May
16
2019
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SugarCRM moves into marketing automation with Salesfusion acquisition

SugarCRM announced today that it has acquired Atlanta-based Salesfusion to help build out the marketing automation side of its business. The deal closed last Friday. The companies did not share the purchase price.

CEO Craig Charlton, who joined the company in February, says he recognized that marketing automation was an area of the platform that badly needed enhancing. Faced with a build or buy decision, he decided it would be faster to buy a company and began looking for an acquisition target.

“We spent the last three or four months doing a fairly intensive market scan and dealing with a number of the possible opportunities, and we decided that Salesfusion was head and shoulders above the rest for a variety of reasons,” he told TechCrunch.

Among those was the fact the company was still growing and some of the targets Sugar looked at were actually shrinking in size. The real attraction for him was Salesfusion’s customer focus. “They have a very differentiated on-boarding process, which I hadn’t seen before. I think that’s one of the reasons why they get such a quick time to value for the customers is because they literally hold their hand for 12 weeks until they graduate from the on-boarding process. And when they graduate, they’re actually live with the product,” he said.

Brent Leary, principal at CRM Essentials, who is also based in Atlanta, thinks this firm could help Sugar by giving it a marketing automation story all its own. “Salesfusion gives Sugar a marketing automation piece they can fully bring into their fold and not have to be at the whims of marketing automation vendors, who end up not being the best fit as partners, whether it’s due to acquisition or instability of leadership at chosen partners,” Leary told TechCrunch.

It has been a period of transition for SugarCRM, which has had a hard time keeping up with giants in the industry, particularly Salesforce. The company dipped into the private equity market last summer and took a substantial investment from Accel-KKR, which several reports pegged as a nine-figure deal, and PitchBook characterized as a leveraged buyout.

As part of that investment, the company replaced long-time CEO Larry Augustin with Charlton and began creating a plan to spend some of that money. In March, it bought email integration firm Collabspot, and Charlton says they aren’t finished yet, with possibly two or three more acquisitions on target for this quarter alone.

“We’re looking to make some waves and grow very aggressively and to drive home some really compelling differentiation that we have, and that will be building over the next 12 to 24 months,” he said.

Salesfusion was founded in 2007 and raised $16 million, according to the company. It will continue to operate out of its offices in Atlanta. The company’s 50 employees are now part of Sugar.

Apr
23
2019
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Blueshift announces $15M Series B to expand AI-fueled cross-channel marketing tool

Blueshift is a startup founded by tech industry veterans who saw first-hand how difficult cross-channel marketing was. They decided to launch a company and build a cross-channel marketing platform from the ground up that uses AI and machine learning to make sense of the growing amount of customer data. Today, the startup announced a $15 million Series B round to keep it going.

The round was led by SoftBank Ventures Asia, a fund focused on AI startups like Blueshift . Previous investors Storm Ventures and Nexus Venture Partners also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $30 million, according to the company.

Company co-founder and CEO Vijay Chittoor says the marketing landscape is changing, and he believes that requires a new approach to allow marketers to take advantage of the multiple channels where they could be engaging with customers from a single tool.

“If you thought about the world of customer engagement at Walmart or Groupon [or any other retailer] 10 years ago, it was primarily an email problem. Today, we as customers, we’re interacting with these brands on not just email, but also on mobile notifications, Facebook custom audiences and WeChat [and across multiple other channels],” he explained.

He says that this has created a lot more data, which it turns out is a double-edged sword for marketing pros. “I think on one end, it’s exciting for a marketer or a CMO to have more data and more channels. It gives them more ways to connect. But at the same time, it’s also more challenging because now you have to make sense of a thousand times more data. And you have to use it intelligently on not just one channel like email, but you’re now trying to make sense of data across 15 different channels,” Chittoor said.

This a crowded field, with big players like Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle, among others, offering similar cross-channel, AI-fueled solutions. In addition, startups are attracting huge chunks of money to attack this problem, including Klayvio pulling in $150 million a couple of weeks ago and Iterable, which landed $50 million last month.

He says his company’s differentiator is the AI piece, and it is this piece that the company’s lead investor in this round has been focusing on in its investments. The company plans to use this round to continue building out its marketing platform and show marketers how to communicate intelligently across channels wherever the consumer happens to be. Customers include LendingTree, Udacity and BBC.

