By Justin Norris May 7, 2018

The Complete Guide to Product Updates from Marketo Summit 2018 and the Impact on Your Marketing Operations

It’s an annual tradition at Marketing Nation Summit for Marketo to announce new features and product updates.

Similarly, Perkuto’s post-Summit practice is to provide a summary of the discussions as well as commentary on the potential impact for your marketing operations. It’s our way of keeping you informed while keeping it real. So grab a cup of coffee — this post is a little longer than most but worth the time to read in its entirety.

Marketo Product Updates on Deck for 2018 – An Overview

This year, Marketo defined five main product priorities plus announced key enhancements in each area. The 30,000-foot overview:

Diving Deep: UX

Marketo’s next-generation user interface has been a long time coming; customers should expect an open beta version available in May 2018. More than just a cosmetic re-skinning, the new interface is a complete overhaul of Marketo’s front-end, using modern web technologies and providing a stronger foundation for continued development. Seasoned Marketo admins will especially relish the productivity improvements, including:

Saved Rules

Saved rules are collections of triggers/filters or flow steps that can be preserved and made accessible to your users. For example, you might have a specific set of smart list filters you use to email all customers of “product A,” including customer status, product entitlement, record viability, plus advanced logic to tie them together — you get the idea.

As we all know, (and likely have experienced at some point), these filters are easy to mess up. With the new interface, the admin can create a rule called “Customers of Product A” and drag that rule onto the canvas causing your previously saved filters/triggers to materialize. Currently, the saved rules feature operates globally, although there was a discussion of private vs. public rules possibly in the future. And in case you’re wondering, the same logic can also be applied to flow steps. Overall, the saved rules feature will save marketing operations staff time and error-proof the process. Well done, Marketo.

marketo saved rules

A saved rule and a list of filters it contains. 

 

Mass Approvals and Activations

Are you regularly cloning your program templates? If so, you’ll be happy with this one. (If you aren’t, you should — contact me to learn how!) The mass approval and activation feature simplifies and streamlines the process of deploying programs by displaying a list of assets along with an easy way to approve or activate them in bulk. This is another substantial improvement and time-saving enhancement, not to mention relief from tedious and unnecessary clicks.

Approve multiple smart campaigns with a single action. 

 

A pop-up notifications menu tells you when your mass action is complete.

Asset Expiration

Never manually update stale or outdated pages again! The new Sky will provide a way to give assets an expiration date, or in the case of smart campaigns, a deactivation date. Rest assured that visitors cannot access outdated pages (ex: a registration page for a past event) and lighten the load on your system by not keeping triggers active longer than necessary. Best of all, you’ll never need to backtrack work as landing pages can have a default or page-specific fall-back to show after the expiry date.

Easily set an expiration date for multiple assets.

My Token Updates

My Tokens are the key to scalable and efficient operations in Marketo. Sky introduces some token-related improvements, many of them targeted at power users with heavily-tokenized programs, including:

Global Search

Improving system organization, Sky is planned to include a global search box with an index spanning the entire platform, making every asset within reach from a single spot. The index not only captures the name of the asset but also the asset labels. Global search is a good improvement although there are limitations of the search function, include searching the content of the assets themselves. Perhaps we’ll see this addition down the road.

Labels

Labels are a new kind of metadata, which can apply to both programs and assets. Functioning similarly to “tags” on a blog post, labels enable freeform and unstructured metadata to sort, organize, and search your assets. There won’t be any validation around labels, meaning it will be up to Marketo admins to define and create clear taxonomies and conventions appropriate for their users and requirements, but overall, the addition of labels combined with global search is a powerful enhancement.

 

Labels offer a lot of flexibility, but make sure you develop a label strategy to make them consistent and therefore useful. 

Other UX Improvements

Marketo’s list of updates doesn’t stop here. Of the other updates mentioned, some are currently in the beta while others are on the horizon:

Other Miscellaneous Good Stuff

Not strictly related to UX, Marketo announced a few other improvements in the UX session, which are mainly self-explanatory.

The Need for More Powerful Analytics within Marketo

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Marketo purchased Bizible, the most significant acquisition in its history. Both a strategic and bold move, the addition of Bizible transforms what was previously a weak area of the Marketo platform into an area of strength.

When I first became a Marketo customer, I expected (perhaps naively) that Marketo would have a basic level of digital analytics built in, similar to Google Analytics. Unfortunately, this capability doesn’t exist with out-of-the-box in Marketo, a sore spot for many new customers.

