CRM giant Salesforce.com, which popularized the software-as-a-service concept, in early June announced plans to acquire ExactTarget in a transaction valued at approximately $2.5 billion. Saleforce.com says that by combining ExactTarget’s digital marketing capabilities with its own sales, service and social marketing solutions, it will create “a world-class marketing platform across e-mail, social, mobile and the web.”
“The CMO is expected to spend more on technology than the CIO by 2017,” Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of salesforce.com, said in announcing the deal. “The addition of ExactTarget makes Salesforce the starting place for every company and puts salesforce.com in the pole position to capture this opportunity.”
Here, Benioff explains why there’s such widespread interest – both by potential customers, industry startups and peripheral players like Salesforce.com – in what’s become known as social media management systems.
Altimeter Group defines SMMS as a “software tool that uses business rules and approved employees and partners to manage multiple social media accounts such as Facebook (News - Alert), Twitter, and YouTube. This system contains features such as governance, workflow, intelligence, and integration capabilities across the enterprise.” The consulting group also has written: “Like a disease, social media proliferation will leave companies crippled – unless they develop a strategy to manage now. Some companies have opened a virtual Pandora’s box: We found that global corporations are struggling to manage an average of 178 business-related social media accounts – a number likely to grow if unchecked. Beyond coordination challenges, unchecked accounts and disparate customer interactions expose brands to a host of legal, compliance, and fragmented brand-perception risks… .As a result, companies have begun to harness Social Media Management Systems to manage the multitude of customer touch points in social, while leveraging services that range from education, integration, community moderation, and beyond.”
Following the announcement of the salesforce.com-ExactTarget combination, Eric Holmen, CMO at RingRevenue, commented: “The epicenter of technology right now is the marketer's desktop, and Salesforce.com’s acquisition of ExactTarget is a smart strategy. The company is surrounding the prospective buyers across more channels, investing in the technology that filters the best leads, and expanding the distribution across these channels – especially in social and now e-mail. This previews how Salesforce and other CRM platforms are likely to approach other emerging channel technologies moving forward.”
The ExactTarget deal follows Salesforce.com’s 2011 moves to buy expertise in the social channel via its BuddyMedia and Radian6 acquisitions.
Econsultancy recently noted: “With now more than 100,000 customers, the company transformed how companies sell to and service their customers via the Sales and Service Clouds, Salesforce now aims to apply the same vision and mission to revolutionize how businesses market in the social era with the Marketing Cloud. The Salesforce Marketing Cloud is a combination of two companies, Radian6 and Buddy Media. Founded in 2006 Radian6 is the leader in social media monitoring and engagement recognized by both Gartner (News - Alert) and Forrester. Through Radian6 the Marketing Cloud and Salesforce established our strategic partnership with Twitter in both Analytics and Engagement. Founded in 2007, Buddy Media (News - Alert) is the industry leader in social media marketing. Including over 23 awards it is one of the companies to be included in all four of Facebook’s certified partner programs: pages, ads, apps, and insights.”
As discussed in the September 2012 issue of CUSTOMER magazine, Marcel LeBrun, senior vice president and general manager of Salesforce Radian6, last summer blogged that marketing used to involve media campaigns focused on one-way messaging and brand impressions. But social marketing is focused on building customer connections, two-way conversations and customer relationships, he wrote, adding that social media has moved from a specialized team in marketing to the foundation of marketing.
“We believe that marketing is undergoing the biggest transformation in 60 years,” he said.
Another company in the SMMS space is Sprinklr. In fact, CEO Ragy Thomas in an April interview told CUSTOMER magazine that Sprinklr is ranked No.1 in this category by eConsultancy Group and is one of the fastest-growing companies in the SMMS space.
The company, established in 2009 and funded by Battery Ventures and Intel (News - Alert) Capital, is in use by approximately 250 brands, including such well-known companies as 1-800-FLOWERS, JC Penney, Samsung, Sears, The Children's Place, and Walgreens.
Thomas said that Sprinklr is typically a second- or third-generation solution for its customers, many of which got their start with free listening tools from companies like HootSuite and TweetDeck. While most products in this category are point solutions that do not scale, Thomas said, the tools offered via Sprinklr’s SaaS (News - Alert)-based service cut across all job functions and include multiple modules within an architecture that is very scalable and flexible. Sprinklr offers a conversation management module; a collaboration module, which allows different business units to work together; a community management/social CRM module; a social campaign management module; and a social content management module.
PlumSlice, which expects to launch its SaaS offer in October, is another company getting ready to jump into the SMMS fray.
Abnesh Raina, CEO and founder of PlumSlice, talked up his experience working for leading brands including Costco, Restoration Hardware and Williams Sonoma. And he said that listening to customers is not just about social media and delivering service after the product is in the customer’s hands, it’s about leveraging the information collected to design products that meet customer needs. That said, Raina explained, PlumSlice has built a platform that uses social media, and more – enabling collaboration among product development and supply chain partners.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi