Digital Leaders React to the Salesforce/ExactTarget Monster Deal

An arms race in the cloud has been shaping up and the marketing world has been in focus for software behemoths of late. The announced acquisition of ExactTarget by made things a lot more interesting.

Is this the future of the digital world or an expensive act of desperation trying to fill a product hole? Reactions ran the gamut from a home run to the end of a great company. One tweet from @theeMailGuide said, “I think the ExactTarget merger with Salesforce will kill [sic] heart and soul of a great company. Sorry for ExactTarget.”

Time will tell how ExactTarget’s core email business will be impacted, but it does appear ExactTarget will be run as an independent company, at least for the time being.

Other interesting reactions came from across the entire software spectrum, but a notable reaction was from SAP Co-CEO Bill McDermott who, according to Bloomberg said that “he and other CEOs usually throw marketing emails into the spam bin, calling rivals’ moves ‘quite puzzling.'”

Regardless of your view on this deal, it is hard to dispute the notion that marketing tech is hot, and this largely centers around the shift of power in buying and consumer behavior. Gartner predicts CMOs will outspend CIOs on IT by 2017. What is the number one activity that U.S. consumers choose to engage with on their smartphones? Email.

So email seems to (finally) be in that sweet spot of convergence – consumers, marketers, and Wall Street all want a piece of the email industry.

I asked well-respected leaders (and in some cases competitors of the combined companies in the $2.5 billion transaction) to chime in and provide their expert analysis of this megadeal as well as its impact on the email and digital marketing landscape.


“ExactTarget is an email company, and that is what bought for almost $2.5 billion. At Marketo, our comprehensive solution includes great email capabilities, but goes much deeper to include enterprise-class marketing automation, social marketing, marketing financial management, and revenue cycle analytics. Frankly, we think equating email marketing with a modern and complete marketing platform is a misunderstanding of where the market is going. We founded Marketo with an unwavering vision about where marketing was headed, and have been the innovator in the space ever since.”

Jon Miller, co-founder and VP, marketing content and strategy, Marketo


“ is building a solution by weaving together separate, siloed tools. Their executive, Mike Lazerow was quoted in Ad Age saying, “integration will be more piecemeal based on clients’ needs.” Even if each solution is strong in its own right, and even with the value of a single vendor, marketing and others focused on customer experience will ultimately look for a unified solution that provides a single view of the customer across channels and tools.

It is definitely another reminder that we are part of an incredibly dynamic market. Change and consolidation are inevitable and typically very positive for the industry. What won’t be positive is if consolidation starts to trump innovation.”

Bill Nussey, president and CEO, Silverpop


“This deal really just proves what anyone working in or around the Internet has known for a long time – the future of marketing is about digital communications. Email, mobile, social – these are the channels that marketers will increasingly rely on to reach their customers and prospective customers. At the same time, the fractured nature of the digital world has led to an explosion of companies looking to serve marketers every flavor of automation, analytics, and optimization. The array of decisions is completely dizzying. This means that companies that can provide marketers with a wide range of really integrated, robust, and innovative services across the entire digital landscape will be able to capture a bigger share of budget. “

Matt Blumberg, co-founder, CEO, and chairman, Return Path


“As the saying goes, ’email is the killer app of the Internet,’ now maybe we have $2.5 billion reasons to confirm it. Bottom line, the acquisition of ExactTarget confirms the importance of email as a communications channel for both marketers, due to the tremendous ROI, as well as software providers, due to the stickiness and core nature of email. had a decision to make – is email vital enough to potentially destroy a partner channel and pay a 50 percent premium for it? They answered the question, yes. This will affect their partner channel, as ’email marketing’ is the number one requested application in the AppExchange, and they paid a hefty price for it.”

Allen Nance, president and CEO, WhatCounts


“The acquisition of ExactTarget by makes total sense for both parties. For, they acquire a leader in the email deployment space that has a fantastic and fanatic fan base. For ExactTarget, their shareholders obtain a liquidity event and their clients eventually receive benefits in the form of advanced CRM capability. The real news here is that email is finally being recognized for the central role that it plays in CRM.

The email address has always been the primary key for any modern CRM database – not the cookie – so this acquisition of ET by becomes more than a sum of its parts.”

Dave Hendricks, COO, LiveIntent


I offered ExactTarget the opportunity to comment and they directed me to a blog post by CEO Scott Dorsey and the official announcement.

I am of the opinion that this certainly validates email marketing as the digital marketing hub and its continued importance in the marketing suite. It also plugs a huge hole for Salesforce and allows CMOs another entry point into their evolving product offerings. Acquiring an email and messaging platform like ExactTarget could be a natural fit for a company centered around CRM as their primary business model. As for any acquisition, the devil is in the details. We shall see how this pans out.

What are your thoughts, analysis, and hopes related to this combination?

See a longer version of this article here.

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