Bringing “Marketing Automation” Mainstream

Jon Miller, a co-founder of Marketo (and someone who has commented on this blog) has taken another step toward bringing “marketing automation” mainstream with this article in Inc magazine, “3 Ways to Make Relationship Marketing Count”.

What if you have a big miss with a message sent to a CFO? Then it’s not so funny. On the Internet, your prospects and customers are telling you all about themselves, and they’re expecting you to pay attention and use that information to be more interesting, more engaging, more relevant…

The three things are:

1. Pay attention to C-Level traffic. If the executive is a customer, [he or she] may be looking to price alternatives. If not a customer, it could be a good idea to send the executive a whitepaper …

2. Have a conversation. And remember, “some of the best communication is educational or entertaining to the person on the other end of the conversation.”

3. Look for forms of communication other than email. “[S]ometimes the best way to connect to your customer is to give them a call….Listen to what’s being said on social networks and join the conversation… Make sure the resources on your website are informative and entertaining, not just promotional. And then coordinate it all together into a seamless conversation”.

As per my earlier blog post, it seems as if Marketo is continuing to focus on “thought leadership” rather than dive into the data.

But he’s working to bring “marketing automation” mainstream. That’s good news.

I’m @johnbugay

Marketing Automation Providers: If It’s Content vs Data, Who Wins?

Content vs data: who wins?

Content vs data: who wins?

On the same day that we see an announcement about an agreement between Oracle and Salesforce to share data, Marketo provided an announcement about its 1000th blog post, basically a summary of things “then and now”.

This is about as clear a picture as we’re going to get about the current and future consolidation of the industries that have come to be known by various names as “marketing automation” and “content marketing” (and related terms).

There’s “data” on the one side, and “content” on the other.

Of course, both sides will profess expertise in both arenas. However, in terms of “strength vs strength”, Oracle and Salesforce are going to have their strength in the “data” arena, and Marketo and some of their like-minded competitors are staking their claims in the “content” arena.

“Big Data”? No Problem for Oracle/Eloqua

In the “data” arena, Oracle and Salesforce, two traditional rivals, have seemingly “agreed to play nice”, at least in terms of sharing their data more easily. As I’ve used these solutions, it was already a natural fit.

And, in a recent blog post, I put up a video in which Oracle/Eloqua outlines its product roadmap, saying “we’re committed to continuing the Eloqua roadmap, exhilarating it, and then integrating it with a broader portfolio”. That involves using “Eloqua’s marketing cloud in a multi-vendor environment”.

If anything, Salesforce and Oracle are on the same side of the house, in the “data” world. On the other side of the house, Marketo is more about providing “content”, and perhaps in that emphasis, we see a clue about the weaknesses it is trying to cover.

Will “Thought Leadership” Trump “Data”?

If Eloqua has been “all about revenue” (and data), then Marketo has staked its claim in the realm of “thought leadership” in the form of “content”. Jon Miller, who wrote the blog post, gives himself this moniker and tagline:

Jon (@jonmiller) leads all aspects of Marketo’s thought leadership, communications, and content marketing programs.

And in line with the “thought leadership” process, the blog post “revisiting our very first post, “Modern B2B Marketing Defined”, and commenting on what’s changed – and what hasn’t – since August 8, 2006.

What hasn’t changed:

• Customers are more empowered than ever, and less likely than ever to want to be interrupted with someone else’s marketing message.
• “Mass media” is giving way to the need for “mass customization”.
• Marketing must be accountable [a tip-of-the-hat to “revenue”].

What has changed?

• “Content marketing” has become the new and personalized SEO.
• It’s now all about ***Social Media*** and ***Mobile***.
• Integrated SaaS (“software as a service”) providers will be more needed to process the data.

While mentioning the explosion of data, Miller doesn’t give much of a hint as to how data is to be captured, managed, and used. He does note that “at the core” of the “integrated” services, there will be some mechanism to use “behavioral data about prospects and customers.” But there are no specifics about how “advanced” and “predictive” “analytics” will be used. Only in the coming years, “even more dynamic personalization” and “real-time marketing” will be forthcoming.

I’m not familiar with Marketo’s platform. But I do know Oracle/Eloqua and Salesforce, and the ways that they integrate data in ways that are useful to an organization. The difficult part about these solutions is finding appropriate ways to incorporate the “content marketing” portion.

In the coming months and years, the struggle for dominance will be between those who know the data and struggle to provide the content management, and those who manage the content well but struggle to scale to the data needs.

Convergence will minimize the differences; “execution” will be key

I don’t doubt that there will be some convergence: the “content” competitors will acquire data-savvy partners, and these will thrive on the content side. The Oracle/Eloqua/Salesforce side will need to strengthen their ties with “content marketing” thought leaders.

