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Marketo: One Platform for Engagement

“One platform for every engagement, through any channel.”

That was the promise made by Steve Lucas, well into his second year as Marketo CEO, and putting the emphasis — as you might expect from his track record with SAP and Salesforce — on product.

There was no shortage of product announcements at Marketing Nation 2018, Marketo’s annual summit, although they were perhaps overshadowed by acquisition and partnership news: The acquisition, in particular, of marketing performance platform Bizible, announced yesterday; the acquisition of Marketo integration specialists Tibco; the announcement of a strategic partnership with SAP, delivering native integration of Marketo into SAP CRM and Hybris Cloud for Customer; and perhaps dominating the day, the news that Marketo will run exclusively on the Google Cloud platform, with the ability to leverage the Tensor Flow AI software library.

That’s quite a lot to digest, and I haven’t even mentioned the new UX experience, Marketo Sky, or the long-awaited re-emergence of year-old acquisition ToutApp as Marketo Sales Engage.

But first the overview from Steve Lucas, who — with all his zany digressions — is one of the more entertaining keynote speakers among tech CEOs.

“Something entirely new”

One of Lucas’s most striking remarks referred to the transition from CRM to “something entirely new.” Namely, a system of record for engagement. That’s part and parcel of Marketo’s commitment to what Lucas described at last year’s summit as “the Engagement Economy.” (Echoes of Adobe’s “experience system of record” simply show, I believe, where the space is doggedly headed). 

The problem with CRM, which I now hear about almost every week, is that it doesn’t record what people actually do, but what they say they do. Or, to be harsh, what the CRM user — however belatedly and incompletely — says they do. It’s hard to see, Salesforce notwithstanding, how CRM data can remain central to a platform which seeks to engage with customers immediately, and at any point on their journey.

“Our brands are not controlled by us any more,” said Lucas. “The brand is now being defined by the buyer.” Marketo’s response? “We are curating the buyer experience; curating a journey.” And doing so right across what Lucas calls “the engagement grid” — social, mobile, and digital; a space now home to some half of the world’s population.

This doesn’t seem an idle boast, given the numbers Lucas had on hand. In one year: 30 billion delivered (“delivered, not sent”) emails, 21 billion clicks on links, and a boggling 400 billion actions by users of the Marketo platform.

A platform working at that scale needs reliable, fast, secure, and available cloud service, which is one reason the Engagement Platform is settling on Google Cloud. The other reason is to make almost half a trillion transactions smarter. “AI is one of the biggest areas of investment for Marketo,” said Lucas. In addition to Marketo Content AI, which recommends relevant content at an individual level, Marketo yesterday announced Audience AI, to automate the segmentation of audiences at scale. Enabled by Google? I asked Marketo CTO Manoj Goyal for enlightenment.

“Audience AI is our first proof-of-concept”

“We are going to be running all of Marketo’s infrastructure on Google Cloud. So we are going to be using Google hardware to run our software. Most of our customers will start migrating to Google Cloud this year.” Palo Alto Networks, the cybersecurity giant, is the first Marketo customer to have made the leap. “How do we combine our data with Google’s Tensor Flow machine learning library so that we can create models?” The first advantage is that the modeling has already been done; the second is that it’s available at high velocity for execution; and thirdly, there’s access to the Google data science team.

“Audience AI is our first, joint proof-of-concept. Now that we can do that, let’s look at all the engagement points and look at what works and what doesn’t.” Users will be in control, able to choose between their own strategies and the AI recommendations, or “blend them together,” but users won’t need to be involved with developing or tweaking the models. AI will work behind the scenes, in a black box way, but will offer recommendations along with analysis, so users can transparently understand the reasons for recommendations.

I was also struggling to differentiate between Bizible’s role in evaluating ROI on any touch-point, and Content AI, designed to identify content which is performing well. Goyal explained that the latter exercise is more narrow. The acquisition of Bizible, he said, was designed to bring attribution and performance marketing “to the core of our products, rather than just running campaigns.” 

With Content AI, said Goyal, we’re delivering analytics on who is consuming which pieces of content, “so that when you next recognize a profile, you can present them with the content they want, rather than have them navigate and select from the content portfolio.” Bizible starts with the very first touch from an anonymous visitor, and tracks the journey all the way down to conversion. “It gives the marketer a holistic view into how many touches it took to generate the opportunity; where you had abandonment; which touches had the most value. It will give you a better ability to understand how your spend is working.” Content AI is focused specifically on what content generated conversions. The solutions will run in parallel: “They have complementary value.”

Finally, I asked about Marketo Sales Engage. “Marketing is driving a significant share of the sales and marketing partnership. We need to take that responsibility seriously.” With the new Marketo Sales Engage, based on ToutApp, Marketo will no longer simply provide information to sales teams. “We’re going to make sure they act on it, and we’re going to capture that behavioral data in the marketing system, so that we can see that sales and marketing are partnering, not on leads, but on behavior.”

This is part of a significant trend, in B2B especially — alongside considered B2C purchases, Marketo’s main focus. The velocity and scale at which customer behavior can now be captured and analyzed has shifted attention away from leads, and towards a customer’s real-time behavior, rich in intent signals. What’s more: “If your triggers are not real-time, you’re not responding to customers at the time they’re truly interested in engaging with you.” If a customer is downloading white papers, or attending a seminar, “it’s incumbent on you to respond to them as close to that event as possible.”

Marketo covered DMN’s expenses to attend Marketing Nation

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