Eloqua Ltd., a privately held provider of marketing automation software, became a publicly traded company today on the NASDAQ exchange under the symbol ELOQ.

The company’s IPO offered 8 million common shares at $11.50 each, which at the time of publishing were up 13% to $13.08. Eloqua is challenged in the marketing automation space by the likes of Act-On, Aprimo, Marketo, Net-Results, SilverPop and others.

Eloqua’s share price comes in at the high end of a previously announced $9.50-$11.50 range. The company itself is selling 7 million of the 8 million shares, with stockholders selling the rest.

Shares Rise Modestly in Early Performance

According to the Wall Street Journal, in early performance this morning Eloqua’s IPO shares rose modestly in value, to $11.83 around 11 a.m. EDT, the shares continued to rise as the morning progressed and seem to have plateaued in the early afternoon.

The company has a history of losses and warns it may not be consistently profitable in the future. In 2011, Eloqua's revenue increased 40% to $71 million, though the company posted a net loss of $6.2 million, compared with a net loss of $1.5 million in 2010.  

The IPO price values Eloqua at about $368 million, or 4.4 times sales of $85 million in the 12 months through June 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with an average of about 8.1 for a group of 14 other companies in the software-as-a-service business. 

Eloqua Exec Sees Content Marketing Potential

To give an idea of why Eloqua decided the time was right to launch an IPO, a recent CMSWire interview with Eloqua VP of Content Marketing Joe Chernov offers insight into the company’s optimistic view of where content marketing is headed.

Defining content marketing as “what your company produces when it stops looking at the world through its own lens and instead begins to see through the eyes of its audience,” Chernov said properly executed content marketing works around problems posed by oversaturation of social media advertising. 

“(Content marketing is) a way to get people to discover and engage with your brand … on their own terms,” said Chernov. He further clarified this comment by saying content marketing campaigns engage consumers through lively content and activities such as Facebook tagging, and essentially turn brands into publishers. “We as consumers could be on the verge of some fascinating, immersive experiences with content,” he said.

Eloqua Receives Praise, Enters Partnerships

Recent good news for Eloqua includes being named as a leader in the June 2012 Gartner Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management, receiving special credit for its ability to support complex multichannel lead management processes, easy-to-use UI, 39% growth from 2010 to 2011, and high levels of user satisfaction.

Eloqua also recently entered high-profile partnerships with content marketing platform provider Compendium and Salesforce.com. The latter partnership will embed the Salesforce.com Chatter social business tool inside its marketing automation application to connect the sales and marketing departments. 

The days of tech IPOs producing instant jackpots are long gone, and in all likelihood Eloqua shares will offer moderate performance at best in the months ahead. But going public is a huge milestone in the life of any company, and now that it will be responsible for providing value to shareholders, watch for more new partnerships and products from Eloqua in the near future.

We see the positive response from the market as validation that digital marketing platforms and practices represent high value investments for companies that know how to leverage these tools to build customer engagement and optimize online customer experiences.