Thought Leadership Interview #12: Seeing the Trees in the Woods: Eloqua’s Steve Woods on What Matters in Marketing

The following innovations have made marketers better: scoring, lead nurturing, marketing automation and lead management.  Whether you like it or not, Eloqua Corp. is one of the reasons we are where we are today.  The company has spent a lot of time and money educating the market, creating a marketing automation install base and helping launch the lead management revolution.  I couldn’t in my right mind do a thought leadership series and not have Eloqua represented.  And by the way, I got a great interview out of it.

The interviewee is Steven Woods, co-founder and CTO of Eloqua.  As you’ll see from this interview, he’s one of the smarter guys in the business and has written great stuff on topics related to demand generation and the current transitions within the marketing profession.  His book, “Digital Body Language,” explores demand generation and the current trends in marketing.  He regularly writes on his blog, which has the same name .

Steven is also deeply involved with the Eloqua user community, with whom he regularly interacts through the discussions on his Eloqua Artisan blog.

This is a GREAT interview worth reading more than once.

1. What are the three trends you see emerging in 2009?

I think the overarching trend is a shift in marketing to thinking of things in terms of a buying process rather than a sales process. This is really fundamental to engaging with today’s buyers as, given the information resources available, they truly are in control of their own buying process. As part of that, we’ll likely see lead scoring begin to evolve a little bit in 2009. Historically, as marketers, we’ve typically used lead scoring to identify when a buyer is ready to engage with sales. This is important, but it’s only one stage of the buying process. Using the same techniques we’ve used in lead scoring – of looking at buyers’ digital body language to understand their level of interest – we’ll now begin to understand exactly where in the overall buying process they are.

Similarly, throughout the year, I believe we’ll continue to see marketers deepen their thinking about lead scoring.  There’s a tendency, for example, when we start thinking about lead scoring, to mash together information on the “who” (right executive, right company, right revenues) with the “how interested” (right activity and interest level).  This doesn’t allow us to differentiate between an uninterested CEO (right “who,” but not interested) from a keenly interested summer intern (wrong “who,” but right level of interest).  Obviously these are very different people, and I think we’ll see a continuation of the trend in marketing to ensure that these two dimensions of lead scoring are looked at separately.

To enable all of this, we’re already seeing a trend toward a clearer emphasis on data management in marketing, which I suspect will only increase throughout 2009.  Marketers realize that to score leads, route leads, personalize communication,or understand market segments, they need clean underlying data – whether on title, industry, revenue or location.  Standardizing and normalizing the data continually, whether it comes from Web forms, lists, uploads or a CRM system, is  quickly becoming a mandate that we’re seeing today’s best marketing leaders give their marketing operations teams.

2. What are the biggest challenges for 2009?

Obviously we’re all experiencing a tough economy. Buyers are more hesitant and more thoughtful. The challenge for today’s marketer is to ensure that potentially good opportunities are not discarded because there isn’t a buying event happening at that very moment. Putting energy into marketing campaigns focused on lead nurturing and mid-funnel activities is critical in order to ensure that you stay top-of-mind until there’s a buying event.

The silver lining of the economic turmoil is that there is less emphasis on the big budget outbound campaigns, so there is more time that can be focused on ensuring that lead nurturing campaigns are well-tuned, data is managed correctly, leads are scored and routed well and a clear analysis picture is in place.

3.  What are  three metrics that B2B marketers should care about and why?

B2B marketing is interesting in that it involves long buying cycles, multiple people and numerous campaign touch points. Although it’s possible to analyze the effect of a marketing campaign on revenue, often the length of the buying cycle makes the analysis nonactionable. Instead, coming to an agreement with sales on an objective definition of a “marketing qualified lead,” and then analyzing marketing efforts against that definition is both relevant to revenue and also very actionable.

With that in place, you have a good base upon which to map the buying phases that are higher in the funnel.  From raw inquiry through to MQL, whether you have one or a few intermediate steps, you have a good structure to analyze.

