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Salesforce, Microsoft announce major marketing software deals has partnered with 20 vendors to fill out its Marketing Cloud platform, and Microsoft acquired automated marketing vendor MarketingPilot. and Microsoft this week unveiled new marketing software products for the expanding customer experience management field.

Microsoft moved first, announcing Wednesday that it had dipped its toes into automated marketing by acquiring the Evanston, Ill.-based software company MarketingPilot. Microsoft won't detail its plans for MarketingPilot until March, but IT industry analysts think the software giant could integrate the product with its Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform.

The other move came today, as Salesforce revealed a partnership with 20 social media analytics vendors.  Salesforce is teaming up with the vendors to provide a wide variety of tools that can be used within its Marketing Cloud platform. Salesforce said the products will help businesses make sense of streaming social media data, recognize potential sales targets, and market accordingly.

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Salesforce presented Marketing Cloud for the first time last month at its annual Dreamforce conference, surprising few with the news that the platform essentially consisted of the spoils of several acquisitions, including Radian6 and Buddy Media. Today's announcement highlighted how Salesforce has fleshed out Marketing Cloud, as users can now buy some or all of the 20 analytical and marketing packages.

The offerings from the 20 vendors enable Marketing Cloud users to combine an array of social analytics and marketing tools. With the new "ecosystem," Salesforce said organizations will be able to listen to social conversations, identify sales leads, detect trends for any topic or keyword, uncover social influence, analyze content in 17 languages, and monitor several Chinese social media platforms.

"This will unlock the value of social conversations [and] provide an easy-to-use guide to measure influence," Gordon Evans, Marketing Cloud's senior director of product marketing, said in an interview Thursday.

Marketing Cloud will include the products of Bitext, Calais, Caterva, Clarabridge Link, EpiAnalytics, Kanjoya, Klout, Kred, LeadSift, Lexalytics, LinguaSys, Lymbix, Metavana, OpenAmplify, PeekAnalytics, Rapleaf, Solariat, Soshio, The SelfService Company and Trendspottr.

During a brief demonstration of Marketing Cloud tools, Evans showed how, for example, the analysis of a tweet could detect the mention of a company name, a sign of emotion with the word "loving," a hint of intent with the phrase "thinking of getting," as well as offer a clue for customer service to act with the words "when will the [product] be out?"

A basic edition of Marketing Cloud, which includes social listening, engagement, advertising and other features, starts at $5,000 per month and includes 1,000 credits, with each credit representing one analytical action on one social media posting. An additional block of 10,000 credits can be bought for $100 per month.

"The purpose of all this is for Salesforce to say, 'We can give social marketers better insight into what the social data says so they can take action, design campaigns and target sales,'" said Denis Pombriant, founder of Beagle Research Group LLC, an IT consulting firm in Stoughton, Mass. Pombriant was briefed on the Marketing Cloud news earlier in the week.

A business can do many things with social data, and it's not just about marketing, Pombriant said. Customer service and support departments can also benefit from social analytics, he said. The customer service department, for instance, might search social media looking for customer complaints.

By having different approaches to social data, Salesforce can serve not just more customers, but also more divisions of individual businesses, Pombriant said.

"There's been some criticism of Salesforce recently for not buying or developing more of a conventional marketing automation or campaign management facility," Pombriant said.

But the company has adopted a "Blue Ocean" strategy. According to Pombriant, the strategy means that rather than looking to crush all of its competition, Salesforce is looking to work with other vendors to create innovations.

The strategy "shows there is plenty of undiscovered opportunity, and as long as there is, [Salesforce] will continue to partner with established marketing automation vendors," he said.

Microsoft revealed less about its intentions than Salesforce did. But MarketingPilot appears to be a conventional marketing tool that could benefit small businesses, Pombriant said. He added that the software will likely give small businesses new ways to reach out to customers they may already know fairy well.

"It’s got integrated marketing management, advertising agency management, and is available on the cloud," he said. "It looks like a decent marketing tool for Microsoft. If you look at the market that Microsoft serves, which tends to be smaller companies, it makes sense. "

In a blog post about the purchase of MarketingPilot, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Vice President Bob Stutz wrote that the acquisition provides business intelligence capabilities that will accelerate Microsoft's ability to meet the needs of chief marketing officers. He wrote that the acquisition will also "enable marketers to successfully plan, execute, monitor and optimize customer interactions across digital, social and traditional channels, and measure [return on investment]."

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