Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Newsletter Dynamic Customization using Blind Form Submits

Vince Lockyer, Demand Generation Specialist at Avid was kind enough to send in this excellent (and very detailed) example of using blind form submits to customize a newsletter to the exact preferences of each recipient.

The Avid Spotlight newsletter has a subscriber base of well over a million contacts – from bedroom DJs and home video editing enthusiasts through to network TV news engineers, Top 10 music producers and Hollywood feature film editors.

To ensure our broad range of subscribers get the most relevant content, ADC (Activity Driven Content) is used to pull in sections of news and promotional content targeted towards six different segments.

In this post I’ll show how we used ADC and Email Blind Form Submits to dynamically customize the newsletter. Using this method our subscribers can personalize their newsletter with additional content preferences, and then immediately view the updated email in a web browser.

In the first month over 4000 individual customizations occurred using this method. Not only does it help to ensure people get the news they want, but it means our subscribers can provide us with explicit segmentation data about themselves.

How it works

Avid Spotlight content preferences are stored as a series of six contact fields containing an ‘on’ (form checkbox) value indicating whether the subscriber should be receiving that content. If an ‘on’ value is present for a particular content preference then that content gets pulled into the final email using ADC criteria rules.

An additional set of ADC rules check to see which content preferences the subscriber doesn’t have – displaying blind form submission buttons (right) that automatically add values to the respective content preferences fields.

After the form submission, a confirmation page is displayed automatically redirecting the subscriber to the Web Preview version of the newsletter containing the updated content (below).

Try it Yourself!

Use this form to subscribe to our newsletter (you can remove yourself at any time). You’ll immediately receive the latest newsletter to try out the customization.

The Form

To keep the blind form submission URLs as short as possible, the HTML name of the form is simply called ‘sl’. The form fields are:

• em (Email Address)
• pref (Preference) – Containing the additional content preference code
• sguid (elqEmailSaveGUID) – Used to display the Web Preview
• elq (RecepientID) – Also used to display the Web Preview

The Blind Form Submission

Here is the format of the blind form anchors, using Eloqua dynamic email fields to pull in the email address and Web Preview fields:

Processing Steps

When a blind form submission is received, Eloqua does the following:

• Updates the Contact Field with the relevant content preference (‘on’ value)
• Updates an additional contact field containing the full name (text string) of the content preference (this is used in the confirmation page).
• Updates two more contact fields – RecepientID and elqSaveEmailGUID (also used by the confirmation page).
• Redirects to the Confirmation Page.

After the processing steps, the contact table will look something like this:

The Confirmation Page

This is where the additional content preference is confirmed to the subscriber in a Web Page, followed by a meta redirect to the saved Web Preview version of the email. In order for this last part to work, Contact Table field values have to be pulled into the confirmation page.

Firstly, the page pulls in the name of the content preference and the email address. In our case CEF100441 equals the content preference name field, and C_EmailAddress is the subscriber's email address:

The final part of the confirmation page is the meta redirect, which is in this format:

Where CEF100440 is the elqEmailSaveGUID, and CEF100442 is the RecipientID.
Note: these field names will be different in your instance of Eloqua, and you’ll need to use the ‘Insert Field’ menu item in the Confirmation Page builder to insert the HTML containing the field name.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Eloqua Cloud Connectors

For those of you who are either a bit technical, or who have technical folks on your team, there is now a very interesting opportunity for you to extend the capabilities of Program Builder in any way you choose. The capability is called Eloqua Cloud Connectors, and it is very simple, but incredibly powerful.

If you want to connect to your own custom systems (a free trial system to grab a token, an event registration system, etc), build custom logic (scoring leads based on unique criteria), or run custom rules (determining whether a person lives within a 100 mile radius of a certain city), you can now build that quickly and easily by building your own Cloud Connector.

Essentially Cloud Connectors, available today in your Eloqua instance, allow you to build any step you want in your marketing automation workflow within Program Builder. To do so, there are three simple steps:

- Define the Step in your program as a "Cloud Connector" step. This means that whatever happens in that step will be run by your service, rather than natively within Eloqua.

- Configure the Step with whatever rules, credentials, and configuration you need. This is configured and saved within the service that your build.

- Run the Step have your service call into the Cloud Connector API, find the members of the step, run whatever is needed, and then tell Program Builder that it is complete

It's as simple as that. You can build whatever marketing automation capabilities you need quickly and easily. Here's a quick diagram of how this might work connecting with a Hoovers database as an example:

To begin building your own Cloud Connector, all you need is a user account with access to the Eloqua API, and a creative idea. Here is an Eloqua Cloud Connector development sample guide to give you a walkthrough of how to get started, and sample code for all the steps you'll need to take in building one.

