In a year when software is driving IT spending increases, marketing software is all the rage. You practically need a scorecard to keep track of all the high-profile acquisitions that have taken place in the last year.
Salesforce acquired ExactTarget. Oracle snapped up Vitrue's social marketing cloud. And HP made waves with an Autonomy-powered software-as-a-service marketing solution.
Why are so many big software and IT companies scrambling to float marketing SaaS offerings?
Enterprise Apps Today asked Nucleus Research Vice President Rebecca Wettemann why enterprises are so bullish on marketing software. To put it simply, marketing software is helping companies grow their profits.
Marketing software, she said, has "gotten to a point where it delivers returns for companies." Marketing automation, optimization and social engagement solutions, in particular, are generating measurable results and have matured to the point that they are no longer such a tough sell.
While Wettemann doesn't discount the rising influence of chief marketing officers (CMOs) in the corporate world, she said CFOs play an even more pivotal role. As holders of the purse strings, it's chief financial officers (CFOs) who are "willing to spend money on software that provides a proven return on investment," she said.
In these times of economic unease and tight IT budgets, she added that "nobody spends money on nice-to-have software."
Here's a look at some of the biggest names in enterprise software how they're approaching the marketing software market.
The recent purchase of ExactTarget not only ties together Salesforce's marketing portfolio, it brings the company closer to being a one-stop-shop for practically every customer-focused activity and interaction.
Salesforce's Gordon Evans, vice president of Product Marketing, Marketing Cloud, told Enterprise Apps Today via email, "Salesforce.com's acquisition of ExactTarget will further our mission of being the world’s leading CRM platform across sales, service and marketing. The combination of ExactTarget's industry-leading marketing automation and campaign management capabilities, with Salesforce.com’s leading social marketing solutions—including listening with Radian6, publishing with Buddy Media, and advertising with Social.com—will enable Salesforce.com to deliver the marketing platform of choice for CMOs."
Salesforce may pull it off. Wettemann said the company is already "seeing real return on investment that customers are getting on social solutions."
"We'll see them be a serious player," said Wettemann, noting that the company is unafraid to acquire its way into hot markets and appears to be putting real effort into its marketing cloud.
Oracle locked down the social marketing piece by acquiring Vitrue last year. In December, it paid a hefty $871 million for Eloqua, a marketing automation and revenue performance management cloud software company.
During the deal's announcement, Thomas Kurian, executive vice president of Oracle Development, said in a statement that Eloqua's technology would be the engine that makes the company's marketing cloud hum. "Eloqua's leading marketing automation cloud will become the centerpiece of the Oracle Marketing Cloud and is an important addition to the Oracle Customer Experience offering, which includes the Oracle Sales Cloud, Oracle Commerce Cloud, Oracle Service Cloud, Oracle Content Cloud and Oracle Social Cloud," he said.
In Wettemann's view, Big Blue gets kudos for being "focused on making the technology accessible outside of IBM's traditional footprint."
IBM has built a formidable marketing cloud arsenal for itself, including Unica for email and cross-channel marketing and Cormetrix for digital marketing optimization and social analytics. Its Cognos business intelligence platform and Big Data success story, Watson, may also have a place in IBM's marketing portfolio.
The Jeopardy champion Watson may follow up its stints in healthcare, banking and customer service with a turn in the marketing department – a move that would really heighten IBM's profile in the space.
Software giant SAP is rarely called an "emerging player," but that is how Wettemann described its efforts in the marketing space. She said SAP has some catching up to do -- but like Oracle, SAP has been known to go on acquisition sprees.
SAP does have a few marketing offerings. SAP Precision Marketing, for instance, is a cloud-based product that employs the company's HANA Big Data analytics platform to help marketers deliver personalized, insight-driven "point of decision" offers and promotions.
On paper, it's hard to find fault with HP's approach. While the technology behind HP Autonomy Marketing Cloud is intriguing, Wettemann suggested that HP's relative weakness in software may hinder adoption.
HP Autonomy Marketing Cloud is comprised of TeamSite for Web content management, publishing and personalization; MediaBin Cloud marketing asset management; Optimost for self-service marketing optimization and reporting; Explore Cloud for real-time customer sentiment, social and Web analytics; and the Aurasma interactive mobile augmented reality platform.
Keep an eye on Infor, Wettemann said. The firm's customer interaction advisor is a particular highlight. She pointed out that Infor's "investments in usability, cloud and Big Data" may pay off as its better-known rivals duke it out.
Infor's Orbis MRM (marketing resource management) software, for example, provides management capabilities over digital assets, marketing projects and budget and spend. The integrated suite's other components include a global marketing calendar with live updates, automated artwork production and localization, and copy and creative approval process management.
The platform's dashboard and marketing analytics capabilities allow marketers to assess their progress, campaign effectiveness and ROI.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Enterprise Apps Today and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.