5 common misconceptions about Marketo Engage engagement programs

Marketo Engage program
Christian Martinez


This blog summarises some of the content of our webinar on Marketo Engage’s engagement programs from July 8th 2021. You can also read the slides or watch the full webinar on-demand.

Marketo Engage engagement programs can be a lot to take in when you’re a green user or a bit nervous of the platform.

For starters, there are some common misconceptions around them that often make even confident marketers feel at best confused, and at worst downright panicky!

To combat engagement program phobia, we’ve touched on 5 of the most common misconceptions and broken them down:

1. “Engagement programs are basically just drip programs”

Not quite. Engagement programs are great for automating your sends and can be used as a drip program, but simply scheduling emails to send content for a campaign that lasts a few weeks is a waste of its (and your content’s) potential! 

A drip approach tends to lean towards often point-in-time and product-specific content instead of looking at the whole buying cycle and what works best for its stages.

That’s the real value of using Marketo Engage engagement programs: when you can align the streams of your program to your buying cycle stages. Prospects at the top of your sales funnel are ultimately going to have a different experience than your current customers, and your segmentation (and messaging) should reflect that.

2. “They need too much content to start using them now”

If we’re honest, most of this assumption about engagement campaigns being complicated comes from how much content people think they need to be able to set one up. In reality, if you’re currently using segmentation but are doing batch-and-blast emails, it’s no more than you’re preparing already.

For example, qualified leads (MQLs) might be the best audience for a full marketing-style email, whereas your customers or SALs are the kind of audience you want to have a more plain-text, one-on-one email structure. You can still use the same content for both, but both stay in an always-on campaign after the first send.

The big difference: you won’t need to set up a send each time you get new leads. Taking the time to segment your audience with an engagement program can create a lot less work long-term than cloning and updating items for every batch-and-blast. 

3. “Setting up transition rules and cadence is a nightmare!”

It’s easy to get muddled when you’re looking at transition rules within engagement programs, but it’s always better to start simple.

In short, smart campaigns in other programs push leads through a particular process. Engagement program transition rules instead pull leads into their streams based on their set criteria. Getting those the right way around, especially early into learning the program type, can be a challenge!

Cadence involves setting up how often the content you drop into a stream is sent. The idea is that this is a static period (such as every two weeks, or the last Friday of the month), and that you drop your content into the stream in advance to be sent on this date. From there, new leads will start receiving the content sat at the top of the stream, eventually moving through your content according to the cadence you set.

If you’re just dropping emails into your engagement program stream, that’s as simple as it gets: every X amount of time, the audience within that stream is sent that email. 

Any leads who have received all content available will be “exhausted”. Over time, 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!

4. “I find Preferences hard to handle for all the different content”

With changes to data regulations and legislation, data protection is becoming more and more important. Not only do you have to send content in line with what your audience’s interests are, you need to keep these preferences as clear as possible in case regulations change or your leads opt out.

Engagement programs can be incredibly useful for using preferences as a criteria for going into a stream. As an example, at JTF Marketing, we have several engagement programs across different types of content – like our downloadable guides and our blogs & insights. 

We can manage preferences in the transition rules of the engagement stream, letting you guarantee that people who go into your stream have already opted in to that content. Good for your leads, and good for data protection and compliance!

To increase the sophistication of your segmentation outside just data protection, you can use embedded programs’ additional smart campaign filters. Doing this add more specific criteria on who receives (or doesn’t receive) that particular campaign; people who don’t meet the additional criteria from the program will skip that content and instead receive the next one in the stream.

Additional segmentation could cover filters for things like particular job titles, focused interactions with previous content, or having already engaged with content. 

5.“They’re too complicated and time-consuming to use!”

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

The major benefit of an engagement program is that it lends itself towards always-on content, which takes a lot of time and pressure off your team in the long run around scheduling, sending, and creating (or copying) new programs.

Our advice when you’re starting out with them, however, is to keep them 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.

There are many ways you can do this, but it all starts with the customer journey and what lead nurturing approach is effective at converting leads into sales.

For more further useful information on engagement programs, including how to gauge Program Performance and aligning your lead nurturing to your buying cycle stages, watch the full webinar on-demand!