_Mark Organ co-founded “Eloqua”:http://www.eloqua.com/ and has led the company through five years of growth as CEO. The company provides an integrated demand-generation platform to marketers who must produce a continuous flow of quality leads for a professional sales force. Mark led strategic engagements for Bain & Company, earned a Master’s degree in Neurosciences from Northwestern University and a Bachelor’s degree from Queen’s University._
*One Degree: You co-founded Eloqua in 1999. How has the market changed since those early days?*
Mark: The biggest change that I have seen is that many of the ideas we have espoused have become mainstream. Now it is becoming a lot more commonplace for marketers to leverage their websites as qualification tools; marketing leaders to focus overwhelmingly on demand generation as the primary service they provide; lead scoring systems employed to transfer only the best leads to the sales force, and nurture the rest with an electronic drip-marketing system. Whereas in the early days, mostly just B2B high tech companies were interested in these ideas, now we are seeing mainstream business services, manufacturing and financial services companies adopting these practices.
*One Degree: Eloqua’s tools help companies with (among other things) marketing automation and creating personalized marketing offers. But many companies seem to be struggling with the basics of online marketing. At what point in the evolution of an online marketing strategy should a company start to look at personalization, segmentation, marketing automation and other tools that might be categorized as “one-to-one” strategies?*
Mark: An interesting take on the cause and effect with that question. I believe that many companies struggle with online marketing because they may not have taken the time to understand their customer segments, never mind their customers as individuals. Flailing away at the market in an unfocused manner is not any more or less effective in the online versus the traditional marketing communications realm. Once some understanding of how and why customer/market segments behave is reached – what they value and what they are willing to trade off – a microsegmented marketing strategy becomes quite natural to execute, especially with the quality and power of campaigning and analytics tools available today. Companies should consider a microsegmentation approach when they have a prospect database where insight on segment data may be gleaned. The data needs to be mostly accurate and meaningful.
*One Degree: Eloqua makes use of “thought leader” webinars featuring outside experts talking about issues that may be only tangentially related to your services. What was the impetus behind this approach and has it proved successful?*
Mark: The primary impetus behind our thought leader approach is to ensure that our sales professionals would be welcomed as ‘peers in the boardroom’ as opposed to ‘vendors in the hallway’. We believe that ultimately our prospective customers need to resonate with our ideas before they purchase our solutions. By educating marketing leaders on the latest thinking, and so arming our sales professionals, we enjoy sales calls at more senior levels, shorter sales cycles, higher win rates and less discounting. Secondarily, having third-party thought leaders drives much more interest in our events than if we alone were speaking. Many people are jaded from webinars that are really nothing more than sales presentations with minimal value-added content.
*One Degree: What advice would you give to other companies considering webinars as part of their strategies?*
Mark: My advice is to focus on three things:
First, it is important to have high quality, differentiated content. There are a lot of companies offering webinars these days, and in order to stand out and drive quality people to the event, excellent content is key. Bringing in outside experts, with a focus on educating the audience and disseminating novel ideas and practical solutions, drives brand value, attendance and lead generation.
Second, an organized process around the webinar promotion and follow-up drives results. Prospective attendees need to be reminded constantly about the event; if possible one should try to write the event date into the calendar of the attendee; and there needs to be active follow-up for both the attendees and the no-shows. Recording the webinar and offering the recorded version later is an important component of lead generation.
Third, look for synergies with other marketing campaigns, including ads, direct marketing, trade shows, sales calls, and search. These vehicles are great for promoting the webinar and webinars can also be used to drive subsequent campaigns.
*One Degree: Congratulations on the newly announced venture funding. What does this mean for the company, your future products and for your customers?*
Mark: Thank you! As a profitable company for more than three years, raising the venture funding and diluting the shareholders was not an easy decision. It made sense for us because we could see that the Integrated Demand Generation marketplace is growing at an astonishing rate, and we would miss out on great opportunities to at least grow along with the market and satisfy the demand by expanding our geographic, product, and value-chain reach. The financing is excellent news for our customers because we will be able to serve them globally, enhance our product line with greater analytics and integration capability, and increase the value-added component of our services. Ultimately what is good for our customers is good for our employees and shareholders as well, as we participate in the value that we create for our customers.