In the end, I doubt that the “content” marketers are going to be too lacking in data, and nor will the data providers find themselves lacking in the “content” arena. But as I said above, handling the data seems to be the more difficult task, and I’d give a slight edge to the Oracle/Eloqua side.

What it’ll come down to is, as Tom Peters has said, “execution”.

I’m @johnbugay

Steve Jobs is dead: now who are the real tough guys?

Bronx-Tale-Cover“ … it don’t take much strength to pull a trigger, but try and get up every morning day after day and work for a living. Let’s see him try that. Then we’ll see who’s the real tough guy. The working man is the tough guy …” – Robert De Niro as Lorenzo Anello, a bus driver in “A Bronx Tale”, screenplay by Chazz Palminteri.

You may have noticed that Apple’s stock has plummeted, especially after it announced an 18 percent drop in net income for the March quarter. It’s also expecting revenue could fall in the next quarter for the first time since 2003. That’s not to say that Tim Cook isn’t a good CEO, and that Apple still doesn’t have great products and a great all-around technology solution. But Steve Jobs is dead, and it’s not likely that someone with his combination of vision and authority will come along again anytime soon.

Bronx-Tale-Short-LivedYou may also have noticed that within the last couple of years, “social media” have also fallen somewhat flat as a business marketing tool – Facebook has failed to live up to its promise – it has lost roughly half of its value since its IPO. Twitter has the ability (when hacked) to affect the stock market, but its effects seem to be short-lived and not the kind of thing upon which to build a dynasty.

What’s the answer, not only for Apple, but for marketers everywhere? The answer can be found in the words of Robert De Niro, as spoken above: “Now we’ll see who the real tough guys are”. Those who “get up every morning day after day and work for a living”.

* * *

For marketers, that kind of “getting up each day” is much, much easier with an all-around Marketing Automation solution like Eloqua.

We know that Eloqua works. It delivers as advertised. Eloqua had a very successful IPO at $12.00 per share, to be followed up with an acquisition by Oracle at roughly double that amount. Recently, the #2 player in the “marketing automation” field, Marketo, has also filed for an IPO.

These kinds of successes are possible because “marketing automation” works. It yields a measurable benefit for marketing programs. It enables organizations to integrate their sales and marketing teams more tightly than ever before.

Bronx-Tale-StrengthBut while “marketing automation” can yield tremendous results, making it work is not an easy thing to do. It requires cooperation among a number of internal departments, including marketing, sales, and IT. Plus, a proper implementation often requires the help of outside “partner” firms or consultants who can accomplish specific tasks and provide proper training.

The alternative to all that work is being left behind. The good news is that virtually every company that uses a website to sell or market its products can benefit from a well-implemented marketing automation effort.

Building Personas: “Soccer Moms”, “Fearful CEOs” and other people who may buy from you

First ThingsOne of the most important things that sets your marketing message apart from the others is “relevance” – if your message is relevant to the recipient, it’ll go a lot more smoothly from the inbox to your prospect’s brain.

If you can understand who the various people are who buy your products or services, you’re much more likely to be able to select (or create) relevant messaging (or “content”) to send to them.

That’s why thinking through “personas” for your customers is the very first project that Eloqua recommends.

This is clearly not the “automation” portion of “marketing automation”, it’s the “marketing” part. You may have heard the tech-related phrase, “garbage in, garbage out”. This is where you need to make certain you are working with good information. This is the foundation for the rest of your efforts.

(In a sense, it’s a shame that marketing “automation” companies need to remind their customers of this).

It’s all about the money, and this is where “marketing” meets “the money”. It’s where you, as a marketer, sit down with your sales and product management teams and understand, who’s buying each product or service that you sell, how they are involved in the purchasing decision, and what their “buying cycle” is.

At a later date, for each of these, you’ll think through their “buying cycle” their particular needs (or “pain points”) at varying points of the buying cycle, and also the type of “content” that you will address to them.

But for now, what’s the point?

Thinking through your customer demographics should be a standard operating procedure for any business, and for some, it is a science. Consumer marketing companies have come up with a number of different personas — some of these, such as “soccer moms”, have become well-known through such marketing processes as political campaigns.

2013-04-02-Consumer-Demographics

If you properly understand who the buyers are, and what they’re buying, you can automate your marketing efforts to them in an effective way. If you don’t get them right, it’s going to be a case of “garbage in, garbage out”.

If you click on the “Persona Development” link on http://growth.eloqua.com/, it’ll take you to the page where Eloqua makes its “persona development” materials available.

