Creative Uses for Custom Data Objects

For Eloqua users the idea of Custom Data Objects can be daunting and even outright scary, however they are a powerful tool very worth learning and using.  Custom Data Objects (CDOs) are used to store data that may be related to a Contact or Company’s record.  CDOs allow you to store extra information without using precious (and limited) custom fields on your contact and company records.  There are plenty of great tutorials on Topliners to help you get started with CDOs, a good starting point is this.

Some of the typical uses for CDOs are:
-Purchase History
-Extra segmentation information from CRM
-Events (E9 and E10 have an actual Event CDO)
-Surveys (E9 has a Survey CDO, E10 doesn’t but you could just as easily store survey data on CDOs)
-Warranty expiration information for purchased products

There are a lot of other interesting ways to use CDOs, here are a few I have seen and helped implement:

-Extended Campaign Membership information, storing historical information and other data points.  With customization of the membership object in CRM (SFDC) you can then leverage the CDOs to bring relevant data points over for both segmentation and historical reporting purposes.
-Storage of UTM data, everyone using web analytics should be storing UTM codes and analytics tags from their various campaigns inside Eloqua for more robust reporting.
-Cloud Connector Data, depending on cloud connectors you are using or may want to use you can (and sometimes have to) store the data on CDOs.
-Opportunity Data (beyond just stage and closed won/lost) for nurturing, sometimes having the stage data just isn’t enough to properly nurture your open or stuck opportunities, bringing over relevant information (like who else is up for the same deal, how long the deal has been open, etc.) will help you better nurture and push people along the buyers journey.

How are you using CDOs today?

Redefining Marketing Automation: Marketing in the Revenue Age

This morning while sipping my coffee I read a very interesting article on ClickZ, Marketing Automation Redefined.  In it, Nate Young (Director of Demand Generation at Kenshoo, a company that builds cloud-based digital marketing solutions and predictive media optimization technology) describes what he sees as the way we should define marketing automation.

Young writes, “Marketing automation refers to the process in which artificial intelligence and predictive analytics are used to automatically deliver and manage custom advertisements or communications to the person most likely to take a marketer’s desired action.”

While the idea that automation is more than just a simple tool is accurate, I disagree with Young’s “sci-fi” characterization that it is artificial intelligence. Today’s tools empower, even the most “green”, automation users to be better while providing near limitless options for customization for the more technical among us. Marketing Automation tools can be leveraged to automate a multitude of processes. But, to imply that they so powerful that they can be the “brain” behind the idea, is more fiction than fact. Less R2D2 from Star Wars and more Oz behind the curtain if you pardon the cliché.

The process is a prologue of sorts. Putting the right governance and business rules in place to support your platform in the background is imperative. A well thought out process will help you determine the best path for implementation. It will also help you define goals and KPIs for reporting which will be crucial when you decide to integrate your marketing automation platform with any other tools and systems such as your CRM.

Without governance and process, you might as well invest in a simple batch and blast email tool versus a true Marketing Automation Platform.   Then, there’s the people aspect. A person with business acumen, technology skills and aptitude, can bend MA platforms to their will and produce dazzling results. A  lack of properly trained staff (not just technically trained but those who operate under the same principles and move towards the same ends) will kill your efforts and render you unable to meet your goals.  To say that the technology and process are all that should be considered is really to ignore the power behind those things.

In my opinion, redefining marketing automation is not necessary. Automation is,  and will always be, a tool that leverages the processes you implement and drives toward the results you require as a modern marketing leader.  Whether it is a single piece of software or a cloud-based stack of tools is irrelevant. It’s what you do with it that defines success.  Young hints at something along these lines when he writes,

“How will we show significant gains from the investment in our new marketing stack? Going back to the C-level and saying, “All my data is in one place, I am saving so much time!” isn’t going to cut it. This is the point where marketing automation will move past its current definition and represent much more.”

