Marketo vs Sitecore EXM 3.4
Why Read This Report
In this 25+ criteria evaluation of enterprise email service providers Marketo and Sitecore EXM 3.4 – I researched, analyzed, and scored them based on their ability to provide marketers the tools they need to efficiently run email campaigns.
This report is divided into two main areas: Feature Comparison and Example Subscription Comparison to better understand how each provider measures up when pitted against each other in scenarios encountered by real marketing professionals.
This report uses a scale of 0-4 when comparing items and is visually represented as follows: 0 for 0 points, 1 for 1 point, 2 for 2 points,3 for 3 points, and 4 for 4 points.
Creation - Create a single email campaign.
Justification: Many people think that marketing campaigns are created after weeks and weeks of planning and meetings and goal setting, etc. As a “retired” Marketing Director, I can tell you that while that is the ideal process, that isn’t the reality. It is very common that marketers are leaned on to push out email campaigns in a couple of hours – highlighting the fact that each additional step that needs to happen in the campaign creation process takes more time away from the creative and measurement processes… which is not good for the overall campaign’s success.
Verdict: Sitecore EXM 3.4 allows for extremely quick creation/sending of email campaigns, where there appears to be extra, unnecessary steps in Marketo. For instance, to even get to the creative aspects of the email campaign, Marketo has you through 13 steps before being able to even edit the subject line. That said, EXM gets you to the creative process faster, with only 6 steps needed before the creative process can begin. It is also worth mentioning that Marketo’s user interface is not nearly as intuitive, in terms of the workflow process needed to create/send campaigns, as EXM’s user interface.
Automation – Create an automated campaign.
Justification: Automated, or triggered, emails can save a marketer time and their sanity… once setup and configured. An automated email can be something as small as a trigger that says, “send the THANK YOU campaign message after a visitor to the website submits a form.” Or it can be more complex. For instance, “a visitor received and interacted with a previous campaign, but they did not fulfill the desired action, send a new email campaign to reengage the visitor after 3 business days.” The primary benefit of marketing automation is that it continues to work for you, even after you leave the office.
Verdict: Automated email campaigns are possible within both platforms. Marketo provides a drag-n-drop style interface with a handful of preconfigured actions. And while it is not as simple to create automation flows in Sitecore, having the flexibility to more or less create, with developer assistance, extremely complex Engagement Plans (this is how Sitecore refers to marketing automation) gives you the flexibility to tailor a client’s/prospect’s marketing journey – in and out of the inbox by allowing you to move visitors from automation plan to automation plan or specific states within each plan very easily.
Scheduled – create a scheduled campaign.
Justification: The ability to schedule approved campaigns is really invaluable, as it allows you to move on to the next marketing task without having the current campaign bouncing around your brain.
Verdict: Marketo almost leaned ahead with its “Head Start” feature, allowing for faster email distribution, but this can pose as a spam threat depending on implementation. Sitecore’s ability to not only select the date and time, but the time zone is a very nice feature when dealing with lists segmented by region.
Personalization + Dynamic Content – use personalization tokens + dynamic content.
Justification: This quote from Experian more or less sums up why personalization is important, “Personalized marketing emails have 29% higher unique open rates and 41% higher unique click rates than non-personalized emails.”
Verdict: Both platforms allow for personalization and dynamic content; however, the fact that Sitecore’s Experience Database (xDB) is collecting cross-channel behavioral data, gives it the edge when it comes to next level personalization and dynamic content, because there is an additional level of data that can be used to personalize or call upon dynamic content.
WYSIWYG Editor – efficient WYSIWYG, drag-n-drop editor.
Justification: There are definitely cons that go into using WYSIWYG editors, but the fact is, marketers need templates that are flexible enough to change layout/design easily, because every campaign cannot be stuffed into the same template.
Verdict: With Marketo’s Email Editor v2.0 you get some decent WYSIWYG, drag-n-drop controls, along with different template options. Sitecore’s solution to a WYSIWYG editor is to custom build components – which can become costly and not offer full flexibility out of the box.
Note: I wrote a post on creating an email template in Sitecore EXM 3.4 and when used in conjunction with insert tables into the EXM rich text editor - you can have A LOT of control and flexibility over layout/design.
Draft Previews – preview emails prior to sending.
