Salesforce Acquires ExactTarget – Marketing Automation Consolidation Continues


060413_exacttarget_600By Brian Hansford, account director and marketing automation practice lead for Heinz Marketing

The consolidation of cloud-based marketing platforms continues! Salesforce announced today the ‘definitive agreement’ to buy ExactTarget for $2.5 billion.  Momentum for consolidation in the marketing automation space continues which started in 2010 when IBM bought Unica and Teradata acquired Aprimo. There have been smaller events that haven’t garnered as much attention such as Manticore merging with Sales Engine International and Microsoft’s strange acquisition of MarketingPilot last October.

Eloqua turned up the heat with their IPO and subsequent acquisition by Oracle.  This leaves Marketo and Silverpop as two of the larger remaining independent leading marketing automation vendors, at least for today.  Act-On is growing rapidly and it’s only a matter of time before they make a move on some equity event.  Marketo went public last month and it will be interesting to see if they get that far before being acquired by… SAP? Adobe?

There is a mass of other Marketing Automation solution providers that cover the SMB space with some dabbling in the enterprise.  But as a whole the large enterprise space will be a battleground between Oracle and Salesforce by 2014.

Here are some considerations and questions as we watch developments through the rest of 2013 and into 2014:

What about SAP and Adobe? And does Microsoft even get it?

Marketo may actually go public but they won’t stay independent for long.  My speculation is now on Adobe picking up Marketo for over $1B.  SAP is left gesticulating on what they want to do, if anything, with cloud-based marketing solutions. And Microsoft has clearly failed with the MarketingPilot acquisition and they need to try again.

That leaves the mid-market

Oracle and Salesforce will battle in the enterprise.  Who will dominate the mid-market? Marketo? Act-On?  The winner will have a clear focus on the mid-market and dedicate resources to support existing customers, new customers, and the partner ecosystem.

Business Integration

Acquisitions are messy no matter what happens. Oracle is racing to complete their business integration with Eloqua. Salesforce needs to figure out how they will integrate ExactTarget and Pardot.

CRM Platforms are Evolving

The CRM platform is the hub to the wheel in the marketing cloud.  Ultimately we will see “Marketing Cloud” offerings evolve into single platform in order to increase sales efficiencies and dramatically improve revenue lifecycle reporting. Standalone marketing automation players will always exist but the value of having CRM and marketing combined into a single platform is very compelling.


One of the single biggest areas of pain between Marketing Automation and CRM platforms is gathering reliable and consistent information.  It only makes sense for CRM and Marketing Automation platforms to become more tightly integrated into single platforms in order to improve reporting on data that matters.


What are the roadmaps for Salesforce and Oracle with their shiny new acquisitions? Enterprise CxO’s want to know and soon.

Customers and Partners

This is what really matters.  It appears Salesforce made a land grab for some notable ExactTarget enterprise customers and a powerful email platform.  I will be curious to see how they integrate Pardot and play with other vendors in the AppExchange .  (One interesting scenario will be with Microsoft who is a large ExactTarget customer. I’m sure that will change in 2014, if not sooner.)  Many customers will shift allegiances and agreements from one platform to the other.  Some customers will feel neglected.  Others will feel the love. More will be confused on exactly who they should go with as they get into Marketing Automation.  The partner ecosystem will shift for all of these vendors as new programs and requirements are rolled out.  Oracle and Salesforce will keep the customers they want and let others defect to other platforms.  CMO’s will demand longer term visibility to how they will be treated as customers.  The vendors that respond will win.

What are your thoughts? How do you see this potentially impacting your business?