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Chapter 3: Segmentation & Subscription


One of the biggest barriers I find new users to Eloqua face is the construct of “lists” and how Eloqua’s Email Groups and Subscriptions work together to deliver a powerful and easy to manage process.

To really get the most out of your investment with Oracle Eloqua I’d encourage you to set aside your “list” focus. You need to view campaigns as dynamic as well as people’s inclusion in those campaigns as dynamic.

The problem with the thinking that is often behind lists, is that they’re static or list members are manually added or removed in place of a robust subscription management process. The room for error is substantial.

With legislation, like the EU’s GDPR, there’s no room for manual error which is likely when excel spreadsheets are your source of truth.

What is a List?

When most digital marketers talk about Lists, they often mean a literal list of people, with an email address & perhaps their first name – often stored and managed in excel.

Or they refer to Lists as a construct of their previous email marketing platform. MailChimp is the major culprit with the use of this term, although around 2020 they used the term Segments in their application.

The major challenge with Lists is that they are often static in nature and exist in a silo. By silo I mean they are not connected to any source of truth e.g. a CRM or even an ERP system.

Email Groups are not Lists

An Eloqua Email Group is not a list of people. Think of an Email Group as you would a subscription to National Geographic magazine or some other magazine you have posted to your home on a regular basis. 

You specifically sign up to that subscription and at some point, you may unsubscribe or cancel your subscription. That doesn’t mean for example that you never want anything to do with e.g. National Geographic, you simply want to unsubscribe from the magazine.

This “subscription management” functionality is built-in to Eloqua for all editions i.e. Basic, Standard and Enterprise.

Segments are not Lists

You could argue semantics on this one, but I will stick with the idea that Segments are NOT lists. Specifically they are not lists as you would experience in platforms like MailChimp. 

The key difference being that Eloqua uses the email address as the unique identifier. So while some platforms will allow one person, with one email address to opt-in to multiple lists and use a different name in each list, Eloqua will not. This is a good thing.

The person and their unique email address are at the heart of the Eloqua data model and a single person and their single email address are constant across all subscriptions.

What about Eloqua’s Shared Lists? Where do they fit in?

“A shared list is a static list of contacts that you can use across Oracle Eloqua. Like a shared filter, a shared list is a component of segmentation used as a common resource when designing campaigns or programs.

Once you’ve identified contacts that have a common relationship, create a shared list to keep that relationship clearly defined.”

SOURCE: Eloqua Help Centre

Shared Lists are an incredibly helpful tool with many applications. For example, when running an event registration campaign I place all registrants in a Shared List at the point of the form submission. I can then use that Shared List as a source of truth for all registrants. I can reference the Shared List from the Campaign Canvas ensuring I don’t send an invitation email to people who have already registered.

Another example, for a monthly webinar campaign I have a single Shared List called “All Time Webinar Registrants”. That shared list is almost three years old and is used in multiple campaigns and helps personalise messages in the context of people having previously attended or not attended one of our webinars.

How should you group or assign Eloqua Email Groups?

Administrators can create email group defaults for various group types. It’s important to consider not only the type of email included in that group, but also the target audience; there should be some shared relevance between the recipients to ensure an optimised experience.

Here are a few suggested group types:

  • By marketing asset type: One of the more common setups is to organise email groups by the type and instance of the marketing asset. For example, you may have different email groups for different newsletters, notifications, PRs, emergency bulletins, and so on.
  • By department: You can group the emails by the department from which they are sent. This is particularly useful if you have several different departments sending different types of emails to contacts. For larger companies, the top-level categories might be by department, with functional groupings within each department area.
  • By campaign: You could separate your emails into different campaign email groups. This will make it easier for you to isolate the responses to each campaign. Again, this structure could be within a department structure if more than one department (for instance: Marketing, Sales, Support) is distributing email to recipients. I would only encourage using an Email Group associated to a single campaign if the campaign is big. By big I mean a one off special campaign where you may want to section people off for some reason. Perhaps a joint campaign, you want to ensure people subscribed to a joint campaign do not get mixed into your always on campaigns. You can use their email group subscription as an exclusion.
  • By event: In some cases, particularly for larger events (such as trade shows), you may want to have an email group for each event. In other instances, it may make more sense to organise by the type of event, such as seminars, trade shows, and webinars.
  • By user or agent: In a really large operation, you may want to allow individual marketers or sales personnel to run their own email groups.
  • By industry: If you are addressing multiple industry verticals, it may make sense to organise email groups by different industries.
  • By product or service: If you have a large catalog of products and/or services, you may want to organise email groups by the different types of products.

Segments can be dynamic or static

You will be most familiar with the static segment approach with your campaigns and this is also the default position many marketers fall to. However, you want to take maximum advantage of the Automation Eloqua offers you.

Why do you want dynamic Segments?

Because you’re not using a b-grade email marketing platform anymore and you’re investment in Eloqua suggests you want more, you want to deliver a richer customer experience.

Once your campaign is active (notice the ACTIVE label in the top left-hand corner of the screen shot above) your Segment will change colour depending on the configuration you have applied. 

The Dynamic Segment remains green and will continually add people to the campaign based on the filter criteria you have used in Segments Editor. 

The grey Static Segments, shown above, have been configured to only add people once when the campaign is first activated. 

