Within the past month we’ve seen major privacy initiatives from three major players in the online commerce space:
FTC with a Do Not Track list proposal; Microsoft with announcements of tracking blocking technology in the upcoming release of the Internet Explorer browser; US Dept. of Commerce with its calls for baseline federal privacy regulation and a federal privacy office.
Many Marketo customers and partners have been asking what effect these potential new regulations will have on Marketo’s industry leading solution and the overall marketing automation space. Fundamentally, Marketo is excited about initiatives that foster trust in online marketing and commerce. We believe that by reinforcing key areas of privacy protection we’re invigorating the long term vitality of the online ecosystems.
Marketing automation will become an even more powerful revenue engine when online participants feel safe about their data and are enabled to opt-in to the marketing and lead nurturing programs that are relevant to them. With the standardization of privacy protections, unsavory players will be cut out of the market. Businesses that are trusted will excel in this new environment. This is great for Marketo customers who are experts in building trust and providing relevant content and services to their subscribers.
Exposure to FTC’s Do Not Track
With all the media hype of the FTC’s Do-Not-Track proposal, it’s easy to get a worried about losing the ability to stay relevant and provide online services since both of these activities are made possible by tracking. Marketo customers need not worry about this since the FTC isn’t talking about regulating the single-property tracking that Marketo’s solution makes so easy. Marketo lets companies track their own customers, but we do not build for ourselves, nor support for our customers, building cross-company targeting profiles. The FTC does not object to companies tracking their own customers and subscribers. Indeed, the FTC’s chief technologist, Edward Felten, stated: “The system as currently envisioned would not apply to ordinary first party tracking or to a first party’s use of a service provider for website analytics.” It’s third party cross-company behavioral targeting that the FTC is going after and not the first party tracking that Marketo offers.
Leveling the Playing Field
A big part of the reason for these new privacy developments is that the FTC, Microsoft and the Commerce Department all feel that many behavioral third party cross-site tracking companies are not being upfront about what data they’re collecting, how they’re collecting it, and what they’re doing with it. By standardizing opt-in, opt-out and data disclosures, these organizations will lose any edge their secretive methods gives them. No longer will shadowy organizations have an advantage over those businesses that are doing everything right and treating their customers with respect. Marketo believes this level playing field will be great for our customers’ businesses. With a level playing field the best players in marketing automation will drive the most revenue.
Tracking Is Just Part of Marketing Automation
Tracking standardization is great for companies with marketing automation programs. Yet, any great marketer knows that tracking is just part of the solution. Tracking is infrastructure to deliver relevant content and services to customers. Tracking is the easy part (or at least it is with Marketo). It’s the relevant content and services that are hard part. While some companies might be disproportionately hit by tracking standardization, that’s because tracking and selling of tracking information is all they really do. Marketo customers, on the other hand, are all about full fledged marketing automation that includes tracking and a whole lot more. Indeed, Marketo even has customers that sell to government spooks and don’t practice any tracking whatsoever. They still get tremendous value from the Marketo solution.
Whatever happens from a regulatory perspective, Marketo is confident we will continue to deliver huge value to our customers. If trust builds in the online space, commerce will expand, and our customers will be right there feeding their revenue growth machines with marketing automation and sales effectiveness programs. We’ll dive deeper into these privacy developments in some blog posts to follow.