As Zion & Zion’s lead marketing automation strategist, easily my favorite conference to attend, Marketing Nation Summit in San Francisco brings together Marketo users from across the world to share marketing operations best practice, inspiring industry thought leadership, incredible networking events, and some great parties, too. The theme of this year’s Marketing Nation Summit was The Fearless Marketer and was centered around the idea that we can drive change within our departments, organizations, and ultimately, the marketing and advertising industry. So, what does it take to be fearless? We heard from actor Jamie Foxx and Olympic medalist Lindsey Vonn as well as industry leaders Jonathan Mildenhall (the former CMO of Airbnb) and Bill McDermott (CEO of SAP), all of who’s stories fit the “fearless” theme. But, the true test is how you can take these lessons back home to your team. And after every Summit, I can’t help but return with a renewed confidence and a full list of ideas for new marketing programs and ways to improve.

In recent years, this Marketo conference has added more practical, workshop-based sessions taught by seasoned users from the Marketo champion program. Below are my top five takeaways from those sessions, the University Day Advanced Track workshops, as well as some new product offerings I’m just plain excited about.

Takeaway 1: Database Health and You

You know the saying “Garbage In, Garbage out?” Bad data costs time, resources, and money, but it can also negatively impact the customer experience. In this session, we explored methods of not only data management but also data integrity, remediation, enrichment, and governance. Past the initial data evaluation, we discussed different reports and smart campaigns as well as a Data Score card that can be created to better understand the health of your database. This session was just a great reminder of the need to purge bad data and junk leads, and showed me some new ways to automate this process.

Takeaway 2: Building Your Marketing Ops Playbook

Having a clearly defined strategy is one thing, creating a playbook on your process is another. Regardless of your current team size, it’s crucial that someone can step into your shoes and be able to work in or take over your instance. We all know how terrifying the latter can be. A clearly documented (and frequently updated) playbook, complete with documentation on how to load data, how to use data, and what the data is used for, with a glossary of key terms, segments, and data points will be crucial to prevent marketing operations from coming to a halt if someone leaves your organization.

Takeaway 3: Tracking Offline Interactions in Marketo

It’s easy to get stuck in the day-to-day at the office, and the thing I love about attending conferences is you can dedicate time to thinking outside your usual activities. During the workshop on custom objects and custom activities, I started to think about different offline activities and interactions we could start tracking to learn more about our customer, their preferred touchpoints, and how to personalize future content across channels. I came back with some exciting ideas that I have already shared with our clients.

Takeaway 4: Work Faster with Marketo Sky

Marketo’s product team teased us with a new UI back at the 2017 summit, but with an official beta role out starting in May, the next generation User Interface, known as Marketo Sky, is finally here. And. It. Is. Exciting.

A couple of key features include:

  • Saved rules for filters/triggers and flows
  • Mass approvals and activations
  • Asset expiration

These new features will undoubtedly speed up program creation time, reduce errors, but most of all, make Marketo easier and more intuitive to use. And, the best part is it’s included in all Marketo subscriptions.

Takeaway 5: Continuing to Engage with AI

Marketo is hopping on the AI training, and no wonder since it has been the marketing industry’s hot topic for the last few years. New products include ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) Marketing and Audience AI, with new features and added emphasis on Content AI. These three products offer different AI functionalist and can be used together or separately.

  • ICP Marketing is powered by Marketo’s partner, Mintigo, and uses your database to analyze characteristics to build a profile of your perfect customer.
  • Audience AI is a look-a-like Audience tool that identifies customers with similar characteristics in your database. If you practice good segmentation, this could be a great way to expand the reach of your Marketo campaigns.
  • Content AI combines the functionality of real-time personalization with new predictive email content. Now you can create web, mobile, and email blocks that will display AI recommended content within Marketo, not a third party.

Cost and availability on some on these enhancements hasn’t been made available yet, but I am excited to learn more.


Over 6,000 marketers attended this year’s summit—everyone from marketing ops and content developers to C-level executives and IT specialists from a range of organizations including SMB, enterprise, B2B, and B2C organizations. As you can imagine, this unique group makes networking a key benefit of attending the summit. It’s a great opportunity to participate in a local Marketo User Group or attend a vertical specific session to gain insights on what others in your industry are doing.

If Marketo continues to expand their session program on best practice workshops and champion session, I will continue attending. All in all, 2018 was a success and I am looking forward to heading back to Las Vegas for the 2019 summit!