15 Marketo Protips: Advice You Can Implement Today

Back in April I gave a presentation at the 2014 Marketo Marketing Nation Summit focused on practical, easy-to-implement tips to make your automation systems more scalable, efficient, and effective. The idea worked great on paper, but I bit off more that I could chew–fifteen tips is a lot of ground to cover in a 45 minute session, so I ended up having to provide more of a glimpse than in-depth guidance.

For those who expressed interest after the presentation in seeing the slides or learning more, I decided to do a deeper dive on these tips, and this article is just that.

The idea of this session came about, in part, because I always prefer going to sessions where I get practical, actionable advice. The content, however, came about from all the little shortcuts I or others have found to make things easier and more efficient when using Marketo. Many of these ideas have been submitted by users around the community, and also within the Marketo Seattle User Group. While I have this list of 15 tips, I’m sure you have others, so be sure to share them in the comments!

#1 – Folder Organization

folder-organizationBe honest, we all have some scary areas of our Marketo instances that are just a mess. I’ll be the first to admit it. The fact of the matter is, sometimes we create assets quickly, but don’t bother to give them a name that makes sense, or put them in a folder. It seems harmless at first, but after years of this stuff piling up, it’s pretty much impossible to figure out what is relevant and what isn’t.

I’m pretty crazy about organization and consistency in our Marketo instance, so I generally gravitate towards smart folder organization. Yet it’s doubly important when you have many users in your Marketo instance, each with their own ideas of how to organize and name things. Set a consistent process, write it down, and ensure everyone in your instance knows and follows it.

There’s no hard and fast way to do this, but I try and organize things with top level folders for the basic category, followed by subcategory, followed by year/month/quarter etc.

You also want to make use of archived folders where possible to indicate what’s no longer relevant for other users to be looking at.

#2 – Asset Naming Convention

The naming of your assets is closely related to folder organization. Again, there’s no hard and fast way to organize the names of your assets, but it’s important to set a naming convention and stick with it. Here’s a good litmus test of how big of a problem with naming conventions you have (this could also be made into the nerdiest marketing drinking game ever): Pick a form at random from the bowels of your design studio. Can you identify what form it is, the situations it’s used for, and any hidden field info, just from the name? No, well then take a drink,or read on…or do both.

You’ll be amazed at how much time you can waste trying to figure out which asset is which, when a lot of that can be avoided with some intelligent naming conventions. So suppose you’re naming forms. Don’t pick a crazy abbreviation that no one remembers. Pick something descriptive. Name the form that’s for webinar registrations: “webinar registration”. Another variable a lot of people don’t think about with forms in particular is the submit button text. I actually try to include that in the name where possible. It helps to avoid needing to check the asset incessantly.

While labeling things descriptively helps reduce confusion, it can also be handy for clever use of smart list triggers and filters. Suppose you want a particular type of email to be sent to the salesperson anytime someone fills out a webinar registration form.

webinar-namingWell, if you’ve done you due diligence and named your assets consistently, you can build a smart list that just looks for any form submissions that start with the words “Webinar Registration”. This is way easier than trying to remember every single form name that might qualify for the alert, and it helps future proof your triggers, because any time you add a new form under the same naming convention, it’ll automatically fit into your existing logic, without any need for you to add it in manually.

Thinking through your naming conventions can just help you find things easier and quicker, too. You can chronologically label occurring steps for an event program. Since Marketo organizes data alphabetically, with a bit of thought, you can organize your smart campaigns in a logical manner, rather than just where they occur in the alphabet. This is much easier to find what you’re looking for, as it’s a step by step list.

#3 – Sales Insight Email Organization

MSI Published templatesSpecial consideration with organization must be made for sales insight emails, which are emails you’ve published as templates for your sales team in Salesforce.com or whatever CRM you’re using. I make heavy use of Marketo Sales Insight, to the point where I’ve got dozens of these templates available, with new resources being added weekly, so helping my team understand which email is which is super important.

Because of the nature of how Marketo Sales Insight published emails work, I’ve found it makes much more sense to keep all our published emails in one location. I have folders for different points of sale, with further folder definition for sales vs account management templates. Then, each asset is prepended with an identifier of which team should use which asset.

MSI-SFDCIf you look at how it appears for the salesperson, this is way easier to decode which email is which than if everything is randomly named with no folder organization.

