Marketing Automation: Implications of the buying race

Anyone watching the marketing automation space will see that most of the mainstream vendors have been snapped up by bigger organisations in a relatively short space of time. Here’s a reminder:

Vendor Acquired by
Alterian SDL
Unica IBM
Eloqua Oracle
Pardot Exact Target
Exact Target Salesforce.com
Neolane Adobe
Marketing Pilot Microsoft

 (It’s notable that Marketo stands out as the one that remains independent.)

So what does it mean for the customer? Firstly, the good news… The differentiator between marketing automation (MA) and fully-fledged marketing databases often lies in the data management capabilities. Most of these MA systems are developing well in this area and their new owners bring extra capabilities. Their deep pockets mean they can properly invest in and develop these acquisitions over the long term – good news for marketers.

Conversely, there are downsides. The more functionality you buy from a vendor, the more your dependency increases. Dependency leaves you vulnerable to price rises and living with solutions that are no longer fit-for-purpose. SaaS may be quick to deploy but there’s a danger of assuming it’s easy to change suppliers. Do what you can to keep the door open for changing vendors – agility in business is more important than ever. That’s easy to say… anyone want to pull out their Salesforce deployment now? And buy something a third of the price? Didn’t think so.

All these acquisitions also create uncertainty. What will happen to your platform – will it continue to be supported? Will the functionality originally bought start to disappear? What will happen to the inter-operation of platforms bought by competitors? Worst of all, will you be expected to migrate platforms completely?

So if you’re buying software right now, what should you consider? If you’re a Salesforce.com customer already you should watch what happens with the Exact Target/Pardot systems. Closer integration and improved data management tools would make this system a force to be reckoned with for many marketers. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft’s purchase of Marketing Pilot impacts Dynamics CRM. An already exceedingly capable platform with very good price points is likely to get even better.

Eloqua remains a strong stand alone platform in spite of the Oracle purchase. There are no signs of any dramatic changes happening there…so far. SDL (who bought Alterian) have interesting multi-language capabilities because of their core business.  IBM obviously offers sophisticated consulting and enterprise solutions for larger organisations that need people expertise in their projects as much as the Unica software. And Marketo comes free of these issues – for now of course.

Our best advice? Keep an eye on the market; don’t try to play too far ahead with your deployments and data-driven technology strategy; keep your data and reporting backed up; and try not to lock yourself into anything long term either by contract or complex customisation and integration. Then you can stay in charge of your business decisions while the feeding frenzy continues around you.

 

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