Eyes in the Back of Your Head

Do you remember when your mom had an uncanny ability to know exactly what you were up to, especially when you weren’t always on your best behavior? The old “eyes in the back of my head” adage seemed to ring true then, as it does now. This blog post will show you how you too can have that extra set of eyes when it comes to Marketo and your data. For some pre-reading, take a gander at the first post in the series, “Eyes in the front of your head”.

You put a lot of thought and energy into your marketing automation strategy. You tried to account for all the intricacies of the organized chaos that is a Marketo system. You built it, tested it, and then…hopefully you took a nap. At least that’s what I do. However, Marketo is not a “set it and forget it” system, like the infomercials for fancy kitchen appliances or hair curlers. It’s imperative to stay on top of all the comings and goings of the data inside your system to ensure that there are no cracks, gaps, and naughty children sneaking cookies from the cookie jar. Oh wait, we’re talking about Marketo, not my childhood. (but really, maybe some of us just have an insatiable sweet tooth. Don’t deny us that!)

This management of data can quickly turn into a near-full time job, so I’m going to share some ways in which you can leverage Marketo to tattle on itself. Through a series of reports and subscriptions, Marketo can hand deliver information to you on a silver platter (aka your inbox).

Like any responsible marketer, you’ve obviously established some data standardization rules (see blog post 1 for details on how to achieve this). These probably apply to country, state, perhaps industry and job title, and definitely lead source. This means you’ve defined a finite and approved list of values that should bet set for each field.

For example, perhaps your business has agreed that country values should be captured as the full country name Mexico (where I am dreaming about a pina colada on the beach), instead of the 2 digit ISO code (MX). You’ve likely updated all forms to capture country as a pick list with the correct data format so that no lead can enter via a form fill with any errant value. You’ve mandated list import templates to catch all the stragglers. You’ve created a data management smart campaign to act as a washing machine, converting all incorrect formats to the standardized values.

Howwwwwever, like those pesky unwanted zits that still seem to pop up (oh ya, sorry, we’re still talking about Marketo and not about my teenage years), it’s not uncommon to see records coming into your database with the wrong field values. In order to be alerted to these, I recommend creating a person report in Analytics. Grouping the leads by field value, let’s use country as the example still, and creating a filter in the smart list of the report to say, “country is not {list of approved values}”. Send this report to yourself on a regular basis so that you can spot the erroneous values and track down where they are coming from. Not only is it important to update the washing machine rules to ensure you catch and correct the bad data value next time, you definitely need to stop the bleeding at the source. If these are coming in from a list import, make a point to talk to the importer to remind them of the template and the process they need to follow.

Like geography based data, this logic can apply to other fields that you’ve mandated a standardization on, such as job title and industry.

A key player in the normalization game is lead source. It’s astounding how many microscopic cracks there are in the platform that quietly usher in leads with non-approved lead sources. Examples of these are when the sales team is prospecting and gathering data out of Jigsaw. The records come in automatically with a source of Jigsaw. Sometimes leads are created via the API that you weren’t aware of and come in without a source. Have fun tracking that one down!

More than any other data point in your system, you should be monitoring and managing lead source with the scrutiny of an uptight librarian. Staying on top of the erroneous values and tracking them down to quell their point of insertion (or at least use it as a conversation point to determine if you need to add the unapproved lead source value to your approved list) will ensure that your marketing reporting is always optimal. In this case, since it’s more urgent than country or state variables, I would recommend creating an email alert that is sent to you when someone is created in your system with an unexpected source.

Similar to your lead source process, your attribution process should mark all leads coming into your Marketo instance with an acquisition program name. Create a person report that highlights records without an acquisition program, sorted by Original Source Type. It is a quick and easy way to identify how records are coming into your system unexpectedly so that you can plug the gap and account for them with a program.

Other than reports and email alerts, I would argue that the most underutilized monitoring tool in Marketo is the “notifications”. You know what I’m talking about, that little number at the top of your Marketo screen that you pretend doesn’t exist. It actually has far more value than we realize, especially since you can subscribe to specific types. My favorite ones to subscribe to are the inactive campaign clean up (that’s right, Marketo will deactivate a triggered smart campaign after 6 months of inactivity); CRM sync problems; and campaign failure notifications.

The idle campaign clean up notifications, while often few and far between, have proven their worth. In the past, it would not be uncommon to hear, “these leads should have been scored +50 but their score didn’t change”, only to find that the lead score rule that was meant to fire was automatically deactivated. While Marketo is doing this to preserve system energy, there are times when a campaign is high value even if it is used infrequently.

Being notified of CRM sync and campaign failures are a back up method to catching records that fail validation (the primary way is mentioned above with the country and state reports, watching for incorrect formats or typos that will likely fail sync to the CRM). It can also help spot errors with the program/campaign integration, and overall platform integration issues like an expired CRM integration user’s password (the horror!!!).