While it’s possible to build, there’s a lot of heavy lifting required — custom JavaScript, form modifications, and many programs to track activities at the level of granularity you want. And adding to user pain, Marketo’s standard reports are just that — basic and not very customizable, limiting the ability to report on the data you capture.

Marketo does offer other advanced reporting solutions, but neither provide the full-featured marketing analytics that many companies need.

Advanced Reporting (a.k.a RCE to old-timers) offers some very useful pivot-table style analysis, but this area of the product has been unimproved for years, has limited customizability (for example, you are confined to a single multi-touch attribution model), and is very slow on large data sets.

Then there’s the new Marketing Performance Insights (MPI) tool, which seems more like a role-based dashboard for easy reporting on a selective group of KPIs – very useful, but not a full-featured marketing analytics solution.

The Significance of the Bizible Acquisition

Marketo can now justifiably claim a leadership position in marketing performance management. Marketo customers who adopt Bizible gain immediate access to better data and better reporting — and with greater ease. Bizible offers the following advantages:

Screenshot of Bizible’s new “Discover” interface, also announced at Summit. 

Bizible’s Impact on Marketo Customers

Will the acquisition of Bizible be an analytics game-changer for Marketo or another potentially-useful product add-on that is used by a relatively small percentage of the customer base? The answer, I believe, will primarily depend on cost.

At present, Bizible pricing is reportedly remaining about the same, which means there’s little immediate value for Marketo customers. Organizations interested in using Bizible will continue to do so with the only difference being where you send your payment.

However, if Marketo introduces a pricing model that makes acceptance a no-brainer — perhaps generous license discounts for Bizible adopters in exchange for longer overall Marketo contract lengths — then we might see a vast base of Marketo + Bizible users emerge. There’s also the possibility for tighter integration between the two platforms, of course. 

AI Enhancements

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the trend of the year, and Marketo is proactively responding. Marketo’s AI upgrades extend beyond a single product and include embedding machine-learning capabilities into an increasing number of areas across the platform. Current and planned features help users to find perfect customers (ICP Marketing), expand campaign audiences (AudienceAI) and enhance content relevance for customers based on prior content consumption patterns and topical interest. (ContentAI). Let’s take a deeper look at each one.

ICP Marketing

What it is: ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) helps you understand the audience you should be targeting by creating a profile of your “perfect” customer. Under the hood, it will be powered by Mintigo. With ICP, you’ll be able to feed a set of customers to analyze (either a smart list or static list) into a predictive model, which will then surface a set of customer attributes. After creating the model, you can fine-tune it, suppressing attributes that you believe are irrelevant or noise by assigning them a lower weighting. Finally, once your profile is defined, the model can assign your accounts a letter grade from A-D depending on how closely they match your ICP which also improves targeting and ABM prioritization.

What does it mean for customers? This type of look-alike profiling is already commonly available from predictive vendors, including Mintigo. It’s unclear if ICP introduces any capabilities that aren’t currently available from predictive vendors, and if a separate Mintigo subscription will be required. However, it’s possible that ICP represents a move to tighter native integration — perhaps one that doesn’t consume REST calls — not to mention other benefits that aren’t available with a third-party deployment. At this stage, we don’t have enough information to be sure.

AudienceAI

What it is: While ICP Marketing focuses on defining the ideal customer for your business, AudienceAI goes a level deeper to help you discover look-alike audiences at the program level. To begin, identify your audience for a campaign. AudienceAI will then suggest similar records within the database to consider, charting attribute similarities between the original and expanded audience. After you run the campaign, reports will provide a performance break-out between the original and extended audience, allowing you isolate and analyze the results as well as qualify the net lift received.

What does it mean for customers? Like most things AI, I suspect this feature is garbage in/garbage out, meaning that if your campaign is poorly targeted in the first place, the AudienceAI suggestions will be limited or even flawed. I also wonder if you can place overriding constraints on the expanded audience. For example, you probably don’t want to invite North American prospects to your event in the Netherlands, no matter how similar they are in other respects. That being said, if you are following engagement marketing best practices and sending carefully targeted messages to smaller segments, this could be a beneficial way to expand the reach of your campaigns without sacrificing relevance.

ContentAI

What it is: ContentAI is a rebranded amalgam of predictive web content (an outgrowth of real-time personalization) and predictive email content. The feature will crawl and index your web content and then display it in defined widget areas on your website or in emails based on user interest and content consumption patterns.

What does it mean for customers? ContentAI is not a new Marketo feature, but it did receive renewed emphasis at Summit. Expect it to be promoted widely in the coming year. 

