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Eloqua CEO: 'It's marketing 101'

Toronto-based Eloqua Corp. sells marketing automation software to business-to-business companies. In an interview with last week, CEO Mark Organ offered his thoughts on trends in marketing automation and the importance of experimentation.

Eloqua integrates its application with other hosted sales force automation (SFA) tools. Where are the problems in customer data integration coming from?
The integration concerns we encounter are really on an ongoing basis. With Web services/on-demand companies, they tend to be canned. The integration is done in advance and just need to be switched on. What happens is every three to six months,, for example, changes an aspect of its API [Application Program Interface] and all its partners have to scramble around it and make their integration work again.

Editor's Note: Organ later clarified this point to say that hosted vendors are adding functionality and it is incumbent on the partners to respond. What are the hot things you are currently seeing in marketing automation?
We're finding webinars are some of the most powerful lead-generation tools that we've really ever seen. Just like any new marketing tool that comes out, there's an @5513 initial burst of activity. Everyone's excited because it's popular, but you get a bit of saturation. You saw the same with e-mail newsletters. E-mail newsletters were incredibly powerful and now you probably de-subscribe yourself from half of them because you get so much of it and a lot of it is not very good quality. Now we're starting to see the same thing with webinars as well. But we're still finding it's a great source of highly qualified leads. Anyone who's willing to sit through an hour of -- in our case lead generation effectiveness -- you know is a really hot prospect. One of the challenges is to make sure you get enough people to the webinar and have the proper follow-up processes. You have to stay in front of them so when they do have an interest or a need you're right there. What's next in marketing automation?
What we're working toward is an understanding of the cost of different campaigns so a marketer can understand if they do search engine stuff combined with e-mails of a @5512 certain type, they can generate a really low cost-per-lead cost per sale. They can then invest more in that approach. What are your thoughts on the future of e-mail marketing?
When any new marketing media comes in, people say, 'it's dead, e-mail marketing is dead.' Then someone finds out how to use it properly and that adds value. Direct mail is from the 1890s, it's an old technology, but people still use it. Direct mail has its own niche. You don't use it to keep up a relationship. It's a useless relationship tool, but it's a fabulous acquisition tool if it's used properly. We'll use direct mail at first and e-mail to keep a relationship up. Everything's got its own niche and mix. E-mail marketers and consultants are now figuring out how e-mail is best used in the mix. What are they finding?
We'll experiment with automated voice mail before e-mail and e-mail before voice mail, and actually we're finding some clear rules of thumb around what works. For example, sending a voice mail before an e-mail works very well. It increases response rates by 50% to 60%. The best is sending an e-mail first and then a personalized direct mail piece. The personalized direct mail gets almost a two-fold lift in response. The difficult thing is, you need the e-mail address in advance. How is experimentation working for Eloqua and its customers?
If every time you send out an e-mail you're learning something, then after you've done 20 cycles, you can increase your response rate sometimes by two times. One of our customers, an e-commerce software company, runs two campaigns a day. They used to run three campaigns a month. The campaigns they send out are tiny -- 40 or 50 people at a time -- CFOs of food distribution companies, CIOs of consumer packaged goods companies. Every time it's a little micro shot. They learn so much about their market it's become a real advantage for them. It's marketing 101. Everyone knows you're supposed to experiment, but surprisingly a lot of marketers don't. One of the advantages with e-mail is you can do it on the fly. You can actually watch it happen. With tracking and the short feedback loops, you can optimize things so much faster and get to the ideal process in such a short period of time. Eloqua offers chat functionality. What are you seeing in terms of chat adoption and success?
That's an interesting market. When it works it works unbelievably well. We have customers who have absolutely transformed their business and others who completely struck out. One thing we're finding is decent Web site traffic is important. You need a large enough population to be able to figure out who the best people are to talk to. You don't want to talk to everyone. You also need to keep the interest of the salespeople. If they're kept busy all the time talking to good prospects, then they're more engaged. If they only have one or two prospects a day, they'll go back to what they used to be doing. We've seen profit improvement in eight figures with several customers and with others, after two months, it petered out. It's still in the early market; I don't think it's crossed the chasm. I think it will. Chat is waiting for its enabling technology. We think that enabling technology is the communications system -- e-mail, direct mail -- ways to drive people to the Web site. We have yet to see that. Chat is definitely not a mainstream technology as of yet and it remains to see whether it will be.

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