Featured image on blog post about the differences between programs and smart campaigns in Marketo

Understanding Programs and Smart Campaigns

When we transitioned from Eloqua to Marketo, one area that I found confusing was the difference between programs and campaigns in Marketo. The easiest way to explain it is that programs are where your store things such as assets, period costs, reports and more. Smart campaigns is how you tell Marketo what to do. Smart campaigns are found within programs.

The eBook Example

Using an example can illustrate how smart campaigns complement programs. In this example, we have a new eBook. We create the program called wf-2017-ebook offer. We create the landing page and confirmation page for the ebook. Then we have the confirmation email as well as two additional emails that we want to send 3 days after download and 7 days after download. We also want to have a report for landing page performance as well as email performance and a static list to easily reference who has downloaded the ebook

What’s in the Program?


  • Confirmation
  • 3 day follow up
  • 7 day follow up

Landing Pages

  • eBook offer
  • eBook confirmation

Static Lists

  • Form submissions


  • Landing page performance
  • Email Performance

This is all wonderful but Marketo doesn’t know what to do. This is why we need smart campaigns. We’ll create a folder called ‘flows’ where we will add the smart campaigns. We will need three smart campaigns; one to handle the confirmation, one to send the emails and one to mark program success.

Smart Campaigns

01 – confirmation

This smart campaign will take everyone who downloads the ebook and send them the immediate confirmation email and add them to the ‘form submissions’ list

02 – follow up emails

This smart campaign will take anyone added to the ‘form submissions’ static list and queue them to receive the additional emails. There will be a 3 day wait and then the 3 day follow up email then a 4 day wait step and the 7 day follow up.

03 – program success

Will look for anytime someone makes a purchase and record it as a program success

Basically, a program is a skull and a smart campaign is the brain.

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