Adobe Marketo Review: Useful Insights from a Power User

Adobe Marketo Review: Useful Insights from a Power UserScore 74%Score 74%

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Adobe Marketo review: Top takeaways

What’s awesome

Adobe Marketo is one of the best and most scalable marketing automation platforms available, because it was designed for marketing teams to run campaigns without IT support (unlike most other enterprise MAP platforms) while still allowing for customization and complexity to fit any business requirement.

Also, Marketo has some of the best documentation in the game, second maybe only to HubSpot. They have an incredibly active online community, so if you post a question or issue, someone will absolutely respond, typically the same day. It’s nothing like the sad purgatory that is the Eloqua message boards, where I’ve seen posts that are years old without any response.

And finally, their lead scoring is pretty robust, with multiple models, tokens to set up other tokens (more on those later), the ability to set up global programs for different channel types, and an ABM add-on.

What kind of sucks

Since Adobe bought Marketo, they put their design touch on the UI to make it look like an Adobe product. But in the ongoing battle between brand and UX, let’s just say that brand won in a knockout. The UI is super wonky.

Also, A/B testing is not easy to do, and in the programs where it is offered, it’s fairly limited. Really, you can only A/B test emails, not landing pages or forms. That would require either a custom build or a third party like Unbounce. And if you wanted to A/B test a webinar program, you’d need to create a smart campaign triggered to batch-send it to your variations in order to test. It can get complicated fast and be tricky to identify the winner.

What’s missing

I wish Marketo had a template library like HubSpot. It’s just not that easy to build emails and landing pages that are modern and attractive. Marketo has a drag-and-drop editor, but it’s pretty rudimentary and not mobile-optimized. Ultimately, it’s just not a robust editor. The default launch template that comes in your instance is really ugly. Nobody should ever use them as-is. A lot of users end up needing a tool like Unbounce or a web designer to build decent landing pages.

I also think the revenue cycle analytics (we’ll get into that) should be included in every instance, not as an add-on. It’s a really strong reporting suite that breaks down all campaign performance and shows stats like how many times a person has opened an email. If you don’t buy it, you have a ton of manual work ahead to recreate what this package offers in a turnkey solution.

My two cents

Marketo is a really solid platform. They’ve struck a good balance in allowing for customization and complexity without making the platform overly cumbersome or needing constant IT support. If you build and launch lots of similar efforts (like webinars or events), Marketo can add a ton of value because of how quick and easy it is to recreate and update campaigns.

Easy like Sunday morning?: Marketo ease of use

The good: Tokens

Marketo’s not-so-secret weapon is tokens. You can create tokens that are specific to a program, like an email or event, and by updating that token once, you can universally update it everywhere it’s used in that program. That’s pretty awesome. Also, cloning a program will clone all of the assets within that program (think: smart campaigns, emails, landing pages and forms). So if you create a solid template and use tokens effectively, it makes cloning a campaign and setting up a new variation incredibly easy.

The good: Islands in the (engagement program) stream

Perhaps the other defining feature of Marketo is their engagement program with “streams”. These are like lead nurture campaigns, where you create a series of emails then drop them into a stream. Just decide which emails you want to send, which goes first, the criteria to enter said stream and the cadence to send content, then Marketo’s magic does the rest.

But here’s the really cool part: imagine a few contacts have already exhausted the stream, meaning they’ve received all the emails. If you add another email to the stream later, it will be sent to all contacts currently active AND to all contacts that were idle because they had previously exhausted the stream’s content.

It sounds deceptively simple, and it is, but building this logic in other platforms is no small feat. This is how email nurture campaigns should always work, in my opinion.

The good: Revenue cycle modeling

This feature gives you a 360-degree view of your database and allows you to build out your own revenue cycle model. It even supports multiple models, and you can do some pretty slick automation like triggering smart campaigns based off revenue cycles.As I mentioned earlier, you have to buy up to the revenue cycle package, but it’s worth it. You’ll be able to visualize the velocity of contacts in your sales funnel, add and monitor SLAs with the sales team and do nifty things like send alerts when a lead has been left in a certain stage for too long. No lead left behind!

