Marketing cloud heavyweights debate AI, shiny new tech and smashing silos

TFM 2016’s marketing cloud panel saw IBM, Salesforce, Oracle, Adobe and Marketo square-off in an all-star debate.

In front of a packed keynote arena, representatives from all the marketing clouds engaged in a wide-ranging debate about the differences between their offerings, artificial intelligence, “the new shiny tech thing” versus the reality of big marketing tech deployments often not working and the digital content tidal wave threatening to drown us all.

Panel chair Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, was joined by all the major players including:

  • Jeremy Waite, EMEA IBM Evangelist, IBM Marketing Cloud
  • Tom Smith, Product Marketing Lead EMEA, Salesforce Marketing Cloud
  • Sylvia Jensen, Senior Director EMEA Marketing, Oracle Marketing Cloud
  • David Burnand, Marketing Lead N. Europe, Adobe Marketing Cloud
  • Peter Bell, Senior Director Product Management, Marketo


Identical icing, similar cakes…

…but very different cooks.

IBM “evangelist”, Jeremy Waite, kicked things off (although with his background at Salesforce and Adobe, he may as well have been speaking for half the panel):

“We could quite easily get into a big fight which would probably be fun to watch but you could go to any one of our websites, swap the logos [between them], and [people] would have no idea which was which. They all say exactly the same thing, we use the same buzzwords,” Waites admitted.

But having seen how the sausage is made at several of the companies in question, he found that the suites of products are actually very different:

“It feels like we do a disservice by pretending that we all do the same things. What we should do is talk about what makes us different because we serve different industries, different use cases, different client groups.”

the TFM 2016 marketing cloud debate with Jeremy Waite of IBM

Old MacDonald had a (server) farm, AI AI/O

Chair Joe Pulizzi and many of the panel agreed that 2016 is the year of artificial intelligence (AI). Seizing on this, Waites went on to state that IBM’s differentiator was ‘behaviour’.

“[Supercomputer] Watson is going to be big for IBM. Most marketing clouds measure clicks and engagement to figure out what to do next. That’s great, but people no longer want to give over their data… which makes it an absolute nightmare to [present people the] right message at the right time. The only way you can do that is to base it on behaviour and [IBM is] the only company in the world that can do it properly: take customer information and behaviours, before they’ve given you their data, and still deliver the right message to the right person at the right time, respectfully.”

Waited later explained about the future benefits of AI: “If you’re a marketer, what happens if you know as soon as someone lands on your website—because of the behaviour [that Watson has learned to track]—that that person is going to leave in 47 seconds. You can serve them a message within 32 seconds with exactly the right message or the right discount based upon what’s going to be the trigger to buy [rather than send a cart abandonment email the next day].”

He appealed to the desires of every overworked exec in the room: “Imagine giving a system access to every single email that you’ve ever sent. Overnight, something like Watson could write drafts back to everyone who emailed you with the right tone of voice, the right level of sarcasm, the right emojis; it could check your calendar. You’d just have to check the drafts and make tiny edits or send. Your job would be freed up so you can get back to what you’re supposed to be doing.”


Being diligent with data

Probed on the ethics of behavioural manipulation using AI, Waites said: “There’s a phrase flying around the [US] west coast about being ‘morally deep and ethically great’. Getting the data is not the problem. I’ve got an app on my phone, I could point it at you guys, it can tell me who you are and what you last tweeted.

“The challenge is [to be] so transparent that we’re being respectful of people with the experiences that we provide so that you know exactly what data I’ve got, why I’ve got it and what you’re going to get in return. That’s where marketers often fall over because we’re too busy trying to capture data instead of trying to create value.

“It’s a massive debate that’s playing out at the moment as people [increasingly] don’t want to give over their data.”

The upcoming European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was raised, which will see much stricter rules imposed on gathering, storing and using the data of European citizens. Marketo’s Peter Bell responded: “The great news is that it’s going to kill those requests to go and buy a list and send email if you’re in B2B marketing because that is basically outlawed with GDPR.

“You will also have to prove double opt-in. First, I get your details, then I go back to you and ask: ‘hey, you sure about this?’ If you’re OK, we’re off at the races.

