Marketo’s Change: From Lead to Person

In the technology industry, it often sounds like we speak our own language. It many cases, this jargon is annoying or unnecessary, but in the case of Marketo’s recent terminology changes, it is critically important. Please allow me to explain why, and how, this will affect CRM and marketing automation users.


Earlier this year, Marketo announced that they were changing some system terminology.

These changes include the “Lead Database” section of the marketing automation software is being renamed “Database,” and the word “Lead” is being changed in field names to “Person.” Seriously – it’s no longer “Lead Source” in Marketo, it’s “Person Source.”


Marketo’s Change: From Lead to Person     Marketo’s Change: From Lead to Person

Image source: Marketo


While this may not seem like a big deal to those who don’t live and breathe marketing automation, marketing operations teams around the world using Marketo should be applauding them for making this change.


Why the applause? Many companies typically use marketing automation software to gate the number of records being created as leads in their CRM. The reason for this is simple, not every person filling forms and doing research on your website warrants a call from your sales team, and thus, they don’t need to be created in your CRM as a lead until they are ready for outreach. Note, that this process also ensures that the most qualified leads are getting priority based on behavior.


So, does it make sense to name all records in your marketing automation database “leads,” when many haven’t reached that stage in their lifecycle yet? And what about all those records in the marketing automation database that exist as contacts in your CRM? Certainly, calling these “leads” as well would be nothing short of madness.


In short, marketing automation software doesn’t care if you are a lead, contact, or not in the CRM at all. It just knows that you are a person in its database. And that is why Marketo changed their terminology from “Lead” to “Person.” Because “Lead Database” is simply incorrect.

And this is an important reminder to all the CRM users out there: it is absolutely important to use correct terminology when discussing business processes with other teams. Because as we just discussed, not all prospects have become leads and some may even be contacts already.


My recommendation is simple: Remove the words leads and contacts from your segmentation discussions. Because in the end, your audiences (prospects, customers, partners, etc.) are really what’s important, not what module in the CRM they exist in.


So kudos to you, Marketo! If only you could have seen this coming before prefixing all the person tokens in your software with “{{lead.}}” …



P.S. If you don’t understand that last sentence, I’d encourage you to go ask your marketing operations team why tokens can’t be changed, or read about Marketo person tokens here!