When large, enterprise marketing teams embark on the search for marketing automation software, two popular options often pop up in the debate: Eloqua vs Marketo. According to PepperGlobal, Marketo is the most commonly-used marketing automation system for mid-sized businesses, and Oracle Eloqua is the most popular choice for large enterprises. So it’s certainly not uncommon for these two competitors to go up against one another to win business from large marketing teams with 10 or more users.
But before your company throws down tens of thousands of dollars on the wrong system, you may be wondering: What would you be getting out of either of these two marketing automation providers? Is there really a difference? Is one going to be decidedly better for my business? After all, it’s a pretty big decision, and one that you don’t want to have to make again any time soon. Plus, buying marketing automation software isn’t just a decision that will impact your marketing team.
To help you decide on the best choice for your business, I’ve interviewed four marketers currently using either Marketo or Eloqua for their thoughts on these two marketing automation heavyweights. Below, I’ll share their thoughts and a comparison of the two based on five common consideration factors: ease of use, pricing, features, integrations, and support.
Ease of Use
Usability is one of the most difficult areas to compare with any software; what one person considers user-friendly and intuitive, another might consider clunky and confusing. That being said, Eloqua and Marketo have pretty distinct user interfaces. Take a look for yourself:
Eloqua Campaign Builder
Marketo Smart Campaign Workflow
Sherrie Mersdorf, Director of Demand Generation at NewBrand, has used both Eloqua and Marketo recently—Eloqua at her previous position and Marketo while at NewBrand. While in her previous role she used Eloqua’s older interface, Eloqua 9 (which has since been updated to E10), she spoke to me about the difference in usability between the two:
“While not really user friendly, I really like Eloqua’s decision map/spaghetti monster way of building programs better than the smart campaigns or engagement streams in Marketo. I just think it’s easier to customize in Eloqua if you want to branch people in different directions based on them taking (or not taking) an action. Marketo can still do that, I just find the layering of smart campaigns inside engagement streams a little frustrating.”
On the contrary, Michelle Brammer, Marketing and PR manager for eZanga, said that after recently evaluating several marketing automation programs, they settled on Marketo for its ease of use. She explained that Marketo provided “the most solid user interface to create our smart campaigns.”
Andrew Mounier, Chief Marketing Officer at World Car Auto Group, currently uses Eloqua, and when I asked him about Eloqua’s interface, he mentioned that there is definite room for improvement to make it more user-friendly. Among his suggestions, he notes: “Eloqua doesn’t currently work very well on the Chrome browser. It would be nice to have that fixed.”
Mersdorf summed up the usability of both systems:
“Ultimately, I think it comes down to what you want to do and how complex your use cases are. Come up with the most complex use case you can think of (that you would realistically do… you know, in that world where resources are no obstacle) and have the two teams walk you through how to solve it. If you want to just run some webinars, track content downloads, and send emails—you’re probably going to find Marketo easier to use. If you want to have a lot of decisions and complex nurture flows, it’s likely going to come down to preference.”
Like I said, ease of use is really going to depend on your definition of what makes for an intuitive interface. So make sure to demo both solutions, and include your end users (including sales, customer service, and your tech team) for their feedback.
When you’re comparing enterprise systems like these that are going to cost you tens of thousands of dollars annually (maybe even into six figures), price really shouldn’t be a big driving factor in your decision. I know, I know… easy for me to say, when I’m not the one writing the checks. But given that you’re (hopefully) going to be using this system for years to come, you want something that’s going to grow with your company…after you quadruple revenue with your new, awesome marketing automation software, right?
Despite my pleading not to let sticker shock drive your decision, the two systems are quite different price-wise. Below, you can see monthly pricing* for each of Eloqua and Marketo’s three tiers, as well as how many user logins are available with each:
Note that Marketo’s pricing is less than half of Eloqua’s at every tier. Plus, Marketo allows for unlimited marketing users, which makes it seem like an obvious bargain. However, unless you have more than 10 people in Marketing who would need access to the system (which is already a pretty large number since not every Marketing team member usually needs a login), that’s kind of a moot point.
Also, I’ve found it’s rare for companies looking into these two systems to have less than 10,000 customers and/or prospects in their database. But that’s the default threshold on the pricing listed on both websites (although Marketo does go into more detail as to how their pricing scales in this PDF.) Given the variable nature of their pricing models, your quote is probably going to change significantly once you explain your specific circumstances, such as how many contacts, how many marketing users, and how many sales users you’d like to have. So my best advice is to take this default pricing with a grain of salt until you get specific quotes in hand.
Features & Functionality
When we recently surveyed 400 software buyers and asked them to rank the most important factors in their software selection decision, the number one most important factor in their final choice was the functionality—by a long shot.