“It causes us to raise the bar and do things properly and honestly and I think it’s a great opportunity. It can be a true inflection point where we have to do the things we [always] say we’re going to do but then get caught up in short-term tactical behaviour. We’ll all be better for it, it’s a great initiative and it’s overdue. It’s come about because digital advertising in the consumer space for the last 10 years has universally failed to field good practice and this is the EU response to it.”

According to Bell, Marketo has just completed a full audit of its software internally across the cloud to make sure it wasn’t inadvertently storing information which could be considered “P2”—private information in the eyes of the German authorities. “We had to make some changes but we got a clean bill of health… so we’re well ahead of the 2018 [Europe-wide GDPR] deadline.”


The customer’s always right (at the centre) for Salesforce

Salesforce’s Tom Smith touted the firm’s differentiator as its focus on ‘the customer’. This includes buzz-terms ‘customer experience’, ‘customer journey’ and ‘single customer view’ and a dedication to connecting up data from across all available channels.

“When we look at the marketing cloud in Salesforce, we think in terms of how our own customers use Salesforce across the board. We’ve got [clients] using Salesforce to build customer-facing apps and communities for advocacy [as well as] email marketing, social media and automation. [We] see that connectivity around the customer—it’s about the customer love, customer-centricity.”

On the point of AI, he brought up the company’s announcement of its Einstein AI initiative which, as TechCrunch put it, is less of a product and more of a “technology umbrella”. Smith said: “The reason we’re seeing groundswell around AI is because we’ve reached a tipping point where the technology is there, the data scientists are there and it’s starting to be democratised.”

Smith later pointed out: “When we think of the term AI, sometimes we think robots, we think things taking over the world. It’s not really that. It’s machine learning, it’s data science, it’s natural language processing. It shouldn’t be thought of as this scary thing. If you look at what we’re giving to our customers through Einstein, it’s going to be some small capabilities within the platform that will help marketers to be more predictive about what the next step of the journey is, or to help us classify images on social.

“All of us experience AI in our everyday lives, we just don’t know it. You use Facebook and it recognises the faces of your friends in photos; Amazon Echo; Spotify recommended playlists: that’s all AI. Brands are thinking: ‘I need to compete with that’ so we’re trying to democratise AI and provide those capabilities for brands that don’t potentially have the budget or the investment to build those capabilities for themselves.”

“You need to look beyond your traditional competition at things like Spotify, Amazon and AirBnB and realise that you’re competing against those types of experiences that your customers are having. [Ask yourself] ‘how do I deliver something like that for my brand?’”

That said, Smith warned against novelty AI-driven projects, created for the sake of it.

  • You can catch updates about the Salesforce Marketing Cloud on our info hub.

the TFM 2016 marketing cloud debate with Tom Smith of Salesforce

Seduced by the dark side (of martech)

Agreeing with Pulizzi, Waites admitted that AI, machine learning, augmented and virtual reality were all part of the “new shiny stuff” at conferences that many on the panel counselled against buying on a whim. In response, he reiterated: “People still don’t focus on the fundamentals. Someone told me that 88% of enterprise companies don’t share their own customer data within their companies, between their own sales and marketing teams. If you want a relationship with the customer, email is still number one.”

He raises the spectre of homegrown marketing technology cobbled together by companies in-house—so-called “dark martech”.

“People aren’t [necessarily] looking at clouds, they’re looking at loads of point solutions in order to try and fix these ‘new shiny things’… They get seduced by something they saw at the conference but then you get 12 months down the line and realise you’ve got no single view, you don’t understand lifetime value of the customer, your email campaign response rates are still dropping through the floor and it’s because people aren’t focusing on the fundamentals.

“…people still aren’t doing content properly, people still aren’t doing email and mobile properly. AI can automate things at scale and drive behaviour but if you’re not doing the fundamentals right…”

Oracle: IT’s BFF

Oracle’s Sylvia Jensen proclaimed that her business is “the digital marketing platform that marketers love but that IT trusts,” before also pointing out their open approach in terms of ease of integration.

