Marketing automation is just a glorified (and really expensive) email delivery tool without a power user. In the hands of a chump it drives pretty good results, but nothing amazing. In the hands of a superhero-esque power user it drives results – huge results. In trying to find a solid power user to join your marketing team, it can be hard to tell the difference and often the interviewer doesn’t know what to look for. Here are four marketing automation interview questions I’d ask any person that says they’re a marketing automation power user along with responses I’d be listening for. The objective isn’t to make sure that the person can rattle off every response that I’ve listed. At a minimum, candidates should hit on two or three points, and be able to go into depth explaining how they did it, why they did it that way, and what they would do different now and why.

Touch governance: At a recent conference, I met a marketer who told me that his company was sending too much email, essentially spamming people. As an example, he said that one contact received more than 15 unsolicited emails from his company in one month. What advice would you give him?

Responses to listen for:

  1. Email Reporting: Review batch emails sent out in the past month. Those with high opt-outs, high spam reports, and low click through rates likely had an overly broad defined target group. Work with those marketers to improve and specify segmentation. Then, look through those with low opt-outs, low spam reports, and high click through rates as they likely were sent to a well targeted segment. Work with that group of marketers to identify best practices for the company.
  2. Touch governance: Identify shared traits between contacts receiving an overabundance of email. Also, review the number of contacts receiving no emails in the last month and research why they aren’t receiving any emails?
  3. Not all emails count: Not all emails count toward these measurements. Exclude those emails that are expected. (e.g. a confirmation email after registration for a webcast or event).
  4. Combine emails: Emails can sometimes be combined with a primary and secondary call to action.
  5. Strict Rule: Have a strict rule that prevents emails from being sent to contacts that have received X emails or Y type of emails in a certain timeframe.
  6. Email timing: Not all emails need to be sent out immediately when they are requested (e.g. a new analyst report). Schedule them via an automated workflow that sends them out according to when they achieve the strict rule.
  7. Preference center: Ensure the company has an active preference management center.


Preparing for marketing automation: How should a company prepare for marketing automation? What should the company look at and prepare for so that when it rolls out marketing automation things go smoothly?

Responses to listen for:

  1. Email and landing page templates: Design email and landing page templates for inbound and outbound marketing activities.
  2. Data quality: Assess CRM data quality by evaluating for duplicate records and fields used for personalization (first name, title) and segmentation (industry, product of interest). For fields containing data that is structured (e.g. state, department, industry), determine each field’s level of data consistency (e.g. standardization of terms). Next, audit the level of data accuracy on a field-by-field level (e.g. job titles) and for all contact types (e.g. customers, prospects, partners).
  3. Baseline performance report: Before determining the marketing automation platform’s overall ROI and project impact, ensure a baseline of the “as is” state of marketing and sales is recorded.
  4. Request-and-approval process: Document the process by which activities, such as email distributions, are requested and approved.
  5. Campaign reporting: Marketing automation enables detailed activity reporting for campaigns. It’s important to identify and document how the marketing team wants to track their success.
  6. Use cases: Review all program efforts that generate and cultivate leads. Determine which will be moved over “as is” to the marketing automation platform, which ones need to be updated, and those that won’t be moved. Next, prioritize the new campaigns that will be making use of marketing automation
  7. Lead scoring: Scoring leads can’t happen until sales and marketing agree on lead scoring values and processes. First, reach agreement on what constitutes a lead that is ready to send to sales. Next, indicate the information sales reps should expect to receive when a lead is sent for follow up. Finally, develop a scoring model.
  8. Funnel management: Document your organization’s marketing funnel, including the conversion points between each stage.
  9. Service-level agreements: Create an agreement between marketing and sales on the timeframes, procedures, alerts, and escalation steps governing the way leads move through the funnel.
  10. Website Content/offer placement: Ensure that your website is optimized to drive visitor interaction by highlighting high-value content and offers on the appropriate pages (e.g. product pages).


Minimizing the number of requests and their associated effort: If a marketing automation team is being overrun with requests from the broader marketing team, what are some things that they should consider doing?

Responses to listen for:

  1. Request types/process: Look at the types of requests that are received. Are all appropriate? How are they prioritized? Is there a system or workflow for how the marketing automation platform team receives requests?
  2. Templates: Everything does not have to be customized. But, creating email, landing page, segmentation, form, etc. templates can reduce work effort.
  3. Playbooks: Pre-define program flows for programs that are frequently requested (e.g. tradeshow follow-up, webcast invites and follow-up, etc.).
  4. Level of centralization: Not everything needs to be completed centrally; some things can be done by the marketing team as a whole (e.g. basic reporting, sending out small email distributions to a limited set of contacts).
  5. Staffing: How many marketing automation platform resources are there? It might make sense to bring in another resource if the function is under staffed, especially if a new resource would offload a more senior level (costly) resource.


Rolling out nurture: Can you walk me through how you would build a marketing automation platform program that follows-up with every contact who downloaded a certain whitepaper on a corporate website? In doing so, please describe the optimal sequencing of steps so as to minimize rework and/or effort.

Responses to listen for:

  1. Final program specification: Obtain prior approval for final program design (e.g. the flowchart).
  2. Final content: Secure final content for all emails, landing pages, etc. (working with non-final content significantly increases back-and-forth).
  3. Build landing pages: Build all landing pages and get them approved by the requestor (landing pages are completed first as emails will contain URLs that point to them).
  4. Build emails: Build all the emails and have the requestor sign off on them.
  5. Build the program: Build the program. The program should be built after the landing pages and emails are created. Without them, you would need to use placeholders and update the program afterwards, thus creating more work.
  6. Test the program: The creator should test the program themselves and then have the requestor sign off on it (a formalized QA process is needed).
  7. Preflight the program: Roll out the program slowly by gradually opening the filter (e.g. just internal employees, then add anyone from CA, then add anyone on the West Coast, then anyone in the USA, then global, etc.). A slow rollout ensures that if there is an issue at any level, it doesn’t impact everyone, just a subset.

Where do these marketing automation interview questions come from? I was a marketing automation power user starting 15 years ago. Yep, marketing automation existed back then, though barely. In fact, I remember having to explain what marketing automation was to my VP back when Eloqua synced to SFDC via a report in SFDC that had to be downloaded a few times a day. I then went into marketing automation consulting and was the first consultant certified in both Eloqua and Marketo. Eventually, I moved on to an analyst role. There, I wrote dozens of reports and gave way to many presentations on marketing automation, its vendors, and how to maximize its value impact. Throughout this time, I’ve spoken to hundreds of ops folk and heads of marketing; these are the marketing automaton interview questions that I personally have always used to determine if they are actually knowledgeable or just full of it.

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Jay Famico

Jay Famico

Co-Founder

Prior to co-founding Capstone Insights, Jay led SiriusDecisions’ Technology and Services practice, where he oversaw SiriusDecisions’marketing and sales technology and service coverage. He also launched and chaired the SiriusDecisions Technology Exchange (TechX). He is a widely regarded expert on marketing automation technologies, and how to rationalize an ever-growing martech stack into a competitive differentiator.

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