Unfortunately—or fortunately?—there aren’t huge differences in the features and functionality you’ll get with either Marketo or Eloqua, so this probably won’t make your decision much easier. Take a look at this side-by-side comparison of what differentiating features you get with each of the various packages offered by Eloqua vs Marketo:
As you can see, Eloqua throws in a few more features in their Basic package than is available in Marketo’s Spark package, such as progressive profiling, email A/B testing, and revenue tracking.
Marketo offers a built-in marketing calendar—free for up to five users—as well as some more advanced social media promos and referral campaigns for their Standard or Select users. By comparison, Eloqua’s social features are less about the promotional capabilities, and more about gathering customer intelligence and smart listening tools to use in your targeting and segmentation.
Comparing their reporting and analytics capabilities, Eloqua offers more complete revenue and lifecycle tracking in all package levels, whereas Marketo offers a deeper dive into SEO performance.
When I asked Vitaly Eremeev of Xpansa Group about his favorite feature in Marketo, he loved the advanced dynamic content abilities on landing pages. “We can show a different CTA or banners on our site for different users with [Marketo]. For example, if a lead is a doctor (and he works in Pharma sector), he’ll see the CTA with specific offers for the Pharma industry. As a result, we have a higher CTR than if we showed the general CTA for all visitors.”
Brammer says she loves that her team can create folders in Marketo for each campaign and its assets. “It makes finding past images and materials easy and keeps the confusion to a minimum. Also, I, personally, enjoy the reporting functions and automatic email reports I receive eliminate an extra step in my day.”
Mersdorf says of both Eloqua and Marketo, her favorite feature is the ability to allow sales and marketing to communicate through the same system with the same data. “Get their sales tools. They’re an add on, but they both provide a helpful view for the sales team on what leads are doing so they can go into a call more informed. However, you need a plan to get adoption. Some sales reps will get it right off the bat (and the more effective your nurtures are, the more useful the sales tools become), others will need to be pulled into this century. Arm them with email templates they’ll actually use. And start with a pilot group! People in your pilot should be the ones always trying new things (oh and they are top performers. No one is going to buy-in if your pilot is made up of under-performers).”
Mounier says his favorite feature is the in-depth analytics that Eloqua provides. “Specifically, the closed-loop reporting feature which allows us to track revenue growth back to campaigns. We are also heavy into A/B testing and Eloqua lets us see what is working and what isn’t.”
Least Favorite Features:
When I asked all four marketers about any features they felt were missing or lacking from their software, most of the constructive feedback I received was about Marketo, aside from the Chrome bug Mounier mentioned in Eloqua. That would lead me to believe that Eloqua is overall a bit more robust in terms of functionality, as the price might suggest. (That being said, it’s only a sample size of four people, so keep that in mind.)
Mersdorf explained to me that the reporting functionality in the two systems is a big point of differentiation for her:
“The one thing I really miss about Eloqua is form data. Marketo of course tracks that you filled out a form, but everything has to be stored in the contact record. Sometimes that’s not necessary because it’s unique to the form. A few examples: where that download came from (was it Twitter? An email you sent? A display ad?) or a meeting time preference at an event. Since Marketo doesn’t offer form field data, you end up having to create a ton of smart campaigns to put people into lists if you care about accessing this information later (since if it’s stored on the contact record it’s likely to be written over).
Reporting is another big area for me. I’m also constantly disappointed with Marketo’s out of the box reporting functionality. Eloqua reports weren’t always the easiest to use, but I always could get to the data I wanted. In Marketo, I feel like I can never get the reports I need, because all of the reports around conversion and segmentation that I’m looking for are only available through the upgraded packaging. Now I spend a lot of time stitching reports together between Marketo and Salesforce.”
Brammer also said, “We would also love to see Marketo integrate with social scheduling, as well. That would make for a really robust platform, integrating our email calendar and the social sharing functions together in one place.”
And finally, Eremeev explained that you can only identify an unknown lead in Marketo if they use a static IP address. “More than 80% leads do not recognize properly in Marketo,” he notes.
Perhaps the biggest deal breaker in your marketing automation decision is if the system can’t connect with your other current systems. Fortunately, both Marketo and Eloqua have pretty comprehensive integration partners (so many that they both have a partner app directory to browse for integrated systems):
Below, I’ve broken down some of the bigger systems they integrate with to help you easily compare:
You’ll see above that CRMs are listed at the very top of the list (by design, because that’s the most important integration with any marketing automation software.) I speak from experience when I say that you want a system that will integrate with your CRM. However, even if Marketo or Eloqua doesn’t offer an out-of-the-box integration with your current CRM— or perhaps you use a home-grown CRM like we do at Capterra— both have APIs that allow for a custom CRM integration. However, while a custom CRM integration is available for any tier package in Eloqua, it is not included in the Marketo Spark package (only for Standard & Select users).
