This year was the first summit for Marketo users since the Adobe acquisition in 2018. For me, it brought home the reality that Marketo is no longer a standalone product but a single app within a much larger structure of product “clouds.”
Although Marketo is no longer the sole focus of its own multi-day event, the union with Adobe could bring benefits to Marketo users who are willing to expand their portfolio of Adobe products. It’s not hard to imagine how less well-developed Marketo features could be replaced by integrations with much more mature and robust Adobe products — for example, Ad Bridge by Ad Cloud or Web Personalization by Adobe Target.
That being said, there are many Adobe products for Marketo users to understand and make sense of. It can feel bewildering, and I find it takes time to build a mental map of how all the products fit together. Some of the non-Marketo content in the keynotes was useful for showcasing what these products can do and is worth a watch for the Experience Cloud-curious.
Let’s dive into some of the new Marketo-specific features and integrations discussed at Summit.
Safe Harbour: This post does not represent any kind of official “roadmap.” It’s just one person’s observations based on attending keynotes and sessions. Given the increased size of Summit this year, I can’t promise it will be comprehensive. The features mentioned may be at various stages of development, or even still just ideas, and sessions did not offer specific details on timelines.
While not technically a product feature, the branding changes we saw at Summit were significant.
Marketo was referred to as “Marketo Engage” throughout keynotes and on signage in the expo hall. It’s clear that “Marketo” as a single-word brand is going to disappear.
Marketo Sales Engage (Marketo’s sales enablement/automation tool) was described as Marketo Sales Connect.
One component of the Adobe platform mentioned frequently in conjunction with Marketo (I mean…Marketo Engage) was Adobe Sensei. Sensei refers to a set of machine-learning / artificial-intelligence capabilities found throughout the Adobe product suite.
The branding creates an impression that Sensei is a single, unified platform layer embedded in many places. However, I also saw pre-existing Marketo features that leverage machine learning described as “Adobe Sensei.” My impression is that this branding describes any machine learning component across the Adobe product family and may or may not indicate a common underlying technology on the back-end.
Microsoft + LinkedIn Partnership
Steve Lucas announced a new partnership between Adobe, Microsoft, and (Microsoft-owned) LinkedIn called the Account-Based Experience (ABX) Initiative.
The announcement was high-level. However, some of the examples of how this initiative might impact marketers include:
- The ability to hydrate profiles in Marketo Engage or Microsoft Dynamics CRM (DCRM) with real-time data to better identify account-based buying teams. (Aside: when did “hydrating a profile” become a thing? Are profiles plants?)
- The ability to align account data with LinkedIn information. Steve emphasized that LinkedIn data remained on LinkedIn but indicated we would be able to “align” first-party data with LinkedIn signals in some way.
- The ability to message people on LinkedIn directly without needing to log in to the LinkedIn interface.
The details on this are all still a bit sketchy. However, my take-away is that Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn is going to start to bear fruit for DCRM and Adobe customers in some way. I don’t see Salesforce users being invited to this party.
Read more at the Adobe news release.
Unless otherwise noted, all new UI-related features appear to be available only in Marketo Sky.
Event Program Registration Cap
The built-in capability to cap registrants for event programs is much-requested functionality that otherwise requires some complex workarounds to achieve.
With this feature, users can set the registration limit for an event or webinar on a per-program basis. The feature will also waitlist people automatically once the cap has been reached and allow you to specify a fallback page to use when the registration limit has been reached.
If using this feature, I recommend that a “Wait List” landing page should become a standard include for tokenized webinar/event program templates, along with registration and thank you pages.
Event Program Goals
This feature allows users to specify goals for both registration and attendance. Marketo Engage will track progress against goals and even proactively notify you if it detects a risk of not meeting your goals, so you can take appropriate action. (See more detail in predictive suggestions below.)
One screenshot shown at Summit depicted goal progress tracking that appeared on the My Marketo homescreen, which seems like a potentially valuable use of that real estate.
Predictions and Recommended Actions
Machine learning is clearly going to be an ongoing presence in the marketing stack, in a way that does more than offer token homage to a trend. Nearly every substantive feature announcement had a dash of Adobe Sensei in it somewhere. And a prime example of machine learning being woven into everyday marketing activities is the “predictions and recommended actions” feature.
Once you define your goal, machine learning will predict how likely each invitee or program member is to register or attend the event and determines how likely you are to meet your goals.
