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Protecting data: are you keeping up with how good you have to be?

Technology & Data

Protecting data: are you keeping up with how good you have to be?


Marketing speaks with Marketo chief customer officer Matt Zilli about competition, AI and how appropriate data use comes down to transparency and providing value.

In today’s noise and chaos, customers are tuning out. At Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit in May, Marketo chief customer officer Matt Zilli spoke with Marketing about how AI is making markers’ lives easier, and how those that use data to provide real value will develop relationships of trust with their audience.


Marketing: Marketers understand the value of reporting in metrics and demonstrating their value in their organisations. At the same time, it’s becoming a much more competitive space with a lot of different vendors out there. Is it getting easier or harder to sell Marketo?

Matt Zilli: It’s always dangerous to say this, but it’s truly getting easier. It’s getting easier for a couple of reasons, one is we’re just right at the core of what almost every organisation’s trying to achieve. Generally it’s marketing function, although it may not always be. But this concept – everybody knows how hard it is to get their message in front of the people they want to get their message in front of. These days, it can be just too loud, too noisy, too chaotic and customers are tuning out.

It’s getting harder and harder for everybody, and people are starting to believe that the way you provide value to customers and deeply engage with them – and do that in a way that is personalised to what they need – is the only way companies are going to succeed. I think our focus on engagement and being able to quantify all of the results about engagement has made it easier. It’s in a time where there are 5,000 marketing technology companies out there, so we – very intentionally – early on decided that we know we need to be an open platform, because there are always going to be five, 10, 20, 30 technologies in any one company. If they can all connect to Marketo, then we’re providing the most value we can to our customers. We’re the only ones that are exclusively focused on marketing, and marketers really appreciate that, it keeps our innovation ahead of the pack of our competitors, and so I think you take those three dynamics and it’s getting easier every day.


Which announcement excited you the most at this year’s Summit?

I’m most excited about the AI related capabilities. The reason for that is I have walked miles and miles in those shoes – in the shoes of people that have gone through trying to figure out who ideal customers are and trying to create campaigns. They’re going through mental gymnastics of ‘well, I think this segment of people is right, but I don’t know, and the only way to get there is to test and come back, and test and come back.’

It is just 10, 20 times more work than it needs to be these days, and so to watch the reaction on their faces – anybody that’s been through it before, that has gone through it – when they see how AI, in a couple of clicks, can get as close as they were getting before, probably closer to the right audience or the right message and the right piece of content. It’s mind boggling for these people that are just living it every day. You can watch them go through the calculations of ‘well, okay, this currently takes me four weeks to launch a campaign, and with this maybe it’ll take me three hours.” It’s that level of scale that comes out of these technologies.


Today, respectful use of data is a big topic. What are the implications when using AI in data strategy?

It is generally going to require the same level of commitment from companies like Marketo and our customers, to protect their data. Our customers generally work in that first party data world, and obviously GDPR has asked a lot of them – rightfully – to get consent around all that data. But, assuming they followed that concept and those rules, and transparently told their customers what data they were capturing, I think AI is the most effective way to take advantage of that data, and provide value to customers. So I think, in the same way (even before AI was here) there are good actors and bad actors when it comes to managing data, and I think AI can multiply both of them, certainly.

But when I look across our customer base, the vast majority are really good actors, just trying to provide value to their customers, and the AI accelerating that is particularly exciting.


There’s a breakdown of trust at the moment between populations and brands and institutions. Why do you think that is, and what role can marketers play in building trustworthy brands?

The breakdown stems from all these different places, but I think the biggest ones come from the fact that we’re still in a world that’s evolving radically quickly, and you don’t always see the impacts. Take the most recent news about some of the biggest companies and their data challenges.

In some cases they weren’t trying to do anything bad, they just didn’t keep up with how good they had to be at protecting data. Consumers don’t really care, it’s: ‘I trusted you and you broke that trust.’ That’s all it comes down to. Because of the quantity of data and all these things that are happening, it’s just shining a real bright spotlight on this issue right now, and I think the rules for the best companies have remained the same irrespective of this: be transparent around what you’re doing, use what data you have to provide value – not to torment people, or blast them, or annoy them to death. That’s where marketing makes most of the decisions around how that data turns into something effective for the customer.

Marketing plays an enormous role in that. If anyone chooses to abuse it, or chooses to try to play a volume game, where they don’t really care about what they leave in their wake in terms of customers and they care a lot more about just getting that next customer. If they’ll do whatever it takes, that’ll destroy trust between a brand and a consumer these days. On the other hand, marketers who have really taken advantage of it, stick to it, are transparent about what they’re trying to do and use it to provide value? I firmly believe that’s what customers and consumers want. It’s only when that breaks down that they really get upset.


The author of this article attended Marketing Nation Summit as a guest of Marketo.

Ben Ice

Ben Ice was MarketingMag editor from August 2017 - February 2020

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