'Privacy is a red herring' Marketo CMO Sanjay Dholakia talks personalisation, engagement and ad blockers

At the forefront in marketing automation solutions, the San Mateo, CA company Marketo has maintained its status as a leader in engagement and personalized marketing for the past ten years. While Marketo basically markets its products to marketers themselves, its success in selling personalization and engagement platforms to its customers has given it a unique position in a crowded field. As its customers drive engagement with prospects, customers, and leads, enabling a marketer to market across all channels, Marketo is increasingly becoming a vast eco-system setting the pace in a dense marketing nation.

Marketo has an impressive list of clients in the B2B and B2C sphere with up to 4,500 customers and clients around the globe, including General Electric, Sony and Hyundai. The Drum caught up with Marketo’s chief marketing officer Sanjay Dholakia who offered his insights into how engrained personal and engagement marketing has become – and how smart marketers are jumping on board.

The Drum: Although Marketo was founded 10 years ago; the idea of personal and engagement marketing seems to have hit its stride within the past five years. Do you see engagement or personalized marketing as a very recent phenomena?

Sanjay Dholakia: The concept of personalized marketing, or one-on-one marketing has been around for 20 to 25 years but no one could do it. We didn’t have the technology. It has been on our minds as marketers for a long time. It has always been the Holy Grail for marketers. Yes, Marketo just turned ten. It has only been in the past five to eight years where the technology has enabled us to do personalized marketing.

The Drum: Do you believe that personalized marketing is just for B2B and B2C marketers?

Sanjay Dholakia: It is not just a marketing opportunity but it is a challenge everywhere from universities to non-profits to corporations. Any organization that has to communicate with someone to achieve its mission should be involved in personalized or engagement marketing.

The Drum: You mention that Marketo is a company that is used more and more as a way to drive deeper engagement in marketing. Can you explain the power that personalization can have for business?

Sanjay Dholakia: The benefits are that it drives higher conversion rates at every step. The higher conversion for top line and bottom line results through personalization is mandatory for any company who want lead generation and revenue growth. With over 3,000 marketing messages coming in to many individuals through the course of a day, the only way to get someone’s attention is for it to be highly relevant and highly personalized. The tools for engagement marketing should no longer be on the ‘nice to have’ list. If you don’t drive personalization you are going to fall behind.

The Drum: Privacy is another big issue in the U.S. for several reasons. What are your views on privacy at a time where marketers are trying to achieve a balance?

Sanjay Dholakia: The issue of privacy is a red herring in that people get concerned about privacy if they believe their information will be misused. What history shows us is that people are happy to give more targeted information if they have seen that it can improve their experience. That improved experience is one of the key ingredients in engagement marketing and personalization.

The Drum: Ad Blocking is another major issue in the marketing sector. However, email marketers have long faced this problem with spam filters and the like. How do you ensure that people are seeing your content and getting around filters? Can you relay any insights for advertisers facing similar restrictions?

Sanjay Dholakia: This is a great example of where B2B marketers are ahead of the consumer side because they have been relying on email marketing for a long time. Ad blocking is a recent phenomenon that highlights a need for personalization. The only way around it is to figure out how to personalize communications. In other words, if it is relevant to me, I don’t want to block it. The power of personal marketing is that communication is so much more relevant that you can get around ad blocking.

The Drum: What are your views as a marketer as you engage in explaining the marketing needs to other marketers. In other words, how are you making sure you remain as current as possible in the vastly changing and evolving industry?

Sanjay Dholakia: There is a very high bar when you market to people who do this for a living. I consider this a great privilege of my career that I get to talk to marketers about marketing.

Marketing is going through a major transformation. My personal view is B2B and B2C marketing is changing extremely rapidly and is on a collision course. We really have “Mark-Tech” and “Ad-Tech” colliding.

B2B marketing has been growing up in the world of marketing, while advertising was more commonly used in the consumer space. What we are seeing is these two worlds coming together. B2B says how do we use first party data to drive ads and B2C says how can ads drive us to first party data. Amazon is a great example of a consumer business that uses B2B marketing strategies.

I think this notion of engagement marketing will become the basis on which a company can gain the competitive advantage overall else. it is not cost or product – which were the standards used to measure up against the competition. It is whoever has the “relationship” with the customer or business that will win.