Learning Marketing Automation? Dive Right In

Learning by doingThe decision to work with a marketing automation program like Eloqua is no small decision. It’s going to involve a tremendous expansion of the skill-set that you possess. It’s going to tax your abilities, and half-measures (adopting it part-way) is not going to get you where you want to go. If you adopt Eloqua, your marketing department is going to need a re-think from top to bottom.

As the Topliners poll shows nearby, the best way to become comfortable with Eloqua is to simply dive right in. (Click on the chart to see a larger version of it).

While “diving in” may make some sense, you have to be careful about what you’re diving into. The process of learning Eloqua, from beginning to end, involves a great deal of effort (which is worth it). The instructions that Eloqua provided at http://growth.eloqua.com provide a realistic road-map of what that journey entails.

Take a look at the list of just first-level of things you’ll need to do to “lay the groundwork” from that chart. I’ll go through these and provide just a few brief words on each of them.

Laying Your GroundworkPersona Development: This involves fairly intensive discussions with the sales department to understand who the various people are who are buying your products and services, why they are buying them, and what the process is like to get from “interest” to “purchase”.

Data Management/Standardize Data: Do you have data already? If so, there’s a likelihood that it’s not been “normalized”. If you don’t have data, you’ll need to think through and understand what you’ll need, and how to make sure it’s captured properly.

Naming Conventions and Folder Organization: Eloqua’s folder structure is an important part of classifying your emails, and before you send your first email out, you should have some kind of roadmap to make certain your emails are organized correctly as you continue to build out your program.

Email Deliverability and Best Practices: This is a whole separate science. It’s not as if there’s a dearth of material here; rather, the challenge will be to understand what targets you’d like to achieve, and then figure out how to be selective about which “best practices” you need to adopt.

Increase Email Response Rates: In some ways, this is a subset of the previous item; in other ways, this is a function of testing to achieve the kinds of targets you have set for yourself.

Subscription Preferences and Management: It’s an opt-in world; people hate getting spammed, and users will want to be able to opt themselves into and out of certain categories of information they will receive. Thinking through these categories is going to be vital to your efforts.

Inactive Contact Management: Eloqua charges you solely based on the number of contacts you have in your database. That means, if you can reduce the number of contacts you have, you can reduce the amount of money you pay for your annual contract. But at what cost?

Web to Lead Form Integration: Imagine the process that your potential customers will go through while in your “sales funnel”. You’ll want to learn more and more about them as they move forward. But what do you need to know, and when do you need to know it?

Lead Source Capture: How will you capture the names of individuals in the first place? More and more marketers are popping up big “give-us-your-email-address-now” screens in front of the first visit to your website. Is that what you want to be known for?

Don’t think you don’t need to do all of this. If you have a website – if you hope to use your website as a part of your selling process, then you either need to do all this, and more, or risk having your business become irrelevant to your users.

Consider the broad range of disciplines that are involved in just this list alone. This is merely “laying your groundwork”, before you actually accomplish one thing. The amount of work that needs to go simply into laying your groundwork should be a sign to you that an Eloqua implantation is not going to be a one-time “set-it-and-forget-it” software installation. It’s going to be a way of life.

Caution: Heavy Lifting on the IT Side of Marketing

Alan Pringle @scriptorium has put together an article that could have been subtitled, “The Technical Side of Content Management: 11 Questions to Ask”.

When IT is MIA, content strategy crumbles.

Based on “hard experience”, he makes the following personnel-based observation:

Among those authoring content, have at least two tech-savvy employees who are the main points of contact with the IT department. These technical liaisons collect information about performance issues and other problems and then work with the IT group to solve the issues. Don’t play the I’m just a writer and don’t want to be bothered with the technical details card and leave all the heavy lifting to the IT group.

He notes, “Having a primary IT resource for content processes is a logical approach, but there needs to be a secondary resource who is more than just a backup in name only. The secondary resource should be well-versed in the tools and participate in basic maintenance to develop a working knowledge of the system.”

At this point, I just want to point out the line on my résumé where it says I was “marketing liaison with MIS/IT”. I’m a guy who can handle the heavy lifting on the IT side of the Marketing house.

Do you know someone who needs help with that?

I’m @johnbugay.

Where are the “marketing automation” experts in Pittsburgh?

Sitting this one out
Sitting on the sidelines

This is a serious question. Just two months in to a job search in which I’ve focused on offering my skills in the specialized field of “marketing automation”, I cannot say that I have found any marketing automation practitioners among the ad agencies in Pittsburgh.

I follow some very active discussions about it on LinkedIn and Twitter.

But it seems as if very few people in Pittsburgh even know what “marketing automation” is, and fewer still know how to excel at it.

While things like “marketing automation”, “inbound marketing”, “content marketing”, and “demand generation” are setting the rest of the marketing world on fire, it seems as if very few marketing organizations and fewer ad agencies in Pittsburgh even know what it is.

Take a look at the websites of three of the largest ad agencies in Pittsburgh:

http://www.brunnerworks.com/

http://www.marcusa.com/

http://www.engauge.com/

You won’t find “marketing automation” or the other terms on these sites. And yet, it should be “bread-and-butter” for these folks. Especially if they want to consider themselves as “thought leaders”.

“Marketing automation” is as important a discipline as there is now. And yet there are still agencies who are leading with their prowess on “SEO”, even though changing Google algorithims are rendering that discipline obsolete.

Eloqua and Marketo are probably the leading solution providers in this space. Eloqua had an IPO about a year ago for $12 per share, and Oracle bought them in December for $24 per share at quite a premium. Marketo had an IPO on Friday, opening at about $13 per share, and closing at $23.

Neither of these is an earth-shattering amount in the billions, but these are only two of probably several dozen “marketing automation” solution providers who are elbowing each other for market share. Their success portends a trend.

And it’s not so new that folks can’t have heard about it. Especially not if they’re having extremely successful IPOs.

Much of Pittsburgh seems to be sitting out this hugely important technological development.

I received the following recommendation yesterday

Yesterday I received the following recommendation from our “Success Manager” at Eloqua — a person whose job it is to help their clients understand this complex system:

“I had the pleasure of working with John as the Marketing Advisor for his account as he took the lead for his company’s use of Eloqua in late 2012. During our bi-weekly meetings, John would come to the table with thoughtful questions and having done thorough research about campaigns and solutions he wanted to implement. He displayed an intense desire to take segmentation and personalization in the company’s marketing to the next level. He understands that this is a critical component to driving revenue from marketing investments. He dove in head first to learn best practices in marketing automation and how they could [be] applied to the unique business model in which he was operating. I would recommend John to bring his now critical skill set of content + strategy + understanding your buyer + technology to any business.”

This recommendation is from my connection Sarah Hums of Eloqua (now Oracle), and may be found at http://www.linkedin.com/in/johnbugay.