Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Marketo Aims to Simplify Demand Generation

As I wrote last week, demand generation vendors have a hard time differentiating their systems from each other. One company that has made a concerted effort is newcomer Marketo. Marketo has a one-word elevator speech: simplicity.

That’s not to say Marketo is a simple product. Functionally, it covers all the demand generation bases: outbound email, landing pages, Web site monitoring, lead scoring, multi-step nurturing programs, prospect database, analytics, Salesforce.com integration. It even adds A/B testing for landing pages, which you don’t see everywhere. The depth in each area is perfectly respectable as well.

Where simplicity comes in is the user interface. Like every other demand generation vendor, Marketo has wrestled with how a branching, multi-step lead nurturing campaign can be made easy enough for non-specialist users. The traditional approach has been a flow chart with lines and boxes. This is, after all, the way “real” process diagrams are built by programmers and engineers. It does express the logic of each flow precisely, but it also can get incomprehensibly complex very quickly.

Marketo’s solution is to do away with the branches. Each campaign flow is presented as a list, and any deviation from the sequence is treated as a diversion to another flow. The list itself can be presented in a collapsed format with each step as a numbered item, or an expanded format where the actions taken at each step are exposed. (Or, users can expand a single step at a time.) Actions include adding or removing the lead from a list, changing a data value or score, sending an email, moving the lead to a different flow, removing it from all flows, and waiting a specified period of time. The system can also add the lead to a Salesforce.com database, assign or change the owner in Salesforce.com, and create a Salesforce.com task. Each action can be associated with a set of conditions that determine whether or not it is executed. One step can include multiple actions, each with its own conditions. The system can be told to execute only the first action whose execution conditions are met, which is one way to implement branching logic .

Other components of Marketo are more conventional, although still designed with simplicity in mind. Users can set up Web landing pages and email templates using a drag-and-drop interface modeled on PowerPoint—the one tool, as Marketo points out, that every marketer is guaranteed to know how to use. These templates can include variables selected from the Marketo database for personalization. Users can also create forms to capture data provided by site visitors or read automatically from the form or URL parameters. Forms can be reused across campaigns.

Campaign lists are built with another drag-and-drop interface, allowing users to layer multiple selection conditions. These can be based on lead data and constraints such as Web search terms, event frequency, and date ranges. Lists can be frozen after selection or dynamically refreshed each time they are used. Users can review the members of a list and click on a name to see its details, including the log of messages sent and activities recorded in Marketo. Like other demand generation systems, Marketo uses cookies to track the behavior of anonymous Web visitors and merge these into the lead record if the visitor later identifies herself. Lead scores are calculated by adding or subtracting points for user-specified behaviors. These values can automatically be reduced as time passes after an event.

Leads can also enter a campaign through triggers. Trigger events can include clicking on a link, filling out a form, changing a data value, creating a new lead record, and being added to a list. The system reacts to triggers as soon as they happen, rather than waiting for lists to be updated.

Campaigns can be scheduled to run once or at regular intervals. So can the wide range of standard reports covering, covering campaign results, email performance, Web activity and lead statistics. Users can run a report against a specified list and can have a report automatically emailed to them on a regular basis. A custom report builder is due by the end of July.

Marketo’s integration with Salesforce.com also bolsters its claim to simplicity. The system feeds data to Salesforce in real time and receives data from Salesforce every five minutes. This will go to real time as soon as Salesforce permits it. The integration is based on the Salesforce Force.com platform, which allows new installations of Marketo to connect with Salesforce in minutes. It also allows Marketo fields to appear within the regular Salesforce tabs, instead of a tab of its own. The lead activity summary from Marketo does appear separately within Salesforce.

It more or less goes without saying that Marketo is sold as a hosted service. This, combined with the automatic Salesforce.com integration, enables new clients to get started very quickly. The company cited implementations in as little as 24 hours, although I’m not sure this is a standard promise. They do say users become proficient after two hours of training. Perhaps the most convincing evidence that the system is easy to install is that the company doesn’t charge a separate set-up fee—definitely not something all its competitors can say.

In fact, Marketo pricing is about as simple as it gets: a straight monthly fee ranging from $1,500 to $10,000 depending on the number of leads, page views and email contacts.

Marketo was founded in late 2005 by veterans of Epiphany. Its leaders spent the first two years researching market requirements and raising capital. They officially launched the Marketo product in March of this year and now have about 35 clients. These are primarily mid-to-large business-to-business marketers.


Biotonico said...

One thing that is important to consider when leads have been acquired is fast contact. Especially when dealing with web leads. Dialer functionality is important for this.

Unknown said...

The Marketo products covers all of the basic requirements and tools the vast majority of organizations require, which makes it a great product; but this is something I would expect as a minimum standard when looking for a lead management solution.

Where it really moves ahead of the crowd for me is it's simplicity of use (translate that to simple to train staff on the use of it) and it's ability to integrate with Salesforce CRM products.

I want mainstream products that will all work together. Marketo does this. Well done guys!

Eric said...

Who are the other leading vendors in this space besides Marketo? Pardot? Others?



David Raab said...

The biggest is certainly Eloqua. Others I consider important include Vtrenz, Market2Lead and Manticore. But there are lots more out there--just do some Googling or poke around DemandGen Report at www.demandgenreport.com. (I have no connection with them, but it's a good site.)

Anonymous said...

My name is Kareem Ghanie from NetDNA and I am conducting pricing research on Marketo. I am looking around for companies that currently use Marketo and how much they are ACTUALLY paying for their service. If possible could I get information on the Marketo package companies use and how much they purchase that monthly service for. Please help. :)