Insights Marketo Channels and Tags: Why are they important?

Marketo Channels and Tags: Why are they important?

If you are a Marketo user driving your organisation’s marketing automation efforts, in this blog you will learn about the importance and purpose of Marketo Channels and Tags, including practical tips to improve your campaign performance and results.

Marketo Channels are a fundamental principle, and, on the surface, the concept is very simple. However, it is this apparent simplicity which can often be the downfall of a Marketo instance.

There are two main areas where Channels can be problematic:

  • Overly complicating the Channel setup by including too many Channels or by making the Channels too complex by adding many unnecessary Member Statuses.
  • Programs are set up incorrectly, using the wrong Channel and with Success assignments which divert around the centralised Channel configuration.

A clearly defined structure must be created to guide the Channel structure. And a solid governance process must be defined to ensure Channels are maintained correctly and used correctly in conjunction with Marketo Programs.

The Foundations

1. Channels

Marketo Channels usually align with each marketing channel being used to drive activity. For example, a potential list of Marketo Channels set up in the system would be as follows:

  • Email send
  • Nurture
  • Social Media
  • Paid advert
  • Webform
  • Webinar
  • Event

Important tip:The list of Channels should be considered carefully. Only create a Channel if there is an operational need or if the activity needs to be tracked or reported against as a distinct group. It is all too easy to keep adding Channels for different reasons, which in turn makes it more and more difficult for people to select the correct Channel during Program setup.

In practice, each Marketo Program is assigned to a Channel when it is set up to define what type of activity the program relates to. This allows each marketing channel to be tracked and reported separately and easily.

Important tip: Clearly define a Program creation process to include Channel assignment and train all users on the process. This will ensure that all Programs are set up correctly and as such all reporting will be correct and accurate.

2. Program Statuses

Within each Marketo Channel, you define Statuses. Channel Statuses link to the different interactions a person will have with the marketing activity.

For instance, let’s look at the Webinar Channel. The Member Statuses for a webinar would usually be:

  • Invited = people sent an email to invite them to the webinar.
  • Registered = all registration form submissions.
  • Attended = anyone who attended the webinar on the day.
  • No Show = people who registered but did not attend.
  • On Demand = anyone who accessed the webinar recording after the event.

If you are syncing Marketo Programs to Salesforce Campaigns, it is essential that the Marketo Program Statuses match the Salesforce Campaign Member Statuses exactly. This ensures that there are no errors between the two system components and that people progress through the Salesforce member Statuses correctly when their Marketo Program Status changes.

Important tip: Limit the number of Member Statuses to only those which will be useful from an activity tracking or reporting perspective. The smaller the list of statuses, the easier the Channels are to manage.

3. Program Success

For each Marketo Channel, you define which Member Status equates to Success. This indicates which interaction is the desired outcome for the marketing activity. In the Webinar example, we could say that either the Attended or On Demand Member Statuses would be a Success.

By assigning a Program Success, gives Marketo a robust data point to use when reporting on marketing activity effectiveness.

Important tip: Where possible allow the Channel configuration to assign the Program Success and avoid using the Change Program Success Flow Action in individual Programs. Using the Change Program Success Flow Action for different outcomes other than the one set up in the Channel configuration can lead to misunderstandings about how successful a Program was as compared to the standardised reporting benchmark.

Analytics Behaviour

Each Channel must be assigned an Analytics Behaviour, which in turn defines whether the Programs assigned to that Channel will or won’t be reportable. Analytics Behaviour settings are split into three categories:

  • Normal (required of period cost)
  • Inclusive (regardless of period cost)
  • Operational (hide from reporting)

To simplify this one, when using the Normal setting, only Programs which have a Period Cost setup will show in some key reports. When using Inclusive, all Programs will show in the reports, but some filters will not be available as a result. When using Operational, the Program is completely hidden from reporting. It is important to make sure the right setting is selected for each Channel depending on the reporting requirements.

Important tip: Analytics Behaviour can be set at a Program level too. This means if a Program which is an exception to the centralised Channel setup, a different Analytics Behaviour can be set for the specific Program. This will override the central Channel settings. This is useful if you want to make a single Operational Program reportable or if you want to exclude a single marketing activity Program from reports by making it Operational.

How do Channels help?

From an operational standpoint, Member Statuses can help make managing the activity more straightforward. They help identify the behaviour people have taken in the program and can be used to trigger additional actions as a result. You could use the Registered status to identify the group of people you need to send reminder emails to prior to the event. You could use the Attended and No-Show statuses to send different post-event follow-up emails, using different messaging depending on their status.

From a reporting perspective, by checking how people have progressed through the Member Statuses, you can see how well your marketing initiative has performed. You can report against each Channel specifically using many Marketo Analytics reports or Revenue Explorer i.e. the Program Performance Report. In addition, the Channel Success can be cross-referenced with other data points to define a reporting metric using the final desired outcome for that marketing initiative as a basis.

For example, to link back to Period Cost: Period Cost divided by Channel Success equals Cost Per Lead.

Or with our real-world example: the Webinar budget divided by Webinar attendees equals Cost per Webinar Lead.

Marketo Tags, what are they used for?

Tags in Marketo are directly linked to Channels and Programs and are essential for reporting. They can be used as a reporting data filter in Performance Insights, Revenue Explorer, Program Analyzer, Program Performance and more.

Think of Tags as an additional layer sitting under Channels. A Tag represents a group of criteria which you need to use to report against marketing initiatives. And they usually align to any audience segmentation, targeted messaging, or content marketing streams.

A good example of this would be industry segmentation. For this example, you break your marketing efforts into different content and messaging to target different industries with different products and services. You can set up a Tag in Marketo called Industry and then create a list of different industries within that Tag i.e., Financial Services, Manufacturing, Healthcare, or Technology.

When you set up a Marketo Program, you can then assign it with a Tag, let’s say Financial Services. Then when you pull reporting, you can drill into the report using a Tag to only show metrics and results from that specific industry.

Using our previous example from the Channel section above: Period Cost divided by Channel Success filtered by Tag equals Cost Per Lead for the specific Tag.

Or with our real-world example: Webinar budget divided by Webinar attendees filtered by Financial Services Tag equals Cost per Financial Services Webinar Lead.

Key takeaways

Marketo Channels and Tags are a perfect example of the merger between technical setup, business planning, and human processes. All these aspects need to be considered when setting up, maintaining, and utilising Channels in Marketo. This requires careful pre-emptive planning to create the structure, detailed setup in the system, and then ongoing training and governance to ensure they are used correctly.

WoolfHodson are experts at bridging the gaps between marketing and technology to provide tried and tested solutions to problems like Marketo Channel strategy and configuration.

Ash Chandler is a Technical Lead at WoolfHodson. You can learn more about him here. If you require help navigating your Marketo roadmap, or if you would like to find out more about how our team can enhance your marketing performance, contact us today at

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