Power User Series: Turning Marketo into a Closed Loop Marketing Machine

Top best practices from 20+ Experts from the Marketing Nation

plus7.pngI recently interviewed over 20 Marketo power users, a who’s who of the Marketo user community.

It included top notch Marketo partners and past Marketo Champions like Edward Unthank, Justin Norris, Pierce Ujjainwalla, Jason Long, Dan Radu and Jeff Coveney. It included really smart marketing ops pros like Paul Green, Jame Ervin, Jeff Canada, Bobby Burns, Flora Felisberto, Ed Masson, Eddie Morales and Bethany Tomich, many whom have worked with multiple marketing automation systems over the past decade (Flora, for example, started with marketing automation at Eloqua back in 2006). It included Chris Rudnick, who recently consolidated two Marketo’s and two Salesforce’s into one of each, and Mike White, who is currently sizing up that same task.

It fascinated me to see seeing patterns emerge around what makes these Marketo users successful, how they run their marketing operations practices or engage with customers to do so. It was also great to learn about the backstories of each person and how they got into this field of demand generation, marketing automation and operations.

These are the top seven best practices which emerged, centering around how to setup Marketo as a closed loop marketing machine.

Who’s this for?:

This is for any Marketo user looking to maximize the value you are getting from Marketo, or anyone shopping for marketing automation software looking for best practice guidelines sourced from top Marketo users. This focusses on the marketing and business operations, the "how to operationalize it" questions, not the marketing strategy that feeds into it. 

A word on process vs. reporting

One theme I heard consistently throughout the interviews is that there is no de facto system to manage closed loop reporting, in fact many businesses leverage multiple systems as they suit different users with different capabilities. This includes some combination of Marketo, Marketo’s Revenue Cycle Analytics add-on, the CRM system, a third party software plugged into CRM (e.g. attribution reporting) and a data warehouse/BI tool.

More important than the go-to reporting tool was having the right underlying process to drive closed loop marketing, which is what we cover here. The reporting is a by-product of well-defined process and ensuring that the process results in data which is well aligned and consistent between those systems.

One note before we get to the best practices

In my role as VP of Marketing for Bedrock Data I’m looking at how Bedrock Data can support the Marketo user base and help customers get more value out of Marketo. That’s a win for the customer and Marketo. So where it fits, I’ll connect some dots to how Bedrock Data helps you setup your closed loop marketing machine.

Best Practice #1: Define Your Lead Lifecycle Stages

Why: Before you can report on your success, you need to define the steps to get there.

Defining your lead lifecycle stages give you a conversion pathway to benchmark your conversion rates. Justin Norris spoke about how this enables marketing teams to state their goals in terms of the improvement they are looking to drive and quantify the expected impact e.g. “We are looking to improve the conversion rate from MQL to SAL from X% to Y% which should translate to Z in opportunities or pipeline $”).

A common set of lead lifecycle stages are:

Stage What is it?

Prospect who raises their hand to engage. Traditionally this has been defined by a ‘form fill’ for digital marketing programs; more progressive models will trigger an inquiry based on engagement measured through their lead score

Marketing 1L) The agreed to hand-off point between Sales and Marketing. There are models from SiriusDecisions that advise on MQL definitions. They will typically include that a prospect is part of a specific target profile, has taken specific actions and/or reached a specific lead score.
Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) Sales rep acceptance that the marketing lead meets the agreed definition.
Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) Sales qualification, which typically ties to a sales opportunity definition. For some businesses this is BANT (Budget, Authority, Need & Timeframe), for others it’s a subset of these criteria.
 Closed Won Opportunity (Customer) Customer order, either through sales rep or eCommerce


A best practice that came out of multiple conversations including the one with Pierce Ujjainwalla, was that for maximum flexibility you should use both the Marketo revenue cycle explorer to setup these stages, and date/time stamp the progression of these stages as fields so that you have flexibility to analyze your funnel and the timing aspects of it through any system.


Best Practice #2: Tag Your Lead Sources Across the Buyer Journey

Why: The Buyer Journey has multiple points of progression and multiple levels of marketing interaction; your framework for lead sources needs to take this into account

Several power users including Edward Unthank and Chris Rudnick, spoke about this and landed on a “three-tiered” grouping needed for lead sources. You have the flexibility to adjust this but consensus is that three tiers are needed for the depth of insight required.

Another theme is that to track behavior across the buyer journey and understand the impact of various marketing channels, you’ll want to stamp this for both the original source (aligning to the Inquiry stage above) and the MQL source. More sophisticated marketers may want to tag even more stages but I’d recommend starting with just those two so as to not go overboard to start.

The three areas to tag/track for each stage are:

  • Action: What action did the prospect take?: Download Content, Registered for a Webinar, Attended an Event, Contacted Sales.
  • Medium: Through which medium did the prospect engage?: mapped to the traditional Google Analytics channels: paid, organic, referral, direct, email and social media.
  • Details: The specific channel, so Google, Bing, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Or if an Event, the name of the event.


Best Practice #3: Define Standards for Bringing Data into Marketo

Why: Consistency on lead data is vital for accurate and meaningful reporting

You want to identify all of the ways leads can get into your Marketo system, and ensure you have standards and automation where possible to drive consistency in your data.

