A Tale of Two Cities: The Good, the Bad, and the Random from last week’s Marketo #MKTNGnation and Oracle #MME2017

It was the best of times for Eloqua and Marketo users who were looking forward to convening over their respective marketing automation platforms at the two largest marketing automation industry events in the country: the Marketo Marketing Summit (hosted in San Francisco) and the Oracle Modern Marketing Experience (hosted in Las Vegas).

It was the worst of times for the technology vendor and partner community who were forced to play a game of planes, trains, and automobiles between the Bay area and the City of Sin. Due to some unfortunate scheduling: both shows overlapped by a day. For those trying to attend both, the networking opportunities and invaluable chances to catch up with industry friends (who feel like family) were cut short.

This lady would like to propose a gentleman’s agreement between the Marketing Nation and the Marketing Experience: let’s create some space between the shows next year, huh?

The Good, the Bad, and the Random from Marketo Marketing Nation Summit 2017:

Good: James Corden.
Anyone who has sat through a celebrity appearance at a conference knows how badly they can go. These conference delegates are savvy, and their affinity for a celebrity will always take a backseat to the pride they have for marketing technology and the modern marketing discipline.

Corden’s authenticity and the candid way he described the Internet’s role in his show’s success brought many of us back to digital content creation fundamentals.

I would be remiss not to offer some kudos to new Marketo CEO Steve Lucas who held his own amidst Corden’s gentle jibs and jabs, allowing us to laugh without feeling uncomfortable.

Good: The Balance of Sessions.
ABM took a backseat to AdTech, along with case studies, social, content creation, martech, leadership and change management. The Marketo team did their due diligence of packing the breakout session agenda with relevant topics for all (a challenge, no doubt, when the conference description boasts best practices for marketing, advertising, IT and services). There were also some motivational sessions on day 3 (if you had to go to #MME17, sorry, you missed them) delivered by Andrew Davis and Jay Acunzo that allowed marketers to step away from their essential functions, think big, and enjoy a couple colorful tales of innovation and success.

Bad: Moscone.
I have a love/hate relationship with the Moscone Center. Its hugeness reminds me of how my beloved industry has exploded in the last ten years, but when you have up-to 11 simultaneous breakout sessions set for 700 each – many of them are going to be less-than-half full. Empty chairs are like black holes, sucking energy from the room.

Bad: Confused culture.
Many Marketo-faithful expressed to me some disappointment in the level of energy and buzz at this year’s show. Not surprising, as Marketo is no longer the scrappy underdog who corners the small and mid-market. Founders Jon Miller and Phil Fernandez no longer hold leadership positions in the company, and last year saw additional role changes in finance, administration, and operations. Boasting clients like CA Technologies and Citrix – Marketo has grown up: a firmly entrenched enterprise player with seasoned executive leadership. I suspect Marketo will double-down on customer experience in an effort to reestablish the loyalty and passion of its user base – something that its competitor Eloqua failed to do following the acquisition by Oracle.

You know more songs by the band “Train” than you think – go figure.

The Good, the Bad, and the Random from Oracle’s Modern Marketing Experience 2017:

Good: Intimate Breakout Format:
In effort to create some more conversations, Oracle offered “Breakouts from the Breakout:” Mini-theater setups for thirty or so people in the partner expo area and around the conference center in hallways. They ran these during the two hour lunch breaks, during the keynote, and breakout sessions times.

Good: Focus on Best of Breed:
Despite the conference host, and the universal vendor predilection toward integrating acquisitions and patenting new “clouds” – there was a prevailing interest in exploring products outside of Oracle (or any other marketing cloud suite for that matter). It’s no surprise: marketing technologists are becoming more savvy and skeptical of too-good-to-be-true integrations.

The Bad: Product-focused Sessions:
Take note vendors: Delegates want case studies, not product pitches! There were early exits from sessions when it became clear that the product, not the user, was the focus. Similarly, it’s critical to know your audience whether or not you’re presenting a breakout or keynote. While Mark Hurd had the challenge of setting the tone for the conference with his keynote, some of his examples of bad customer service with car rental and airline companies fell a bit flat.