The good: Salesforce (and other) integrations

If you’re using Salesforce (SFDC), the native integration is really impressive and easy to set up. The coolest part is the “self-healing” feature. Let’s say you add a new custom field or update a picklist in Salesforce. Just wait, and the integration will update everything in Marketo for you! That’s definitely not how most MAP-to-Salesforce integrations work. Here, Marketo’s VP of Customer Experience talks about how Forrester and Gartner have rated their SFDC integration as best in class.

Marketo also offers a robust set of integrations through their partners in an app marketplace. And if all else fails, Marketo allows the use of webhooks to create integrations when things aren’t natively playing well together.

The good: Reporting

Marketo’s reporting is decent and pretty customizable. You’re able to break some of the reports down by tags to make it easier to sort and filter. For example, you can set your target verticals as tags and then easily drag them into reports. But not all reports accept tags, and it can be tricky to remember which do and which don’t. There is one weird quirk to their reporting: program performance can’t be filtered by time period. You can only view your program in a full view, from activation through now.

The kinda dangerous: Navigation

Overall, the tool navigation is decent. But the way that the assets and campaigns live in the left-hand tree menu makes your folder and naming structure supremely important. It’s all up to the user to manage, and if you don’t do a good job creating a system and actually maintaining it, your instance can turn into a dumpster fire pretty quick. You’ve been warned!

The not-so-good: UI

The afore-mentioned left-hand tree menu, where the real bulk of the asset and program navigation exists, has been updated with the new Adobe look. However, the right side, where you’re actually building assets and campaigns, has not changed…at all. It’s identical to before. And since Adobe reskinned the platform last fall, no new features have been added. It actually lost the drag-and-drop ability right after launch, but that has since been restored.

Start me up: Getting Marketo


Marketo has tons of great documentation, and their training materials are good too. Learning the platform is pretty easy as compared to others. And when you run into an issue, chances are you can find an answer through the online community.

When you’re launching from scratch, it can be a good idea to work with a partner to help get you started on the right foot. Because Marketo lets you customize so much, if you’re not sure what you are doing, it can be easy to create bad habits that are hard to fix later. A partner can help you understand how someone with lots of experience would build out the programs and assets so you can emulate them instead of reinventing the wheel.


In my experience, Marketo isn’t the hardest platform to implement, but it’s not the easiest either. Their data integration is relatively easy, especially if you’re using SFDC and the native integration. But where you may need help will be designing the email and landing page templates, since, as I mentioned, the ones that come out of the box are a real horror show.

A little help from my friends: Support & training

Marketo’s support is good, but the real hero in this tale is the online community. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone there and found someone who had the exact same question or issue as me, and a detailed answer and example there all ready to go. It means that you often won’t have to reach out to their support unless something is truly a bug.

What’s it gonna run me?: Marketo pricing

Marketo’s pricing structure is broken into 4 tiers, based on your needs. Exact pricing is based on the size of your database. For full details, I suggest you go straight to the source:

  • Select: This is a solid entry point with access to the features that make Marketo really stand out, like tokens, SFDC integration and automation.
  • Prime: This level is a great upgrade for teams that are looking to do ABM.
  • Ultimate: Here, you’ll get all the bells and whistles. While Sandbox access is probably the best part of this package, multi-touch attribution is also a really nice feature (if your team is ready for it).
  • Enterprise: This level allows huge companies with multiple brands and other business complexities to use Marketo across their entire organization. Just note that platform partitioning is available in lower tiers, so you may not need to go all out.

Tool Showdown


The Bottom Line Here's how we rank what's "in the box" for this platform.

Landing pages
List segmentation
Workflows & automation
Contact & company records
Reporting (standard)
Reporting (custom)
Native integrations
Marketplace / custom integrations
Website tracking
GDPR tools

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