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Sometime this quarter, a rookie will emerge in the marketing software game. Just so happens this rookie’s name is Microsoft. Microsoft is planning for a Q2 launch of its new marketing capabilities through its acquisition of MarketingPilot.

The new capabilities debut about a year and a half after Microsoft’s acquisition. It will live in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM brand and aims to help marketers drive and manage their campaigns and engage with customers in a personalized manner on multiple devices.

Investments, Time Will Grow the Beast'

Will the move spell the end for digital marketing leaders like Adobe, IBM, SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, Marketo and others? Does Microsoft’s dive into the mix inherently make it a leader, because, well, it’s Microsoft?

Not quite yet, one industry analyst tells CMSWire.

customer experience, Will Microsoft Change the Marketing Software Ballgame?

“Microsoft will require some more time, some more acquisitions to get there,” Constellation Research’s R "Ray" Wang, founder and principal analyst, told CMSWire. “They need a demand-side platform, programmatic ad support, other advanced analytics and a context engine to enter the ad space if they choose to. For the marketing automation, today it's email-based. There's more work ahead in other areas.”

Microsoft may have holes in its integrated marketing management capabilities. But the software giant out of Redmond, Wash., has been known to make an acquisition or two, and it’s pretty good at plugging holes.

“With the right investments, yes it can become a credible player,” Kim Collins, research vice president for CRM with Gartner Research, told CMSWire. “With its broader focus beyond just digital marketing and into areas like marketing resource management (MRM), it can be viewed as more strategic.”

Microsoft’s Marketing Vision

But what about the now? What does Microsoft plan to offer out of the gate? We asked, but Dynamics officials weren’t immediately available.

Bob Stutz, corporate vice president of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, blogged that Dynamics Marketing will produce a “unifying foundation” for marketers to “plan effectively, execute across traditional and digital channels delivering qualified leads to their sales teams, and analyze the results that prove the value of their investments.” 

It will do so with a single-window experience where marketers can design, monitor and change complex multi-stage, multi-wave and trigger-based campaigns. This is the kind of stuff -- this all-in-one thing -- that drew large praise in keynote sessions at last week’s Adobe Summit Digital Marketing Conference

Microsoft’s marketing platform will also include social listening and analytics capabilities through Microsoft Social Listening for tracking brand sentiment and targeting influencers and trends.

Why MarketingPilot?

We know the big boys are all looking to expand their marketing capabilities. Acquisitions abounded in 2013: Marketo scooped up Insightera. Oracle grabbed Responsys. Salesforce nabbed ExactTarget. Verint acquired Kana, and Microsoft bought Parature

The year before, Microsoft pounded the first nail in its marketing software home with its grab of MarketingPilot.

Why them?

MarketingPilot had a strong marketing resource management (MRM) solution particularly for the mid-market, Gartner’s Collins said.

“It had also begun to expand its capabilities,” she added, “to lead and campaign management for B2B mid-market marketing organizations. The main appeal was its broad set of integrated marketing management capabilities across MRM and campaign management. It provided a foundation to build out further functionality for campaign management and digital marketing.”

The move was both a subscription play and a chance for Microsoft to go into the marketing automation and ad platform space, said Constellation’s Wang, who added that estimates had the deal going for somewhere between $25 and $35 million for the 30 people and the marketing and advertising platform.

Who’s Winning?

So who’s coming out on top after all these acquisitions? Oracle and Salesforce through recent acquisitions each now offer B2C digital marketing -- primarily email, but also SMS, push and web -- in addition to B2B automation, social campaigns and social listening.

Comparisons to Microsoft’s MarketingPilot foray into digital marketing with Oracle and Salesforce acquisitions might not make the most sense, according to Wang.

“This acquisition was different,” Wang said of Microsoft’s MarketingPilot grab. “Microsoft sought a core marketing platform. Oracle and Salesforce already built platforms but sought a customer base and a refresh of their IP. Microsoft was starting from scratch.”

MarketingPilot offers Microsoft a much broader set of capabilities for integrated marketing management (IMM) targeted across the marketing organization and ecosystem, Collins told us. Responsys and ExactTarget where much more focused on just email or digital marketing and not on the broader IMM suite. Responsys and ExactTarget have no MRM capabilities, she added, and limited campaign management capabilities outside of email/digital marketing.

Although Responsys and ExactTarget were larger companies from a revenue perspective, they were more tactical buys due to the more narrow set of functionality they offered,” Collins said. “These acquisitions were more about acquiring customers and revenue streams. MarketingPilot was a more strategic buy even though it was a much smaller company due to its broader set of IMM capabilities from which Microsoft can build. Microsoft’s vision for ‘marketing automation’ is much broader and goes beyond just email/digital marketing to include MRM, campaign management and lead management.”

Dynamics CRM Growth

Microsoft is planning to offer its marketing platform as part of its customer service and sales packages in Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

“As we are creating an integrated experience across sales, marketing and customer service with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, it is logical that we also bring to market integrated pricing and licensing for these solutions,” Microsoft’s Paco Contreras blogged.

Wang calls the new marketing capabilities for Microsoft a “good opportunity” because the team has rewritten the product onto the Dynamics CRM stack and can leverage the full stack of Outlook integration to Dynamics CRM.

It’s a perk for continued growth in Dynamics CRM, though Collins added it will likely be subscription-based pricing for the solution.

“Microsoft had a credible product for sales and customer service but not for marketing,” Collins said. “It was faster for them to get into IMM with both MRM and campaign management by acquiring MarketingPilot than it would be to build.”