Marketo Data Retention Policy – Impact and Options

by | 02.Aug.18

Recently, Marketo sent an email to all customers informing them of an upcoming platform change: starting on August 15, 2018, a new policy limiting historical data to 25 months will be implemented. After that date, most historical data will be unavailable on a given record and a “data will not be available” message will be included for most activities.

When most marketers see “data will not be available,” they rightly get concerned—how will this impact what my organization does with marketing automation? Will my marketing and sales team lose access to important data? However, there are options no matter your organization’s size or data retention needs. Let’s walk through your choices together.

Why should I care?

Currently, Marketo doesn’t keep all records of everything that’s ever happened to a record. For instance, if you’ve gone to look at a data value change, you may have noticed the following message pop up stating “Data of this activity type is archived after 90 days” when bringing that filter into a Smart List:l.

That’s because certain activities (known in Marketo as “high-volume activities”) are only kept for 90 days in your records’ Activity Log. These include:

  • Add to List

  • Change Score

  • Change Data Value*

  • Visit Webpage

  • Click Link on Webpage

  • Sync Lead to SFDC

  • Sync Lead to Microsoft

  • Sync Lead Updates to SFDC

  • Update Opportunity

  • Request Campaign

The reasoning behind this is straightforward: because these are high-volume activities that your prospects perform often, searching for these activities in Smart Lists can lead to your Marketo instance slowing down. By only retaining the activities as long as you’d need to review the data, Marketo can keep your instance running smoothly.

Note: Even though we just showed that “Data Value Changed” says data is archived after 90 days, this is not universally the case (notably with Lead Owner and Company Name fields) and field changes that have historically been kept longer will be kept up to 25 months with this new policy change. It’s probably best to assume that the vast majority of your data value changes will expire in 90 days unless you’ve explicitly seen otherwise, though.

What changes with this new policy is that all other Activities recorded in the Activity Log (aside from “Lead is Created”) will be purged after 25 months. These would include activities like:

  • Opened Email

  • Filled Out Form

  • Send Alert

  • Change Program Status

The full list of activities that would be set to expire after 25 months is available on Marketo’s web site.

When these activities are purged, it’s important to note that relates only to the activities being in a record’s Activity Log within the Marketo platform. If you’re following best practice by doing things such as syncing your Marketo programs to your CRM’s campaigns, writing Salesforce activities when certain Marketo activities are performed or capturing notable activities in fields, great! Those sorts of activities will not be impacted and you’ll continue to collect historical data if integrated into other platforms.

Additionally, if you have a long-term nurture program that runs for more than 25 months or has people enter/exit, the engagement program will remember what items have been sent to a person even if you’re not following the best practice of having engagement items in their own programs.

However, this change does have some downstream effects you should be aware of:

1. The 25-month data retention policy also applies to items inside Marketo Sales Insight: after 25 months from the current date, historical activity such as Sales Emails Opened/Clicked and Interesting Moments will no longer show up inside the MSI Interesting Moments and Email panel.

2. Reports on activities that are older than 25 months will not return any data; as an example, running an email report will now only return activity that’s happened within the past 25 months. Therefore, if you sent an email 28 months ago, you would only see any activity around that email that happened within the past 25 months; if someone opened that email 6 months later, you’d see that one email activity, but nothing from everyone else who initially opened the email, leaving you with a report saying one person received and opened the email.

3. Smart List filters that use date of activity or number of times an action has occurred will still be subject to the 25-month limit. Take a look at this example from Marketo:

Got it. What should I do, and what are my options?

On a basic level, you will need to determine how valuable this long-term activity data is to your organization. Some questions to consider are:

  • How long is my organization’s sales cycle? Typically companies that have a sales cycle that lasts for more than 12 months will benefit from having greater historical data.

  • How much “digital archeology” do we need to do? Some companies, especially those who have been running Marketo without best practices for a while, may need to reference historical data to figure out Lead/Acquisition Sources, understand where processes have broken, or review campaigns more than 25 months old to learn what worked and what didn’t.

  • How much data do we need to keep for compliance? Certain industries may find it necessary to keep historical data of records’ actions for record-keeping and compliance purposes above and beyond what can reasonably be captured in fields.

If you’re in a marketing department, you’ll want to consult with sales to let them know of any potential impacts (especially around Sales Insight!) as well as IT (as they may have standardized procedures around data retention you’ll want to be aware of). Once you’ve collectively made a decision around what data you need, you have several options to consider:

Option 1: Purchase a data retention policy from Marketo that extends to 37 months

If you need activity data to stay in Marketo longer (especially if you need to utilize that data within Marketo, such as with Smart Lists or with Sales Insight), your best bet is to contact your Marketo Customer Success Manager and let them know you would like to purchase an extended data retention service. This will increase your limit for activity data up to 37 months. Do note, however, that this would not increase the storage time for any activities that currently disappear within 90 days.

Option 2: Do selective storage of data in your CRM and Marketo programs

If you haven’t been on the best practice train of creating campaigns that sync to your Marketo programs (and assigning proper statuses based on activity!), now is the time to start—this will provide you legacy data for understanding campaign performance. Likewise, if you are interested in syncing activities to your CRM, you can enable this feature in Marketo. Do note that activity syncing only happens on a go-forward basis, however.

You may also want to look at tactics such as storing critical action data in custom fields: for example, making an ongoing string field listing assets people have downloaded or noting what legacy, but important, Smart Campaigns a record participated in.

Finally, if you use any built-in Marketo reports such as Email Performance or Lead Performance, you’ll want to get in the habit of either exporting or having copies of the reports delivered to you on an ongoing basis so as to not lose historical data.

Option 3: Create long-term activity data storage

If you need to keep your records’ activity data for historical, compliance or completeness purposes, you may want to consider creating a data lake and adding historical activity as its own table or data source. Using the bulk activity extract API endpoints, you can perform an export of your legacy activity data and send it to either an on-premise or cloud storage database. From there, extracting and cross-referencing data would simply be a matter of querying your datasets.

Option 4: Do nothing

Sometimes the best option is to take no action, especially if you find that your needs for collecting historical activity aren’t necessary or are already covered by other practices—and that’s fine, too.

Our goal is simply to remind you that you own your data, not your vendors, and help you decide what’s fine to keep and what’s fine to be purged by your systems. As always, if you’re interested in further exploring any option—or would like help determining your best course of action—feel free to drop us a line.

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