Salesforce’s ExactTarget Marketing Cloud combines Radian6 and Buddy Media into the Social Studio

Salesforce.com’s ExactTarget Marketing Cloud unit has combined Radian6 and Buddy Media into a single offering called Social Studio.

Consolidating these social tools allows the company to sell a one-stop social solution, reflecting a maturing market on the client side where most companies have gotten their social media management (organization, process, and now tools) in order.

ExactTarget can now consolidate its focus on winning marketshare on a bigger stage: marketing, inclusive of social media. Over the past five years, social media has been a catalyst driving technology innovation and marketing opportunity. Now that most brands have figured out where to play and how to win in social, the focus returns to the big picture and bigger budgets.

The Radian6 Buddy Media Social Studio offers everything a brand requires to manage social media: collaborative workspaces, calendars and workflow, multi-platform publishing, listening, and content analytics. I expect the offering to compete primarily against Oracle’s Social Cloud, Sprinklr SxM, and Adobe Social. However, the ExactTarget, Adobe, and Oracle solutions are parts of larger marketing  clouds and enterprise platforms, which can help open doors to the larger budgets of the CIO and influence of the CMO, beyond the scrappy social media team that exists at many brands.

The Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud
The Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud

Brands will be increasingly offered incentives to commit to a single vendor’s marketing cloud and must weigh the benefits and discount of a single solution versus the risk and cost of self-integrating best-in-class point solutions. Very few brands operate entirely under a single vendor’s cloud today and this is a zero-sum game. For example, JetBlue is referenced as using Radian6 Buddy Media social studio and last week JetBlue was referenced as a Responsys customer. What happens next? Does JetBlue convert to the entire Oracle Marketing Cloud, ditch Responsys for ExactTarget, or continue to operate different tools in what appears to be different silos of the organization? Most brands are going to be asking themselves similar questions over the months ahead.

Challenger brands may believe that “you don’t have to be the biggest to be the best.” However, the market is clearly heading in a direction that values the ability to deliver on a truly customer-centric perspective. Adobe’s Marketing Cloud has a master marketing profile and Oracle’s Marketing Cloud has a universal customer profile.  Brands need a single perspective on the customer across the entirety of MARKETING, not just social media. Ultimately the large marketing clouds will win while incorporating innovative features from smaller startup vendors. Although the product name is a mouthful, the Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud Radian6 Buddy Media Social Studio is an inevitable step towards consolidation and single-source management of the customer relationship/experience.

Oracle launches the Oracle Marketing Cloud

Yesterday Oracle formally announced the launch of the Oracle Marketing Cloud.

If you’ve been watching the industry, you may be wondering “didn’t they already have a marketing cloud?” They’ve had all of the pieces, yes. Before yesterday there was an Oracle Social Cloud comprised of the solutions formerly known as Vitrue, Collective Intellect, and Involver. And the company had other marketing solutions including Eloqua, Responsys, Compendium, and BlueKai. As of yesterday, those pieces are now formally brought together as a single solution:

Oracle Marketing Cloud
Oracle’s POV on its marketing cloud positioning (Source: Oracle)

This launch matters in the context of Oracle’s overall go-to-market and here’s what matters:

1) Potential for revenue growth.

Oracle is a $40 billion company. According to President Mark Hurd, the marketing cloud gives Oracle an application to sell in to a new audience: the marketing department. The market for enterprise applications is dominated by a handful of heavyweight contenders including SAP, Oracle, and IBM. All three of these firms are interested in leveraging their longstanding CIO/CTO relationships to connect with the CMO and become the enterprise system of record. The Marketing Cloud business is worth “hundreds of millions of dollars” modeled as annual recurring revenue and selling in to complement financials, operations, and other systems would be a strong source of revenue growth for the company. But Oracle can’t walk into a CMO’s offer with a menagerie of acquired point solutions — the single Marketing Cloud product allows sales to offer an enterprise-level platform.

2) Integration will make or break the Cloud.

Marketing Cloud General Manager Kevin Akeroyd stated the critical success factor in the near-term competitive landscape: “anyone with access to capital can acquire companies, but whoever integrates best will win.” This requires integration of code in order to facilitate data sharing between solutions; in Oracle’s case, it offers a Universal Customer Profile as the customer-centric backbone of its systems. Moreover, change management is just as important in ensuring post-merger integration success and the Oracle teams cite a high retention rate of management from Vitrue and other firms indicating positive results.

3) There’s something missing.

