marketing automation marketing operations security

Using Eloqua for Crisis Communications

“This email must go out to all our customers in the next 7 minutes.”

That is how much time a client of mine was recently given to send an important email announcement to their entire customer base. The company she worked for (which will remain anonymous) is a software security vendor. The email was intended to direct customers to a new patch release which eliminated a vulnerability in their product to thwart a recent cyber-attack.

Sometimes we face an important choice: When it comes to really important emails, should we use Eloqua to send the email – or should we send it using our company mail server?

For customer email announcements that involve just a handful of people at a time, it might be best left to the account manager to send the email on behalf of the company. But for companywide announcements, it makes sense to stick with Eloqua.

Using Eloqua to send crisis email instead of Outlook/Exchange offers several compelling advantages:

  • You can deploy large-scale emails to customer lists very quickly, within minutes.
  • Your email send volume is not limited by company mail server policies (you are not limited to 200 contacts per email in Outlook/Exchange Server).
  • Customers are (presumably) already receiving email from you with Eloqua, so your sender policy framework (SPF) and IP reputation within these accounts should guarantee that your crisis emails are received as well.

Using Eloqua offers you for detailed information on receipt and responsiveness to these critically important emails – opens, clicks, bouncebacks, all of which can direct further follow-up action with specific customers (did they download the patch?).

Getting an Emergency Customer List is the Hard Part
If you can imagine how things unfold in a crisis situation, minute by minute, the most challenging aspect of crisis management is not the email content itself. It’s getting the list right. Take a close look at your database and ask yourself: If you had to pull a list of our active customer contacts right now, in the next few minutes, could you be sure you could pull in 100% of your active customers? Could you get the entire list ready in 7 minutes?

The way to make your customer list available in a crisis starts with good practices in your CRM database. These include:

Having an “Account Type” field in CRM that identifies active customers and is centrally controlled, ideally by a single individual or team inside the company who can “own” the accuracy of this field.

  1. Following an established process to add primary customer contacts to CRM under these accounts.
  2. Creating integration linkage between Eloqua and CRM for account-level data.
    Having ready-made contact filters and distribution lists in Eloqua for active customer contacts.
  3. An appreciation shared between account managers, sales reps and professional services employees of the importance of CRM data (for times like this!)

In a crisis, the marketing manager should be able to prepare an email, load the active customer list with confidence that everyone who matters is included, and send the email within minutes. All without the need to upload separate spreadsheets, or deal with one-off entries.

Stay safe out there, folks.

Eloqua email marketing marketing automation personalization

How a 1% unsubscribe rate KILLS your business


Below is a screen shot of the footer of an email I received early this morning, one which illustrates a common problem in email subscription management. This particular one is from a software vendor not unlike many others. As a long-time customer of this company I receive regular email, and in good faith started to read it like so many others before.

After getting halfway through the email, I realize this is another one of their “marketing emails” and conclude that my information must be mistakenly classified in their database as a prospect. As a customer this is completely irrelevant to me, so today I took action to make it stop.

clicking the “update your e-mail subscriptions” link at the bottom.  sends the user to a preference center, with some choices where I could opt out, so far so good.

Surprise!  The web page displayed the following choices, all of them EMPTY:

How do you unsubscribe when all the checkboxes are empty?

There is no obvious way to stop getting this particular type of email sent to me without stopping all of it. At the bottom of the page there is a choice to unsubscribe from all emails. But that is rather drastic, I don’t want to do that! What if I unsubscribed and then missed some important announcement?  Like a new version of their software?

With no reasonable option to choose, I closed the page taking no further action. Too bad for them!  It amounted to a missed opportunity to collect my preferences and tailor their messaging.

Epic fail
This experience is being relived by countless people all over the world every day.  We can all appreciate the frustration, what begins as an honest effort to help the sender correct its email lists, instead of hitting the “spam” button and condemning that company to deliverability issues, ends as a failure to communicate.

Imagine losing 1% of your customers every time you email
Let’s extend this example further.    Imagine that your email audience no longer had a say in the type of email they wanted to receive.

