Salesforce.com to Acquire ExactTarget, Round Out Marketing Cloud

Cloud computing heavyweight Salesforce.com will acquire cloud-based digital marketing platform ExactTarget for $2.5 billion, the companies announced today.

"We're incredibly excited about pioneering CRM for B2C organizations," remarked Scott Dorsey, chairman and CEO of ExactTarget, on a conference call with media and investors. "We're managing hundreds of consumer records at scale in real time...we're really excited to partner with the Salesforce.com team and take those capabilities to new levels."

Salesforce.com, which combined social media listening capabilities afforded by Radian6 with social content publishing and advertising through Buddy Media and Social.com, will further pad out its Marketing Cloud with the addition of ExactTarget and its marketing automation capabilities. The marketing automation space has been rapidly heating up, with Marketo's recent filing of an initial public offering (IPO), Silverpop's new $25 million round of financing, and Oracle's $871 million acquisition of Eloqua.

According to Ray Wang, principal analyst and CEO of Constellation Research, ExactTarget is a good fit for its cloud acquirer; the move adds a solid list of customers that use the platform for campaign management and automation, such as Coca-Cola and Gap. However, there could be competitive spill-off.

"It means Salesforce.com is in competition with Marketo and all other marketing automation products," Wang comments. "As a partner...if you are doing core marketing automation and campaign management, you are in direct competition. However, this accelerates their ability to deliver on the Marketing Cloud. If they succeed, their marketing cloud plays a central role as an aggregator for the CMO, so if you are very specialized in marketing analytics, [it's] not an issue for partners."

On a call with CRM, Michael Lazerow, the founder and CEO of Buddy Media, now chief marketing officer of the Salesforce.com Marketing Cloud, commented that "Salesforce.com has always been a company that's implemented its own playbook. We feel that ExactTarget's marketing automation and email capabilities fit in perfectly with Salesforce.com's social marketing acquisitions."

The acquisition deal, which is expected to close in July, could bring 6,000 ExactTarget user companies (many of which are joint customers of Salesforce.com's) into the Salesforce.com fold. "We realized there was a piece we needed to add to deliver this next generation customer platform," Lazerow remarked. "As Marc [Benioff] said,"We believe in an open ecosystem through our AppExchange and [our] Force.com [platform] being one of our fastest growing businesses—that will continue to be available and we encourage others to build on our platform."

Of ExactTarget's scale for Salesforce.com customers, Lazerow said companies will now be able to do cross-channel marketing and attribution across email, mobile campaigns, Facebook, Twitter, call centers, and beyond.

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