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Battle Royale: Audience Selection in Marketo Engage


If there is anything that Marketo Engage is famous for, it’s that you have a million and one ways to accomplish the same task. And true to form, when it comes to building an email send audience, users can choose between Smart Lists, Static Lists and Segmentations to create their audiences.

But what’s the difference between these methods? When should you use each and why? Let’s get this rumble started!

Meet Your Contenders

In one corner, we have Smart Lists. Smart Lists “allow you to find specific groups of people using simple filters” according to Marketo’s product documentation. Users can reference fields from their CRM and use logic to build a list of all contacts that meet their desired criteria.

In the other corner, we have segmentations. Segmentations “allow you to group people into distinct profiles” per Marketo and consist of subgroups called segments. The key word here is “distinct.” While a record can be a member of an infinite number of smart lists, they can only be a member of one segment per segmentation.

And waiting in the wings are Static Lists. Static Lists are “a list of names from your Database” per Marketo. The critical difference between Smart Lists and Segmentations and Static Lists are that the first two are driven by logic while static lists are based on the addition or removal of contacts primarily based on list imports, Smart Campaign flow steps, and single action flow steps.

How to Choose Your Fighter

With three excellent choices, how should you pick between them? Well it depends on the battle you’re fighting (or rather the email you are sending).

If you have a predetermined set of contact records that you want to email, a Static List is your best option. For example, if you want to send a follow-up email to everyone who attended a happy hour, you can upload the list of attendees to a Static List and then reference the Static List in your email send audience.

If you want to use logic to select a portion of your audience and then make sure there is no overlap between different options, then a Segmentation is your best option. For example, if you only want to email records in Europe, you could build a segmentation for Regions that has segments for North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia and then select the segment for Europe in your email send audience. By using Segmentations, you guarantee that no records from non-European countries sneak into your audience.

If you want to pull in a bunch of different criteria and flexibly select between them, then Smart Lists are your go-to! For example, if you want to email all contacts with a given job title who attended a recent webinar and downloaded a specific eBook, then a Smart List allows you to pull in all the different fields you would need to find this specific audience.

Let’s Get the Fight Started!

Ultimately, the specifics of the audience you want to email will determine whether a Static List, Smart List, or Segmentation will be the right tool for the job. In most cases, you will most likely use a combination of all three to identify the right audience.

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