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I have been asked a lot of times what it this thing called love...sorry, Eloqua (almost the same thing). I usually start ranting about lead scoring, digital body language, automation, demand generation, nurturing and watch as the listener starts to look for an emergency exit.


How would you explain what Eloqua is, what it does and what are the benefits to someone who has no idea what marketing automation is in 15 seconds?

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Database intelligence and list source providers are everywhere.  They play an important role in an overall data management strategy. Even with ongoing inbound contact capture efforts from websites, social media, and events like tradeshows, it makes sense to occasionally add fresh contacts from a reputable source.


The problem is filtering through the plethora of list providers to find the right fit for your requirements. Each vendor comes with their own set of advantages and potential problems. I imagine most of us get emails from our sales VP's with a spam from an offshore list provider that can provide thousands of targeted contacts for pennies on the dollar. 


Here is some of the criteria points I recommend when selecting a list and a data source provider.

Define the Data Standard

Every list or set of data records you purchase should meet a data standard defined for your organization. (If you don’t have a data standard, you need one NOW!) For example, a minimum percentage of your marketing automation database should have ‘record completeness’ with all of this information:

  • First and Last Name
  • Title
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Street Address
  • City, State, Postal Code
  • Revenues
  • Number of Employees
  • Website URL


You can use Eloqua to measure the level of complete records! Incomplete and outdated records make your database ineffective and generally bring mass chaos and ineffectiveness to your efforts.


Who is the company providing you with data and information list services?

Don’t buy a list or database from anyone that doesn’t have a list of reputable clients and does not have a major base of operations in North America.  And absolutely don’t buy a list from an offshore list provider with sweatshop web scrapers.  A vendor with a cheap list may give you three to ten times as many contacts as a name-brand shop. The initial savings will end up causing pain and costing you more in the long run.


Quality Information:

Even the best data has a limited shelf life and needs continual maintenance and care. In 2011 the US Department of Labor reported that over 11 million people changed jobs.  The best vendors actively maintain their data assets to keep up with the massive changes from people continually moving and shifting where they work and what they do.  If the data sets you receive don’t meet quality expectations, those vendors will work to fix the situation by analyzing what happened and providing replacement contacts.  Cheap vendors employ sweatshops and web-scrapers to pull and identify basic company contact information.  This information is ultimately worthless if you do not have reliable contact information including verified email and phone numbers. The best data solution providers can build a data set that meets your data standard and segmentation criteria.



Does your vendor test and maintain the quality of the database contacts for accurate contact information? Do they verify email and phone numbers regularly? Do they filter out spam traps that can put your organization’s reputation and Sender Score at risk?  If so, how do they manage their updates? If your vendor doesn’t have a QA program, or gives you a flaky answer, that’s a negative sign.  Your preferred vendors will provide you with the best information services that avoid spam traps. 


Vertical Industry Expertise:

Some vendors specialize in certain industries like healthcare and B2B tech.  Even others can specialize in providing information on HR. It pays to conduct research on vendors who specialize in the areas you are targeting.


Data Enrichment Services:

Vendors who only provide contact lists will come and go but never really be viable data business partners.  The best data and information vendors provide detailed contact information, and in some cases information about planned business initiatives.  The best vendors can also test your existing database to ensure duplicates records are not purchased with a new data set.  Quality vendors also assess the state of your current data health and provide recommendations and tools for how to maintain data health. Even better, these vendors will have tools that integrate with your existing marketing automation and CRM platforms. 



I personally refuse to work with vendors who have poor service, regardless of how good they claim their data products are.  I fully expect phone calls will be returned in a timely manner, as well as emails. If we have questions or problems with data services we receive, it’s critical for our clients that we have some investigation and resolution.  We want data and information service providers that have the same focus on client success as we do.  Companies that focus on transactions are merely commodities and easy to replace.



Strong data services partners work the best when combined with organic inbound list building.  Don’t rely on a vendor or a series of vendors to be your only source of contacts.  Combine the effort with submission forms on your websites, event registrations, newsletter subscriptions, and even social media.


What are the requirements you have when working with data and information source providers?


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I had an "oops" moment with a campaign this week and want to share the learning from it.


At the top of the campaign inviting a group of contacts to an event, the segment was made up of contacts in a specific geographic area. The segment progressed through the campaign and received a series of email invitations. To exclude those who has already registered from receiving additional invites, I placed a "Submitted Form?" decision step before each invite.


