As we’ve all heard, Marketo was finally acquired by another tech company: Adobe.
This happened on the eve of Dreamforce, which exiled Marketo years ago when Salesforce acquired ExactTarget-Pardot. Since then, Marketo and its allies have spent their marketing dollars across the street at Jillian’s as well as carefully keeping the Marketo-SFDC sync alive while slowly disentangling from Appexchange.
That has taken years.
For all of the people looking at the acquisition as Good or Bad for users, customers, or Adobe’s customers, I would say “It won’t matter for a long time.” The ExactTarget-Pardot acquisition of 2013 slowly became Salesforce Marketing Cloud, yet somehow Pardot is still essentially a separate product. And didn’t Pardot only recently become fully integrated with SFDC? Adobe itself hasn’t exactly integrated previous purchases like Neolane and people still call Adobe Analytics, Omniture.
We are now five years after the Eloqua and Pardot acquisitions with not a lot of innovation in Marketing Automation from the original big vendors. The interesting innovation has been on the periphery:
- Sales Engagement Automation from Outreach, Salesloft, etc gave Salesforce and Marketo a run for their money on key Marketing-Sales alignment and lead nurturing.
- Post Sales Automation is surprisingly still limited both in terms of vendors (Gainsight), and Support Tool Integration with SFDC Cases
- Data processing is a giant mess of point solutions that all do cool things.
- Web Personalization is really dominated by a small group of large vendors.
- Third to First Party Data is still not integrated with Marketing Automation in a fluid way.
- Privacy laws aren’t driving the innovation I expected to manage permissions, instead it is focused on cases (OneTrust)
Thus, I don’t see this acquisition as changing anything meaningful in the short run for users or customers of Marketo or Adobe. Acquisitions and the strategies behind them usually take years to play out, let alone be successful.
I would say that the “innovation” from this acquisition will not be in features, but in integrations to Adobe’s offering. I would be very surprised if Marketo receives investment to innovate in the areas I mentioned above.
Dom Nicastro of CMSWire, wrote an article about the “10 Ways the Adobe, Marketo Acquisition Will Impact Marketo’s Users.” The structure is interesting, so let’s review the some of the issues he brought up and why I think the short to medium term won’t matter at all for most of us.
Near Term – What Will Change
In my experience with tech acquisitions as a user, almost nothing will change other than the logo…at least in the first year or so.
Adobe Native Connectors with Experience Cloud, Advertising, Analytics, and Magento.
Integrations are a good thing and it is always disappointing when platform groups cut each other off due to competitive reasons. Now Marketo will be able to talk to Adobe Marketing Cloud products in a more seamless way. A native Activity Log and the resurrection of Anonymous data access via Marketo Munchkin tied directly to Omniture would be an incredible leap forward for many organizations, especially B2C.
Of course, to do this, we will see a change in the roadmap, but not the “Vision” for Marketo.
Connector Vendors will lose out
As Adobe and Marketo use direct APIs to integrate first party and third party data, expect middleware vendors to lose out in 1-2 years.
Marketo will likely abandon development on personalization tools
While that sounds bad, it may be a great thing. Marketo has lagged behind on a seamless user experience for its personalization tools because they were from an acquisition that had limited investment for several years. The good thing behind this is if Adobe’s AI and testing suite are substantially better, there would be ways to integrate this with Marketo, to the great benefit of Marketo users.
Near Term – What Will Not Change
Marketo will continue to exist as essentially a separate entity under the Adobe umbrella. Acquisitions are complex and it will take time to re-brand as well as find the right places for Adobe to make its mark within Marketo. Adobe will ideally be careful not to alienate Marketo’s 6,000 customers and highly active userbase with massive changes. An expensive acquisition is not the place to drive unhappy users into the arms of Salesforce or Oracle.
I agree with my friends that Marketo will remain CRM agnostic because it has to. Marketo’s customers are still 80% on SFDC and no one sees that changing.
Performance of the Product
While Orion and the move to Google Cloud have helped many of Marketo’s performance issues for higher impact customers, I don’t see this changing in the near term. As some have pointed out in the article, Adobe may want to move Marketo away from Google Cloud. Yet, this just happened or is still underway. It would be very expensive for Adobe Marketo to switch again immediately. If they did want to move, they would damage the long term Google customer relationship as well as hurt every single customer who would no doubt experience system hiccups.
