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Eloqua Office Hours: Webinar #2

In Sureshot’s second Eloqua Office Hours, viewers were invited to ask our CEO, David York absolutely anything about Eloqua. In this open Q&A webinar, David answered four audience questions and equipped viewers with insights on how to improve personalization and martech integrations. To get the 411 from this information-packed webinar, scan our notes below.

David’s Deep Experience With Eloqua

David has been a user of Eloqua for 17+ years, and was introduced to the platform in 2003 while working in marketing operations for a large corporation. Upon leaving that post, David served as an Eloqua Solutions Consultant for over four years, using the platform day-in and day-out to help more than 400 clients get more from their Eloqua experience. In 2010, David launched Sureshot as a marketing operations consultancy and martech development company. Sureshot began developing plug-in products for Eloqua that empowered users to enhance a variety of functionalities and expand its capabilities.

Question #1: After deleting contacts from Eloqua, they show up again a few minutes later. No one on the team is re-uploading them and we can’t seem to figure out why it is happening. How do we stop it?


David: An issue like this is usually related to one of your other apps that is integrated with Eloqua. If you’ve cleaned out contacts inside of Eloqua, they will stay out, so it’s likely there’s some other system that’s communicating and syncing with Eloqua. This system is probably set up to share and create contact data inside Eloqua, which is why it keeps bringing back the bad data.

Follow-Up Question: We have integrated several apps, but we also have custom objects for contacts that are unresponsive or have bounced from the system. Do you think it could be pulling the deleted data from one of those sources?

David: Yes, if those systems have an integration in which they create contacts in any way, and sync those contacts, that would be the first place I would look. However, before looking there, I would wager that it is something else “talking” to Eloqua that is creating this problem, and in my experience a CRM integration is the most common culprit. When you have data stored elsewhere, and you don’t want it to come back through the system, you have to go to your other integrations and remove it from their systems or set up a rule that tells them not to give you a contact back that you have removed.

Resolution One: Quarantine Contacts You Don’t Want

David: I don’t know what your reasoning is for removing contacts, whether it’s to stay below your contact limit or it’s a group of contacts that are unresponsive, but if it’s not a contact limit issue, then I recommend simply quarantining the contacts you don’t want into a list or segment. That way, you don’t have to worry about the constant creation of them as a contact in Eloqua by another system. If you don’t have the ability to control the re-creation of contacts because Eloqua is receiving data from a system that is managed by another department in your company, like IT, quarantining is a good option. Essentially, when you can’t control what is and isn’t in a connected system, and fixing the issue is more trouble than it is worth, then quarantine the bad contacts and leave them in the system.

Resolution Two: Address the Source

David: When re-appearing bad contacts are impacting the size of your database and money is involved, you will need a different approach. When a connected system isn’t recognizing that a contact has been deleted and it is recreating it in Eloqua, you will most likely have to fix it in that system. As far as I know, Eloqua doesn’t have anything on the back-end to notify connected systems when you delete a contact. The only way to combat this issue is to tell those systems to remove the contacts you don’t want to see in Eloqua.

Viewer 1 Comment: Our office in Europe uses a CRM, so I am going to double-check and see if there is a re-upload occurring from that CRM.  

David: If there’s a CRM involved, I believe that is likely to be the #1 offender in this scenario. If it is connected through a bi-directional integration, as most CRMs are, especially if it is Salesforce, Microsoft or Oracle, then that’s the most common scenario where I’ve seen this issue take place.

The Importance of Data Governance

David: The question we just covered deals with data governance, which looks at who owns what data and where all of the data goes. One issue that every marketer faces is understanding and building in best practices (from an operational perspective) around data governance. When it comes to uploading data, most marketing departments do not have a strong or defined process. Technically speaking, when someone goes to upload data, they simply key in whatever data is contained on their spreadsheet.

Implementing Data Governance Processes

David: One of the things I always recommend to customers with regard to data governance and subsequently data quality is to think about implementing a process at the marketing operations level. You want a process that ensures uploaded data, like list uploads and form submissions, is of the highest quality.  

Best Practices for Data Governance and Forms

David: Resolving data quality issues with regard to form submissions is relatively simple. You can solve several data issues by:

  • Ensuring consistency in data inputs across forms
  • Using dropdown menus which prevents people from entering random data
  • Add validation services to different fields
  • Validate email addresses and phone numbers as they are being entered

Validation ensures that emails and phone numbers are in the proper format, and are of good quality before being submitted to your system. When you consistently validate form fields, it prevents people from populating your database with bogus numbers, bad email addresses, and more.

Data Governance and List Uploads

David: When it comes to list uploads, having a data governance process or policy in place is essential to ensuring you are checking all the boxes on what you want and need in your data before you add that data to your system. I like to encourage people to think about data governance from a process standpoint.

Question #2: We use Eloqua to send our email campaigns and lately we are seeing a high soft-bounce rate. Our hard bounce rate has remained normal. Why this is happening and what we can do to fix this issue?


David: Good question, but before I can answer I need to ask you if the email addresses that you are sending to are B2B or B2C?

Viewer 2: They are B2B.

David: Soft bounce rates are one of the harder issues to pin down. It’s something we deal with here at Sureshot, too, even though we work with email validation services. Lately I’ve been seeing some interesting things happen as it relates to validation. I’ve noticed there are some inconsistencies in how email servers are managing, responding and behaving right now. I don’t know if it’s pandemic-related; or if folks are just emailing out the wazoo right now because we have nothing better to do; or if there are some changes going on from a technology perspective. 