Oracle openly acknowledges there’s additional work to be completed in building out the Marketing Cloud solution. Although AppCloud offers connections to a wide variety of point solutions, Oracle still needs a tightly integrated solution to deliver on the need for marketing metrics tied to business objectives. And not just social media measurement or web analytics — marketers need customer-focused omnichannel metrics with proper attribution to understand campaign performance.

Final thought: social becoming increasingly siloed

It’s interesting to see Oracle’s Social Cloud subsumed by the larger Marketing Cloud. While social media had its heyday and undoubtedly plays an important role in customer engagement strategy, it’s ultimately just one element in the larger marketing picture. Over the course of this year, look for the word “social” to disappear from product offerings and marketer lexicons, just as “.com” disappeared from company names and logos once brands discovered that digital business is really just “business.”

In the other direction, the cloud competition is becoming increasingly expansive and the stakes can’t get much higher. James Bond fans might remember the video game that Sean Connery plays in Never Say Never Again called “Domination,” that delivers electric shocks to the loser. Except in this case the price of defeat is going to cost a lot more than $267,000.

Sprinklr’s $40M Series D round: what matters

This morning, Sprinklr made a two part announcement.

1) The availability of an integrated paid social media solution.

This capability allows Sprinklr clients to manage owned media (publishing), earned media (via listening/engagement), and now paid media (social advertising).

Sprinklr will claim competitive advantage in offering a single integrated data model vs. apps in parallel (Adobe), UX overlay (Salesforce), or API partners (Oracle).

Sprinklr competitive advantage
Sprinklr’s take on “depth of software integration” and how that leads to competitive advantage.

In theory, tighter integration can offer more powerful data analysis capabilities. In practice, Sprinklr cites an unnamed client that saw a 25% lift in paid social ad performance from using the module.

My take:

The “big three” marketing clouds already offer paid social ad creation, placement, measurement, and optimization: Adobe’s Media Optimizer, Salesforce’s Social.com, and Oracle via API partners Kenshoo, Nanigans, and SHIFT. This added capability brings Sprinklr up to par with bigger players in social media management functionality and just in time as paid social gains increasing priority in the paid/earned/owned media landscape.

2) A $40 million Series D financing round led by Iconiq Capital

This round brings Sprinklr’s total capital raised to $77.5 million. Sprinklr’s previous three funding rounds only had two participants: Battery Ventures and Intel Capital. But Iconiq Capital isn’t a venture capital company; it’s a registered investment advisor (RIA).

My take:

This is an interesting lead investor, especially for the social media space in which Sprinklr currently operates. Unlike VC funds that typically get passive investments from pension funds and insurance companies, Iconiq handles the private, personal investments of individual clients including Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and Sean Parker, among others. Investors like to smooth the road ahead for their investment vehicles and those are three pretty powerful operators to have on your side.

Sprinklr tells me that they intend to use the round for “growth.” This can only mean organic expansion, because the round isn’t big enough to start acquiring pieces to build a complete marketing cloud (e.g. a marketing automation solution).

What Sprinklr’s annoucement means

Valuations typically aren’t disclosed, but Sprinklr undoubtedly has its sights set on joining The Unicorn Club and potentially filing for an IPO between now and 2015. The alternate route would require a bigger player stepping in to acquire Sprinklr, which is becoming an increasingly expensive proposition (but still no big deal for the deep pockets of an IBM, SAP, or Microsoft). Sprinklr’s preference would appear to be the former, as it has shown an inclination to build (e.g. listening and paid social) rather than buy (the exception being Dachis Group which provided some code and mostly developers).

Bigger vendors must evaluate the growing threat that Sprinklr poses to the early market-leading clouds. Smaller vendors need to bulk up or get bought out soon, before going the way of Argyle Social.  Clients/end-users need to evaluate their marketing technology stack and decide whether running a collection of best-in-breed point solutions still makes sense or if committing to a larger integrated cloud now will pay bigger future dividends.

Briefings this week: April 28 – May 2

Here’s who I’m briefing with this week:

Tuesday

  • Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud

Wednesday

  • Oracle Marketing Cloud

 

As a reminder, I’m interested in hearing from companies that enable customer experience management, provide marketing services (including agencies and consultancies) and support innovation agenda items.

If you are interested in briefing Constellation Research on your marketing technology, visit the Contact Us form.

Briefings this week: April 21 – 25

I am taking briefings with these companies this week:

 

Tuesday

  • Sysomos

Wednesday

  • Adobe
  • Beckon

 

As a reminder, I’m interested in hearing from companies that enable customer experience management, provide marketing services (including agencies and consultancies) and support innovation agenda items.

If you are interested in briefing Constellation Research on your marketing technology, visit the Contact Us form.