(If you aren’t already a member of their Topliners community, you may need to join in order to access this material.)

Doing more with less, beating “Moore’s Law”, enabling “Big Data”, and creating new kinds of jobs

Anyone who’s been alive in the last 30 years has seen the incredible on-rush of technology. No doubt you’ve got a mobile phone in your pocket or on a desk nearby. Some time not long ago (I remember the early 1990’s) such miniaturization and efficiency of space was unthinkable.

Underlying the press to do more with less is a concept known as “Moore’s Law”, which posits that “that the number of transistors on integrated circuits would double roughly every two years”. This has enabled chip manufacturers to roughly double the power of microprocessors each year. [A similar law, called Kryder’s law describes how storage space works in a similar way.]

The problem is that the laws of physics now have pressed microchip manufacturers to the point to which “traffic” within the circuit board makes it difficult to get things any smaller. And this is causing a “traffic jam” in the amounts of information that can be processed.

Nevertheless, the Harvard Business Review has a helpful blog post by Hector Ruiz, the former CEO of chip maker (and Intel competitor) AMD, which talks about how chip technology is going to become even smaller and more efficient in spite of the increasing traffic:

To understand where the industry is today and where innovation is headed, it’s helpful to think of the microchip as a metropolitan area and its components as buildings.

Decades of innovation have made the components of a microchip smaller and smaller. Yet chips have grown larger as more and more components are packed onto them to meet increased computing needs — making the interconnections between each minuscule part more spread out.

That “sprawl” is like the suburbs around a city. The same problems that apply to a sprawling metropolitan area apply to the microchip: getting from point A to point B requires increasing time and energy just like driving a congested freeway from a suburban home to a job downtown does. Information travels across bigger microchips with less efficiency at slower speeds, while consuming more power.

We can’t increase the surface area of microchips much more without running into those problems, and we’re getting closer every day to the limits of how small we can make components. So what next?

The trend in urban development today is to build up, bringing people back into city centers and transforming suburbs into functioning city units where jobs, shopping, and homes are as closely connected as possible. That idea applies to microchips in the form of three-dimensional interconnect. It’s the off-ramp to Moore’s Law: In 3D interconnect, engineers stack wafers like the floors of a skyscraper in extreme miniature, with vertical connections (think elevators communicating between floors) in addition to traditional horizontal links.

One key area of growth this will impact is the growth of “big data”. According to IBM, 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.

Much of that is “unstructured” – in the forms of images and videos stored at such venues as Facebook and YouTube. But increasing volumes of it come in the forms of measurable, actionable information. Gartner has predicted that 1.9 million new IT jobs in the US alone will be created to support “big data” over the next two years.

Eloqua and similar marketing automation programs are enabling marketers to do more with the onrush of data – to accomplish more (and more relevant) “marketing functionality” with fewer people, while at the same time changing the face of what needs to be done.

That bodes well for folks who understand the type of change that’s happening, what it is they’re dealing with.

On Diving 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.

Why Eloqua?

I’m amazed that there are a lot of people who haven’t heard about Eloqua, or about “marketing automation”. Oracle’s purchase of Eloqua was vindication for its “thin-client-and-server” model of computing in the 1990’s, vs Microsoft’s “power on the desktop” model.

Rob Brosnan of Forrester Research, writing for Forbes, says:

The $871 million deal is eye-popping given Eloqua’s $90 million in annual revenue, but at Oracle’s level, the cost hardly matters. Eloqua’s puts more muscle behind Oracle’s vision to become a force in SaaS. As important, it gives the company a do-over, i.e., an opportunity to pivot from past marketing tech offerings …. Marketers actively chose Eloqua for its capabilities as much as for the freedom it offers from IT.a

The Eloqua SaaS (“software as a service”) model means that marketers can just do what they need to do (and what they know intuitively that they need to do) with minimal input from MIS/IT. There’s no need to gain approvals to do day-to-day things. Eloqua makes sure the software is functioning properly in just one place – “the cloud” – and if the marketers run into trouble, they call Eloqua Tech Support instead of MIS/IT. All of the “computing” happens “in the cloud”.

On the other hand, the Microsoft vision of “power on the desktop” means that you’ve got to have “the program” on your own “desktop”, which is empowering for MIS/IT, but ultimately, less streamlined, less efficient.

With Eloqua, marketers have the ability to store their database, perform comprehensive web analytics, segment their customers based on their “digital” activity, create automated “programs” that reach out to the various segments based on interests and activity levels, and provide reporting that ultimately leads to an understanding of marketing ROI.

Marketers who don’t know about Eloqua should be flocking to have this kind of capability.