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Beyond Chaos: Maintaining Sanity in Marketo Field Management


If you’ve landed at this article, chances are you have already conducted a full field audit. Fields play a crucial role in Marketo, serving as the backbone for data storage, target list creation, database filtering, and data synchronization with other systems. However, as Marketo instances age, field management can become a challenge, leading to a cluttered and messy setup. What’s more, managing fields appropriately in an organization, particularly in systems like Marketo, can have a direct impact on your bottom line. In this article, we’ll explore effective strategies for managing and optimizing fields in Marketo.

What does strategic field management involve?

Effective field management in Marketo involves thoughtful strategy to streamline data storage and utilization. Marketo admins have a crucial responsibility to proactively manage fields, such as conducting a thorough field audit, defining standardized procedures for creating and updating fields, and aligning with SFDC teams for seamless integration and synchronization. Marketo admins contribute to a well-organized system by:

  • Working with their SFDC team to ensure correct field permissions for fields synced between Marketo and SFDC
  • Determining opportunities for cleaner data by blocking field updates to high importance fields from particular sources
  • Hiding unused fields or renaming ones that are unused but could serve a different purpose
  • Establishing clear processes for new field requests ensure that all fields are created with a clear purpose

Regular checks for potential sync errors and a proactive approach to syncing fields between Marketo and SFDC ensure a smooth and efficient data flow. This approach minimizes the risk of cluttered field structures, promoting optimal data utilization and management within the Marketo system.

Field management = your shortcut to saving money?

Efficient field management isn’t just about a clearly named/defined system; the strategy behind the field usage directly promotes operational efficiency, data cleanliness and sales/marketing alignment. This translates to time saved, improved communication, better reporting, and, ideally, more revenue.

  1. Operational Efficiency: Proper field management ensures efficiency in data handling, which translates to time saved for marketing and sales teams. When teams can quickly locate and use accurate data, they spend less time on manual processes, enabling them to focus on strategic activities that contribute directly to revenue generation.
  2. Enhanced Data Quality: Maintaining high data quality by allowing for accurate and up-to-date information storage enables personalized and targeted campaigns, reducing the likelihood of wasted resources on inaccurate or outdated leads.
  3. Improved Sales and Marketing Alignment: When marketing and sales are aligned with a consistent and accurate dataset, it streamlines lead handovers, reduces friction in the sales process, and increases the chances of converting leads into customers.
  4. Reduced Costs and Avoidance of Penalties: Managing fields appropriately helps avoid common pitfalls, such as sync errors or unnecessary field creation, which can lead to increased costs for space.
  5. Adherence to Compliance and Governance: Field management practices that include adherence to compliance standards and governance principles safeguard the organization from legal and reputational risks.
  6. Strategic Decision-Making: Accurate and well-managed data provides a solid foundation for analytics and reporting. This enables more strategic decisions that are made with greater accuracy. This, in turn, contributes to more effective marketing campaigns, better-targeted initiatives, and improved resource allocation, positively impacting the organization’s financial outcomes.

How do you develop a field management strategy?

It can be a lot to add to your never-ending to-do list. But some work now will help reduce even more work later, which can be difficult to quantify.

Particularly if you have many admins in your Marketo instance who can create fields, we recommend codifying your field creation standard operating procedures so that you do not end up with too many fields, especially for a single purpose. Half the battle in managing your current fields is to define a process for creating new fields, which will reduce the need for cleanup later on.

In addition, you should get alignment/agreement from your SFDC team before you try to create and solidify the process with your Marketo users; they are integral to this process and without their buy-in, you will be playing a constant game of whack-a-mole with field management.

To develop a successful field management strategy, you might consider:

  • User Management and Governance: Admin permissions in Marketo allow for field creation, modification, and visibility control. While fields can’t be deleted by admins once created, they can be hidden. It’s crucial to enter field details accurately during creation, as only Support can delete fields, usually at an additional cost. Renaming or changing field types is possible only if the field isn’t in use, requiring the removal of all references.
  • Process Management: Establishing standardized procedures for field creation is vital, especially when multiple admins are involved. A defined process reduces the likelihood of unnecessary fields, simplifying future cleanup efforts.
  • Determining the Details for a New Field: When creating a new field, consider its purpose, data storage needs, and synchronization requirements. A well-defined process, such as a field creation checklist, ensures that new fields align with organizational standards. I have provided an example below.
  • User Request Sample Template: To facilitate new field requests, users can follow a template that includes information about the field’s purpose, desired field name, type, description, and help text. This template aids in change management and documentation.

Determining the Details for a New Field – Example

If it is determined that a new field is necessary, then a few additional pieces of information should be obtained.

  • Does this data need to also exist in SFDC?
    • If yes, then work with the SFDC team to create a new field.
    • If no, the Marketo Admin can create this field in Marketo only.
      • **Please note, if the data may ever be needed in SFDC, then create the field in SFDC first.
  • How will this data need to be used?
    • Is it for a report? What system is this report in (Marketo or SFDC)? Are you sure the field does not already exist?
    • Is it being used for a very specific purpose, such as a “one and done” or point-in-time event?
    • Will this field determine dynamic content or tokens?
  • Can the data be different AND need to be maintained depending on various circumstances?
    • For example, if you are collecting someone’s name or phone number, this will remain the same regardless of what form they fill out or what program they are a member of
    • However, if you are asking someone to select whether they would like Chicken or Fish for an event meal, this can vary from event to event.

