Marketo Retrospective Part 8
As part of a series, I am doing retrospective lessons from my 9 years at Marketo. Today, I focus on the Marketo’s Marketing. Like building a Sales Team I think this is an area that Marketo really shined and set the benchmark for thousands of other companies in the past 10 years.
This all started with Jon Miller writing the Marketo blog. He was talking about digital marketing even before we had a product. He built a loyal following with great content, so when we finally had something to sell, he had built up an initial audience. This was brilliant and new in 2007.
Jon extended this content with eBooks that he named the “Definitive Guide to [insert topic]” series. These were exhaustive (long) tomes on topics that were important to marketers. Some people read them, some skimmed, but everyone downloaded. This led to specific features in the product like Engagement Streams and Forms on Landing pages.
The content set Marketo up as a thought leader. This helped close many deals. The sales people may not have understood that factor, but they had a hidden advantage in all of their deals. Content Marketing wasn’t entirely new, but Marketo perfected it.
Inbound marketing is the promotion of a company or other organization through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, newsletters, whitepapers, SEO, physical products, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing which serve to attract customers through the different stages of the purchase funnel.
Maria was everywhere on the web. She was answering questions on remote sites, she was tweeting at people, she was at every conference. You couldn’t talk about Marketing Automation without Maria being there contributing value and mentioning Marketo.
Maria earned her keep and more with that effort. She brought attention to the company in a non-invasive way. She hit a (glass?) ceiling in the marketing department and joined Apttus in 2012. Currently, she is their SVP of Global Marketing.
I’ve said this many times to Marketo customers, “Don’t listen to how Marketo uses Marketo. They are the worst users of the system.” I don’t mean this in a mean way. As a product leader, you have a vision of how the system ought to be used. The Marketo marketing team used it in avery different and extremely complicated way. Customers who tried to mimic that usually ended up extremely confused and unhappy.
One guy who shall remain nameless to protect his identity invented something called Traffic Cop. The dreaded Traffic Cop. This is the worst thing that ever happened to Marketo. It was a nightmare. It brought down arrays of servers. It flooded the activity log with non-sense. All to try and send email. Customers left and right complained that Marketo was too hard. All because of over-complications our own team tried to do.
I had to invent Engagement Streams to stop people from using Traffic Cop. I complained bitterly that customers were getting annoyed with the product saying “It’s too hard!” specifically complaining about the complex ways Marketo’s own marketing department said they use the system. I think they poisoned the well for no good reason. It saddens me that the team couldn’t get their shit together enough to stop this bad behavior.
I remember one executive who sent around an “elevator pitch” of Marketo. It was 3 paragraphs of nonsense. I told them that engineers were not going to remember all that. They needed 1 (very short) sentence. She told me, “This has been approved from pretty high up.” That is the kind of bullshit that ruins companies. Logic and reason should win out over crap like that.
Marketo, sadly, never really built a strong brand presence. It was a simple corporate brand; clean and professional. However, it never had much to love or latch onto emotionally. The community was vibrant, but the brand itself left much to be desired. This is something we are trying to do better at Engagio with Gio the Whale. Some people might hate him, but as a tech startup, you need to be bold and take a stance. If you eliminate anything objectionable, you will end up with nothing.
Recruiting brand was also dismal. Marketo never actively marketed to potential employees. This is something you HAVE to do in silicon valley. Google, Facebook, Apple and Uber snatch up people by the boatloads. You have to stand out culturally. The values and positive work environment were never a big part of the marketing. I think this was a mistake and led to lesser employees being hired.
Customer Video Testimonials
This was another huge innovation of the Marketing Department. For years, Marketo was the #1 ranked result when searching for “Customer Video Testimonials.” Today, they are not even on the first page. However, this was truely ground breaking at the time. Eloqua didn’t show the product, but Marketo did. They hid their community and users and Marketo took videos of them and portrayed them loud and proud on the home page. I believe that this single marketing practice was responsible for a major increase in sales wins over Eloqua.
Marketo was a master of events. Tradeshows, roadshows, webinars, seminars, virtual events and dinners. It didn’t matter, Marketo killed it every single time. It has just been a joy and education to watch people like Maria Pergolino, Jeff Cowen, Lauren Moskowitz and their teams create experiences that seem to come from a much larger more funded company. They made us look big, bold and professional. I was so proud at those events.
The biggest coup, by far was the 2014 Annual Summit featuring the keynote speaker Hillary Clinton. I just couldn’t believe it. This was the height of my pride in the company. 6,000 people jam packed in the Moscone center and I was front-row center with my son. I was prouder than the IPO day. That day was created by the marketing department and I will never forget it.
Marketo made a tremendous impact on Marketo. They influenced countless other companies and changed the course of marketing for a generation. Business classes in universities should study how it happened. They weren’t perfect, but they did an awful lot right. There is alot to unpack here, but it’s all worth it. I hope I did the experience justice in this retrospective. I hope you found it helpful, entertaining, or both.