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Jul 10, 2001
Case Study

How Oracle's Chief Marketing Officer Transformed Their Online Marketing That

SUMMARY: When former software developer Mark Jarvis was promoted to the position of Chief Marketing Officer for Oracle three years ago, he only had five years of marketing experience, and absolutely no formal marketing training. Plus, he wasn't inheriting a particularly strong marketing organization. As he puts it, "Oracle sucked at marketing." Now Oracle's online sales are in the billions.Read the exclusive MarketingSherpa Case Study to learn how Jarvis turned things around.

When former software developer Mark Jarvis was promoted to the position of Chief Marketing Officer for Oracle three years ago, he only had five years of marketing experience, and absolutely no formal marketing training.

Plus, he wasn't inheriting a particularly strong marketing organization. As he puts it, "Oracle sucked at marketing. We just did what everyone else did, without asking any relevant questions about it." Oracle's marketers, located in 63 different countries, all reported to their local headquarters, and it showed.

For example, the company had 63 different country Web sites, each with very different branding and navigation. Jarvis says, "You found ridiculous things. The logo for was red, the UK logo was blue, in Czechoslovakia they decided the logo wasn't important and didn't have it!"

Oracle's CEO Larry Ellison gave Jarvis two mission-critical goals to accomplish -- to save money on marketing and ensure Oracle had a consistent brand around the world. Luckily he also gave Jarvis the internal power needed to make sweeping changes in order to accomplish them.


Jarvis' first move was to centralize everything. All marketing leaders reported in to the US headquarters. All marketing materials, from advertisements to product data sheets, were now to be created by the central US office. (Jarvis, never afraid of voicing an opinion, notes, "People think there are huge cultural differences, there aren't. It's rubbish.")

The 63 country Web sites were all dismantled to make way for one, home page site from which all other sub-sites can be easily reached. The home page also offers visitors their choice of 24 languages (plus English) that are spoken by 97% of the world's population.

Last but not least, Jarvis also made sure all data was centralized. He says, "Our email marketing is connected to the Web site, which is connected to the developer network ... all marketing and financial systems are using one single database. That gives us incredible information about customers. I know what software they download, which banner ads they click on, which pages they looked at on and how long they spent looking at them."

Jarvis adores data. He says, "Marketing is not an art. It's a science. We are treating it as a science -- we worked out the equations and see how well all the chemicals work together. When we want to run a campaign, my question is give me the data to prove why it works. That's the only way they'll ever get the campaign out is to give me scientific research to prove it works."

To that end he added a data "dash board" to the marketing staff's computer screens so they all can access key marketing and sales reports in real time. He also changed job requirements -- now every single member of marketing staff, even the creatives, are required to view and analyze that data. There is no single department or staffer whose whole job is to analyze, rather it's part of the marketing role as a whole. So nobody's a pure creative and nobody's a pure analyst.

This doesn't mean Jarvis is unwilling to take a risk. In fact he encourages marketers to propose campaigns that might be useful failures -- failures that Oracle can learn from. For example, Jarvis ran a particular banner campaign for 18 months that he knew would fail, just to learn more about click throughs' reactions to landing page design tests. (The landing page that loaded more quickly without any Flash design won.)

After consolidating all marketing efforts and messages and grounding all decisions in factual data, Jarvis next turned his attention to maximizing the power of Internet marketing to cut sales costs. Here are three key examples:

1. Education: Oracle had been spending an average of $352 per attendee on executive seminars held in hotels. Jarvis replaced this activity with an ongoing series of Web-based seminars (aka webinars) and live chat events, which cost an average of 92 cents per attendee.

2. eSales: Instead of relying on expensive field sales reps for small-medium accounts, Oracle drives these buyers online. The marketing department now emails prospective buyers personalized quotes which are good for 30 days ... if they go to the Web site and buy there. Next, a telesales team is on hand to help new online buyers through the process. Jarvis says, "If they feel confident, they'll do it alone the second time. If we can get people to buy $500,000 worth of software without anyone involved, that's the goal."

Oracle's marketers also reduce shopping cart abandonment rates by sending a personalized email offer to those shoppers who've left their carts without purchasing. If needed, telesales can also step in at this stage.

Jarvis explains, "We call it guided selling. Let's say we run a banner ad and a customer comes to a landing page, clicks on one, two, three things on the page and then we lose them. We will email that customer within 24 hours with a compelling offer if they registered -- bear in mind we already have a massive database of all our customers from previous history."

3. e-Renewals: Oracle also removed sales reps from the renewal and upgrade sales process in favor of lower cost emarketing. Jarvis says, "Before where a customer who'd bought 100 users of a database license and they came back to buy another 50, the purely sales people were having to deal with the phone calls. If a sales rep got that 'I want to buy more' call but also got a phone call for a $40 million sale, you know which phone call's going to get answered!"

During the process of moving small-medium sales online, so sales reps could focus on bigger accounts, Jarvis' team experimented with Web design. Visitors to the home page will see a home page very unlike most B-to-B sites. There are almost no graphics, no photos of happy people, no Flash, and nearly everything is black and white text. Jarvis says, "I wanted the fastest Web page on the Web! We want people to find content on the site quickly and showcase our own technology."

Once visitors reach the site, they can explore a burgeoning series of educational, community and informational options, all designed to keep them building a relationship with Oracle (and building their profiles in its marketing database.)

Initially attention was focused on developers. Jarvis removed all barriers to software downloads. Before only buyers could download software, now anyone can. He explains, "The honor system works. The average Fortune 2000 doesn't want to be using illegal software to run their Web site."

Developers can use the site's message boards and discussion groups to discuss products amongst themselves without any restrictions. Jarvis explains, "Online community fosters incredible loyalty. We don't want to be controlling about allowing people to express themselves. Someone on the database once said our database on Linux sucks -- we watched the fires burn for three days while 200 other people told the guy he was an idiot."

In 2001, Jarvis turned his attention to creating site sections that business executives would use as much as their developers did. He decided to launch a business information site for executives. He explains, "Larry said he had multiple home pages. He goes to Yahoo, he goes to the Economist, he goes to BusinessWeek, and he goes to So we came up with the idea to take all that content into a single Web page."


Jarvis says, "We probably sell more online than" 89% of Oracle's sales to small-medium North American companies (which Jarvis defines as companies sized less than $500 million) are made online today. Nearly 100% of Oracle's renewals and upgrades are sold online today. has 1,660,000 registered users and a steady average of 3,000 new unique visitors register every weekday, plus 1,000 a day on weekends. Jarvis says, "It's a little scary how predictable that is." About 30% of "techies" visiting site register, while a lower percentage of business execs do. A total of about 300,000 execs have registered for Oracle's new business news section that launched in February 2001.

Predictably, developers are the biggest users of the site today. Jarvis says the key to his online success with developers has been the word, "free." "Free downloads, free education, free everything." Four million visitors go to's developer section every weekday.

Is there anything Oracle does wrong? Jarvis admits he's still learning how to appeal to the general business audience online. He's also looking forward to Oracle's email newsletters relaunch in the next couple of weeks. He says, "I personally don't think we've exploited newsletters at all."

We suggest curious B-to-B marketers register for Oracle's newsletters soon in order to see for themselves how the newsletters evolve as Oracle's data-driven marketing team fine-tunes them.
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