Where should this information live (Marketo-only, synced with SFDC, for use in other systems)?

  • Considerations:
    • Will non-Marketo users need this information? If so, who?
      • Sales, Account Executives, SDRs, CSMs
      • Event marketers working in a 3rd party system
  • Is this data required for an integration, such as for enrichment? If so, the user should include all documentation as it may contain additional specifications.
  • Desired field name:
    • If you have an existing field naming convention, refer to that documentation.
    • Otherwise, here are some examples of what a field naming convention could look like:
      • Operational fields:
        • Framework – Field Purpose
          • Such as Compliance – Consent Status
        • Framework – Field Purpose (mkto)
          • Such as Compliance – Consent Status (mkto)
            • **This can be helpful to adopt if the field is being created from SFDC.
        • Ops use only: Framework – Field Purpose
          • Such as Ops use only: Compliance – Consent Status
            • **This can be helpful to adopt if there are similarly named fields or any fields that Marketo Admins want to ensure users do not inadvertently use.
        • Field Purpose (3rd party integration name)
          • Such as Event ID (Cvent)
          • Such as Contact ID (Clearbit)
      • Marketing fields:
        • Field Purpose
          • Such as Country
        • Company – Field Purpose
          • Such as Company – Annual Revenue
        • Program member custom fields: [Channel acronym] – Field Purpose (PMCF)
          • Such as EV – Gift Selection (PMCF)
            • This stands for Event (EV)

Desired field type:


  • This should be a succinct explanation of the field’s purpose and data source.
  • Such as the Marketo-only field which is used in the webhook with our enrichment provider.
  • Such as Marketo-SFDC synced field to store data related to whether a person has provided explicit consent.
  • While it initially appears to be an unnecessary extra step to add a description, as a Marketo instance ages and tech debt builds, having field descriptions helps ensure fields are kept well-managed and documented.

Help text (for SFDC fields):

  • Help text appears when a user hovers their cursor over the ? by a field in SFDC. It is meant to help a user understand how the field should be used. We recommend structuring help text to define the field’s purpose.
    • Such as Field to prevent syncing with Marketo. If this box is checked, the record will be unsynced from Marketo.

The SFDC Highway: Avoid a Traffic Jam (from field updates)

Efficient syncing between Marketo and SFDC relies on making only necessary fields visible to the Marketo Sync User in Salesforce. More details are provided below about how the backend for the SFDC/Marketo sync works on a field-by-field basis. Additionally, all Marketo Admins should familiarize themselves with the SFDC sync overview. Otherwise, it is very important to note that fields synced between systems should be limited to fields that are truly needed and used.

If a high volume of fields are synced and also regularly updated, this can cause a traffic jam – otherwise known as a sync backlog – between Marketo and SFDC, where updates made in one system or another are delayed in showing in the other system. Sync backlogs or failures impact the flow of data between Marketo and SFDC.

Recommendations include confirming the Marketo sync user’s profile, agreeing on field naming conventions, and establishing data management processes. The sync can handle around 10k updates per hour, per object. This can easily cause issues if, say, a new custom field is created in SFDC and then mass updated.

Let’s say you have 2 new custom fields in SFDC, and you need to have these fields in Marketo. These custom fields will be populated using Dataloader in SFDC, and 40,000 people will be updated.

2 fields x 40,000 people = 80,000 unique field updates, divided by 10,000 = 8 hours


Number of fields to update x number of records / 10,000 = number of hours for Marketo to pull updates

For easy math, we will assume these updates will be made over the weekend, so no other fields are updating at the same time. If updates are made during business hours or on a weekday when other normal updates are processing, the sync time will be further impacted. The consequences can be difficult to estimate, so it’s important to exercise caution.

Objects in SFDC vs. Marketo

While a user in SFDC may be able to edit any field they have permission to edit, on any object, the Marketo sync user is a bit more limited in terms of what can be updated. Specifically:

  • Fields on Lead and Contacts (People in Marketo) can be read and written to, as long as the sync user has appropriate permissions.
  • Fields on the Account or Opportunity can only be read in Marketo, and Marketo cannot push any changes back to SFDC on these objects.
  • Marketo can create Campaigns in SFDC, and if you sync Program Member Custom Fields to the Campaign Member, Marketo can write to these fields specifically. However, Marketo cannot update any other Campaign or Campaign Member fields.


After conducting a field audit of your existing Marketo fields, removing permissions for fields no longer needed to be synced, and hiding any unused fields, the following steps can be taken to help manage fields long-term.

  1. Determine a process for new field requests.
  2. Agree on a naming convention for any new fields created.
  3. Review and confirm the profile/permissions available for the Marketo sync user, reducing access if necessary.
  4. Determine with your SFDC team the process for new fields created in SFDC.
  5. Document any field rules (picklist values, dependent picklists, required fields) from SFDC.
  6. Confirm the process for any large-scale data modifications between systems.

Simplifying field management in Marketo requires a proactive and standardized approach. By implementing the recommendations outlined in this guide, organizations can maintain a clean and efficient field structure, ensuring seamless operations and data synchronization – impacting their data storage costs and their bottom line.

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