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Salesforce buys into cloud marketing with ExactTarget

Innovation through $2.5bn acquisition

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Salesforce is a acquiring ExactTarget as the digital CRM company tries to do to marketing what it has done to CRM.

The $2.5bn acquisition was announced by Salesforce on Tuesday, and will see the company make a tender offer of $33.75 per share in cash for all outstanding shares of ExactTarget – a substantial premium above the $22 per share the company was trading at yesterday.

"The CMO is expected to spend more on technology than the CIO by 2017," said Salesforce chief Marc Benioff in a canned statement. "The addition of ExactTarget makes Salesforce the starting place for every company and puts salesforce.com in the pole position to capture this opportunity."

Salesforce is fast becoming to digital marketing what Amazon is to cloud computing, and the ExactTarget buy plays into a larger strategy of developing an ecosystem of services which get a large mass of people used to the Salesforce way of doing things. Readers may remember this strategy from Microsoft in the 90s, or IBM in the 70s and 80s.

The acquisition follows Salesforce's acquisitions of Radian6 ($326m, March 2011) and Buddy Media ($689m, June 2012), and the launch of Social.com in April of this year

ExactTarget produces a range of digital marketing tools including email, mobile device services (ready-made SMS templates, campaign management, automation, and so on), various tools for social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, analytics tools, cross-channel marketing platforms, and others. Its tech is used by over 6,000 companies, including Coca-Cola, Gap, and Nike.

The acquisition is likely piquing the interest of Oracle, which acquired Eloqua – a digital marketing one-stop shop much like ExactTarget – for $871m in December.

Both Oracle and Salesforce are on a quest to own the full sales cycle from initial contact through to relationship management and marketing. Oracle is doing this by integrating Eloqua into its other marketing and CRM products, and Salesforce has been doing much the same.

"The acquisition gives salesforce.com industry leading solutions across every major pillar of CRM," Salesforce wrote in a statement.

The transaction is expected to close within Salesforce's second quarter, which ends July 31, 2013. ®

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