Justification: The sales VP calls you into her office and says, “Was that a test email you just sent me?” Your reply, “No. I just sent that to the entire client base. Why?” She says, “Did you decide to throw the entire design out the window?” --- FML. All marketers have done this. You spend hours prettifying your next campaign and send it without testing it on multiple email clients. And you find out only after the fact that your call to action, table widths, and beautiful images are not seen by 75% of your recipients.
Verdict: Sitecore EXM utilizes an incluuded service which gives you the ability to not only preview both mobile and desktop email clients, it allows you to select which email clients and versions you want to preview against. You can also preview personalized content and tokens in EXM based on your email list. Marketo offers previews, but only does so within the same browser window – it does not test against different email clients.
A/B Testing – implement A/B testing.
Justification: True story: I worked at a software company that was a certified Microsoft Partner. To maintain status, we needed X number of client surveys completed each year. We historically sent out the survey one month before the deadline – and each year we barely got enough responses. Finally, we upgraded our email service provider and did an A/B test on two different layouts. We sent out the test, automatically selected the winner and sent to the remainder of the list. And within 24 hours of sending, we had more than enough surveys completed for certification. Test early. Test often. Convert more.
Verdict: Sitecore includes A/B testing, as well as multivariate testing capabilities. Duplication of variants is easier in Sitecore EXM versus Marketo as well; however, Sitecore offers less winning criteria to select out of the box.
Copy Campaigns – copy an existing email campaign.
Justification: Once you find an email campaign that works, it’s nice to save time and be able to copy it, instead of starting from scratch.
Verdict: Both platforms can copy campaigns and do so in an expected manner.
Test Send – perform a test send prior to sending.
Justification: Test sending an email to internal stakeholders for approval and sending to the marketing department to test links and campaign tags is just part of the everyday life of an email marketer.
Verdict: Both platforms can test send and do so in an expected manner.
Organization – organize mass emails efficiently.
Justification: Let’s just pretend you are sending 3 emails per week. You are a smart marketer, so you are segmenting your list – let’s assume 2 segments. That means over the course of the year you will send 312 email campaigns. Organizing those in a way which allows you to refer back to prior campaigns is very important for reporting purposes.
Verdict: Neither Marketo nor Sitecore offer what I would consider good organization of many email campaigns. That said, Marketo’s organization is slightly better than Sitecore’s for organizing a lot of campaigns.
Spam Compliance – verify best practices and requirements.
Justification: Deliverability is the name of the email game. If you cannot get your message delivered to the intended recipients, you stand no chance of making money. Ensuring that each and every email you send is spam compliant is extremely important to the success of your or your client’s business.
Verdict: Marketo offers spam compliance checks for an additional fee. Sitecore incorporates spam checks into its base subscription and allows you to select which spam engines you want to check against. Neither offers automated spam compliance checks at this point in time.
Subscription Management – develop multi-list subscription centers.
Justification: Having a subscription strategy is something many marketers overlook. Establishing a well thought-out subscription management center can be the difference in a recipient unsubscribing from your “newsletter” or your entire list all together.
Verdict: Both platforms can create subscription lists; however, the process to do so is more involved than in other platforms.
Static Lists – Upload and maintain static lists.
Justification: Email lists do not only come from subscription forms on your website or existing client lists. Sales people get business cards at conferences. Marketers scan badges at expos. It is essential to be able to get that information into your email database and map it quickly and accurately.
Verdict: Both platforms handle uploading static lists; however, Marketo offers both de-dupe functionality during the list upload and a broader range of fields to map to, while Sitecore does not offer either of those options at this point in time.
Dynamic Lists – Build and maintain dynamic lists.
Justification: Being able to query against your contact database and build dynamic lists is essential to running successful, targeted email campaigns. If you cannot query your database or if you cannot trust the data you get back from your query to be accurate, developing successful campaigns becomes extremely difficult.
Verdict: Both platforms allow for building dynamic lists; however, Marketo includes many out of the box Smart List segments. These segments can be created in Sitecore’s List Manager, which does offer a handful of out of the box segments.
Audience Segmentation – Segment a list or the entire database.
Justification: Being able to quickly and easily segment your database, or an existing list, to further personalize content or a journey is essential to providing a unique experience. A segment can be something like industry, region, or even something like behavior or interest.
Verdict: Out of the box, Marketo offers extensive segmentation capabilities. Sitecore does not have this ability out of the box; however, it has the capability to create advanced rules to build complex segmentation lists.
