Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Relational Data, Marketing Automation, and the "Plus" Operator

Relational data can be a key aspect of many decisions you need to make in Eloqua. Whether you are constructing a decision rule in a marketing automation program, are defining a buyer segment for a list, or are building a lead scoring algorithm, you may need to look at relational data.

The most common forms of relational data are event history and purchase history. These are very common data points to have on your prospects, and they are very useful for decision making. However, with relational data, filter rules can get more complex that with simple data like the contact table. Let’s say, for example, that you have a set of data on the event attendance history of your prospects.

You have been running events in cities worldwide, and in each city, you have a business track and a technical track. The data is stored within custom data objects (data cards) as event history. As you have the contact’s email address as part of the registration, you are able to easily connect the event attendance history with the contact record – via email address.

To build a list, you want to find the contacts who attended the technical track of the event in Barcelona. The first step is to build a contact filter to search for the contacts you are interested in. Select “linked data cards” as a criteria type, and by selecting our event series, we’ll have access to the data we need.

Obviously one criteria will be “Event Location = Barcelona” and another criteria will be “Event Track = Technical”. However, here is where things get tricky. If you have these as two separate criteria, and use an “And” operator between them, then this filter will return contacts who attended the business track in Barcelona, but then attended the technical track in Munich. Not exactly what we were looking for.

The way to solve this is the “Plus” operator. At the end of the filter criteria row, where you would select “And” or “Or” for normal querying, you will have a new option of “Plus” for data card queries. By selecting this, a new criteria row is added right underneath your current row. This second condition will act only on the same data that the first condition found.

So, in our original example, “Event Location = Barcelona” PLUS “Event Track = Technical” will only return contact who attended the Technical track in Barcelona.

When you are using relational data, you will often find that the “Plus” operator is extremely useful for querying that data.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Separating your Marketing Database into Active/Inactive

One of the most important goals of Lead Nurturing is to maintain permission to stay in front of your audience with your communications. Data from Marketing Sherpa on content relevance and unsubscribes has shown that many prospects will not necessarily click on an unsubscribe link when they lose interest in your messaging. However, far worse, they may become emotionally unsubscribed, reflexively ignoring and deleting your messages as they arrive.

If you continue a rapid pace of marketing to this emotionally unsubscribed segment, they may at some point click the “this is spam” button, causing you a significant deliverability headache, even if they had originally subscribed legitimately.

The first step in avoiding this situation is to identify the inactive members of your database.

To do this within Eloqua is very easy. Using an Inactivity filter, you can look for contacts who are showing less than a certain amount of activity. A recommended technique is to build a group called “Inactive Contacts”. By looking for contacts who have had no clickthroughs, no web visits, no form submits, and less than a few email opens in the past few months (preview panes may still render an open for someone reflexively deleting your email in a few email clients), you can define a group of inactive contacts.

It’s recommended to regenerate this group every month or quarter in order to ensure that you capture any newly inactive contacts, or allow any contacts showing a resurgence of interest to leave the group.

With this group defined, you can then suppress them against regular email distributions, in order to ensure that they are not communicated to more than they would appreciate. Depending on their level of disengagement, you can target them with special re-engagement offers, or campaigns using other media types such as direct mail or a calling campaign.

The critical point, however, is to identify and monitor the inactive segment of your database. By understanding its size and any trends in its growth, you can begin to understand how your messaging is resonating with your audience, and adjust accordingly.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Setting Up Your Social Media GPS

Today's Eloqua Artisan post is a guest post from Mike MacFarlane, our own marketing operations manager. Mike is responsible for our own internal use of Eloqua, and is one of the best when it comes to innovative uses of the Eloqua platform.

I often get asked "how does Eloqua use Eloqua?" and Mike is the best person to answer that question.



As a Marketing Operations Manager with Eloqua, my goal is to use the app to its full potential. There is just so much functionality available today, I always feel the need to find new and cool ways to use all the tools that I have been given as a marketer.

The most recent challenge I have given myself is to help integrate all of our Social Media efforts into Eloqua that allow us to report on and react to activity that happens on the web. Steve wrote a great post a while back about how to setup Social Media Referral reporting so you can see how much traffic you are driving to your website. This information has been extremely valuable for us and has helped to validate that all the work we have done in terms of spreading our marketing message through Social Media is well worth the time and effort. Still, I thought that we could do more.