Mar
29
2019
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Marketing tech vendors need to find right balance between digital and human interactions

As I walked the long halls of Adobe Summit this week in Las Vegas and listened to the company’s marketing and data integration story, I thought about the obvious disconnect that happens between brands and their customers. With tons of data, a growing set of tools to bring it together and a desire to build an optimal experience, you would think we have been set up for thrilling consumer experiences, yet we all know that is not always what happens when the rubber meets the road.

Maybe part of the problem is that data sitting in databases doesn’t always translate into employee action when dealing directly with consumers. In many cases, the experience isn’t smooth, data isn’t passed from one source to another and when you do eventually reach a person, they aren’t always knowledgeable or even nice.

It’s to the point that when my data does get passed smoothly from bot to human CSA, and I’m not asked for the same information for the second or even third time, I’m pleasantly surprised, even a little shocked.

That’s probably not the story marketing automation vendors like Adobe and Salesforce want to hear, but it is probably far more common than the one about delighted customers. I understand the goal is to provide APIs to connect systems. It’s to stream data in real time from a variety of channels. It’s about understanding that data better by applying intelligent analytics, and to some extent I’m sure that’s happening and there are brands that truly do want to delight us.

The disconnect could be happening because brands can control what happens in the digital world much better than the real one. They can know at a precise level when you interact with them and try to right wrongs or inconsistencies as quickly as possible. The problem is when we move to human interactions — people talking to people at the point of sale in a store, or in an office or via any communications channel — all of that data might not be helpful or even available.

The answer to that isn’t to give us more digital tools, or more tech in general, but to work to improve human-to-human communication, and maybe arm those human employees with the very types of information they need to understand the person they are dealing with when they are standing in front of them.

If brands can eventually get these human touch points right, they will build more loyal customers who want to come back, the ultimate goal, but right now the emphasis seems to be more on technology and the digital realm. That may not always achieve the desired results.

This is not necessarily the fault of Adobe, Salesforce or any technology vendor trying to solve this problem, but the human side of the equation needs to be a much stronger point of focus than it currently seems to be. In the end, all the data in the world isn’t going to save a brand from a rude or uninformed employee in the moment of customer contact, and that one bad moment can haunt a brand for a long, long time, regardless of how sophisticated the marketing technology it’s using may be.

Jan
15
2019
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Campaign Monitor acquires email enterprise services Sailthru and Liveclicker

CM Group, the organization behind email-centric services like Campaign Monitor and Emma, today announced that it has acquired marketing automation firm Sailthru and the email personalization service Liveclicker. The group did not disclose the acquisition price but noted that the acquisition would bring in about $60 million in additional revenue and 540 new customers, including Bloomberg and Samsung. Both of these acquisitions quietly closed in 2018.

Compared to Sailthru, which had raised a total of about $250 million in venture funding before the acquisition, Liveclicker is a relatively small company that was bootstrapped and never raised any outside funding. Still, Liveclicker managed to attract customers like AT&T, Quicken Loans and TJX Companies by offering them the ability to personalize their email messages and tailor them to their customers.

Sailthru’s product portfolio is also quite a bit broader and includes similar email marketing tools, but also services to personalize mobile and web experiences, as well as tools to predict churn and make other retail-focused predictions.

“Sailthru and Liveclicker are extraordinary technologies capable of solving important marketing problems, and we will be making additional investments in the businesses to further accelerate their growth,” writes Wellford Dillard, CEO of CM Group. “Bringing these brands together makes it possible for us to provide marketers with the ideal solution for their needs as they navigate the complex and rapidly changing environments in which they operate.”

With this acquisition, the CM Group now has 500 employees and 300,000 customers.

Sep
20
2018
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Adobe gets its company, snaring Marketo for $4.75 billion

A week ago rumors were flying that Adobe would be buying Marketo, and lo and behold it announced today that it was acquiring the marketing automation company for $4.75 billion.

It was a pretty nice return for Vista Equity partners, which purchased Marketo in May 2016 for $1.8 billion in cash. They held onto it for two years and hauled in a hefty $2.95 billion in profit.

