Marketo CEO Steve Lucas on stage at the MarTech Conference in Boston in October 2017.
It's a sign of the times for Marketo, which has a new-look executive team, led by CEO Steve Lucas, here on stage at MarTech early last month. PHOTO: Dom Nicastro

Marketo has completed its executive team shakeup post Vista Equity acquisition with the hiring of a new chief marketing officer.

The San Mateo, Calif.-based marketing automation provider named Sarah Kennedy as its new CMO yesterday. She replaces interim CMO Matt Zilli, a Marketo veteran who is now the company's chief customer officer overseeing customer success and global enablement. Zilli took over as CMO when Chandar Pattabhiram and Marketo parted ways less than a year into his stint.

Kennedy's CMO appointment leaves Marketo with nearly a completely new global executive team after it was acquired by Vista Equity Partners for $1.79 billion in May 2016. Only Robin Ritenour, senior vice president of business development, and Yasutaka Fukuda, Asia Pacific-Japan president, sat in an executive chair before Vista took over. Ritenour earned her Marketo executive role in March of 2016, two months before Vista came in with nearly $2B for the once-public company. Fukuda was named Marketo KK president in 2014 before earning his current role last month.

New-Look Marketo Executives

Headshot of new Marketo Chief Marketing Officer Sarah Kennedy.
Sarah Kennedy

Here's a look at the new Marketo global executive team in the 17 months following Vista's takeover, when they earned their seats and their prior companies:

  • Chief Executive Officer Steve Lucas — November 2016 (last company: SAP)
  • Chief Operating Officer Greg Wolfe — January 2017 (SAP)
  • Chief Financial Officer Mark Miller — April 2017 (Sabre Corporation)
  • Chief Sales Officer Eric Johnson — January 2017 (Qlik)
  • Chief Product Officer Manoj Goyal — May 2017 (Velocify)
  • GVP, Strategy and Engagement Applications Tawheed Kader (TK) — June 2017 (ToutApp)
  • SVP, Human Resources Teresa Grau — March 2017 (Cvent)
  • Chief Marketing Officer Sarah Kennedy — October 2017 (Sabre Corporation)
  • Americas President of Sales Kate FitzGerald — October 2017 (Oracle)
  • Asia Pacific-Japan President Yasutaka Fukuda — October 2017 (Salesforce, Oracle)
  • EMEA President Jamie Anderson — October 2017 (SAP Hybris)
  • Chief Customer Officer Matthew Zilli — October 2017 (LineStream Technologies)
  • SVP, General Counsel Sterling Miller — July 2017 (Hilgers Graben PLLC)
  • Chief of Staff Kathy Leeman — June 2017 (Oracle)
  • SVP, Business Development Robin Ritenour — March 2016 (Adobe, Salesforce).

Marketo's personnel changes began to take shape soon after Vista Equity acquired Marketo. Some of those notables no longer with the company post-Vista are: 

  • CMO Sanjay Dholakia
  • CMO Chandar Pattabhiram
  • CEO Phil Fernandez
  • Chief Administrative Officer Fred Ball 
  • Executive Vice President of Global Product Nick Bonfiglio
  • GVP of Engineering Mickey Alon 
  • GVP, Product Management & User Experience Cheryl Chavez
  • Chief Technology Officer Shaun Klopfenstein.

One position that Marketo has not filled is CTO. Klopfenstein left Marketo this month and founded NurtureCo, according to his LinkedIn profile. Asked about the CTO position, Marissa Lyman, senior manager of corporate communications at Marketo, told CMSWire that Marketo chief product officer Manoj Goyal now leads all of product and engineering functions.

Marketo Outsider Needed?

Headshot of Marketo Chief Customer Officer Matthew Zilli
Matthew Zilli

Lori Wizdo, principal analyst for Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester who covers Marketo, told CMSWire yesterday a new CMO always brings fresh thinking and new perspective. New Marketo CMO Kennedy recently served as vice president of global marketing and managing director of digital experience at Sabre Corporation. Kennedy was at Sabre the same time as Marketo CFO Mark Miller. 

Wizdo said she believes the appointment of four-year Marketo veteran Matthew Zilli to the chief customer officer position is just as critical for Marketo. She called Zilli a "great person" to take on the announced responsibilities of the role: customer success and global enablement.  

"He’s got strong and deep knowledge of the Marketo products and understands the challenges of the Marketo customer base in their day-to-day operations, and as they transition to more of a leadership role in their companies," Wizdo said.

Marketo taking this step to help its customers drive more value and true transformation from their use of the Marketo technology is a positive step, according to Wizdo.

Jamie Kirmess, customer success director at Scottsdale, Ariz.-based marketing agency LeadMD, leads a team of consultants who specialize in Marketo. She is a Marketo user and certified solutions architect. Kirmess told CMSWire she is inspired by Marketo's new CMO. "She started as an intern at Sabre, climbed her way up the corporate ladder, and is now a CMO for the top-ranked marketing automation platform. That's a woman I'd like to have coffee with," Kirmess said.

New Regime, New Innovation Focus

Marketo's executive changes are a good thing because Vista is known for bringing in top-caliber executives, according to Brian Hansford, a Marketo user and implementer who serves as vice president of client services at Seattle-based Heinz Marketing.

"The executive team is bringing needed structure to the business for next-step growth," Hansford said. "I want to see how the executives will create new, much-needed innovations. Efficiency will only get them so far until the market demands new and compelling solutions."

Hansford said the prior executive team focused on rapid growth for the IPO. "Things like customer success," Hansford said, "were not always strong." Emails and LinkedIn requests to Marketo's founders were not immediately returned.

ABM Advancements, Google Cloud Partnership

Lyman said Kennedy would not be immediately available for interviews. Kennedy, in a Marketo press release, said she looks forward to "fueling Marketo's explosive growth in the enterprise through close partnership between sales and marketing, unparalleled thought leadership and a commitment to lead in the Engagement Economy."

In the same press release, CEO Steve Lucas said Marketo took an "exhaustive search to make sure we found the right person." Kennedy stood out as the person to provide best practices and thought leadership to marketers. 

Marketo is coming off its April Marketing Nation Summit conference, where it touted its Project Orion big data rearchitecture and ABM advancements. Four months later, Marketo announced a partnership with the Google Cloud Platform. Beginning in 2018, Marketo will run its marketing automation products entirely on Google's Cloud Platform. 

Editor's note: This article was edited to include comments from Marketo representative Marissa Lyman and Marketo user Jamie Kirmess received after publishing.