Big Marketo pt 1: User Roles for large user bases

Marketo Employee
Marketo Employee

This is the first in a series I'm titling "Big Marketo." 

Big Marketo Defined

Big Marketo is about how large companies think about Marketing Automation, the challenges we face and how we think through ideas that are scalable for different skill levels.  Big Marketo isn't just for large companies, it's for anyone who manages more than one or two users of Marketo.  Big Marketo is, in essence, tips and tricks that help us keep this sane in an insane world of ideas.


Having worked for seven years using Adobe Campaign (formerly Neolane) for a medium sized company I came over to GE Healthcare Digital in 2014. Since joining I've become a recognized expert across all of GE in the Marketing Automation arena and ascended to the top level at GE Healthcare to help lead and shape the Marketing Automation initiative. I've redesigned how programs are run in a way that's scalable and simple. I've utilized the power of Tokens, Landing Pages, Script and Campaigns to take the burden off of the end user.  I've written user roles in a way that's sensible, logical and safe. Is it perfect? No. Is it working? Yes.

I currently admin an instance of Marketo with about 160 users and growing. We have users on almost every continent and region and country- North America, Asia, India, Africa, Australia, South America, Europe, Middle East, Far East, Central America, U.S., Canada, etc. Just a couple of months ago it was out of control. We had over 19 people with Admin access, some of whom were consultants, many of whom had no experience or training. People were free to make major changes without knowing the downstream impact.  We also had about 10 different user roles that no one truly understood. Some of the roles were specific to one or two people, others were assigned to people who also had Admin access.

Prior to me joining the Global team, there was a completely different team in charge and all of them had left the company, leaving a large knowledge gap of why it had gotten so out of hand. Assigning blame wasn't the priority, fixing things was. This was going to be painful, we were going to reduce a lot of people's access and take away functionality.  We had seen too many things go wrong and we needed to make this error proof.

So why start with User Roles?

I've thought about it and I'm starting with user roles because I believe from here it will set the table for the other topics.  Everything starts with set-up and talent. You need to know who you have and what there skills are and channel them into ways that doesn't force them to take on responsibilities out of scope.  My next topic will be Program Creation, and that will really help you see how these roles work together. We'll also get into Workspaces and how to utilize them to make your instance safe. But I think the first thing to think about is User Roles, what you should allow users to do, who does what and why and how to make them all work together efficiently.

Let's start at the beginning....what are the core functionalities of Marketo?

Marketo, broken down, has a couple of key areas that require different skill sets. Let's break it down:

Admin -

These are Marketo experts who really know all the ins and outs of Marketo. The wield the highest level of power and use it the least. These are the people who need to make sure Marketo changes as little as possible and see the impact of people's mistakes. Admins real responsibility lies is creating new users, assigning roles, training other users and preserving the integrity and structure of Marketo.

Data Analysis, Scoring & Reporting

Marketo captures and creates data which are used to create reports and models for end users. Marketo has several ways to report data from smart lists to canned reports to their Revenue Cycle tools. A core functionality of your Marketo team should be business analysts who understand databases and data modeling and how to perform testing for scoring and lead lifecycle. Data is captured not only from Marketo but also from any linked CRM or other tool.  Here is where a keen eye for which data is meaningful to have in Marketo vs. which is not is crucial as it will help your instance operate proficiently and not get backed up receiving and transmitting useless data.

Trigger Based Automation

Marketo records a lot of data and is capable of recognizing a lot of events happening. The trick here is to know which are the significant few triggers that your business needs. Knowing how your customer base interacts with your programs is important in knowing which triggers you want to use, as is understanding what your sales and marketing people want to know about. For some, a web page visit might be an important event to note while for others this trigger could overwhelm the system if the website is highly trafficked.

Web / Email Design

Knowing how to design Marketo pages that integrate seamlessly with your website lies in the hands of graphic designers and web designers. Knowing how to model CSS and centralize on it to minimize updates is highly useful for big companies as the web layouts and looks can change quickly.  You want to do this right the first time so 4-5 years down the line you don't end up with hundreds of pages that need individual updates.

You also need people who understand how to design Emails. These use different rules than Web Pages and if you don't know what they are you need someone who does. The email design tool in Marketo is not indicative of how the email will look in Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail, iOS, Android,, mobile, tablet, PC, etc. If you think "All my customers are B2B so they all use Outlook," you're wrong.  If you're doing your layouts on a P.C. and not optimizing for mobile, you're old fashioned. You need to make sure you have a designer that knows how to build and test emails for best performance, as well as how to A/B test.

