Working out when someone is ready to buy is one of the big challenges for marketers and sales teams. This session at the Adobe Summit explained how Marketo uses data from Bombora to determine intent at an account level for their ABM campaigns.

Marketo has three types of accounts that they track in their marketing automation:

  • Named accounts; selected by the rep. Use Mintigo and determine which accounts look like the good marketo customers. They have ideal customer profile (ICP)
  • Target account: not a primary focus, but in good industries
  • Non-ICP accounts; where there are opportunities in which Marketo doesn’t normally win

They focus their ABM activities and determine intent primarily for the first two categories.

Lead to Revenue Module:

As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts from the summit, an AQL (automatically qualified lead) is the new MQL for Marketo. It has three areas that are analysed to determine whether a contact meets the AQL criteria and cited its demanding requirements as the key reasons why ‘sales likes our leads.’

Firstly, the contact should be a target contact with the correct job title (one of the target titles), a first and last name, a phone number or email and a company name.

If the basic contact data is available, then a behaviour score is calculated based on areas such as email clicks, webinar attendance, visiting Marketo at trade shows and other such engagements with the brand. Assuming the score in this area is enough, the score for the account as a whole is calculated, based on revenue, industry, location and a wide range of other company demographic data. Only if the contact has the required data, and adequate engagement and company scores, does is get passed as an AQL.

Driving Contacts to Become AQLs

With many contacts in the database that aren’t AQLs, the question is how marketers can move them to become qualified. Although work can be done to enrich the contact data, nothing can be done to change the account score. The one area that marketers can influence is the behaviour score, by sending content and other offers to engage the contact.

The behaviour score determines the stage in which the contact is in, although contacts that ‘go to sleep’ in the funnel are dealt with differently using reactivation emails with messages similar to ‘we miss you’.

The approach taken by Marketo is content is an investment by the target contact. The later the stage, the more commitment from the contact and therefore the more it will invest in reviewing content. Early stage contacts will receive lighter-weight content such as blogs, cheat sheets and infographics; mid-stage contacts will also be offered eBooks and webinars; and in the late stage you can expect to receive analyst reports and automatically generated sales CTAs (e.g. requests to meet the contact) that Marketo calls ‘accelerators’.

KPIs change for each stage of the funnel, so you are measuring different stages with different metrics.

There are four categories used for nurturing: Reactivation, C-level, key vertical and other (the default category). Not all campaigns, however, are automatic: Marketo also sends lots of batch emails, particularly to the contacts in the mid-stage: For example, live webinars are generally promoted through batch emails because of the need for relevant timing. The goal, however, is to ensure lots of personalised content is sent, or as the presenter put it Marketo, aims to send “very, very relevant emails in the moment”.

Determining Intent at an Account Level

Marketo tracks engagement, which is an element of intent. To get a much better picture of intent, Marketo uses Bombora, a huge publisher network that shares anonymous data about accounts, allowing Bombora and its customers to build a picture of the content that is being consumed on an account level. All you need to do is to define the content categories that indicate intent and then monitor your target accounts to see when the consumption of this content increases (or surges in Bombora’s language).

Marketo had a very simple approach to determining the content categories that matter: It simply gave Bombora a list of the closed customers from the previous six months and looked to see what content they consumed prior to purchasing Marketo. Not surprisingly this included general relevant content, such as marketing automation topics, as well as content about Marketo and its competitors. All it needed to do is monitor the target accounts for surges in consumption of these categories of content, which was achieved using a scoring system, to determine when accounts have intent to purchase.

Intent-Driven Tactics

The intent score correlated well with propensity to purchase, and the accounts showing a surge in relevant content consumption were roughly twice as likely to buy Marketo than a control group. Emails to these contacts also showed a doubling of open rate and click-to-open rate.

The prioritisation by intent allowed a range of different tactics, not just emails. The top 5% were prioritised for immediate follow up by sales. Highly targeted advertising was used as well as emails, and the re-engage campaigns, dubbed ‘wake the dead’ campaigns, were particularly effective when coupled with intent data.

It was interesting to hear how important paid media is for Marketo, and the presenter highlighted how digital advertising has moved from delivering broad reach to a channel that is used for specific targetting of accounts it knows are relevant.

Bombora therefore drives both sales and marketing outbound activities at Marketo. It uses an indicator of when it needs to enrich data about an account: Marketo calls finding contacts in accounts where it doesn’t have any ‘whitespace completion’. Another partner, Merit Direct, is used to add contacts.

Bombora is also used by Marketo to determine intent at existing customers that might be cross-sell candidates, increasing the close rate of upsell campaigns to their existing customers.

The use of intent data hasn’t been without problems. Marketo particularly had issues with performance, with the system sometimes being unable to send data for up to three days due to the amount of data being loaded (Bombora data is deleted and refreshed every week). Although it has a solution to this problem now, it’s nice to know that even the experts have problems!


With an entry-level price of around $50K according to various online reviews, not everyone is going to be able to gather the amount of intent data that Marketo uses. The case study presented in the session, however, emphasises that by using whatever intent data you can get, you will improve your marketing campaigns and close more sales.