Simplified Buyer Journeys with Marketo Engagement Engine

The launch of the Marketo Engagement Engine makes lead nurturing much easier. The concept is simple: drag and drop your content into a stream, set a cadence for the sends, and voila!  Now that I’ve had a few months to build nurture programs for our clients and after seeing the results, I arrived at a standard method of defining and rolling out nurture programs that’s powerful, easy, and yields impressive results.

The Marketo Engagement Engine lets marketers engage with people so that they will move through the marketing funnel faster and farther all the way to the ultimate goal: revenue.  To achieve that goal, I need to offer content that is relevant to the person. One way to make content more relevant is to organize and deliver content according to how far along the person is in their buyer journey.  I define the four phases of the buyer journey on a widely used standard: Awareness, Interest, Action, and Decision.  I use those phases in the nurture program as unique streams; this really takes advantage of Marketo’s drag-and-drop approach to managing content in nurture streams.

Many of our clients – and indeed most companies offer multiple products to customers.  Nurturing is well suited to engaging people and driving their interest into and across multiple products and product lines.  Our clients voiced a strong desire to understand engagement for a single product in order to compare buyer interest across products.  For this reason, I designed the nurture program to support a product-centric view of content using custom Marketo scores.

For this example, I use a fictitious product to explain the design, but you can scale this approach to multiple products.

These were the key operational questions we attempted to answer in the design:

  • How do I know if my engagement program/s are working?
  • How do I make it easier for campaign managers who don’t know Marketo (that well) to use it…make it “foolproof.”
  • How does it “automagically work” based on the buyer journey?


We begin with a clean structure. The engagement streams will only send a unique email to a lead once. However, if you clone it, it is no longer unique even if it’s the same email. To eliminate any issues, the emails are added to an engagement program designated as a content library that supports multiple stages. This allows each content piece to be used in other engagement programs without having to clone them if the lead in one journey is also in another journey that shares the same piece of content.

Next, setup the buyer journey with engagement streams for each of the stages. Drag the content into each of the stages. Set the desired cadence.


For the engagement streams, we need some way of keeping track of each engagement. Although engagement channels come with their own engagement score, I’m not too keen on using them for measuring the impact of the nurture content. The main reason for this is that each stage has a different amount of content and I want to be able to weigh the content in each stage differently. In our example, you see that the awareness stage has four pieces of content and the decision stage has two, but because engagement is more valuable in the decision stage those content pieces should be scored higher. Therefore, I’ve created a new scoring field for each stage. This will allow me to assign values to their engagement for the content pieces in the stage and also set the transitions for each stage differently based on the scoring values assigned to each stage.

In the example, you’ll see the trigger as contains “**Awareness Content Library.” This simplifies having to specifically call out each piece of content.  In the flow, you see the change score for the stage as well as another scoring field called “(N) Scoring – Single Product.” This field is designed to discern if the overall score for a product has reached the desired threshold in order to qualify the lead. By design, this is separate from the overall lead score because we want to understand engagement from a product level; if you have multiple products, this makes it easy to see how engaged a lead is for each product.

Qualified Exit

In order to qualify a lead out of the engagement stream, we go reference the product score. In this example, we’ve established that fifty points is the correct threshold to transition the lead from nurturing to sales, and change the lead/contact status to a “Re-engaged” status.



After the lead qualifies out, we are watching for the lead to qualify to the next sales progression. If they don’t move forward, we need a process that gets them back into the nurture stream. For this, I use a trigger based on contact status changing back to nurture, and resetting the product score to zero in order for the lead to bubble up through scoring again.

This setup has proved to be a very effective foundational structure that makes Marketo lead nurturing simple, more scalable and more effective at doing what nurturing is supposed to do: drive engagement to revenue.  If you try my design, I’d love to hear how it worked for you…email me at  And if you see a way to make it better – let me know!

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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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