Marketo says it will combine Crowd Factory's social campaign management platform with its own online applications for marketing automation, sales lead scoring, and multi-channel campaign management. Crowd Factory customers, such as Molson Coors, Sony Music, Jive Software, and British Telecom, use its software to develop and deliver messages and applications (such as group buying or social gaming apps) through social channels including Facebook pages, Twitter and LinkedIN feeds, landing pages, Web sites, banner ads, and email.
Terms of the startup's acquisition were not disclosed. San Francisco-based Crowd Factory was launched in 2009, received $6.5 million in venture funding in January 2011, and has about 30 employees.
In a statement, Marketo said social marketing campaigns and marketing automation have been like "two ships passing in the night," but competitors might see things differently. Eloqua, for one, introduced the Eloqua Social Suite in December with the goal of integrating its marketing automation platform with social networks. Similarly, SilverPop introduced a Publish-to-Social feature in September, while Pardot announced social media profiling and messaging features back in August.
[ Want more on the social/customer mix? Read How To Get From CRM To Social. ]
And let's not forget Salesforce.com's March 2011 acquisition of Radian6. No, Salesforce.com is not a marketing automation vendor (not yet, anyway), but it does partner with Marketo, Eloqua, and others to plug that capability into its larger CRM environment.
If the big-picture goal for companies is to make a social connection with customers, then the need doesn't end with marketing. That's why I've seen the likes of Marketo and Eloqua as likely acquisition targets for vendors such as Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce.com. In this vein, IBM bought Unica way back in August 2010, and it has since made that company's capabilities part of a much larger e-commerce play--one that also happens to be socially enabled.
Marketo may think of its move as igniting the next big play in marketing automation, but I suspect it's really just a warm up act that will get sucked into the larger play for socialized customer relationships.