Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Optimizing your Marketing Automation: Tips from the Guru

This week's post is a guest post from Andrea Corey, our VP of Systems Architecture, and the guru of Program Builder optimization. She and her team are responsible for all the scale and speed initiatives behind Eloqua's architecture, and were the key folks behind the work that was highlighted in the recent Dell case study on Eloqua's marketing automation platform performing at one billion transactions per day.

In this post, Andrea offers a number of great tips on how to think about your programs so that they operate as smoothly as you need.



Program Builder offers two main processing modes: Regular mode and Batch mode. Each can be effective at enabling many Marketing Automation needs; what follows are some helpful explanations and suggestions for optimizing your programs.

Regular mode, the default mode, is ideal for lead nurturing, free trial follow-ups, event follow-up and similar processes where you wish to send out communications or evaluate contacts over the course of a period of time. Regular mode programs process program members at 15-minute increments. In case you are new to Program Builder, this means that every 15 minutes, program members will move from one step to the following step in the program (assuming they are not waiting in a step due to a time-based rule).

Whether there are one or more decision rules between the two steps, all decision rules are evaluated in sequence in the same cycle. Therefore, to optimize your programs, you may wish to employ decision rules in sequences, rather than placing steps between the decision rules.
You will also want to avoid “empty steps” such as the first step in the program – many new users don’t realize that the first step in a program can in fact perform an action.

Now you’re wondering how to avoid that first empty step if your first operation is to run a decision rule in order to branch the records… A tip to consider is to have your members enter the program at different steps – based on what you know about the records when you add them to the program. For example, if your members are flowing into the program from a form, consider multiple conditional steps that push members into specific program steps.
Alternatively, you can establish several feeders, instead of just one, in order to optimize where the members start in the program. These are advanced configurations, and may require extra planning and design consideration, but they can be useful for decreasing the time it takes to run your automated processes.

If you find that program members are taking longer than you would like to progress through to the end of your program, you may want to consider doing your marketing automation in Batch mode. Batch mode is often suitable for lengthy or complex workflows and for bulk data processing such as data normalization. In this mode, members are fully processed from the start of a program through to the end of the program every two hours.
Even better, you can prioritize Batch mode automation programs such that they are evaluated in a specific sequence. Some customers have set-up several programs sequenced in batch mode – very complex and granular lead scoring, lead rating, lead assignment programs that are modular, yet process this entire set of processing every two hours. You can see how this enables far more complex logic to be efficiently leveraged.

I must add a disclaimer regarding Batch mode. When running in Batch mode, marketing automation programs do not maintain the detailed step-by-step history that can be useful when initially building and testing programs, so I recommend that you enable Batch mode once you are satisfied with your program’s configuration.

I’d love to hear feedback on how we can improve Program Builder to make you more effective in your marketing automation.