Thought Leadership Interview #8 - Brian Kardon, CMO of Eloqua

B2B Demand Generation | An Interview with the CMO of Eloqua

I’m pleased to bring back a series of interviews with thought leaders in B2B Sales and Marketing from earlier this year. We interviewed a great marketing expert, Brian Kardon, Chief Marketing Officer of Eloqua.

Brian KardonCSO Insights recently found that quota achievement was at its lowest rate ever, lead generation budgets were flat or cut, and quotas were being raised.  Jim Dickie sees this as the Perfect Storm. Jim Dickey said it is like raising the high jump bar, when we could not clear the last height.  As a marketing expert, Brian, what are you observing in B2B sales?

Jeff, from the experiences of our clients, I am observing 3 things:

  1. Cycle times are increasing.  Deals are taking longer and more people are getting involved. If you expect a deal to take 90 days, and it takes 120, that’s a big hit to your quarterly achievement.
  2. Better alignment between sales and marketing.  As the pressure mounts on the sales team, you might expect more figure pointing in the direction of marketing – “hey, we need more and better leads.”  But we are seeing the opposite – better alignment and team work taking place.  They are asking the right question: “How can we collectively improve our performance?”  That’s great to see.
  3. Q1 was a strong quarter.  Most of our clients were forecasting like it was still 2009.  But budgets and enthusiasm are both on the upswing. I am seeing stronger pipelines across many of our clients’ industries – technology, financial services, manufacturing, and business services.  I think (and hope) that when CSO Insights repeats their survey, they will see better quota achievement in 2010.  They do great work; I look forward to the results.

The economic challenges of today are a major problem for B2B sellers.  Blogs and content sharing are critical elements like websites and the Eloqua blog – It’s All about the Revenue is very popular. How can a robust online presence help generate leads? Can you share the lessons you’ve learned with our readers?

I am surprised that so many marketers continue to pay so little attention to inbound/content marketing.  We have clients who spend millions of dollars a month on paid search, yet come up low in organic rankings.  As you well know, great content is the gift that keeps giving in the form of high organic search rankings.

All leads are not created equal. From the data of our clients, web leads are the best leads – they close faster, have higher win rates, and command better pricing than non-web leads.  As my colleague, Steve Woods, succinctly says in his book “Digital Body Language” – “Be Findable!”

Changing of the internal status quo is a major impediment to progress. Companies tend to do what they did in the past, but marketing has been transformed.  How can marketing and sales leaders implement change without incurring undue risk?

I think the bigger risk is not changing, Jeff.

I was the CMO at Forrester Research for 5 years before I came to Eloqua.  My boss, CEO/Founder George Colony would always say “Technology changes everything.”  How right George is.  Technology has forever changed Tower Records, travel agents, and newspapers (RIP).  It has extended human life, changed how we work, live, and communicate. And it has changed marketing in fundamental ways.  If a marketing superstar from 1980 was frozen and came back in 2010, how transferable would those skills be today?

The irony is that many of the new marketing and sales technologies actually reduce risk.  For example – A/B testing.  We have clients who are doing hundreds of A/B tests every day – of subject headlines, offers, lists, button size/location … everything!  The new technologies actually take some risk out of marketing.

Another example is trade shows, often a costly black hole of expense.  Some of our clients are doing a great job of measuring their trade show participation by automating a series of touch points to leads collected at events.  Rather than sending all the leads to sales right away, they can measure lead quality through engagement with follow-up campaigns.  The best leads get sent to sales, all the people who just wanted a free pen get put into nurturing programs.  This gives marketing objective data to truly assess trade show effectiveness and help them decide which shows to drop.  They can then reallocate those dollars to better performing programs.  Some of our financial services clients are taking some of the risk out of marketing by doing a great job of leveraging client data to cross-sell services to their existing customers.

Sometimes, in the midst of change, people focus on what they will lose, not gain.  That’s too bad because there is so much to gain from this marketing transformation.

Today it’s more critical than ever that marketers can measure the impact of options.  They need to know what’s working, what’s not, and what to change.  What do you recommend they do?

The great management guru, Dr. Edwards Deming, said, “In God we trust; all others bring data.”

There is no reason to be marketing in the dark.  There are very simple tools – like marketing automation – that allow marketers to precisely measure the business impact of their activities.  I am not talking about just basic engagement metrics – opens, Click Through Rates (CTR), unsubscribes, etc.  I am talking about sourced and closed business.  Our clients know, with great precision, which campaigns are most and least effective at driving revenue.

Let’s face it, all campaigns are not above average.  You have to drop the poorest performers and double down on the top performers.  You simply measure the cost of a campaign (or trade show, or Google key word) and the amount of closed business that a particular campaign sourced and touched.  It’s not hard to do.  Rank them and make some tough decisions.  If the sales cycle is long, it may take a while to accurately assess a campaign. It’s just Moneyball applied to marketing activities but it does take the tools, systems and commitment to measurement.

Content is more important than ever.  Buyers look for content at every stage of the buying process.  What do marketers need to know about content and what actions do you recommend they take?


The biggest mistake I see marketers make is blasting the same content to everyone in their database.  Sure, it may be great content.  But it certainly won’t be relevant for everyone.  You should try to match content with:

1) their buying stage;

2) their role; and/or

3) their industry

On average, response rates for targeted content will be 5-6x higher than non-targeted content.  Targeted content also reduces unsubscribe rates by half.

If a CMO were to ask you today – What are the 3 most important takeaways that I need to know? What would they be?


  1. You need to be in the “remarkable content” business.  Get started now.  It’s fun.
  2. To earn a seat at the revenue table, you must measure marketing’s performance and its impact on revenue.  Think business metrics, not just marketing metrics.
  3. Partner up with your CFO and head of sales.  They will help you to focus on the marketing activities that are most important to your business.

What do you think? Do you have anything to add to what Brian had to say? Do you have other marketing gurus you’d like me to interview? We love comments and people who share.

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Find New Customers has moved and can now be found at

Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor, is President of Find New CustomersLead Generation Made Simple.” He’s also the author of three highly acclaimed white papers, How to Find New Customers , Definitive Guide to Making Quota, Moving from Transactional to Conversational Email Marketing, as well the e-book, Prospect Driven Marketing and holds a degree in Marketing from the University of Notre Dame.

Find New Customers helps business develop and implement demand generation programs to improve the flow of sales leads by changing the way they find and acquire new customers using best practices in lead generation.

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