Marketo’s fruity thinking on the Marketing Cloud wars

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Sanjay Dholakia

Since the last time I had a chance to sit down formally with Marketo, the world has moved on somewhat.

Salesforce.com has been ramping up its version of the Marketing Cloud, Oracle has absorbed Eloqua into the body of its church for its own Marketing Cloud and Adobe has made its own pitch for, yup, yet another version of a Marketing Cloud.

Add to this the tectonic shift in the competitive landscape caused by Oracle and Salesforce.com’s discovery that they can indeed get along together just fine and the view from 2013 is somewhat different to that of 2012.

In London this week I caught up with Sanjay Dholakia, CMO at Marketo – AKA a CMO charged with creating marketing strategies that appeal to CMOs interested in marketing strategies.

He was in town for the most recent Marketo roadshow, an event which saw a healthy 350 or so customers and prospects turn up to hear the latest from the firm that actually owns the trademark to the term Marketing Cloud.

Dholakia is seemingly unfazed by the changes in the cloud apps landscape, arguing that in fact the outbreak of peace between former rivals and their joint interest in the CMO audience works to Marketo’s favor:

“What it’s done is to open up the running lane for us as the sole independent leaders in the marketing space.

“I talked to one customer who said the difference between us and the rivals was that we are marketers for marketers. He said ‘I don’t want to buy marketing technology from an ERP company’.

“This is an opportunity for us as an innovator in the Marketing Cloud. This is a bigger market opportunity than CRM.”

Stacked odds

Dholakia is convinced that what customers are looking for are best-of-breed solutions rather than the complete stack approach pitched by Oracle in particular:

“The whole cloud and SaaS shift has put a different buying frame in place. Line of business people can decide what they wnat to buy and get to choose from a best of breed enterprise stack. That rotates in our favor. We’re not going to sell you monolithic implementations.

“Does Oracle have massive resources and budgets? Yes. Is Oracle going to sell Eloqua marketing technology on its own? No. I spoke to one recently departed Oracle person who said that when Oracle’s selling customer experience, it’s selling 42 pieces of software.

“The enterprise SaaS stack is the stack of the future and it’s made up of best of breed that all integrates seamlessly. So you have Workday and Cornerstone and Box and Salesforce.com and Marketo and so on.”

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In play

As for Salesforce.com, a traditional ally of Marketo but inevitably now perceived also as a competitor by many, Dholakia is adamant that it’s a case of that fabled IT industry staple ‘co-opetition’ in action.

In other words, Marketo remains closely aligned to Salesforce.com, is a leading player in the Salesforce.com AppExchange and will be at Dreamforce as usual as Titanium Sponsor.

Salesforce.com’s own interests in the marketing sector also serves to support Marketo’s own position,  adds Dholakia:

“It’s only goodness for us. The more [Salesforce.com CEO] Marc Benioff talks about marketing the better, because we will get dragged into it.

“A CMO who’s already a Salesforce.com customer is going to ask about what marketing solutions there are and there we are.”

Changed power

But while Salesforce.com is firmly behind the oft-quoted Gartner proposition that the CMO is new IT decision-maker – or will be within a few years – interestingly enough Dholakia seems none too sold on the notion – at least not in its most basic interpretation.

That said, he does perceive a shifting balance of power within the enterprise when it comes to vendor selection:

“There has been a power shift relative to the old world where the CIO would say ‘we do this, we don’t do this’ to the board and the line of business person couldn’t do anything about it. The CIO would say ‘It’s IT and IT rests with me’.

“Now the line of business can say ‘I’ll do it. It’s all about the revenue and if I’m made to go with this solution, we’re not going to get there’.

“Decison making will continue to evolve so that each functional decision maker – HR, CRM, marketing – gets to help to choose their solutions. I can see that at work in Marketo. My VP of HR makes decisions around HR systems.

“The CMO is going to spend more on marketing technology, but to go further than that just isn’t credible.”

Fruity thoughts

Earlier in the year I levelled some mild criticism in the direction of Marketo for not blowing its own trumpet enough, arguing that, when faced with sales and marketing behemoths like Oracle and Salesforce.com, it was perhaps time to shout out a bit louder.

I repeated this suggestion to Dholakia and got an interesting response when he said:

“I believe in a world of judo and aikido which argues that you never take an opposing force head on.

“There’s a maturity being forced on the market and you can now have apples and oranges and bananas.

“What Marc has is not what i have or what Larry Ellison has or what Adobe has. There’s lots to choose from.

“But the one message from all of us is that everyone should eat more fruit.”

Which is a nice analogy when all is said and done.

 

Disclosure:  At time of writing, Oracle and Salesforce.com are premium partners of diginomica. 

Stuart Lauchlan

Stuart Lauchlan

Stuart Lauchlan has been tracking and commenting on the enterprise IT market for 23 years during which time he's managed to amuse, inform and irritate buy and sell side participants in equal and appropriate measure. Lauchlan also helps companies understand the needs of technology readers.
Stuart Lauchlan

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Tech journalism - the accident from which I've never recovered
  • martineden says:

    Dholakia.Such a superstar.