How to Diagnose and Treat Your Marketo Lead Lifecycle

BY: Amanda Giacobassi

PUBLISHED: 4/26/2023

A broken Marketo-CRM lifecycle endangers the entire enterprise revenue engine.

Oftentimes marketing operations professionals are the first to feel lifecycle issues through lead tracking and segmentation problems. But it doesn’t end there – a broken Marketo lead lifecycle can make it impossible to forecast future sales and delays the sales process.

To maximize your organization’s revenue potential, marketing operations professionals must leverage a well-architected Marketo lead lifecycle. However, this process doesn’t always come easy, especially when you factor in technical constraints, resourcing issues, and business needs.

In this blog, we’ll bridge the gap between strategy and technology by talking about the four most common lead lifecycle configurations, the impact in Marketo of those configurations, and the pros and cons of each configuration for both marketers and sales teams. By the end of this blog, you’ll gain confidence in:

  • Making informed decisions on which type of lifecycle model is most appropriate for your business
  • Discussing lifecycle tracking as a partner to your counterparts in Sales
  • Implementing your target lifecycle in Marketo


Lead lifecycle 101


Let’s back up – what exactly is a lifecycle?

A lifecycle is a series of person, lead, or contact stages that correspond and allow you to track a prospect’s relationship through your marketing and sales funnel. It’s also the series of date fields that monitor the entry of each prospect into the corresponding stages.


Why do lifecycles matter? Lifecycles are the framework against which you execute your marketing campaigns. It is the framework by which you create SLAs with your sales counterparts and it is the basis of your forecasting on reporting and forecasted pipeline revenue.

Have you run into any of these issues? Oftentimes, marketing and sales teams may not even know their lifecycle is broken. Here are the top eight signs that your lifecycle is broken:

  • Poor handoffs between marketing and sales
  • Difficulty with audience selection
  • Lack of coordination and email fatigue
  • Duplicate records preventing compliance with consent laws
  • Duplicate records, preventing accurate scoring
  • Difficulty identifying engaged or qualified leads
  • Poor visibility into marketing and sales pipeline
  • Limited analysis of marketing ROI


Before we jump into the four configurations, let’s examine why lifecycles get broken in the first place.

The biggest culprit is that they tend to be designed for sales. This means the CRMs are configured to correspond to how the sales team is organized – and marketers are left to make it work with their systems.

To add fuel to the fire, the people who are setting the strategy are not technology experts, so by the time requirements get to the marketing operations professional, these folks have to use workarounds to implement the lifecycle, leaving a fragile, vulnerable system.

How Marketo and CRMS work together


In order to dive in and understand the impact of different configurations, it’s important to level-set how these tools work and how they are intended to be used.

Let’s start with Marketo. In Marketo, everything centers around the person. And person, of course, is Marketo’s name for the database of prospect and customer records.

Companies, program members, and custom object records can be attached to a person record, but cannot exist independently. This can be customized in a number of ways, but it is built for marketing to, chatting with, and sending emails to a person. It works best when one email address represents one person record.

By contrast, CRMs like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, or SAP Sales Cloud, have a lot more freedom. These are relational databases where records in each table can exist without being connected to a core person.

This allows for very flexible configurations. Perhaps you use the lead object for initial prospecting into the SMB space where you don’t want to be creating account records for every inquiry yet. Or maybe you use only the contact and account objects because you have a named account-selling strategy. These are all standard use cases for a CRM.

In CRMs, you have the ability to create custom look-up fields between objects. This way, records can exist independently on each table and you set the rules for how those objects are related to each other.

This brings us to how the tools talk to each other. If your Marketo instance is using a native connector (which means the standard, out-of-box integration) to either Salesforce or Dynamics, your default data model will look like this.

This means that by default, Marketo is expecting the CRM to be configured to mirror the same architecture that Marketo uses, where one person in Marketo is synched to either one lead or one contact in CRM. This baseline knowledge of how the tools work and how the native integration works will empower you to identify the level of effort required to implement different system configurations and lead lifecycles.

