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