Follow Best Practices for Deleting Contacts

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Manage the contact deletion process.
  • Avoid common pitfalls for Contact Delete requests.

Think of deletions as being the last boarding group on an airplane. They eventually get to their seats, but they’re not riding in first class. In other words, Marketing Cloud prioritizes other processes above the Contact Delete process, so you need to plan to make the process as efficient as possible. Here are a few more things you should know when considering contact deletion. 

Delete in Batches When Possible

When you delete contacts, make as few requests as possible and batch all of your requests. Marketing Cloud can better handle a single large request than several smaller requests, and you’ll notice better performance. If you know you must delete thousands of contacts at a time, batch it all into one request via the REST API.

Know What Information Remains

If you delete a contact that unsubscribed from your emails, Marketing Cloud keeps a record of that unsubscription to avoid sending any more email messages in the future. This record doesn’t contain any more information than what’s necessary to block future sends from occurring.

Manage Your Enterprises

The Contact Delete feature removes information from your entire Enterprise 2.0 account and associated business units. If you use multiple Enterprise 2.0 accounts, however, you need to make requests for each account (and that takes more time). And, of course, child business units may contain separate contacts from triggered sends, synchronized data extensions, and data operations like queries and filters. If your account uses those features, you should check out your business units separately to ensure the information gets deleted.

Delete All the ID Values

Each contact record should have a single ContactKey or ContactID value that you can use for deletion requests. If you linked multiple values to a contact record from different data extensions, include all values in your request to make sure you cover everything.

Keep Your Data Extensions Updated

You want all the data necessary to make your marketing activities as efficient and effective as possible. But there is such a thing as old and useless data. Consider using data retention policies in this case. These automated functions regularly remove unneeded data, or even entire data extensions, from your account. And be sure to start these policies when you first create your data extensions—you can’t retroactively apply them after they exceed 100 million records. That number may sound like a lot, but you can reach it more quickly than you think.

And when you delete contacts from a large data extension, be sure to export the record to an external file that you can use to help restart the process in case an error occurs. Plus, it helps you keep track of the records you submitted for deletion.



Want to make the deletion process faster? Delete any sendable data extensions you don’t need regularly so the system scans fewer files.

Keep Suppression Time to a Minimum

Remember, the suppression period is the amount of time between the initial delete request and when the information is actually removed from your account. Marketing Cloud prevents contacts from reintroducing themselves into your account while the suppression period continues. However, that data remains in your system and might block transactional sends from continuing, even if the contact wants to opt back in. We recommend setting the suppression period to 0 to remove data from your account quickly and allow transactional sends to continue when necessary.

Get Status Information Quickly with REST API

When you’re reviewing the deletion status for large batches of contacts, that status changes only once the entire batch processes. Not exactly helpful if you’re looking for information on a particular contact. For a single contact, you can get information more quickly using a separate REST API call with the applicable ContactKey value.

Watch for Red Flags

Keep an eye out for these common missteps.

  • Incomplete deletion requests that don’t remove all applicable information from all possible data sources
  • Slow processing due to too many requests
  • Loss of necessary contact information that might allow unwanted contact in the future

When you follow these best practices, your contact delete requests can process quickly and efficiently. Just remember that the deletion process takes less precedence than other account activities, such as sends, imports, automations, and queries.


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