3rd Pick in the 2013 Marketing Cloud Acquisition Draft Is …

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Gosh, it is almost getting boring around here waiting to see where the next selection will go. Salesforce grabbing up ExactTarget with the first selection was the first big surprise. Not so much the ExactTarget side, because there had been rumors for some time that ET was on the market.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Gosh, it is almost getting boring around here waiting to see where the next selection will go.

Salesforce grabbing up ExactTarget with the first selection was the first big surprise. Not so much the ExactTarget side, because there had been rumors for some time that ET was on the market. The surprise was more about Salesforce jumping into the fray. Oh, they definitely needed this acquisition or one like it. For all the great tools that Salesforce has for gathering, organizing, prioritizing and listening to your contacts and gathering data, what they have never had is a robust and efficient way to segment and actually reach those valuable contacts. ExactTarget gives them that one big missing capability through the ET campaign management platform, along with many fresh concepts and ideas in social opportunities.

The other gem in what Salesforce picked up in this acquisition, and what likely drove the total price of ExactTarget so high, is ET’s recent purchase of Pardot to strengthen their own marketing automation growth plans. Even the Salesforce CEO gushed about the inclusion of Pardot in his Twitter post around the purchase, thrilled that the transaction included: “The fastest-growing marketing automation and lead nurturing company for Salesforce users.”

But that price. Wow—$2.5 billion. Worth it? Yes, most likely, in the long term. But in the short term, it is a real drain on the cash flow for Salesforce; probably severely limiting other expansion plans or possibilities. It seems painful enough that now, just a month later, they have had to take out a $300 million loan to carry the cost. I have to believe that Salesforce is certain that the long-term cross-sell and integration possibilities for both companies will make it all worthwhile.

Then a few weeks later, an even bigger shock when Adobe slips in to scoop up Neolane. Another big matchup that fits the overall strategy needs of both organizations. While I hadn’t heard of any open shopping of Neolane, it makes sense that they would be eventually in the crosshairs of a larger enterprise. A strong set of campaign management tools, a top-line roster of satisfied clients, a steady string of industry honors and awards during the last four or five years, and continuous innovation of the product line toward achieving “visionary” ranking across three separate areas in Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant” reports and named a “leader” in Forrester’s “Wave” report. There was a whole lot of upside potential waiting there for the right suitor. Like Salesforce just a little earlier and Oracle in 2012, before the Eloqua acquisition, Adobe was the big man on campus in its primary business, but has stumbled about in efforts to build a suite of contact management and execution tools that would translate to the market segments outside of its solid base of agency clients drawn in by its creative leadership. Neolane will certainly be able do that and bring powerful new strategic offerings to the Adobe table.

So the 2013 first- and second-round picks have been completed. Where do the prognosticators think the next two or three picks will fall? Silverpop, which had also flirted with Salesforce in the past, seems primed. But who trades up to get them? SAS maybe? Or are they completely satisfied with their own marketing automation tool? They might jump in to keep up with the Joneses in finding a way to up the game on their existing marketing automation capabilities. Or maybe SAS goes for top-gun Marketo, which is always talked about in merger potential conversations, but never seems to work out the final details of a deal. How about Microsoft? Do they take their time, because they had the last move in 2012 when they picked up Marketing Pilot, or do they decide to make the bigger splash with one of the big dog free agents—either before SAS moves, or will they wait for one of the other choices? There are plenty of potentially available independents out there ready and willing to be courted. And there is never a shortage of companies looking to add a ready-to-serve subsidiary to their arsenal.

So who do you think will be the next CRM/Marketing Automation data darlings to join forces toward World Marketing Domination? Take a guess, email it to me, and I will dig up a special prize for the first one—or ones—to get it right.