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Chelsea Beene

Marketo’s Best and Most Underutilized Feature (And Why We Killed It)

Chelsea Beene / March 02, 2018 / 0 Comments

Here are two questions every marketer wants to answer:

  • How quickly are people moving through our buying funnel?
  • How can we expedite the process?

To answer these questions, marketing and sales typically get together to map out the customer journey. In my experience, these journeys usually follow the SiriusDecisions DemandGen Waterfall model.


In Marketo, this gets translated into a lead lifecycle and a revenue cycle model. More on that in a minute.

Just as marketing and sales were getting good at operationalizing these journeys, the concept of account-based marketing (ABM) rocked our worlds. And because ABM is fundamentally different from the traditional Sirius Decisions demand gen waterfall, everything we thought we knew about building and measuring lifecycles needs to be reevaluated.

What is RCM & Lifecycle?

The lifecycle is the operational framework that defines the journey from the time a record is known within the database to the time it becomes a customer and beyond. For Marketo customers, the lifecycle is built as a program using smart campaigns to control stage transitions and status updates.


The RCM (Revenue Cycle Modeler) is the model that represents the lifecycle program. It’s built out separately from the lifecycle program, but the stage movement is usually controlled by the smart campaign flow steps within the program.


While the RCM is not the life-blood of your lifecycle program (and what I mean by that is it’s not 100% necessary to have an RCM in order to build a lifecycle program in Marketo, but…), it is the best tool Marketo offers for being able to track, measure, and analyze your lifecycle program’s lead flow and velocity.


Marketo explains that the RCM is like many buckets of water with holes in the bottom. The water that fills these buckets represent the leads, and as they flow through these buckets (or lifecycle stages), the RCM is able to track which leads hit which stages and how fast they move. Typically, the smart campaigns within the lifecycle program drive the movement of leads and contacts from one lifecycle stage to the next, but it’s the RCM that tracks the progress and is required for getting to that true understanding of lead flow.

Without a fully constructed RCM, there a number of reports in Marketo that cannot be leveraged to their full potential. For example, I’m working with a client currently that wants to track how a particular program in Marketo can increase or decrease velocity from an MQL to an open opportunity, and eventually to a closed won opportunity. These types of questions cannot be answered without a completed RCM in place.

Why it doesn’t work for ABM

With all that said, there is one glaring issue that needs to be addressed when it comes to building a lifecycle in the Marketo platform—and that is the concept of an account.

Marketo is a people-centric platform. Everything that Marketo can see, trigger off of, or update is 100% related to leads and contacts. This creates a few hurdles when trying to create an account-based approach to the customer lifecycle and makes reporting on this journey next to impossible.

I know this, because I was tasked with building out LeadMD’s ABM lifecycle. These are a few of the questions my team and I tried to answer using the tools we had at our disposal (a standard lifecycle program in Marketo and an RCM).

  • How can we track the lifecycle movement of an account?
  • How do you track the velocity and conversion rates of an account if the contacts within those account have varying levels of engagement?
  • How can we treat all accounts equally? An account with 150 contacts should weigh the same in our lifecycle as an account with 15 contacts as they move to each stage of the lifecycle.

We knew how we wanted our account journey to look. We already mapped it out (see below). It problem was translating that into a system that would provide us with the metrics we needed. The account—as an entity—is fundamental to constructing an account-based lifecycle, and that’s the biggest problem.


The flaw in Marketo’s water bucket analogy is that in a B2B world, we are not selling to the water. We sell to the concept of a “water bottle”—an object that houses the water.

While it’s true that the people are the ones taking actions, a company cannot download a white paper from your site or click your Google Ad. At the end of the day, it’s the account that becomes your customer. Just because there are 15 contacts tied to that account in Salesforce and 15 records in Marketo have now reached the “Customer” stage of your RCM, it doesn’t mean you now have 15 new customers.

The account is the connective tissue.

It’s the account that initially engaged with you, and it’s the account that became your customer—the people, or the water, just flowed in and out of lifecycle stages along the way. And water bottles do not flow through the holes in the bottom of buckets the same way as the water alone.

Our Solution

So, how to move forward? After a bit of soul-searching, our solution ended up being to adopt a new tool to run the account side of things. Our top choice: Engagio Dash. It plugged the holes we needed to construct a true account-based lifecycle model.

Engagio Dash has successfully found a way to create an object in Salesforce that links Leads, Contacts, Accounts, Campaigns, and Opportunities. This object is known as the “Customer Path,” and it’s equivalent to a typical stage in a lifecycle, like MQA (Marketing Qualified Account), Opportunity Created, Closed Won, etc. As the user, you can define and customize the milestones you want to include to accommodate your business case.

For example, at LeadMD we have a lifecycle stage for SAA (Sales Accepted Account). An account becomes an SAA once a status field on the account object is updated to a certain value. With Dash, all we needed to do was define the criteria for this stage and create a workflow rule to enable the necessary updates to Engagio Dash lifecycle fields. We have the option to leverage account fields, opportunity fields, and even a custom object associated with our accounts to define the stages that made up our account-based lifecycle from No Engagement to Customer.

Once all of our stages were defined and the criteria set, we could then leverage the reports Dash offers to track conversions and velocity.

With this type of tracking in place, the account has finally become the focal point of our customer lifecycle giving us the ability to measure conversion rates and velocity accurately. This type of model is truly a representation of the account journey.

For more information on Account-Based Marketing Strategy, check out our eBook, “The Ultimate Catch: Your Guide to Account Based Orchestration”.


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