Getting starting in Marketo: Practical tips for beginners

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Written by Caitlin Poliska

June 24, 2021

The more I’ve worked with Marketo, the more students tell me they’re excited to learn, excited about the possibilities, but also worried about how much there is to learn and how to fit it into the work they already have to do.

Enter this Marketo guide to getting started and help anyone start strong (and if you need more, our online training is the perfect resource for you).

I’ll also address some common problems towards the end!

Getting Up To Speed

Learn terminology

As with any new platform, you need to become well-versed in its language. Yes, I know you’re just getting started, but reading over Adobe’s documentation will only help you “speak” it better as you dive into the platform and network with other Marketo users.

Use the Help Marketo Gives You

Marketo provides you with a library of sample programs. If you’ve got Marketo administrative privileges, you can import these sample programs and put in the right content for your needs. This way, you have the best practices out of the box and can focus on your assets.

Also make use of the Marketo Community, which is full of educational videos and documentation, ideas for using features, and suggestions for the product roadmap. Remember, there’s a vast community of your peers who can answer questions and help you learn quickly.

Start Small when building

You can’t build a fully-fledged marketing automation engine overnight. Pick a pilot program, whether it’s a nurture drip with 4 emails spaced 1-2 weeks apart, or a webinar invitation + delivery and follow up.

Use this as a model. Make sure you’ve used email best practices with well-designed landing pages and then leverage the data to improve.

If your first attempt goes well, you can clone it and build from it instead of starting from scratch!

Scrub Your Database

This cannot be emphasized enough … if you’ve inherited a database, any bad data issues are now yours – and will plague your efforts from now until you take care of them!

Go into the Database tab in Marketo. See those System Smartlists? Start there.

First, check out your Possible Duplicates. If there aren’t too many, that’s a good start. Focus on de-duplicating these (if you’re using Marketo synced to Salesforce.com, I recommend de-duping in Salesforce instead of through Marketo) – use the Auto Merge tool if necessary.

Next, create some data management smart lists to help you see where you need to standardize and normalize data. Find out where the dirty data is coming from and nip that in the bud first, so you don’t have more coming in. Using pick lists on your forms, where possible, is a best practice.

Once you’ve done some cleaning, you’ll be familiar enough with your data to know what the next easiest cleaning task is. Data management and cleanliness is an ongoing practice, so don’t think you can do it only once. That said, once your database is clean, you can institute practices that keep it clean.

Check Your Sync(s)

Chances are, Marketo’s working with another system …. or five …. or ten. Many of these will be systems feeding into Marketo, so save those for last.

Start with all systems, such as your CRM, where Marketo is pushing information out to another. This could be a one-way or bi-directional sync, but since you’re A common system? Salesforce, and we have that covered in this integration blog.

Understand how data flows in and out of your system and what the most important fields are (especially for marketing and sales, but possibly other teams such as customer service). This will only help you as you interface with the entire ecosystem.

Want more hands-on training? Our Revenue Marketing University Marketo courses are for you!
Check out our Marketo courses for hands-on training and to speed up your mastery of Marketo!

Be Patient

I frequently tell those I’m working with, “You don’t walk out of a foreign language class fluent on the second day.”

Pace yourself, determine you will learn one new thing every week or two, and make a commitment to yourself by learning about the next big thing in marketing: marketing automation. You not only increase your value to your current job, you increase your value as a marketer in the greater ecosphere of marketing professionals.

Realize that you’ve been learning new things your entire life, and by investing a little time each day (or week), you’re learning to reach the targets you have today more efficiently. A little time spent learning marketing automation today will mean a lot less manual work in the future. The result is you’ll be yourself more efficient and more able to reach your company, department, and personal goals.

Build the right reports

You can build plenty, but if they’re unusuable (or ad-hoc) then are you truly creating something that’s repeatable and scalable? Your time’s more valuable than that!

Fortunately, we have the blog for you – three must-have Marketo reports.

Problems Starting Out

These are some of the most common I hear from those just getting started in the field. If you want more troubleshooting help for intermediate-level issues, read this blog.

I need to start nurturing NOW!

That might be true, but without a plan you won’t get very far. Think of it this way: you have fairly new leads and older leads. Start there. Plan two programs, one that will nurture existing leads (not yet customers) and one that will nurture your fairly new (and incoming in near future) leads. That’s it, just two.

The first one might be four emails spaced two weeks apart each, so your program will run for eight weeks. Don’t talk about your products, a mistake many of those new to marketing automation make. It’s a little like walking into a bar, walking up to someone you don’t know, and saying “Hey, want to get married???”

It might work occasionally, but more likely not!

Instead, focus on the problems that people who purchase your product are facing, and the types of questions they’re asking. The second email can talk about what they’re doing to answer those questions (again, not your product, but the things they’re considering to progress towards a solution). Make sure all four emails have campaign messaging that focuses on problem solving from your prospect’s point of view, not yours. It’s all about them.

Once people start responding to what you have to say, you can introduce them to information they might be interested in further down the funnel, but start by getting to know them a little bit, and show them you understand their concerns.

Sales isn’t sure which leads to prioritize

Consider starting with lead scoring. The problem is that there is no discrimination between a lead who is ready to talk to sales and one who’s just starting to look for a solution. You need to help sales distinguish between the two.

Lead scoring is easy to implement, but the planning is the part that requires thought.

First, consider all the ways in which a lead might engage with your website, team, materials or company.

  • Are they downloading white papers or case studies from your website?
  • Attending webinars?
  • Visiting certain web pages?
  • Going to luncheon meetings?

Find the ways in which they are interacting with you and sort these different methods of engagement into high value (shows a lot of sales interest, like asking for pricing), medium value (attended an hour-long webinar), or low value (clicked in an email, which shows they’re doing something at least, but isn’t a lot of effort). Once you’ve sorted these into high, medium and low, assign points – maybe 5, 3 and 1, or 10, 5 and 1. Don’t worry too much about the exact values to start.

Next, communicate with sales. Do they agree on the high, medium and low values you assigned? Once you have agreement with sales, implement your pilot scoring. Let sales know it’s a pilot and their feedback is important. For better results, enlist a sales rep who wants to work with you, or someone in sales operations, to collect comments and come back to you in 30 or 60 days with feedback.

Lead scoring is not a set-it-and-forget-it process, but one you’ll need to keep revisiting and adjusting over time…but at least you’ll have started somewhere!

Related: Know the steps of strong lead management

Marketing passes leads to sales, but we don’t know what happens to them

Start with your lead lifecycle.

Define the different stages of your funnel, from the time you first get an email address through to a closed/won opportunity. Name the different stages, and then define those stages.

Sales and Marketing alignment is crucial here; make sure you have agreement regarding the definitions of lead stages: that a lead is still in marketing and not ready for sales; when it is sales-ready; when it was sales-ready, but sales says it isn’t really ready and needs to go back to marketing?

Define your lead funnel and the detours that leads might take off your success path. Once you have a design and agreement, use Marketo smart campaigns to move leads from marketing to sales and, if necessary, back again to marketing when they need to be recycled. By clearly defining your lead management process, you’ll align sales and marketing and the next question will be “what next?”

And when you get to that “what’s next,” you can expand and enhance each of the different areas covered in this series to get the most out of your Marketo experience.

Want more? Check out our Marketo training or learn about our Marketo consulting services!

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