Can technology finally help bridge the gulf that traditionally divides marketing and sales? The mood at Marketo's Marketing Nation Summit, which opened yesterday in San Francisco, suggests that those on the marketing side are starting to believe it can.
Marketo certainly seems to be betting on a rapprochement, with new product announcements as well as an acquisition that extend the reach of its marketing automation platform into the sales function. These new capabilities play out in the context of a wider shift in the nature of customer relationships that Marketo acknowledges by repositioning its technology not merely as a marketing platform but as an engagement platform.
In the new world of digitally adept, connected customers, sales and marketing have no choice but to work together to engage with customers. Marketo's new theme, therefore, is the 'Engagement Economy', which CEO Steve Lucas set out in his opening keynote yesterday and also in a handbook distributed to delegates, where he writes:
In the world of marketing, if you are not building a system that is responsive, one that gives you ability to be agile and nimble in your engagement, you will not be able to sense or understand the changing preferences and behaviors of your customers. It's not the biggest of brands that will survive in the Engagement Economy, but those that adapt and engage the most.
The big product announcement at the show is an expansion of Marketo ABM, its recently launched account-based marketing platform — or as Lucas called it at one stage, account-based engagement. This is marketing automation that plugs directly into how sales teams manage accounts in the B2B world.
Marketo is stepping up the sophistication of the platform in its latest release, adding features for better alignment with account lists, hierarchies and custom fields in the sales team's CRM systems. It's also adding a browser plug-in called Account Insight, which puts marketing insights directly in front of the salesperson, such as an account list prioritized by scoring that helps identify which accounts are ready to engage and which need more nurturing, or real-time visibility into contact activity, such as event registrations or white paper downloads.
Marketo's determination to embed its marketing tools into everyday sales activities was further signaled by the acquisition of sales engagement startup ToutApp, announced late last week. Its software provides sales campaigns, content management, and analytics to help sales teams to engage prospective customers in a personalized way, and will be integrated into the Marketo platform in the coming months.
Bridge the trust
Among the customers who joined Marketo executives on stage to talk about the changing role of marketing, cloud collaboration vendor Box's CMO Carrie Palin spoke about the need to work with sales.
It's been an issue at every company I've been at — how do you bridge the trust between sales and marketing?
It's a two-way street, she implies. At Box, marketing develops campaigns in collaboration with sales "so everything we're putting in marketing has sales' stamp of approval." At the same time, she impresses on sales the need to provide the data on what has worked so that marketing can improve performance over time.
Ariel Kelman, Worldwide VP Marketing at Amazon Web Services spoke about the cloud provider's focus on education and mentoring in its marketing:
For our prospects we really focus on getting educational info out there and go very light on the lead registration forms, really letting people browse the content.
It's really about providing value to the customer. If you're providing value to the customer and doing marketing at the same time, you're winning ... You also have to guard against marketing that diminishes trust.
The goal is to foster customer success, and Kelman said AWS is investing in new ways of nurturing success by monitoring behavior, so that customers can be pushed appropriate educational material if they seem to get stuck.
You can't fake customer success with marketing. That's why we have this focus on doing everything we can to help our customers be successful. And then give them an opportunity to mentor people who are really on their journey ... giving them opportunities to make themselves stars in their industry.
Authenticity was highlighted in comments by celebrity guest James Corden, host of the CBS Late Late Show, which has become an Internet sensation for features such as its Carpool Karaoke slot.
This kind of engagement is only possible if it's real, says Corden:
The more personal the connection the better the response. The more open and transparent, the more people will respond to you.
Infrastructure and analytics
Managing interactions at scale depends on the ability to process large volumes of data, and Lucas emphasized Marketo's commitment to investing in its big data architecture — formerly known as Project Orion — to bring all the data that's needed into Marketo.
In my first 100 days we increased the size of our engineering team by 25% and they are focused on customer success and quality.
Throughout 2017 we will continue to invest heavily in the platform to ensure it scales to meet anyone's needs.
That back-end infrastructure will be complemented by a new set of front-end analytics tools this year, promised Cheryl Chavez, Global VP Product Management and UX. Marketo will introduce role-based dashboards, as well as analytics tools to help identify what's driving most engagement and a Web Insights dashboard that will give rich detail about website traffic and conversions.
Marketers will also have a chance to try out AI, using an adaptive engagement toool that relies on AI to select the best content, channel and cadence for individual users. Marketers will be able to select this and carry out A/B testing against traditional methods to compare results, says Chavez.
Since coming on board as CEO six months ago, Lucas has engineered an astute shift in Marketo's positioning. But getting marketing and sales to work together is a tall order, even if today's digitally connected customers demand it.
At one point when Chavez was explaining the new Account Insight browser plug-in, Lucas joked that it gave marketing the ability to guide and direct the salesperson towards their goal:
So if I'm a marketer, I can remote-control the salesperson like a drone.
The comment raised a wry laugh from the audience of six and a half thousand marketers, but Lucas has enough experience of sales to know how it feels on the other side. Bridging the gap between sales and marketing is a business imperative at businesses eager to engage today's customers, but there are cultural and historic barriers that mean it will take time to build the necessary trust between the two sides.