These are the typical sources and ways leads will come in: 


Options for Leads Entering Marketo


Manual import or automation from third party system


Manual import or automation from third party system

Third party publishers

Manual import or automation from third party system


Manual import or automation from third party system

Third party calling

Manual import or automation from third party system

Sales team entered

Entered into CRM and synced to Marketo


Form fill which requires hidden fields to capture lead source fields. A more advanced implementation is to also track these web channels through JavaScript and cookies.


How Bedrock Data helps you setup & scale your Marketo closed loop marketing machine:

Dealing with manual spreadsheet uploads from third party lead sources is always a pain, slows down your lead routing process and adds risk of error.

Bedrock Data helps solve this problem by automating lead sources flowing into Marketo. For more information on this, contact us or download our Marketo Integration Guide to learn about how you can automate lead sources such as EventBrite, Cvent, WebEx, GoToWebinar and Datanyze.


Best Practice #4: Score Your Leads Based on Both Target Profile & Prospect Behavior

Why: Create a defined method to grade lead quality

The ins and outs of scoring are beyond the scope of this article, but the bottom line is that scoring leads is a best practice especially once you reach larger lead volumes to give you quantifiable measures around your lead database beyond raw lead counts.

Lead scoring should incorporate both the fit within a target profile definition and behaviors that tie to buying signals – such as consuming content tied to later stages in the buying process.

A specific Marketo operational recommendation is if there are specific actions that impact scoring, consider adding custom field and stamps to give you more flexibility for historical analysis around your scoring, for example:

  • Name of most recent form fill
  • Date of most recent form fill
  • Date of most recent product web page viewed
  • Date of most recent website visit


Best Practice #5: Leverage Marketo Programs & Tokens to Scale Your Operations

Why: Save time, reduce errors and get more done

This was mentioned as a best practice by nearly every Marketo power user, and cited as one of the winning features of Marketo.

Program tokens allow you to take a type of activity, be it a webinar, a local event, a nurturing series – and define what information changes with each adaptation of that program type. The end result gives you a highly scalable process for executing marketing programs through Marketo.

Coupling the right closed loop system with program tokens allows you to be both efficient and effective in your marketing – get more done and give yourself the bandwidth to focus on driving and monitoring the right KPIs.


Best Practice #6: Ensure you have a top-notch bi-directional Marketo-CRM Integration to stay aligned with sales

Why: Marketing automation data is critical for sales visibility, and CRM actions and results are critical for closed loop reporting

The interplay with CRM is vital to align sales and marketing. A robust, bi-directional CRM integration is a requirement for closed loop reporting. Bi-directional is key here, because with the buyer journey taking place across both marketing interactions and sales interactions, so there needs to be a constant back-and-forth between systems to track and report on prospect behavior and status.

Oftentimes the CRM is already deeply rooted in the sales organization, so as part of the marketing automation implementation it’s key to connect and synchronize Marketo to the CRM system, including field mapping and workflows.

Also unanimous amongst the power users is it’s not an either/or for Marketo and CRM reporting. Reporting will take place in both systems, as they are giving different levels of visibility and different insights for different users. So it’s not about choosing one system to do reporting, it’s about ensuring the synchronization process is in place to keep data aligned between the two systems. For some, this means a full synchronization, something that Pierce Ujjainwalla advocated for due to ease of troubleshooting. For others such as Jame Ervin this means a conditional, rules based synchronization to push data from Marketo to CRM, in order to have more control on the criteria for which data records qualify to be synchronized between the systems.

How Bedrock Data helps you setup & scale your Marketo closed loop marketing machine:

Bedrock Data plays a crucial role in this for Marketo customers. Bedrock Data's Marketo-CRM connectors span all CRMs including NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, Pipedrive, PipelineDeals, Zoho, SugarCRM, ConnectWise, Vtiger and Salesforce.

While 1:1 Marketo-CRM integrations are the most common scenario, Bedrock Data’s ability to cleanly align data across 3+ systems is also a great solution for Marketo customers who have either multiple marketing automation or multiple CRM instances. For more information on setting up a Marketo-CRM connector, contact us or download our Marketo Integration Guide.


Best Practice #7: Close the Loop with Feedback From Your Downstream Systems

Why: Closed loop marketing today is more than just CRM integration, more value to the business is unlocked with eCommerce, Product and Support to name three scenarios 

The power users discussed a range of exciting use cases in getting more value out of Marketo by tying in additional downstream systems. Both Ed Masson and Pierce Ujjainwalla spoke about use cases involving nurturing those based on their interactions during product trials.

Three specific examples: 

  • eCommerce: Interplay between eCommerce systems such as Shopify and Marketo, both to connect ecommerce orders back to previous marketing activities, and to feed back eCommerce data into marketing profiles
  • Product Trial: Nurture prospects during a free trial, with targeted messaging based on the stage in the trial
  • Support: Feedback support status of a customer to best target them for customer marketing

How Bedrock Data helps you setup & scale your Marketo closed loop marketing machine:

Bedrock Data supports a variety of these use cases to align Marketo, CRM and additional downstream systems including eCommerce, product messaging such as Intercom and support systems such as ConnectWise, Zendesk, Fresh Desk and more.

For more information on this, contact us or download our Marketo Integration Guide.

Lastly, we are continuing to tell the stories of Marketo power users through this ongoing series. Our articles feature interviews with the power users and stories and how they got into marketing automation, and your best practices, tips and tricks. Let me know if you’d like to nominate a Marketo power user to be featured as part of this series.

Zak Pines

Written by:

Zak Pines

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