This makes it a bit easier if you're using triggered sends, data can be posted directly from website/forms and you don't need to worry about pulling in another ID field that may not be exposed. Commented Sep 4, 2019 at 22:23
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    Also worth mentioning that Subscriber Key Migration can time consuming and calls for involvement of Salesforce Services. Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 11:44
  • I appreciate all of the answers & context. Incredibly helpful. The final question would be, what is the best way to generate a unique value for each subscriber? (if choosing not to use email address) Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 12:05
  • To be honest, it is perfectly fine to use email address as the Subscriber Key in this case. Since it is not permanent. In my opinion. If you don't want to do this, the most straight forward way is to use the same key that use to identify your customer across your other systems. You could also create a unique identifier with a SQL/Script activity. Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 13:19

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