• December 23, 2010
  • By Juan Martinez, Editorial Assistant, CRM magazine

Practice What You Preach

Article Featured Image

The recent oil spill in the Gulf
of Mexico may have renewed
the debate over the economic
and environmental dangers of
fossil fuels, but the tragedy also served to
remind companies that operate in such
high-risk industries just how carefully
they must tread in their marketing cam-

Even the technology vendors
supporting those industries are at risk.
Just ask Meridium,a provider of the asset
performance management
(APM) software that utilities
and energy companies deploy
to oversee their operations.

In the context of the BP oil
spill, applying the word “disas-
trous” to something as mun-
dane as a marketing strategy
may seem out of line, but
Meridium—which provides
the APM technology that companies such
as Chevron and ExxonMobil use to miti-
gate risk,maximize performance, and op-
timize cost—admits its previous efforts
were more than merely unsatisfactory.

Before 2009, Meridium had in place
basic marketing analytics tools that al-
lowed the company to understand the
open and clickthrough rates of its email
marketing efforts—and little else. All
other marketing analytics were done via
spreadsheet, offering Meridium no sim-
ple approach to evaluate the overall suc-
cess of its marketing campaigns.

With no effective way to share cus-
tomer intelligence, the sales and market-
ing teams operated almost independently.
“We really needed to optimize our mar-
keting spend,” says Bob Francis, the
company’s vice president of marketing.
“We really wanted to do what we teach
our customers to do: analyze data and
model how things will happen in the fu-
ture in order to optimize a plan.”

Francis says he knew that Meridium
wasn’t efficiently using its large amount
of data to optimize marketing opera-
tions, so he began to look elsewhere. On
the recommendation of an external col-
league, Francis checked out marketing
automations specialist Eloqua and
found a solution that promised to dras-
tically accelerate the identification and
routing of leads, develop insight into
those leads, and provide leads with
timely and relevant marketing materials.

In early 2009, the integration of Elo-
qua’s marketing software with Microsoft
CRM allowed Meridium to have a mul-
tidimensional view of its po-
tential customers.

Armed with a newfound under-
standing of the wants of its
leads, Meridium began deliv-
ering targeted, relevant mar-
keting content, and, as a
result, its sales cycle, which
had previously averaged 15
months to 24 months,was re-
duced to an average of between 12
months and 18 months. Improved tar-
geting helped the campaigns deliver a 30
percent increase in the number ofqual-
ified leads—what Meridum considers
“sales opportunities.”

Francis also notes the benefit of time
no longer wasted chasing leads ofuncer-
tain value. “Previously, the sales cycle was
measured around raw and immature
leads,” he says. “Pre-Eloqua, we didn’t
have the science and sophistication
around the quality of those leads, and so
salespeople were spending too much
time in qualification mode. The effec-
tiveness of Eloqua’s tools and analytics
helped us do a lot better job of only fo-
cusing on those that truly were leads that
we could convert to opportunities.”

Eloqua also helped speed the evalua-
tion of Meridium’s electronic-newsletter
metrics. Meridium learned, for example,
that its open rates each month remained
well above-average—in the 15 percent to
16 percent range,versus 11 percent to 12
percent industrywide. Unsubscribe rates
had dramatically decreased as well, from
3 percent of e-newsletter recipients in
2008 to just a scant 0.3 percent today.

“We attribute this to the ability to build a dig-
ital profile on people in order to send
them relevant content,” Francis says. “Elo-
qua allows us to understand the customer
and make their experience with Merid-
ium much more customized.”

The approach even paid off on the
front end: Meridium has expanded the
number of new contacts in its database
by 163 percent since 2008.

Meridium’s marketing efforts also in-
cluded a tactic that might inspire a few of
its environment-unfriendly clients. For
the first time, Meridium hosted its annual
customer conference virtually, vastly re-
ducing the costs (and, perhaps more im-
portant, the carbon emissions) related to

The conference was the largest on-
line event ever hosted by Meridium, and
generated more than a thousand down-
loads in its first few hours. Eloqua worked
with Meridium to promote, track, and co-
ordinate the event process, and its metrics
and reporting capabilities helped Merid-
ium prove to the event sponsors (and the
company’s own sales team) that a virtual
event could be a success.

“The Eloqua functionality allowed us
to achieve so much in terms of arming
our sales force with real-time data of
what prospects were accessing on the vir-
tual conference site,” Francis says. “That
built a tremendous amount of credibility
within the sales organization. We also
sold sponsorships [in the form of] virtual
booths with their own set of collateral
downloads and videos, and Eloqua al-
lowed us to report back to all those spon-
sors. Without Eloqua, the conference
would not have been possible.”

If only that level of success extended to
the kind of high-risk clients that Meridium
and its competitors cater to. Just think how
much better the assets of the Gulf Coast
might be performing.

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