All three Segments shown above have a number below them, adjacent to a green tick. That is the number of unique emails/contacts that have entered the Campaign via that Segment.

An example of why Dynamic Segments are a good idea

I host a monthly webinar for Eloqua customers, the Eloqua User Group. We have various ways people can subscribe to the monthly Eloqua User Group Webinar. From links on our website and various calls-to-action in always-on campaigns.

The monthly campaign is launched around the first week of the month and runs for about two weeks, with the last day of the campaign being the day of the webinar. Because people can subscribe to the Eloqua User Group at any stage, it’s possible that a person who subscribes the day after I launch the campaign, will miss out until the following month. 

You want to strike while the iron is hot, having someone complete a form submission and then have to wait 30 days before they receive their *first invitation is crazy.


I create the Segment from a template with a filter which includes any form submissions for Eloqua User Group subscribers.

That segment is placed on the canvas and is configured to add members regularly until campaign is deactivated. The re-evaluation frequency is set to once every hour.

That means that once the campaign is activated, Eloqua will refresh the segment every hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until the end date of the campaign.

If a person submits the form to subscribe to the Eloqua User group and the monthly Eloqua User Group is active, they will receive an invitation to join that months webinar within an hour.

*NOTE: In the specific example of the Eloqua User Group, we market it as “membership” of the group. When a person “joins” the User group they immediately receive a confirmation email

In this screen shot you can see how a Segment can be either dynamic or static. When you add a Segment to the Campaign Canvas it’s static by default.

You will need to select the Add members regularly until campaign is deactivated option and assign a Re-evaluation Frequency to ensure the Segment is dynamic.

Email Groups = Subscriptions

As you build your emails, you’ll discover that you must assign an email group to your email asset.

What you see as an Email Group, your audience see as a subscription. A subscription may be aligned to a campaign, but it’s not advisable to create an email group for every campaign – that’s a waste of time.

The naming convention you apply to your email groups can be “internal” i.e. only seen by you. You can apply a different name to the email for external preference centres i.e. what your subscribers see.

I’d suggest keeping these names the same or at least very similar makes like easier for everyone.

What are Email Groups?

“Email groups allow you to configure default settings for similar emails, including default headers, footers, and subscription management options. If you regularly send brochures and event emails, each of these types of messages can have their own default settings. This makes design and deployment easier for your organisation.

Using email groups (and group defaults) is an easy way to ensure visual and contextual consistency. This can be especially valuable when you routinely deploy messages to a set segment, like subscribers to a monthly newsletter. Consistent visual signifiers like branding images in an email header, and agent information in the footer, can help foster familiarity among a base audience. Moreover, keeping subscription options readily available helps to develop a sense of transparency and trust within these communications.

“As a part of the subscription management functionality built into Eloqua, you are not able to send an email before associating it with an email group. Having an email group defined for each email makes it easier to manage and provide customised unsubscribe options instead of simply defaulting to the global unsubscribe list.”

Let’s be clear about “Opt-in”, “Opt-out”, “Unsubscribe” & “Unsubscribed Globally”

Jurisdictions around the world will have varying views on the information I’m about to share. The upside is that Eloqua can accommodate your “opt-in” and “subscription” process as needed by you and signed off by your legal team. Eloqua is flexible.

Some keywords & my suggested definitions

I emphasise this point because I have had numerous conversations with Eloqua clients where the use of various words and language serves to utterly confuse people. My objective below is to provide guidance to help you develop a robust solution to suit your organisation.

Eloqua Terminology – language used in the platform

Eloqua provides you with two levels of “subscription”. At the highest level, a person can be “Subscribed Globally” or “Unsubscribed Globally”. Below that you have Email Groups e.g. Events, Newsletter, Webinars, Thought Leadership – these can all be Email Groups. A person can be subscribed or unsubscribed to an individual email group.

When a Contact first enters Eloqua e.g. via a CRM sync or from an Eloqua form submission, the default action is that they’re “Subscribed Globally”. Your role as a marketer is to then incentivise them to subscribe to additional subscriptions e.g. Events etc.

However, if the person chooses to Unsubscribe Globally (you may call this opt-out), this overrides all Email Group level subscriptions regardless of the person being subscribed or unsubscribed. Even if you miss excluding them in the Segment, Eloqua will not allow you to send an email to an Unsubscribed Globally or Email Group Unsubscribed Contact.

“Subscribed Globally” is as it sounds, it’s the highest level of subscription.

A person is either “in” or they’re “out”. Think of this as a person being subscribed to your brand, or opted-in to your brand. They’re giving you permission to communicate with them via email. 

This is NOT granular as to the type of email communication they want, it’s simply permission for you to communicate with them.

Once you have a person’s opt-in (Subscribed Globally), you can use Eloqua’s Email Groups to manage more granular, topical subscriptions.

This is best done via a Preference Centre and with call’s to action during relevant campaigns. e.g. if you have a an email group for “Events”, invite people to “subscribe” to future events when you invite them to your next webinar or in-person event. Simply add a check box to your Eloqua form and set the Form Processing Steps to subscribe them should they check the box.

Eloqua’s “Subscribed Globally” = opted in

Eloqua’s “Unsubscribed Globally” = opted out.

Subscribed to Groups

Unsubscribed from Groups