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How Not To Respond to Marketo’s Fail, Starring Act-on

Yesterday was a painful day for Marketo customers—Curata included. For nearly an entire business day, we were left waiting for Marketo services to come back online. It impacted not only the marketer, but their end goals: generating leads and revenue through digital experiences. It hurt. Bad.

Even worse? It seems the issue stemmed from forgetting to renew the marketo.com domain.

Facepalm GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I could just see the counter vigorously ticking away at the number of f-bombs that must have been collectively dropped across MKTO HQ yesterday. How embarrassing.

Not surprisingly, there was a TON of online activity around the matter.

Reactions to Marketo Going Down

There was also a slew of email and online advertising campaigns that came my way. One in particular generated a colorful dialogue between my team and our CEO. The below email came from Act-On, a Marketo competitor Curata reviewed when it first launched in 2013.

Act-on's not so classy marketo email

I’ll give it to Act-on, they moved fast, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. And this is coming from a former Eloqua employee who lived and worked through a very passionate rivalry with the big purple guys in the early 2000’s where finding new and better ways to out-market each other was a non-stop extreme sport!

Here’s why I didn’t like it:

  • My mom always said, “Do unto others…” We all have bad days. Will Act-On be looking over their shoulders from now until their bad day comes?
  • The channel was wrong. How effective is this mass email to existing Marketo customers going to be? Yes, yesterday was painful, but would I be willing to uproot arguably the core of my marketing tech stack over one bad day?
  • There were so many better ways Act-On could have leveraged the #MarketoFail. Here are three that sprang to mind during a sleepless night.

Three Ways Act-On Could’ve Played the #MarketoFail Better

  1. Be Helpful and Add Value—like RevEngine Marketing did with their blog and email effort, “What Should You Do Once Marketo is Back?
  2. Share a Good Laugh and Generate Social Buzz—Clearly Act-On knows some Marketo customers. Imagine if they had local employees drop off a handful of puzzles or board games to local Marketo customers with a subtly branded note card that read “Use these instead of twiddling your thumbs while Marketo’s down.” For those not reachable physically—email a gift certificate to the iTunes or Google Play store to download a premium game. I don’t know about you, but if I got that message, I would’ve laughed and told my team about it. Then I would’ve snapped a pic and posted it to our social channels as a great (and clever) marketing campaign and logged Act-On as a company with a smart marketing machine.
  3. Use a Spear, Not a Net—I’m not that naive. This kind of major mistake is like striking oil for a sales team. So arm them to use it. Have them call their open opportunities and offer that helpful and value-adding content from idea #1 as a connect point. Heck—consider offering a promotional discount to the known Marketo opportunities who are considering moving.

Not everyone had the same reaction to the Act-On email as I did. My CEO thought it was quite clever! But what’s your take? Was Act-on’s email smart or stupid?

[End rant]

Amber Picotte

Amber is VP of Marketing for Curata. She is an online and direct marketer with extensive SaaS and MarTech experience working at Upserve, WordStream, SnapApp, and more. Amber is interested in marketing best practices and trends, and fascinated by psychology and people.

  • Russell Martin

    Hi Amber, nice post. I also found the RevEngine post via twitter yesterday and it was quite valuable. I hope they generated a lot of interest on that article.

    In my personal opinion, I think companies like Act-On have to rely on this type of situation/tactic in order to generate more interest in their own product – when it has already exhausted the traditional means of marketing – without success. Also, the email the SDR sent includes some inaccurate information. I’d consider it unethical at worst, and “slightly” clever at best. I imagine the SDR is relatively new in the business world whereas a more seasoned person in sales would use this situation selectively rather than casting a wide net with it (as you suggested). If this is the best email they can craft to send to all of Marketo customers, then Marketo is probably in good shape in the long run.

  • Russell Martin

    Hi Amber, nice post. I also found the RevEngine post via twitter yesterday and it was quite valuable. I hope they generated a lot of interest on that article.

    In my personal opinion, I think companies like Act-On have to rely on this type of situation/tactic in order to generate more interest in their own product – when it has already exhausted the traditional means of marketing – without success. Also, the email the SDR sent includes some inaccurate information. I’d consider it unethical at worst, and “slightly” clever at best. I imagine the SDR is relatively new in the business world whereas a more seasoned person in sales would use this situation selectively rather than casting a wide net with it (as you suggested). If this is the best email they can craft to send to all of Marketo customers, then Marketo is probably in good shape in the long run.

    • Amber

      Hey Russell – nice of you to assume it was just one junior SDRs idea, but looks more like a campaign extended by the company. There was even a promoted tweet https://twitter.com/ActOnSoftware/status/889900549809688576

      I’ve had dozens of comments from a good mix of sales and marketing folks on this post across social channels. The sentiment seems nearly universal that taking the high road would have been the smarter alternative.

  • joemktg

    Way back when, I was a product manager with a concrete forms company, and one of our competitors had a concrete blowout. I went to my manager and recommended that we get a notice out promoting our product at the expense of the competitor. He quashed the idea. Why?

    “Because next time, it could happen to us.”

  • jennifer ritchie

    I am a former Eloqua user, and am now with a much smaller company that uses MailChimp. We see ourselves outgrowing MailChimp eventually, but after seeing Act-On’s email I don’t think I’d take them as seriously in the future.

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