Marketo and Salesforce: Syncing 101

BY: Elle Reber Marketo Consultant

PUBLISHED: 5/16/2022

Marketo and Salesforce are like a good wine and cheese pairing.

Both can be used and enjoyed on their own, but together, they become a true duo, each complementing the best features of one another. The Salesforce integration with Marketo is one of the most common, and yet, it’s also one of the most intimidating elements of a Marketo instance, to both new and veteran Marketo users.

Never fear! In this blog post, we’ll review:

  • The fundamental elements of a Marketo/Salesforce integration
  • Break down the basics of the relationship between the two

One thing that is important to remember about Salesforce is that it is a highly customizable tool and it is unlikely that you will come across two instances that are set up exactly the same. To accommodate this, Salesforce and Marketo offer a lot of flexibility with Custom Objects.


For the purposes of this article, we will be evaluating the integration on a very basic level without customizations.

What is Salesforce?


To understand how Marketo integrates with Salesforce, it’s first important to understand what Salesforce is.


Salesforce is a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform that helps businesses organize customers, opportunities, leads, relationship tracking, and much more. Salesforce helps companies manage all aspects of their customer relationships and journeys. It is made up of six different clouds, including Marketing, Commerce, and Service clouds; however, the Marketo integration operates within the Sales Cloud.


Salesforce Objects


Salesforce is built off of objects – either Custom or Standard.

  • Standard Objects are objects available immediately to all Salesforce instances upon implementation.
  • Custom Objects are created by an organization to accommodate their specific business needs.


Both Standard and Custom Objects can sync to Marketo. When Marketo and Salesforce are initially synced, Marketo will automatically make associates between Standard Objects and Marketo fields. A full list of those associations can be found here.

Marketo will also sync custom fields on Leads, Accounts, Opportunities, and Contacts (more on those later). It's also important to know that Marketo will only sync fields that your Marketo Sync User has access to, so it’s important to make sure permissions are set up correctly when initiating the sync. Otherwise, you could miss out on data.


How does the sync work?


Once the integration is set up, Marketo will sync all day, every day at 5-minute intervals. You can also force a sync to Marketo outside of the scheduled sync using the “Sync to Salesforce” flow action. Marketo will respect Salesforce validation rules, so if there is a conflict with validation rules, the issue will be recorded in a record’s Marketo Activity Log.

The sync can happen in one of two ways:

Bidirectional syncing: A change in either Salesforce or Marketo will be reflected in both systems.

  • Leads, Contacts, and SFDC Campaigns sync bidirectionally.


One-way syncing: A change in Salesforce will create a change in Marketo, but a change in Marketo will not cause a change in Salesforce.

  • Accounts, Users, Opportunities, Custom Objects, and Activities sync from Salesforce to Marketo only.

Due to the directionality of syncing, the best practice is to create a new field in Salesforce first if you want that field to be in Marketo.


Types of Objects – Leads, Contacts, Accounts, and Opportunities


Within Salesforce, objects can be broken down into Lead, Contact, Account, or Opportunity Objects. Each of these object types has a unique set of fields attached to them.

Definitions of the object types are below:

Leads: People who are interested in a product or service.

  • Later on in the sales process, leads can be converted to contacts.
  • Leads have no purchase history
  • An example of a lead could be someone who MQLs in Marketo and is sent over to Salesforce.


Contacts: Customers, Partners, or Affiliates.

  • Contacts must always be associated with an Account object.
  • Once a Lead is converted to a Contact it cannot be reverted back to a Lead.


Accounts: Companies you are doing business with.

  • Beneath an account, there can be one or many Contacts.
  • The Account object can store data about customers but also competitors, investors, resellers, and any other parties who may be involved in the sales process.


Opportunities: Deals in progress.

  • Opportunities track details about deals, including which Accounts they are for.
  • An Opportunity is automatically created when a Lead is converted to a Contact.
  • You can view a person’s associated Opportunities in Marketo on the Opportunity Info tab on the Person Detail page.


Now that we know the basic elements of Salesforce, let’s get into some diagrams to show the relationship between the objects and Marketo. Below, we have the Lead-Contact-Account-Opportunity Relationship.

In this scenario, a Lead is created in Salesforce via a Marketo MQL. It’s important to remember that depending on a business’s setup, Leads can be created under other criteria as well.

The process:


  • The Marketo MQL creates a Lead in Salesforce.
  • Time passes as Sales works the lead and at that time, The Lead is converted to a Contact and the Lead is Closed.
  • When the Contact is created, so is an Account (if there aren’t already other contacts associated with that Account object) and an Opportunity.


Through all of this, Marketo and Salesforce continue to sync.


This next diagram takes a bit of a deeper dive into how the relationships between all of the objects work.

At the top level, there is an Account Object for the Looney Tunes. The Looney Tunes Account has three Contacts associated with it – Roadrunner, Wile E. Coyote, and Bugs Bunny. Each of these contacts has a corresponding Person Record in Marketo.

Additionally, Wile E. Coyote is the Looney Tunes Contact tied to the Opportunity Object called “Sale of 1,000 Anvils.”

While all of these inter-Object relationships are happening, Salesforce and Marketo are syncing.

  • Dark purple arrows indicate a one-way sync from SFDC to Marketo.
  • Fuschia arrows indicate a bidirectional sync.
  • Black arrows indicate how the Objects relate to each other within Salesforce.
  • The orange arrow indicates that Wile E. Coyote is the main Contact for the anvil sales Opportunity. 

While the arrows and amount of information can be overwhelming to look at it, it is a fair representation of what is going on in the back end of these softwares every time information is added or updated on an Object.


The final element to discuss in a Salesforce to Marketo sync is Campaigns.

Campaigns are the link between Marketing and Sales. They are a tactic that can be designed to meet specific goals, including increased revenue, new leads, or product adoption.

Marketo Programs can be synced 1:1 with Salesforce Campaigns. The relationship between Programs and Campaigns is:

  • Marketo Channel → Salesforce Type
  • Marketo Period Cost → Salesforce Actual Cost
  • Marketo Member ←→ Salesforce Campaign Members
  • Progression Statuses ←→ Salesforce Campaign Member Statuses

Channel and Period Costs sync one way from Marketo to Salesforce. Member and Progression Statuses sync bidirectionally.


Setting up a Program Sync:

The first step to setting up a Campaign Sync to Salesforce in Marketo is to ensure that Campaign Sync is enabled on the Admin Tab.

To do this, navigate to Admin -> Salesforce -> Edit Sync Options -> Enable SFDC Campaign Sync.

It is also important to confirm that the Marketo Sync User is set up as a Marketing User in Salesforce. Necessary permissions for the Marketing User in SFDC can be found here.


Syncs happen at the Program level in Marketo. Within Programs, the following tools related to Campaigns:



  • Added to Salesforce Campaign
  • Removed from Salesforce Campaign
  • Status is Changed in Salesforce Campaign


  • Member of Salesforce Campaign


  • Add to Salesforce Campaign
  • Remove from Salesforce Campaign
  • Change Status in Salesforce Campaign




Congratulations! Making it to the end of this article means knowing the basics of how Salesforce works and how it integrates with Marketo.


For those who still have doubts, call on your friendly team of Marketo consultants at MERGE to help maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of your Marketo instance.