Eloqua charts course as part of Oracle; Predictive analytics gaining momentum


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I attended Eloqua Experience this week in San Francisco mainly to see what had happened to the trendsetting marketing automation firm, post Oracle merger. I’m encouraged with what I learned.

For starters, the fact that Eloqua even had this event is notable. After RightNow was acquired, that was the end of a series of great conferences for customer service leaders. Oracle Open World is just too big and too focused on IT to be a suitable substitute. As a result, I think Oracle lost some momentum in the cloud service space.

Eloqua’s conference is clearly targeted to marketing professionals. Mainly B2B, but as the company shifts to more B2C, that could change. So, to the Powers That Be at Oracle, I say, good decision! Free advice for the future: Why not run annual events focused on customer service, sales, and other major disciplines?

Product strategy

Moving forward, it’s no surprise that Eloqua will be the core of Oracle’s “marketing cloud” solution. Other acquisitions will be more tightly integrated over time, with Oracle’s social solution as the top priority for now. Some past acquisitions (Market2Lead, for example) will be integrated or sunsetted.

According to John Stetic, Products VP for Oracle Eloqua Marketing Cloud, future development will include globalization, broader industry support and B2C support for “considered purchases.”

One of the hot new trends is the use of predictive analytics. Personally, I think this technology will become mainstream in 5 years, with Oracle and other leading MA vendors acquiring and integrating a solution from their partner ecosystem. Stetic says he could envision that happening if PA becomes a horizontal requirement.

A more complicated issue is how the marketing cloud will integrate with service and sales clouds to deliver a complete customer experience (CX) suite. Stetic says the planning process is underway, and notes that thanks to web services, it’s relatively easy to knit together different cloud solutions to meet a specific CX requirement.

Frankly, I’m not optimistic that Oracle or any of its rivals will succeed in developing an all-singing-all-dancing CX suite. There are just too many pieces to the puzzle. Look how long it took to develop Oracle Fusion; there’s no need to travel that path again.

I think it’s incumbent upon business leaders, not vendors, to create a CX Vision and then implement the appropriate technology. Some assembly, and integration, will be required in any large enterprise.

Lead Scoring 2.0

I’ve written previously about how PA could help solve some of the complexity issues in B2B marketing. Lead scoring is one huge opportunity to help marketing deliver leads to sales that have a better chance to convert.

Lattice is one firm making some noise in this area. The company creates predictive models using a combination of signals from internal and external sources. Around 40 models have been developed, says CEO Shashi Upadhyay, for different industries, types of products and sales processes. Some tailoring can be done, too.

One model (see photo below) found the top three predictors of a closed deal were job changes, VC funding and email opens. Only the third one, a form of “digital body language” is under the company’s direct control. But if you think that more opens = better lead quality, you’d be wrong. Turns out that a range of 3 to 7 opens indicates an engaged prospect that is more likely to buy, but greater than 7 opens are not.

There are hundreds of human and organization behaviors that may, or may not, signal a prospect is worth engaging with. If you can just figure out which signals really matter. At Mindjet, they started with 4.4% of marketing qualified leads (MQL) converting to sales. By using explicit data (e.g., supplied via website forms) and implicit data (company/firm behavioral information), Mindjet was able to identify the most promising leads. The top decile, based on the predictive lead score, had a predicted 35% conversion rate, which obviously makes them the best prospects to pass to sales.

Note: The chart is from Brian Kardon’s post The Curse of Abundance: How Mindjet is Using Predictive Analytics to Improve Conversions.

Lead scoring is just the start. I think we’ll see PA used in B2B campaign optimization to improve nurturing. And it might even help marketers figure which pieces of content really matter on the buyer’s journey, and help sales reps engage more effectively on sales calls.

Full steam ahead

To wrap up, I like the fact that Eloqua will have some degree of independence within the big Oracle machine. Hope that continues.

For large B2B enterprises, Eloqua is a great foundation for Oracle to build on, and leverage its global reach. I’m not yet convinced that B2C enterprises — that have been buying email solutions from Responsys and marketing solutions from IBM/Unica, for example — will embrace Oracle/Eloqua. I think Adobe and IBM are much more likely consolidators in B2C.

Finally, predictive analytics holds a lot of potential to make marketing automation systems more valuable and usable. And who knows, maybe sales will come to love the leads they get from marketing!

Further reading: Predictive Analytics is the Future of B2B Digital Marketing


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