Web Developers

On top of design, knowing scripting will add immediate value to your Marketo initiatives. If you want to break the mold and show that your website is modern you need to know a little scripting, whether it's JavaScript, jQuery, or PHP.  It's not difficult to learn the basics but you need to be able to incorporate scripting if you really want to get the most out of your Marketo pages.

The Roles and their responsibilities

Your user base

Chances are your user base falls into one of two categories: I'll call the first "Field Marketing," people who are responsible for creating the message, identifying the streams and ways to promote / spread the message, and; "Marketing Operations," your technical folks who know how to make the automation happen. Both of these roles serve unique purposes and should have Marketo roles in scope with their work. With that in mind, here is how GE Healthcare crafted user roles for our instance of Marketo. We'll start with the lower role and work up.

Content Editor:

This is where the majority of your "Field Marketing" team will be. They have ability to clone programs, create new emails or landing pages, update content but not approve unapproved asset and launch / activate campaigns. They have access to Lead Database, Marketing Activities and Analytics but cannot change leads attributes. The main job of the Content Editor is to own the actual content, update it when necessary and create new programs based on templates without the ability to launch unsupervised.

In the next part in this series you'll understand how a Content Editor can do their job proficiently by utilizing only tokens and never needing to know the Landing Page Editor or the Email Editor. For now, just think that these are people who will generate new ideas, forge partnerships with external channels, work with product marketing and sales to identify opportunities to create new assets and then update the customer facing content when necessary.

Required Skillset:

Basic Marketo knowledge and experience using a WYSIWYG editor.


  • Create HTML content and get approval
  • Coordinate with Web team for downloadables
  • Request / schedule campaign on Marketing calendar
  • Lead import list properly requested
  • Clone Marketo program
  • Load content into Marketo asset
  • Update all relevant tokens
  • Prepare workflows to best of ability
  • Notify Marketing Approver when it is ready to launch
  • Work with CE Marketing Approver on launch checklist
  • Ultimately responsible for content and program

Marketing Approver

The next level of skill is your Marketing Approver. This roles has Content Editor plus the ability to approve assets and launch / activate campaigns. Has access to Lead Database, Marketing Activities and Analytics. Is typically restricted to Operation team users with Marketo training. The main reason for a Marketing Approver is that no one should be able to approve their own programs without another set of eyes on them; and prior to launch, an expert in the area of Marketing Automation should review the program to insure it adheres to local laws, company governance rules and it will work as expected.  This role has perhaps the most responsibility as they are responsible for checking every link, every email, every page, every workflow and list prior to hitting Send.

Required Skillsets:

Marketing Automation experience, knowledge of personal data privacy laws for their region, proven comprehension of region governance, workflows, mid-level graphic design (HTML / CSS for webpages and emails).


  • Program set-up
    • Program is in the correct folder
    • Correct program type used: default, event or email send
    • Correct channel is selected
    • Program contains only one channel (i.e. an email pointing to a landing page for a download is two separate programs: email and gated asset)
    • Forms are reused whenever possible
    • Workflows are centralized whenever possible
    • Program cost and period properly set and updated upon request
    • For Webinar, program is linked to the correct webinar platform (WebEx) and event
  • Email
    • Templates are current and active
    • Emails display as intended in different browsers / email clients (specifically test Outlook, Gmail and iPhone / Android)
    • Links are active, valid and are not personalized (if they lead to third party sites)
    • Operational / Non operational email type used correctly
    • Spelling / Grammar is acceptable (if proficient in that language)
    • Text Only version updated and formatted
    • Default values entered for personalization tokens
    • Ultimately responsible that program was executed upon approval from requestor & that protocols were followed
  • Landing Page
    • Templates are current and active
    • Pages display as intended in Chrome, IE, FireFox and mobile (Safari / Chrome)
    • Links are active, valid and are not personalized (if they lead to third party sites)
    • Correct form used and hidden fields updated
    • Head tags populated (content is responsibility of Content Editor user)
    • Spelling / Grammar is acceptable (if proficient in that language)
    • Token codes are not visible on rendered pages
    • Upon form fill, expected page is reached
  • List
    • List criteria matches persona entered on request form
    • For email, list is under 10,000 recipients
    • Unsubscribes, invalid emails, hard-bounce replies, blacklisted email addresses are removed
    • List contains people for whom the information is relevant and expected
  • Workflow
    • Proper list is used / created in Smart Campaign
    • Flow steps are tested to ensure expected results are achieved
    • Values / tokens used in flow steps are correct for the product and program
    • Note field updates are formatted properly and append to previous notes and do not wipe out data
    • Activities written to CRM fields are formatted properly
    • Leads score as expected and can PQL
    • Program Status Updates happen only to people for whom the program is the last program with which they interacted
    • Debug improper workflows & update/maintain as needed
  • Reporting
    • Reports are properly built, as requested, in the program
    • Report subscriptions (either report or smart list) are only created for approved people
    • Subscriptions are deactivated when no longer needed