A new definition of Marketing Automation isn’t necessary. But, updating our view of the role Marketing plays in an organization is absolutely required. The revolution that needs to take place is a move from traditional marketing to Revenue Marketing.  Ultimately I think this is what Young is describing. It isn’t a matter of how we define the technology but the actions surrounding the technology that make the biggest difference. It’s about moving toward a model where marketing is no longer seen as a cost center but a revenue generator. It’s about the marketing team signing up for a revenue goal, measuring revenue generated, predicting future impact on revenue in a scalable and repeatable fashion. Technology is merely the vehicle used to get there.

5 Ways You Should be Using your MAP today

You bought the tools, you have the team staffed up (or you’re working with an outside agency who can help) and you’ve sent a few emails, now what? There are five major ways you can and should be using your tools, here’s a quick hit list for you:

1.    Web-activity driven nurtures: You have a great website with engaging content but what happens after someone who is known to you visits a few of those pages?  Nothing.  How about setting up a nurture to help keep your company top of mind.  An easy example, let’s say someone visits your customer service page, why not drop them into a nurture with answers to top asked questions, point them to some of your best resources or remind them about your live chat features?
2.    Welcome Program: As you gain new contacts in your database send them a series of emails that help them understand what your company is about, how you plan to communicate with them and give them more information on how to change their email preferences or drop into other nurture programs specific to products they show interest in.
3.    Re-engagement Program: You have a big fat database but only a small portion of it engages with you regularly, how about a program meant to re-awaken them.  Maybe it’s time to bust out a sweet offer or fabulous asset for these people.  This will be a boon for you if you can re-awaken them and if you can’t be ready to part with them, they aren’t doing you any good just hanging around collecting dust.
4.    Data Management Programs: Dirty dirty data, we all have it, how do you deal with it?  Inside of your MAP tool you can build out programs that will validate, standardize and cleanse your database.  Talk about a way to amp up the power of your existing data!
5.    Sales Enablement: Why not nurture your sales team?  I know, it sounds crazy so bear with me but here’s your chance to remind your team of the great resources available to them, point them to assets that speak to various points in the buyers journey and help them help your company.

Do you have an innovative program you’re using your MAP for?  Share, we’d love to see how creative you are!

5 Tips for Succeeding with your Marketing Technology Implementation

Now that you have made the decision to implement a marketing automation solution where do you go and how do you ensure success as you move forward?  It may seem simple enough to say flip the switch and scream “It’s Alive” but it’s not.  Just having the technology is not enough to achieve the right results, process, people and an eye towards long term results will ensure you have the correct elements to succeed with your new investment.  Here are five things that are crucial to succeeding with your new tools:

1.    Process: Whether it is understanding how data is governed among your various systems, how a lead is managed from “suspect” to “closed-won” or how sales and marketing are helping each other and handing data back and forth process is the number one thing you have to nail down for an effective implementation of a marketing automation solution.  Process will help you define how you should implement your system, it will help you define goals and KPIs for reporting and will also be crucial when you decide to integrate your marketing automation platform (MAP) with your CRM.
2.    Consensus: Diplomacy and bridge-building will be instrumental in reaching the end goals with your implementation.  Many different parties are involved in a successful implementation, from IT to Marketing to Sales and the C-Suite.  You will need to establish shared goals and a plan to execute that brings all parties to the table to end up with a system everyone respects and values.
3.    Content: Just because you have the technology to send emails and drive web traffic does not mean you have the content.  Don’t forget the adage that Content is King, while it is oft overused it is still true. Without quality content you aren’t magically going to be generating leads so take stock of your content, map it to your personas and the buyers journey and then deploy it appropriately.  Don’t be afraid to weed out old and underperforming content in favor of developing shiny new assets.
4.    Data: If you think of your MAP and CRM as the engines that drive your business goals then data is the fuel.  You wouldn’t fill a fancy new car with crappy fuel, you would put in the premium good stuff, so don’t try to run you campaigns off of badly segmented, poor data.  Make sure your database is quality and that you are segmenting accordingly.
5.    Community: Remember, you are not alone in this.  Whether you are using Eloqua, Marketo or something else entirely there are great communities associated with your tools where users are constantly sharing success stories, challenges and solutions.  Engage in the communities and don’t be afraid to reach out to partners, the eco-systems that support these tools are rich with people who have built out complicated (and simple) solutions to almost any problem you can dream up.

