Getting started on Eloqua might feel a little overwhelming, and in truth, it’s not the easiest project you’re ever going to take on. It’s a powerful tool but it’s also very complex, and the available training is a little on the limited side. There are some important strategic things you’ll need to think through before and during implementation, and you won’t find most of them in a standard Eloqua implementation guide.
This is your roadmap to getting started on Eloqua successfully, and hopefully with a little less of a headache.
Invest in project management
My first piece of advice is to get a good project management tool and learn it well. An Eloqua implementation will take you several months at best (and honestly, I’d say it’s never truly “done”). So start with the hard work of planning and prioritizing what you want to do, in what order and what steps are involved to make it happen.
Then, much like a home repair project, take the time you think it’s going to take you and double it, because there is for sure something you didn’t know about coming, or something you thought would be easy that becomes a nightmare. No matter how hard you try, something is going to throw you off schedule.
Get your (data) house in order
Remember that the automation you set up and the marketing campaigns you run are only as good at the data they’re running on. That means you need to clean out your bad contacts and standardize your data as much as possible (Florida, or FL? Does “title” mean Director, or Mr.?) before you import it. It is possible to build data cleansing programs in Eloqua, but you’re going to have so much else on your plate that going back to clean things up will be the last thing on your mind.
Data structure is also important to think about before setting up the tool. What custom data objects (CDO) do you need to reference, and what fields do they require? Will they have a 1:1 or one-to-many relationship with contacts, or will they not map to your contacts at all? And make sure you define all of your picklists ahead of time. Don’t forget to define if they will have a separate stored value other than the displayed value (for example, US instead of United States).
This type of work isn’t fun, but it really will make or break your Eloqua implementation. So trust me, spend the time upfront or you’ll pay for it later.
Understand form data & form processing
Take the time to learn how form data and form processing work in Eloqua. This is really the main workhorse of the tool. Yes, programs and campaigns are super powerful, but if you don’t get your form processing right, everything else becomes moot.
Form processing updates your contacts and CDO records. Forms can have fields that aren’t stored anywhere else, only within the form submission data. So, if you plan on reporting on who is submitting what forms and what they are saying in those forms (something you might just be interested in doing), you really need a plan for where you’re going to store the info and how you’re going to report on it. Believe me, exporting all of your forms into Excel to build manual reports is NOT where you want to be, especially after you’ve invested in a high-end tool like Eloqua.
Think through user & group permissions
I talked about this a bit in my Eloqua review. Having clearly defined user groups and understanding what those users need access to is really important for large-scale implementations. The sheer level of detail that they offer for user permissions is staggering, so having a plan before you dive in will really pay off.
Integrate with your CRM (and document it)
Integrating with your CRM is a necessity, and having solid documentation of the integration, fields and rules is key for long-term success (and for seamless hand-offs down the road). Because Eloqua has so much potential for lead management and data processing, knowing how you’re going to keep your data aligned with your CRM is even more important. Hopefully, you’re using an out-of-the-box integration like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics. If not, you’ll have to build a custom integration, and just be aware that it will require some heavy lifting even if you hire a consultant or an agency to help.
Have an IP plan
This is both really important and easy to overlook. Decide upfront if you’re going to get a dedicated IP address or use a shared IP. If you’re sending a large volume of marketing email, a dedicated IP address is probably worth the expense. There’s no hard-and-fast rule on what “large volume” means, but more than 100,000 emails per month may be a fair marker.
Make sure you do all of the required verification for email deliverability (I’m talking about all those acronyms that sound like sunscreen and people: SPF, DKIM and DMARC). That’s really important if you want your emails to, you know, be delivered.
If you went with a new IP, start planning your content and audience for an initial IP warming campaign. That’s right, you’ll need to warm up your new IP first. Maybe buy it dinner and a nice cocktail, too. Slowly ramping up the number of emails you’re sending on the new IP to different domains is the best way to build a positive email sender reputation. That helps your future emails land in more inboxes and get fewer bounces and spam triggers. Implementation is the best time to tackle this and set yourself up for success.
I hope this helps make getting started on Eloqua a little easier for you. Next up, check out my article on the top Eloqua pitfalls to avoid (at least, in my opinion).