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Syncing data between Marketo and Salesforce: What you need to know

October 22 2020

Andrew Slate

By Andrew Slate

Marketo and Salesforce are two popular tools that revenue teams rely on to manage leads, execute campaigns, and maintain customer records. And if you belong to one of the many organizations that use both, then you’re probably aware of Marketo’s native Salesforce integration. The integration lets you bi-directionally sync leads, campaigns, and other records to maintain data parity across both systems.

Unfortunately, maintaining the native Marketo to Salesforce sync, especially if you have a complicated lead management flow or a high volume of records, isn’t as simple as adjusting a few settings. Successful syncs require proper project planning and a deep understanding of both tools. And even after setup, many marketing, sales, and revenue operations professionals still struggle with things like sync delays and overwritten data. In this post, we’ll offer some best practices to make your sync as successful as possible, which in turn will help streamline your lead lifecycle and increase sales-marketing alignment.

Why do we sync data in Marketo and Salesforce?

Marketo to Salesforce Sync 1 The typical flow of the lead lifecycle. Source: Root3

The lead lifecycle is the process by which your leads are generated, qualified, and converted into paying customers. In the typical lead lifecycle, leads are first acquired and qualified by marketing, then passed to your sales team for further qualification and, hopefully, converted into customers.

Integrating Marketo and Salesforce keeps your leads, accounts, and other records up-to-date across your revenue funnel, streamlining the handoff between sales and marketing. A successful sync ensures tight alignment across your sales, marketing, and support teams, which can increase retention 36% and sales win rates 38%.

How does the native Marketo-to-Salesforce sync work?

Marketo’s native integration with Salesforce lets you bi-directionally sync leads, contacts, and campaigns. You can also opt to sync accounts, users, opportunities, custom objects, and activities, but these only sync one way, from Salesforce to Marketo.

The integration runs in the background as your team uses each platform. After initializing the integration, the first sync can take hours or even days to copy all the data from Salesforce into Marketo, and vice versa.

Syncs following the first update run every 5 minutes. However, some syncs still take hours or longer to finish, especially when reconciling larger updates or dealing with massive databases (we’ll cover this later in the post). If you reach out to Marketo, you can customize your sync interval to any period longer than 5 minutes.

Marketo to Salesforce Sync 2 The typical cadence of Marketo to Salesforce syncs. Source: Marketo

Do Marketo’s API rate limits affect the sync?

No, Marketo’s API rate limits do not restrict the native Marketo to Salesforce integration. An API, or application programming interface, is the primary medium by which different software platforms send and receive data. However, Marketo’s native Salesforce integration doesn’t use Marketo’s API, so you won’t have to worry about rate limits.

Before you set up your Marketo to Salesforce sync

Marketo maintains the Marketo to Salesforce sync, and as such, they offer an extensive, step-by-step guide to setting it up. But before diving into the actual setup process, you’ll want to complete some prep work to ensure a clean and successful integration. You should reference both Marketo’s materials and this guide as you prepare for the sync.

Understanding data in Marketo and Salesforce

Before we set up a Marketo-to-Salesforce sync, it's important to understand the schema of each tool, or how your data is structured. Every Marketo and Salesforce instance is unique, thanks to custom fields and objects, which let organizations tailor their software to their unique business needs. And with so much customization available in each tool, it's critical to map out your existing schema both in Marketo and in Salesforce so that data can sync cleanly between the two. You’ll want to map each record from Marketo to another compatible record in Salesforce so that you don’t lose any data in the transfer.

For more information on understanding and maintaining your data in Marketo, check out this guide to updating Marketo records. And to see how you can do the same in Salesforce, check out this guide to updating Salesforce records.

Additional best practices

Revisiting your Lead Lifecycle

Marketo to Salesforce Sync 3 A simplified lead lifecycle in Marketo. Source: LeadMD

Now that you understand the schema inside your Marketo and Salesforce instances, you should revisit your lead lifecycle to make sure that all of your processes align with the way your sales and marketing teams use these tools day-to-day.

Re-evaluating your lead lifecycle now to adjust your lead routing, scoring, or enrichment processes can save you headaches after you’ve set up your sync. Check out our guide for more information on how to automate your lead lifecycle to ensure a highly efficient funnel.

Cleaning up data in Salesforce

Before setting up your sync, you might consider completing some data hygiene work in Salesforce to minimize duplicates, boost data quality, and increase the performance and speed of your sync.

Testing in a Sandbox environment

If Sandbox environments in Salesforce and Marketo are available to you, Marketing Rockstar Guides recommends building the integration in a Sandbox first to develop a clear understanding of how the sync will work with real data. For reference, a Sandbox is a testing environment that lets you preview changes before pushing them to your live software instance. Be sure to check with your account manager at each company for more details on setting up a Sandbox instance.

Challenges when working with the Marketo-to-Salesforce sync

Now that you’ve completed the preliminary project planning of your Marketo-Salesforce integration, you can set up your first sync.