Have I forgotten anything?  What was crucial for your company to succeed with its MAP tools?

my favorite features from the eloqua winter ’14 release

It’s that time of year again, the Eloqua Winter 2014 release is upon us. There are some exciting updates coming in the Winter ’14 release, here are a few of our favorites:

1. Incorporate your display advertising directly into your campaigns. This was previously known as Adfocus/Bizo and was accomplished via a cloud connector. It’s not being rolled out as an add-on feature for basic users and a standard feature for standard and enterprise users. We’ve done a few implementations of the cloud connector for clients and think the power contained by incorporating your display ads into your Eloqua campaigns is immense!  We look forward to seeing the great results that this feature will continue to drive for customers.

2. Enhanced revenue dashboards – really who doesn’t love better analytics! With the advent of Insight and Analyzer licenses Eloqua put the power in their users hands, with this release you can look forward to some great new reports on campaign velocity, campaign value and reach as well as ROI. If you don’t have closed-loop reporting you’ll miss out on these great reports, but it’s yet another reason why moving towards that closed-loop generates such value for your business.
3. Advances in security and management will allow you to grant permissions to images, shared content and shared filters. No more worrying about whether or not the right teams have access to the right images (or do not have access to out of date images), you can now restrict access to things much more granularly than before.

4. A unique beta feature will allow you to store contact records without an email address. While you’ll have to seek access to the beta through support or your Eloqua/Oracle Account Manager, it will finally provide an answer to how to keep lists for direct gmail, social, mobile or advertising efforts that lack an email address.

5. For all the process oriented people in the audience, another beta to watch is campaign review and approvals. Another one of those bucket-list features we’ve all wanted – the ability to approve, review and manage the process of campaign creation. To read more about the campaign approvals beta, check out:

6.  The last feature set we’re eagerly awaiting are the new admin tools for Profiler and Engage. Both answer many open questions from Eloqua users around configuration and enablement. On the Profiler side, you will gain the ability to customize the data being displayed inside your CRM. On the Engage side, you gain the ability to restrict batch sizes, add attachments to emails, and make personal templates private. Lots more detail is available on Topliners:
Which features are you most excited about?


Originally posted:

the worst advice you’ll ever get

Having worked for both the client side and the agency side I’ve heard and said many things that are “best practice” and “good advice.”  Of course I was always right, ok that’s a lie, I’m sure I gave bad advice at times just like everyone else, I would’ve thought it was a good idea at the time but we can’t always be right (gasp!).  So how do you figure out what is good advice or bad advice?  How do you know if the “trusted adviser” you work with is actually giving you good information?

Let’s look at signs you are getting bad advice:

  • They speak in absolutes.  Nothing is quite as simple as “always and never” in this world.  For example, your subscriber base may be responsive to three emails a week, they may not though.  How do you find out, by testing and giving them choices in their subscription preferences.  If a consultant marches in and says “never” or “always” to your sending frequency they don’t show much knowledge of your situation.
  • They compare you to the “industry” at large.  Let’s face it, as much as we all wish there was such a thing as “industry” benchmarks that really did apply to what our companies do and who they are speaking to so we could compare apples to apples there just aren’t. Be smart, benchmark against your own performance and be discerning, if you plan to use industry benchmarks know who is considered in this “industry” you are comparing yourself to.  Understand if it’s a true comparison or a thumb in the wind.
  • They do not understand the technology.  Let me be clear here, your strategy consultant may not be a Marketo-whiz or an Eloqua-guru but they should know what the technology is capable of and how you can best optimize your use of it.  In broad brush-strokes they should understand the tools to recommend what you need for your specific situation and if need be, they should be able to help you find the technical expertise to fulfill your needs.  If they cannot help you understand what you need to get the job done give them the boot.