I look forward to hearing what you've built, and if you build something that is available to the Eloqua community, I would be glad to highlight it here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Eloqua API - PHP SDK now available

As I wrote the title for this post, it occurred to me that there were a lot of three letter acronyms in it, but I can't remove any without changing the message.

David Lanstein at Splunk just posted a PHP SDK for the Eloqua API, for anyone who has been building, or looking to build, API-based projects. It's freely available (Apache 2.0 license), and David mentions on the project page that he is eager to hear any feedback you might have as you build out your own projects.

As this blog is a community for all of us working with the Eloqua platform, please do let me know if there are other resources like this that you are interested in sharing.

David, thank you (and Splunk) for your generous contribution to the community.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Drake Brings you an iPad

If you’ve attended an Eloqua Customer Success Tour recently you may have met Drake. He’s our official “mascot” of Success Tours, and he’s done an exemplary job so far. He recently created a Facebook profile so that you can get to know him a bit better and last week he asked if he could run some Eloqua-related contests on his Facebook page. Of course we agreed. We love a good contest – especially when someone else does all of the work.

Over the next few months you can learn a bit more about Drake and his irreverent take on the art and science of marketing by viewing his Facebook wall posts (they’re not protected, so anyone and everyone can get to know him). He’ll be sharing some reading recommendations and I’m sure he’d love to hear your suggestions as well. Sometimes he might point you in the direction of a good blog post or marketing event. And sometimes he may simply share a good restaurant that he’s been to before or after a Success Tour.

But let’s get down to business and talk about Drake’s first contest. At the San Francisco Success Tour he saw Jill Rowley’s iPad and he’s decided he really needs one for his briefcase. Who can blame him? Since he’s going to buy one for himself he decided to be generous and buy one for a member of the Eloqua family too. But who to give it to? That’s where the contest comes in.

Download this PDF featuring a fantastic likeness of Drake. Print it and cut it out then take a picture of Drake somewhere interesting. Your photo can feature you and Drake together or just Drake alone in interesting surroundings. Post your picture to Facebook, friend Drake (“Drake at Eloqua”) and tag him in the photo. Voila!

On July 5 he’ll choose his favorite picture and send the winner a 16GB Wi-Fi iPad. Yep, it’s that easy. You can even enter more than once, which is highly recommended if you’re traveling. (Hint: Drake would really like to see the Eiffel Tower or some really awesome July 4th shenanigans.) Oh, and in case Drake can’t choose his favorite, he’ll see which photo has the most “likes” to help him make his decision.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Gated Forms - Asking for just the right information

One of the most common questions every marketing team wrestles with is the question of how much information to ask for from prospects as they request your marketing information. Luckily, the answer doesn't have to be static, you can ask for different information based on what you already know and what the individual has already provided.

The technique for doing this is called "gated forms", and is one of the most powerful techniques in the modern marketer's toolbox. You can set up gated forms yourself to work with your Eloqua marketing database.

Essentially, the technique works as follows:
- if you recognize the visitor based on their cookie, either provide them with the asset directly, or ask them just a little more information

- if you don't recognize them based on their cookie, check to see if they are in your database based on their email address

- if you do not have any information on the visitor at all, ask for a longer amount of information

The following diagram shows how this works:

By extending this simple technique further, you can ask for more information at each interaction, while never asking for an overly large amount of information, and never asking the same information twice.

Gated forms are very flexible as a technique, and can be used in a variety of situations - some as simple as just removing a form in front of a web asset, some as robust as asking for unique information of each visitor at each interaction.

To help you get started, here is a guide showing exactly how gated forms can be created and implemented, from the most simple scenarios to the most robust.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Success Tour Stops in June

The Eloqua Customer Success tour is in full swing, with recent stops in San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Austin drawing record attendance and great reviews.

Stops are happening around the country, so chances are we'll be in a city near you soon. Come out to meet other Eloqua users, compare notes, exchange ideas, and learn from some of the best marketers around.

You'll also have a chance to meet Drake. If you want to know why you should come meet Drake, you'll have to join us for an event...

The full schedule of Eloqua customer success tour stops is always available on, but if you haven't had a chance to go there and find your city, the following stops are coming up this month:

Seattle, June 8th
Chicago, June 10th
Philadelphia, June 10th
Portland, June 10th
Toronto, June 15th
Los Angeles, June 23rd

Attendance is free, just let us know you'll be there by registering on, and we'll see you there.

As an added benefit of coming out to the success tour, you'll get a glimpse of Eloqua 10, our new upcoming release. I coudn't put it any better than @travelingshinn did in the San Francisco tour stop:

Follow along with the conversation on Twitter by following the #EloquaTour hashtag.

Hope to see you out at an event.