What I would love to see is Adobe Marketo take a hard look at their priorities and consider a backend rebuild that addresses the scalability issues larger firms and B2C firms have with trigger processing, database size, and load balancing.
Pricing and Renewals
Tony Byrne, CEO of Real Story Group, suggested that Marketo renewals could expect a higher increase when Adobe seeks to recoup its investment. This is certainly a possibility, however, Marketo is already well known for hefty renewal fees when the contract is up. I suspect people will only start to make noise about 6-12 months after the acquisition closes if Adobe goes this route. Ideally, Adobe won’t start to increase prices, rather they will provide actual value through improvements or additional plugins to ask for more money.
Initially, we should see a new pricing sheet and cross selling sales initiative once the deal closes. Just as Marketo offered Bizible demos after the Marketo Summit, we should expect to hear from our Upsell reps about “Adobe’s amazing offerings” and could they bring the local Adobe rep to the office? They won’t ask for more renewal money as long as you are adding on to your new Adobe contract.
My Wishlist for Adobe Marketo
Backend Rebuild for large scale rebalancing and B2C.
Investment is going to be key. If Adobe thinks it can starve Marketo of investment dollars and reap profit, it will be sorely disappointed when customers depart. And it would make sense to invest in scale for their B2C components like Magento and Advertising.
Native Integrations with Adobe’s existing product suite.
I hope so.
AWS style resource purchasing.
Allowing customers to purchase more speed will ensure investment in the backend and continued support from larger customers.
AB Testing Rebuild – make it a pro level and improve analytics.
I hate to say it, but the page and email AB testing in Marketo is terrible. There are no real analytics or management tools for more than one off AB tests. Pressing “Champion” seems to make all the data and emails disappear. This has to change if Marketo becomes a part of the B2C part of Adobe.
Invest in devops style transparency into the system for Marketing Operations pros.
System health is critical, even for smaller Marketo instances. Help us!
Don’t change too much too quickly!
Occasionally, a firm will send in its people from Corporate and make sweeping changes without understanding anything about the business, the people, or why customers buy. That never goes well. Do not do this.
What Could Change in the Long Term?
Scott Brinker of Chiefmartec focused on the Platform Ecosystem and that’s an area that Marketo and Adobe haven’t fully developed for themselves. Marketo does have Launchpoint, but this has undergone changes which have meant many point vendors vanished from sight. Perhaps Adobe will build Adobe Exchange or even look at their disaparate offerings as a mix and match, plug and play martech stack that can cross the B2C and AdTech to Martech boundaries. To do that, Marketo and Adobe’s consulting services groups would have to join forces.
Thus, what you may see is a central Sales and Consulting Group that will help firms organize Adobe’s offerings into custom constellation stacks, unique to each business. This sort of organization will take time to build and will make Adobe more like its rivals in this space.
The tighter integration of Magento ecommerce with Marketo may force the Product team to scale up the backend to support rapid data processing and personalization at scale. Ecommerce relies on speed and click to sales, while Marketo was built more for long sales processes, where seconds don’t count. If Marketo wants to be better friends with Magento, speed will matter more.
Marketo Summit – RIP?
The chatter on LinkedIn from most Marketo users was “What happens to Marketo Summit 2019 – Las Vegas”? I have no idea. Since the deal won’t close for a bit and the contracts for both venues were already signed, I suspect we’ll see this happen:
- Adobe Summit 2019 is also in Las Vegas and I bet will now feature a giant Marketo booth. Incentives may be offered for Marketo users to start attending. I may go next year since I will need to link up more with my colleagues in this area. What I do like about Adobe’s offering are the “Labs” which is precisely what I hope Marketo will add on to their events. The prices are similar, so don’t expect to see a lot of cross over in 2019.
- Marketo Nation 2019 – since the contracts are likely signed and many Marketo users are looking for a repeat of 2016’s blowout in Vegas, Marketo will keep the Nation going independently just for 2019. We are a pretty vocal bunch that will need our own outlet. Expect to see a giant Adobe Experience booth now.
My big worry is that the DNA that made Marketo such a big brand for B2B marketers, and helped create the Marketing Ops function, will disappear. The vision and innovation could stagnate. Adobe could come in and make Marketo “do it their way,” causing disruption and confusion for customers and staff. Even if that does happen, the good news is creative destruction will ensure a new Marketing Automation platform would come along eventually and be even better.