I always suggest to marketers that they adopt a similar discipline to sales or finance in analyzing and reporting their numbers. If you know the stages in your buying process, you can adopt a “balance sheet” and “income statement” view of the world. What is the current state, or phase of the buying process, of leads in your marketing funnel? That’s a “balance sheet” view. In the last quarter, what motion in the funnel (up or down) have you driven? That’s your “income statement” view. With that discipline in place, you shine a new light on your marketing effectiveness.

4. What are the top oversights marketers are making regarding lead generation?

A lot of marketers are very focused on net new names, whether it’s a new list to be purchased or an initiative to drive new interest. This overlooks the value of existing names in your database. If you focus on the middle of the funnel, with people you already know, and work to understand their interests and communicate to them in a relevant way, you can often drive more revenue more effectively than through a continual focus on net new names.

5. What will you prescribe to marketers to carry out effective lead generation?

First, think in terms of your buyers’ buying process – we’ve talked about that one at length. Second, map your information assets to the phases of the buying process to understand where you offer valuable information and where you need to develop more information assets. Third, set that information free – your prospects will acquire information somewhere, whether from you or from your competitors, so you might as well become the source they trust.

Fourth, don’t be shy about asking for a very small amount of information reciprocity; if you give them a valuable information asset, you can ask for a few pieces of information in exchange.  However, build a modular profile that you can progressively add to over time.  Each time you interact with a prospect, ask two or three questions, no more.  By progressively profiling, and not asking the same questions multiple times, you can build a good set of information on each potential buyer without ever asking them for more than a few pieces of information.

6.  What  three Web 2.0 applications,  cutting-edge technologies or lead generation sources do marketers HAVE to consider to be successful?

Of course, no technology is going to work magic.  There are always a lot of people, processes and content elements to think about when shifting your marketing to be focused on the buyer’s buying process.  However, a good demand generation platform that can provide the right nurturing, score leads across not just “who” but “how interested,” manage your data and provide a good analytics framework.  I would of course recommend Eloqua for that, but everyone should make his or her own decision.

In terms of social media, the social media sources that work differ from business to business, so it’s hard to pick a specific recommendation. The best recommendation is to dive in and begin listening and learning, and evolve your strategy as you know more about where your customers and prospects, as well as influencers in your industry, have conversations. To that end, I would say the simplest way to get started is to begin listening to the online conversations using Twitter and Google blog alerts. From there, if you have knowledge to share with your market, begin writing about it on a blog of your own as well as joining the conversations on other blogs, if only to better understand where the discussions are happening in your industry.  Once you get your feet wet, you’ll quickly be able to see which venues are relevant for your audience, and which aren’t.

7. What do you hope for in B2B sales and marketing for the new year?

I think that marketing is in the middle of an incredible transformation toward becoming a discipline that presents objective metrics to executive teams and boards of directors, in a similar manner to finance, operations and sales.  I think that the ability to truly understand marketing’s affect on the pipeline will also begin to remedy the imbalance in compensation that exists today between great salespeople and great marketers. So, my only hope for the year is that this transition continues at its current pace, and we take some bold steps towards a new way of thinking about the discipline of marketing.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

  • Great interview,

    I agree 100% with his take of the customer buying process. I posted on my blog about this ( and cover the important difference between the sales cycle and customer buying process. This topic (and concept) is one of the keys to effectively realizing the tremendous benefits a strategic business to business demand generation campaign can offer.

    His comment on metrics is also something near and dear to my heart. The good news is markers have become much more proficient but there still seems to be a mentality of that being “optional”, especially with large fortune 1000 companies because its very easy to get caught up in the sheer number of programs and not slow down enough to analyze the results of campaigns and initiatives. Agencies must provide this pro-actively to solidify their value and position within their accounts, especially with larger companies. The technology and information is now available to do so, companies just need to commit to it!

    Keep up the good work!

    Robert J. Moreau

  • Nicely said. We of course compete with Eloqua fiercely, but Steve really does know what he’s talking about.

  • I agree about lead scoring. We have been doing weighting of scores to handle the CEO vs. the Intern issue for over two years now.

    You can hear all about it in our on demand webinar on Lead Scoring 101.