Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Eloqua SmartStart Speeds Marketing Automation Deployment, But It's Still Work

Summary: Eloqua's SmartStart gets marketers rolling in less than one week. It does require extensive preparation, but Eloqua leads you through that too. Let's face it, folks: putting a good demand generation program in place is real work.

Eloqua last week announced a money-back satisfaction guarantee for clients who participate in its SmartStart deployment program. Skeptical creature that I am, I wanted to hear the details before writing about it. By happy coincidence (OR WAS IT?), Eloqua Director of Key Accounts Jill Rowley scheduled a talk with me a few days later and filled me in.

SmartStart is a two-to-five day paid consulting engagement that helps new Eloqua clients fully deploy their systems. It’s not to be confused with the free QuickStart program (which I wrote about last May) which provides a smaller set of services. More than 150 Eloqua clients have now completed the SmartStart process, which is delivered by both Eloqua’s own professional services group and certified consulting partners.

The scope of SmartStart is indeed impressive. By the end of the program, marketers have initial email, forms, landing pages, Website tracking, CRM integration, reporting, and either lead scoring or nurturing programs. One key is preparation – the on-site sessions are preceded by extensive information gathering and technical groundwork, guided by Eloqua templates. This covers CRM integration, adding Web tracking scripts to company Web pages, assembling images and email formats, data cleansing, landing page subdomain set-up, specifying forms content and designing the lead scoring matrix. The process also includes a marketing maturity assessment that helps to define long term plans for improving the client’s marketing operations.

Rowley said most small companies can assemble the necessary information in a few days, although larger organizations take longer. Similarly, the SmartStart process itself works best for firms with relatively simple marketing operations, which Rowley said has less to do with size than numbers of regional offices and lead scoring programs, CRM integration, and existing automation. The single biggest challenge is the complexity of rules that govern CRM data synchronization, which can get very detailed when companies want different treatments in different situations.

The other key to the program is concentration during the SmartStart execution itself. The primary system administrator must devote full time to the project, while other users are brought in as needed. Because most policy decisions are made in advance, the company’s chief marketer doesn’t need to be constantly present.

The price of SmartStart varies from $4,000 to $19,000 depending on the version of Eloqua and type of CRM integration. Although that particular bit of information isn’t published, Rowley did point out to me that Eloqua’s Web site now shows basic price data, which used to be a closely-guarded secret. Pricing rules have also been vastly simplified.

That money-back guarantee? It’s good for six months and applies only to future portions of a subscription: so if you pay for a year and cancel after four months, you get refunded for the remaining eight months. That’s not quite a full refund, but it puts Eloqua on par with competitors who allow month-to-month agreements without an annual contract.

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