An overview of the Marketo to Salesforce sync

As we mentioned earlier, the native Marketo-to-Salesforce integration comes with some limitations. Once you’ve set up your sync, you might encounter failed syncs, delays, and overwriting errors, especially when working with a large lead database. Often, these issues can require frustrating workarounds or, in some cases, direct intervention from Marketo’s support team.

Here are a few of the challenges you might encounter when using the native Marketo-to-Salesforce sync:

  • Failed record syncs - For a variety of reasons, including missing fields, required values, validation errors, and improper sync setup, some of your records will fail to sync. While you can correct these records manually, ongoing maintenance can quickly pile up and prevent you from working on more high-impact projects.
  • Delayed/slow syncs - Regular Marketo and Salesforce users can experience sync delays, especially in organizations with millions of records. While the sync typically lasts just minutes or seconds, larger updates can overwhelm the system and prevent you from accessing real-time data and triggering other events off of that data. For example, if your team runs multiple campaigns in Marketo at once, the ongoing updates can quickly back up and slow down your sync. This delay can prevent your Salesforce instance from triggering additional events based on campaign status. Or, if you complete a one-off batch update to thousands of leads in Salesforce, you’ll probably experience extended delays that could prevent real-time follow-up to those leads in Marketo. And once these delays start to last hours or days, you may be limited to scheduling large-scale database updates during off-peak times like the weekend.
  • Overwritten data - In some instances, including when syncing campaigns with leads that came directly from Marketo forms, the native Marketo-Salesforce integration can overwrite lead data. Imagine you have a campaign that is already actively syncing records between the two systems. If new leads come through from your Marketo forms, sometimes that sync can occur too fast for Marketo to begin lead enrichment and other processes that you might have set up to prepare a lead. Salesforce then syncs back to Marketo, overwriting any data that you generated in the meantime. Missing data means that your marketing and sales team can’t follow-up with viable leads, reducing productivity and directly affecting your sales pipeline.
  • Duplicates - While Marketo offers pre-built functionality to prevent duplicate records, it doesn’t check for duplicates when syncing data from Salesforce — it assumes that all incoming data is valid. Regular issues with incoming duplicate data can require you to manually reconcile records or invest in the help of a third-party.

Alternative: How GAPs let you flexibly sync data

While the native Marketo-Salesforce sync is great for simple, ongoing updates to smaller databases, most marketers need greater power and flexibility to customize the sync to their needs while avoiding issues with delays and bad data. An alternative to the native sync is a General Automation Platform (GAP). A GAP is a low-code platform that you can use to build custom automated processes called workflows without technical expertise. Each workflow combines connectors to different services with logic-based helpers using a visual, drag-and-drop interface.

Marketo to Salesforce Sync 4 A General Automation Platform

With a GAP, you can supplement your existing Marketo to Salesforce sync or build one from scratch to ensure that data flows freely across your revenue stack, exactly the way you need it to. GAPs can bypass many of the challenges you would traditionally face with the native Marketo-Salesforce integration. For one, you can define logic that syncs any record, including custom objects, bi-directionally. And GAPs can easily handle massive volumes of data, so you won’t have to worry about slow syncs or overwritten data. Best of all, GAPs have the flexibility to help you manage your own data in exactly the way you need for your business. Let’s check out an example of how you can use GAPs to sync records between Marketo and Salesforce.

Using general automation to sync data between Marketo and Salesforce

Beyond standard lead details, including name, job, contact info, and source, many organizations choose to track additional insights in custom Marketo fields that enable them to identify hot leads and power personalized campaigns that convert at higher rates. These days, buyer intent data from sources like G2 and Demandbase can provide you with incredibly valuable context, including when a lead visits your site, when they engage with your customer reviews, and even when they look at a competitor’s reviews.

Your sales and marketing teams can then use this data to segment leads for hyper-personalized campaigns and to follow up faster. To tap into powerful intent data, you’ll need to sync lead records across Salesforce and Marketo in real-time. Here’s how we set that up in a GAP:

Marketo to Salesforce Sync 5 Syncing lead intent data from Marketo into Salesforce

To start, we use a scheduled trigger, which runs our workflow every five minutes. Next, we pull a list of new and recently-updated leads since the last run of our workflow. Then, we use a loop helper to isolate each lead and apply additional logic. For each lead, we get the intent data for that specific lead, find the corresponding lead in Salesforce, and update the lead’s custom field. You can easily customize this logic to run in reverse, or sync data for any number of different data types.

More Marketo-Salesforce integration resources

We hope that you found this guide helpful. Using general automation, you can create powerful syncs between Marketo, Salesforce, and any other data sources in your tech stack. And with a GAP’s completely flexible logic, you can automate processes across your organization, including lead-to-account matching, account-based marketing, and more.

If you’re updating your existing Marketo-to-Salesforce sync or building it for the first time, you might find these other resources useful:

And if you’d like to learn more about how you can harness general automation to build high-quality integrations fast, sign up for our next live group demo.

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