Marketing Nation 2018 - CEO Steve Lucas outlines his platform for growth

Profile picture for user jtwentyman By Jessica Twentyman May 1, 2018
The Marketo boss outlines his vision of an ‘engagement platform’ that appeals to both marketing and sales professionals, at companies of all sizes.

Steve Lucas makes the pitch

Since his arrival at Marketo back in October 2016, Steve Lucas has been very clear about his intention for the company to pursue a platform strategy. With that in mind, he’s overseen a bold re-organisation of the company’s wide portfolio of marketing automation tools into what it now refers to as an ‘engagement platform’.

At the company’s Marketing Nation conference this week in San Francisco, Lucas and his executive team have been fleshing out that vision in a series of announcements outlining new products and partnerships. I got the chance to sit down with Lucas at the event, to hear more about company strategy is evolving, eighteen months into his tenure.

Marketers need simplicity, he argues – especially in a hyper-connected world where brands and customers meet and interact over a vast range of channels and touchpoints. Hence the need for a platform approach.

Customers, meanwhile, don’t want to be managed – they want to engage and be engaged. Hence the need for technologies that show marketers exactly where, when and how they’re engaging with customers.

And sales executives want a slice of the action, too. Hence Marketo’s focus on sales/marketing collaboration, a topic raised at last year’s conference and revisited this year.

Coming together

So, these are the themes we discussed in our brief time together: platform, engagement, sales/marketing collaboration. How do they all come together in the moves that the company has announced at this year’s event? Lucas told me:

Take our ABM [account-based marketing] product; one of the best features of that product is a dashboard that shows your engagement score with a particular account. And it takes into account all customer activity, like are they visiting your websites, are they responding to your emails, are they connecting to your social accounts and all the myriad other activities that comprise an engagement score.”

But we’re going to be pivoting that name to account-based engagement, because then it’s not, ‘Oh, that’s just for marketing.’ Tell me this: what seller would not want to have a dashboard that shows your engagement score going up or down over time, here’s why it’s gone up or down, and oh by the way, in the past 25 days, here’s every single activity that’s happened [with that customer] on your website, on Facebook, through your ad campaigns?

So the ABM product, as Lucas describes it, is intended for both marketers and sales leaders. But, he added, a new product announced yesterday – Sales Engage – is intended for sales executives who need a real-time view of engagements across accounts, as they happen. It’s built on technology acquired with the purchase of Toutapp in April 2017. As Lucas put it:

So, as a salesperson, I can literally be sitting there watching every single action within my base of accounts, seeing what’s going on. That insight is incredibly powerful. But I can also take action on that insight as a salesperson, based on that insight. So if someone selects a white paper, Sales Engage will say, ‘Would you like to send them one of four pre-approved emails from marketing, or would you like to call that person right now? It’s like giving a sales executive an ‘Iron Man’ suit. If one of the accounts in your territory engages, if their finger twitches, you know about it.

Getting Bizible

So where does the Bizible acquisition, announced Monday, fit into all this? The deal, as Lucas describes, it has been a long time in the making. He first sat down with Bizible CEO Aaron Bird in his first week at Marketo in 2016, and Bird apparently told him that Marketo would be:

... ten times better than it currently was with Bizible as part of its solution. I was really struck by their high growth, their enterprise presence and what was really neat was that it’s a thoughtful solution where they have data integration capabilities. I can grab data using Bizible from any system and build a workflow that does that marketing attribution tracing and I was really struck by that.

This is interesting, because new data integration technologies can only help with the platform strategy, in terms of feeding Marketo with data from other core systems that customers might have. Lucas also said that, as he started to look at Marketo’s own customer base, he quickly realised that those that were already using Bizible were the ones investing more in Marketo, too.

Through the combination of Bizible and Marketo, it’s clear Lucas hopes to appeal to a wider audience of larger enterprises with more propensity and resources to invest in and expand their martech stack. He summed up the Bizible proposition this way:

Marketers want to be able to prove their impact, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Technology like Marketo, and our engagement platform, enable them to do more with less. But we also want marketers to be able to have not just a pretty good argument, built out on a spreadsheet that anyone could make up. We want them to be able to create a level of trust with senior executives inside of their organisation, so that they know when they hear the CMO saying, “We ran this campaign and here’s the return on investment’, they believe that, they understand where the figures came from and [those figures] are trackable all the way back to the source - and that’s what Bizible categorically delivers.

My verdict

My time with Lucas was short, but he clearly expressed that he’s aiming to simplify martech through delivering on that platform strategy, while at the same time, extending the platform’s reach, both functionally and in terms of the size of customer to which it will appeal:

Are we spreading our wings and getting more broad? Absolutely. But all the things we add will be applications or solutions that run within the core Marketo technology stack. In fact, that’s one of the reasons we bought Bizible, because [through partnership] it’s already there.

It’s hard to get a really good handle on where Marketo is today, in terms of size, since it went private in March 2016 when it was bought by Vista Equity Partners, which also owns Tibco, among others.

But Lucas did reveal that, by the end of 2018, the company will be nearly twice the size it was in 2016, in revenue terms. Just prior to its acquisition, the company predicted revenues for its 2016 fiscal year in the range of $266 million to $277 million. Double that, and you get revenues of around $532 million to $554 million. Lucas also disclosed that the company expects bookings to grow “well north” of 30%  this year:

We’re very excited about that level of growth and I think it’s testament not just to the fact that this is an incredibly hot sector, but also to a macro trend where I see companies saying, ‘There’s too much complexity. We want to standardize on a single engagement platform.’ I think we caught the wave.