It’s fair to say you are putting your entire business with them in jeopardy.

Some marketers I’ve met develop an entrenched attitude about this; they defend by explaining that any unwilling recipient can simply opt out of all email.  They will blindly accept a 1% unsubscription rate as “normal.”

If you knew that your very next email would cause 1% of your customers to defect every time you sent it, would you still send it? Of course not.

Yet people do it every day!  The graphic below illustrates what happens when you send emails at a rate of 1 per day, with a 1% unsubscribe rate.   You would be severing your communications with HALF of your customers after only 70 emails. decay_curve_at_1_percent_unsubscribe_rate

Linking Lists with Choices
The good news is, if you are giving careful thought to the value of your email content, most of your audience is already receptive to hearing from you. Otherwise they would have unsubscribed a long time ago.  That said, it’s normal for your audience to crave more control over the content they receive.

When you offer them controls, and those controls work properly to change the outcomes, it has tremendous positive benefits: Lower opt-out rates, better readership, better email click-throughs,  more shares, more brand loyalty.

Fixing this problem is something every marketer should make their top priority. And I do mean a TOP priority. This means it should be addressed before the next email goes out the door.

Here are some guiding principles to building a good subscription management page:

1. Put the “unsubscribe from everything” choice at the bottom. This is the convention that people expect. There is no benefit to hiding it, putting it in small size, etc. Make sure that people can execute that choice in one click. In some countries this is the law, plain and simple.

2. Group your list choices according to your sending habits. Remaining checkboxes you offer should have a real and substantial impact on the emails that a person receives. Be sure to sanity-check your choices; better to go broader and have less displayed choices. For example, instead of “case studies” and “webinars” you could combine them as “product expertise”.

3. Now, execute your emails. Every promotional email you send from now on should be sent to subscribers of the corresponding checkbox choices. In other words, if you send me the email, I will be able to opt-out without unsubscribing from everything.

4. Automate the programming for “net new” contacts. Anyone you add to the database (via CRM, via Upload etc.) has pre-defined choices. So they are automatically subscribed to the right choices without any direct effort by the marketer.

5. Build your lists with the subscription choices in mind. In other words, use the subscribers to a given choice as the basis for your distribution list.

6. Coordinate your colors. This is my favorite technique. The careful use of colorized email templates or other creative elements can be a powerful signal to your audience and make their subscription options dead simple. If you don’t like the green emails, unsubscribe from them!

7. And lastly, while this may seem obvious it is imperative to include your new footer with the “update your preferences” link in every email! You might need to retrofit some of your nurture emails in progress.

After awhile, you may find the subscription center emerges as a focal point for all marketing communications planning. You start to visualize your overall segments in terms of the subscription choices. What is the lineup this month for people who subscribed to “product expertise”? Do we have enough coverage in our marketing calendar for people who are subscribed to “special events”?

In larger marketing teams, the executive might designate a single marcom employee to “own” each list. The list owner acts as a champion and traffic cop for that audience. The owner does not necessarily need to reside in the Marketing department, either; good candidates can be found among sales managers. The owner should have the authority to act as dispatch, and escalating for any campaigns scheduled at the same time, or when they see dry spells coming up on their calendar.

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Take the Quiz: Is Your Data Quality Good Enough?

The value of high-quality data cannot be lost on any marketer.  It’s our job after all, to know the market – what customers need, what they expect – fully and completely.  Top-quality data enables that knowledge.  As a marketer armed with perfect data, I can engage large numbers of prospects with pinpoint accuracy.  No prospect is left behind.  When people respond, my error-free information is instantly relayed to Sales so they can immediately act on the opportunity.  When they reply, I get timely and structured feedback – the impact can be measured immediately.   Look ma, no hands!

As tempting as it may be to pursue “perfection” in data quality, the practical limitations make it an impossible dream.   Vicki Raeburn describes the pitfalls in her blog post, Understanding the Cost-Benefit Quality Curve.  Every “just-noticeable improvement” in data quality involves an exponentially higher cost.  Given the unavoidable tradeoffs of cost and quality, Raeburn recommends that marketers seek to yield “useful knowledge, not perfect data.”