Briefings this week: April 14 – 18

I am taking briefings with these companies this week:

 

Monday

  • Adobe
  • Alexa

Thursday

  • Hubspot

Friday

  • Sprinklr

 

As a reminder, I’m interested in hearing from companies that enable customer experience management, provide marketing services (including agencies and consultancies) and support innovation agenda items.

If you are interested in briefing Constellation Research on your marketing technology, visit the Contact Us form.

Wait, SAP has a marketing cloud too?

SAP Social

Last week I was at the SAP CRM 2014 conference. I’ve never been to an SAP conference before but I was told that SAP has an interesting play for the marketing cloud space. What I heard and saw in Las Vegas wasn’t a competitor limited to marketing clouds, but instead an offering that’s a comprehensive enterprise marketing platform.

The SAP Social Portfolio

SAP is charting a course into the CMO’s office via strong existing relationships with CIOs and CFOs, who are long-standing customers of SAP’s ERP, financials, and supply chain management offerings. Those are mission-critical systems for the companies that use them, much more so than typical marketing systems like digital asset management and social media publishing. What’s the top item on every CMO’s agenda right now? Driving business results. And marketing has been building stronger relationships with finance and IT in order to gain business intelligence and track operating impact.

But because of those long standing relationships, SAP has a perception challenge that it’s not a system for marketers. That’s where three points of information come into play, under the umbrella of CRM:

  1. Social media engagement. As pictured above, SAP offers a full suite of products that covers the external and internal aspects of customer engagement.
  2. Customer service use case. T-Mobile provides a compelling client reference, with SAP driving a 15% productivity increase. This is AFTER T-Mobile had been running with Radian6 + Jive as their customer service solution, citing millions of dollars in cost savings.
  3. The Adobe – HANA partnership. SAP and Adobe have inked a partnership where SAP will resell the Adobe marketing cloud in conjunction with HANA analytics and Hybris commerce.

Now, point #3 should be a head scratcher when thinking primarily about marketing clouds. The deal might mean that different SAP business units aren’t aware of what the others are doing, creating a conflict of interest. Or the companies have discussed and decided that their marketing cloud offerings aren’t meaningfully competitive right now. And may never be — the combined suite creates an offering as comprehensive as Oracle, that can claim to beat Salesforce (point #2), and broader than any point solution (point #1).

When discussing how marketing technology can support critical needs including analytics, omnichannel, and customer experience, it’s critical to evaluate solutions from a comprehensive online + offline point of view. SAP has defaulted to an enterprise-level approach to solve these issues, as opposed to focusing solely on the marketing department, which may prove to be a winning strategy in the long run.

As the big vendors are busy integrating their marketing cloud/platform acquisitions, there’s still a market for point solutions. Not all brands are ready for an all-in-one solution, whether because of budget, organizational structure, or ability of vendors to deliver on their sales promises. But the strategic positions in market are becoming clearer and the big players are raising the competitive stakes continually higher.

Spredfast and Mass Relevance merge: What it means for marketers and SMMS vendors

Spredfast + Mass Relevance

On April 2, 2014, social relationship platform Spredfast announced that it had merged with content curation platform Mass Relevance. I spoke with CEO Rod Favaron about the deal and what it means for the rapidly changing marketing technology space.

The New Spredfast

The facts

  • The new company will be called Spredfast
  • Mass Relevance stock will be converted into Spredfast stock
  • Spredfast has 200 employees and Mass Relevance has 150 employees; both companies are headquartered in Austin, Texas
  • Spredfast has raised over $60 million in venture capital funding and Mass Relevance has raised just under $6 million; both companies have Austin Ventures in common as an investor

The companies have at least a half dozen common clients and they had already been working on integration pathways between the two solutions. So this deal is good news for 1% of the new firm’s client base and great news for the Spredfast sales team that now has over 600 new cross-sell opportunities.

But what exactly is this thing?

My take is that it’s a bit different than what I’ve been hearing from the massive marketing cloud vendors (Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce), that are focused primarily on integrating owned content across digital marketing channels.

In contrast, Spredfast is focused primarily on earned content, allowing “marketers to display [social media] content on every screen that matters, whether scheduled or unscheduled.” Mass Relevance helps brands curate the social web outside-in; Spredfast enables brands to publish owned content inside-out. The combined company enables content discovery, optimization, and distribution.

A content marketing platform powerhouse

My take: Spredfast has just created a formidable solution in the white-hot content marketing space. There are players here including Percolate and RebelMouse, potentially Sprinklr (+Dachis Group), and segments of the big three Marketing Clouds. One big advantage Spredfast may have over other firms is Mass Relevance’s native access to the full Twitter firehose, which has allowed it to make huge inroads with major media companies.

