Salesforce Buys ExactTarget. Who Benefits?

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Today’s announcement of Salesforce buying ExactTarget for a significant premium truly validates the importance of email marketing in the modern enterprise.

The email marketing sector has produced multiple winners in the past, such as  Constant Contact (NASDAQ: CTCT) and Responsys (NASDAQ: MKTG). However, the  public markets have not valued them fairly due to their singular focus on email.

Now Salesforce is telling everyone that email marketing is important after all.  And as one of the original co-founders of Responsys, I applaud them for doing so.

However, it is very clear that this acquisition is aimed purely at the financial markets as Salesforce tries to bulk up against the likes of Oracle and Workday, and does nothing at all for Salesforce’s customers. Salesforce is notorious for its clunky user experience, and adding ExactTarget’s legacy email marketing platform to the mix still leaves their joint customers back in the 20th century, unfortunately.

What does this mean for the marketing automation industry? I guess it all depends.

For Marketo (NASDAQ: MKTO), this is not good news in the short term, since they have historically hitched their wagon to Salesforce (well over 80% of their customers are also Salesforce customers). However, they are probably better off in the long term, since they can now focus on building a strong standalone company instead of waiting around for Salesforce to buy them.

For other vendors, the key point to keep in mind now is that prospective buyers are going to be paying more attention than ever before to email marketing capabilities. For vendors with a content marketing heritage, this could prove to be difficult to overcome.

For Act-On, this acquisition is great news, since the premium paid validates our belief in the continued importance of email  marketing in the wider e-marketing ecosystem.

We’ve used our heritage (the Act-On engineering team was the founding engineering team of Responsys) to build a next generation platform that is able to handle vast amounts of data relating to email, social media, web analytics, search optimization, and much more.  We have grown rapidly without over-reliance on any specific CRM vendor, and we offer tight and clean integrations with Salesforce, Microsoft, Sugar, NetSuite and Sage.

We are now powering over 1 billion marketing touch points every month on behalf of our 1,500+ customers, with no slowdown in sight.