Marketo Success Series: Email Programs

Marketo Employee
Marketo Employee

Welcome to the Marketo Success Series! In this series, we partner with Marketo Champions and Champion Alumni to fully explore how some of our most celebrated Marketo experts are using Marketo to drive success. In this edition, we teamed up with Marketo Champion Alumni @Nicholas_Hajdin, who is a Digital Technology Manager at Accenture. Nick is an Adobe Certified Master – Marketo Engage Architect and has over six years consulting experience, guiding clients through complex Marketo implementations and optimizations.


Read Nick's blog below as he covers his best practices for creating programs in Marketo Engage, how to make sense of email program settings, creating an email program, A/B testing, and much more! 





In this chapter, we will cover one of the fundamental programs in Marketo: the Email Program. Email programs in Marketo are designed to be your tool for email blasting, creating A/B tests, and tracking metrics all within one place. Use the Email Program when sending one-off emails such as newsletters, promotions, invitations, and reminders.

Best Practice for Creating Programs in Marketo


While each business has their own operational processes and rules for governance, it is a recommended practice to templatize programs in Marketo. A Master Program Template (MPT), oftentimes built as part of a “Center of Excellence” or CoE, is a great way to maintain a consistent and scalable program structure in your instance. Each time a marketer wants to create a new program, for example, an Email Program, she can clone the MPT that has an agreed upon structure.

Since Email Programs are straight-forward marketing initiative, the MPT does not need to be complex. A standard Email MPT may contain the following:

  • Assets folder to organize the email(s) you will use. If you have a standardized Email Template that will be used across all Email Programs, you can include in the MPT. Email(s) is listed as plural if you plan to A/B test variations.
  • Smart Campaigns folder to organize smart campaigns. For Email Programs, this will likely only be Program Status smart campaigns used to change program status based on success steps defined at the Channel level. If you are unfamiliar with Channels and success steps, please return to the earlier chapter covering this content.
  • Reporting folder to organize any local reports you want to create outside of the Dashboard reporting available at the Email Program level.
  • Tokens created at the program level. If there is an element, for example, company address that will be consistent across all emails, including a {{my.token}} for company address is a good idea. By having tokens included at the MPT level, you save marketers time of adding new tokens each time a program needs to be created. Tokens at the MPT are a nice-to-have, but not mandatory.

While creating MPTs for your Marketo Programs is a best practice to keep your instance standardized and scalable, you might find yourself needing to create an Email Program from scratch rather than cloning an MPT. We will review the steps needed to create a new Email Program in full detail throughout the rest of this chapter.


Understanding Email Program Settings


One of the nice elements of an Email Program is the Control Panel view. The Control Panel has four tiles that give you a quick look into your program settings:


Audience: Decide which leads will receive the mailing. Quickly view into the number of leads who will receive the email, as well as those who are blocked from communications. Also contains shortcuts to edit your smart list or import a new list.

Email: Select which email you want to send. The email must be a local asset contained within the Email Program. From this tile, you also control A/B test settings.

Schedule: Select the time you want your email deployed. From this tile, you may also enable Recipient Time Zone or Head Start settings.

Approval: Approve the Email Program. To approve your program, you must have a defined audience, an approved email selected, and the email scheduled in the future. From this tile, you will see the Program status.


Create an Email Program


Once you understand the basics of the Email Program, you are ready to create one in your Marketo Marketing Activities. The below instructions guide a step-by-step process of creating a new Email Program.

  1. Go to Marketing Activities.
  2. Select the folder you want to create the program in, click the New drop-down, and select New Program.
  3. Enter a Name, select Email as the Program Type, and click Create. When selecting Email as Program Type, the Channel will automatically be set to Email Send. You can change it if you have other channels created for Email Program type.


Email Program Actions


In the next few sections, we will cover the different actions available for the Email Program.


Defining Your Audience


The first step in controlling your Email Program is to define your audience. Edit your smart list using filters that meet your audience criteria. You may also import members into the program through the Import option seen in the audience tile in the program control panel.


Choose Your Email


Once you've created an email program and defined your audience, you will want to decide what email you're sending. You can create a new email from scratch or pick one that already exists.

To send an existing email, select your Email Program and go to the Control Panel view. Navigate to the tile that says Email and select the email you want to send. Only local emails are available. If you want to use an email that is part of another program, or in the Design Studio, you will either need to clone to your program or right click on the email, select Move, and move to your destination program.

If you want to create a new email for your program, you can also accomplish this from the Email tile in the Control Panel. Best practices for creating new email templates are covered in an earlier chapter.


A/B Test Your Email


The ability to A/B test your email is the most important functionality unique to the Email Program. A/B testing gives marketers the opportunity to test variances in their communications to see what results in higher audience engagement. Marketo makes A/B testing setup, control, and measurement easy.

Before A/B testing your emails, it is best practice to develop a testing plan. Do not aimlessly A/B test just to say you’ve tested something. Develop a hypothesis and test for several weeks until you have results you are confident in. Ideally, you are testing distinct variances, so you have a clear change to apply to your future emails. Once you declare your test findings as part of your communications strategy, you can continue testing.

Example Testing Plan:

  • Q1: Test subject lines using distinct variance
  • Q2: Test whole email design using distinct variance
  • Q3: Test From name and address
  • Q4: Test time of day

Once you are ready to A/B test an email, navigate to the Email tile in the Control Panel. Note that when adding an A/B test, the selected email will no longer be available for use in any other program. If you need the email available to other programs, you will need to clone to the new destination program. Once you’ve decided to A/B test your email, you must decide what variable you will test.