Keeping up with the Sales Enablement theme that we have been promoting through the use of our new tool, Prospect Profiler, I thought to myself “Hey Mike, wouldn’t it be valuable to our sales reps if they could see their prospect’s social media activity”? Agreeing with myself, I started to build out an integration between Eloqua and our CRM system that I like to call “The Social Media GPS” - know where your prospect started and where they ended.

The ingredients for the devilishly good recipe are:
- A dash of Program Builder
- A handful of Saved Visitor Reports
- A pinch of ability to create activities within the CRM system
- A sprinkle of data tools for use within Program Builder

The image to the right is what the program flow looks like.

To start, I created a single track marketing automation program with the feeder into this program being a saved visitor report of those that came from Twitter to our website within a hour of the visit. In this case, I am feeding these web visitors into our marketing automation program as Prospects (as this allows me to create unique entries that I can report on later). The key information that I want to map from the visitor to the prospect is:

- Most Recent Referrer
- Last Page In Visit
- Last Visit Date and Time

When the prospect is created within the marketing automation program, I can then see this visitor information stored on its record (seen in the image to the right)

My record then flows down to a step which I run a Match Rule that looks for an existing Contact in our database based on a matching Email Address. The purpose for this match rule is to append the CRM ID that is stored on the contact record and write it over to my prospect. This ID is what is used to uniquely identify the record within Salesforce.com, Oracle CRM on Demand, or Microsoft Dynamics CRM and write information over to it.

After I append the CRM ID to my record, I then flow down to an integration event that will write this activity over to the CRM system. You will notice that I have set this action up as a conditional action.

The condition in this case is that if there is no CRM ID in the associated contact record, I do not want to run the activity call over to the CRM system. If there is a ID, then I want to execute the call to the CRM system.

Once the call is made to the CRM system to create the activity within the associated Lead/Contact record, the sales rep can then see how the website activity was generated. Here is what the rep would see:

(you may need to click the image for a full size view of the record in your CRM system)
So in one snapshot, your sales rep can see:

a) What webpage/blog/online asset the prospect visited
b) Where the visit originated from
c) When the visit happened

The other benefit to this information is that the sales rep can view both the referring and visited page URLs (as shown in the comments). In this case, if I were a prospect, the sales rep could click on the referring URL and actually view my Twitter profile. They could also read over the blog post that I went to (which could be helpful in a call when determining what my interests are).

Just another way that Eloqua can help you read your prospect’s Digital Body Language.

Please feel free to connect with me on Twitter @eloquamike or on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/mikemacfarlane01)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Marketing Dashboards and Time Ranges - A Quick Tip

I use custom dashboards a lot in Eloqua, usually in order to track ther performance of anything I'm interested in over an extended period of time. The performance of the Eloqua Artisan and Digital Body Language blogs are good examples of that - I check in on their performance using a custom dashboard at least a few times per week. We also track in great detail what the sources of traffic are for our online properties in another custom dashboard.

When building and using custom dashboards, one setting that is worth being aware of, and thinking about, is the time range settings. This is the definition of exactly what period of time is included in the dashboard. With Eloqua, you have a rich set of options that you can use to define exactly what timeframe you have in mind.

You can configure this for the standard dashboards in your system in one central place, under Setup->Management->Systems Management->Dashboard Settings, or you can configure the settings for each report in a custom dashboard by selecting Edit under the Actions menu on the report's upper right side.

Each of these will give you a set of time range options. For a dashboard, it's almost certain you will be using a relative range (the period of time up until now) rather than a fixed range (a specific set of days) as you generally want the dashboard to change over time and be up to the current moment.

However, that's where the nuances come in. If you are looking at a daily chart for the last 3 weeks, for example, exactly how you specify that will guide how your data appears for the periods around the start and end of the time period.

For example, if we looked at it literally, we could say that the last three weeks was equal to the last 3x7x24 hours. However, the data for the day at the start (three weeks ago) and the day at the end (today) would be skewed based on the time of day we looked at. If I looked at that data at 6pm, the starting day would only have 6 hours of data in it and the ending day (today) would only have 18 hours of data in it (up until 6pm). In many cases, this literal option is not the best result.