We published a story last week, speculating that such a deal would make sense for Adobe, which just bought Magento in May for $1.6 billion. The deal gives Adobe a strong position in enterprise marketing as it competes with Salesforce, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. Put together with Magento, it gives them marketing and ecommerce, and all it cost was over $6 billion to get there.

“The acquisition of Marketo widens Adobe’s lead in customer experience across B2C and B2B and puts Adobe Experience Cloud at the heart of all marketing,” Brad Rencher, executive vice president and general manager, Digital Experience at Adobe said in a statement.

Ray Wang, principal analyst and founder at Constellation Research sees it as a way for Adobe to compete harder with Salesforce in this space. “If Adobe takes a stand on Marketo, it means they are serious about B2B and furthering the Microsoft-Adobe vs Salesforce-Google battle ahead,” he told TechCrunch. He’s referring to the deepening relationships between these companies.

Brent Leary, senior analyst and founder at CRM Essentials agrees, seeing Microsoft as also getting positive results from this deal. “This is not only a big deal for Adobe, but another potential winner with this one is Microsoft due to the two companies growing partnership,” he said.

Adobe reported its earnings last Thursday announcing $2.29 billion for the third quarter, which represented a 24 percent year over year increase and a new record for the company. While Adobe is well on its way to being a $10 billion company, the majority of its income continues to come from Creative Cloud, which includes Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator, among other Adobe software stalwarts.

But for a long time, the company has wanted to be much more than a creative software company. It’s wanted a piece of the enterprise marketing pie. Up until now, that part of the company, which includes marketing and analytics software, has lagged well behind the Creative Cloud business. In its last report, Digital Experience revenue, which is where Adobe counts this revenue represented $614 million of total revenue. While it continues to grow, up 21 percent year over year, there is much greater potential here for more.

Adobe had less than $5 billion in cash after the Mageno acquisition, but it has seen its stock price rise dramatically in the last year rising from $149.96 last year at this time to $266.05 as of publication.

The acquisition comes as there is a lot of maneuvering going on this space and the various giant companies vie for market share. Today’s acquisition gives Adobe a huge boost and provides them with not only a missing piece, but Marketo’s base of 5000 customers and the opportunity to increase revenue in this part of their catalogue, while allowing them to compete harder inside the enterprise.

The deal is expected to close in Adobe’s 4th quarter. Marketo CEO Steve Lucas will join Adobe’s senior leadership team and report to Rencher.

It’s also worth noting that the announcement comes just days before Dreamforce, Salesforce’s massive customer conference will be taking place in San Francisco, and Microsoft will be holding its Ignite conference in Orlando. While the timing may be coincidental, it does end up stealing some of their competitors’ thunder.

Aug
24
2017
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Marketo picks Google Cloud to migrate from on-prem data centers

 Google got a much-needed win today when Marketo, the marketing automation platform, chose Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to migrate its entire on-prem operation. The partnership will extend beyond hosting with Google also providing deeper integration with GSuite. Google says that should enable Marketo customers to generate content and communicate with customers directly from the Marketo… Read More

Mar
04
2016
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Want to compete with Salesforce? Buy Marketo

marketo-vs-salesforce There are several enterprise players that want a share of Salesforce’s business, but just aren’t making headway by knuckling up against the company’s dominant, entrenched SaaS CRM offerings. Rather than competing head on, a smarter approach for these businesses is to “front door” Salesforce, instead. Read More

Feb
22
2015
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Main Street Hub Lands $20M To Bring Social Media Marketing To Small Business

Main Street store fronts. Main Street Hub, a company that helps mom and pop businesses run social media marketing, customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation recently announced it has received $20M in debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank. The company has raised a total of $40M. The most recent funding before this announcement was $14M in Series B in January, 2014. It has 6000 subscribers who… Read More

Apr
10
2014
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IBM Scoops Up Silverpop

silverpop IBM announced today it intends to buy Silverpop, a cloud marketing platform that gives marketers insight into customer activity online. Silverpop gives IBM a cloud-based marketing personalization tool that promises to provide users with a way to understand their customers better and offer more personalized experiences based on what they know. For instance, if you know that your customer is an… Read More

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