The Connection Between Soft Bounce Rates and IP Addresses

David: When it comes to B2B, the first place I would look at in addressing this issue is my IP address. Check into the performance of your IP and its sender score. Find out if your IP address has been warmed properly. If you are using a shared IP in Eloqua, then you have to realize there are other emails and data being sent across that IP that could be impacting yours. However, if you have a private IP, then look at your sender score first to see if you are having IP related issues with your sends. The challenge with B2B is the fact that not all B2B mail servers are created equal. They all handle bounces very differently across different mail servers. We see this quite a bit because we do a lot of work with email validation.

The Difference Between B2C and B2B Root Causes for Soft Bounce Rates

B2C email validation is relatively straightforward in that you’ve got all your big vendors that people get their consumer email addresses from and they all act the same way technologically on the back end. But in the B2B world, it is typically the IT department that has control over how emails are handled when they come into a system. For example, I could send a bunch of emails to folks that work at Dell and a bunch to people who work at Google and those emails will perform differently based on the configuration of the receiving mail server.

Ways to Address B2B Bounce Rates

David: As I said earlier, first look at your IP address and see if there is an issue at the global level. If there is, you can work on addressing that. However, if everything checks out with your IP and you are seeing high soft bounce rates, then the issue may be caused by emailing a high concentration of emails to specific companies.

For example, years ago I worked with a company that sent emails to 30 or 40 people at the same company, and the company they sent the emails to blocked them from sending because of the large volume of people on the list. The challenge in this scenario is that the company that blocked them was also one of their top customers, so we had to work through a process with their IT department to get the issue fixed.

Although I have given you a broad spectrum of things to consider, when it comes to high soft bounce rates I would definitely start with:

  1. Is the IP address clean?
  2. What’s the sender score?
  3. Are there any black marks on the IP?

If all of these prove to be okay, then look at the data from individual soft bounces and see if there is a common thread or trend occurring. We had a B2C customer who experienced this issue with Yahoo emails, and it was affecting their deliverability, sender score and IP address. Once they noticed this trend, they began flagging all incoming yahoo emails as ineligible for auto-response. After eliminating these emails from their list, their sender reputation, deliverability and IP address improved quickly. 

The Role of Data Quality in Personalization

David: There are multiple levels of personalization, including: basic, advanced and hyper (a.k.a. one-to-one) personalization. Effectively using a tool like Eloqua for personalization requires you to develop a personalization strategy and action plan. There is a progression of steps you can follow as you attempt to go from sending mostly “batch-and-blast” campaigns to sending more personalized campaigns. A few easy steps anyone can take toward greater personalization is to use peoples’ names and the names of their companies.

The Link Between Personalized Campaign Performance and Data Quality

David: It’s impossible to perform personalization well without paying close attention to data quality. If you don’t have a good strategy in place for maintaining data quality, then your personalization strategy will be greatly hindered.  Whether you want to add more dynamic content, or you want to begin personalizing different elements of data in a campaign, the first question you need to ask yourself is: do we have the data that we need to create a more personalized customer experience? Once you know the answer to this question, you build your personalization rules around it.

For example, if you are creating segments by industry or by title, then you need to have the correct data for those fields. More importantly, you need those fields to be populated in a way that doesn’t make it painful for someone to go in and build a list using those segments.

If you are going to insert dynamic content into an email using Eloqua’s dynamic content tool, you have to have data that will trigger those actions. If you are creating industry-specific campaigns and you have a rule that says, “if a data field is for industry X, then send this content” — issues will arise if the data in that field is not standardized or populated properly. Seemingly small data quality issues like this can become very problematic and make you end up working extra hard just to make personalization happen.

One of the core components of campaign success is an understanding of the quality of your data. At Sureshot, we work with customers to create campaigns with 1-to-1 personalization. These campaigns are extra-dynamic in nature, which makes them super scalable. We can take a contact’s profile and preference data and match it with a large volume of content from either a content library or website. This approach allows customers to engage in ABM.

Question #3: We email a lot of people with visual impairments, who use aps that read the text of the emails to them. How can we personalize emails, and still accommodate reader aps? Does Eloqua have tools to build that capability into the mainframe of the email, and if so, how do we utilize them?


David: I don’t know the definitive answer, but my instinct is that the readers will be looking at the context of the email and HTML, and pulling the content that needs to be read. I don’t believe Eloqua has anything natively built in; however, there is probably a protocol that the reading tools utilize in order to determine what will be read aloud. I would look at what the reader app’s protocol is for HTML emails and then make sure you are not doing anything to hinder that. If you know that a reader processes the data in an email and reads them in a certain way, then you can make sure your emails are formatted to address that.

If you are using the standard editor in Eloqua, compare it with the reader app’s protocol and make sure it isn’t doing anything from an HTML standpoint that would hinder the email from being read. Identify in advance what the reader format rules are so that you can sidestep any issues. An easy way to do this is to take an email that you sent and export it. Then view it using a variety of popular reader aps and see if it looks clean. Be sure to allow each app to read that email to you, so you can note any issues that arise.

Optimizing Data Integrations

David: Two things to note when it comes to integrations:

  1. When you are evaluating the martech in your stack, make sure everything connects in a way that gives you actionable data. It’s one thing to pass data back and forth, but you want your tools to share data in ways that supply you with usable data.
  2. Think about how your integrations operate, and what your approach for data governance will be. For example, will there be issues when I connect system A to system B when they share data?

Integrations should make your job easier, not harder. Good integrations reduce manual steps, lighten your workload and streamline operations. 

Question #4: Where do you suggest users go to learn more about Eloqua when issues arise?


David: The number one resource I recommend searching when you are having Eloqua issues is their Topliners Community. It’s an active community for Eloqua users and they have a lot of guides and articles available. I also recommend looking for Eloqua user groups. Our partner Sojourn Solutions hosts a virtual Eloqua Users Group once a month. There are also some Eloqua groups on LinkedIn. And of course, you can always email me and ask me any Eloqua question at any time: david.york@sureshot.io.