“The fact that IT trusts us is a differentiator because for companies that realise that the customer experience is important, they realise they have to break down silos between departments. The only way they can do that is by having data not all over the place, but in one place that’s managed. Processes need to function across departments and IT needs to be a part of that.

“Oracle’s in a unique position to help companies manage their data and orchestrate that customer experience across all their digital channels but with an open platform that enables customers to use lots of our applications but actually lots of other people’s applications too.”

Jensen expressed her sympathy when it comes to the wider issues of the fragmentation of marketing technologies and the difficult digital transformations that either need to happen or are underway: “Marketers are all doing the right things. I see them trying to learn new technology, new best practices, taking online training, going to conferences like this to learn more.

“Where things get a bit stuck [regarding] the customer experience is: the marketing department on its own can’t change a company. [Businesses] really need to get the customer experience, see the vision and help align departments across the [whole] company because peer-to-peer, it’s hard to align. You can have the conversations but until you’re measured in the same way and it’s a part of the culture, it’s really hard to affect change solely from the marketing department.

“We do want marketers to lead and they have the customer data the company wants. It’s [just that you need to work] with the company leadership—it really needs to come top down.”

Further into the debate, Jensen also counselled:

“Don’t forget that we’re all in business. I’m starting to see a bit of a backlash that marketing is becoming very technical. We’ve created these very small silos with social, SEO etc. people are gaining technical expertise in these areas. But they’re forgetting the relevance back to the business. The more you can tie what you do as a marketer to your company’s objectives in business, the more valuable you’ll be seen by the business. Love marketing, but think about what’s best for your business.”

the TFM 2016 marketing cloud debate with Sylvia Jensen of Oracle

Adobe: Are you experienced?

David Burnand explained that Adobe starts from ‘experience’: “we see a shift where marketers need to adjust to the [sheer] number of touchpoints that customers use to experience brands.

“If you think about how many times in a day you touch different brands: you reach for your phone in the morning… the first app you go to… the first website you go to. All day, every day, you’re touching the customer and not just with traditional advertising campaigns. We’re trying to help marketers adjust to that shift.”

In response to Jensen’s thoughts on the marketing team being leaders—but not lone stewards—of improving the customer experience, Burnand concurred: “It’s a really exciting time to be a marketer because we went through the dark ages where nobody could prove ROI and the data was a mess.

“A lot of the technologies are putting marketers on the front foot, so they now have insight that is actually valuable to their businesses—[leading to] a different level of conversation within the organisation.

“A good example is RBS and NatWest group. They’ve got a troupe of data analysts called the Superstar DJs. They [deploy] them to different areas across the business and say ‘look at this problem and tell us how to fix it’. They’ll look at the data but then they’ll work with the team there to make those changes happen. That’s a very different way for marketers to act—different to anything we would have been doing five years ago. Those kind of programmes will make a difference within major organisations.”

Later in the discussion, Burnand pointed out that:

“Marketers need to understand that this is business change and that’s really difficult because traditionally, we have been quite siloed. We have to force ourselves out into the organisation and position this as business change. Adobe’s cloud is not an automation platform, it’s much wider, going really deep into customer service and experience. That is a big change and if you just do it on your own, 18 months down the line you’re going to be struggling to articulate the ROI.”

He also resonated with the suggestion that companies should be agnostic when it comes to channels.

“You can’t differentiate anymore. All of those touchpoints, from the contact centre through to the website, the apps, the advertising—there is no differentiation between service and marketing anymore. It’s becoming one thing—experience—that’s where your focus should be.

Vodafone’s ‘conversation strategy’

Picking up on the previous points made about business change, Waite joked: “It really pains me to keep agreeing with Oracle and Adobe!”

“We work closely with Vodafone, the UK’s most valuable brand. They’ve got a really nice phrase: ‘conversation strategy’. People in the marketing team became accountable for [digital transformation around customer experience] but then it was really difficult to get customer service involved; then it would be really difficult to get someone from HR or logistics or finance involved—they wanted to break out of the silos.

“They have a virtual team that meets up once a week (face-to-face if possible). Each person brings their one ‘moneyball’ metric. They discuss not just marketing but how the customer experience is as a whole, how they are all playing a part in this and how they can come together to build a better experience.