Favaron tells me that Spredfast intends to become a consolidator in the marketing technology space — which means the company needs to raise capital via a new funding round or IPO. In the case of the latter, given the amount of funding taken so far, the company’s valuation would need to be close to unicorn club territory to make sense. (Which, by the way, is not too far off from where Sprinklr stands financially as well.)

A native advertising play

Even if Spredfast gains access to a huge amount of capital, competing head on with the likes of Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, and SAP may not make much sense given the headstart the others have on integrating broad marketing cloud solutions. Instead, the firm might decide to double down on its strong installed base of media clients and own the market for a new breed of native advertising solutions, combining large broadcast networks with major brand advertisers and user-generated content.

This way to the egress

I’ll be keeping an eye on how competitors respond, especially Hootsuite which raised $165 million last year and acquired analytics firm uberVU last quarter. All firms remaining in the SMMS space need to map out a path to the exit because it’s clear that standalones won’t survive much longer.

Briefings this week: March 31 – April 4

Here’s who I’m taking briefings with this week:

 

Tuesday – Thursday

  • SAP CRM 2014

 

As a reminder, I’m interested in hearing from companies that enable customer experience management, provide marketing services (including agencies and consultancies) and support innovation agenda items.

If you are interested in briefing Constellation Research on your marketing technology, visit the Contact Us form.

IBM bankrolls a new $100M #CX unit. Will it work?

IBMiX

Yesterday, IBM announced expansion plans for its Interactive Experience professional services practice. The numbers align a bit too perfectly: 10 new labs, $100M investment, and 1,000 new roles.

#IBMiX

While the numbers sound great, here’s what matters:

  • Access to technology. Brands need to connect with customers along all points of the buying/loyalty loop, same as it ever was. But today, engagement is impossibly inefficient without the help of technology. On the front lines, high tech enables high touch experiences. We could always assume that IBM services had access to the firm’s leading-edge research and this announcement includes specifics regarding influence analysis, intelligent customer profiles, and customer identity resolution, in addition to behavioral pricing, life event detection, and psycholinguistics analytics.
  • Global scale. In addition to four Experience Labs in North America, IBM adds 10 locations that provide presence on all continents with the exception of Africa and Antarctica. This allows the firm to match the operating needs of multinational clients, in addition to collecting local insights that can be transferred to broader programs. For example, consider the social media ecosystem in China, which has influenced the roadmaps of Silicon Valley-based platforms (and vice versa).
  • Ability to sign talent. Finding great talent that can pair campaign creativity with quantitative analysis is difficult, and constrained supply drives higher prices. IBM can afford to poach talent from other firms, as evidenced by its hires from Accenture, Wunderman, SapientNitro, DigitasLBi, CapGemini, and Ogilvy. IBM is the professional services equivalent of the New York Yankees.

But I wouldn’t consider the game over yet by any means. In fact, some of these strengths come with significant challenges:

  • Legacy branding. International Business Machines has a world renown legacy in enterprise hardware and the current software organization is also well-known. These groups capture the public’s attention with innovations like Watson and support of the US Open, which can lead to consulting business. However, internal corporate relationships could lead buyers to lean towards other firms that may not carry a perception of bias towards proprietary technology solutions.
  • You don’t have to be the biggest to be the best. Consider the change that technology has driven in the agency landscape; the traditional agencies with roots in the mad men era have been increasingly displaced by smaller shops that are nimble and can react to shifts in current culture. IBM claims to be a “new breed of service provider” but it must be careful that the positioning doesn’t become a Napoleonic mistake of creating competition on too many fronts. Moreover, IBM needs to operationalize knowledge from its global network without letting its sheer size get in the way of learning.
  • Fast enough? IBM isn’t alone in seeing the marketing opportunity around digital customer experience. Two years ago, Deloitte acquired Ubermind to create Deloitte Digital. Last year, Accenture acquired Fjord and formed Accenture Interactive. Good help is hard to find in this market, which is why SIs are buying digital shops to get in the game quickly. IBM has been hiring talent from the right places, but this one-at-a-time approach may not be a fast enough ramp, leaving money on the table for competitors.

IBM sees the market opportunity in customer experience and appears committed to winning in the market. There are a couple of elements in this announcement that take me back to 2008 as I launched my last company — “a new service provider that’s agency + consultancy” and a multi-million dollar funding commitment — and the emerging opportunity seems to be wide open. If nothing else, IBM is signalling to potential clients and hires that they’re open for business as the “social business” era fades into the next generation of digital transformation.