Five Things We Learned at the Marketo Conference

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Last week we attended the Marketo conference in San Francisco, and I was impressed by the scale, energy and content. Arianna Huffington killed it in her keynote, John Legend showed off his BCG street cred while belting out a few hits and Visually secured the sought-after booth space in the far back corner of the expo floor — right next to where they set up the bar. If you wanted a drink, you had to stand there while we accosted you. It was a great conference indeed. There were a lot of interesting presentations, companies and conversations. Here are a few of my key takeaways:

1. Most Marketo users have a shiny new spaceship that they barely know how to use.

Visually just switched over to Marketo itself, so in addition to forcing ourselves upon potential prospects, we were chatting people up about their experiences so far. It seemed like a lot of people were just scratching the surface of its capabilities. The best analogy I can muster is that we’re all using a spaceship to get back and forth to the grocery store. Countless people said they had implemented Marketo within the last few months, and their primary goal of the conference was to understand what it can do. That tells you a little something about the push toward marketing automation – “I’m not sure what it’s full capabilities are, but I was sure I had to have it.”

2. So you’ve automated marketing, now you just need to feed the beast.

Content is still king, and will be for some time. Marketing automation, content marketing and engagement marketing have shifted the bottleneck to content creation. We’ve all learned that the high-volume, low-quality content torrent isn’t effective. But how do you keep up in a world that is demanding ever more engaging content in an expanding range of formats to push through a never-ending list of channels? [Self-serving plug coming] You’re going to need some help, and more and more marketers are looking to companies like Visually (visual content), Scripted (written content) and Percolate (content marketing management) to give them another set of hands.

3. The rise in extreme personalization

I talked to several startups whose focus was serving up hyper-relevant, context-specific content and ads. Serving up an ad relevant to “a male 35-40 who was recently shopping for a car” is no longer enough. For example, one company was attempting to automatically create highly customized video ads. They would create components of the video, and then based on who the visitor is, what the visitor did and when the visitor did it, they would assemble and serve up a video unique to the visitor. We’re moving from applying analytics to past data to using what you are doing right this second to deliver you personalized content.

4. The new Marketer: Math Men + technical skills

I was impressed by both the quantitative and technical skills of the marketers I met. Granted, there was some selection bias given it was a Marketo conference, but to be successful in the new marketing world requires a powerful mix of creativity, analytical skills and technical prowess. Demand gen marketers in particular have to master a dizzying array of platforms and tech, and still deliver messages and content that can rise above the constant din. It’s not an easy task, and today’s marketers have to cover more ground than they have in the past.

5. ‘Engagement marketing’ is the new new thing, and ‘campaigns’ are equated with bloodletting and leeches.

There was a lot of love for engagement marketing – active engagement with your users and bringing them into the conversation about and evolution of your brand. It should be a conversation that never ends (see above need to produce more content), but instead evolves gradually over time. Campaigns are the one-night-stands of the marketing world, and evidently that is a bad thing. From Phil Fernandez’ keynote to multiple breakout sessions, campaigns were maligned as being disjointed and disconnected with today’s world of one-to-one relationships. When the campaign ends, so too does your relationship with your customer. In engagement marketing, it’s a two way conversation that evolves over time. I’m not sure I believe that the campaign is dead (or should be), but the message came through loud and clear that you want a relationship with your customers that doesn’t end when your 6-touch email campaign has run its course. Did you attend the Marketo Summit as well? Or wish you had? Let me know your thoughts.

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