If it predicts you will fall short, Marketo Engage will recommend actions to help you reach your targets. For example, it can identify people similar to the smart list audience via lookalike modelling and suggest you invite those people.
In one session, the presenter even showed a hypothetical user receiving a goal-related warning via the Marketo Moments app and then, from within the mobile app, triggering an ad campaign to boost registration. I suspect this type of application is much further away from becoming reality (I wasn’t aware Marketo Moments was even still supported), but “smart list expansion” type recommendations seem quite achievable and something we might see in the not-too-distant future.
Marketo refers to the machine-learning technology as “glass box” rather than black box — meaning they intend to be transparent about which factors are being evaluated and factored in to recommendations. I believe the efficacy of these recommendations will depend on whether the right signals are being included in the algorithm.
Predictive Smart List Filters
Predictive smart list filters allow you to proactively define audiences using machine learning. Instead of constructing smart lists with reference to static lead properties or past behaviors, this feature would enable users to select audiences based on predicted likelihood to take a particular action. The threshold is configurable as part of the filter constraint.
You can also select an audience using a lookalike filter, based on an audience that achieved a particular status in another program.
“Sensei” models thousands of signals to pick the right audience, and one PM noted this resulted in significant performance improvements in some early experiments.
Program Member Custom Fields
This is another long-awaited and potentially game-changing feature. It extends the Marketo Engage data-model to include additional custom dimensions on the program member — similar to custom fields on the campaign member object in Salesforce.
The classic use case for this is capturing “chicken or fish” type meal choices when someone registers for an event, but it could be used to store any type of data point that describes a property related to the person/program junction.
Another important use case is storing UTM parameters related to a form fill at the program level. This paves the way for more robust offer/channel modelling in Marketo.
It remains to be seen how this data will be exposed in Marketo, and how this element of the feature is executed will determine its ultimate value. If data is only visible in the program members tab or accessible via smart list constraints on triggers and filters, it will be valuable but limited.
If the data is exposed in reports and can be synced to equivalent fields on the campaign member in Salesforce, the range of applications will be much more wide-ranging.
PM Badsah Mukherji is still defining requirements for this feature, so please share your thoughts with him on LinkedIn to help steer it in the right direction.
Journey view in a smart campaign would show an at-a-glance view of how the smart campaign will work.
Sky’s the Limit
One main takeaway for me is that it’s going to be increasingly difficult to ignore Marketo Sky.
I’ve personally not explored it in depth. It’s not that I don’t like all the new features; it’s a combination of sticking to what’s comfortable and an assortment of perceived / reported bugs or limitations.
However, Sky is clearly the future. It’s where all the new features are. I do want to use those features and help my clients do the same. So I personally plan to spend more time stress-testing Sky and identifying where it makes sense to use in production.
Platform and Performance Improvements
In 2018, Marketo launched accelerated trigger campaigns, which reportedly scaled processing speed by 5-10x. We also now have the “priority override” feature for smart campaigns (Sky only). This allows the user to define processing priority manually on a campaign-by-campaign basis.
Both of these features aim at improving overall system performance when it comes to triggered smart campaigns. However, there can still be issues in high-volume instances based on Marketo’s processing logic, which will continually privilege higher priority items that enter the queue over lower priority ones.
This logic makes sense on the surface, but in an environment where the queue is constantly full of high-priority items, those lower priority campaigns may experience unacceptable delays.
So this year, Marketo plans to release a new feature that also takes into account time-in-queue, ensuring that even low-priority items don’t “starve” in the queue.
Marketo is planning functionality to process batch email programs in parallelized chunks. For example, instead of processing a list of email recipients in sequential order, Marketo will break the group into chunks that can be processed simultaneously. This will speed up email sending and may eliminate the need to use “head start” functionality for large / complex instances.
Smart List “Contains” Optimization
Use of “contains” in smart list filters is a well-known performance killer. This optimization allows faster performance in some cases where contains might be necessary to achieve a particular goal — for example, checking an email address against a list of domains.
Marketo will improve performance here by generating a table of domains that is pre-indexed. When you include the “@” symbol at the beginning of the domain in the smart list, it will enable this optimization and improve query performance.
Marketo plans to switch the Microsoft Dynamics integration to the REST API and introduce several new flow actions — Create Task and Change Owner. This is a welcome step, bringing the DCRM integration a bit closer to parity with the SFDC integration. There is still a wide gap, but given the strong partnership between Adobe and Microsoft, I expect it will continue to shrink.
