Engagement programs 101: Overcoming the challenges of Marketo engagement programs

Marketo Engage program
Adam Kemlo
Lead Consultant - EMEA & APAC


Using engagement programs in Marketo can seem like a daunting task, even for the most confident marketers! In our blog series Marketo engagement programs 101, we’ve looked at the benefits of Marketo engagement programs, how to create Marketo engagement programs, now we’re looking at their main challenges and how to overcome them.

1. Creating the content required for Marketo engagement programs is a time drain

We often hear from clients that their biggest concern about using engagement programs is the amount of content needed to set them up. 

In reality, if you’re already sending batch-and-blast emails to segmented lists with different messages, there’s very little difference in the quantity of content needed – you just use it in a different way. 

In addition, if you’re creating blog posts, whitepapers, case studies, sales propositions, presentations and webinars, you’ll have a wealth of content at your fingertips.

We’re big fans of keeping emails simple and succinct – and repurposing their content to suit your audience. For example, leads higher up the funnel (e.g MQLs) might be the best audience for a html-style email. Whereas your customers or SALs may be better suited to a one-to-one, plain-text style. The content for both maybe very similar, just the delivery changes. 

If you can invest resource in the initial set-up of your engagement programs, you’ll benefit hugely in terms of saving time in the long term. Segmented engagement programs that automatically pull leads through a journey of emails can create a lot less work than cloning and updating emails for every batch-and-blast.

2. Setting up transition rules and cadence is a nightmare!

Cadence is simply how often the content you drop into a stream is sent. This is a static period, such as every two weeks, or the last Friday of the month. Whatever content you then drop into the stream (in advance) is sent on this date. 

As new leads enter the top of the stream, they receive the content according to the cadence you set e.g every x amount of time, the audience within that stream is sent that email. Then they move to the next, which is sent after the next x amount of time.

Any leads who have received all content available will be “exhausted”. This will generally be the leads that have been in the stream the longest. The number of exhausted leads will show beneath the stream when you open your engagement program. Just add more content and you’re good to go!

Another handy feature of the program is ‘Set Availability’. If you have time-sensitive content, or limited-time offers, you can right-click content in your engagement program streams to ensure that content is only sent out within a certain time range. Handy!

Transition rules can be a little more confusing to set up, so it’s always best to start simple.

In short, unlike smart campaigns in other programs that push leads through a particular process, engagement program transition rules pull leads into their streams, based on their set criteria. The criteria can be based on their stage in the buying cycle, a specific behaviour they have shown or a characteristic that is identified.

3. How do you handle preferences with engagement programs?

There are two ways to manage preferences in engagement campaigns.

Firstly we can do this via the transition rules of the engagement stream. These let you guarantee that people who go into that stream have already opted into that type of content.

Secondly, if you use embedded programs within your engagement programs you can use their smart campaign filters. Doing this adds more specific criteria on who does or doesn’t receive that particular campaign. People who don’t meet the additional criteria for the program will skip that content and instead receive the next one in the stream.

Overcoming the challenges of Marketo engagement programs is worth the effort!

We won’t lie – engagement programs are one of the more challenging features in Marketo Engage. But if you can get to grips with the parts of the program, such as its dashboard view and how to map your requirements into the different streams, execution can be as complex or as simple as you like. 

Our advice when you’re starting out, is to keep it simple and focused. An engagement program doesn’t need dozens and dozens of streams for every segment – it should be focused on key data points in the customer journey and how you can nurture leads further down your sales funnel.

Do you need help setting up your engagement programs? We’ve got you covered! Check out our engagement programs troubleshooting Q&A or get in touch.