Marketo is a very good solution for the problem it sets out to solve, so the question is really more about how good a fit that solution is for your needs.
So, who uses Marketo? Marketo is specifically most useful and cost-effective for mid-sized businesses and enterprise level businesses. Additionally, while both Marketo and HubSpot can work as marketing automation platforms for both the B2B sector and the B2C sector, Marketo has taken a stronger hold in B2B and HubSpot has taken a stronger hold in B2C.
If you're a small company, you will probably be better off with Infusionsoft or MailChimp, and if you're a freelancer or just barely getting on your feet, a combination of MailChimp with other freemium or cheap one-piece-at-a-time solutions is virtually guaranteed to be a more cost-effective solution than Marketo.
One useful dividing line between whether or not Marketo is a good choice for you is whether or not you are using or considering using the Salesforce CRM. This is, in no small part, due to the fact that the integration between Marketo and Salesforce is one of the most robust and comprehensive in the whole industry, including integrations between other marketing automation platforms and CRMs. Additionally, Marketo Sales Insight, a Salesforce add-on, seamlessly integrates Marketo lead information into Salesforce, strengthening your sales staff's ability to identify promising leads.
This isn't to say that you shouldn't consider Marketo if you aren't using Salesforce. If you are using, or could benefit from using, any CRM similar in scope to Salesforce, Marketo is definitely worth considering as a complement to it. It integrates with MS Dynamics, SAP, SugarCRM, NetSuite, and Oracle, as well as Zapier and IFTTT to integrate with various other platforms. In addition, if you want to go hard on marketing automation, regardless of whether or not you use a CRM, Marketo is definitely one of the heaviest hitters on the market.
Also, while it's somewhat subjective, Marketo arguably has a broader feature set than any other marketing automation platform on the market. That was what we found when we compared Marketo's features against other marketing platforms in this chart, although, to be fair, it's certainly possible that a different methodology could look at a different set of features and find another platform with more.
I wouldn't call Marketo the easiest marketing automation platform to use, but it is relatively intuitive for its scope. There's even an add-on for Outlook. The interface uses familiar conventions. The left side of the screen contains a tree menu that you can use to navigate Marketo's features and your projects. The right-hand side of the screen contains tabs and menu items, and relatively self-explanatory sections with icons to navigate. The Landing Page and Email editors are simple visual drag-and-drop interfaces, and you can "program" logical arguments into your Smart Campaigns using simple drop down menus. Marketo's API is, predictably, unusable if you aren't a developer, but otherwise fairly straightforward. All in all, for a platform that pretty much embraces feature creep as a positive thing, it's fair to call Marketo surprisingly user friendly.
Problems With Marketo
As is inevitable with any high-feature product, Marketo certainly isn't the most easy marketing automation platform to use. (Take note though, it's definitely not the most cumbersome or confusing one on the market either.) While the interface is intuitive for what it is, and uses familiar visual layouts and shorthands, it's definitely not a product you can just pick up and use without at least a little bit of training or research.
If you are looking for a marketing automation platform that has a built-in marketing philosophy, a built-in workflow, a built-in product cycle, or anything of the kind, Marketo definitely isn't it. Marketo is designed to let you do what you want with it.
It is extremely open-ended. That isn't always a good thing. If you aren't enforcing a workflow of some kind external to Marketo, things can get messy fast. The most notable example? Marketo's file structure. If your users aren't naming and organizing things by a convention defined outside of Marketo, disorganization rules the day.
If you happen to hear somebody uttering the words "I hate Marketo," these are most likely the kinds of problems they are talking about: problems related to Marketo's open-ended, broad feature approach. It is built with a power-first mindset, not a streamlined one.
How Useful Is Marketo For Ecommerce?
Marketo is great for ecommerce for two primary reasons.
First, because Smart Campaigns are designed to let you target specific customers based on their browsing history and other factors that you define. When you are selling a broad number of products, the last thing you want to do is spam irrelevant information to leads who aren't interested. Smart Campaigns let you send the right product deals to the right people.
Second, because Marketo is so CRM friendly, again, especially if you have Salesforce. The sheer amount of information Marketo collects on leads makes it incredibly useful for identifying who is most likely to convert.