The "Last Full X days/weeks/months" options provide a way around this, by only including full days. There is also an option to "include today" with these if you do want to show the 18 hours of data up until the current moment in the day today, without skewing the data on the start day.

Similarly, a variety of options allow you to report on specific precisions at the week or month level (such as weekdays only, for example), if that is relevant to your marketing analysis.

What is important is that you think carefully about exactly what period of time is of interest to you and then select that option for your dashboards. The options will be available to you to do what you need.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tracking of your own Social Media Properties

Tracking social media is key to understanding its effectiveness as part of your overall marketing strategy.

Part one of understanding social media's effectiveness is to understand what is driving traffic to your online properties. Tracking inbound referrals gives us a great sense of the flows of inbound web traffic and whether Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Delicious, or LinkedIn are driving traffic. It also gives us a great sense, at an individual level of what brought each person to our online properties.

However, part two of understanding social media's effectiveness is understanding how effective your own social media properties are. Tracking of these online properties is a very valuable extension to your ability to understand the digital body language of your prospects across all of your web presence. With many social media sites, however, such as blogs, you often do not have the ability to build a sub directory system to place the scripts into.

In order to get around this, from the standard installation of web scripts, it is possible to rework the tracking scripts to look at a static URL for the rest of the scripts. The scripts will look like they do in the image above, where http://www.yourmainsite.com/ is a static URL that you put the script files on.

With that in place, you then need to put the links to those tracking scripts on your blog. Each blog platform is slightly different, but generally they all allow adding HTML and scripts inline. I use blogger, and the scripts are easily placed inline just before the close of the BODY tag.

I look forward to hearing your comments on how this has worked for you.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Now Here - Conditional and Wait Steps in Program Builder

I got a bit ahead of myself last release, and boldly announced the arrival of two very useful features - conditional steps and wait steps within Program Builder.

Unfortunately, as luck would have it, they were delayed by a release, and my announcement was premature. I'm pleased to announce that they are both part of this current release on June 14th and greatly simplify the building of Programs.

Conditional steps allow you to simplify the creation of a "if X happens do Y" structure. Whereas before it was a matter of building a decision rule that would evaluate the condition X, and then bypass the step if the condition was not met, that can all be embedded simply and quickly within a step. Not only does this make it easier to build Programs, it makes it simpler to visualize their flow.

The flexibility of the full workflow design process is maintained, of course, and if you want to branch down alternate paths (rather than just a single step), you can do so with Decision Rules as you normally would have.

Wait steps, as the name implies, allow you to define a step that pauses Contacts in a Program for a period of time. This was always possible, of course, with evaluation conditions, but now it is greatly simplified as a step for clearer readability of Programs.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Activity Filters With Increased Granularity

With the upcoming release on June 14th, there is now the ability to define an activity based filter that looks at very granular information, such as opens from a particular email, email group, or campaign. This level of granularity extends across all the different criteria that are possible within Activity-Based Filters.

This is a powerful capability, as it allows you to define filters that look very precisely at a person's activity. This can be used for many marketing options. For example:

  • To discover a list of people who had clicked through any email from the Newsletter series within the last 3 months, for targeting with a special offer

  • To define a lead scoring system that gives 5 points for a Newsletter email clickthrough, but 10 points for a Case Study email clickthrough

  • To sub-segment a Contact Group to remove people who had already visited a Hypersite or submitted a specific form

These filters can be used from all areas of the application; in designing feeders to add contacts to Programs, in decision rules within Programs, when manipulating Contact Groups to define a report, or when defining a Distribution List for a marketing effort.

Be sure to experiment with the new granularity on Activity-Based Filters, as many rules can now be expressed with the ability to look at activity at the level of individual forms, emails, or Hypersites.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Who's on the Website? New way to see Company Visitors

With the upcoming release on June 14th, a new and very powerful report will be available. It's called the "Top 50 Visiting Companies", and it shows you what companies are on your site showing interest and activity, but may not yet be known to your marketing efforts (search for "Visiting Companies" in the report console to find it).

