I sat in a review of the Marketo product roadmap to the Boston Marketo User Group earlier today, led by Frank Passantino, Senior Product Manager at Marketo.
Since starting out as a Marketo partner in 2010, this was by far the best product presentation and plan that I’ve seen from Marketo. So props to Frank and team, and clearly we are seeing the influence of structure Steve Lucas is bringing to the business since taking over as CEO last October. (Things have come a long way since the SEO release in 2014.)
I’ll highlight each area Frank walked us through, a total of 11, in the order he reviewed it – and provide my take on the impact to Marketo users.
#1 – Bulk APIs
Frank got us started with a topic near and dear to my heart at Bedrock Data – Bulk APIs. In Frank’s words, up until now, “There’s never been a good way to get activity data out of Marketo.” That changes with Bulk APIs.
There are two Bulk APIs: one for lead records, and one for lead activities, which open up the API to the entire activity log on a lead record – every granular detail Marketo has logged on that lead including web pages viewed, data updates, emails sent/opened/clicked and much more.
My Take: Frank gets off to a great start by addressing a long-time product gap. There are powerful applications here. Look for large enterprise customers with their own development teams to take advantage of these APIs, as well as Marketo partners with integration products like Bedrock Data.
Kudos here to Marketo for showing an appreciation for the value of helping customers getting data out of their system to best use it, and not restricting analytics of Marketo data to within its walled garden.
#2 – Campaign Throughput
Frank clarified Marketo’s definition of the original Project Orion (Marketo's internal code name) and what was delivered with the release of Marketo's Engagement Platform last March.
Per Frank, the revamp of the Marketo Engagement Platform was centered primarily on the ingestion of activities to Marketo, and solving for customers with 2 million+ individual activities per day. Prior to this work, this level of activity volume could not get into Marketo – now it can.
So now going forward, the campaign throughput development in the works is about extending that same level of scale and performance to campaign execution via Marketo.
My Take: This was interesting, as a reminder of Marketo’s flawed product communications of the past. The past developments in this area will go down as a case study of how not to communicate a new product offering – as the stories from Marketo personnel to customers on it would be were all over the map. I don’t want to re-hash it here, but just check out the CMS Wire story arc to see how this went from major over-hype in 2016 (May 17 & May 22) to major confusion in early 2017 (Feb 28) to major attempts to smooth over in March (March 1 & March 17).
It’s best to just move on, but the key takeaway here is that Marketo is still very much in progress on major product scalability to support larger and larger B2B enterprises.
#3 – Marketing Performance Insights
Frank shared new set of Marketo reports dubbed Performance Insights which is now in Beta.
The reports give a customer a view into performance using the two most important closed loop metrics – Pipeline and Revenue. There are breakdowns by programs and marketing channel. Pipeline and revenue data will be based on opportunity sync from CRMs using Marketo’s Salesforce or Dynamics connectors, or third party connectors like Bedrock Data for any Marketo-CRM connection.
Frank was clear that this would be a powerful overview tool, but would not get as deep into drill-downs or attribution as do tools like Bright Funnel, Bizible and Full Circle Insights.
My Take: This will valuable for a lot of Marketo customers. Marketo has lacked a clean overview dashboard on performance, and this will fill that gap. It looks like they took a fresh approach to building it, outside of the RCE Reporting Engine – which is a good thing to keep it simple.
I also like Marketo’s approach here – they built something that is going to be applicable to all their customers to get value from quickly. And for the customers who want to go deeper into attribution reporting, they can turn to third party providers for much deeper functionality. This is a win for both Marketo customers and the greater Marketo partner ecosystem.
#4 – Web Performance Insights
Website reports, aggregated in Marketo.
My Take: I didn’t see much incremental value here and Marketo appeared to be leaving the big opportunity on the here.
What these reports should do (but don’t) is connect web site analytics to the same performance metrics in the performance reports – pipeline and revenue.
Marketo could answer a question for customers like: which of my blog posts have the greatest influence on creating pipeline, or deals? That would be a game changer for Marketo's web site analytics.
#5 – Account Snapshot Chrome Plug In for Sales Reps
Frank then spoke about how Marketo’s “account-based” focus up until now has been on account-based marketing, and now going forward they will be incorporating account-based tools for sales. The first example is a Chrome plug-in which aggregates key account info (including scoring).
My Take: Getting sales user adoption from a tool is a whole 'nother animal. I’d prefer to see a comprehensive strategy to do that, then a one-off plugin like this. I would have put engineering resources elsewhere (like my Web Performance to Pipeline/Revenue idea from #4, or enhancements addressing customer feedback) ahead of this.
#6 – More ABM Features
Frank bucketed Marketo’s upcoming ABM developments into three categories:
Account hierarchy: supporting the build-out of a company hierarchy to support regional or business line structures for organizations.
- Multi-dimensional scoring: Greater customization around building your own account scoring rules.
- Extensibility: Here, Frank gave the example of using APIs to push out target account lists or enrich target account data.
My Take: A solid set of tools to deepen Marketo’s functionality here. Just like the attribution example, Marketo is trying to build an ABM suite to meet the needs of many or most customers, so that only the “power ABM marketers” need to turn to additional third party ABM orchestration tools.
#7 – Marketo's Next Generation UX
This got a lot of excitement and attention at the Marketo Summit in May.
This is all about making Marketo’s interface faster, more usable and more consistent.
Frank broke to project down into three areas:
- Universal design language: making the interface consistent with re-usable components (he gave the example of a date selection widget)
- High velocity and enhanced usability: making Marketo’s interface perform better, especially areas such as Marketo’s tree when navigating hierarchies such as programs)
- Value-add features
For value-add features, there are many in the works. Highlights include:
- An incredible amount of detail around details like calendar reminders, which shows the importance to Marketo users of managing programs through Marketo and I’ve written about. Features include supporting text tokens within a calendar token so that an event name can be dynamically added into a calendar reminder. Another one was the ability to set the reminder prompt time for ICS files.