To get more specific, Marketo allows you to track which pages on your site leads have visited. This information is tracked even before a lead enters their contact information in a form, and the historical data becomes associated with their contact information after they provide it. Contact information can also be sent to Marketo via the API, so a lead need not fill out a Marketo form. The information could also be collected from the shopping cart and sent to Marketo.
There are existing integrations between Marketo and a few ecommerce platforms, so you may not need to dig into the API at all. Preexisting integrations exist for Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, Avangate, and Episerver.
What About Marketo For Real Estate?
This depends almost entirely on how you do real estate and how big you are.
Odds are if you are an individual real estate agent, Marketo is going to be way overpowered for what you need.
If, on the other hand, you control a website with a fair number of real estate listings, Marketo could be pretty useful.
The power of the software comes from it's ability to tie contact information to online behavior. Marketo's usefulness, in that case, all comes down to your ability to acquire contact information from site visitors. If, for example, your real estate site has a soft paywall or extra features if they create an account, Marketo could be useful. A less promising endeavor: a home buying guide or something to the effect could serve as a lead magnet to draw in contacts.
If you can successfully pull this contact information, you can use Marketo to identify which pages or sections of your site they are spending the most time on. This can inform you of places they are considering moving to, or ideas about their price range.
You could then set up campaigns to send messages to leads, filtered by where they have looked, or by their price range, whenever a new listing pops up, or the price changes.
The real test of how valuable Marketo would be for real estate comes down to whether you would be able to obtain enough contacts for Marketo's Smart Campaign filters and triggers for those features to be useful. If there wouldn't be enough data to usefully segment your audience by their interests, Marketo would be seriously overpowered and over-priced for your needs. The same is true if the variety in your retail catalog is too limited for those features to be useful.
If those features wouldn't be especially useful, MailChimp should be perfectly adequate for most or all of your needs until your business achieves more scale.
Marketo For Sales?
As a stand-alone product, Marketo isn't necessarily a sales-oriented piece of software, but even so, it can be very useful for a sales team. The important thing to understand, though, is that Marketo is not a CRM. If you are expecting that, you will be disappointed.
As discussed above, Salesforce plus Marketo is a huge win for your sales team. Marketo Sales Insight pulls Marketo data right into the Salesforce interface and clearly marks which leads are hottest based on their interactions with your website and your promotional materials.
While Marketo's integrations with other CRMs aren't quite as comprehensive, using the two in conjunction is still a massive benefit for a sales team, for the same reasons. The downside is that your sales team would, in those cases, likely need to use the Marketo interface itself in order to find all of the most useful lead information.
Of course, Marketo is useless for a sales team if it isn't also being used to track and collect leads. It is a marketing automation platform first and foremost, so you absolutely must be using it for marketing automation for it to be useful to a sales staff.
Is Marketo A Good Choice For Startups?
If we're talking about a relatively lean startup focussed squarely on getting a working prototype and proof of concept out the door, I would say the answer is usually no. Marketo's usefulness only starts to show for most businesses once they reach "medium" size, loosely defined as that is.
In most business cases, a startup should be focussed on selling one thing to one type of customer. There may be a few different types of personas, but they will in general be quite similar to each other, at least in the beginning. Most startups shouldn't be focussed on selling a large number of things to a diverse number of groups of people, and that is where Marketo's strengths really lie. The kind of segmentation that you get out of Marketo is probably overkill for a startup.
That's not always going to be the case. It really depends on your unique selling proposition, and exactly what it is that you're selling.
For example, if you're launching a new ecommerce platform, you can probably disregard everything I just said. Ecommerce platforms sell a wide variety of products to a wide number of groups of people. They are exactly the kind of product that would benefit from Marketo at almost any stage. You wouldn't necessarily want to try and recreate the capabilities of Marketo in a system like MailChimp when you're dealing with that kind of product.
Furthermore, any product that relies extensively on personalization and a custom experience as a part of its unique selling proposition can benefit from Marketo. I'm not talking about dynamically inserting their name into the subject line here. I'm talking about a completely customized experience based on actions that the user has taken. If that's a part of your USP, Marketo can provide a great deal of that functionality out of the box, pre-built so that you can focus on aspects of personalization that aren't related to email and similar communications.
And a final caveat. If you can hire a marketing agency with access to Marketo, do it.
Should Small Businesses Use Marketo?
In a word, "No."
Unless, as we talk about later, you're a marketing agency.