Much like the account selling report in your CRM system which shows you the activity, rolled up by company, for known leads, this report shows you a stage further up the funnel.

By aggregating all the visitors at a company, and excluding any visitors that show up from an Internet Service Provider (from home, or from small businesses), this report lets you know where there is buying interest that you're not currently engaged with.

This insight can be invaluable for a field sales team working to understand which companies may be responsive to an invitation to a conversation. The total visitors, total visits, most recent visit, and most recent search terms, can give you insight into the area, depth, and recency of that interest, and gives you a great cue to engage those companies in a conversation. When combined with Prospect Profiler for added insight into each individual, this forms a powerful combination.

If you are wondering what to do with the list of companies who appear to be showing interest, one of the best options is to use the embedded Reachforce capabilities within Eloqua to find a list of names (in the key role) within those organizations to begin communicating with.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Form Resubmits: Doing Two Things at Once

Web forms are one of the most valuable sources of leads, insights, and data for the marketer. Web forms can be used to allow prospects to self identify and request a conversation with sales, they can be used to gate access to valuable content in exchange for information, and they can be used to garner additional insights about prospects.

Passing this data into Eloqua is, of course, a very valuable thing for marketing to do. However, there may be instances where the form submit is used for another action and the data needs to be passed forward. For example, the form might be the start of a download of a free trial, and the information is required for configuring the license key. Similarly, the form might be used for searches within the web site, and the data needs to be passed forward to perform the search.

This dual purpose form use can be done easily within Eloqua. There are four main ways that forms can be handled in which the data is provided to both Eloqua and a secondary system:

1) The form can be submitted to Eloqua, the data captured, and then the visitor’s form resubmitted to another URL (such as a trial download or a search page), which then handles the visitor’s experience itself

2) The form can be submitted to Eloqua, which then posts the data to another server, before handling the remaining processing and the visitor's experience

3) The form can be submitted to the secondary application, and then automatically re-submitted to Eloqua, where the data is captured, and the visitor is presented with a landing page or a PURL page from within Eloqua, to complete their experience

4) The form can be submitted directly to another site, which then re-posts the data, server to server, into Eloqua after handling the visitor’s experience

The first option is the simplest and most commonly used. To do this, simply change the type of the final processing step. Normally, this is a Confirmation Page, but by selecting "Change Type" on the drop-down menu, you can change this to a Resubmit Form step. Configure the step by defining the URL to send the form data to. The identical data that was submitted to Eloqua will be resubmitted to the secondary system, which will complete the web visitor's experience.

For the second option, select the "Post Data to Server" processing step type. This will send the form data to the server you select. You will also select whether you are submitting the data via a "Post" method, or a "Get" method, a technical option that will be familiar to those versed in creating web forms. Select "Post" if you are uncertain, or ask your web master. After the forms is submitted, the rest of the processing and the conclusion of the visitor's experience will be handled by Eloqua.

The third option relies on being able to configure the secondary system to resubmit the form to Eloqua. This is less common as not every system is configured to be able to resubmit form data. However, if it is, this is a similar approach to the first option, but in the reverse order. In this case, configure the form as normal, but the final step would be presenting the visitor with a landing page to complete his or her experience.

The fourth option is much more technical, but does allow for some interesting options. The form is submitted to the secondary system, and the secondary system handles the visitor’s experience from there. However, at the same time, the visitor’s data is submitted, server-to-server to Eloqua. If you are interested in this option, it's worth a discussion with your customer success manager, as the setup of it will involve your technology team.

A key thing to remember in this fourth configuration option is that the visitor’s website cookie will not be automatically submitted as it is with web forms normally. As the cookie forms the core of the visitor’s profile, this is very important. Without it, you will not be able to associate the visitor on the website with the form submit, which prevents using the data for lead scoring or segmentation. With a quick configuration, however, you can easily configure the web visitor’s cookie to be passed in to Eloqua from the secondary server. This allows the seamless linking of the web visitor with their form data, even though there was no direct submit.

With whichever of these four options you select, you can quickly and easily configure a form to be submitted to both Eloqua and a secondary system without any interruption. The flexibility of approaches gives you the ability to accomplish whatever you need, regardless of current configurations and limitations.