By implementing these and other monitors in your Marketo system, you’ll feel like you have superpowers, and who doesn’t want that?

Eyes in Front of Your Head

This post’s title will probably make more sense when you read part 2, so you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. (Oh the suspense: it’s killing you!)

As you develop your marketing automation system into the shiny and perfect platform that it is, one element that is often left out of the mix is data management. You focus so much time on scoring and sourcing and the lifecycle and nurturing that you neglect to think about keeping the data clean. In turn, this clean data ensures that the processes you put into place function as flawlessly as you anticipate. In contrast, a hodgepodge of data and unstandardized field values will only wreak havoc on your system, plunging you into the agonizing exercise called troubleshooting. Dun dun duuuunnnn!

A few key areas that need immediate data management attention are country, state, lead source, and possibly job title and industry. Country and state are usually the biggest offenders of variable data formats, as there are multiple ways to correctly refer to each. For example, let’s take the United States. If you allow your leads to fill out a form with an open text field, you will most certainly get a list of variations and typos that include data like, “US, USA, U.S. ,U.S.A, United States, The United States, America, United States of America, The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, ‘Murica…”. I could go on, but I believe you get the point.

There are many reasons why having this many variations is detrimental to your database. First of all, lead assignment rules usually rely on geography, and many CRM platforms have field validation in place to ensure a predictable data set. If your CRM assignment rules are expecting “USA” and your lead comes into the system with “That Landmass South of Canada”, not only will it likely fail to sync to the CRM, but the lead will never get assigned to the sales rep.

Secondary to seamless data integration between your Marketo and CRM platforms is email targeting. Let’s say you need to send an email to your US-based customers. The last thing you want to do is waste your time locating or guessing all the variations and typos of USA. If you know that every single record has a standard value, you can easily locate them, email them, and then head out early for happy hour. I mean…doctor’s appointment…

The same logic should apply to state values, as assignment rules in the CRM are often built around state-based territory assignment.

Outside of geographical data values, fields like job title and industry can be important to standardize, too. You are likely scoring on job title (both from a job function and job level perspective), so having predictable data can ensure that you’re not missing valuable demographic score values to your prospects. The same can apply to industry, especially if that is part of your firmographic target profile.

Last, but absolutely not least, we come to lead source. Lead source is an area that has a shocking amount of disparate data. As part of your overall approach to Marketo and marketing automation, lead source should be considered one of the most critical data points to standardize. Highly inconsistent lead source data results in unreadable reports that provide no insight into where records are coming from, their quality, and where to focus next year’s marketing dollars.

To mitigate this, define a finite set of places that you are obtaining leads, taking into consideration that sales and partners are contributing to the database, too. Then, build an intelligent mechanism to capture and populate only those lead sources for any and all new records in your database.

While this all may sound somewhat daunting, it’s actually pretty straightforward to implement good data management practices. First, consider all the sources of input for data: form fills, list imports, your CRM, and in some cases webhooks or via the API. Controlling the data at the point of insertion into your database will eliminate 99% of the workload.

Change text fields on a form to pick lists. This will prevent junk data, typos and random variations of data to be entered, such as “Untied States”. You can even do this with job title and industry, defining a standard set of values and populating it in a list for your leads to select from.

Mandate a list import template. This will require some effort on your part and your Marketo users’ parts, but will be worth it in the end. Educating and enforcing the data practices will ensure that all lists being imported are scrubbed and formatted correctly so that all data being imported is standardized.

One of the biggest downfalls to data integrity is the lack of effort put into scrubbing a list. It’s no secret that no one wants to spend their time reworking data in Excel, but it’s not something that can be shirked without some painful consequences on the system.

Coordinate with your sales ops and CRM platform. Ensure that your marketing automation system adheres to the particular data formats that your CRM platform expects, and vice versa. Inform the sales ops team that Marketo will be providing standardized data to the CRM and therefore expects the same in return. Since the two systems sync bidirectionally, ask for their help in ensuring data comes into Marketo normalized from the CRM side, too.

Lastly, when you’ve plugged most of the data insertion gaps that you can identify, it’s time to accept that things will slip through the cracks. To catch those slippery little devils, you’ll want to set up a washing machine campaign inside of Marketo. Its function is to identify any non-standard value and map it to the correct data format. For example, you could say “if lead is created and country is United States, change data value to USA”.

Predicting all points of incoming data and staying ahead of the dirty data curve will give you eyes in the “front” of your head, but what about your blind spots? That’s where the next post in this series, “Eyes in the back of your head,” will come in!

Show or Hide Marketo Form Fields Based on a User’s Country

Our team has received many requests recently to create preference centers to help clients comply with privacy-related legislation — CASL and GDPR chief among them. Some countries’ legal requirements are quite stringent, while others are more relaxed. Requirements differ from client to client, but a similar request seems to come up in the conversation because of the difference between countries: can we show certain fields to people in certain countries, but not show those fields to people in other countries?

