At the August 12, 2014 Boston Marketo User Group (BMUG) meeting, Marketo representatives shared two areas of their latest product development – Real-Time Personalization (RTP) and Marketo SEO.
Leaving the session, I was struck by the stark contrast between the two:
- How they fit into Marketo’s DNA
- Their origin & motivation (my guess)
- Their positioning of Marketo as a leader or follower within the category
Product Functionality #1 - Real Time Personalization (in the “Lead” Category)
Marketo’s Real-Time Personalization came across as THE natural extension to everything we have seen from Marketo so far. Take Marketo’s ability to capture user specific data and deliver relevant content, and evolve that from email nurturing streams to contextual messaging during a website visit.
I also envision this evolving even more in the future to incorporate personalized ad retargeting and social marketing, either via further Marketo product development or partnering or purchasing someone like Demandbase, ReachForce or Bizo (although not Bizo themselves because they were just purchased by LinkedIn).
These are just two of the use cases that seem possible (disclaimer: I am concluding this from a 45-minute large projector demo standing in the back of a poorly ventilated second floor of Papa Razzi, not from actually using the product).
Greatly improved targeting of anonymous traffic – The strongest broad use case for anonymous traffic initially is industry-based targeting. Marketo identifies the anonymous visitor’s company based on IP lookup and categorizes them by vertical, so page content can be tailored by vertical. Banner messaging, case studies, content and calls to action can be tailored by vertical, without asking for anything from the site visitor. This relevant content should lead to increased engagement (lower bounce rates), deeper site visits (assuming the content to support it) and higher conversion rates.
Tailoring of content for identified users – For any identified traffic (you can become identified based on filling out a form or -- don’t forget, Marketo users -- clicking an email from Marketo), whereby a cookie ties that visitor to a lead record. Making this connection means marketers can now tailor web content based on any information they have captured around the visitor. Some ideas that come to mind here which can be made possible based on ‘tagging’ users based on their content consumption from previous program interactions:
- Tagging users based on Key Topics /Issues, so banner messaging can be tailored to solutions to those issues
- Tagging users based on Buying Stage, so content offers can be tailored by stage (offer an Educational asset to Early Stage; a Solution based asset to Middle Stage; and a Trial Download offer to Late Stage)
- Categorizing role data and tailoring content by role
We could be gone from the days of rotating five banner messages to see which ones is relevant – as now we already know the primary topic of interest of the site visitor. And gone are the days of guessing which call to action is right, as it can be tied to their stage based on past behavior.
The excitement in the room was palatable as the Marketo team walked us through these features. The story they told as they presented flowed naturally, and for me it seemed that this product development strategy HAD to be driven straight from Marketo founders Phil Fernandez and Jon Miller. Not only is it a natural extension of everything Marketo has done to date, it matches concepts that Epiphany (Phil and Jon’s previous company) brought to market in the late 1990s when Web Personalization was first introduced.
The difference between what Marketo has now, and the Epiphany pre-Millennial engine is that this Marketo web personalization product can be run by the masses of marketers. Once tracking code and content deployment code are installed on the website, then the personalization rules can be managed via a user friendly rules based interface that Marketo administrators are used to.
I really like how Marketo is NOT trying to place in the CMS market here, and rather presenting their content targeting more like embed code that marketers use in appropriate sections of the website for messaging, content offers and calls to action.
This has leadership written all over it and I see this extending into retargeting, social marketing and more.
Product Functionality #2 – Marketo SEO (in the “Follow” Category)
Whereas the RTE discussion was vibrant and natural, as the presentation shifted into the SEO topic, the “story” became forced. Should the Marketo folks be educating around SEO vs. SEM? How should they be advising customers to deal with issues like backlinks that are oh-so-important but oh-so-critical to handle correctly? Is this SEO tool to replace other SEO tools or is this an SMB starter kit? A good proof point of the Marketo approach towards this is one of the reps commented “This may be not be for you if you’re using tools like CloudEdge.” Um, ya mean BrightEdge? Let's just show it didn't show much understanding of the market they are playing in.
While the RTE presentation told an integrated story, this SEO walkthrough felt disjointed, a periphery tool to Marketo’s core capabilities. Do keywords have a place on Marketo landing pages? I suppose, but very low in priority since we know that the SEO value of sub-domains that Marketo landing pages usually reside on is very limited vs. core website content.
So why did the Marketo build this? Here’s my guess:
Whereas RTE is driven from the founders and company DNA, Marketo SEO is driven by request from the sales organization. “We need that checkbox in the features comparison”. They don’t want to show up with a blank in a column where HubSpot has a solid checkmark not to mention owning the concept of Inbound Marketing, and as the two lone marketing automation soloists continue on a Purple vs. Orange collision course, Marketo management wants all i’s dotted and t’s crossed.
So I do get it, it’s just that the contrast struck me hard. One Marketing Automation Platform, 2 Hours of Demos, 2 Product Feature Sets – 1 a strategic platform development, and the other a “me-too” tool.
And whereas I get why Marketo built the SEO tools, especially with INBOUND 2014 around the corner, I just wonder how much investment went into it and could that have been better spent on leadership and not a “me-too” product checkbox.