As we continue our reviews of top martech platforms, we’re taking a look at Marketo — how did it come to be, and is it the best solution for your business? We’ve done the research and broken down its history, plus pros and cons, for you.
Headquartered in San Mateo, CA, Marketo was founded in 2006 by Phil Fernandez, Jon Miller and David Morandi, all formerly of CRM software company Epiphany. As the story goes, they wondered what exactly what was keeping CMOs up at night, so they began cold-calling them to find out.
When they heard from one CMO that her board was challenging her to provide data on her marketing ROI, they created Marketo so marketers like her could demonstrate the ROI of their campaigns.
The founders built Marketo with Salesforce in mind, and its seamless integration makes it an attractive option for marketers already using that CRM. They packaged Marketo with landing pages, forms, emails, list segmentation, lead nurturing and a host of other add-on features (for an additional cost) all designed specifically for marketing automation. By comparison, competitor HubSpot aims to be an all-in-one solution not only for marketing automation, but also for sales and customer relationship management.
Marketo has hit some bumps in the road since its founding. The company went public in 2013 and remained independent as competitors were acquired, but it struggled on the public market, according to Forbes. It went private again in 2016 after it was acquired by private equity firm Vista Equity Partners for $1.8 billion so it could focus on its future and “not have to deal with quarterly statements.”
That future includes a six-year “alliance” with Google, in which Marketo will move all of its software onto the Google Cloud Platform (rather than cloud competitors Amazon or Microsoft). The alliance includes expanded use of Marketo at Google and deeper integration of Google tools — such as AdWords — into Marketo’s products.
The impact of that alliance has yet to be seen, but currently, Marketo lags behind HubSpot in terms of customers. Marketo hasn’t made current customer numbers public, but it had 4,600 customers at the time of its acquisition by Vista, while HubSpot now has more than 40,000. Marketo’s estimated annual revenue is $308.5 million, compared to HubSpot’s $375.6 million.
Why Marketers Like Marketo
Here are three of the top reasons why Marketo has become some marketers’ favorite:
- Advanced analytics. Every martech platform offers analytics that allow you to track performance, uncover insights about your prospects and create detailed custom reports. But at higher-priced tiers, Marketo offers advanced analytics that show how marketing campaigns impact revenue and offers models based on CRM data, content preferences, firmographics and more.
- Engagement programs. This module, available in Marketo’s basic tier, aims to simplify lead nurturing by allowing users to create detailed communication streams based on prospects’ previous interactions without having to set up multiple smart campaigns with complex logic.
- Active user community. Marketo actively shares information with its users about Marketo's system and inbound marketing advice in general. Its Knowledge Base is also a helpful resource for users who want to find ways to get the most ROI out of the platform, at their own pace. Other Marketo users are exceptionally helpful to each other in answering questions and addressing concerns.
Drawbacks of Marketo
Three cons that you’ll face when working within Marketo are:
- No blogging platform. If you have a blog or want to start one — as every inbound marketer should — you’ll have to integrate Marketo with WordPress or another blogging solution. Marketo also doesn’t offer other features that come standard with an all-in-one system, such as social posting and monitoring.
- IT knowledge required. Some of Marketo’s features require a bit of technical savvy to set up and initiate. Their landing pages and emails require HTML and CSS proficiency to create and maintain, while HubSpot users with little or no technical knowledge can figure out the interface on their own in relatively short order. For marketing teams without such technical know-how, Marketo might prove too technical to manage.
- Steep pricing. At just about every level, Marketo is expensive, especially compared to HubSpot. The starting price is $895 per month compared to $200 for HubSpot, not including startup fees.
For its full suite of features, Marketo is $3,195 per month, vs. $2,400 a month for HubSpot’s enterprise level — and those features are very different, as Marketo focuses on marketing automation and HubSpot is designed to be an all-in-one martech solution encompassing sales and its own CRM.
Another note: Unlike HubSpot and Pardot, Marketo doesn’t post its exact pricing for each of its bundles on its website (although those numbers are widely available from other sources). Instead, the company encourages you to call sales and says they can put together a custom package based on your needs. Our advice: Take advantage of free demos before you investment in any marketing automation platform.
The bottom line: Marketers with deep technical resources who need a marketing automation system that seamlessly integrates with Salesforce and offers advanced analytics should look closely at Marketo. But don’t overlook competitors such as HubSpot and Pardot that might offer comparable or additional features for a better value.