Prepare the Entry Source

Learning Objectives

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

  • Determine your data requirements.
  • Create an entry source.

Before you create a journey, first work out all your technical and data requirements. What data points can you access? How do you know which contacts to include? Can you use your data to personalize messages? What attribute can you use to measure for the journey goal?

Prepare Your Entry Data

Entry data is the information you have for a contact when the contact enters a journey. It’s a snapshot of your contacts’ data attributes taken at the moment they are added to the journey. Contact data is updated as the journey goes on, but entry data is not. You can compare entry data to contact data to present before-and-after data points in personalization strings, for example, or to watch for changes in an attribute. You can filter on entry or contact data in entry sources or decision splits.


You can schedule how often you want to check the data extension for updates, from daily to annually, and how long you want the entry source scheduled to run for specific entry sources.

Select the Entry Source

The entry source admits contacts into your journey. Each journey must include only one entry source. There are two commonly used types: a Data Extension entry source or an Event. 

Welcome journey with the entry source highlighted

A Data Extension Entry Source

A data extension entry source in Journey Builder takes an existing data extension from Email Studio or Contact Builder, or a List from MobileConnect, and places customers into the journey according to a schedule. If you use a data extension entry source be sure to: 

  • Include fields needed for personalization or dynamic content in the data extension.
  • Use a sendable data extension.
  • Prepare any suppression or publication data extensions in advance. You can then select these in the send email activity during configuration.
  • Create a single data extension using a query if the data for the journey is stored in multiple data extensions. Queries can be created in Automation Studio using the SQL Query Activity.
  • Pre-filter your data extension, if possible, to speed processing.
  • Link the data extension into the data model in Contact Builder.

There are links to helpful resources for working with data extensions included in the Resources section.

An Entry Event

An entry event requires some change in customer data that triggers an evaluation of that contact for inclusion in the journey. In a welcome series, the action or behavior is typically a customer opting into a marketing campaign. Here are some ways entry events work to place a contact into a journey. 

  • Marketing Cloud customers using CloudPages or Mobile Studio create profile centers or use the email subscription template to opt users into mobile or email communications.
  • Using data stored in Sales or Service Cloud, changes in an object’s data can be used to place a contact into a journey.
  • Using a point of sale system in a retail store or on a website, a customer elects to sign up for promotional emails and coupons.

The data extension used for the event must be linked to the Contact Builder data model. You can use attributes from Contact Builder to filter the population as part of the evaluation in the entry event criteria, but limiting filtering improves journey performance.

And Sometimes, an API Event

In some cases, opt-ins happen outside of the Marketing Cloud. These events call for some development work to set up an API to add customers to a journey. The best practice is to use an API for events and to use a data extension for other use cases.

If you want to use an API to put customers into journeys, you may need technical help, but there are steps you can take to make it easier to get help from an IT resource or Salesforce Marketing Cloud Services.

If you do not have an API ready to configure an event, a different way to bring data in and create a data extension for Journey Builder is to create and schedule an update to a data extension in Automation Studio. Create workflows to manage data and marketing processes. Using activities, you can import data into the Marketing Cloud, query or filter the data, and update a data extension for Journey Builder.

This is similar to the process using a data extension, except that all the actions taken on the data are managed by Automation Studio. The result is a sendable data extension that can be selected in Journey Builder. You may need to set up a file transfer activity to bring a file into the FTP, and an import activity to update the data extension.

Case Study: Isabelle Decides on an Entry Source

After completing this process, Isabelle, NTO’s digital marketing manager, decides to use her sendable data extension, NewSubscribers, as the entry source for NTO’s welcome campaign. It includes all the data for new subscribers that she needs to craft a customized journey.

In the next unit, we learn how to build a journey campaign.


Keep learning for
Sign up for an account to continue.
What’s in it for you?
  • Get personalized recommendations for your career goals
  • Practice your skills with hands-on challenges and quizzes
  • Track and share your progress with employers
  • Connect to mentorship and career opportunities