Another tip here is to make use of the description field on your email assets in Marketo. This description will carry over to the Marketo Sales Insight interface, to help give the salesperson a bit more insight on what the template is for. If you have a ton of templates in your instance, you can’t possibly hope for your sales team to remember what every single template is for. So this description field is really helpful.

#4 – Global Forms

global-formsWhen I talk about global forms, I basically mean the concept of using a single form on multiple landing pages. In other words, not creating a new form every time you have a new campaign.

Using forms globally where possible is a great idea, because it will reduce the amount of single-use assets that are hanging out in your instance, but it also makes your system for alerts, scoring, and other data management tasks much easier. Imagine you wanted to create one scoring rule that watches any time a resource download form is submitted. If you had a unique form for every whitepaper, case study, and infographic you ever made, you’d need to account for a lot of forms.

It’s also fantastic when you want to make large, sweeping changes to your forms at once. Suppose you now need to start asking a new piece of information on all your forms. With a global form, you make the change in one place, and have it propogated out to all your landing pages that use it at once.

#5 – Global Emails

Just like forms, some of the emails you use, both internally and externally, can be made global in Marketo. There’s two great examples here.

Think about all the email alerts you set up, either for yourself or for your sales team. In most cases, you’re basically telling them: “Hey, a lead did something, here’s all the relevant information to contact them.” You don’t need to create an alert for every situation, you can actually have a couple of generic alerts that trigger on a set of criteria. So, for example, you might have an alert that tells a salesperson that a high value form was submitted.

If you’re using common forms for things, and if you’re basically telling the salesperson the same thing each time, it actually does you a disservice to have a ton of different alerts. Your sales team is going to get overwhelmed, and isn’t going to know which alert is which, despite your best efforts.

So I generally advise keeping alerts simple so they can cover a wide swath of uses. You’ll have an easier time training your sales team to click through to salesforce to get the specific details of what’s going on with this lead.

sp_send_alert_infoOne great tool to use in your alerts is the “SP_Send_Alert_Info” Token. This will automatically pull in the specific smart campaign that drove the action, a timestamp of the activity, and best of all: it links to the record in SFDC and Marketo.

You can also use the global email concept with autoresponders. If you send your resource downloads to leads via email, rather than letting them access the download directly on the website, you can use the same autoresponder for all your resource downloads. And of course, you can use tokens here too. Anytime someone downloads a piece of content from one of your programs, you can trigger a global autoresponder to fire, that populates all the specifics of the content. The email doesn’t even need to be local to the program.

 #6 – Tokenized Programs

webinar-programI received some interesting feedback from people who heard me using the word “Tokenize” in my presentation. I can’t claim credit for that, but I also can’t say who coined it originally (Har har har). Anyway, here’s the idea.

Consider your average webinar. Think about all the assets and logic that go into an event like this. You have emails, landing pages, and smart campaigns. And that’s for a simple event. And yet, most webinars are actually very similar in Marketo. You’re always following the same general process, yet creating and editing all these assets, even when you can clone past events, is so time consuming.

By building all your program assets with tokens, you can save a huge amount of time, and build more consistent, error-free programs.

So continuing the example of a webinar, let’s look at the tokens you can set on the program.

Program Tokens

As you can see, nearly everything can be made into a token. Your webinar content, banners, logos, even the access information to the webinar. Thank you pages, and finally, even our On-Demand videos are tokenized.

This is huge for replication, because it means the only thing you’re editing is the tokens – no need to go into the assets at all. Another benefit of building programs like this is that any sorts of inconsistencies, such as the wrong date/time or dial in information, are minimized, because again, you’re setting the token value at one place, at it shows identically everywhere the token is referenced.

It turns a highly complex campaign into something anyone can go in and reproduce. As a colleague of mine, Adam Waterson is known to say, it doesn’t do you any good to build some sophisticated, complex solution if you’re the only one who knows how to work it.

#7 – Program Templates

program-templateOnce you’ve built out a fully tokenized program, it’s a great idea to create a template version that you clone from. I like to do this for things like content and events, as I like to have a pre-built package ready to go when I have new content. So the reason you want to have a template, versus just cloning the last used program, is that anything custom you might have had to add to the program will carry over as well.

I find this is especially helpful for the rest of my team as well, as they can easily duplicate something we build all the time. You can even take it a step further with default tokens that indicate what you should do with each token. For example, the dimensions needed for the perfect banner image.

