By Lisa Heay Senior Marketing Consultant at Heinz Marketing

I don’t know everything about Marketo – that’s for certain – but even being a twice-Marketo Certified Expert with close to 10 years of experience under my belt, I still find myself with tons of questions when setting up new instances. Especially when every company, business, and workflow is unique.

Marketo Help docs are great for walking you through the initial set up if this is your first marketing automation rodeo, but what if you are moving from one Marketing Automation platform to another?  You already have integrations and workflows in place, and you’re not going to turn off one system for two months while you set up the next.  You have a business to run.

There is a surprising lack of information provided on this scenario, and a TON of conflicting recommendations on the Marketo Community.  So, here are a few things that I’ve learned to be true along the way.  Some of you Marketo experts out there may read this and think, “Yeah, duh, you didn’t know that!?” but I’m willing to fall on the sword and admit I needed help in hopes that I can help even one company or consultant like me struggling to figure out something that should be simple—it’s worth it!

Here’s the scenario.  We recently completed a project for a client who was moving from Pardot to Marketo.  What I realized as we got into the project was that I knew what steps needed to be done to get them up and running, but what I didn’t know was what the proper “order of operations” should be.

Can we set up the CRM integration now when another marketing automation platform is also integrated?  Can I set up their CNAME and implement munchkin code on their website?  I could not find a recommended course of action – Marketo Help docs and the community experts aren’t experts in the other marketing automation tools, and Google was no help.  I finally reached out to some seriously smart people who have been through this a time or two, and I got some answers.

Set up your Salesforce Integration first.  Your CRM integration is really the foundation for everything you need to set up in Marketo moving forward.  You need your fields created to create forms, smart lists, and campaigns.  You need forms, lists, and campaigns to create programs, landing pages, tokens, and emails.

As we got started, I began down the path of creating custom fields on the Marketo side, but quickly realized that wasn’t a good idea. I woke up in a cold sweat one night thinking, “What if the fields don’t properly map when we did turn the integration on?!?”  I didn’t want to deal with the aftermath of that mess.  Instead, I learned I needed to create the Marketo user in Salesforce first so that the fields I needed in Marketo sync down and are mapped correctly from the get-go.

What if you have another Marketing Automation Platform sync’d to your CRM?  It’s okay – it shouldn’t interfere with this set up.  If you were really worried about having two connected at once, you could sync everything, and then change the Marketo user’s password in SFDC temporarily to break the sync.

However – a strong word of caution – do not plan to do any database cleansing in this period when the sync is off.  If you merge or delete records in Salesforce, those changes won’t be triggered in Marketo. Trust me – it happened. My word of advice is to just leave the sync on – you’ll ensure your records stay up to date.  You’re not running any campaigns in Marketo yet, so there shouldn’t be a problem.

If you’re truly not able to set up your Salesforce sync right away, a Marketo Community member suggested that you can create the fields on the Marketo side only, and then have Marketo support sync them up with Salesforce fields post SFDC-sync. It’s a bit of extra work but would allow you to start using the fields you need immediately in Marketo, rather than having them dependent on the SFDC implementation project.

My two cents – this would probably would be fine for one or two fields, but not a whole list. Your Marketo Support rep may show you some serious side-eye if you ask this of them…  You’d also then be dependent on their timeline and willingness to do the work.  It’s a gamble, in my opinion.

It may serve you well to also make friends with your Salesforce administrator because you’ll need to lean on them heavily during this portion of the set up.  Bring them a latte, because you’ll need them to walk through the integration steps very carefully.  DO NOT CUT CORNERS HERE—I can’t emphasize that enough.  Even if they are a self-proclaimed Salesforce wizard, they need to follow the set-up steps carefully, one by one.  It will come back to bite you in the form of daily sync error notifications when the Marketo user can’t read/write to all the fields it needs in Salesforce.

You’ll want to do this initial CRM integration over a night or weekend— depending on how many fields and records are in your database to sync, this step is going to take a while.  On that note—be selective in choosing which fields you’d like to sync from Salesforce to Marketo.  You can always sync a field later if you find you need it, but you can’t easily take one away. You can hide unnecessary fields in Marketo, but they are still there, and can become confusing, and if you’re slightly OCD like I am – annoy you with the clutter.  We see this all the time – companies with thousands of fields in Marketo because they took a shortcut upon implementation and sync’d everything.  Then they wonder why their instance is slow? Sync only those fields that marketing needs to either gather, edit, or segment by.

Before we’re done talking about CRMs, one more word of caution.  There is a thread in the Marketo Community on setting up your initial sync to a Salesforce sandbox to “try it out” before the real deal.  DON’T DO IT.  You’ll have to scrap your Marketo instance and start over with all your set up. Marketo and Salesforce mate for life— you can only connect one Marketo instance to one SFDC instance, which means you can never undo the sync and swap it for another Salesforce instance—sandbox or production.

Once Salesforce is sync’d, you can move on to other administrative set up tasks.  Munchkin code, CNAMEs, and SPF/DKIMs can all be set up prior to your cutover, even if you are still utilizing your other marketing automation platform.  Check with your web team, if you’re worried, but there shouldn’t be an issue.  The only caveat here is that you’ll need to come up with a new CNAME for Marketo—you can’t have the same CNAME point to two marketing automation instances.  Marketo help docs walk you through this process—you’ll just need to coordinate efforts with your web/IT team.

Once your administrative tasks are out of the way, you’re primed and ready to get to the meat of Marketo—setting up your campaign, landing page, and email templates; smart lists, nurture programs, scoring, reports, etc.  Then, when you’re ready to cut over to Marketo from your other Marketing Automation Platform, it’s just a matter of turning on your Marketo campaigns and turning off the CRM integration with the other platform.

The end result? The client had a seamless transition from Pardot to Marketo and didn’t miss a single day of operations – one of the smoothest transitions they’d experienced.  I hope some of these learnings help you take on this daunting effort with confidence, too.