Creation – Create landing pages for marketing campaigns.
Justification: Not every email you send needs an accompanying landing page, but a vast majority do. Being able to quickly standup a campaign landing page to link to from an email is extremely helpful in communicating additional details regarding your campaign.
Verdict: Sitecore ranks slightly higher in this category, as it already includes the common, most up-to-date stylesheets, components, media/creative, analytics tracking, etc. of the primary website – ensuring the landing page’s look and feel is on point and tracking with the primary public site.
Personalization + Dynamic Content – Use personalization tokens + dynamic content.
Justification: Being able to personalize your landing page content based on prior behavior, whether with emails or the primary website in general provides a better, more tailored user experience. And a better user experience generally leads to a higher conversion rate.
Verdict: Sitecore ranks slightly higher in this category as well, because of the extended capabilities of having all online and offline campaign interactions tied to the xDB.
Form Creation – Create forms and write to a list.
Justification: Many campaign landing pages have forms associated with them. Also, many websites include contact forms and subscription forms. Having the ability to quickly create forms that automatically write information back to a database, without the help of a developer, makes a marketer’s job much easier.
Verdict: Both platforms can create and utilize forms. Sitecore allows for goal creation/selection, as well as a feature called “Enable Form Dropout Tracking” – sending any data entered into xDB, regardless of the form being submitted. This feature allows marketers to contact the prospect directly (if they entered in their email) or to target the organization through other forms of marketing.
Campaign Tracking – Campaign tracking and reporting.
Justification: W. Edwards Deming was quoted saying, “In God we trust, all others must bring data.” Marketers can no longer spend budget without reporting to stakeholders the MROI (marketing return on investment). Being able to measure campaign success is essential to reporting, as well as adjusting for the next campaign/send.
Verdict: Sitecore offers a handful of campaign tracking options, allowing marketers to associate campaigns to multiple groups. This allows for more accurate reporting regarding email effectiveness. Marketo includes basic campaign tracking capabilities. Neither offers a simple way to setup complex tracking/tagging options.
Integration – Offers integration to different CRM systems.
Justification: Associating marketing activity and interaction to a contact record is extremely important for your sales team. To be able to open a record before emailing or calling to see which marketing assets have been consumed gives you a more detailed picture of the client/prospect before you even reach out to them.
Verdict: Both platforms allow for CRM integration, including bi-directional syncing – which may or may not need custom development and some level of quality assurance.
Forward to Friend – Includes “Forward to Friend” functionality.
Justification: It is almost 2017. Why “Forward to Friend” is not base functionality in every ESP is beyond me. This is the fastest route to sharing your campaign message with others who are more than likely similar to the recipient of the originating email. The reason this functionality is important is because when a campaign is forwarded in this manner, that data gets written back to the marketing database; whereas, if the email recipient simply uses the “Forward” functionality built into their personal email client, data does not get written back to the database.
Verdict: Marketo offers “Forward to Friend” which is not offered by every email service provider. Sitecore does not offer this functionality.
Sign-In – Includes social sign in capabilities.
Justification: User experience. Allowing your email recipients to use their social media credentials to fill in forms on your website not only provides a good experience for the user, but you are able to capture richer data on your users – allowing you to further segment your lists in future campaigns.
Verdict: Marketo offers a “Social Sign-in” feature which is literally as simple as checking a box next to either Facebook or Twitter to enable this functionality. While Sitecore offers similar functionality, it needs developer assistance, through its Social Connected module, to enable. That said, Sitecore has documentation walking developers through enabling this functionality for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.
Analytics and Reporting
Standard Reports – Out of the box standard reporting.
Justification: Standard reporting out of the box is usually not very impressive. The key metrics are always there: bounce rate, open rate, click-thru rate, etc. The purpose of these types of reports I think are to simply say, “this campaign landed” or “this campaign was off the mark.”
Verdict: Marketo’s reporting feels disjointed in both how you access it and the data that is provided. Sitecore’s default reports within EXM offer more detailed information and are in a single area. Sitecore’s standard reports offer a performance overview, recipient activity, including WHO took WHAT action, WHO clicked-thru to the website (including any lead scoring value that was accumulated there, duration, etc.), and landing page performance.
Customizable Reports – Create custom reporting.
