Value Added: Joe Payne and the (online) art of closing a deal

At work at Eloqua are, from left, Jason Dooley, Joe Payne, and Sean Eidemiller. The firm grossed more than $50 million in 2010. Eloqua is the category-defining marketing automation platform that increases ROI, proves the value of marketing, and drives revenue by improving marketing effectiveness.
At work at Eloqua are, from left, Jason Dooley, Joe Payne, and Sean Eidemiller. The firm grossed more than $50 million in 2010. Eloqua is the category-defining marketing automation platform that increases ROI, proves the value of marketing, and drives revenue by improving marketing effectiveness. (Photo By Stephen Voss - )

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 16, 2011; 11:03 PM

Some companies are worth writing about just because they do cool stuff.

Take Eloqua, a Tysons Corner-based software company that helps its users - which include the Washington Capitals and the Republican National Committee - close deals with customers or donors.

Eloqua is the online equivalent of measuring whether the person nosing around your auto showroom is waiting for a car to be repaired or is intent on buying that sparkling Chevy Volt.

Think of it as replacing the vibe that many salespeople look for when they offer a customer help or an outstretched hand.

"Every person who comes to your Web site isn't a good person for the salespeople to follow up on," said Joe Payne, Eloqua's chief executive. "What we do is filter down by tracking their behavior, by gathering information from them, and we filter down to the ones most likely to buy and then push those to the client's sales force.

"We read Internet body language."

And I thought no one was paying attention when I was noodling around online.

Eloqua, founded 10 years ago in Toronto and backed by Baltimore and Silicon Valley investors, employs 260 people worldwide. It grossed more than $50 million last year and has branches in Toronto (still home to more than half its staff), London, Singapore and Germany.

Payne said the company plans to go public in 2013. He won't say how much the net profit margin is; Eloqua rolls its profits back into growth.

"The Internet has fundamentally changed how businesses buy products," said Payne, a Washington native who has worked for Coca-Cola and MicroStrategy. "Nobody talks to salespeople anymore. People educate themselves online instead."

Eloqua's clients include 10 National Basketball Association teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, as well as cable giant Comcast and Boston-based Fidelity Investments. Among its local clients are the American Bankers Association, Cisco-owned Tandberg, FrontPoint Security and Vocus, a Lanham-based company that makes software for the public relations industry.

Eloqua helps the Capitals separate the casual viewer from the serious ticket buyer. Its software, made in Virginia and Toronto, tells the Caps sales team if someone has visited the team's ticket site five times in the past week - which means it's worth having a salesperson contact them.


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