It would of course be more accurate to refer to each of these as a Marketing Cloud - or more accurately still, What-We're-Calling-A-Marketing Cloud'.
Nothing wrong with that of course. They're all cloud-based, they're all pitched more or less at the marketing function and so they're all quite legitimately calling themselves by that chosen term.
It's a case of buyer beware when it comes to subscribing to any one of them. Due diligence needs to be done to make sure you're comparing apples with apples, not apples with some oranges that we acquired and are now called Granny Smiths.
Lead management functionality is a core common element of many of these offerings and Gartner's recently come out with another of its Magic Quadrants, this one drilling down into just this area.
Gartner defines lead management as a process that:
integrates business process and technology to close the loop between marketing and direct or indirect sales channels, and to drive higher-value opportunities through improved demand creation, execution and opportunity management.
With that in mind, it includes functionality such as Web registration pages and campaigns, direct mail campaigns, email marketing, multichannel campaigns, database marketing and third-party leased lists, social CRM and social networking sites, and tradeshows.
Some Gartner numbers (or estimates) and facts (or predictions) for context:
- Investments in CRM marketing automation applications and services, which includes lead management, grew by more than 20% in 2011 and 2012, and will account for more than $4.2 billion by 2016.
- Investment in lead management is underpinned by overall growth in the CRM markets and by investment in digital marketing.
- CRM lead management impacts revenue by leveraging investments in SFA, digital marketing, social and established marketing channels.
So who's top of the class in 2013?
As you can see from the Magic Quadrant below (source: Gartner), Oracle (or rather Eloqua) and Marketo are the only two vendors to make it into the lustily coveted top right quarter of leader and visionary with Salesforce.com and SAP still relegated to niche challengers.
That's pretty interesting on a number of levels. As Gartner points out, Marketo is heavily dependent on Salesforce.com (80% shared customers), so should salesforce.com push harder into this space, it might leave Marketo somewhat vulnerable.
But the other leader also faces challenges of its own with the Oracle acquisition of Eloqua raising its own concerns and questions about that firm's integration with Salesforce.com. It might not be as hefty a percentage as Marketo, but Eloqua's shared customer base with Salesforce.com is significant.
Will Oracle and Salesforce.com continue to play nicely? Or will the latter take Larry Ellison's ownership of Eloqua as a reason to get a foot on the peddle when it comes to beefing up its own lead management credentials? If so, then we return to the the question about Marketo above.
In reality, Marketo's hugely impressive credentials in sales productivity and its sheer brand recognition in the marketing space give it a comfortable head-start on the opposition for now and it can watch as the rest of the field plays catch-up to a greater or lesser extent.
As for Salesforce.com, it's easy to forget against all the noise and ballyhoo that's surrounded the Marketing Cloud since last year's demise of the Social Enterprise branding and the CEO-level emphasis now placed on the CMO as BFF, that this is still relatively early days for the firm.
The Buddy Media and Radian6 acquisitions gave the firm some strong and highly useful skin in the game in a specific area of social and digital marketing, but the Saleforce.com Marketing Cloud - to date - doesn't have lead management, campaign management or indeed - as Gartner notes - MRM application functionality out of the box.
That said, users can of course take Sales Cloud, Chatter, Data.com, Buddy Media, Radian6 etc and combine them to provide lead management capabilities. Gartner observes:
While this approach isn't appropriate for every business with lead management requirements, it does enable a company with basic lead management requirements to build a lead management application without involving another vendor.
Meanwhile SAP is making its own moves to muscle in. According to Gartner's own estimates that, around half of SAP CRM deals now include SAP CRM Marketing, with growth of SAP CRM Marketing licenses topping 20% in 2012.
But the bundled nature of the functionality and its dependence on SAP CRM is obviously an inhibiting factor when it comes to reaching out beyond the SAP installed base.
It's also not cloudy - which at a time when the Marketing Cloud is a highly squabbled-over term might be seen as (glass half full) a competitive differentiator or (glass half empty) a bit of a problem.
Your digital decision
For digital decision makers, it's a market sector that's rapidly evolving - which unfortunately means lots of choice (i.e. decisions on which horse to back) and lots and lots of caveat emptor syndrome.
From the sell side, there's a hell of a lot to play for; from the buy side, the interest in the market sector can only lead to more competition and greater functionality on offer to digital marketers.
While Marketo and Oracle (Eloqua) currently have some clear blue sky between them and the rest of the pack, it would be foolish to underestimate Salesforce.com's ambitions now that the company is betting the farm on the CMO.
Then you've got IBM and Teradata as challenger brands with proven track records in execution and the visionaries who might just revolutionise a market in the shape of Neolane and ExactTarget.
Choose carefully from the embarrassment of riches.