 #8 – Centralized Content Programs

You've got all these great lead sources, but how are you to track content engagement across all of them?

You’ve got all these great lead sources, but how are you to track content engagement across all of them?

This one could have a whole article devoted to it, which I’ll probably spin up eventually. But here’s the gist of it:

Suppose you’ve got a new whitepaper, and want to promote it on several different channels. Ordinarily, you might think it wise to build each channel separately. Build your display ads that point to the whitepaper download page. Link to it in social, etc.

The problem with this is that you can’t track the utilization of a piece of content across channels in  one place, and you can’t efficiently compare which channels performed better for the content than others.

There’s a way in Marketo that you can centralize your content so that all channels point to the same core assets.

Essentially, it means creating a specific program for each piece of content you produce. Here’s an example of one of our whitepapers. This program has a special type created for it called “content”, and every channel that uses it: online advertising, content syndication, and even sends from your sales team, are all sent to the assets that are in this program.

Through this, you can see any download activity on this content in one place.

If you create a template for your sales team to share this resource, you should point them to an asset stored in this program. You can then track and clicks on the download link there are a conversion.

If someone accesses the content from a nurture campaign, you can track that here too.

The other value to this process is that any changes you need to make down the line to the content can be done in just one place, rather than trying to find every email, landing page, etc that uses the asset. Plus, going back to a previous tip, you can tokenize much of the content in these programs, making cloning and tweaks really easy.

#9 – Picklist ALL the Things

picklistsSo if you’ve been using Marketo for awhile, you’ve probably come across this issue already, but standardized lists of data are so much easier to work with than text entry. Here’s what I mean. Suppose on your form, you ask a lead’s job title. Pretty harmless right? Then you get asked to build a persona-targeted campaign, and you realize how many different ways someone can spell (or misspell) a job title.

This goes back to the adage of “bad data in, bad data out.” But you can circumvent a lot of headache later by being smart with the way you collect data in your forms. Identify the areas where you can bucket values, rather than asking the precise value. (pull screenshot of Marketo guide that shows accuracy of form data). It’s probably not going to be all that accurate if you ask an exact value, and it’s not terribly actionable for your marketing efforts. So use select fields for things like job title, industry, company size, revenue size, and other identifying aspects.

#10 – Triggers for Standardizing Data

normalizerFor the data that you want standardized, but can’t necessarily put in picklists, I’ve got a solution for you there, too. (or if you just need to do a bit of spring cleaning)

A simple example looks at incorrect formatting of country values, and fixes them.  Basically, it watches for values containing certain words or abbreviations and rewriting them to the appropriate standardized value. It’s not a perfect solution because stuff will fall through the filters you build, but I like to audit what these don’t catch every month or so and build the missing non-standard values into the normalizer as well. Eventually, you’ll have most circumstances covered well. The opportunities to do this are endless, too. Think job titles, industries, etc. You can’t currently do anything fancy with wildcards or case changes, though. SO YOU’LL NEED TO FIND ANOTHER WAY TO FIX ALL THE DATA FROM PEOPLE WHO TYPE LIKE THIS ON YOUR FORMS.

#11 – Segmentations as Smart List Filters

If you’ve ever made use of Marketo’s dynamic content feature, you’re probably familiar with how Segmentations work. But you may not know the power of using segmentations within smart campaigns.

For frequently used filters, such as lead owner, industry, job role, etc, these can be super handy. Remembering all the commonly used filters you need for a campaign can be tricky, but by using a segmentation to contain all those filters, the only filter you need to remember in your blasts is the segmentation. There used to be some debate that using segmentations instead of straight field filters was actually a faster way to generate a list, though in my testing I haven’t seen any speed benefit either way.

In any case, they’re a lot more convenient, especially when you’re dealing with a piece of data that can change often.

#12 – Lead Source Tracking with URL Variables

url-parameterYou are probably already tracking lead source on your different forms with a hidden value. This works, by basically tagging any lead that comes through the form with the lead source value you specified. It works, but it’s limiting, especially if you move to using more global forms where you’re leveraging one form for multiple assets.

To do this, a great solution can be in switching your lead source value on forms to be assigned based on URL parameter. Here’s how you do it. In your form, go into the autofill settings of the field, and change the “Get value” field to “URL parameter”. You’ll need to set a default value of some kind, but in the parameter name, put whatever URL parameter you want to use. This is somewhat arbitrary, you can use pretty much any parameter name you want. Yours could just be “leadsource”, if you want to keep it simple. We tend to follow the old utm tracking naming conventions.

