3 Things Every Marketer Must Do to Achieve Marketo Value Realization

Confession time: are you getting the value you expected from Marketo? And now a self-assessment: in your quest to get more return on your investment, what areas do you need help in?

BY: Sarah Frazier

PUBLISHED: 3/16/2021

Confession time: are you getting the value you expected from Marketo?

And now a self-assessment: in your quest to get more return on your investment, what areas do you need help in?

In this blog post, we’re continuing our series on how to get more from your Marketo investment. Specifically, we probe into the second stage of our value realization cycle, “Definition,” the essential "must do's" for this stage, plus provide suggestions to accelerate your time to value. To recap:


  • Marketo Value Realization is much like a flywheel, comprised of different stages that result in an expected outcome when executed effectively.
  • The first stage, Exploration, builds early flywheel momentum through pre-project planning, aligning tech solutions to business objectives, and establishing benchmarks for success.
  • Accurately scoping your project, deciding how you will build your design solution, and documenting your decisions are essential elements of the Definition stage.
  • The Definition stage is often where the biggest planning disasters of Marketo Value Realization occur.


Seasoned marketers know the Definition stage is not to be taken lightly.

We won’t lie; the Definition stage is time-consuming and one of the most involved phases of our Marketo Value Realization cycle. All the planning and decisions about how your solution will be designed and built are made in this stage.

Unfortunately, the biggest disasters also occur in the Definition stage, perhaps from too little time spent weighing your different options and assessing the impact of each. When planning and scoping time is rushed or truncated, it usually results in significant project set-backs and reworks later on, slowing your value realization momentum.

As an example, let’s say you want to nurture new prospects with a series of emails. Your objective is straightforward, but there are three “musts” that every marketer should do that will make— or break— your project.

1. Evaluate Current State and Future Impact

Before flipping the switch on a new Marketo program or capability, consider the implications. What other technologies does Marketo touch that should be considered?  How does your nurture program play with everything else running, such as newsletters, other campaigns, promotions, etc.? Do you have the in-house expertise to set-up an engagement program, or do you need a Marketo expert?

The Definition stage of our Marketo Value Realization cycle is the time to spend evaluating and documenting:

  • Current processes, workflows, users, and roles
  • Overview and objectives for your nurture program
  • Constraints that may impact design and execution
  • Specific requirements for your engagement program
  • Assumptions and dependencies - think audience segmentation and criteria
  • The desired outcome of your program


As you’re evaluating your current practices, identify specific areas for improvement and how you ultimately want your program to function— this will impact how you design your solution.

2. Determine Your Design Direction

Decision paralysis...we’ve all been there. As you determine the best option for achieving your goals, too many choices make it difficult to decide on a direction at all. According to Deloitte, decision paralysis is the result of cognitive overload. Marketo provides many options for achieving your objective, but which one is the BEST route?

For our nurture program example, there are different options to consider, although some may be too complicated while others do not offer enough flexibility. Knowing which direction to choose comes from experience, or sometimes with a bit of help from a Marketo user community.

From MERGE’s experience in over 1,500 Marketo projects, we’ve seen our share of successful programs as well as many overbuilt, complicated messes. For example, in one enterprise organization, a simple welcome email series with only two emails in a single stream was set-up as an engagement program— way overbuilt for the functionality. Instead, this organization could have used a much simpler approach— a default program with two emails. The bottom line: if you’re not planning to use multi-streams with the intent to transition people from one stream to another based on a set of criteria, don’t over-design or use a fancy program to build your series. Keep it simple!

Marketo Design Questions

When deciding which type of program to use for a nurture program, we ask our clients:

  • Will the emails be sent out on a regular cadence?
  • Can the audience be split into defined groups based on a standardized set of rules?
  • Can members change streams or cadence as a result of an action?
  • If the nurture is simple today, will the nurture scale or advance in the future?

