Is Salesforce.com in the cross hairs as mature ISVs jump into the customer data and analytics markets?

Salesforce.com acquired ExactTarget in 2013. Arguably, ExactTarget can produce a comparable quality of customer data to Facebook, or the just announced IBM Twitter partnership. But as Marc Benioff, CEO remarked during Salesforce.com’s Q2 2015 Earnings Conference call, Salesforce.com is an enterprise cloud business.

We’ve written at length in this blog on the unique character of enterprise business markets for computer hardware, software (including cloud), and networking. As Benioff noted during a joint presentation with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, to announce the addition of Salesforce.com as a supported CRM option for Microsoft’s Office 365 customers, Microsoft, itself, is one of Salesforce’s largest customers for ExactTarget services.

But servicing the needs of businesses marketing non durable commodities to consumers is a very different story, which Facebook seems to be winning. Salesforce’s growth rate, at 38% year over year is enviable, but Facebook’s year over year growth rate of nearly 60% is a lot better. Would it make sense for a stagnant mature ISV named IBM, desperate for some big growth, to see an opening to bring ExactTarget-like capabilities to a different market?

IBM certainly has a presence in every leading marketing business in the US and Western Europe. As a trusted partner of Ogilvy and Mather, Forbes, etc. a partnership with Twitter, which promises to provide them with a very unique set of data collected from Twitter’s “fire hose” to be fed into their Watson analytics solution looks very promising.

Salesforce, on the other hand, with Keith Block, an exceptionally capable sales and marketing executive for enterprise business markets, as President, looks clearly dedicated to signing up more enormous businesses like Microsoft. One can certainly argue the very large marketing businesses IBM presently services (and, in turn, the manufacturing and service-providing customers of these marketing firms like Procter and Gamble) fit the bill for legitimate Salesforce targets, but in this writer’s opinion it isn’t likely the way they are leveraging ExactTarget will meet the needs of Omnicom, etc for the consumer non durable goods market. This writer spent a lot of time with IBM from 1994 to 2001 and can speak to what was then a deep, strategic relationship with Ogilvy, Forbes, and others.

So the ExactTarget capability does look like something a mature ISV like IBM would want to repackage for its own, and very different set of consumers.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved

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