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Growing 100x through inbound marketing

Around a year ago, I took on a new role at Sun as vice president of lifecycle marketing. While the title was an odd one, the charter was pretty straightforward: Bring the best practices of open source, Web 2.0, and modern online marketing to Sun's portfolio of servers, storage, software, and services in order to drive up revenues and drive down customer acquisition costs.

Open source was an incredible calling card that we could use to determine what customers were interested in. Now we just needed to figure out how to harvest that interest.  It worked for MySQL as a startup, but how would these techniques apply in a bigger company like Sun?  Pretty well, as the graph below illustrates.


(Click to expand the image)

We achieved more than 100-fold growth during the year in terms of top-of-funnel raw leads as well as qualified BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeframe) and pre-BANT leads. And while there was sometimes skepticism that online marketing activities could generate real revenues, we finished calendar Q4 with a sales-accepted pipeline value that would be on par with what you might see in a 5- to 10-year-old startup company.

In fact, the group operates a lot like a startup within Sun and has achieved the kind of growth that would be the envy of any startup in the Valley. We haven't reached the point of having a perfect closed-loop system to track every deal that closes anywhere in the world, so the pipeline metric is fairly conservative. From a cost perspective, we achieved more than a 10X ROI on fully loaded costs, including all program dollars and head count costs. We've seen our efficiencies improve through the year, with response rates increasing by a factor of 10 to 20, while cost per lead has gone down and average deal size has gone up. (Note that these numbers are exclusive of MySQL's results, which continue to operate as a well-oiled lead machine.)

Even more promising is the fact that there's still plenty of room for growth. I expect that over time these efforts could approach half a billion in pipeline if they are connected to an expanded inside sales effort. Limited calling resources have been the gating factor in our growth at Sun and that's an area where Oracle has considerable expertise.

The most common question we get when we present our results is "what was the one thing that drove the growth?" Unfortunately, it isn't that simple. As Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot has said, for 99 percent of companies, marketing doesn't require automation -- it requires a transformation. And that's exactly what we did. It wasn't a question of doing one thing, it was more like getting hundreds of things going across many different areas of the business, ranging from holding product-positioning workshops with engineering teams to establishing broad efforts to generate leads with white papers, Web seminars, and product registration incentives. There was relentless A/B testing of e-mail campaigns, new efforts for lead nurturing, scoring, and routing optimization.

Mostly it came down to continuous experimentation, measurement, and refinement. There wasn't a single quarter where we didn't overachieve on our results and still feel that  we had more room for improvement. That approach is alive and well in the lifecycle marketing and online marketing teams at Sun, and I hope it will continue on at Oracle.

In a subsequent post, I'll describe some of the specific techniques we've used to drive growth, many of which are described in the excellent book Inbound Marketing by the marketing gurus over at HubSpot.

Update:

Here's a follow up blog post I wrote over at HubSpot.

You can follow my blog posts via twitter at https://www.twitter.com/zurlocker.

Comments

Congratulations on all your success at Sun so far, Zack!

Any time line on when your follow-up article discussing techniques used to drive growth will be available?

I wrote a follow up blog over at HubSpot which you can find here:

https://tinyurl.com/inbound-big

--Zack

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