The Bad: Marketers are not ready for AI:
After viewing the case studies, several marketers confessed to us that they felt behind with AI (artificial intelligence, machine learning, you-name-it) – even the fundamentals. AI, while exciting and visionary, still feels out of reach and especially out of budget.

The Random:
For Eloqua-long-timers, the most valuable meetings and networking events were informal: most commonly held in cabanas by the pool. The original marketing automation generation is finding the content for MME less and less relevant.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done;”

Both clients and vendors are beginning to acknowledge the immenseness of the digital transformation, and how technology and tools intersect with each part of a digital-first organization. Both Marketo and Oracle Eloqua have seen their annual shows grow in size and subject matter, trading specificity for breadth. Most organizations won’t deny that “customer experience,” or “leading in the engagement economy” are important, but neither Marketo or Oracle have succeeded in creating 3 days of relevance for the many audiences they attract.

If it were easy, wouldn’t everyone do it?

4 “easy” areas where marketing technologists can fall short

I was a sophomore in high school, anticipating my first-ever “session.” A session is a term used to describe 20-30 minutes spent playing a musical instrument, by yourself, in front of your music director to be assessed a chair in the school’s band.  (Oh, and former band-geeks – I am looking at you, because you know exactly what I am talking about. Don’t hide). This harrowing collection of minutes was made even more terrifying by the fact that your “chair” represented how skilled you were at your instrument. First chair = the most skilled. Last chair = the least skilled.  In Manchester, NH at the ripe age of 15 – the stakes couldn’t be higher.

I’d spent hours practicing my scales as well as all the prepared pieces (to this day, I find the best cure for anxiety is preparation), and I was thinking I had a terrific shot at first chair.  On the day of my session – my parents wished me good luck and I skipped off to the bus, hopped on and made it all the way to school.

Without my clarinet.

The moral of the story is this: it doesn’t matter how well you execute the hard things if you can’t get the easy things right. By easy – I mean common sense, non-strategic tasks. Clever offers are can be rendered useless by poor deliverability, and real-time personalization becomes irrelevant for mobile users when websites aren’t responsive.

Below are my top four ways that marketing technologists forget their clarinet:

Lead Routing

The first time a credible lead is misrouted (or worse, not routed at all) to the follow-up function – your reputation takes a crippling roundhouse to the gut. You don’t get unlimited chances to get lead routing right, so don’t roll it out until it’s fool-proof.

Speaking of foolish – many organizations base their lead routing on legacy business rules that are nearly impossible to automate. The best thing you can do is intervene before an error occurs and have a frank and honest conversation about this with a sales management or operations function.  One of two things typically occur: the rules are slowly modified to something that’s more standard and easier to automate, or human intervention is permitted to ensure better accuracy.

Naming Conventions

Chefs, you can’t cook an epic meal in a messy kitchen and expect to serve it on time! Naming conventions, while not the sexiest topic to tackle when you’re bringing a new piece of technology into the fold, are critical to the productivity of the application’s users. Come up with an intuitive convention that will meet the needs of the users, and be reasonably self-explanatory to those who are not intimate with the application and teach it as part of your training and/or onboarding process. If you don’t, two years from now you’ll be staring down the barrel of a massive renaming exercise and trust me, your time is better spent.


I could probably write a whole post on how forms can be mishandled, but this is about getting easy things right. So – integrate your forms to post to the marketing database first, and let the marketing database automation standardize some of the submission data prior to updating CRM. It doesn’t take a long time, and you’ll thank me later when you don’t have 150 leads named Mickey Mouse in Salesforce.com.

Also, use some field validation for both required fields AND field formats. Don’t want @GMAIL.COM or @YAHOO.COM? Prevent submissions with these addresses. Want phone numbers in XXX-XXX-XXXX format? Use validation to set the formatting prior to submission.

If cleaning up your incoming data sources is still getting the best of you, our friends at Integrate can REALLY help with challenges like duplicates, invalid companies, incomplete fields, bad email addresses, invalid phone numbers and the like.