Let’s explore this through a familiar example from B2B marketing.  A company sells its wares to other companies operating in a variety of different industries.  In their database, only 50% of contacts are tagged to an Industry.  How much would it be worth to tag more of these contacts by Industry, say 60%?  The improvement yields a noticeable increase in list size, providing better market coverage for their vertical campaigns.  What does it really cost to realize such an increase?  They discover they can tag more contacts by simply rearranging the Industry data they already have on file, using some clever techniques that run on a fully automatic basis.  Presto, they say, let’s get it done!

Having a taste for this initial success, they take it up a notch.  They set a new goal to tag even more contacts by Industry, from 60% to 70%.  This gain might represent an equally noticeable improvement:  bigger list size, better market coverage.

To reach this new goal, they now need to start thinking about how to consistently capture or derive Industry for every contact in their database.  Every web form used for lead generation must capture Industry from now on.  They scrutinize every upload to the database, to make sure the Industry values are included.   This is not enough to get them to their goal, though.  To get their existing contacts updated need to append missing Industry values from an outside vendor, such as Hoover’s.  The numbers are getting closer now, but the costs are adding up fast too.   Is the improvement worth it?  Given the exponential effort level, they might decide the project will take a backseat to other priorities.

For the perfectionists out there, “good enough” is no cop-out.  It’s the best way to rationalize data quality projects.   The economic benefits of better data may be hard to quantify, but projects aimed at improving data quality must be both feasible and worthwhile to be successful.  The excellence comes in executing well against goals that have been carefully considered for their impact on the business.

Reflect on this last idea for a moment.  Data quality begins well before any change is made to your software.   Does everyone in your company — marketing managers, sales managers, and senior managers alike — agree on the priorities for data quality?   Are these priorities feasible?   What are they doing to help you with these priorities (not just cheering you on from the sidelines, but specifically)?

One way to set worthwhile and feasible goals for data quality is to start by hosting a workshop for your data end-users. I personally like to use a survey to structure the feedback.   When done diligently, a survey fosters an amazing discussion that lets you quickly spot the pain points and set goals that will be relevant and impactful.

Try it!  Take the quiz below.

Please rate your level of agreement with the following statements
(strongly disagree, disagree, agree, strongly agree, etc.)

1. When I use our house list for my campaigns, I feel I am getting good coverage of my entire target market(s).

2. I can use our house list to accurately target our known customers.

3. I can use our house list to accurately target our target accounts.

4. Our house list allows us to target contacts who are involved in active sales opportunities.

5. Our house list allows us to target contacts who were involved in discontinued (lost/no-decision) sales opportunities.

6. When I add in my targeting criteria (Industry, Product, Job Function, etc.), the list gets so small that it is practically unusable.

7. My campaigns generate complaints from unintended recipients, but I have no way to suppress these types of contacts.

8. I tend to rent lists (or use an outside agency for my list) because our house list does not provide enough coverage for my specific needs.

9. If I had to choose ONLY three fields to segment our customers and prospects for my campaigns, these would be:

How did you fare?  Which force-ranked priorities did you list for question 9?  Depending on the culture in your marketing team you may have your peers openly share and discuss the answers, or keep it anonymous.

Does your company formally prioritize its data quality projects, or is it more reactive/ad-hoc?

Eloqua lead scoring marketing automation qualified leads

Lead Scoring: Start the Conversation

So you’ve decided to embark on building a state-of-the-art lead scoring program.

Most marketers seem to agree that scoring leads prior to sending over to Sales for follow-up is a good idea.   If nothing else, the score attached to each lead creates a useful data point to reflect the expected value of that individual’s inquiry to the business, one to which both parties can relate and compare.   If Sales is onside with the idea, it may be time to dig in and start building a new program (or re-building an existing one, as the case may be).