The two core frameworks

Before we jump into the four configurations, let’s examine the two frameworks in which these configurations exist.

  • Framework #1: A prospect has one relationship to your business. The prospect is only ever in one lifecycle stage at a time even if they enter and exit the funnel repeatedly.
  • Framework #2: A prospect can have multiple relationships to your business. They can be a prospect for one product, and a customer for another product. This is much more complicated to manage because you don’t have one field that you can reference to know whether or not you should be marketing to this person.


In terms of implementation configurations, there are infinite combinations for how you choose to configure your Marketo lead lifecycle. We’re going to focus on the four most common configurations, from simplest to most complex.

When looking at this diagram, there are two dimensions by which to consider which framework will best suit your business.

The first is your sales team – does your sales team have a unified approach, where all sellers can sell all products? Or do you have a sales team that is segmented by line of business, where different teams sell different products?

This is crucial because if someone is entering or exiting your pipeline or expressing interest in different products, the person is still assigned to one sales owner who can use one record in the CRM to log their calls and activities as they engage with that prospect.

In the latter scenario where you have the sales team segmented by business unit, you need multiple records in your CRM in order to be able to assign each product-specific inquiry to a different owner. This way, the correct sales team or person within that division can do the follow-up activity. This is the first dividing line.

The second dimension you want to consider is data capture. Do you care about every inquiry that’s submitted? Or maybe you only care about the first submission or the most recent submission. There’s a cost to capturing, structuring, and using data in terms of LOE for maintenance. So you want your model to be as simple as possible yet as complex as necessary.

Think about these questions as you consider your data capture requirements:

  • Do you have long sales cycles? Short sales cycles?
  • Is there a large volume in your database?
  • Is there a lot of exiting in your pipeline and repeat entries?
  • What does your customer acquisition flywheel look like?

Let’s jump into the four configurations available for your Marketo lead lifecycle!

Configuration 1, Framework 1: Single Lifecycle, Storing Original Dates

This configuration is a great approach for teams who are just starting to track lead lifecycles. There are not many fields and it’s fast to configure in Marketo and your CRM.

Watch below to learn the pros, cons, and insights into how it’s configured.




Configuration 2, Framework 1: Single Lifecycle, Storing Original and Most Recent Dates

Configuration two is when two sets of date fields are populated. Original dates are never overwritten, and the most recent dates are updated each time a prospect enters the marketing funnel.

This configuration is really valuable when you expect exiting and re-entry into your sales funnel. The classic fit here is for teams who run high volume and highly automated demand generation and sales play – think B2B SaaS.

Watch below to learn the pros, cons, and insights into how it’s configured.




Configuration 3, Framework 2: Multi-Product Lifecycle, Inquiries Stored on the Lead

This is where things get interesting. In this configuration, you leverage the lead and opportunity objects to track inquiries by business unit. If one person expresses interest in multiple products, they could be created as multiple leads (one for each product of interest), so that sales reps from each business unit can follow up.

Watch below to learn the pros, cons, and insights into how it’s configured.




Configuration 4, Framework 2: Multi-Product Lifecycle, Inquiries Stored on Custom Object

The last configuration captures every inquiry, from the start, on a custom object in your CRM. This means that sales reps are not working, or logging activities or updates to the lead or contact, they are working on a custom object.

This configuration may not be a good fit for a well-oiled sales team, as the enablement cost to re-train them to use a manual, custom object interface would be significant. But for sales teams new to a CRM and segmented by BU, this could work well.

Watch below to learn the pros, cons, and insights into how it’s configured.






So, where does this leave you? Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each technical approach empowers you to make the best strategic decision for your organization.

Your strength as a business professional is to understand the technical constraints as well as the pros and cons of each configuration in the context of your business.

This is what will allow you to provide strategic recommendations for how you approach not only the lifecycle, but also the downstream implications – how to forecast revenue, and how to improve the precision and efficacy of your marketing campaigns.

Watch the full session here.