Salesforce.com has agreed to purchase email platform ExactTarget for $2.5 billion. It was exactly one year ago today that Salesforce.com dove deep into social marketing with its Buddy Media acquisition. The deal could give Salesforce a leg up when it comes to offering clients -- many of which already work with ExactTarget -- a more integrated approach to cross-channel campaigns, whether aimed at business clients or consumers.
"When you talk to CMOs, there's this idea that we've moved from just pages…into a world where people are signing up to do stuff," said Michael Lazerow, CMO of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Buddy Media CEO. Customers now expect companies to know what they've bought no matter what channel they're interacting in, he added. "And all of that data that we now are unifying can be used to build a next-generation customer platform."
While email marketing has never had the cachet of social-media marketing, the purchase indicates the continued importance of the channel and the desire for marketers to use it more strategically in conjunction with things like personalized site content, CRM call centers, social posts and social-media advertising.
"Email is a very exciting area for us," said Mr. Lazerow. "There's a lot of email related to how you sell to b-to-b customers and how you drive commerce transactions if you're b-to-c."
The ExactTarget platform adds email to Salesforce's social-listening platform Radian6, social-publishing platform Buddy Media and its social-advertising technology Social.com, .
The deal is "great for Salesforce, but not so great for marketers," argued Forrester Principal Analyst Robert Brosnan, who suggested some ExactTarget clients, especially those in the b-to-c space, may be deterred if product development and client service suffers as Salesforce begins its takeover. Exac tTarget clients include Coca-Cola, Gap and Nike.
"When my contract comes up for renewal why should I stay with [ExactTarget] rather than moving to Silverpop or Yesmail?" he asked.
Mr. Lazerow played down the challenges of integration from a technical standpoint, suggesting Salesforce would integrate only what it deems necessary.
"I just went through this with Buddy Media," he said, indicating that there aren't plans to create one big technology stack; rather integration will be more piecemeal based on client needs.
ExactTarget and its CEO Scott Dorsey will report to Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff, according to Mr. Lazerow. "ExactTarget will continue to operate as a stand-alone business headquartered in Indianapolis under my leadership," wrote Mr. Dorsey in a company blog post today.