How to begin the conversation?   The general consensus between Sales and Marketing that “we really should score our leads” is where the similarities with other companies end.   While on the front lines of dozens of lead scoring projects I have yet to find two companies with identical scoring programs.  And then again not only are the models often totally different, but people tend to disagree on the design process itself:  Should we invest heavily in quantitative analysis of our historical lead conversion rates, to uncover statistics that we can then use to design the program?  Or just rely on gut feel?

There is no cookie-cutter formula, but whatever approach you decide to take your lead scoring should ultimately allow Sales to automatically score the leads based on their net potential business opportunity.  The program must also fit your lead flow process (whether it be “waterfall” or other methodology) and also be compatible with your specific Eloqua-to-CRM integration.

When I am invited to help companies broker the early stages of a lead scoring project, I like to ask a few qualifying questions which precede the formal requirements definition.  If you are at this stage in your project yourself, here is a quick list of questions you can use to prepare for the first planning meeting with your counterparts in Sales.

These questions typically generate a good conversation and set the stage for a successful project:

1. Why is lead scoring important to Sales?  What is their vision?  If nothing else this is a sanity check to make sure there is shared vision for what scoring will achieve for both parties.

2. Which leads represent examples of the most important ones for follow-up?   Define these in terms of data: Customer status, company type, demographic (job titles, functions, etc), sales cycle, affinity for certain product interest.

3. Should all leads be scored using the same model regardless of source and type?  Should any leads be scored as automatic “A” leads?

4. Does “behavioral scoring” matter to Sales?  What type of measurable activity (email opens, clicks, trade show visits etc.) should “bump up” the score for a “B” lead to an “A” lead, if any?

5. Which leads are least important?  It’s a very good idea to discuss what’s at the barrel-bottom and will receive the lowest rating.  Or should we even pass these over?

6. Will Sales agree to provide feedback on the lead quality?  Are they willing to save each
lead with feedback, such as “You said this was an (A, B, or C) lead, but it really turned out to be an (A, B, or C) lead.”)?

7. Are there any special routing or notification requirements for “A” leads (or B leads, C leads)?

This is just a sample but illustrates effective ways to shed light on the priorities and emergent features of the new program.

Once you have a chance to document the answers, typically this is where formal requirements are defined.   At this point your technical experts should be involved (if not already) to review the proposed model and assess the state of Eloqua data, whether it’s feasible to score leads the way you intend and provide some alternatives that get close to the “ideal” scoring model that will serve both parties well.

Armed with your Eloqua-ready lead scoring model or “matrix”, time to circle back with Sales and review the whole program again to pressure-test it for any problems.  When everyone approves the revised model, we get to work building out the program, get the CRM integration adjusted, test and review, and continue to make adjustments heading up to the launch.

CRM integration data model Eloqua information compliance marketing automation personal information privacy security

Are Marketers Doing Enough to Prevent Data Breach?

Finally, at long last, you have reached your marketing automation nirvana. Your web site visitors are being tracked, inquiries are scored and sent over to sales, you are getting great feedback from sales on lead quality. Your teammates in marketing are also seeing good results from their campaign efforts. Time to kick back and relax knowing the business is enjoying the benefits of marketing automation.

Or is it?

If there was ever a topic to raise the ire of marketers, it’s software security. It’s got to be the “un-sexiest” area of marketing effectiveness and in my travels I find that virtually no marketing executive will ever make this an active priority (beyond vague platitudes); some would seemingly rather take a head-in-the-sand approach. Since companies tend to fund and configure their marketing automation platform without any direct involvement from IT, these systems are typically not held to the same level of scrutiny as CRM, SCM, ERP and other mission-critical systems.

Yet in the news headlines we bear witness to data thefts and other security breaches among the world’s most prominent companies and the ensuing negative publicity and loss of goodwill from customers.

Lately it seems the shift in thinking is finally underway in marketing departments and among marketing automation vendors alike, to take system security more seriously. These innovators are using the same project and security management approaches used by IT to keep their marketing platforms running safely.