At the end of the day the key is to find a partner or strategist (either internal resource or external) who really can dig in and be specific.  Speaking in platitudes and generalizations will get you exactly no where.

telling the story or how to avoid death by powerpoint

It’s Friday so you are probably busy pulling together next week’s “Weekly” Report, lots of charts, stats and a few graphs that show (hopefully) that marketing is going up and to the right and that your campaigns are generating interest and more importantly revenue.  You now  feel like your job is done, right? Not quite.  As the harbinger of useful information your job isn’t just to make sure the information gets to someone else’s hands but also to make sure they know what they are seeing.

This past week my college, Scott Rankin, wrote a very good post on how to effectively design dashboards.  It’s a very easy to read, actionable list of a few key things to think about as you build your reports.  Things like, only include information relevant to your audience, provide strategic information and clear insight.  Sounds easy right?  At this point you might have those things that speak to your executives distilled and you probably have the charts and graphs built exactly as they want them but there is more to your report than the pictures.

It is our jobs (in the analyst/marketing operations roles) to tell the story.  I know I naturally was drawn to more operational roles because I don’t consider myself a content person but part of personal growth is finding those limitations and working toward fixing them.  People remember stories, not necessarily data points.  So what about your charts and graphs tells a good story and how is that relevant to the people getting an inbox full of charts and graphs?

First, let’s think back to elementary school, when you would write a story it had a beginning, a middle and an end.  You didn’t just throw a character on the page and have a final outcome, you had to develop the story a little bit.  Start off by giving key highlights, tell a good story with the data, don’t just show the data.   The marketing operations guru who can tell the narrative of the campaign, it’s execution and final results in an engaging way will help drive home the important message instead of just cramming data into an inbox.

Stories have a cause-and-effect relationship. In the book, “Elements of Persuasion,” Richard Maxwell and Robert Dickman define the elements of a good story as:
•    The passion with which the story is told
•    A hero to drive the action
•    An obstacle or an antagonist to challenge the hero
•    A moment of awareness where the hero realizes how he can overcome the obstacle
•    A transformation in the hero and the world around him

It is definitely not simple to take the elements of your dashboard and find a compelling story to delver every time, don’t think of this as a weekly exercise but more a monthly or quarterly one.  It important to show the passion behind the work that you and your teammates do.  Instilling passion in your story will illustrate the consequences to the events described and show your executives relevance of what is being done.  Illustrate how the tactics being used overcome a challenge for the company and what surpassing that challenge means for the whole.  Remember to ask yourself, what is the story here every time you prepare reports and decks so you aren’t creating Death by Powerpoint for the poor soul who has to read what you are creating.

six tips for leveraging (or building) a preference center

So you have an unsubscribe link, think that’s enough?  Think again.  Many people think that an unsubscribe link and a website/landing page that confirms you have unsubscribed is enough but from the standpoint of user-experience and the desire to better engage with your audience it is barely scratching the surface.

Why is it important to have a preference center? Beyond the obvious benefits of allowing you to segment your email based on what someone tells you they are actually interested in, it allows your audience to opt-down instead of opting-out of your emails.

Here are some tips for creating your own preference center:

1. Be specific.  Offering choice in communications preferences isn’t enough, be clear as to what those relevant communications will be and how will they be presented.  Four key opt-in options to consider:

Content – News, products, offers, events

Frequency – weekly, monthly, quarterly, or alerts

Channel – Email, direct mail, phone or SMS and smartphone

Format – Text-only, HTML or Mobile

2. Watch and listen.  Utilizing progressive profiling you can make informed decisions around the types of communications your audience members might prefer for those who have generically opted-in to all communications or who have not yet provide detail on the preference center. Remember, when you make those decisions use language in your email to show someone where they can manage their preferences to better tailor the communications to their needs and interests.

3. Only Ask What You’re Prepared to Deliver.  Using your preference center in hopes that one day you will offer some type of communications (for example a newsletter that doesn’t exist today) will only create confusion, add things to the preference center as they come into being, not prior to. Don’t confuse preferences with market research; your preference center isn’t to gather data on what people might want to hear about.

4. Tell Subscribers What to Expect and why they should give up personal information.  Just like #3 says only do what you say you are going to do, tell people what you are going to do!  Use hover-over text or descriptions of the types of communications so that people see the value in providing you their data and the permission to communicate with them.

