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With Salesforce’s latest acquisition of Indianapolis digital marketing company ExactTarget, the signals are clear: we’re in a digital arms race, where the heavies get heavier even as they continue to have their heads in the clouds. The race is on, and the weapon of the age is clear: data.

Sign of the times

salesforce and exacttarget

The breaking news of the purchase of ExactTarget for $2.5 billion by Salesforce should come as a surprise to no one. This is yet another salvo fired in the continued digital arms race that has seen Oracle purchase Eloqua, IBM purchase Unica and Teradata purchase Aprimo, among others.

Make no mistake about it: the digital arms race is on as the rise of cloud computing continues in everything from data warehousing to online marketing. The era of consolidated cloud software platforms that perform multiple functions is a reality that every marketer, information technologies, and business executive must face, from the enterprise to the mom-and-pop startups.

Don’t underestimate the fact that marketing companies, even niche brands, are among the companies being acquired by giant information companies. A combined arm of marketing and information technologies can only mean greater results for those savvy enough to harness the era of Big Data and start putting all of their customer information to good use. The same move is in place for Salesforce, a leader in CRM solutions, acquiring a rising marketing automation and customer contact superstar in ExactTarget.

The role of Big Data in digital marketing

“Marketing was the fastest growing CRM category in 2012, growing at 21 percent (more than four times the software industry forecast norm in 2012),” said Yvonne Genovese, managing VP, Gartner’s Marketing Leaders Research. “We believe this growth will continue and marketing will be the largest growing CRM category through 2017.”

If that’s not enough to raise your alarms and set your marketing thinking to DEFCON 1, consider this: according to Mark Benioff, chairman and CEO for Salesforce, CMOs are expected to spend more on technology than CIOs by 2017.

“The deal is another example of the boom in marketing software that runs in the cloud,” said Arik Hesseldahl on allthingssd.com. “One of the big buckets of technology spending at large companies, especially consumer-facing ones, is no longer in the office of the CTO or CIO but that of the chief marketing officer.”

Just like the Cold War was a nuclear arms race, so too does this race have its singular focus: big data. Companies that have a firm grasp on their customer data have the power to succeed more than ever before over their competitors, in both the digital and traditional marketing spaces. Sales, service, and marketing are converging because the data stream is greater than ever before, and silos are an ever-increasing sign of future company failure.

Salesforce saw the signs and made their play to enter the expanding digital marketing arena by loading up on that much for ammunition to offer their clients and prospects. By combining CRM into Marketing Automation into one cloud software offering, organizations can analyze and react to industry, marketing and customer trends in ways not possible with separate solutions.

The digital arms race is on. The question remains – who’s next?

Image credit: ExactTarget

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