Thanks so much Michael! You're answer is very helpful and I'm happy to hear I'm not alone in my frustration!!
As there are a couple of mentions of Unbounce here I want to mention that you should not use Unbounce's so-called Marketo integration, which is in fact broken relative to what an experienced Marketo user expects.
Rather, you should use the Marketo forms endpoint (not a Marketo form, simply the forms endpoint) to accept Unbounce form posts, as noted in my blog post.
Thanks for pointing this out. We are not using forms at all with Unbounce but good to know for future.
I actually like that suggestion a lot, Sanford Whiteman. What is the URL of the blog post that you're referring to?
I code our Marketo templates (I had to figure it out for myself but it was doable). I then create an email (or landing page) using that template, set things up as for our end users in the layout they'll most often use them (this doesn't take much because I create the template almost exactly how they'll be using it), and place that email (or landing page) in a folder I created in Marketing Activities that holds all of our "templates." The end users simply clone the email or page that I created for them and can change it to suit what they need (add a photo banner, pull in a module to display a speaker along with some text, etc.). It's extremely flexible and our end users don't have to think much about it.
You can create your own "templates" this way by finding the most flexible existing template that contains what you believe you'll need, create an email (or landing page) from it, and then save that email to a folder people can clone it from. You just set treat that email (or landing page) like it's your template—clone it, change what you want, and you're set.
I recently evaluated Instapage, Unbounce, and LeadPages because I too because frustrated with Marketo out-of-the-box functionality. All 3 solutions are rather inexpensive for the value they provide. In the end we went with Instapage and after about a month and a handful of programs, it is working perfectly! I highly recommend!
Thanks for the recs Ryan! I've never heard of Instapage before, I'll check them out!
Ideally landing pages should be part of a website and embed Marketo forms or use Marketo API - this will help in keeping the user on the website and also be part of one domain.
This will simplify landing page creation as whoever is managing the website will developer or author the landing page and not worry about designing/coding separately.
Using unbounce or instapages etc create a new domain and wont help in increasing website traffic.
Drag and drop functionality is definitely lacking in the Marketo Guided Landing Page editor, especially if you are coming from Unbounce or another solution like that before.
There are several considerations you have to think through if you host your pages outside of Marketo.
1. No more use of Marketo tokens (program tokens or otherwise)
2. Your conversion data will live outside of Marketo
3. Can't use Marketo dynamic content on your landing pages
4. Form pre-fill is gone
5. Progressive profiling is gone
If flexibility and control outweigh these Marketo features then it might still make sense to move your LPs out of Marketo, but they are considerations you should definitely weigh.