Fully Adaptive Campaigns

The ultimate vision for AI in marketing automation encompasses fully adaptive campaigns and the ability to pre-select a person’s next touch automatically across multiple channels. We’ve heard this concept before at both Summit 2016 and 2017. Are we any closer to fruition? Perhaps, although I expect it will be several years before it becomes a reality, given the complexity of the task.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

As mentioned earlier, ToutApp is being rebranding as “Marketo Sales Engage” (MSE) with tighter integration to the Marketo platform. What can you expect?

Live Feed

MSE features a “live feed” of recent updates relevant to sales. Essentially, a salesperson can dock this feed at the side of their screen and see real-time updates of new prioritized leads, lead actions across web and email, and other sales and marketing touches. Think of it as a revamped “Best Bets” view from Marketo Sales Insight (MSI) except in a better container.

Playbooks

MSE also includes the ability for sales to put marketing leads into automated nurtures (called “Playbooks”) as well as assistance in writing semi-personalized, templated emails.

What does it mean for customers?

One of the challenges I’ve perceived with the ToutApp acquisition is that there hasn’t been a compelling reason for users of competing solutions in the category to make a switch.

However, the introduction of a consolidated live feed that includes both sales and marketing data in one place is intriguing. Data disintegration is frustrating to sales; they need a simple, clear place to get all their insights. Pitching MSE as a master sales enablement tool may be a key selling point, especially if Bizible touchpoint data is integrated. Looking ahead, MSE could also be the natural successor to the aging MSI product, which has been stagnant for years. Perhaps existing MSI seats could be swapped for MSE licenses? Just an idea, Marketo.

Platform Scale and Performance Improvements

For many years, Marketo’s platform has been on an extended journey to increase the scale and performance of its underlying platform, dating back to the Orion Project in 2016. In Q1 2018, we saw the launch of “Campaign V2,” intended to improve the speed of trigger execution. The rollout is underway now, continuing throughout the year.

Immediately following on the heels of Campaign V2, “Campaign V3” is also in the works, designed to improve the speed of batch campaign execution. In practical terms, this means that (for example) if you send an email to 1 million people, that audience will be chunked up and processed in parallel, enabling your emails to deliver significantly faster.

Campaign Performance Troubleshooting

Marketo is also shifting campaign control into the hands of the user with the goal of improving campaign performance. Features announced:

CRM Integration

We all know, a smooth CRM integration is essential and have experienced the pains when it is not. These CRM-sync improvements may seem obscure, but they will make life significantly easier for companies with complex environments or who are migrating to a new CRM.

LaunchPoint Integrations

LaunchPoint is growing up! Expect the integration ecosystem to mature in some very significant ways, bringing Marketo closer to a Salesforce AppExchange-style environment — all welcome changes for LaunchPoint integrators and their customers. What will the updates address?

Summary

The Marketo product team has a lot to juggle. Scaling the platform for enterprise use, paying off technical debt, keeping on top of the latest trends, aligning the roadmap with revenue goals, and keeping a (sometimes demanding) group of power users happy — it’s not easy to balance those priorities.

For long-time customers, there’s much to celebrate in this roadmap. Marketo Sky, once it has its kinks ironed out, will deliver greater productivity and also hopefully increase the velocity for future improvements. Platform enhancements are a rising tide that lifts all boats. And a more mature LaunchPoint ecosystem is vital because it will continue to crowdsource innovation to the many smart integration partners building on the platform. All that’s good stuff.

On the other hand, many of the other new features just announced may seem tantalizingly out-of-reach for customers who can’t afford big increases in contract value to get shiny new toys. Long-time users regularly voice concerns about the percentage of new features that appear as paid add-ons as opposed to improvements to the core product.

Marketo needs to pursue a balanced strategy, and it’s a delicate negotiation between delighting passionate customers who use Marketo daily and want it to improve continually vs. introducing new product lines that support Marketo’s ongoing growth.

What’s your reaction to this year’s roadmap? Please chime in with your thoughts!

(For a retrospective of previous Summit product discussions, see our posts from 2015, 2016, and 2017.)

Justin Norris

Director of Solutions Architecture

Justin is a Marketo Certified Solutions Architect and 4x Marketo Champion. Expert builder of scalable and automated sales and marketing funnels. When not in front of a computer, you can find him enjoying nature and spending time with his wife and daughter.

One response to “The Complete Guide to Product Updates from Marketo Summit 2018 and the Impact on Your Marketing Operations”

  1. Matt says:

    Thanks Justin a great overview for those of us that couldn’t be there.

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