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What’s the Best Marketing Automation Software for Microsoft Dynamics CRM?


Marketo Review—An Independent Marketing Software Analysis

Marketo is the outlier in this marketing software review for a few reasons. Unlike the other solutions, Marketo takes the ‘integrated’ approach with Dynamics CRM as opposed to the ‘embedded’ approach. This means the marketing software is not positioned and managed within the CRM software, and results in a separation among marketing and CRM systems.

While delineation between marketing software and CRM software may suggest a siloed approach, the reality is that seldom do marketers want sales staff going into their marketing software, and it’s similarly not prevalent for marketers to spend much time in the CRM application if their tools reside within the marketing automation platform.

This approach also means that Marketo’s primary competitors are typically different that the other vendors in this marketing software review. Whereas ClickDimensions, CoreMotives and to a slightly lesser extent SalesFUSION generally compete with each other in nearly every sale opportunity, Marketo’s competition is much broader and includes Eloqua, HubSpot and’s Marketing Cloud (with Pardot).

Marketo integrates with multiple CRM software systems. The bulk of its customers are customers, and much of the Marketo solution was built on the platform as a service (PaaS) framework. However, with’s acquisition of ExactTarget (which included the Pardot marketing automation solution), Marketo’s most significant partner became its biggest competitor and the company has since aggressively pursued a best of breed marketing automation strategy by partnering with other CRM systems such as Dynamics CRM, NetSuite, Oracle and SugarCRM.

Marketo typically serves larger customers than the other marketing software systems in this review. In fact, the company counts some of the largest customers in the industry. The application is highly scalable and generally possesses most of the advanced feature sets requested by CMO’s who are not implementing marketing automation technology for the first time.

Lastly, Marketo itself is much larger than the other marketing software companies in this review, with the possible exception of Silverpop. Marketo is the second fastest growth marketing application (behind HubSpot) and the second largest marketing application measured in revenues (behind Eloqua). In May 2013 Marketo completed a very successful IPO and has since shown early success in making the transition from a private company to a public company.

Digital Lead Acquisitions

Leads are most often sourced on website landing pages. Marketo uses a WYSIWIG tool to create landing pages and permits more experienced web designers to insert HTML and cascading style sheets (CSSs). Key landing page feature sets include flexible A/B testing, forms which recognize known visitors, progressive profiling and branding using subdomains on the Marketo network. There's a sad reality that approximately half of all B2B marketers don't A/B or otherwise test their landing pages for conversion optimization. The biggest factor behind this lost opportunity is the time required for testing and measurement. Marketo's A/B automation and reporting automates much of these tasks to help marketers make improvements which increase their conversions as well as their Google PPC scores.

Also, A/B testing can review both content and flow. This is helpful in understanding which content and flow paths deliver the highest conversions. While A/B testing is available for both emails and landing pages, it is not available for forms testing.

The landing pages and forms management is the most sophisticated among the solutions in this marketing software review. Landing pages and forms can be built from templates and content blocks, and if a landing page template is updated, the updates cascade through to landing pages based on the template. Forms are developed separately from landing pages so that they can be shared and reused among landing pages.

Marketo is the only vendor in this review that permits marketers to measure their marketing asset and content conversions. Content engagement is scored and stack ranked according to a proprietary algorithm that compares content effectiveness to both the Marketo user community and your own content conversion history. You can also compare varying content in order to experiment and evaluate different cast criteria, such as when content is delivered (day or week or time of day), content priority, or other factors. This takes multivariate testing to a new level.

Nurture Campaigns & Email Marketing

Marketo has always offered sophisticated nurture campaign design and execution, however, its most recent Customer Engagement release makes it a leader in this category.

Instead of using either a table construct or IF/THEN builder (which limits nurture campaigns to extremely minimal capabilities) or a free form flowchart-like canvas approach (which becomes difficult to manage), Marketo uses the concept of Smart Streams to build intelligent nurture campaigns which are highly adaptive to customer journeys. It’s a more flexible approach that recognizes lead conversations can’t be scripted into simple conditional logic or a flowchart.

Marketo Streams are also useful for inserting fresh content. Smart marketers have learned that triggered responses yield the highest conversions, and I believe the relatively new concept of real-time marketing holds a lot of promise, as long as this real-time or time-bound content can be easily inserted into nurtured conversations.

Marketo Streams also facilitate other problems that have been nagging marketers for years, such as accidently pushing duplicate content to recipients, losing cadence or sending too many messages in too short of periods—a fatal error which increases unsubscribes. And when combined with Marketo Dynamic content the Streams permit even more flexibility to improve personalization and alter content based on customer segmentation.

Marketo email deliverability tools help email distributions actually get to their intended mailboxes. These tools let you review how your campaign will look in different email readers and spot HTML or other content that may cause trouble with spam filters. Email deliveries generally conform to ISP throttling limits, bounce codes, reputation parameters and rules. Marketo uses StrongMail for email delivery and ReturnPath for reputation management. Marketo also discloses deliverability scores at its Trust site and at the time of this marketing automation software review was achieving Return Path reputation scores in the 90s.

Lead Scoring

Marketo offers the most flexible and sophisticated lead scoring capabilities in this marketing software review. Key capabilities which aid the difficult process of determining which leads are truly sales-ready and should be forwarded to the sales force include multiple lead scores for the same lead, company lead scores for contact leads across a company, lead score calculations based on aggregate lead behaviors (such as the number of specified actions occurring over a designated period), the ability to cap scoring elements (so that repeated activities don't inflate or distort the score) and flexibility to limit how often a data scoring element is counted (for example, only count a maximum of two website visits per day).

Lead scores can be calculated and re-calculated based on events or a schedule as well as decremented for periods of inactivity. Lead score updates can be added or subtracted from the prior score, or recalculated anew.

Lead behavior and scoring can also trigger a lead to bypass sequential campaign steps and be immediately forwarded to inside sales or sales based on real-time events. This can be very impactful, as evidenced by an MIT Lead Response Management research study which revealed that a delay from 5 minutes to 10 minutes in reaching out to a lead response decreases the probability of actually contacting the lead by 400 percent. Waiting 30 minutes before following up with the lead decreases your chances by 21 times. With hot leads, time is of the essence.

Next: Marketo Strengths & Weaknesses >>

Dynamics CRM Marketing ReviewClickDimensions ReviewClickDimensions EvaluationMarketo ReviewMarketo EvaluationSalesFusion ReviewSalesFusion EvaluationSilverpop CoreMotives ReviewSilverpop CoreMotives Evaluation





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