Why Marketing Automation is One of the Hottest Sectors in Tech

By Ryan Holmes | 1 year ago | No Comments

4P8C4658It might not be the sexiest topic, but it is – hands down – one of the hottest sectors in tech right now: marketing automation. Major IT vendors, the Oracles and Adobes and Salesforces of the world, are snapping up marketing automation software tools in an arms race that continues to escalate.

There have been a flurry of recent deals. Last year, Salesforce purchased ExactTarget, a tool for marketing and analytics, for a cool $2.5 billion, complementing previous acquisitions of Buddy Media ($745 million) and Radian6 ($326 million). Oracle has lately padded its arsenal with a pair of cutting-edge tools, Responsys ($1.5 billion) and Eloqua ($871 million), after snatching up Facebook ad platform Vitrue ($300 million) back in 2012. Adobe and SAP are on similar spending sprees.

In one of the most recent acquisitions, IBM paid an undisclosed (but presumably nine-figure) sum for Silverpop, a handy tool that pools data from multiple sources and builds a “universal customer profile” that can be used for campaigns via email, text or other means.

So why the sudden splurge on marketing automation? First, it’s worth noting that corporate software spending has undergone a profound shift. IT budgets have been tightened, while more and more spending authority is going to marketing teams and CMOs. Accordingly, big software vendors are putting increased emphasis on their marketing offerings, especially user-friendly, cloud-based subscription software (i.e. software as a service or SaaS) that has proven ROI.

But perhaps even more important to consider are changing consumer habits. Social media ushered in a new era of intimate, personalized marketing. Not surprisingly, consumers have grown less receptive to traditional “spray and pray” mass marketing approaches. (Case in point: When 61,000 people were surveyed earlier this year by Forrester, fewer than a quarter said they trust email from companies.)

To this end, the latest generation of marketing automation software is finding creative ways to bridge the gap: applying the intimacy, personalization and insights gained from social media on a mass scale. This point is worth considering a bit further.

Social media has proven a powerful channel for companies and consumers to connect with each other on a one-on-one level. Its effectiveness, in large part, rests on its intimacy: the way social tools are able to bypass impersonal ads and outdated tools like phone help lines and bring individuals together.

As social media has matured, however, and grown into a serious business tool, challenges have arisen. “Intimacy” at scale is obviously difficult to achieve. Doing social media right requires time and personnel to understand audience, assess who the true influencers are, execute complex campaigns across multiple platforms, know where to allocate resources and – in short – treat individuals like individuals. Just automating the whole thing – and taking the human element out of it – isn’t an option. In fact, it defeats the whole purpose.The fastest way to sabotage any social media strategy is inauthenticity and generic messaging.

This is where new marketing automation systems represent an impressive leap forward. Tools like Silverpop, uberVU (which my company recently acquired), ExactTarget, Marketo and others are not blunt instruments. They are intelligent, nimble and robust enough to provide personal insight into users – their habits, preferences and histories – both individually and at an aggregate level – and to do so at scale. And this is exactly why the biggest players in software are scooping them up.

These tools, in concert with smart use of social media, represent a new era in marketing. Companies that find ways to integrate social media and marketing automation effectively will be able to reach more customers and strengthen ties with existing ones in the years ahead. Companies that fail to do so risk being left behind as “mass” marketing takes its place on history’s scrap heap.

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Great post Ryan. Someone once said to me that these marketing automation platforms are becoming the universe in which marketers will scale and operate their business - similar to how sales teams live off Salesforce. I think it's quite true and like with Salesforce the key is for tools that compliment those universes like Hootsuite and many other tools which will fill gaps as these platforms mature. What's exciting is some of these gap fillers could become more meaningful than the big boys (Marketo, Eloqua, HubSpot) given how early we are in adoption. 


This is one of the main reasons I love Hootsuite. You guys always find a way to stay current by remaining an open platform. I feel like even after almost 3 years of using Hootusite, there is still so much more it can do!


Hi Ryan,

Great article.  I see that at Marketo's conference they announced that they are opening up their platform to build the ecosystem you are talking about.  

I agree with you with about the large all inclusive platforms.  If a company builds all these components they will have some strong and some weak components.  If they use their cash to buy in the best products and then try and integrate them all together (e.g. Salesforce are doing this at the moment) this is a bit of a nightmare.  They end up with different code bases for all their products and there's never full seamless integration.

So I agree with you about opening up the platform.  I like the ecosystem that Hootsuite continues to build.  



You left one out that does pretty good at all of your mentions... InfusionSoft


Great post Ryan,

I agree with you fully that today it's all about best-of-breed. Cloud software and open API enable very robust integrations that are seamless for the consumer.

The big questions remains - "where do I start?" and who is responsible for the end-to-end marketing results.