“Because they call it something slightly different—a ‘conversation strategy’—all of a sudden they’ve got finance getting excited about marketing and what happens? [They] get more budget! Then you’ve got HR excited [resulting in] better recruitment and retention of talent.

“Not enough people do that because we still live in our little bubbles, running too fast trying to keep up.”


Marketo: It’s in the name

Over recent years the marketing clouds has been been building their capabilities through a spending spree of martech acquisitions:


Marketo’s Bell clarified that the company’s only offering is around marketing: “We’re marketing first, that’s how we describe ourselves.” In terms of differentiation, he pointed out: “It’s a single platform—we haven’t grown through acquisition, we’ve grown through organic development and investment in our platform.

“It’s all about making the marketer more successful, having their back and helping to build a great customer experience that will lead to trust. All that matters [in marketing is]: can you build trust with your customers and sustain it so your customer relationships endure?”

Bell echoed earlier sentiments about remembering the prime directive for marketers, rather than get swept up by shiny technology.

“What’s your marketing organisation and what is the organisational culture around it? Most of us [on the panel] could tell the maturity or the nature and setup of a marketing department by counting the number of trackers on your website. If there are 26 or more trackers on there, I know there’s silos in that company, silos within marketing, because they’ve each got their own tracker. They’ve each got their own view of the customer—that’s not a great place to start.”


Pulizzi put it to Bell: “If you’re going to change the customer experience, you need to be delivering valuable, relevant, compelling content that makes sense during the buyer’s journey. We’ve seen a lot of content overload, we’ve seen a lot of companies doing this wrong: Marketo’s not going to work unless the company’s using the tool right.”

Bell responded with an alarming stat from The Economist which found that two-thirds of the C-suite are feeling overwhelmed by content and that’s only the tip of the iceberg, because “they’ve at least got a staff and a secretary who will read things and condense it. How is everybody else feeling? What does that senior management layer feel like when they’re trying to get through the avalanche of content that’s appearing?

He implores content producers to “take a cold, hard look in the mirror. Is anybody doing anything about your content? Not the vanity stuff—how many people downloaded it or how many landing pages arrivals you got, but what did anyone actually do as a consequence of all that effort you put into the content? Did you create any action from it? We’re not looking at that anywhere near close enough.

“I don’t see good distribution plans where there is great content: Google is still the best place to find great content. Good for Google, but shame on us for not having great distribution strategies to get it [out].

“As a recipient of a lot of content marketing, it feels hollow [to me]. We should have the notion of a value exchange: if I give you this content, what are you going to do in return? If people don’t want to give their details up, it’s because they get no value—if they saw value, they’d tell you everything.”

Bell criticised the lack of planning around content distribution, prompting Pulizzi to ask how a content budget is best divided. Bell: “In the round, not necessarily individual pieces, your content budget should be 50% creation and 50% distribution because it needs to go out through paid, earned and owned channels.

“It’s not all about inbound marketing—outbound marketing is alive folks. $500 billion will be spent on outbound advertising/paid media this year. It [needs to be] a mix of both: a great marketing mix, well-funded, to get the content out there that you’ve put sweat and tears into.”

It’s about people, not platforms

Waites picked up on the assertion that marketing executives feel overwhelmed: “We know that we’re all terrified. We know that it’s not business-as-usual anymore because everything is changing so fast. We’re still trying to capture value in the data instead of trying to create these valuable experiences for people.

“It comes down to one simple thing which is probably the best piece of advice that I could give to you: we get too obsessed by the technology but this isn’t about platforms, it’s about people.” Waving along the panel line, he stated: “We all do really good stuff. We do it slightly differently but if there’s one thing I’ve seen consistently at IBM, Salesforce and Adobe, it’s [that it’s important to ask] ‘who do you actually want to do business with?’

“Each one of these companies has got a completely different personality. One’s more analytical, one’s going to be more philanthropic, one deals more with content etc. Who do you want to work with? Who do you like?”

