Digital marketing shouldn’t be strictly for large firms; it should be accessible for small and medium- sized firms as well. Marketo believes this to be true and saw a need for marketing solutions tailored to middle market companies and small businesses. In 2006, the company was founded by Phil Fernandez, Jon Miller and David Morandi, who had all previously worked together at Epiphany.
Marketo enables firms of all sizes to have a true marketing presence with its Engagement Marketing Platform. The National Center for the Middle Market recently discussed the technology industry and got an in-depth overview of Marketo, with one of the company’s founders, Phil Fernandez.
Will you talk a little bit about leaving Epiphany to start Marketo in 2006? How did you decide to leave the company and start Marketo?
I thoroughly enjoyed working at Epiphany and the team was one of the best in the industry. I actually started Marketo with two other former employees of Epiphany. In 2006, I decided to leave because I had always wanted to start my own company and the time was finally right. I had worked at the crossroads of technology and marketing for the prior twenty years. Marketing was beginning to change with social media increasing in popularity and I knew we could make an impact. In addition, many of the marketing tools that companies offered throughout my career were only available to the largest size firms. The founding vision of Marketo was to take the powerful marketing tools available to the large firms and make them available to middle and small sized companies. We never wanted to reach 1,000 customers; it was always our goal to reach over 100,000. At this size we would actually be making an impact and helping these companies successfully market their products.
Will you discuss what you saw in the technology market in 2006 and what some of the big trends were at the time?
Looking back to 2006, Marketo was founded the same quarter as Twitter; the original iPhone was also released at this time. In addition, Facebook was beginning to transition from a website for college students to the social media giant that it has become. This was the point in time when consumers started spending more time in front of their screens. This helped consumers gain power; they were able to control what marketing content reached them: through spam blockers, pop up blockers, Twitter feeds and much more. The relationship between buyers and sellers changed; companies had to engage customers. The relationships went to the next level; if a company made a mistake, it would immediately be on social media. Therefore, companies both small and large had to be engaged and Marketo was able to fill this need.
Your website states that “Marketing Nation” is “the magic behind your platform” with over 50,000 contributors – what exactly is Marketing Nation, and how do you get so many marketers to contribute?
Marketers are very unique, and I think one of the primary reasons people go into marketing is because they want to understand the customer and want to connect with them. Further, marketing can be very emotional, that is why you see Super Bowl ads that elicit such strong reactions. What is so interesting about marketing, as I briefly touched on earlier, is the proliferation of social media and the impact it has had on marketing and marketing professionals. One of the challenges marketers face is that marketing tactics have changed so drastically and there is a truly a need for continuous education. This is what Marketing Nation is all about – recognizing that marketing is constantly changing and helping marketers keep up with the trends.
Looking at some of Marketo’s customers, the portfolio includes small, large and middle market companies. In addition, there are companies from many different industries – what is like to work with such diverse businesses and how do you deal with the various needs of your customers?
Companies of all sizes are looking for the same thing – customers to spend more money on their products. Therefore, our fundamental question was “how do you blend all of the marketing tools together to increase the engagement with your customers and increase their spending habits.” Even though there are major differences between companies such as industry and size, the basic question holds true. When you look at marketing departments, a small company might spend a few hours a week on marketing or a large company might have a dedicated marketing department. Both companies are looking for the increased engagement with customers. Therefore, we built Marketo around the synergies and parallels of all marketers. Marketo will help businesses of all sizes.
Marketo’s core values are: “Results First, Speak the Truth, Customer Passion, One Team, and Aspire to Be Great.” – How did Marketo decide on these values?
Based on my experience, it is much easier to set a culture at a company where there are less than one hundred people. Once you get above that number, it becomes much more challenging to make sure everyone is on the same page. At Marketo, when we reached that point we brought in a consultant to spend time with the employees and to get a sense of what the values and culture were. After he spent time at Marketo, the themes were that we lived for our customers, focused on getting work done, and we worked with integrity and passion. By listening to the team, we were able to discover what our true values and cultures were. Based on the team’s feedback we set Marketo’s core values. Our values help guide us on a day to day basis.
Looking at how Marketo recruits, how do you ensure that you hire the right people, and what changes have you seen as Marketo has grown?
As a company grows, its needs change drastically. Most startups have a small team, and everyone is passionate and creative. At the beginning, this is usually all that you need. However, as a company grows, personal needs change; you have to start scaling and building expertise in specific areas such as finance or marketing. Using Marketo as an example, supporting thousands of users requires a much different skill set than just passion and creativity. Looking at our recruiting process, one of the things we look for is lifetime learners. Marketo is changing constantly, and Marketo will not be the same company today that it will be in a year. Therefore, it is vital to hire individuals who want to learn and are constantly pushing themselves. We also try to avoid behavioral questions, I am primarily interested in hearing how someone thinks and that is emphasized in the interview process. Once again, we want passionate individuals who are curious and want to bring Marketo forward.
One final question, what advice would you have for other entrepreneurs?
Similar to the hiring process, companies change as they grow and entrepreneurs must be ready for this process. One thing entrepreneurs lose sight of is how much more complex running a company gets, as it grows. Not only do you have to continue working on your product or service but you must keep innovating and close the books correctly. Some of these areas are not in every entrepreneur’s skill set. I like to think of it as tending a garden; you have to take care for the entire garden, not just focus on the roses. Entrepreneurs must maintain their focus. My second piece of advice is to continuously learn and don’t let your company get locked into one place. You need to be ready to take advantage of any opportunities that present themselves – such as a competitor stumbling; you must seize the moment. My final piece of advice is to be transparent and authentic. It is very hard to keep secrets, if you are not honest with your customers, they will find out. Your customers will also help shape the story you are trying to tell. They will be talking about you on social media and you want them to speak highly of your brand.