The day before the event, the campaign sent an event reminder to those who had registered; and I thought I would be more thorough by capturing not only those in the original segment who had registered, but also those who had registered despite not being included in the original segment. To do so, I created a new segment with ALL of the email addresses from the registration form submits, instead of continuing the chain of the campaign steps from the invites and original segment. This 'secondary segment' was to receive the event reminder, then reside in a final wait step (in preparation for if any other actions were to be planned).


Luckily, on the morning of the scheduled send, I checked the activated campaign to ensure all progressed correctly. While the 'Registered' secondary segment indicated 60 contacts were included, only four were in the wait step after the invite. And no contacts were caught in the email step!


So where were the other 56 registered contacts? Because they were already included in the ORIGINAL segment, they remained in that original chain of steps.


To correct the issue, I included one more "Submitted Form?" decision step in the chain from the original segment, and progressed them into the email reminder step.


Overall, it was a quick fix to resolve, and now I understand that contacts can exist only once on a campaign canvas, regardless if they qualify to be included in any other multiple (secondary) segments on the campaign canvas.

hg-maytheodds.jpegI really enjoy gamification. I really enjoy helping others succeed. And I really enjoy The Hunger Games. So, it seemed a good fit - in the spirit of the concept - to title this post "Happy Hunter Games" and share what I've done (and would like to do more) in enabling my teams to better leverage Topliners to drive success. This post is focused on what I did in support of our E10 upgrade, but it could easily be modified to fit new user training/adoption as well as an interesting session for, say, lunch and learns, quarterly team meetings, etc... Here's a bit of context as to the creation of our Hunter Games...


We were in the final countdown to our Eloqua 10 upgrade. One of the final action items in our overall upgrade project plan was "live-in-our-new-install" training. I had scheduled a three day onsite "Day in the Life" workshop for our power users. In its planning, we had identified five key break-out session topics based on their standard campaign management responsibilities. In no particular order, these were webinars, premium content downloads, newsletters, tradeshows and our live events. After further review, we also prioritized several "add-on" components that would be somehow impacted in terms of process in the upgrade. Again, in no particular order, these were ICS files, blind form submits, email personalization and dynamic content.


A couple weeks out from our workshop, the idea of a Topliners "scavenger hunt" was first brought up in a Topliners discussion by Leigh.Burke-Oracle. I loved the idea and tried to determine how to be best implement it in our upcoming workshop. All of our powers users had been introduced to Topliners several months before during the mandatory modular training. During the upgrade project, I'd continuously referred our power users to Topliners, so it wasn't a blind introduction as we headed into our workshop.


I decided to dive right in and kick off the workshop - after a brief "is everyone in the right meeting" introduction - with our Hunter Games. My thought process was two-fold - I wanted our power users to feel confident in using Topliners to locate and/or create key content as well as to hook'em into the gamification aspect. (I could go further and say I didn't want them to feel alone in the hunt. Or that I wanted to give them a fighting chance by arming them with the right tools to succeed. Or that I didn't want anyone to "die" before/during/after our training. But I won't - how cheesy would that make me? )


  1. I started by walking the workshop attendees through the site. Then, the first task was that everyone login, search for all the workshop attendees and follow them.
  2. I also asked them all to follow - at least - the current Top 10 Topliners. Once those two tasks were complete - and everyone had explored the site a bit - we dove in a bit further.
  3. My next ask was to have them search for the "how to create an ICS file in E10" document that I knew existed. The first person who found it was verbally recognized and asked to then share it with all attendees. I then asked everyone to go to the content and bookmark it.
  4. We followed this same path for "how to create a blind form submit in E10," "email personalization best practices" and "how to create dynamic content in emails and landing pages in E10." Attendees were either the first to locate the "best" resource and/or accessed the resource to bookmark it. All were verbally recognized during the hunt.
  5. We then proceeded into our break-out sessions. Each team worked through their assigned topic - leveraging Topliners as needed (lots of "woo-hoo'ing" during these sessions as helpful content was located and shared) and then we reviewed the results of each break-out sessions before moving to the next.


Overall, it was successful in that everyone seemed to have fun while learning and it met my expectations to help us accelerate user adoption post-upgrade. So, what would I have done differently? I would have liked to reward the "winners" of each task with treats - chocolate, jelly beans, etc... I had planned on projecting the "winners" on the ceiling (rather than the losers, i.e. The Hunger Games, but time got away from me).


Ultimately, I would still like to incorporate the concept of the scavenger hunt into more of our everyday use of Eloqua (it's still on my 2013 to-do list). Why? It's essentially a game within a game - it's elevating that "day in the life" workshop. It's bringing that "how-to playbook" to life. It's stacking the deck towards "and may the odds be ever in your favor."

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