He cited Chief Martec, Scott Brinker: “75% of marketers have a digital strategy. Brilliant. 55% have got the right marketing technology in place but 65% of marketers don’t know how to use it. The biggest problem isn’t the technology. It’s that we’re not working closely enough with agencies, with partners, with services teams to try and make sense of the technology we’ve got instead of chasing the shiny thing.”

Burnand told an anecdote from his days on the agency side: “The ones that shied away, that got 18 months into the investment and then stopped it were the ones that never really learned how to use it. Really, shame on them.” In one case he mentioned, the company budgeted for a particular cloud suite but ended up cutting the training and consulting budget: “‘We don’t need that, we’re going to do it all in-house.’ And then it failed.”

Smith added: “That’s something for the industry as a whole. We need to be working closely with agencies, with consulting firms and with customers. There’s a lot of people involved in making these programmes work. We’re all in it together.”

the TFM 2016 marketing cloud debate

B2P: Business to people

Burnand commented: “It’s interesting when you see the difference in capability gaps between B2B and B2C. I’ve been quite shocked at times by just how advanced some of the experiences that are now being provided in B2C are versus some of the thinking in B2B—B2B has quite a bit of work to do to catch up and to provide more personalised experiences.

“Ultimately, marketers on the B2B side need to think: ‘hang on, we are still dealing with people here and these people are dealing with a load of experiences in their business lives but also in their personal lives every day. We’re competing for their time.’ Think about how many B2C interactions you have even whilst you’re at work. We need to be providing experiences that are on that level. That involves B2B marketers being a lot stronger about what it is they’re currently doing and being a lot more forthright with their organisations about how they need to change experiences to make them more compelling.”

Jensen pushed back a touch: “The minute that there is a sales person involved, the experience for a marketer is completely different. Sales is still a strong channel, despite the prediction of the death of the B2B salesperson.” For her, the dynamics (as they relate to marketers trying to create “B2C moments”) can be quite different in a company that has a B2B sales function.

Tips for adopting a marketing cloud

Marketo’s Bell counsels that before one buys such technology, people would be do well to take a good look at the common practices and processes of their organisation.

“Don’t just transport them straight into the marketing cloud. All you’re going to do is doing what you’re [already] doing, at pace, and it probably won’t translate very well.”

He added: “Reappraise how you’re going to measure and what you’re going to measure. How are you going to operationalise it once you know what you’re going to do? You’ll be able to see the wood for the trees when you’re getting the technology proficiency up and running.”

Oracle’s Jensen reminded the audience:

“Even though people may not be using all of the technology [available in a marketing cloud] now, it’s important to plan. What your needs are today might not be your needs need in five years. Ripping systems out and putting in new things takes a long time. It’s OK to have some runway… If you’re going to make a big investment, think about what that plan is over time.

“You cannot put in a marketing automation system without talking to sales. If you can’t agree on what is the basic fundamentals of what a lead is, you have no lead management process. Marketing on its own can only go so far.”


Further reading: Rise of the marketing cloud

Marketo updates: Latest news from a marketing automation leader

Welcome to TFM’s Marketo hub – a regularly updated resource of advice and information about one of the world’s leading marketing automation platforms.

Top links:

An image with the text Marketo updates hub featuring a cartoon scientist offering a comprehensive guide

What is Marketo?

Marketo, founded in 2006, is known for its marketing automation software, and claim to be the ‘best in class for marketing automation’. Marketo’s cloud-based applications cover a variety of bases including email, mobile, social, advertising, website management and analytics.

In its first 10 years, it wrestled with the likes of HubSpot for SME customers, but early 2016 saw Marketo shift towards competing with the giants of the marketing sector like Oracle, Salesforce and Adobe and their respective “marketing clouds”.

Gartner’s 2016 ‘Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs’, positions Marketo as a leader in the category alongside Oracle, Adobe and Salesforce:

Gartner digital hub


It’s not just the consultants who like Marketo. Last year, TFM visitors voted Marketo the third most loved  marketing technology and users compare Marketo favourably to other marketing automation solutions in the market.

This comparison from users of TrustRadius shows an overall rating of 8.3 out of 10, with a particularly high score for lead management.