The challenge

Of course, Marketo’s form editor does give its marketing automation practitioners a powerful tool to conditionally show or hide elements based on field values. Conceivably, one could accomplish the requested functionality using Marketo’s built-in Visibility Rules to show a field only when the Country value is set to certain countries — say, those in the EU.

However, this only works if there is data in the Country field. If someone is filling out a form for the first time, Marketo won’t have the Country information to know whether to show or hide the conditional fields.

You could enable Marketo’s Prefill functionality, but that only works (natively) on Marketo landing pages and not on Marketo forms embedded on your main website. Again, the Country data is not available.

The approach

As it turns out, we have an important piece of information that, if used correctly, can yield the user’s country: the user’s IP address. Using the IP address, we can look up which country the web request originated in, much like a web analytics tool like Google Analytics.

Moreover, there are a slew of free services out there that provide geographical lookup APIs based on IP address. One such service is geoiplookup.io.  All you have to do is send a user request to their server, and you get back the user’s country code, among other useful information.

If you have a defined set of country codes to compare against your newly retrieved country code, you can show or hide fields based on whether or not the detected country is in the list.

This approach works:

  • on Marketo landing pages
  • on embedded Marketo forms (on your main website)
  • for anonymous visitors

The solution

Below is a simple JavaScript file that you can use as a starting point to show or hide fields on your Marketo forms based on which country the user is in.
To use the script, you will need to customize which fields to show or hide. You may need to have a web developer help you with this; the form fields to show or hide are specified in the code itself:


  • fields must be present on the form
  • script is configured using the SOAP API names of the fields

Post below in the comments if this helped you or if you have questions or other comments.

Managing a Global Marketo Instance

Over the past many years of my Marketo consulting experience, I have been lucky enough to experience the thrill of working with global clients. That is, companies whose marketing teams and marketing automation presence stretch to each corner of the world. (unrelated yet applicable thought: do you think that expression came about when everyone still thought the earth was flat…?) Anyway, I digress. What this experience has taught me more and more with each occurrence is how to effectively manage a coordinated and seamless global Marketo initiative.

In this blog post I’ll share those tidbits (not to be confused with Timbits, only the yummiest donut holes in the world. I see you, Canada!) with you as you embark on your global roll out or get yourself prepared to scale globally.

First and foremost, the entire business and each of its regions must be on board with Marketo and its benefits. This especially applies to scenarios when a business is migrating from one platform to another or mandating the same marketing automation platform across each region. Without this, and without the top-down directives, no region will eagerly make a paradigm shift to a new platform, and adoption will be negligible.

As you embark on your marketing automation strategy (either redefining and optimizing it or creating it for the first time in your business), two things are critical:

  1. Gather regional requirements and communicate, communicate, communicate the updates to each region. No one appreciates being told after the fact that a decision has been made for them that will likely affect them and their marketing efforts. Regional requirements that we have seen are things like job titles: each country or region treats job titles differently so if you are scoring on job level, be sure to ask if something like Director is indicative of a more senior role to one region than another so that you can adjust your score values accordingly.
  2. While gathering these regional requirements, don’t allow too many cooks in the kitchen. The overall global marketing automation approach must be unified and come from a single place, but can be peppered with the localizations that you obtain from each region. Be sure to communicate the definitive approach you are taking with scoring, and ask if there is anything that each region would like to tailor.

Once you have the overall approach defined and you have begun to either build or revamp, that communicate mentioned above in triplicate should not wane. Very regular conversations with each region should be taking place to stay in lockstep with each other. You should be communicating updates of the build and decisions to them, as they should be updating you with upcoming marketing efforts, questions or concerns they may have, and general feedback.

In addition to regular calls and meetings, it’s important to schedule training with each region. Translation: be prepared to travel. In fact this blog post is coming to you from flight 496 to Beijing, at a cool height of ~35,000 ft over the Bering Sea. Enabling your marketing users to be self-sufficient and gain a thorough understanding of Marketo, its benefits, how to use it, and its role in the business will only support easier and faster adoption.

By continuing the conversations you have with each region during development and by providing training, you can reinforce the value of Marketo, answer questions they may have about usage, gather ongoing feedback, continue to iterate, and stay up to date with future optimization efforts.

Providing this support to each region will help them feel included in the process and feel like their input is valued and considered. Especially since it’s rare at best to have the opportunity to connect with the individuals of the global marketing team, making the effort to proactively stay in touch with them will solidify the unification and satisfaction of the marketing operations efforts you work so hard to establish.

I wish you luck and lots of airline miles as you embark on this globalization journey that is sure to spin your marketing automation strategy on its axis. (I couldn’t resist…)

Marketo Summit 2018 Highlights

Our new teammates from RevEngine Marketing have once again released their annual Marketo Summit highlights video for 2018. Check out the recap video below.

Thanks for watching, and we look forward to seeing you at the Marketo Summit in 2019 in Las Vegas!