Once you’ve done this, all you need to remember to do is when linking to your landing page that uses the form, append the appropriate URL variable to the end. This is so handy because it means you’re not only using your forms efficiently- but you’re suddenly able to get visibility to channels you may not have had great data on before. Social media comes to mind for me- it just isn’t something something I have a good handle on lead gen from, but now  I can track  any content, infographic and event and be confident that  I’ll get accurate lead source data.

Find this handy dandy tool for any landing page by clicking Landing Page Actions > URL Tools > URL Builder

Find this handy dandy tool for any landing page by clicking Landing Page Actions > URL Tools > URL Builder

The only catch to this is you need to remember to tag your URLs before using them. This is more about building habit than anything,

And lucky for you, Marketo has a built in tool for that. On any landing page, you can find the URL builder in the settings. It will look up any hidden values you have on the form that are set to accept URL variables, and you can generate your URLs easily.

#13 – Tokenized Lead Scoring

You may have noticed the score token, but not have had a great idea of how to use it. Lead scoring systems can be pretty complex, and even harder to audit and adjust later. Score tokens can help here. To use them, you first need to have your scoring contained in a program.

For each of your triggered scoring rules, instead of assigning +10 or -20 points, you’re actually assigning a token value. Then, on the program token settings, you can view all your score changes in one place, and adjust them accordingly. This is really handy when you want to take a glance at the different score changes that could occur, and also helpful if you have multiple triggers that are affected by the same score change.

score-tokensAlso, here’s a freebie: if you’re starting from scratch with your lead scoring, there’s a great program pre-built in Marketo that you can import. You can find the importer in marketing activities, and there are actually a ton of fantastic starter programs in here beyond the scoring program.


This is a great hidden feature. Go to Marketing Activities click the “New” dropdown, and select “Import Program”.


#14 – Tokens in Interesting Moments

Interesting moments are such a valuable way to pass insight to your sales teams, but a lot of people use them incorrectly. Usually, you have the basics in there: fills out a high value form, visits web pages, critical piece of information is learned. While these work great in theory, the way they’re conveyed to the sales team is not always very clear. The problem is that basic interesting moments just take the raw asset names in Marketo, and push them to Salesforce.

Here’s what I mean. Put yourself in the sales person’s shoes. What the heck is LandingpageA1441-September2014aconvertedpage?

The cool thing is, you can actually make these interesting moments more…well, interesting, by building them through tokens. So, as long as you followed my past suggestions on using tokens wherever possible, you can build interesting moments on your programs that use token data instead of gibberish asset names.


Now the salesperson can see a much clearer view of what the lead has been up to.


#15 – Folder Tokens

I’ve been talking a lot about tokens at the program level, but you can actually set these at the folder level, too, which can lead to some interesting use cases.

Probably the most common benefit is with copyrights and key contact information. You update this stuff at least once a year. Normally, that’s a time consuming process in Marketo, because you have to edit the template, and then approve all the assets that use the template. BUT! If you set your copyright info and other high level information that may change (logos are another opportunity here) in tokens, you can use folder tokens to your advantage here.

Then you can set your token by clicking any folder in your Marketing Activities section of Marketo, and navigating to the My Tokens section. Of course if you’re setting a very universal piece of information like copyright, you’ll want a top-level folder that contains all your other folders, but this is never a bad idea, and goes back to the very first tip I talked about regarding folder organization.


The other really cool thing about folder tokens is they can nest. In other words, you can set a copyright token at one folder at the top level, but other tokens in folders at lower levels, and finally tokens within programs at the lowest level. Plus, if you set a token value of your global HQ address as the top-level folder token, you can override it with a token in a folder (or a program beneath it). So your Canadian and eEuropean teams can use their local office locations for their folders, and you can use your address for your folders.

Now the next time that your office moves to a new location, you rebrand, your company gets acquired, or you just enter the next year, you’ve built your systems smart to allow you to make an update in one place and have all assets affected immediately, with no approval required. One super annoying disclaimer to this process: Tokens DO NOT work with emails published to sales insight. So keep in mind that any emails you’re publishing to your sales team must have all {{my.Tokens}} removed. You’ve been warned!


So that’s it! If you have ideas to add or want to know more, submit a comment or tweet me. I’m @TheJeffShearer.