Marketo announced the availability of their new marketing automation platform, Marketo Customer Engagement engine. This MAP is composed of four key capabilities: Smart Streams, content restriction, communication limits and Engagement Score. In this post we have described each of these capabilities.

Today, Marketo announced the availability of the Marketo Customer Engagement engine, a new marketing automation platform (MAP) capability that focuses on simplifying the design, execution and reporting of nurture programs. The Customer Engagement engine is composed of four key capabilities: Smart Streams, content restriction, communication limits and Engagement Score. We have described each of these capabilities below, and for each have noted our comments.

Smart Streams. In most marketing automation platforms, a marketer must define the logic by which a MAP program progresses a contact through a nurturing path. Marketo’s Smart Streams enable marketers to create nurture tracks by dragging and dropping the messages (emails) into a Smart Stream. The order in which emails are placed within the stream defines which email is sent next. When a new email is added to the top of the stream, it will be the next one sent, regardless of where a contact is within the Smart Stream’s progression. The cadence of communications (e.g. a contact should receive an email every Tuesday and Thursday) is set on the Stream level, as are the criteria a contact must achieve (e.g. actions) in order to progress to the next Smart Stream.

SiriusPerspective: Eighty-five percent of B2B marketing leaders using a marketing automation platform believe they are not using the platform to its full potential. A root cause is a lack of necessary skills to execute on the demand creation programs that marketing automation enables. Smart Streams significantly reduce the amount of technical skill and time required to develop a nurturing path. While this new capability will be beneficial to the construction of many nurture programs (especially for organizations new to marketing automation), it is not a fit for all, especially for nurture sequences where it is important to alter or throttle the timing between email distributions or those that interject outbound calling by teleprospecting or inside sales as part of the flow.

Content restriction. Smart Streams keep track of which emails a contact has and has not received, preventing a contact from receiving the same email twice. In addition, marketers can pull an asset (e.g. white paper) into the stream and specify the email that the marketer wishes to use. Doing so allows the email to be sent if the contact has not engaged with the white paper, or bypassed if the contact has previously consumed it.

SiriusPerspective: The distribution of duplicative contact is something we see frequently in marketing automation platform programs, especially as the same assets are often used in multiple nurture streams, on the corporate Web site, etc. This is a very important feature, though it’s important to note that this is something any marketing automation platform can do, albeit not as easily as in Marketo, as it requires setup and procedures to be in place (see my post “Content Marketing: Don’t Offer the Same Thing Twice”).

Communication limits. In Marketo, marketers will have the ability to specify the maximum number of emails that can be sent to a contact in a specific time period (e.g. no more than two emails per week and no more than seven emails per month). This will be driven through a first-come, first-served approach, though for each email distribution an administrator has the ability to override the settings and send an email out regardless (e.g. for a regulatory notice).

SiriusPerspective: One of a marketer’s most valuable assets is his or her organization’s database, but it is a fragile ecosystem that decays quickly if not properly managed. Setting rules for the frequency of communications is a good first step toward making sure this decay isn’t an inevitable fact. To achieve maximum value from a frequency rule, a company must look at the relevance of communications sent to contacts in addition to the frequency with which they are sent. Look at the emails sent out in the last 30, 60 or 90 days – those with high opt-outs, high spam reports and low clickthrough rates were likely less relevant. Work with marketers who originated those emails to improve their segmentation, calls to action and messaging. Also, look at emails with low opt-outs, low spam reports and high clickthrough rates; work with marketers that originated those emails to identify and share best practices. Moving forward, we hope Marketo and other marketing automation platform vendors move to multi-dimensional limits, which can set the number of emails that can be sent by contact type (persona) and offer/type (e.g. event invitation vs. newsletter).

Engagement Score. Many marketers evaluate the effectiveness of individual elements within a nurture program (e.g. email or form performance), but not the overall performance for the nurture program. Marketo’s Engagement Score seeks to provide a standard metric for comparing the relative effectiveness of all of an organization’s nurture sequences. This is done by looking at email opens, clicks, unsubscribes, and the achievement of each program’s success metrics – e.g. number of contacts that converted, took an action, etc. (as defined by the marketer).

SiriusPerspective: The Engagement Score provides a standard metric that can be used to identify nurture sequences that are driving the most value for an organization, as well as those that can be improved. If success metrics are properly set up, this score can provide additional insights and views into nurture performance. However, the Engagement Score relies on anything defined in Marketo as a success metric, and it’s not possible to apply a level of significance or weighting to them. Thus, if one nurture program’s success is defined as the number of opened emails, while for another program, success is the number of closed/won opportunities, the comparison is not apples to apples, and the score comparison may be misleading.