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A Very Cloudy Year

Joe_Payne_CEO_Eloqua_headshot-70By Joe Payne, CEO, Eloqua

If I had to name the most disruptive force on business this year, I’d tell you the advent of cloud computing.

Yeah, I know, cloud computing started long before 2011. But if you think about it, every trend that dominated the tech headlines this year — social media, the proliferation of apps, the surging market for mobile devices — owes a debt to the cloud.

The birth of the SaaS industry changed the way we approach business. It ushered in an era where organizations are not tethered to geographical boundaries. Professionals were unchained from desktop computers and rooms stacked wall to wall with servers. Businesses could access solutions, data and upgrades from anywhere, at any time.

The elimination of these boundaries opened the door for the social and mobile revolution we witnessed in 2011. As the data and tools we use for work and play became accessible in the cloud, the market took to platforms and apps that were increasingly social and mobile.

Consider the statistics: 20 million Facebook apps are installed each day, Twitter handles a billion tweets every week, and of the more than 100 million users on LinkedIn, 80% have influence on internal business decisions.

Meanwhile, 500,000 Google Android devices are being activated every day, there are more than 100 million iPhones out there, and upwards of 25 million iPads —  which didn’t even exist until 2010 — have been shipped. Email and web site traffic, and critical pieces of a buyer’s digital body language, are increasingly taking place on mobile devices.

The pace of social and mobile advancements has been rapid and buyers’ appetites for these apps and devices have been rabid.

The result is a fundamental shift in how marketers must approach prospects and enable their sales counterparts. It’s not uncommon for potential customers to research your product or service through a network of socially engaged peers long before your email campaign even lands in their inboxes.

Key decision-makers — the very people who decide whether your solution will make it into a budget — are conducting research from their smart phones and tablets, and engaging with your marketing while standing in line at Starbucks or while waiting to board a jet.

Clearly, we can no longer afford to market within the structures of “9-to-5.”

As buyers shift to social media and mobile, many organizations have released a plethora of apps designed to help address individual challenges enterprises face. The cloud has made it possible for someone to quickly bring a solution to nearly any business problem, be it big or small, and iterate along the way. There are apps for web conferencing, social, data management, event management, email, analytics and SEO; the list goes on and on.

While the majority of these apps avoid the constraints of traditional hardware, they create a new problem for marketers; namely, an overabundance of solutions sitting in separate stovepipes.

While the pace of innovation in the cloud is welcome, the decentralized structure can be dizzying. The modern marketer doesn’t want to be weighed down by a variety of spreadsheets and misaligned data. They want a single view of the buyer.

That was this year’s mandate for marketing automation providers: create a central place, in the cloud, where all the various tools marketers implement can talk to each other. It was the reason we created the Eloqua AppCloud. The Eloqua AppCloud provides marketers with a central platform where the wide array of apps they depend on — from data management, webinars and social media analysis to text messaging, direct mail and community management — can be understood in context. The result is a unified view of the buyer behavior.

Put another way, the cloud is creating the need for Revenue Performance Management, where marketing is aligned with sales on a common goal: driving revenue growth. While cloud computing might feel like it’s creating a fragmented marketing environment, it’s actually making the single view of the buyer possible in a way never before possible.

And with that one view of the truth in sight, sales and marketing teams can close more deals faster, accelerating revenue performance.

I expect the pace of change will quicken in 2012. If marketers want to keep ahead, they’ll need a holistic view of prospects and leads across all communication channels they use. It’s going to be another cloudy year.