- Supporting URLs as a token type – so that they are tracked properly in emails (I remember encountering this issue years ago!)
- Saved rules for a smart campaign which allow for easier re-use of rules from program to program
- A stream view of an engagement program, incorporating performance data
- More flexibility in managing the cadence of engagement streams
Frank talked about a parallel roll-out for this next generation UX – that users will be able to toggle between the new and old interface for a period of time, which will be important since not everything will be available in the new UX right away.
My Take: The incredible detail involved in some of these features shows that Marketo has listened to its users on key usability areas. That said, the creation of this new UX has been a painful one for Marketo users to live through, as there’s been a very long time gap here with minimal improvements on the existing interface in lieu of building this new one. Let’s hope the interface pains of the past few years will be worth it as Marketo's Next Generation UX hits the user base.
#8 – Ad Bridge !!!!!!!!!!!
For me, this was the “sit on the edge of my seat” moment of the session. It astounded me just how much ad bridge functionality is already available, of which I know many, many customers are not yet taking advantage.
The features – most of which are already in place – offer powerful integration between a customer’s customer and prospect database and online advertising.
For a guy who’s been doing both marketing automation and online advertising for way-too-long, this was awesome stuff.
Frank broke it down into three categories, covering what Marketo supports or will soon support across Google (Ad Words, YouTube & Gmail), Facebook & LinkedIn.
Matched Audiences: You can build a list in Marketo, and feed it as an audience for a specific campaign in Facebook or LinkedIn (today), and adding Google by end of the year. These audiences can be targeted (imaging a customer cross-sell offer, or targeting those same companies in a targeted outbound program with relevant ads) and also used as the basis for lookalike targeting (finding like companies, through those platforms).
Offline Conversion: You can use your closed loop tracking via Marketo to feed data into Google or Facebook for closed loop revenue reporting directly in those platforms. Very powerful for anyone managing ad spend via Google or Facebook, so that you can optimize for the right metrics.
Lead Ingestion: Facebook and LinkedIn ad units that capture leads directly in them (one click response) can be fed directly into Marketo. This is especially powerful for mobile campaigns where users can easily click on an ad to opt in – large conversion rate improvements vs. anything involving a click through and landing page form-fill.
My Take: I had two huge takeaways here. Every Marketo customer whose spending money on online advertising or PPC should be using this. And that Marketo needs to step up its customer success and customer education efforts, as they should be working directly with every single customer to help them take advantage of these exciting capabilities.
#9 – “Adaptive”
Frank got futuristic here –talking about potential future AI-based innovations. Marketo already has some adaptive capabilities built into the platform with Marketo Predictive Content, and sounds like they are thinking about more to come.
My Take: This is definitely futuristic. There are going to be many keys to success here, and having ad bridge in place is going to be one of them (to reach new audiences and more potential media locations). So step 1 should just be getting as many customers as possible using ad bridge.
This is several years away – but probably smart for Marketo to at least be alluding to it as part of it’s road map so customers know where they want to go – and don’t get sucked into AI plays from other vendors.
#10 – “Customer Love”
Frank spoke about how Marketo will address the top ranked request from the customer community every year. This year, it’s the option to send emails in person’s time zone. Marketo is going to leverage Country/City/State/Zip data to populate this, or their own inferred location data if those fields are empty, while also giving customers the ability to overwrite that if they choose.
My Take: Any features addressing mass Marketo user feedback from the Community are a good thing. Would like to see some more investment in these requests in the near term (listen to Gregoire Michel, he knows what he’s talking about!).
#11 – Sales Enablement
I was excited to wrap up on this topic, as I got to see where some of the areas I had speculated about from the ToutApp acquisition in May were headed.
Frank spoke about Marketo’s now hodge-podge of sales offerings – from ToutApp to the new aforementioned Chrome plugin, to their Gmail and Outlook plugins, and the views within Salesforce. Frank said these all would be packaged under a common packaging, and with integration between ToutApp and Marketo (for example, removal from a marketing campaign, if in a ToutApp sales campaign).
My Take: It's not yet clear if the ToutApp brand will remain or be rolled under the Marketo brand like Insightera and CrowdFactory have been in the past. Either way, we will see a set of packaged products emerge, let's call them "Marketo’s sales products." This is going to get more and more investment but it’s going to take time.
Frank just dove right in to the roadmap (which was probably appropriate for this group of hungry power users), so I’m going to take a moment here to net out the key themes that probably served as inputs to what we saw.
#1 – Continue to scale the product, moving up enterprise – bulk APIs, campaign throughput
#2 – Massive UI improvements – although going to be a transition period for about a year
#3 – Lots of listening to customers – although only so many resources that can be put into (still a long backlog to go via the Community)
And my 3 overarching takeaways from seeing the road map:
#1 – Marketo’s going to add functionality, but still lots of room for surrounding ecosystem partners. The addition of activities to the API is actually going to add more potential to leverage Marketo data outside of Marketo. Within Marketo’s roadmap, there’s still ample opportunity for LaunchPoint partners to thrive, whether you’re talking about Bright Funnel or Bizible or Full Circle for attribution, or Bedrock Data for Marketo-CRM integrations.
#2 – Ad Bridge is a huge asset to Marketo customers, and Marketo’s customer success teams needs to be focused on enabling customers to take advantage of it now.
#3 – Marketo is here to stay. The roadmap was rock solid, and confidence instilling. Marketo’s had some bumps along the way here but the path seems a solid one to support their customers and help them take a big step forward in cross-channel digital marketing.