Salesforce users will also receive some performance improvements through various optimizations.
Account-Based Experiences (ABX)
Marketo heavily promoted its capability to deliver “account-based experiences” or ABX. This isn’t a single feature but rather appears to refer to a series of new and existing features that together could support an end-to-end ABM capability at scale.
For example, an ABX journey could start in the Account Profiling tool (formerly AccountAI). This is a recently released feature that I haven’t used, but it seems like a useful way to leverage look-alike modelling to do your account planning inside Marketo Engage.
Marketo purports to examine your best customers and compare them against an external database of 256 million companies to find ideal target accounts, which are graded A-D.
Marketo’s AdBridge was launched in 2015 but, in my experience, has been of limited practical use. The feature has not changed substantially since first launched and still requires significant manual effort to add/remove people from ad platform audiences.
This year Marketo featured some new integration capabilities for advertisers, which I assume will become upgrades to or a replacement for AdBridge. Exact functionality was unclear to me, but featured improvements include new integrations with Adobe Ad Cloud, DemandBase, LiveRamp, and LinkedIn, all of which appear to allow more seamless access to those platforms from within the Marketo interface.
Marketo Sales Apps
Summit highlighted a number of potential improvements for Marketo Sales Engage (formerly ToutApp).
First off, the Sales Engage app, which allows sales users to place prospects into automated “cadences”, was rebranded as Marketo Sales Connect as described above. Furthermore, screenshots showed this tool within a dedicated region of Marketo called “Marketo Sales Apps,” suggesting it may be one of multiple sales-focused applications in the future.
Additional possible improvements include:
- Triggered Sales Hand-Offs: Marketers can automate sales hand-offs using a smart campaign trigger to automatically put someone in a sales campaign.
- Dashboard of all Prospects in Cadences: Sales users can monitor who is coming in and who is generated by Marketing.
- Central Task List: Sales users have a central task list to manage all workflow items assigned to them.
- Target Prospect List: Sales users have a target list of people (who may not be in a cadence) from which they can click on a person and see what they’ve done and an exact preview of what email content the person looked at. This feature seemed very useful — potentially a long-awaited Marketo Sales Insight replacement, if it could be embedded in CRM.
- Recommended Templates: Sales users can access AI-recommended templates when composing a message.
- Feedback on Marketing Assets: Sales users can send feedback to the marketing team about assets and what’s resonating with the audience — a great way to close the feedback loop between front-line BDRs and the content creation team.
- Performance Data on Marketing Assets: Performance data from sales campaigns appears on a dashboard of a smart campaign showing MQL-to-positive response ratio for that piece of content as well as seller feedback. This idea seemed interesting to me, although it was unclear how the ratio would be calculated.
Marketo Sky is slated to feature a number of improvements to Design Studio.
- Adobe Experience Manager integration with Marketo: Import digital assets directly from AEM to asset editors. This integration would be good news for users of AEM who don’t want to duplicate their digital assets across two spaces.
- Adobe Image Editor: Perform light image editing (crop, resize, etc.) inside the asset editor interface.
- New Design Studio Design in Marketo Sky: The home screen will provide quick links to recent items and key areas.
- Journey Automation for Assets: Design studio could contain machine-learning driven recommendations to guide marketers on where to use an asset. For example, when you upload a white paper, the system would identify it as a white paper and make suggestions for which campaigns or audiences it should go to.
This last feature seemed a bit unusual, as presumably a marketing team should have answered these questions long before the asset was completed. But I may not have captured all the details.
Marketo announced a new partnership with Drift (conversational marketing / chatbot tool) as part of its ABX initiative.
The announcement was brief, so it was unclear what new functionality this partnership would bring. However, based on the press release on Drift’s website, the integration appears to enable better personalization and segmentation of Drift experiences based on Marketo data. For example, Drift could be configured to share a relevant piece of content or fast track the lead directly to a named account representative.
Adobe has already published all the sessions from Summit online. If you’d like to dive deeper into product roadmap, here are the original sessions:
- ABX Product Demo (Keynote, Day 1)
- Marketo Product Innovations (Keynote, Day 3)
- Game-Changing Experiences: Inside the Enhanced Marketo Sky
- The Science Behind the Art of Marketing
These sessions are also the sources for most of the screenshots in this post.