And there are probably other exceptions. If you've read up to this point, you can probably identify whether you are one of them.
Marketo is overpowered for the vast majority of small businesses. Most simply don't need the level of granularity it provides, or at least, don't need it enough to justify the cost. MailChimp will do a fine job for most small businesses.
On the other hand, if you're a small business looking to hire a marketing agency, one who has access to Marketo is one that you should absolutely be considering as a partner.
Is Marketo A Good Choice For Beginners?
As I've said above, Marketo is surprisingly easy to use given all that it sets out to do. But if you are new to internet marketing or even email marketing, I would have a difficult time telling anybody that they should start with Marketo. The feature set is too broad and will, in all likelihood, scare you away from the possibilities inherent in list building combined with an inbound marketing approach.
Under very few circumstances, if any, would it makes sense to start with Marketo and Marketo alone if you're new to internet marketing in general.
To avoid confusion here, I'm not saying that you can't train an employee to use Marketo if they're new or relatively new to internet marketing. The interface certainly uses enough familiar conventions and it is relatively for an employee to earn a Marketo Certification. If you are leading a team of employees who are relatively inexperienced with internet marketing as a whole but who have other useful skills, training them to use Marketo is not particularly difficult.
The point I'm making is simply that if you are trying to run an internet marketing operation entirely by yourself, and you are new to the game, Marketo is definitely not the place to start. If you're a one-man show, start with MailChimp.
Should Nonprofits Consider Marketo?
This is a bit of a different situation from some of the other types of organizations discussed for one simple reason: Marketo actually has a program specifically for nonprofits. Nonprofits are free to apply for a license and, if they are accepted, they will receive a usage license for one year.
I say that if any of what I've said above makes it sound like Marketo is a good fit for your nonprofit, you should absolutely apply.
Should a nonprofit consider Marketo if they can't get the free one-year license?
Marketo starts at about $895 per month. If that doesn't sound reasonable for your budget, it probably isn't. Everybody understands that nonprofits need to keep their overhead as small as possible in order to focus on putting the donations they receive to good use. I wouldn't necessarily rule out the possibility of negotiating a lower rate, however.
I don't want to sound like a broken record here, but it really does depend on the core proposition of your nonprofit. How important are things like audience segmentation to your organization? Is there a reason why the more basic segmentation available in a freemium product like MailChimp isn't enough to achieve your needs?
Should Agencies Consider Marketo?
One thing that should absolutely frame this conversation: it's possible that you could become a Marketo partner. If you do, you may be able to receive a discount on the Marketo platform and sell it as a service to clients at a reduced rate. It should go without saying that this absolutely gives you a competitive advantage, one that we are, of course, taking advantage of ourselves.
A business whose sole product is internet marketing, particularly of the inbound variety, has a lot to gain from having access to a product like Marketo. The amount of behavioral data that you can use to your advantage is staggering. Furthermore, if you take the extra steps to integrate some of your other analytics platforms with Marketo using the API, the possibilities are virtually limitless. The level of personalization possible is undeniable, allowing you to target individuals with the marketing messages that are the most relevant at the best possible time.
Being able to master the funnel to such an unprecedented level has undeniable value, and you should absolutely be considering all the ways that you can take advantage of that kind of power.
If You Have Salesforce, Should You Consider Marketo?
Without a question.
As we discussed above, Marketo's integration with Salesforce is one of the most robust and comprehensive in the industry. We talk about how to integrate Marketo and Salesforce here, and we talk about a Marketo add-on for Salesforce here.
What you get from integrating these two services out-of-the box is pretty staggering. Field data maps back and forth easily, the data goes both ways with minimal set up, and the integration goes deep. Marketo Insights for Salesforce pinpoints leads based on how recently they've interacted with pages on your site and taken other actions, as well as prioritizes them based on their overall potential value as a lead based on their cumulative actions.
Sales and marketing platforms have pretty much never been this comprehensively linked before, so if you do have Salesforce, Marketo is 100% worth your consideration.
We've said it multiple times here but the takeaway is this. Marketo is a great choice for medium and large businesses, perfect for marketing agencies, and incredibly valuable for any business where personalization is key. If, on the other hand, you're just getting started, or selling a very specific product for a very specific audience, it could be difficult to justify the budget, although partnering with a marketing agency that does have access to Marketo is certainly worth your consideration.