A/B Test Settings

  • Subject Line Testing: One of the most common and easy A/B tests. It is recommended to create a testing strategy that is measurable. For example, test generic non-descript language vs action oriented descriptive language. As you run tests for the next few series of emails you will have a better ability to analyze and measure what type of subject lines resonate with your audience.
    • Example:
      • Subject Line A: Accenture Monthly Newsletter
      • Subject Line B: Learn more about Accenture’s latest innovations in AI


      • Whole Email Testing: Another option is to A/B test whole emails. Use this test type if you want to test variations in copy, design, CTAs, etc. It is recommended to test one variable at a time, so you are able to measure what led to the “winning” email’s higher engagement.
    • Example:
      • Whole Email A: Email newsletter with buttons for CTAs
      • Whole Email B: Email newsletter with hyperlinked text for CTAs
      • From Address Testing: From address testing is another common and easy test. This option is typically used to test if personalized emails result in higher engagement. With this option, you can test both the From Address and From Name.
    • Example:
      • From Name/Address A: Nicholas Hajdin /
      • From Name/Address B: Accenture /
      • Date/Time Testing: Date/time testing allows you to learn what time of day or day of the week is best to send emails. It is recommended to test one variable at a time, ie day of week or time of day, rather than two variables, ie different day of the week and different time of day.
    • Example:
      • Date/Time A: Tuesday 09/04/2018 8:00 AM EST
      • Date/Time B: Tuesday 09/04/2018 6:00 PM EST

Once you’ve selected your A/B Test Type, it is time to define your Test Sample Size. Use the slider to choose what percentage of the audience you want in your A/B test and click Next. The different variations will apply to equal portions of the chosen Test Sample Size.

It is best to keep the Test Sample Size between 10-20%, allowing most of your audience to receive the winning version of the email.



Cautionary Note: If you're using a static list, setting the sample size to 100% sends the email to everyone in the audience and the winner goes to no one. If you're using a smart list, setting the sample size to 100% sends the email to everyone in the audience at that time. When the email program runs again at a later date, any new people who qualify for the smart list will also receive the email since they're now included in the audience. It is not recommended to set the sample size to 100%.


A/B Test Winner Criteria

After finalizing your test settings, you are ready to define the A/B Test Winner Criteria. The following options are the default criteria.


An open registers when images are downloaded into an email. Even if you don't include an image, by default Marketo inserts a single tracking pixel into all HTML emails. 


By default, links in emails have tracking embedded in them allowing you to see who clicked which link, how many total links were clicked, etc.

Click to Open %

Percentage of emails that were opened and had a link clicked in the email. This measures the relevancy and context of an email by taking the number of unique clicks divided by the number of unique opens, and then multiplying by 100 to show it as a percentage.

Engagement Score

The engagement score helps you determine the effectiveness of your content. If you pick Engagement Score the test will need to run for at least 24 hours.


You can also customize your criteria by selecting Custom Conversion and defining specific events using filters and triggers. For example, you may want to define Winner Criteria as clicking a specific link in an email. If you select this option, Marketo will only allow triggers for people who have been sent the email from this email program. No need to add a Was Sent Email filter.

Once you’ve selected your Winner Criteria, you must define how the winner is declared. There are two options: Manual and Automatic.

      • Automatic is the default option in which Marketo automatically sends the Winning email at the scheduled time.
      • The Manual option will send the test out and wait for you to declare a winner. You will receive a report of the results.
      • Reminder: If you are doing a Date/Time A/B test, you can only choose Manual.


Schedule A/B Test

Once you have added an A/B test to an email program and defined the winner criteria, the next step is to schedule when the test begins. Send Test and Send Winner must be at least four hours apart. For larger sends it is recommended to wait 24 hours to allow enough time to get good results. From the schedule tab, you can also input email addresses to notify users of test results. Once you have all your test settings finalized and scheduled, select Finish to review a summary of the A/B Test details. Once you confirm everything looks good, hit Close and you’re A/B test is configured.





If for any reason you decide you want to edit or remove your A/B test, navigate back to the Email tile in the Control Panel View to do so.

Once your email is tested and  the winner has deployed, you can view the performance metrics from the Dashboard view.


Schedule your email


Once you’ve selected your email, you are ready to schedule. If you opted to A/B test your email, scheduling is set during the setup. If you are not using A/B testing, you schedule the email for your planned deployed time. You have two additional scheduling features:

      • Recipient Time Zone: People will receive the email at the scheduled time in their respective time zones if their time zones are available.
      • Head Start: Begins processing audience and email 12 hours in advance for faster delivery time. Once processing starts, the program is locked. However, if you need to abort the send before the email is sent, you can do so from the Control Panel. If you are using Head Start and Recipient Time Zone together, you will only be able to select compatible times. 


Approve Your Email


Now that you have followed all the steps and your email is ready to go, the final step is to approve the email. Navigate the Approval tile in the Control Panel and select Approve Program. If Marketo notices any issues, a notification error will prompt you to make changes before trying to approve again.


If changes to an approved program that has not yet deployed, you simply click Unapprove Program on the same tile. The email will not deploy until you reapprove.


Reporting Email Program Performance


Once your emails program has been deployed, it is time to report on the performance. Performance reporting helps you understand what types of emails and content your audience finds engaging, helping guide future strategic planning. You can leverage the below reports and information to measure the success of your programs.

      • Email Link Performance Report records how well the links in your emails are performing.
      • Email Performance Report provides standard stats like delivered, opened, clicked, etc.
      • Email Program Dashboard View provides a visual representation of performance that is also exportable in Excel.
      • Email Program Summary View provides a quick glance at metrics like members by program status and success.



Have any questions or comments for Nick? Let him know in the section below!