The Quick and Dirty of the Marketo Lead Lifecycle


Marketing terms evolve quickly and without any governing body to help organize, vet and evangelize for them. The result is marketers and MarTech vendors often use terms that make simple concepts more complicated than necessary. Shift Paradigm aims to explain things plainly and give our readers and clients unique insights and actionable ways to organize around growth. 

When people use the term “lead lifecycle” or “revenue process” or “journey automation,” they are talking about lead management. It is the process by which you collect new names (or new data points on existing names), manage them in databases, action on them and report.

Common business questions the lead lifecycle helps answer are:

  • When is a new record (a lead) ready to talk to sales?
  • What is the length of the sales cycle for records coming in from different sources?
  • Where do our best customers originate from?
  • How do we ensure timely qualified lead follow-up?

The Revenue Cycle Modeler

The Marketo Engage product has a unique feature in marketing automation platforms called the Revenue Cycle Modeler (RCM). This isn’t Marketo’s most popular feature and that’s a shame, because it serves a big purpose when wielded correctly. Here’s an example of a very simple RCM.

This may look like nothing more than a Lucidchart, but the simplicity can be deceiving. This modeler helps Marketo customers truly model out their process. The powerful thing about it versus other flowchart tools is that it sits on top of actual data. It alleviates a common invisible problem with lead management process design – talking in concepts, when the data is not shored up. If you need Lead Stage to change to “Qualified” – that value needs to be available in that field – in order to define it in RCM. This operates as a gut check that your approach will work functionally. 

Lead lifecycle.

Once you’re able to chart out the lifecycle, you can easily mimic this in the program build.

We won’t spend too much time here, but essentially the program would use a specific Lifecycle channel that has a stage per program status. Each smart campaign would use the mapped out transitions to define the criteria for leads to flow. The flows can include changes to: program status, lead status, alerts, interesting moments, ratings, etc.

How does it work?

Now that you have some background on the two main components in building a lead lifecycle (the program and the RCM), let’s talk about lead movement.

The first half of your lifecycle is usually marketing driven. In fact, if you look at Marketo’s default RCM model above, through the “Sales Lead” stage is about where this cuts off. Any stages before that are usually transitioning leads from stage to stage using value changes in scores or interactions. They are leads.

The second half of your lifecycle is usually sales driven. Most of these stages are controlled via contact statuses and opportunity stages. Once sales accepts and converts the leads, these are all contacts, in contact stages.

This is where we usually get questions on HOW this works. Well, a few things to keep in mind…

Marketo can read stages on the Opportunity Object.  If you’re using contact roles, you’re golden!

Marketo can read lead and contact statuses (make sure you’re using the appropriate triggers and filter).

When building, build all lead statuses in the channel to a lower value than contact statuses (they can’t revert back to leads). Here you can see leads have statuses with steps of 10, contacts of 20…

Don’t be afraid to duplicate stages. Need one Disqualified bucket for leads? Contacts also could be Disqualified… make two stages!

Not everyone is good for your business and they can’t all live on the “success path.” Make sure you have transitions to detour stages like recycled or junk.


Now you have a visual representation of your lifecycle, the executional flows, the additional reporting and much more. It’s time to start focusing more of your effort on stuff that moves the needle the furthest. A good understanding of the lead lifecycle is a great place to start in improving your marketing – and your results.

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The Quick and Dirty of the Marketo Lead Lifecycle

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