Marketo Customer Engagement EngineMarketo is planning for a June 28 launch date for its intelligent Customer Engagement engine, a module that enables users to create automated content marketing campaigns that aim to make engagement across the customer journey as easy and pleasing as warm apple pie.

Automated Content Marketing Across the Customer Journey

When Marketo first announced the Customer Engagement Engine, there was no firm date given for when it would launch, but now that we know the date, we'll take one more dive into this handy set of functionality.

The engine provides an automated framework for creating adaptive digital marketing campaigns complete with throttling controls, management tools and campaign analytics. For those of you familiar with customer journey mapping, your eyes might be lighting up about now.

The driving force behind the Customer Engagement module is the desire to simplify the process of creating and, mostly, managing what has otherwise become a fairly complex process of defining step-by-step Marketo flows that can be rigid in terms of the assets on offer and the group of targeted prospects.

Marketo users will understand the new Engagement engine best as a new type of Marketo Program that can be created in the Marketing Activities section of the Marketing Automation software.

Within the new engagement framework Marketo created 3 key modules to help produce the most targeted digital marketing campaigns:

  • Smart Streams 
  • Smart Engagement
  • Engagement Score 

Part 1: Smart Streams

The first component of the solution is called the Smart Streams. The short story is that Smart Streams -- also called Tracks -- organize the content assets, scheduling and track transition logic for a specific part of the customer journey or sales funnel. 

A Smart Stream is a container for content assets that will be used as the fodder of digital engagement, rules that dictate transition from one stream or track to another, and settings that control the cadence, or rate of engagement (e.g., 3 emails per week) for the given stream. A target group called "Members" is defined at the global level for the program, and each stream or track is set up with the desired bits of content that will be offered.

Content items can be dragged and dropped into the stream (see above image -- each column is a stream), and then ordered for relative engagement priority.

The marketer places the most relevant or time-sensitive (e.g., webinars) content at the top of the stream, and then can change the priority by moving that content up or down relative to other assets. When a lead is targeted, they are pulled into the program, and the interaction can begin.

As the target is offered or engages with the chosen content, they can be moved through the customer journey automatically by transitioning them to another stream in the same program based on behaviors, scoring metrics or demographics.

Marketers can control the timing of content entry / exit from the stream based on date.

For example, you could imagine the progression in terms of an early stage target and a late stage target. When the early stage content has been interacted with 3 times, prospects can be transitioned to the late stage stream, with the assumption that they are closer to converting into a paying customer. Additionally, the members of a particular program can be defined dynamically -- using Smart Lists, for those of you familiar with Marketo.

And as shown in the screenshot above, the availability of time sensitive offers or content can be automatically managed via scheduling settings available at the individual asset level, thus automating what can be a tedious and error prone task.

Part 2: Smart Engagement

The second part of the story is called Smart Engagement. Here Marketo is trying to protect us from ourselves or in other words fulfill an important part of the the automation part of the Marketing Automation dream. 

Smarter engagement has to do with minimizing the likelihood of annoying your prospects, keeping you informed as to the content or asset needs for your campaign, and avoiding the embarrassment of unintentionally sending someone the same offer or content twice.

screenshot-marketocontentalert-2013.pngThe Marketo Smart Engagement module warns marketers when campaign assets run low.

Of course, there's the problem of running out of things to offer your prospects, but alerts can be set up (see above image) to warn when additional content is needed. From there, fresh content can be dropped into the stream, extending its lifetime as long as is desired.

The Smart Engagement logic also respects some global-level rules around the maximum number of emails per day or per week, which are set in the Administration area of Marketo.

Part 3: Engagement Score

Engagement Score is a concept that's become widely popular and as widely or wildly defined over the past 5 years or so.

As part of this update Marketo has created their own proprietary engagement algorithm. Its purpose is to give campaign managers a simple way to make decisions regarding overall campaign efficacy and the effectiveness of individual assets. 

screenshot-marketoinsights-2013.pngEngagement Score informs marketers about campaign and asset maturity and effectiveness.

Instead of checking out click rates and open rates on a per asset basis, the Engagement Score shows the stats in one dashboard, where health and performance is summarized in a simple view. 

Automating is Fun, Let's Diversify the Tactics

Generally we applaud the work Marketo has done with this update. The details of how well it works will of course have to be sussed out once the functionality is made generally available.

But it's clear that the company has recognized both the complexity of customer lifecycle content marketing, and the fact that we're all too busy to manage the details well.

Bless them for prioritizing simplicity.

Automated engagement is a big step forward. Next what we'd like to see is a broadening of tactics. If you look closely at Marketo's Customer Engagement solution, you can see that their version of "engagement" is still rather email centric.

Email works. It's the workhorse of digital marketing. We get that.

But with social gaining peer status in the digital toolshed, and with Marketo's acquisition of Crowd Factory and their evolving relationship with Hootesuite, we'd like to see more emphasis on social tactics -- and eventually a more equal treatment of messages, such that email becomes a type of message, not the prince of messages that it is today.

Stay tuned here as we follow the now frothy world of marketing automation advances and acquisitions. It's getting fun.