My company has been having a sales boot camp this week, as we recently hired five inside sales people and a sales manager. The term “boot camp” is different from a “kick-off,” which we hold on a yearly basis, in that the boot camp is a deep and intense five days in which the new hires getting presented every facet of the company by various managers, directors, and VPs from 8:30AM until 5PM every day. The kick-offs that we have had have been in a round-table discussion format, wherein all of inside sales, sales engineers, sales managers, and marketing folks gather to discuss what’s working, what’s not, any new messaging that may have been developed, and the large accounts on which people are working. Kick-offs tend to have a vastly more exciting setting as well; in 2007 about forty of us stayed at Caesar’s in Atlantic City for three days of meetings … and other things, of course.
Yesterday I, along with our VP of marketing, gave our presentation about what’s happening with marketing now and what we plan to do in the future, and how it will affect the sales team. The VP gave the high-level overview, including some of our main objectives that are pretty standard in the industry – increasing downloads and registrations, to name one – and then I dove into a brief technical overview of the inner workings of Eloqua and the advantages of its integration with Salesforce.com.
Eloqua is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that prides itself on being the leader in marketing automation. I have used it since my third week at the company, and, through a mixture of fiddling with the software on my own and taking a three-day training course up at their headquarters in Toronto, I happen to be pretty comfortable with it.
Now, on top of the basic email campaigns we send out on a regular basis, I am able to track and nurture all online registrations prior to them reaching the sales team. I developed a program within Eloqua’s Program Builder that fills in details we otherwise would not have gotten from a straight web site form, including where the leads came from (search engine, Google AdWords, partner site, etc.) and exactly what they downloaded. After registering, the system automatically sends a number of emails to each registrant over the course of a few months and tracks any subsequent web activity. All of this information is then fed into the Salesforce.com integration program, which sends them to the sales team for follow-up.
Eloqua is a great system to use for automating things that would otherwise take hours if not days to manually produce. Lead scoring, wherein a lead receives points based on web site activity, downloads, industry, and other qualifying factors, is relatively simple to set up, and with this you can easily provide your sales team with the most qualified leads possible – all before any live person ever touches them.
The downsides to using Eloqua are twofold:
- The user interface is not intuitive. Yes, I know my way around Eloqua very well, and can quickly create a program that defines a lead source and score, but this is after two years of working with the system on a near-daily basis. There is quite a long learning curve, and while the training helps, just digging in and playing around is your best means of ‘getting’ the extremely powerful system. Just be prepared to spend quite a bit of time doing it. If you don’t have that kind of time, Marketo claims to offer “sophisticated yet easy” marketing automation, so be sure to check out their product if you’re looking for software that will entail a little less work for you.
- It is expensive. For a start-up without a hefty amount of VC funds, Eloqua’s prices can seem daunting at the high end of the five figures per year. Indeed, the system can take quite a bite out of your marketing budget, and I know some people aren’t willing to do that, even though Eloqua is probably the most powerful system in the market today. But, as with everything else, there are alternatives. Manticore blatantly boasts that it is “Eloqua competition” on its web site, and advertises itself as the low-cost alternative.
Depending on the needs of your marketing organization, Eloqua does provide stellar support, a system that (two years in) has never failed, seamless integration with Salesforce.com, and a number of useful tools to deliver qualified leads that have been scored and nutured, which gives your sales team some the most valuable information they could ever hope to receive.
- Implementing a Marketing Automation Solution
- Picking a New Breed Automated-Marketing Vendor
- Building and Measuring Lead Nurturing Programs