How to Triage an Out-of-Control Marketo Instance in 3 Steps

At some point in your marketing operations career, you may find yourself taking over a Marketo instance. When that happens, these three steps will save your sanity.

Is this scenario familiar? You’re a marketing operations manager stepping into a new role and inheriting a Marketo instance from the previous owner. You start exploring it to familiarize yourself with what is going on in there and… yikes, what is going on in there?!

Chances are, the system is a mess. We’ve seen a lot of Marketo instances over the years, and none of them is ever in apple-pie order. And it’s no wonder. Marketing automation is complex. It’s still a fast-evolving technology. And the instance is usually used by multiple people, all of whom have their quirks and blind spots. As a result, the majority of instances are probably going to fall somewhere between “a little wonky” and “a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

Wading in and trying to make sense of it all can seem overwhelming at first. Where do you start? What do you prioritize? And how do you untangle the threads without unraveling the whole darn thing?

As a martech agency that specializes in Marketo optimization, DemandLab faces this type of challenge on a regular basis, and we have developed a process for tackling it in a systematic and manageable way. The objective is to discover and prioritize the issues so that you can root out the truly life-threatening issues first and buy yourself some time to focus on the overall health and resilience of your system.

Think about it this way: if a patient is having a heart attack, the first step is to shock their system with a defibrillator. Once they’re stable again, you can start looking at longer-term lifestyle changes that could prevent the situation from happening again.

Similarly, when your Marketo instance is in crisis, it’s hard to know what to prioritize. And while you can’t do everything at once, you do need to address the most critical issues ASAP. For help in creating your priority list, read on.

Step 1: Address the Biggest Risks

Martech issues come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small. Some are large. And some are big enough to pose a risk to your entire company—not just its marketing campaigns.

The first step in fixing your Marketo instance is to identify the issues big enough to be escalated to the top of the list.

These are most likely to be compliance issues. If you are mandated to comply with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), or other privacy requirements, your instance needs to support them. If you’re falling short, that needs to be addressed immediately, because the legal and reputational repercussions could be devastating.

If you have the expertise in house, have them drop whatever they’re doing so that they can fix the issue pronto. If you don’t have the expertise in house, contract a reputable martech specialist to step in and help you.

Step 2: Focus on Tier-2 Issues

Once you’re confident that you can meet compliance requirements, it’s time to look at the issues that are significantly impacting your ability to run effective marketing campaigns. This involves:

Determining your deliverability stats.

Whether your deliverability is abysmal or sensational, do some digging to find out how accurate that metric is and what’s impacting it. Use the deliverability tools in Marketo. Check whether you show up on any blacklists. Even if your deliverability rates are healthy, do some due diligence: you may discover that the number is inflated with false clicks. Building an accurate picture of your email deliverability will help you improve your sender reputation and uncover any issues that are impacting your ability to reach your prospects and measure the results.

Examining your lifecycle.

Once you’ve diagnosed and optimized your deliverability, take a close look at your lead lifecycle. How are leads segmented, qualified, scored, nurtured, and advanced through the lifecycle? Are all leads present and accounted for, or are some of them floating aimlessly outside the funnel? Is everyone using the same scoring system across marketing and sales? Are there service-level agreements in place between marketing and sales to ensure that leads move down the funnel in a timely way?

Once you’ve ironed out the kinks in your deliverability and lead lifecycle, your Marketo instance should be functional and in good working order, and you can afford to take a step back and start thinking about longer-term strategies for maintaining platform performance.

Step 3: Get a Lifestyle Makeover

When you’ve stabilized your Marketo instance, the final step is to look at the broader “lifestyle” changes you’ll need to make. These are the governance processes and procedures that need to be in place to support the health and hygiene of your marketing automation system over the long term.

Get buy-in.

Governance isn’t a job for one person. It involves the entire organization in a continuous, daily effort. Before you put those governance processes in place, make sure everyone who touches Marketo—marketing, sales, and IT—has bought into the need for better governance and understands their role in it.

Strike a committee.

Set up a governance committee where marketing and sales can work together to set rules and build architectures and hierarchies to keep data clean and ensure it flows through the system freely.

Make data usable.

Take a close look at what you need to do to make your data trustworthy, accessible, and usable. For example, how are fields created in Marketo? Is it a free-for-all, or are there tests in place that determine whether a new field is required? How is the data entered into those fields? What types of fields are they—free-form or drop-down? Any hidden fields? If your team needs to do a deeper examination of your data practices, this Data Hygiene Checklist is a great resource to use to clean up your act.

Step 4: Cut Yourself a Break

If we’ve learned anything about data governance for Marketo over the years, we’ve learned that it’s HARD. Creating and maintaining a system that functions smoothly and supports campaign execution and measurement is a mighty feat. And while Steps 1 and 2 are hard enough, Step 3 is a lulu. If you get that far, you’re far ahead of the pack.

So if the occasional gremlin pops up in your system, don’t sweat it. No Marketo instance is ever 100% perfect. It’s always a work in progress. The important thing is to get the situation under control, neutralize the big risks, get deliverability and the lead lifecycle under control, and start thinking about the bigger picture.


About the Author

Chen Bian

Chen is a MCE with a Bachelor's in International Business and a Master's Degree in International Affairs. She has spent nine years in marketing with four focused on digital marketing and analytics, and two in marketing automation. Chen's work and education has taken her from Canada to China, Singapore, and Australia, before landing at DemandLab, where she works with clients from the advocacy and strategy stages all the way through to training and implementation.

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