Consider for a moment the kinds of actions that everyday users of your marketing software can perform right now. You would never suspect any nefarious behavior from Mary down the hall, but she might have the ability to download the entire worldwide database of personal information to her hard drive. Bill, our latest hire, couldn’t hurt a fly, but he could certainly email everyone in the database tonight if he wanted to. Imagine the consequences of either of these actions on your brand, reputation and legal liability. Imagine the drama for you personally, as you deliver testimony to senior officials on the question: “Did you take reasonable measures to secure this data?” It’s certainly in everyone’s best interests to secure your systems.

Okay, so you’ve heard the idea before. How well does your operation stack up on these four initiatives below?

Tighten up end-user access. This starts with centralizing control over end-user permissions, and making critical areas of the software off-limits to everyone except the administrators themselves. Take advantage of the native security features in your software and create custom security groups if the default options don’t provide enough control.

Disable access for terminated employees. Simple as it sounds, most administrators I meet do not have a formal provision in place to disable access to the marketing databases upon employee termination. Adding this simple checkpoint to the HR off-boarding process can go a long way to curb the risk of data theft or other breach.

Date-stamp leads when they are sent to sales. A less evident but still critical factor for compliance, you must have a clear understanding when personal information passes from one system to another. If you have not done so already, consider amending your CRM integration program to date-stamp all leads as they enter and exit the sync program. Along with improving your information compliance, this simple enhancement comes in very handy to troubleshoot “missing” leads or correcting other sync errors.

Document the main data model. Marketing automation in most companies is a distributed system that involves several software applications sharing the same data, and therefore the entire system has many fail points. The “openness” of these applications makes it far too easy for mystery fields, custom objects and bogus data to creep in, diluting the marketing team’s ability to develop effective targeting. While documenting the entire system may be “overkill,” certainly every company should maintain a list of its primary data fields, pick-list values, integration field mappings, and other core objects and compile these into a Data Definitions (DD) document for internal circulation. This living document becomes the go-to reference guide for control over any future system-level changes.

If you have only 1 or 2 of these items covered, consider performing a formal security audit with some outside help from your software vendor or partner. If you scored 3 or 4, you can get back to relaxing.

If you have other tips to share with readers on how to improve their marketing automation security, feel free to leave comments below.

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B2B Multi-channel Done Right

At the Eloqua Experience conference last month I briefly met an interesting new Eloqua technology partner, Advanced Image Direct, based in Fullerton, CA and their Cloud2You solution for automated Eloqua direct mail programs.

Simply put, you can use their solution to trigger individualized, personalized mailers to contacts as they are added to a Program Builder step.   While automated variable data printing has been attempted before by Eloqua with lukewarm results (remember PrintMail?), this time around end-users can better control the process through AppCloud and the familiar Program Builder interface.

The combined solution opens up some promising new capabilities for multi-channel campaigns.  But what impressed me the most about this vendor was not what they sell, but HOW they sell.   I have to hand it to these guys,  their mix of follow-up tactics for leads from the conference is a shining example of B2B multi-channel done right.

Returning from a consulting gig in Boston this week, I found several items waiting for me:

Courier package. An oversize Fedex package was sticking out of my mailbox. Inside was a thank-you letter and four-color 8×11 foldout glossy brochure.  In an world that can’t seem to get enough of online marketing, nothing stands out like well-crafted oversize direct mail.  And for Advanced Image Direct, the medium is the message, so it’s encouraging to see them eating their own dog food.

Introductory email with availability for demos.  A no-frills, text email coming directly from the sales rep. Rather than being a re-hash of the information I saw in the glossy package, this was a list of open times in the next 3 weeks when they could demonstrate their solution and upcoming projects.

Thoughtful voicemail.   I received a nice recap of their own experience at the conference and drawing some quick comparisons between Eloqua Experience and another conference that competes for my attention, DreamForce.    I won’t gush over a voicemail but let me say that it was a carefully worded story and told in an interesting enough way for me to listen to it in full.

Each medium was used to deliver a different message but provide an impactful and mutually reinforcing approach that probably only cost a few dollars per new lead. Nice work!

contracting innovation marketing automation marketing operations security staffing

Marketing Operations: Is Contracting Out Worth It?

