9 Smart Strategies for a Successful Marketo Migration

Businesses change, companies get acquired, divisions merge. How do you ensure that your business runs smoothly during these transition periods when it comes to migrating to Marketo? What are the best practices for migrating to Marketo?

The Nike motto of “Just Do It” does not apply here. The process is called “migration” for a reason–merging systems and data takes planning and strategy. If you think you are going to import all the data from one system to another with the click of a button, I have a bridge for you to buy in Brooklyn.

We have worked on numerous Marketo migrations and there is one thing that is constant with the successful ones–planning. Let’s dive into the nine considerations that you should discuss with your team when migrating to Marketo.

Keep in mind that EVERY business and migration is unique so some of these may not apply to your individual situation.

1) Drive Engagement with New Landing Pages and Other Assets

Often, companies have hundreds of white paper, eBook and case study assets that need to migrate to Marketo. The migration of landing pages and forms often requires a lot of heavy lifting so do not underestimate the effort. See Best Practices for Marketo Landing Pages.

This data collection process is a foundational element to Marketo so make sure to spend extra time getting it right before building everything all out. Otherwise, you’ll have to go back later and make hundreds of small tweaks (Been there painfully before).

A couple of things to consider:

  • Inventory all of your existing landing pages and assets in a spreadsheet. We recommend using a Google sheet to simplify collaboration among team members.
  • Develop new forms and new landing pages that you can clone for ease of deployment.
  • Consider how you want to backfill intelligence for older landing pages. For example, do you want to create a new program for reporting or leverage an existing program to maintain ongoing intelligence?
  • Redirect all of your old pages to your new pages.
  • Account for new processes that occur when a lead fills out one of your new forms.  For example, does the person get scored? Go into a new nurture program? Receive an autoresponder?

2) Reinforce Your Data Foundation

One of the major aspects of a Marketo migration is dealing with the data. Data fuels reports, email communications, audience engagement, opportunity management and other areas related to the business. If you do one thing during a migration, make sure your data is in order before migrating.

Some level of a data audit will help you through the data migration process.

A couple of questions to ask:

  • Is the data clean? Has anything been done to clean the data before merging?  Do you have Firstname values like “ASDFG” or email addresses like “shd@sknkd.com.” Why bring in bad data into a fresh system?
  • Does the data need some normalization? Are Industry field values consistent between the two systems (BioTech vs Biotechnology)? Are Country values consistent (“US” vs “USA”)?
  • What fields should move over? How are they mapped? When merging systems, you want to avoid bringing over similar fields (Lead Source vs LeadSource) as it causes confusion and ongoing data issues.
  • Who is unsubscribed? Any data should include accurate unsubscribe information. How about subscription information?
  • Has duplicate planning been considered? Ideally, the data on the receiving side would be merged prior to import to ensure the new data merges to the correct records.
  • Should all records sync between the CRM and Marketo?
  • How will landing pages and forms collect data consistently?
  • For businesses with Salesforce, how will the user IDs of the existing system map to the new user IDs on the Salesforce platform to ensure records are assigned to the right reps?

3) Update Your Business Processes

When you migrate systems to Marketo, use that time as an opportunity to reevaluate your existing business practices and marketing initiatives to improve your business. In other words, perform an audit of what’s working and what isn’t so you can adjust during the migration period.

For example, we recently worked with a company that had acquired another organization that also had Marketo. The acquired organization had excellent Marketo marketing attribution processes in place.

Rather than ignore those best practices, the acquiring organization adapted those processes for the newly formed organization. Additionally, sales processes, products offered and lead lifecycle methodologies were completely different. The two organizations used the migration as an opportunity to standardize on best practices.

4) Plan for Extra Marketing Efforts During the Migration

Communicating with customers and prospects through multiple systems can be painful but necessary for the short-term.  Obviously, you want to merge systems as quickly as possible but you still need to communicate with your audience in the interim. The key is to develop a short-term plan and follow it.

For example, a recent client of ours was emailing its audience out of two separate systems after an acquisition. This process caused a lot of extra, but necessary work because the company had to constantly move unsubscribe data from one system to another. It also had to create a process to suppress recipients from receiving the same message twice through the two systems.

Yes, some short-term heavy lifting was involved but the company’s audience continued to receive engaging content to maintain the relationship.

5) Get the Order Right to Maintain Intelligence

For companies leveraging CRMs like Salesforce, we usually recommend migrating Salesforce data first because it has the biggest impact on revenue. Bringing data into the CRM first also maintains intelligence between leads, contacts, accounts, campaigns, opportunities and other data points. Of course, if all you care about are the records themselves, importing that data straight into Marketo or Salesforce may be the right approach.

