Navigating Adobe Marketo Engage programs can be intimidating, and then managing them and the different campaigns you use them for can be more so. In this blog, I sift through the common misconceptions and highlight the key elements of Marketo Engagement Programs, including when the best time to use them is. As a certified Marketo Expert, this is a feature within the platform that I have become extremely familiar with across many client projects, so I'm very happy to share some of my findings and 'aha!' moments.

What is an Engagement Program?

An Engagement Program is one of four program types available in an Adobe Marketo instance that can accomplish complex contact/lead nurturing with ease. We use the names Engagement and Nurture program interchangeably as they do exactly that, nurture leads! When selecting a program to create in Marketo, it will be called an Engagement Program, but usually the Marketo channel is called Nurture and they're used for Drip Nurture campaigns. 

The purpose of them is to provide content to your audience list or segment (we'll also refer to these people as recipients or program members) in a systematic way, so they're great if you have a content series that should be delivered in a logical order. You can add new recipients into the program at anytime and they will receive the content in the same, pre-defined order. Likewise, you can add new emails and content to extend the journey.

The frequency of the emails (or 'stream cadence') and content to be sent to your program members is customisable, and Marketo ensures that the emails in the program are not sent to the same recipient more than once. It does this by checking which emails each campaign member has received within the content stream at the time of each scheduled email send (the send time is also referred to as a 'cast time' in Marketo.) 

The diagram below shows the flow of a simple three email Engagement program:

If the Program is set to run every Monday at 9am, Marketo will run this logic at that time to determine which emails are sent to the program members. 

Some of the benefits of using Engagement Programs include:

  • They're great for always-on campaigns
  • Easy to refresh or add content to without rebuilding
  • You can make them very simple (or depending on your use case, you can also make them complex!)
  • Ensures that leads always get new content
  • It's easy to create a program template for them

Content Streams

The content within an Engagement Program can be categorised into different 'Streams'. This is great for keeping different but related email campaigns within one larger campaign, and means that the Program members can be moved between different content Streams automatically based on how they interact with your content. For example, if a recipient clicks on a link in Email 1 in the diagram above, they would be moved into a different stream that will provide them with content that is more relevant to the interest they have shown.

Setting up an Engagement Program

Here's a checklist to use as a reference point when you're getting started:

  1. Set up an entry Smart Campaign, with a gatekeeper Static List
  2. Activate all relevant emails (and make sure they're approved to see them)
  3. Set a cadence on every stream you're using, as well as the first Cadence in the future!
  4. Check your priorities! Emails go from top to bottom, all the time, every time
  5. What happens to people after they exit the Nurture? Have an exit plan ready, or at least Static Lists for Engaged leads and Unengaged leads for futher marketing 
  6. Have you definitely turned the program on? Are your leads unpaused? This might sound obvious but we've had many moments with our clients where they think they have the program switched on, but don't!

Remember: Recipients can move in and out of Streams, and always receive the next new bit of content. Marketo looks at sent, not received when looking for new content, except if you're using Programs in a Stream, then it's about looking at the Nested Program Membership. 

Are you experiencing some challenges? If your Program isn't working, double check the following...

  • If your campaign fits a Nurture program.
  • If you would benefit from using Nested programs instead of emails?
  • Have you discovered the Test Stream function yet? It's a life saver!
  • In Stream transition, rules need a trigger to work and will always pull people in, never push people out.
  • Part of a program, part of a Stream? A lead can only exist in one Stream at a time, and there's a specific flow step you should use to add people: 'Add to Engagement Program' which also requires you to add them to a Stream.

You can nest other programs in a Stream... 

BUT... You cannot nest an Email Program within the Stream. Think of a Nurture program like the Bigger, Badder Brother of an Email Program who doesn't like sharing send times!

You can set a set send time on an Email Program, and you have to set a send time on the Stream. The two would clash unless you put a Smart Campaign into the Email Send Program to send the email and at that point you would use a Default Program like nature intended! This will save you a lot of trouble but also Marketo won't let you have an Email Program in there anyway so it's saved you a lot of time! 

You can make the emails operational...

BUT... Engagement Programs will not send out operational emails to unsubscribed people. If you want to send out an operational email to your Nurture audience, you will need to set up a separate Email Program or a Smart Campaign to send operational emails. 

Examples of Good Nurtures:

  • Welcome Journeys
  • Re-Engagement Campaigns
  • Awareness, Consideration, Decision campaigns

What all three of these nurtures have in common is they're generally always-on, it's a steady cadence of sends, and people can move streams depending on their engagements or lead scores.

Examples of Bad Nurtures:

  • Services Messages
  • Campaigns with shifting cadence
  • One-off short campaigns. Nurture's are powerful programs and you have a limited number of them in a Marketo instance (100 active at a time). 

We're here to help!

Our Martech specialists have built hundreds of Nurture Programs and campaign flows for so many of our Adobe Marketo clients. If you'd like to speak to one of the team about how we could help you with your Engagement programs, get in touch. 

Equally, if you'd like some training on how to build out your own Engagement Programs in your Marketo instance, our Enablement team have a variety of Marketo training courses to fit your use cases and requirements. Check out our Marketo training at the link below or submit an enquiry and the team will get back to you to discuss further.

Marketo Training Courses