Following the various discussion forums out there, you’ll find “marketing operations staffing practices” is a perennial hot-topic (recent examples found on LinkedIn, Topliners and MarketingProfs).

The points of view offered in these forums typically revolve around the merits of outsourcing this-or-that type of activity; which outsourced or in-sourced work lead to a tangible economic return for the marketing team; which types of contracting or in-sourcing offer a greater strategic advantage; and, which activities are good candidates for outsourcing or in-sourcing as companies grow more sophisticated with their technology usage.

Decisions on “how” to best design the marketing organization are at the heart of so many fundamental business issues: economics of course, but also job design, systems design, productivity, HR flow, employee satisfaction, knowledge management, and the list goes on. When it comes to contracting out, some managers are uncomfortable with the very idea of it. “This is our core,” is the common argument. In their eyes, a partially outsourced marketing operations team is something to be avoided – except as a last-resort. They will always push to in-source every aspect of their operations (except for the underlying software itself, which is an interesting contradiction).

Why the fuss?

Some work just makes good sense to outsource. For example, you might be the kind of person who mows your own lawn rather than hiring a gardener. But when it comes to heart surgery, there’s no argument for doing it yourself. The surgeon performs critical work that cannot be done by the patient themselves.

All else equal, the same could be said about contracting out in marketing operations.

Outsourced work doesn’t need to be complex work, either. I chose “surgeon” in the example above, but it could easily have been “janitor.”

Contracting out does not need to introduce more risk to the business. If the surgeon suddenly quit their job, or if they were somehow deemed unqualified or incompetent, you would hire another surgeon. The surgeon performs work that is “critical” to the business, but not “core” to the business. It is a subtle but important difference.

A few years ago I wanted to understand for myself if companies tend to organize their marketing departments differently as they adopt new technology. I researched 60 companies using marketing automation to examine how managers in these companies rank their firms across a wide variety of organizational design characteristics. After crunching the numbers, and ruling out some common-sense traits (e.g., larger companies have more staff, etc.) the results disproved any notion that there is an “ideal” way to specialize, centralize or outsource. (You can link to the research, here.) If the study proves out, you won’t ever find two companies who staff their marketing operations team in exactly the same way.

So as staffing practices go, we marketers are all over the map. Which helps to explain all the divergent opinions out there.

Recently my colleague Mark Radding offered his opinion on the merits of outsourcing to independent contractors from an economic perspective.  Mark is an expert CPA working in the Boston area, offering accounting and tax services to small- and medium-sized businesses who use contracting in a variety of different functions. He outlined the sizeable advantages of outsourcing in one of his recent newsletters. While the IRS, workers’ compensation boards, unemployment compensation boards, federal agencies, and even the courts each have slightly different definitions of what defines an independent contractor, thus leaving some room for interpretation, we can still generalize accurately about the productivity and cost-effectiveness of outsourcing.

Bearing this in mind, the advantages of “contracting out” can be classified into three broad categories:

1. Contracting out eliminates the overhead costs associated with FTE headcount. While direct wage costs are generally higher than equivalent FTE salaries, independent contractors do not collect employee benefits, insurance, pensions, vacation pay, or sick pay.  Companies do not have to pay federal payroll taxes for contractors.  Contractors also provide their own facilities, equipment, and ongoing training/certification, an important saving.  Lastly the complications of unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, federal and state wage, hour and labor law compliance are all bypassed.  Externalizing these direct and indirect costs represents a considerable economic advantage over keeping full time employees employed to do the same work.

2. Contracting out allows the firm to staff up or down faster.  Contractors work for either fixed periods of time, or in projects with fixed deliverables. Either way, the closure of the contract presents an opportunity to review performance and productivity, and adjust the next contract up or down to best meet forecast staffing needs. Compare this to employees, who require a longer ramp-up time, are fixed in their workload capacity, and where productivity and performance may only be formally reviewed on an annual or quarterly basis (even if they are “at-will”). The flexibility to change the lineup faster creates a valuable option for the marketing team, to best meet the variable workload with projects and keep labor costs low.

