The Marketing Automation Powerhouses

Since I’ve vetted marketing automation (MA) tools at least 4 times already, I’ll share my personal insights and why I chose it.

So far, in the nearly 2 decades I’ve worked in marketing, I’ve had the opportunity to play with 3 MA programs, namely Infusionsoft, Marketo and Eloqua, in that order. When going through the MA vetting process, here were the usual suspect, Eloqua, Marketo, Hubspot, Pardot, Marketing Cloud and Infusionsoft. When budget was not an issue, we’ve always whittled it down to two contenders, Eloqua and Marketo.

If I were going to pick a favorite, Marketo will win every time. Why do you ask? I feel that Eloqua was designed by engineers from the ground up and then later they brought in the marketers’ input to cater the software to their liking. It’s obvious to me that its architecture is more palatable to programmers rather than marketers. On the other hand I feel that Marketo was designed by marketers from the beginning then they called in the engineers to make it work. That’s why Marketo’s UI and architectural thought process seem more intuitive to people like me, the ones who will be using it on a day-to-day basis. For example, Marketo’s Revenue Cycle Modeler can only be the brainchild of someone with a strong, sophisticated marketing background, not necessarily tech. They also understand that many B2B companies target accounts, and that there could be multiple decision-makers (leads) within that account. That’s exactly what Marketo’s Account-Based Marketing (ABM) does. Most of these advanced marketing-specific functionalities come default with Marketo without the need for back-end configuration from your IT or web development team, as if these functionalities were supposed to be there.

Eloqua, on the other hand, can ultimately be more robust than Marketo. In fact, their selling point is how much more robust they are compared to the competition. The problem is they neglect to tell you that many of those features need to be custom-programmed by a web developer. Also, their UI is clunky and very web 1.0. They definitely are in need of a good UI designer. Eloqua’s latest version, Eloqua 10, feels like Windows 95. Get with the times, Oracle. Don’t even get me started with Eloqua’s support portal and forum, called Topliners. It’s slightly better looking than those BBS forums in the early 90’s. If you get Eloqua, make sure you purchase the additional support package. You’ll be calling them a lot.

The key differentiator is if you’re connecting the MA tool to Salesforce. This is what’s going to cost you 10’s of thousands of dollars if you are not familiar. Many of the top MA tools claim that they have an app that integrates fully with Salesforce, but buyer beware! Not all apps are the same. The platform that those apps are built on will determine how streamlined the integration is and how much extra development budget is needed on your end. Don’t just look at the initial subscription price.

 

(Oracle Profiler Inside Salesforce)

When you test-drive an MA tool that integrates with SFDC, ask to also test-drive the SFDC app. This is when you’ll notice the difference. Inside SFDC they sub-divide their components into “objects.” The tighter the integration is to their native objects, the better they play together. The more custom the objects are, the more complicated the integration becomes. Many of Eloqua’s features in SFDC look like it’s just “iframed” inside SFDC and not really fully integrated into the rest of the native objects. What does that mean? You can’t really use SFDC’s native functionalities to manipulate data from Eloqua. Let’s take the engagement feed for example. You can view Eloqua’s engagement feed inside SFDC through a Visualforce window (basically an iframe), but you can’t really use SFDC to manipulate it, or even use the reporting function. Of course, you can make it do anything you want if you have a few of $K’s lying around for a developer to create a “custom object.”

 

Marketo, on the other hand, pushes their engagement feed as “Interesting Moments,” and looks and acts exactly like any other native object inside SFDC. OK, so what? That means, you can sort, report, create views, manipulate inside SFDC like any other native object. No web development needed! This also means creating a new field in SFDC that integrates with Marketo is extremely easy, unlike the seemingly 20-step process it takes on Eloqua. Marketo was just built purposely to seemlessly sync with SFDC. There are just so many things that Marketo can natively do, but can’t on Eloqua without additional development.

If there is anything Eloqua does better is their approach to launching and visualizing campaigns. Marketo sticks with the standard linear, boolean arguments while Eloqua has a drag-and-drop flow chart on their Campaign Canvas. But, that’s not a deal breaker for me. Even their drag and drop screen looks medieval.

In any case, you can’t go wrong with either one, but for a tighter integration, better UI, more marketing-centric workflows, my money is on Marketo.

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