Marketo Revenue Lifecycle Modeling Done Right Part 2 of 4: A Lifecycle Model Design For The Real World

In Part 1 of this series I introduced you to the concepts, terms and packaging you need to know to get started with Marketo Lifecycle Modeling.  Now I’ll describe a model design – a design that has performed well – now deployed in multiple companies large and small. In Part 1, I said Marketo makes it really easy to design and draw your model in the lifecycle modeling tool.  That they do, but with power and flexibility comes a world of possibilities that allow anyone to design a model any way they want.  Because there are no standards for model definition, there is no basis upon which to measure whether your model is good, bad, or even working.  The only way to know if your model is working right is to push test leads through and/or assess real data passing through your model.

I will talk more about testing later, but keep in mind that testing is important and you want to budget time for ensuring that your model is flowing leads the way you intended in your design.  By reading this blog series you get a big advantage wading into modeling because you can start with a design that is a known – that is, instead of starting from a blank slate you start by referencing a design that is up and running in multiple businesses.  While the models aren’t exactly the same in each business, the architecture is.   Marketo Revenue Model Here are the steps required to get a model going from design to operation:

  1. Gather requirements
  2. Create the lifecycle model in Marketo Lifecycle Model Application
  3. Create the model flow logic and approve
  4. Perform initial load placing leads in the model
  5. Start the logic that flows leads through the model
  6. Test the model with test data
  7. Monitor and adjust the model by observing real data

Gather Requirements

This step can take hours or possibly months depending on the size, maturity and complexity of your business. One word of advice is, start simple by getting one model running right before you implement multiple models.  You want to get clear definitions for:

  • Stages: the points where leads are counted when they entry and exit
  • Flows: the paths that connect stages where leads are expected to flow
  • Triggers: the logic that determine when leads flow from one stage to another

Here’s where having a model to reference – a model known to work as your starting point will help.  Stages represent the milestones in a lead’s life that you determine are worth measuring.  We can reference an established demand planning model to make this easy to start.  The Sirius Decisions demand model is as good a basis as any to reference.

Lifecycle Stages

For the scope of this blog series, we’ll declare these Marketo lead lifecycle stages to be those we want to measure:

  • Anonymous: Marketo stage where leads go when they are anonymous (e.g.  lead created by the Marketo Munchkin)
  • Known: Marketo stage where leads go when they transition from anonymous to a lead with an email address
  • Raw: No behavior engagement or demographic score — just a name
  • Recycle: sales says the lead isn’t ready today, but might be down the road
  • Disqualified: sales says the lead will never buy
  • Suspect: lead has shown some Demographic Profile that’s a fit for our business
  • Prospect: lead has shown some level of behavior engagement (click, open, register…)
  • Marketing Qualified Lead (also sometimes called AQL, or Automation Qualified Lead): Lead score crossed a threshold that declares it ready to be inspected by sales
  • Sales Accepted: sales says they’re pursuing the leads (trying to contact)
  • Sales Qualified: Lead is associated with an opportunity
  • Won: lead associated with an opportunity where opportunity stage transitioned to closed
  • Lost: lead associated with an opportunity where opportunity stage transitioned to lost
  • Sales Created: contact created and originates from the CRM

More stages may be required (deal registration for example) but be careful not to add more stages than you really need to measure.  Every time you feel the urge to add a stage, give some thought to whether you really need to measure and understand the flow because adding a stage may create a lot of work without offering actionable insight.  When you create stages, Marketo asks you to state the stage type and whether it lives on or off the Success Path.  The Success Path in Marketo is the ideal flow from top of funnel to an outcome (typically closed/won) indicated by the green line.  When you drag a stage in the vicinity of the green line, Marketo automatically snaps it into line and will always count it on the Success Path.

  • Inventory: The most common stage type, where leads enter and exit based on your definitions (triggers)
  • SLA: This is an inventory stage with the added capability of monitoring and reporting leads that remain in the stage past the number of days you stipulate
  • Gate: Gate stages are pass-through stages for routing leads without a counter; they don’t measure or report counts of leads passing through.

Lead Flows

Flows answer the question: where should leads flow from stage to stage? In the modeling tool you draw a line from any stage to any stage where you want leads to flow. When you draw a line, Marketo takes note of the origin stage and the destination stage in order to flow leads in the direction you draw; you’ll see an arrow on the line at the destination end of the line to indicate the direction of the flow. There’s an important distinction in the Digital Pi method of design to call out here: establish flow lines where — and only where a lead should flow.  You want to draw lines only for the stage-to-stage moves you defined in your business requirements.  In the next installment of the blog series, I will explain one of the key features of our design: you don’t need to draw a line from every stage to every stage in order to allow and count any move that might happen.  This keeps the number of lines to a minimum, making the model simpler to follow.  It also allows you to track and monitor leads that flow from a stage to a stage that you don’t expect to happen – but will.

To illustrate, would you expect sales to take leads that are disqualified and call them?  You might not expect that to be common or expected behavior, but it may happen once in a while.  In our design, you don’t have to draw a flow line from Disqualified to any other stage to support this unexpected and infrequent move.  Even without a line in the model that supports this move, our design would add any lead that moved from Disqualified to another stage to a list, capturing the move as an exception.  This is really important because our design will:

  • Show all moves that happen no matter inside our outside of your desire for perfect flows so you always understand how and where leads are flowing in the real world of your business – for any flow that can happen. And you don’t have to draw a line for every possible move that might occur.
  • Every lead that moves from a stage to a stage without a line in the model to support the move – exceptions – is captured on a static list.  This turns out to be an extremely useful tool to monitor your lifecycle for exceptions in real time right inside of Marketo.
  • You can more easily debug your lifecycle model in Marketo where you can see leads and logs.  And you don’t have to wait 24 hours to see flow exceptions in Advanced Report Builder (RCE).  Even better, you can access leads and their activities to debug your model instead of switching back and forth between Advanced Report Builder and Marketo.


What should Marketo see that tells the model when to move a lead and where to move it?  The stage definitions defined in the requirements step tell us how to think about triggers.  Let’s look at an easy stage to define a trigger: Disqualified.  In the CRM, when a salesperson determines that a lead is never-gonna-buy-from-us, the salesperson sets the lead status to “Disqualified.”  Marketo sees the lead status value change to “Disqualified,” – that’s the trigger — and the lifecycle model acts on the change by moving the lead from wherever stage it’s in to the Disqualified stage.  Every stage requires a trigger to tell Marketo what event moves a lead into the stage.

Marketo designed the Lifecycle Model so that you can store the triggers as smart campaigns in the graphic modeling tool.  Marketo’s original intent in the modeling tool design was probably to store all of the lifecycle logic with the model, but there are advantages to housing the logic for your model in the form of Smart Campaigns in Marketo instead.

Marketo Lifecycle Model Flow Step

Now you have a standard Revenue Lifecycle Model design, an understanding of how to define stages, triggers, and flow requirements, and the basic knowledge to build a model in Marketo. In the next installment I’ll explain the basic architecture for driving the model.

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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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