Personalization is different than dynamic content in that it typically occurs at the field level. Therefore, field formats and hygiene on fields used for personalization as well as overall restraint is critical! Stop me if you’ve seen this one before:

Management/consulting can be a tough business. We help companies of your size 0-10 employees all the time. Give me a call if you want to discuss the different ways that we can help. I’ll also be in BOSTON, MA next month if you’d like to meet up!

etc. etc.

Sincerely? Really? Because there is no way a human wrote that message.

Personalization is backfiring all over the Internet because Marketers don’t keep merged fields tidy, don’t use restraint, and don’t test their personalization at scale.

Now it’s your turn: which ones did I miss? What are your biggest headaches?

(This post originally appeared on the Integrate blog. Check out more great content at blog.integrate.com/.)

Unpacking the Stack

I’ve spent the better part of my career helping clients and colleagues solve important problems with marketing automation and marketing technology and I’ll tell you right now: it’s naïve to think that what worked 10 years ago still works now.

So… how does one keep all the marketing technology options straight?

One thing is for certain – there’s no single solution out there that solves every marketing problem. And for every problem, you can be sure there are multiple vendors that can solve it in their own way. Don’t invest in a solution because it’s the latest buzzword or ‘everyone is doing it.’ Take the time to understand your own needs.

If you’re having trouble unpacking the stack, and Chief Martec’s landscape is a little too detailed for you – here is a more simplified way to organize martech solution types:

1. Predictive
Technologies that fall in this category enable organizations to identify their target customer(s) by:

  • Creating an ideal customer profile based on a series of successful deals or other behavior
  • Taking that profile and marrying it with a rich database of intent data to reveal the important criteria that defines that ideal customer.
  • Identifying new accounts, or scoring existing accounts, contacts, and leads that are lookalikes to the ideal customer
  • Determining whether or not certain accounts, contacts or leads have a higher propensity to do something (purchase or convert) based on the important criteria.

Clients use this technology primarily for:

  • Uncovering areas of their database they might not otherwise pursue
  • Growing their database with records that are likely to behave in a desirable way (buy, convert, etc.)
  • Getting more precise with ad targeting and display
  • Adding more accuracy to the lead scoring discipline.

2. Orchestration
The biggest change for me in the martech landscape was the discovery that most marketing automation platforms have become the orchestration engine for other martech solutions. This is big because as early as 5 years ago, MAP used to be one of the only marketing technology investments that an organization would make.

I’m not downplaying the importance of orchestration – these tools keep the trains running on time and on the track.

  • Orchestration tools are known for:
  • Centralizing activities from multiple channels and multiple solutions in a single environment
  • Being rich in integrations with powerful, data-driven automation engines
  • Allowing for the planning and execution of multi-channel campaigns with multiple, integrated technologies.
  • Providing light analysis to show users how their integrated efforts are performing.

3. Content Experience
Content experience solutions focus on the sequencing and personalization of content to create a unique, compelling content consumption experience for the user. This involves different content visualization methods and consumption channels which appeal to a user’s desire to self-educate.

Content Experience Solutions are used most commonly used for:

  • Nurture – They adapt to the recency and frequency of a user’s interaction with marketing content
  • Websites and Microsites – Easy organization for digital properties dedicated to a specific offering
  • Reporting – Great for understanding audience’s patterns of content interaction

4. Data Management and Analysis
It’s easy to oversimplify this category because there are many different answers to the question, “How do I best maintain the integrity of my data and have it deliver the insights I need to make good decisions?”

Let’s break this into its two subcategories:

  1. Data Management – The data management tools collect, organize, store, and normalize data so it can be used to deliver insights and segmentation from a variety of different sources.
  2. Data Measurement/Analysis – These technologies allow you to measure the impact of an activity or help you answer a business question.

In short, both data management and analysis are needed to define marketing audiences and measure the impact of a program or campaign – but you won’t always find data management and analysis in the same tool.

I’ve attempted to break down the areas that have been most relevant to me in my journey, but there are countless other ways to think about the marketing stack. In my next posts, I’ll explore some of the solutions and vendors that fall into these categories.