Sramana: What specifically did you do during the incubation process at Bain? What did you accomplish before you left to run Eloqua full time?
Mark Organ: I focused on customer development. One of my co-founders, Steve Woods, was also at Bain and did a lot of coding. He was also on a lot of customer calls with me. We would call up prospective customers and tell them what we were doing and ask them if they would be willing to buy our product. We started to get enough people saying yes to feel that we had received validation of our concept.
We started to get invited to pitching conferences for entrepreneurs. At the time, that felt like re-validation although in hindsight it probably was not. When we had somebody place an order with us, I left Bain to work full time.
Sramana: What was the value proposition you were going after?
Mark Organ: We would connect sales people with highly qualified prospects via the web. I was working on a number of sales effectiveness engagements. I was tasked to understand what kind of sales people they needed to hire and what the training program should be. They had a big sales retention problem. My job was to figure out why they had that problem.
I interviewed a lot of sale people and what I learned was that the difference between success and failure was not so much with the quality of the sales people. It had a lot more to do with quality of the leads the sales people had to work with. Today, that just seems obvious. In 1999, it was not that obvious. It was a surprise to the partner on the case as well as to the client.
The client I was working for had 54 offices. The 4 offices that performed the highest were the ones that broke almost every corporate rule in the book. They were real mavericks. They did not allow their sales reps to prospect. Their sales reps focused only on developing relationships and closing. They had specialized people do lead generation. That was completely heretic.
The big insight for me was that in an environment where demand was increasingly poor, there was a real business when it came to getting qualified leads to sales people. Increasingly those best leads were coming from the web. Even in 1996 and 1997 when the web was in its infancy, the best leads were still coming from the web as opposed to dialing for dollars.
Sramana: When you did your competitive analysis, did you run into a product called ProspectMiner by Intarka?
Mark Organ: Yes, I did.
Sramana: I’m the founder of that company.
Mark Organ: It’s a great product name because it is so obvious what it does.
Sramana: We were a bit ahead of our time. We started in 1997 and there was not lot of traction for that concept. People were just learning how to use the web.
Mark Organ: That’s a great point. Timing is everything. We were also ahead of the market and we hit the market wrong. We had to find a way to extend our life while we waited for the market to appear.