Microsoft Jumps into the Marketing Automation Space

As marketers juggle numerous social, email, and mobile channels, the demand for solutions that allow them to work more efficiently and effectively continues to rise.

According to research firm IDC, marketing automation is expected to grow faster than any other segment of CRM over the next four years.

To meet that need, technology firms are racing to build out their offerings. Only a few days after ExactTarget snapped up marketing automation provider Pardot for $95.5 million, Microsoft announced yesterday that it has acquired MarketingPilot for an undisclosed amount.

"MarketingPilot provides integrated marketing management solutions that allow organizations to better understand their customers, manage and streamline marketing operations, and create automated and measurable multichannel marketing campaigns," writes Bob Stutz, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Dynamics CRM division in a blog post. "This acquisition is a very exciting step forward for us, and will accelerate our ability to better meet the needs of CMOs …and better enable marketers to successfully plan, execute, monitor, and optimize customer interactions across digital, social, and traditional channels, and measure ROI."

In terms of competing with large enterprises that are expanding their offerings through acquisitions, there is still room for younger and more nimble start-up companies, insists Alain Paquin, founder and CEO of Whatsnexx, a cloud-based marketing automation company. Whatsnexx lets marketers run multichannel marketing campaigns by using an alerts system integrated with a series of apps that will automatically send offers and content to customers based on their responses.

"Technology is moving so fast that companies can't put everything into one solution," Paquin says. "Start-ups are good at specializing in specific areas." Many large systems are also too complex for marketers, which can slow down implementation, Paquin adds. "To be successful, simplicity is key," he says.

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