While this does not address everything in your post, there is a collection of guided landing page templates you can download and play with. We've been able to tweak these with some trial and error, but that also included help from our web developer. I hope this is useful for you.
I used Pardot in the past and found their email and landing page layout creators to be far superior to those found in Marketo. You shouldn't have to have developers code templates in order to allow Marketers to create emails and landing pages that are brand compliant. Every situation is a little different and the ability to make layout modifications is key.
Now that Marketo will be part of the Adobe family shortly, I am hoping that they will be able to bring in more user-friendly drag and drop layout creation features for both landing pages and emails.
To answer your question directly: Yes. No doubt about it.
I was very frustrated at how much effort was required to set up campaigns in Marketo compared to other platforms I've used - and I'm very technical for a marketer. However, I was able to invest time to figure out ways to streamline program and content creation so that we could scale our marketing processes. It's worth the time and effort to either learn how to do it yourself or find a reliable party to help you.
Here is the path I've taken to get there. Maybe it can help point you in a good direction:
1. Landing pages: I followed Sanford Whiteman's instructions on how to embed Marketo forms into landing pages created in our CMS: Form Pre-Fill. External sites. No limits. You're welcome. They pre-fill, progressively profile, and play well within Marketo programs. Sanford is the truth.
2. Email templates: I learned how to create custom modules in Marketo's email templates. Email Template Syntax - Marketo Docs - Product Documentation. It was a lot of trial and error, but in the end I have a couple template emails that allow us to combine modules that handle almost all of our layout needs. I only occasionally need to revisit the templates to account for new designs. This allows me to stick with Marketo as my email editing tool which is essential to our workflow. Otherwise I wouldn't use Marketo.
3. Program creation: I figured out how to set up programs and use tokens to make cloning existing programs a snap. Grégoire Michel (another good person to follow, as is Josh Hill) points out that Marketo does a great job of preserving the relationship between assets in a program (smart campaigns, emails, forms, reports), which is true. Also learning how to leverage program tokens makes cloning very flexible - I use some tokens like a checklist to fill in for things like URL of the downloadable offer, campaign tracking values, etc. I don't think this makes Marketo more powerful, though. It just makes it work about as well as modern platforms when creating new programs.
So it took some doing, but now I have a solution that is scalable. In then end, it's totally worth the effort. Marketo is a powerful tool, but you are right - you need to code or have coders to make it really work well. The trick, I've found, is to invest up front in figuring out how to set up your programs, templates, and CMS integration for scalability.
The path you went through should normally paved by some consultant helping you figuring out how to well use Marketo. This out to be their job to do the coding as well. And it's also recommended that one gets real training.
High-end Marketing Automation solutions (Eloqua, Marketo) should not be sold without some minimum professional services delivered by people who are trained for this. Period.
I agree with respect to Marketo. I had my first campaign with Act-On out the door three days after signing the contract with no training or professional assistance. It was my first experience with a marketing automation platform, circa 2011. HubSpot took a little longer, mostly because this time I had existing programs to replace and more data to migrate, plus we were using their web platform. All three are high end platforms. Therefore, with all due respect, it is hard to say "period."
I also think that the training most marketers receive isn't going to approach anything near the level of technical knowledge required to keep your platform up to date with evolving workflows and branding updates. Therefore, if you aren't able to code well yourself you'll find yourself hiring professionals again to update your templates, etc., to the OP's original point.
I would not call Act-On nor Hubspot high-end MAP solutions. I never tried Circa, so I would not tell about it. Act-On and HubSpot are excellent solutions, do not take me wrong, and are furthermore quite easy to start with, easier than Marketo, for sure. But their functional scope and capability to adapt to complex needs or sophisticated organizations lays far beyond what you can do with Marketo or Eloqua. With the functional breath of the later solutions comes a complexity that is not easy to apprehend alone. I had to go through the journey or learning Marketo in 2010, when Marketo had absolutely no presence whatsoever in Europe. So I was totally on my own, with the doc only and no much more (Marketo University and the community were a dream at that time ) and I do know what efforts it takes to do it (and I am a fast learner, with an engineering backgound and 20+ years of marketing experience). Hence my recommendation to get some real help. The time saved on the learning curve is really worth the money.
Agree with Grégoire. The dirty little secret about those drag and drop template editors from competitors is that they aren't fully responsive or look great across clients and devices.
Thank you John! I do find the programs extremely helpful in streamlining a lot of our initiatives --but sometimes when we want to create something that has a bit of a different look and feel, it takes a ridiculous amount of time and effort to get it done --and I am fairly technical.
Also, I don't think we should need to hire professional services given the amount of money we pay for the tool. That's why I loved Hubspot, they gave you absolutely all the training you needed to get through it on your own and get your money's worth without having to pay EXTRA and have to contract with another party. I have previously implemented both Hubspot and Act-On and I was able to hit the ground running by myself with both of those platforms without a third party help. I think that high-end platforms need to be focused on everything --not just the automation, it'd be nice if Marketo could solve some of these simple issues before focusing so much on AI and other stuff. Going down to the basics is just as important as flying into "what's next".
Hi Leticia DoPrado,
I can appreciate the frustration here... I've heard this from more than one group as they were coming on board with Marketo. It's definitely a different paradigm than the other MAPs and there are advantages and disadvantages to it. I like John Stalnaker and Adam Pereyra's responses here in particular. There are a few different approaches to creative assets in Marketo, both with and without a developer. Hopefully this is a concise starting point:
I really hope that helps! If you want to talk it through directly, feel free to PM me or give me a call and I can point you in the right direction: 704-469-5137.
All the best,