If anyone has ever had the pleasure of ripping all of your hair out trying to manipulate a seemingly non-complicated program in Program Builder, you’ll understand what a glorious god-send that is the Program Canvas. You can rinse your contacts in the washing machine, update and maintain CDO data, and manage your CRM integration all on a beautiful whiteboard.


While it’s not perfect, and there could be some improvements like having the listener trigger off more than just new contacts or lead score change, I found a non-traditional use for it in one of our more interesting programs.


The Game

The Mars Network Challenge is a game on the Cisco website that includes a series of bases and levels where you have to engineer a plan for sustainable life on Mars, with help from our new networking platform. You sign up by filling out an Eloqua form at the beginning of the game, and then that same form is used to post any time someone completes a base (looks like an additional form fill, but has their level score and which base they completed.) So a sign up would be a regular form fill, base completion is more of a blind submit, but both submissions are recorded on the same form.


The Marketing Challenge

We found that there were a number of people signing up for the game and not playing, or they would complete one or two levels and never return to the page. We wanted to:

  1. ) increase engagement/return visits to the Mars Network Challenge game on our website
  2. ) provide the user with supporting assets that would correspond with the theme of the level they just completed.


The Strategy

The idea is to make sure we first acknowledge the fact that someone has shown interest in the game by signing up and giving us their info. This would explain the game, invite them to play, and remind them of the prizes and leaderboard. Then we want to make sure they are invited back within the next few days, since we had nearly no return visits in the days following the initial signup. For people who were engaging with the game and completing bases, we wanted to congratulate them on their accomplishment and show them their score, but also give them access to assets that support the theme of the base (e.g. security). Some additional touches would be sent for inactivity and new base notifications.


Here are the emails we created, and when they are triggered:

  1. ) Base Completion 1-4: Whenever a base is completed (blind form submission)
  2. ) Welcome 1: initial signup
  3. ) Welcome 2: two days later IF they haven’t completed any bases
  4. ) Inactivity 1-2: Sent when the form has not been submitted (no activity) in the last 14 days. They receive the first email, and then 14 days later if still not active, they receive the second.
  5. ) New base alert: When new bases are available on the website


Here are some examples of the emails:


The Tricky Part

Now that we have the emails, we needed a way to send them at the right time. A curveball in the whole thing was that the game was already live on the site for about 5 months before this email program was created, so there were already form fills that we would need to consider while creating the rules AND we had no choice but to edit the form while it was live. Any Eloqua nerd gets a full anxiety attack when that “this is live are you sure you want to save?” message comes up during a live form edit.


The Solution

The four base completion emails are triggered conditionally upon the form being submitted. The rules went off the form field: Level 1 = exactly Complete would trigger the Level 1 Base Completion autoresponder email. Level 2 Complete would trigger the second email, and so on. In the email, we field merged the persons score into the main body, had CTAs to invite them back to the game, and offered supporting assets.



For the welcome and inactivity emails, we used a combination of program canvas and campaign canvas to coordinate the sending of the emails at the proper time.


Program Canvas

Since we used the same form for the game, we needed to use Program Canvas to route contacts. We had two listeners that are listening to the form: 1) is listening to new signups 2.) is listening to ALL form fills. The great thing about program canvas is that someone can exist in two places at the same time on the same canvas.


When someone signs up for the first time they enter both listeners. One will send them to the campaign canvas to receive the welcome email, the other will send them into an endless loop to check their activity. If at any point they haven’t filled the form in the past two weeks (meaning they haven’t played the game) they are sent to the campaign canvas to receive the inactivity email.




Campaign Canvas

You cant send emails on the program canvas, so we used it for routing. The campaign canvas holds the actual emails.


The welcome path has the first welcome email, wait two days, and a check to see if the CDO has any of the bases marked complete. If they haven’t completed a base, they move to Welcome email 2 which invites them back to the game.

For the inactivity path, we send the first email and then exit them. If they reenter via the program canvas, they skip email 1, we send them email 2 and then exit them.

FYI: This campaign requires us to click the checkbox in settings to allow contacts to re-enter the campaign.




This was the very first time we have used program canvas, so we were excited to see the capabilities and potential future uses for our company outside of the standard data cleansing and CRM integration tasks.


We have only had the program running for about 20 business days, but so far the results are trending positive. Our average unique open rate is 35.79%, and unique click to open rate is 12.21%. This is compared to 14.8% and 1.7% in our existing nurture programs for that same persona.




While we don’t have enough volume yet to really see an impact on return visits to the game as we wind down into the holiday season, we are looking forward to seeing the amount of visits jump in the new year.  We are looking to expand this same campaign structure across multiple languages to support our global strategy.


This was a great exercise to learn the capabilities of the program canvas beyond what it was intended for.


I think our main learning from this is that program canvas can be a powerful tool to be used for lead routing. Using the program canvas to consolidate inbound entry points, push the contact through a series of hierarchical decision steps, and then properly route them based one industry/persona/vertical/interest to the right nurture campaign would be hugely beneficial to our company. This would centralize the routing, eliminate the overlap in segmentations by creating that persona hierarchy, would seamlessly move contacts to their next best action campaign, and reduce the number of times we need to activate/deactivate individual canvases.