Marketo/Salesforce Integration: It’s Easy Because It’s Hard

Salesforce and Marketo: 3 Key Areas for Successful Integration

Written by Whitni Freeman

December 19, 2018

As a mom of two young kids, I’ve learned just how hard something that’s easy can be. It’s amazing how long it can take a 3-year-old to eat four chicken nuggets, or how many minutes a 5-year-old can spend agonizing over which color tutu to wear. Potty training? WEEKS. Sleeping through the night? YEARS.

The thing is, you begin to realize that the easiest tasks in life really aren’t that easy.

One of the biggest misunderstandings I’ve found when it comes to setting up an integration between Marketo and Salesforce is the notion that it’s easy. Now, don’t get me wrong – it’s not hard, but it’s also not “easy.” The steps to connect the two platforms aren’t that difficult (you literally follow the directions on the screen!), but what cannot and should not be overlooked is all the pieces, the end-to-end process, of the integration.

In this blog, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about the initial setup of the Marketo-Salesforce integration.

If you're going through a Marketo and Salesforce integration, our practical guide to started with Marketo is a must read!

The Leadup

Before we get too deep and dirty into the steps of the setup, I always like to start the conversation with a brief overview and comparison of the two platforms and their data models, as well as what is possible in the integration. Salesforce is a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform that allows you to understand who your clients and potential customers are.

Salesforce can send emails, but it’s not a marketing automation platform like Marketo. On the other hand, Marketo is a terrible CRM. This is why you need both systems. Together they make the perfect couple.

You want Sales and Marketing to align and work together. To do this, their systems need to integrate. Integrating Salesforce and Marketo unlocks their potential.

When thinking about your integration – remember this: You don’t just turn it on. C-level people tend to think an integration is as easy as flipping a switch. But you actually do a good bit of planning beforehand. While it’s technically quite easy, it’s also technically hard because you have to think about and plan for a lot of different things.

For the integration between Marketo and Salesforce to work best, you also need lead management in place and an agreed upon process for lead management between Marketing and Sales. After all, that’s what the Marketo/Salesforce integrated system is used for.

So, let’s talk about your setup, beginning with:

Database Alignment

The first decision you have to make is how the Marketo and Salesforce databases are going to align. There are two possibilities:

  • Full database sync
    Both databases will have all of the same data. This is best practice and our recommendation. It eliminates the risk of duplication and ensures transparency in the funnel. It also allows you to use native program to campaign sync.
  • Partial sync
    This utilizes lead lifecycle or lead sync. With this sync, you only put sales-ready leads from the Marketo database into the Salesforce database so that Sales only sees leads they should be working. This sync option has the potential to create duplicates.

Salesforce Hierarchy

Next, consider the impact of Salesforce setup in terms of profiles and hierarchy – in terms of what Marketo can interact with. Marketo should be set up with close to System Admin rights and at the highest level of your Salesforce role hierarchy to ensure that it can see everything in Salesforce.

Marketo can only write to the lead, contact and campaign objects, but it can read from the account and the opportunity objects. Pay attention to the integration documentation from Marketo to ensure that your Marketo sync user is configured properly to eliminate risk of sync errors.

Related: Our Salesforce consulting services!

Lead Assignment & Ownership

Now think about the way you are using lead assignment roles and ownership in Salesforce as you think about plug-ins in Marketo. How you’ve decided to sync your databases will determine this. If you’ve decided to go with a complete sync, Marketo will use your system defaults, so you’ll want to make sure that the Default Lead Assignment Rules have Marketo baked into them.

You might consider queue ownership if you are sending over leads that are not sales-ready. Additionally, ensure that lead/contact ownership is fully understood by Marketing so that when they’re using lead owner tokens they make sense and are accurate. For example, if the “system admin” owns every lead, emails might end up being signed “Thanks, System Admin.”

Related: Our Marketo Engage consulting services!

Data Points

Consider the source of truth when it comes to data points. Which system is going to house the data that you trust? Which values are you going to preserve as accurate? Essentially, which system are you going to regard as the source of truth?

Typically, that’s the CRM (Salesforce). This means you’ll want to put measures into place in Marketo to protect your data. We don’t recommend not letting Marketo write to fields. Instead, we want to make sure that Marketo can write to fields but only in the right circumstances. We control it from the Marketo side – not the Salesforce side.

We do this by setting up field blocking in Marketo. This prevents Marketo from overwriting good fields. We can also do this by thinking about our form strategy – utilizing more picklists or setting up normalization campaigns.

One other thing to consider is the format of your data points. We’ll talk more about this when we talk about troubleshooting your sync in a later blog. As you prepare your data for the integration, you’ll want to make sure Marketo is passing values that are acceptable for Salesforce. One of the most frequent offenders? Misaligned States or Countries – especially if you have State & Country Picklists enabled in Salesforce. Make sure your data in Marketo is properly formatted and pay special attention to any picklist values. In the same line, make sure you know what format Salesforce is expecting!


If you are careful about planning your setup, your integration will go as smoothly as flipping a switch. The marriage between Salesforce and Marketo is a match made in heaven, but it is one that takes careful planning to pull off the big event successfully.

Take a look at our Marketo and Salesforce resources to learn more about integrating your platforms, or read the next article in this series where we discuss optimizing your Salesforce/Marketo instance.

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