Your situation may vary but here is what you want to avoid. The easiest way (but not always the right way) to move data is to import person records into your CRM or Marketo as a first step. For example, if you have 100,000 person records, uploading a CSV brings all of those people into your system. The problem is that all of the campaign and revenue history associated with those people won’t be included.

Diving into a specific example, if John Smith from Acme organization has four renewal opportunities and two won deals worth $300,000, that intelligence would be lost with a straight import. It would also create a mess for your Sales team who is managing those deals and opportunities.

Below highlights a general strategy for what to import and when for businesses using Salesforce (Source KB Article). Make sure to check out the Resources below for a deeper level of insights.

  1. Accounts
  2. Campaigns
  3. Contacts
  4. Opportunities
  5. Cases
  6. Solutions
  7. Pricebooks
  8. Products
  9. Leads
  10. Contracts

Resources (Salesforce Focused)

6) Understand Performance Implications

When migrating large data sets, anticipate that your performance may take a hit. Ask yourself, “What is the impact on the system performance of the migration?” If your business relies on real-time sales alerts or timely email communications, those processes could be slowed.

We recently saw a company import 500K+ new names from a legacy email platform into a three-year-old Marketo instance–that import brought the company’s Marketo system to a snail’s pace. Why? All of those new records had to go through miscellaneous processes that the company had in place when new records hit the system (alerting, scoring, sync to SF, data appending, etc). Additionally, these legacy Marketo processes were originally set up without best practices in mind.

The end result was it took more than a week for the system to catch up because their system wasn’t optimized to process the large amount of data.

The message here: Don’t just bulk import data (unless you really want to). Better planning, staggered data imports and streamlined processing can help reduce these performance issues. For new Marketo instances, these performance risks are significantly reduced.

7) Decide on Historical Intelligence

You have decided to move over all of your data to Marketo. What do you do with all of your historic intelligence like web visits, campaign interactions, and marketing engagement? Does your company want to keep track of historic revenue that lives in your CRM?

These are questions you’ll need to ask your organization. Almost everything is possible but the backfilling of intelligence is often a function of weighing time/effort vs the usefulness of the data.

For example, you may have ten different Google PPC campaigns running in your legacy system. Do you want to roll them all up into a single Google PPC campaign and treat as older assets for historic tracking (easiest)? Or keep the ten campaigns and backfill membership to the exact dates of the members’ original engagement (More effort)? Or something else? Each method has its pros/cons that should get discussed as part of any migration.

8) Prepare for a Little Madness

If you are a college hoops fan, March Madness is a crazy time for basketball. Fans can spend days planning their brackets and strategizing on which teams will advance. Then the tournament starts and all heck breaks loose…sometimes.

The point is that planning is important, but no plan is perfect. Your organization should prepare for those migration changes.

Internal communication is vital to smooth out some of the anticipated issues. For example, continually communicate that a system merge is occurring and that there might be some bumps along the way (alerts misfiring, leads not assigned properly, etc).

Additionally, plan out migration milestones during off-hours to reduce potential disruption. For example, if we know a lot of data processing has to take place, we usually kick those off on a Friday, and monitor progress throughout the weekend.

9) Figure Out What is Going to Break

Every migration breaks some kind of process whether it is a marketing workflow or a Sales trigger. The end result is disruption.

You want to try to identify as many of these breakage points and workflows to reduce risk. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Have you uncovered all the CRM and Marketo workflows that need adjusting (e.g. Lead assignment, data cleansing)?
  • What happens to the Salesforce queues that Sales relies on?
  • Are there any lead scoring processes that will trigger inadvertently?
  • Will any alerts fire when new records get added to the system? We have seen this happen a few times and it’s not a pretty situation.
  • What is the effect on the Marketo ecosystem?
  • How will reports and dashboards be impacted? If you are relying on certain data to feed those reports, make sure your executive team knows they might see some funky reports while the data sorts itself out.


I covered a lot of challenging considerations in this post so now is the time to take a deep breath. A migration is not an overnight event, it’s an ongoing process that can take months and years.

Your migration may seem daunting at times but the key to a successful migration is planning out your efforts. The more planning that you put in up front will help reduce disruption and boost efficiencies in the long run.

Your marketing technology experts.

At Digital Pi, we use technology to connect revenue to marketing efforts. We fuse marketing strategies, processes, data and applications to make marketing technology solutions work for clients' businesses.

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