5. Use Welcome and Thank-You Communications to continue the conversation. Now that someone has told you about themselves, use the info, begin the conversation the right way, with personalized content geared toward keeping them engaged.  It’s easier to keep a contact engaged than to re-engage someone who has gone quiet.

6. Make your preference center an acquisition tool.  Encourage social sharing – either after form completion in the preference center or in welcome emails.  Use your preference center as a starting point for communications, not just a saving grace when someone wants out.



happy holidays from google

Gmail has always been a bit of a quagmire for marketers, they lack feedback loops for reporting on spam complaints, they heavily filter email to the junk folder if users aren’t engaging with it and they’ve recently deployed their “Tabs” which scares plenty of marketers into thinking their emails won’t be seen in the inbox again.

Just this past week on Word to the Wise a blog post appeared confirming that Gmail has been re-writing image links in emails.  For the non-technical this means that when an email comes to a Gmail inbox (and has images) Gmail is converting the links from the original email to links to the same images but now cached on the Gmail servers.  So the first time someone opens your email and the images get downloaded it will register as an open but any subsequent open will retrieve the image from the Gmail server where it has now been cached instead of your servers (and thus registering as opens and clicks).

Big deal, you say, you only care about unique opens.  Ok, so maybe you are alright with your metrics this way, did you use any kind of dynamic content or geo-targeted information in your email? That type of information will be impacted as well, it may render properly the first time but it may not ever again.

The full impact of this image re-writing process is still unknown and Google is mum at the moment on the subject. Happy Holidays, right?  That’s exactly the present everyone was looking for…hopefully Gmail will help offer up some alternatives or information on how best to navigate the murky waters of their inboxes.

data hygiene & acquisition- where to begin

As high as 70% of a marketing database will go stale in the course of a year because of contacts changing jobs or changing roles within a company. Inaccurate data can have a detrimental impact on any business, affect its credibility, and can also lead to decreases in productivity. Maintaining a high standard for data entering your database is crucial, elements of data hygiene include:
• Enhancing, correcting and expanding a record
• Appending and validating the data
• Finding missing elements in the database
• Identifying duplicate entries

Data management begins with understanding what qualifies a record as good or bad. A good record meets the minimum requirements for entry into your CRM and make that the standard for what can enter your Marketing Automation Platform (which means that all required fields are complete and accurate), better is when this record has extra data points that allow for proper segmentation. A bad record is one that does not contain the all of the minimum required fields to enter your CRM or has incorrect/inaccurate data in those fields.

A few questions to ask yourself:
• What fields are required to create a record in your CRM?
• What explicit/profile data points are used in lead scoring?
• What other data points are good to collect and include in a record?

As you prioritize what data points you request on forms, from data providers and from those who submit files to be added to the database it is important to keep in mind the required fields should always be included and then the addition of the four explicit fields for lead scoring should follow closely behind. Everything beyond that should be considered optional but highly valuable all the same.

Once you understand what’s good and what’s bad, assess your database against those standards so you know where your gaps are. As much as I hate the idea of ‘acquiring’ contacts via purchases it is a necessary evil so here is a quick checklist to use if you plan to purchase your data:

• Complete due diligence on the list and the broker.
o Understand the subscriber experience from sign-up through inbox (if your content is being broadcast to a new audience through a system other than your own Automation tool this is important)
o Speak to actual clients, run a credit check, and confirm that the mailing address is a real office.
o Confirm opt-in and unsubscribe process and management of unsubscribes and opt-outs.
Understand what you are buying/renting
o Verify the source of the records.
o Verify the permission level of the records.
o Find out if the sign-ups are incentive-based.
o Confirm that the list is never used for porn or spam offers.
o Make sure that the vendor is CAN-SPAM, CASL or EU Privacy compliant (depending upon the region of the data you are purchasing).
Ensure the ability to Segment.
o Prevent oversaturation by segmenting by category selects, demographics or past behavior
Test. Measure. Repeat.
o Always send a small test and adjust.
o Test subject lines, headlines, offer language and placement of links.
o Ask for benchmark data on response by your chosen segments.
o Know the inbox deliverability, not just bounce rate.