Mersdorf commented about the strength of the third-party integrations with both systems:
“At the time I migrated to Marketo, Eloqua had spent a couple years investing in their App Cloud. They have a lot more apps than Marketo. This may or may not matter to you, but it’s definitely a good talking point. Both have APIs, so really anything can be integrated, but Eloqua has a lot more ‘plug-and-play’ integrations than Marketo. If you have a lot of marketing technology providers you work with, it’s worth the 15-20 minute exercise to identify who has existing integrations.
One note, you don’t need to have an integration already built to be listed in Marketo’s Launchpoint–so make sure you look for the Marketo Integration badge. You can always get consulting hours to hook applications together, but it’s nice when someone’s done it for you already!”
Another big differentiator when it comes to integrations is that Eloqua has a built-in content management system that Oracle recently acquired called Compendium. Compendium is a great add-on if you would like to have your blog content and your marketing automation system all under the same roof. However, Mounier suggested that there could be a stronger integration between Eloqua and Compendium, which I suspect is because Oracle is still working on building out the functionality that allows the two systems to fully work together.
Training, Implementation, and Support
While it may seem like an afterthought, evaluating what sort of training, implementation guidance, and ongoing customer support you’ll get from both companies is absolutely worth factoring into your decision. If you’ve never used marketing automation before, you’d be amazed how often you’ll be in contact with their support team for guidance and advice in the days, months, and even years ahead.
Marketo offers a 90-day launch pack, during which they offer one-on-one setup and integration consulting, as well as best practices office hours and instructor-led virtual training workshops. They’ll also set up four email templates as well as one landing page template on your behalf. Additionally, Marketo has an active community of users in which you can post questions.
Having just been through the launch period with Marketo, Brammer states, “we do wish that Marketo had ‘office hours’ beyond the scope of the 90-day introduction period (free not paid), and outside of the community (which is none the less, still a really great feature, too).”
Eloqua offers an Oracle Marketing Cloud Success program for all clients, as well. During this time, customers will work with a marketing advisor to create a custom onboarding plan for their needs. Additionally, Eloqua has a Topliners Marketing Community, similar to Marketo’s, where users can ask questions of one another and get tips from both Eloqua employees and fellow marketers. Customers can also pay an add-on fee to send marketing users to “Eloqua University” to receive in-person system training. (But be forewarned, Eloqua University passes cost several thousand dollars apiece.)
Mounier notes that while Eloqua is “a strong system with a lot of great features,” he cautions that “the learning curve and implementation process is a bit lengthy in this fast moving digital era.”
As for ongoing support, Eloqua offers 24/7 phone support, as well as online case submission and social media support, regardless of which package you have. With Marketo, you can also get online case submission at any time, but phone case submission is an additional add-on if you have the Spark plan, and $5 per month for Standard users.
I asked Mersdorf to share her thoughts on the support offered by both companies, and this is what she had to say:
“I find Marketo support a lot better. Most of the time, when I was an Eloqua customer, I felt like I was schooling the person on the other end and it wasn’t easy to get to a solution. Some of that is likely because of the added complexity that comes with using Eloqua. Both have great user communities to answer questions though, but I’ve found with Marketo, questions can go unanswered forever, where I know Eloqua used to have a process to make sure that didn’t happen. I also like that we have access to Marketo’s foundation training videos without having to buy a training subscription. That wasn’t the case when I signed on as an Eloqua customer originally; You basically had to buy the education pack.
With both systems though, unless you’ve used an automation system before, get their equivalent of a ‘Smart Start’. It’s worth the consulting hours, whether you go with their in house team or a partner. It’s invaluable and really decrease your time to value.
Also, get some implementation help. I can’t stress this enough. But if they recommend a partner, make sure to vet them out thoroughly. I’ve worked with some bad partners because I didn’t do this during the sales cycle.”
If you cheated and skimmed down here to find out which one I think is the best, I’m sorry. I don’t have a clear-cut winner for you. Ultimately, the marketing automation system that’s best for you is going to depend on your specific needs and requirements, which hopefully I’ve touched on above.
My advice? Don’t limit yourself by only looking at Marketo and Eloqua. Take a look at all of your marketing automation options, filter down that list based on the features and functionality you need, and then select 3-5 to demo so you can compare and contrast the pros and cons firsthand.
Does your business use Marketo or Eloqua? Have you used both? Share your thoughts and experiences with both systems in the comments.