Marketo Trust Radius


Marketo in 20 seconds

We asked Elizabeth Smyth, Marketo’s Marketing Director to explain what they do in just 20 seconds. Here is what she said…

An open platform

A key difference between Marketo and its ‘Marketing Cloud’ competitors, is that they are an open platform, integrating with a wide range of partners, while Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce are focused on integrating with their own products.

Marketo’s Launchpoint ecosystem of partners means that it integrates easily with various partners, such as the leading social relationship platforms highlighted in Forrester Wave research:




Marketo’s demo page has some helpful 4 minute videos on different aspects of the products, such as this lead management demo:

Marketo summit: The Marketing Nation Summit

Taking place in Las Vegas from May 9-12 2016, The Marketing Nation Summit is Marketo’s branded conference, with Arianna Huffington and John Legend among this year’s keynote speakers.

Previous years have seen the summit based in San Francisco in early April with 2015 enjoying an international roadshow which visited various US cities as well as the UK, Germany, Paris, Canada and Australia.

Marketo updates: What’s the latest news?

MAY 2016 – Acquisition

Marketo has been acquired by Vista Equity Partners for $1.79 billion, taking the company private again  TFM.

the vista equity partners logo

CEO Phil Fernandez stated that:

“The acquisition will allow Marketo to continue to focus on customer success and to remain the independent category leader, continuing to set the agenda for product innovation and thought leadership for the entire digital marketing industry.”

MARCH 2016 – Strategic partnership
Marketo is teaming up with consulting firm Accenture to help it land big, strategic accounts/ This upmarket mission will put its sales team in direct competition with the likes of Oracle and Salesforce – Fortune.

The Marketo and Accenture logos

MARCH 2106 – Board reshuffle
Three existing Marketo executives will fill new roles: Fred Ball (former CFO) becomes executive vice president and chief administrative officer (CAO); Brian Kinion becomes senior vice president and chief financial officer (CFO); and Jason Holmes (former CCO) is promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer (COO) – PR Newswire.

FEBRUARY 2016 – C-Suite appointment
Marketo hires its first chief security officer, 25-year veteran Jason Hoffman – CSO Online.


Marketo pricing: How much is it?

Marketo’s 2016 pricing is a little tricky to pin down, especially on its website – possibly because of the “desperate price competition coming from the large suite vendors” identified by Phil Fernandez, Marketo CEO.

Marketing Automation and G2 Crowd note Marketo’s three packages starting from $895 per month for Spark; Standard starts from $1,795 per month; Select is from $3,195.

Marketo offers a number of solution bundles including email marketing, lead management, consumer marketing, customer base marketing and mobile marketing – you’ll need to contact sales to find out more about pricing for these and enterprise packages.

Capterra published a marketing automation roundup in 2014, at which time Marketo’s three packages were priced as such: Spark (starting at $1,195 per month), Standard (starting at $1,995 per month) and Select (starting at $3,195 per month). In 2013, The Sales Lion published an in-depth look at Marketo, Pardot and Eloqua including a Total Cost of Ownership chart, finding that a mid-tier package would come to $47,940 a year for Marketo Standard.

Marketo API: What’s available?

Marketo offers a number of REST APIs including for leads, lists, campaigns, activities and more. These allow for the manipulation of data stored within Marketo.

Other REST APIs are covered on the Getting Started page, while developers can dive in with the Quick Start Guide.

Marketo also offers SOAP APIs.

Don’t know your API from your elbow? Our sister site eCommerce Insights took a top level look at the meaning of APIs.

Marketo certification and training

There are three certifications available from Marketo directly, for active customers only:

  • Certified Expert – involving the completion of the relevant learning path in Marketo University and passing a 90 minute exam.
  • Certified Revenue Cycle Analyst – involving the completion of the relevant learning path in Marketo University and passing a 90 minute exam.
  • Certified Consultant – this involves a 2-day workshop (the fee is $1995), strategy project and presentation in addition to a 90 minute exam.

Marketo have published a certification FAQ PDF.

Marketing Rockstar Guides has a few extra tips for people thinking about getting certified (for Marketo, that is).

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