Region Admin -

Not every company will have this role and not every company will have a separate role for Region Admin / Marketing Approver, however there are functions that a Region Admin owns that are crucial towards success of marketing automation.  If your instance is differentiated by region you need to have a regional expert who natively understands the region and can act as an evangelist of that regions users. They also need to be part of the Marketing Operations Round Table, representing that region's needs and their knowledge of the users. The RA is the main point-of-contact for the region, providing training and Tier 1 support. This role does not have Admin access but has access to "secret" workspaces where critical-to-quality workflows are housed, out of reach of the Marketing Approvers. I'll cover more on this in one of my next posts about Big Marketo.

Your Region Admin has access to Lead Database and can change data directly when necessary. They have access to the Design Studio and can create and update templates for Email and Web Pages as well as Forms. (Look for an upcoming post about how Centralization Is Your Friend.) They can update scoring programs and the Lead Lifecycle.  The Region Admin is a powerful role and requires someone who works closely with Sales and Marketing leadership and understands business needs and how to continuously improve programs.


  • Maintenance, creation, activation and deletion of all region specific workflows
  • Attention to notification logs to proactively find issues and correct
  • Escalation to Admin for issues that are affecting or affected by other regions
  • Communication with other Region Admins for proposed workflows or programs that may be considered Best Practices
  • Coordination with other region admins to schedule large imports or complex batch programs that will slow down the campaign queue
  • Training and support for users within that region
  • Assessment and feedback to Admin of potential up or downgrading of Marketing roles
  • Make changes to templates and batch update assets
  • Add / maintain centralized forms and workflows
  • Level 1 troubleshooting for the region

Admins -

These are the highest, most proficient Marketo users. The requirement is that they be a Marketo Certified Expert to even be considered, be part of the core Marketing Operations team, have clearly defined knowledge of Markeo and share a unified vision for preserving the integrity of Marketo. This group should have an extremely conservative mindset when it comes to altering Marketo.  Requests for new fields need to be scrutinized for unanimous agreement that there's no alternative for storing data. They need to know how to write webhooks, how to partner with organizations looking to utilize APIs and how to troubleshoot integrations.

You should limit your Admins to as few people as possible, with an eye on spreading out responsibilities across timezones to provide around-the-clock support. For GE Healthcare, there are 4 admins: 2 in India, 1 in Australia and 1 in the U.S. We work closely together an act as one mind.  We listen to the needs of others and work to create solutions. We do not utilize our Admin powers often and we also act as Region Admins and Marketing Approvers.


  • Changes that will affect the entire Marketo instance:
    • Field additions or name changes
    • Program statuses
    • Tags
  • Opportunities to improve the Marketo instance performance and reliability (i.e. SPF / DKIM)
  • User Roles and User Accounts, including LaunchPoint
  • Proactively search logs for issues affecting performance / integrations and coordinate with RA for fixes
  • Involved in new API / Webhook connections
  • Work with designers / RA to test and approve templates
  • Create support tickets if issues cannot be resolved with internal resources
  • Activate new features and create training plan for RAs
  • Work on implementing new features / modules of Marketo and create documentation and training materials

Now, there are two other roles worth mentioning:

  • API User

    • A role for APIs wishing to integrate with Marketo. Mandatory for the creation of an API account
  • Agency

    • Hybrid roles created based on the reason and skillset of the Agency.  Typically an Agency will never have access to the Lead Database, Admin Functions or be able to approve or execute a program without vetting from the Admins for skill, understanding of business and security.

These are the roles we utilize at GE Healthcare. All of our 160+ users fit into one of these roles and can perform the duties that their job requires to the fullest.  This is also thanks to the program structures and centralization techniques we're utilizing to keep the instance sane.

Now it's also worth noting that these roles are only most crucial in a Production environment.  We often have Content Editors or Marketing Approvers who want to model changes or new programs which may require new fields. We require all work of this manner to be performed in a UAT / Sandbox environment and have reviews by the Region Admins and Admins prior to migration to Production.  This is where the Admins have the opportunity to train users on how to accommodate programs without the addition of new fields, or come to consensus on whether or not to add new fields as well as provide rigorous testing on proposed new programs or changes.  This is where Admins, who have knowledge of what other regions are doing, can be of most benefit by using on region's innovation to benefit others.

So ends Pat one on Big Marketo.  Let me know what you thought, how you'd improve on what I've detailed or what you'd like to see in a future installment.