An enterprise giant needed targeted marketing software to build its portfolio and acquired a smaller company that has it. Shocked? Neither are we.

IBM became the latest big fish to scoop up a respected player in the digital marketing software world today as it announced its acquisition of Silverpop.

Gaining Real-Time Capability

For IBM, this is about gaining the Atlanta-based marketing automation provider's cloud-based capabilities that deliver personalized customer engagements with real-time personalization technology in scalable environments. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

customer experience, In Latest Marketing Acquisition, IBM Scoops Up Silverpop

The deal comes after a flurry of similar activity in the past two years. IBM joins Oracle (Responsys), Salesforce (Exacttarget), Adobe (Neolane) and Microsoft (MarketingPilot) as big guns that scooped up artillery in an industry worth billions.

Letting Marketo Shine?

The move came the very day after Silverpop competitor Marketo ended its Marketing Nation Summit, its yearly conference held this year in San Francisco. Silverpop and Marketo have gone head-to-head in the marketing automation market: similar-sized companies battling for pieces of the same pie.

In fact, it was Silverpop and Marketo, along with Pardot, that scored the highest in a 2013 vendor research study by Info-Tech Research Group on lead management, and all three were named champions in the space. Info-Tech Research had put eight product vendors through a comparison analysis. 

Was the timing of the IBM/Silverpop release planned not to coincide with Marketo's yearly show? This Twitter exchange this morning between analyst R. Ray Wang and IBM's Blair Reeves may help explain:

So, a classy move by IBM, it was. Or, seen another way, a way for the Marketo hangover to disappear quickly.

Deal Details

What else does IBM get in today's scoop-up?

A client base of 8,000 organizations in more than 50 countries around the world using IBM marketing technology, according to IBM, which also has now more than 100 Software-as-a-Service offerings.

“The acquisition of Silverpop turbocharges IBM’s ability to put the customer at the center of any organization,” Craig Hayman, general manager of Industry Cloud Solutions for IBM, said in a statement. “Now, nearly any marketing, commerce or customer service professional from any business will have the ability to deliver the kinds of personalized customer experiences that make a measurable impact on the brand experience and the bottom line.”

Silverpop CEO Bill Nussey said, "By engineering a solution that uniquely delivers personalization through automation, our team has solved one of the most complex challenges facing marketers today."

IBM’s portfolio and worldwide partner ecosystem will "advance our mission," Nussey added.

Marketing Cloud Push

The moves comes as IBM continues its stake in building software in the cloud. Where its technology deployments are not exactly nimble systems, its move to the cloud seemed inevitable.

Shuffling IBM's marketing tools to the cloud -- along with other cloud deployments -- has been happening for a while now, and IBM Social Media Analytics Saas was certainly part of that. It analyzes social media comments and displays the results in charts an dashboards as part of a monthly, Web-based subscription service. 

Silverpop Cash Infusion

Just about a year ago, Silverpop received $25 million in new funding which it said then it would use the cash to continue building out its sales and marketing teams.

Silverpop grew its business 40 percent in 2012 over 2011 with an emphasis on its sales and marketing teams. The company last year said it employed 500 people in the US, UK and Germany. Silverpop also said it was focused in being a marketing database of record, allowing for a consistent digital identity and automating interactions. It announced last year about a third of its customers were interested in its marketing automation offerings.

In that 2013 Info-Tech market examination, Silverpop was singled out for its behavior-based lead scoring and its Social Connect portfolio that includes location based marketing abilities. Info-Tech also liked its selection of prepackaged reports, its iPad app for marketers and its mobile features like the ability to use text for info interactive SMS campaigns. 

The only challenge Info-Tech cited with Silverpop was its somewhat outdated interface that some customers said should be updated.