Marketo wants marketing in sync with sales

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright September 24, 2015
Marketo promotes joined-up engagement with prospects and aims to connect with organizations that want to get marketing in sync with sales

Business partners look at marketing concept © Creativa Images –
(© Creativa Images –
One of the grating annoyances of modern life that we frequently highlight here on diginomica is when companies disappoint or inconvenience us with a lack of joined-up sales and marketing. We expect better than the omni-channel failures that my colleague Stuart Lauchlan, for example, recently experienced at the hands of home appliance retailer Argos.

Someone who shares our distaste for such careless marketing is Sanjay Dholakia, CMO of marketing automation provider Marketo — but with the consolation that the slip-ups at least present him with a sales opportunity. He described a recent encounter with an educational provider when we met this week in London:

One of my alma maters just sent me an email reminding me of the fiscal year giving deadline. [But] I had sent in a check a month before. I know that it hit their systems, but the fact that that was disconnected annoyed me. I sent an email to the CMO. Now they're going to put in Marketo.

I said, 'What are you doing? I'm mad because your left hands and right hands aren't talking to each other.'

Five years ago I would have just thrown that in the waste bin and wouldn't have thought anything about it. It just was ... I don't know. I reacted at this emotional level, maybe because it had something to do with money.

That kind of emotional reaction is one we can all relate to because, as consumers, we know from our dealings with the likes of Amazon, Apple and Netflix that every organization we deal with ought to be able to do so much better than that. We expect a fully joined-up experience whether we're buying as individual consumers or on behalf of a business, and our patience with those who don't show us that measure of respect is wearing thin. As Dholakia told me:

There is going to be a point in time where it will be absolutely unacceptable. This is the new basis of competitor advantage.

The people that figure that out will just have a huge competitive advantage over people in their industry who don't figure it out. It'll just be so obvious to you and me as consumers that they had the respect to treat me this way — and these people [that don't adapt] don't have the respect to treat me this way.

Long-term engagement

Marketo sees itself riding the crest of that tidal change, providing marketing automation software that fosters long-term engagement with customers as an alternative to the one-sided, one-off encounters of conventional sales and marketing. That commitment to getting marketing in sync with sales is generating projected revenues for the current fiscal year of around $210 million, and a 40 percent year-on-year growth rate. But it's also a highly competitive market in which Marketo competes with big names Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce, as well as smaller players.

It's also still a market of early adopters. People who sign up for Marketo have to be committed to doing things differently. Dholakia identified two key characteristics:

One, somebody who understands engagement marketing, who understands what they need to do in terms of this transformation in market.

Two, an organization that frankly has the internal alignment to go drive change and make that happen.

We need that marketer — and/or a different business executive, it often can be a sales executive or the CEO in many cases — who has the vision, that lines up against the Marketo value.

Success depends on breaking down the traditional demarcation between marketing and sales in an organization. This is not about a shift in power between the two functions, said Dholakia, but building a more collaborative relationship.

I talk about a marketing-first world, which is about the marketing function leading and being the owner and steward of the customer experience. But that does not mean that it in any way is disempowering the sales organization. In fact it's about making the sales organization better and more productive and at its best you have a much tighter relationship between sales and marketing.

Win-ready opportunities

What's happening here is that the technology solutions are making it feasible for the marketing organization to forward leads and opportunities to sales when they're win-ready.

Now the marketing team is their best friend. Because what they did is, they just made them more productive. The head of sales loves their CMO because I just put — I hear this story all the time — I just put 20 percent more quota on the street without having to hire a single extra sales person, because I just made those people that much more productive.

That at its best is when you start to see this incredible sales and marketing alignment. People on the same side of the table really working together as a single revenue team, if not in name, in spirit. That's a big shift. It really does move organizations.

While Marketo provides much of the technology foundation for this, the transformation requires careful attention to change management, too.

Technology is necessary but not sufficient to drive a digital transformation. You must have the success and change management methodologies and disciplines. How do I get there?

Then lastly, you must have the integration and partner ecosystem view of it, because no digital transformation can stand as an island. If it doesn't integrate with other business processes and then therefore systems and technologies, the transformation can't happen. That full circle is critical.

Transformative alignment

Marketo offers what it sees as a distinctive set of technologies to enable this transformative alignment of marketing and sales. A new product launched in April, Ad Bridge, fuses "adtech with martech," applying Marketo's insights into prospect interests and activity to the ads being served to them. Also launched in April, its Mobile Engagement tool listens for customer behavior across multiple channels within the mobile environment and communicates with prospects accordingly.

Marketo has deepened partnerships with Google, LinkedIn and Facebook to improve engagement and the relevance of interactions. Its Marketing Calendar, introduced last year, brings together planning and execution so that, for example, a planned campaign can be postponed to a new date with a single drag-and-drop action.

Each of these is unique to Marketo, said Dholakia. The Mobile Engagement application is typical of the company's unifying approach to engagement, he said, which contrasts to the siloed thinking of other vendors:

The smartphone is a device, not a channel. That is a very important mindset switch for a lot of marketers. That device holds five, six, seven channels. You and I, as consumers, are blind to that. If you as a marketer are in those silos, you're going to create an awful experience for me.

If you don't create that seamless experience across all of those places and channels, I as a consumer or a customer, whether purchasing a consumer good or purchasing a B2B good, I'm going to be annoyed and have less and less tolerance for it.

Also important is Marketo's 'marketing nation' community of more than 50,000 marketing professionals, along with its LaunchPoint ecosystem of 450+ partners. This allows for a more nuanced set of solutions than a vendor that tries to become a single source for everything, said Dholakia.

We believe so deeply in the fact that success comes from this kind of ecosystem approach rather than the hubris that, 'I can solve it all for you.'

Blurring B2B and B2C

Marketo started out focusing on B2B marketing but a growing proportion of customers are now B2C, he said. Dholakia attributed this trend to a blurring of the lines between the two categories.

The B2B, B2C dichotomy's an interesting one. I actually think those things are coming together and those lines are quite blurry between the two. We believe as a result that you need a single platform that drives all of those types of use cases.

The distinction is not so much, am I a consumer good or a business to business good, but it is, am I a high consideration or a low consideration sales cycle?

We have customers like Sub Zero selling refrigerators or car companies like Hyundai and Toyota, etcetera — those are high consideration sale cycles to a consumer.

Conversely you have B2B sales, [such as] office supplies. That's actually not that high consideration.

The presence of a channel versus a direct relationship is another big driver of the use cases. It tends to be that consumer companies have a channel whereas B2B companies are selling direct, but not always.

You have to have a single platform that allows you to serve all of those different use cases.

My take

Marketo is doing a good job of differentiating its offering against an array of far more established competitors. Practising what it preaches, it is engaging directly with marketing professionals that want to harness automation to build better relationships with prospects and customers. Getting visibility for that distinctive message is its biggest challenge, but in this new world of self-directed buyers and personalized engagement, if it cannot succeed, using its own tools, then who can?

Disclosure: Marketo is a diginomica partner. Oracle and Salesforce are diginomica premier partners.

Image credits: Business partners look at marketing concept © Creativa Images –

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