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WayBack Marketing Series: Jon Miller on Being Aggressively Open and Creating Tons of Content #WayBackMarketing

by Aaron Dun  |  
August 19, 2013

I hope you have enjoyed reading the WayBack Marketing interviews as much as I have enjoyed conducting the interviews! As I take on my new role as CMO at Intronis, I have been thinking about how best to adapt these great strategies and tactics for my marketing plan. And that is really the goal of this series as I set out to create it. How do you take these strategies and put them to practice?

I encourage you to share what you might do differently tomorrow as a result in the comments. I think that will make a nice coda to the series when we near the end of its run later this summer.

For our third interview in the series we have Jon Miller, who is a co-founder and current vice president of Marketing Content and Strategy at Marketo.

One of the things that most fascinated me about the marketing automation technology market as it came of age for the more mainstream buyer is how prominent both Marketo and Eloqua became. While other platforms were in the market, I found it interesting to watch the rivalry play out over the air and in the product. Both companies have been extremely successful, so they clearly were doing something right.

AD: Let me start by asking you, Jon, how you came to enter the market with your marketing automation platform. There were clearly other players in the market, why jump in?

JM: We founded Marketo in 2007 based on a belief that the explosion in easy access to information was fundamentally changing how consumers and companies research and buy products and solutions. We believe that buyers want to research solutions themselves, and they don’t want to talk to a company representative until they are 65-90% complete with their buying process.

Our marketing automation solution was built to help companies with these issues, and we designed our own revenue process accordingly. We thought that if we aligned our revenue process for the modern buyer, we would differentiate ourselves.

AD: How do you put that into practice and operationalize it practically?

JM: First, we were aggressively open and transparent with product and company information, so potential buyers could do their own research. We published all our pricing on the web, for anybody to see. We made online demos readily available. We wrote our website copy in clear, simple language. As we started to have marketing results of our own, we published our own internal metrics and the “Marketo Secret Sauce” (e.g., how we used the technology ourselves).

Secondly, we created tons of content. We were leaders in content marketing before anybody called it content marketing. I started writing our blog before we wrote a single line of code. Our content helped people to hear about us early on, usually before they were looking for a solution, and to establish our reputation as thought leaders and experts. By the time we launched our first product, we already had good awareness in the marketplace---and solid SEO rankings for some of our key terms. Today, content “influences” 45% of our new business opportunities and is directly responsible for driving 18% of them.

AD: That’s really interesting, Jon. I think the popular perception today is that everybody blogs but nobody is reading them. My own research at a prior company suggests, in fact, that not everyone is blogging. And while I place no value judgment on the quality of those who are, I think we can agree, many of them are terrible, which is why they aren’t being read! Another thing I think we can all agree on is that not all leads are created equal.

JM: Absolutely. The third thing we recognized early on was that just because someone downloaded a whitepaper or attended a webinar, it didn’t mean they wanted to talk with a sales rep. So we used our own lead-scoring technology to identify which prospects were showing behavioral signs of being “sales-ready” and passed those onto sales, and then we used our lead-nurturing capabilities to keep in touch with everyone else, deepening the relationship and helping the buyer to learn more at their own pace.

As a result, we were able to create a steady flow of high-quality inbound leads that actually wanted to talk to our sales team. This established strong sales-marketing alignment and trust from the beginning, which enabled us to tune and optimize the process further over time.

AD: As I wrote previously, the relationship between sales and marketing is critical. The fact that you had that process-level alignment from the beginning could be a critical factor for your success! Was there anything else you would point to?

JM: The last thing I would say is that in our early days, we were fortunate that our space had a competitor that was large enough to help establish the need for marketing automation solutions but not so large that they were an unbeatable 800-pound gorilla. In particular, this competitive solution was perceived to be somewhat hard to use and expensive. This meant we could focus our early marketing efforts on establishing ourselves as a clear contrast---affordable and easy to use. We could focus on showing that we were a better solution to a need that was already defined, not on convincing buyers of the need.

AD: So lining up all of your content around this particular point of differentiation is also a great takeaway for readers. If you have that strong point of differentiation, don’t be shy about using it, in everything! Was there any one thing you starting doing later on, that you wish you had started doing earlier?

JM: The fact that 65-90% of the buying process is complete by the time a prospect is ready to engage with Sales presents an incredible opportunity for Marketing to reinvent itself as a core part of a company’s revenue engine. This responsibility comes with the requirement to use the right metrics and build marketing’s credibility as a revenue driver, not a cost center.

At Marketo, we eventually gave Marketing a quota for sales opportunity creation and paid everyone in Marketing based on achievement against quota (very similar to how Sales gets paid). Each month, Marketing created a forecast for how we would perform against quota, and we soon were able to manage every aspect of the revenue cycle to deliver against those forecasts. This was a key part of managing the business for maximum growth, and it is something that you can never start too early.

AD: Sales-style quotas for marketing?! I am pretty sure 60% of our readers just dropped to the ground as if they had been tased! I will give everyone a minute to dust themselves off and let their extremities stop shaking. That is a great point for people to consider. As B2B marketing continues to transforms itself and the tools at our disposal become more powerful, that may well be the natural evolution point.

Thank you again, Jon, for your time and for your valuable insights.

Stay tuned, readers, for our next installment, and feel free to suggest people we should be talking to. Do you know a marketing rock star that has an interesting story to tell? Share it with me over Twitter; I would love to hear more.

If you would like to catch up on the original set up for the series check out the intro article. The first two interviews can be found here ...

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Aaron Dun is senior vice-president of marketing at SnapApp, an interactive-content platform.

Twitter: @ajdun

LinkedIn: Aaron Dun

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