IBM Buys Unica: Will Acquisitions Now Shift to B2B Marketing Automation?


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IBM announced this morning that it was purchasing enterprise marketing automation leader Unica for $480 million, more than double the company’s current stock market valuation. This is wholly unsurprising: as the last and only big independent left in its space, Unica was obvious acquisition bait. It was also a motivated seller, since it faced an increasingly impossible struggle to fund the product enhancements necessary to compete with the likes of SAS, Teradata and Siebel / Oracle. Conversely, IBM is on a customer intelligence acquisition spree that has already included Coremetrics Web analytics, Sterling Commerce B2B integration and Cognos business analytics.

There’s been some comment (I’m looking at you, Jonathan Block of SiriusDecisions) relating the IBM/Unica deal to consolidation with the B2B marketing automation industry. Sorry, but I don’t see a connection. As I discussed in my own post on industry consolidation, Unica belongs to the class of marketing systems that serve consumer marketers. Its acquisition is basically the completion of the consolidation of that space, not the start of consolidation among B2B marketing automation vendors. (I’m overstating a bit: there are a couple of B2C vendors left including Neolane, Alterian and SmartFocus, although the latter two use proprietary database engines that would make them difficult to integrate into a larger enterprise suite. Probably the most prominent survivor is Aprimo, but they’re more B2B.)

If there’s any connection at all, it’s that this acquisition may spur Web content management vendors to accelerate their own acquisition of marketing automation capabilities. I discussed this a bit in my post on Adobe’s acquisition of Day Software and in the industry consolidation post. Given that there are so few B2C marketing automation vendors left, the Web content management players are almost forced to consider buying a B2B marketing automation system. (The other option would be email vendors like ExactTarget and Responsys.)

This isn’t really a bad thing: the B2B marketing automation products have pretty much all the capabilities of the B2C systems and then some. On the other hand, most B2B systems are designed for smaller data volumes and have less flexible data structures.

The bottom line is probably that the upper tier B2B marketing automation vendors (Eloqua, Silverpop, Aprimo, possibly Marketbright) are next in line to be bought. But you already knew that.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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