3. Contracting out can foster more innovation. Contractors who work for more than one client at a time offer an excellent competitive advantage that stems from “cross-pollination.”Contractors import new skills, capabilities and innovations from their other engagements and this continues well after their original date of hire. This doesn’t mean they will play fast and loose with your corporate IP, it just means you’ll benefit from their insight of how other companies are doing perhaps a very similar thing.

While the added savings, flexibility and knowledge-sharing are all attractive advantages of contracting out, it’s important to weigh the possible tradeoffs:

Higher turnover.  Attracting and retaining qualified contractors can be difficult. Many contractors enter the field involuntarily, undertaking contract work as a bridge to their next full-time gig. The ups and downs of contracting can be very disruptive. Contractors who abandon their contract halfway through to pursue the perks and stability of full-time employment can be tremendously disruptive, leading to inconsistent service and outages for the marketing team while replacement hires are found.

Inconsistency.  Departing specialists who take their tacit knowledge with them can induce a “collective forgetting,”, putting the organization at significant risk. Three preventive measures mitigate this flight of knowledge. One is to document. Second, put each new candidate through the same selection and new hire process as FTEs (verify claims of past experience, make sure the goals, check references, etc.). Lastly, once hired the contractor should be managed as though they were an employee themselves, in spite of the technicalities of their employment arrangement.

Security risks.  Does contracting out lead to more data theft, increasing the likelihood of system failure or other security breaches? Reasearch does not substantiate this theory, but companies can bolster their security by making sure contractors operate as securely as employees do. As a prospective client candidly admits, “We don’t want our contractors messing things up any more than our employees already have.” While colorful, this statement also underscores just how important it is to have effective security policies that apply universally to both employees and contractors.

Redundant labor.  As the contract labor pool is established, this often introduces the perception of redundant capacity within the department, with FTEs who perform (or want to perform) the contracted work. This redundancy is not a bad thing in itself (think twin engines) but can produce goal conflict and power struggles. Managers can avoid this pitfall by clarifying the “boundaries” of each job, set goals to minimize any competition for shared resources or expertise, and prepare their contingencies for succession.

What can managers make of these tradeoffs?

Foremost, if you find yourself captivated by someone who claims to have a grand unifying theory about how to successfully staff your marketing operations team, treat it with a healthy dose of skepticism. There are no quick fixes and since every organization has a different situation, the “best” staffing solution will be contingent on many factors including those above.

Keep an open mind about employing a mixed labor pool that combines the very best of your available in-sourced and outsourced talent. The more options you have to source talent, the better the outcomes for your business.

The value of your own intuition is not to be underestimated! Rather than looking to formulaic approaches, take a contingency approach to your staffing strategy. Start with an inventory of all of the routine skills and classifying the long list into two columns, one representing “core” activities (sacred, must be performed by employees) and the other for “critical” activities (important to our success, but not core). Then, take the list of “critical” activities and compare them to the pros and cons as outlined above. Where could you find more efficiency?

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3 Things You Can Do to Integrate Email and Social Media. Right Now.

Wish you had more traffic to your blogs, forums and other social media outlets?   While the benefits of using social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for marketing purposes are well-documented, it seems that few marketers are using the features available in their marketing automation software to get customers and prospects to social media outlets.

To close the gap, here are three simple changes you can make to better integrate email with these key channels:

1. Embed RSS headlines in emails. Syndicating your blog headlines and recent tweets in email, and having them appear on thank-you landing pages helps to showcase the great conversations taking place in real-time about your brand.  These headlines are an excellent complement to the conventional array of static icons (Facebook, Twitter and RSS) traditionally found in email footers and sidebars.

2. Configure your marketing automation referral sources.  Measure the contribution of your email to social media traffic by configuring email redirect links to track social media visitors across from your email.

3. Merchandise your email subscription options on SNS.  As a reciprocal tactic, you can encourage your prospects and customers to sign-up for email in your social media.  This can be achieved by adding a simple form which adds any subscriber to available subscription groups.  Use “double opt-in” to validate the request; once successful a “welcome” email can follow, with links to the email preference center.