Justification: Having a single, custom report with all of the metrics you and your organization care about is essential to be efficient. While this may be a “dream report”, being able to efficiently filter and access data quickly to judge the success of your marketing efforts is vital to the success of your campaigns.
Verdict: Sitecore offers more customizable reporting than Marketo overall; however, customizable reports typically are complex and timely to develop.
Community – Around marketing with the platform.
Justification: Many organizations spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars getting marketing technologies implemented; however, the amount of money spent on training is usually an afterthought. Having an active community where a marketer can go and learn everything from the basics of the platform to detailed strategies is extremely important – as it helps both the platform and the marketer to be successful.
Verdict: Marketo offers blogs, user groups, articles, etc. both to marketers, as well as technical persons. Sitecore offers a limited marketer community; however, its technical persons community is large and very active.
Example Subscription Comparison
Email Database Limits – The number of contacts allowed in the database.
Justification: Being able to store as many contacts as want in your marketing database is just something that many people have come to expect, because storage is so inexpensive and the hard disk size consumed by records is relatively small. Having enough room to grow gives you more time to think about managing campaigns, instead of spending time purging the database.
Verdict: Sitecore offers an UNLIMITED size contact database, where the reviewed Marketo subscription offers 250,000 contacts. The more contacts in the database, the more the Marketo subscription costs.
Email Send Limits – The number of email sends allowed per month.
Justification: Having a flexible plan that allows for fluctuations in the number of email sends you do per month is important, as some providers will stop sending once you go over your limit – while others will send you a bill at the end of the month with overage fees.
Verdict: The reviewed Marketo subscription offered UNLIMITED number of email sends per month, while the reviewed Sitecore EXM 3.4 subscription offered 250,000 email sends. The more email sends, the more the Sitecore subscription costs.
Spam Check – Check email against spam servers.
Justification: Optimizing your message to give it the best chance of being delivered is not rocket science, but it does take an element of fine tuning. And being able to do so from within the email application itself saves you precious time when you need to get the campaign out the door.
Verdict: Sitecore EXM 3.4 includes a Spam Check service that allows you to check individual messages for spam issues against many different spam servers. Marketo offers, what appears to be, a more basic service for an additional fee.
Email Preview – Check email design against desktop/mobile clients.
Justification: Knowing that your email design is rock solid before you send it gives you peace of mind and helps guide your creative strategy in future campaigns. Having it integrated into your email platform saves you the additional steps it would take to access 3rd party email preview services.
Verdict: Sitecore EXM 3.4 includes an Email Preview service that allows you to check individual messages against both desktop and mobile email clients to ensure design elements are consistent across clients.
Sample Recurring Monthly Cost – Sample monthly cost for the platform subscription.
Justification: For some reason marketing is always being asked where they can cut costs. The best way I have found to combat this trend is to 1) calculate your cost per acquisition per channel and your MROI (marketing return on investment) and report on it frequently so everyone in the organization can see the value you are creating and 2) always try to cut costs and be more efficient. The idea of “lean” marketing (listening to your clients earlier, testing more frequently, measuring the metrics that matter, etc.) and “lean” teams (doing more with less) is only just starting – so being able to show value early and often is becoming more important.
Verdict: Sitecore’s estimated monthly subscription is $1,500 per month for an unlimited contact database, 250,000 email sends, and Spam Check and Email Preview services. Marketo’s estimated monthly subscription is $4,700 per month for a 250,000 contact database, unlimited email sends, and no Spam Check or Email Preview services. Upgrading the Sitecore monthly subscription to $4,500 (still less expensive than Marketo), would increase the number of email sends per month to 1,500,000.
Marketo was unnecessarily clunky in its user interface. It was not intuitive in nature and, in some cases, would take 25%-30% more clicks/actions to accomplish a task when compared to Sitecore EXM 3.4.
That said, Marketo has many out of the box features that Sitecore EXM 3.4 does not offer – such as its complex list building capabilities and drag-and-drop functionality in simple automation and when utilizing the Email Editor 2.0 for building templated emails.
Sitecore EXM 3.4 continues to show signs of being an immature email platform in regard to some of its marketing specific capabilities. Basic marketing features/functionality feel as though they were not thought through fully.
Where EXM does excel is in its ease-of-use and data collection. EXM’s UX is far superior to Marketo’s. With an intuitive workflow and responsive interface, EXM lets marketers effortlessly send email campaigns.