Oracle tersely announced today that it had purchased the intellectual assets of demand generation vendor Market2Lead. This is an excellent fit for Oracle in that Market2Lead is a sophisticated product that is best suited to large, demanding marketing operations. Those are presumably the firms in Oracle’s target market.
Market2Lead CEO Geoff Rego explained some of the mechanics of the deal to me in a private conversation, but the details were not for publication. However, a blog post by Eloqua’s Joe Payne confirms that existing Market2Lead customers will remain clients of Market2Lead, while Oracle itself will be purchasing the technology itself. The effect is that those customers will have the option to stay with Market2Lead or migrate elsewhere over time. Payne’s post says that Eloqua and Market2Lead have been discussing a path for Market2Lead clients who prefer Eloqua to an Oracle relationship.
The entry of Oracle into the demand generation space certainly reflects growing interest in the field. Note that Oracle’s Seibel group already had a robust marketing automation solution for consumer marketers, so this does clarify that B2B marketing automation is different from B2C marketing automation. (This is why I prefer the term “demand generation” for B2B marketing automation, although it’s been a losing battle.) If there’s a single major distinction between the two types of systems, it’s the heavy reliance of B2B marketing automation on sales automation data, which in practical terms means reliance on Salesforce.com. Part of the reason the deal was structured as a purchase of assets may be that Oracle is a major rival to Salesforce.com, and thus neither firm is all that interested in cooperating with the other.
I’ve been arguing for some time that we can expect an eventual merger of CRM and demand generation systems. The Oracle / Market2Lead deal seems a step in this direction: at the ownership level, those systems will now be integrated, even though they may remain fairly distinct technically. This would actually mirror the structure of Siebel’s own merger of CRM and marketing automation components, which also used separate-though-synchronized databases the last time I looked.
A related question is whether this deal also heralds the start of consolidation among demand generation vendors. I do think the industry is overcrowded, but growth rates are still so high that I don’t see that consolidation happening quite yet. Most of the activity has been among smaller businesses, who are not the primary clients for Oracle or Market2Lead. So I don’t see other vendors as feeling much pressure as a result of this deal. Of course, this could change if Oracle pursues small business marketers directly, but I’d guess that it will take some time before they have a major impact.