If the answer is “yes” to all questions, use an engagement program. If not, Marketo’s default program could be used to set-up a simpler email drip campaign, like a welcome or onboarding series. “Deciding if you’re going to use an engagement or default program is an important early decision, and which one you choose will depend on your desired functionality,” John Francis, Director of Demand Generation, explains.

But wait, there’s more. Consider too, how to structure your nurture streams for maximum conversion. For example, we advocate creating streams for awareness, consideration, intent, opportunity, and current customer. But what are the criteria for someone to jump from one stream to the next? And, what streams will you include as exit streams? That’s another consideration to define.

“An added level of complexity of an engagement program is mapping out how people will enter, transition, and exit the program and streams. It takes strategic thinking to consider all of the criteria (behaviors and demographics) for someone qualifying to transition on to the next stream, and what happens when they exhaust all stream content,” John adds.

Marketo Design Accelerators

It’s easy to understand how decision paralysis can happen with so many options, especially if you’re designing a solution from scratch. To remove the guess-work and uncertainties, shave time off planning, and align with proven best practices, John advises marketers to look for design stage accelerators, such as pre-built Marketo programs.

“MERGE’s SCORE Architecture is designed for marketers who want a foundational head-start, answering the question of, ‘what’s the BEST way to build this,’ so they can instead focus on decisions specific to their organization, such as the content for each stream. An accelerator like SCORE Architecture can easily save a marketer a week’s worth of time, if not more, and provide the confidence that your nurture program is built from Marketo best practices,” John comments.

And, as we’ve covered earlier in our series, momentum helps your Marketo value realization flywheel spin faster, thus accelerating your return on value.

3. Document Your Decisions

Documentation is the base work that anchors the architecture of what you’re building within Marketo; it acts as a reference point and knowledge transfer amongst team members, and keeps your project running smoothly. Unfortunately, 80% of marketers skip or are inconsistent with their documentation, according to CoSchedule’s State of Marketing Strategy Report.

Documentation allows all parties to get involved, get on the same page and affirms their buy-in and understanding. We’ve covered many items already that should be documented; to this list, we’ll add:

  • Technical design decisions and approvals
  • Changes to the build, as they arise
  • QA grids— expected outcomes and actual results


Get granular with your documentation, too, including the logic behind decisions, plus the date and time the decisions were made. Your objective is to provide a written history of what and when decisions were made, so if questions arise or changes need to be made, you have something to refer back to.

“Without a widespread understanding of how things are built and why they are built that way, an organization will suffer in the long run. Invest the time in creating documentation that gives context into why decisions were made, so team members can build ideas off of each other and collaborate,” notes Chelsea Stinnett, Sr. Marketo Consultant.

Documentation as a Marketo Implementation Roadmap

As a practical example, MERGE helped Uberflip migrate from Hubspot to Marketo in just three weeks, an unheard-of feat. What helped fuel the project and served as a reference point throughout the implementation was the Technical Design Document (TDD). The TDD captured up-front all requirements, documented approvals, and build specifications.  Besides serving as the project management document, the TDD also detailed the Minimum Viable Project (MVP) strategy, which enabled Uberflip to be up and running in a shorter period of time, and accelerate the time to value of their new Marketo investment.

Documentation is one of those things that seemingly adds time and slows you down when in reality, it is the opposite. As evidenced by the Uberflip example, detailed documentation serves as a project (and flywheel) accelerator, providing a Northstar for building and implementing your solution.

“Taking the time to map out existing processes, workflows, teams, document requirements, and technical design ensures alignment. Specifically, all considerations have been accounted for; everyone clearly understands the impact and what the outcomes will be before you launch a major initiative— saving you hours of reworking later,” advises Michelle Miles, VP of Operations.

Value realization is a journey; the Exploration stage provides the critical roadmap to help guide your steps and keep your project headed in the right direction. In the next installment of our Marketo Value Realization series, we’ll cover the Activation stage—  implementing your design solution and the importance of testing and QA.