customer experience, Salesfusion's Acquisition Sets Race for Midmarket Marketing Automation

Salesfusion's purchase of LoopFuse today sets up a battle for digital marketers' attention in the midmarket marketing automation space.

The big gain for the now 75-employee Atlanta-based Salesfusion? Better social listening tools, top-notch IT and software-engineering talent and a continued lower-priced marketing automation alternative to the big boys like Marketo (500 employees) and Eloqua (scooped up by Oracle), according to Salesfusion CEO Christian Nahas.

"This was about two things — No. 1, talent," Nahas told CMSWire. "LoopFuse has really talented engineers on its team, and its CEO and I share a vision around the ease of use and smart marketing. And No. 2, this is about predictive analytics, social nurturing, social publishing and social listening tools. This tool will not just tell you that 500 people are talking about you — but the 50 most relevant people, their tone and buying signals."

Beefed-Up Profile

LoopFuse for Salesfusion adds some spark to a marketing automation vendor that has had a pretty low profile in the B2B marketing automation space, said Lori Wizdo, Forrester Research analyst who specializes in marketing automation.

"They haven't invested in sales and marketing as aggressively as some of the other players," Wizdo said.

However, two weeks ago, Salesfusion secured a round of Series B funding for $8.5 million and then made the deal official with LoopFuse. "This should help them increase their market presence," Wizdo said. "They've brought on a new CEO in the past year, as well."

Where Does Salesfusion Stand?

Forrester included Salesfusion as a "strong contender" in its lead-to-revenue management (L2RM) automation solutions Wave ranking released earlier this month. It examined nine key players. Oracle (Eloqua) and Marketo topped the inaugural Wave, leading the pack based on current offering and market presence.

"It's not surprising that Eloqua leads in features and functions," Wizdo wrote in the report. "The company's products have been in the field the longest (since the early 2000s) and have been deployed by many larger enterprises with complex marketing program requirements. Marketo, which was launched in 2006, presented a product set to Forrester that indicates it has come up the functionality curve quite quickly vis-à-vis the competition."

customer experience, Salesfusion's Acquisition Sets Race for Midmarket Marketing Automation

Adobe (Neolane), Act-On, and Salesforce.com (Pardot) also fall into the "Leaders" category. The remaining four vendors -- CallidusCloud, IBM, Salesfusion and Silverpop -- scored as "Strong Performers." 

"L2RM platform buyers need to remember that more is not better. More is simply more," Wizdo wrote in her report.

The same Wave evaluation for small businesses and small marketing teams revealed that Act-On and Salesfusion lead the pack -- with Oracle and Adobe ranked only as "Contenders" in the space. 

"We included Salesfusion in our just published L2RM platform vendor Wave because, in addition to meeting the criteria, they have a strong integration into a broader number of CRM platforms (Microsoft Dynamics; Sales Logix Netsuite) than some other L2RM platform vendors," Wizdo told CMSWire. "Prior to this acquisition, they had about 400 customers. They probably compete most often with other vendors who are strongly focused on the mid-market, including Act-On and Salesforce.com (Pardot)."

What Makes Salesfusion Unique?

You could start with price. Salesfusion's pricing starts at $750 per month. Many are higher. Marketo's Dialog Edition, for instance, starts at $2,995 per month for databases of up to 100,000 contacts (with no charges per email).

"We weren't setting out to be a low-cost provider, but it just worked out that way," Nahas said.

customer experience, Salesfusion's Acquisition Sets Race for Midmarket Marketing Automation

Salesfusion now claims to be the first provider to bring the power of predictive analytics to marketing automation. This arms marketers, they say, with the first “smart” marketing automation solution and enables them to interact with and nurture prospects and customers in a "more efficient, intelligent way."

Their solution, Nahas said, includes predictive analytics based on how people engage with an organization and their offerings.

"Predictive analytics is a fairly all-encompassing term," Wizdo said, "and I suspect any number of vendors have one or more features that analyze data to make recommendations, with the most common being dynamic content offer management. I think the claim of 'first' is a bit of marketing hyperbole, and I think the term 'predictive analytics' doesn't accurately characterize what the Loopfuse technology will bring to Salesfusion."

The core aspect of this acquisition, Wizdo said, is a B2B social listening capability that allows B2B marketers to harvest new prospective customers based upon "social signals" that indicate buying intent.

For example, Salesfusion's new capabilities help identify a potential lead if someone posts a question on their LinkedIn profile -- "Can anyone recommend a good B2B marketing attribution product?"

"The social signals also help the marketer decide what content to use to nurture the lead -- that would be the 'smart marketing automation' that is mentioned," Wizdo said. "So, 'predictive' is somewhat accurate, but 'analytics' is not."

Industry Implications

What does an acquisition like this mean for the industry?

Wizdo called it a "nice bit of acquisition for Salesfusion" that "deepens their social marketing capabilities a lot faster than organic development would have."

It adds a feature, but Wizdo would not call it a "transformation" for Salesfusion. 

"There is little impact on the industry," she added, "but it will make Salesfusion a stronger competitor, particularly for marketers whose prospects are very socially active."

With innovative technology vendors automating tasks -- predictive lead scoring, content attribution or social listening -- Wizdo suspects we'll see more of this type of acquisition as marketing automation vendors plump up their "marketing cloud" offerings through acquisition of these vendors rather than organic development.

"LoopFuse has been around for quite a few years," Wizdo said. "They had a 'freemium' model and generated a number of installations, but not nearly as many paying customers. Their marketing automation is not as strong as what Salesfusion already has. So, I think it's largely the social listening functionality -- which was only recently acquired by LoopFuse -- that is the valuable content in this deal." 

Title image by AnetaPics (Shutterstock).