Real time personalization for websites is the “next frontier” of marketing, according to Karl Wirth, CEO/founder of Evergage. In that sense, Marketo’s acquisition of Insightera makes sense, he told CMSWire.

“As marketers, we spend a lot of money — I’m looking at you Adwords — and time — yes, a keyword optimized blog a day takes time — driving people to our websites,” said Wirth, whose company offers real time web personalization. “We are inventing new ways to drive traffic to our sites, but our sites have stayed static.”

2014 Marketing Dynamic

This has to — and will — change in 2014, said Wirth, who blogged about the acquisition by Marketo, a partner of Boston-based Evergage.

“The mission for every marketer will be to make the website the company’s very best salesperson. A significant chunk of every email marketer's time and budget will move to behaviorally targeting website visitors. I give credit to Marketo for recognizing this trend.”

Wirth was one of the industry insiders CMSWire spoke to after news of Marketo’s $19.5 million acquisition of the Israel-based real time personalization web and mobile platform broke Dec. 12. With Marketo and Insightera each focused on B2B lead nurture, Wirth called the move a "logical play." But he also sees a "bit of a missed opportunity for Marketo to broaden its appeal."

Even within B2B, customers have multiple online touch points with a company; i.e. help portals, communities, apps. "A marketer's job is to understand and engage throughout the customer lifecycle," Wirth said. "Ideally communicating the context of the customer's digital experience throughout the relationship."

Big Data Presence

Marketo’s move strengths its behavior-based marketing, expands its capabilities beyond lead management and email marketing and helps it establish a big data and analytics presence in talent-laden Israel, another industry insider told CMSWire.

“I believe a key part of this acquisition was establishing a big data and predictive analytics presence in Israel,” said Chris Golec, CEO and founder of San Francisco-based Demandbase, a competitor of Insightera that provides targeting and personalization for B2B marketers.

Demandbase also works with Marketo. “It is hard to predict how much engineering and sales resources Marketo is going to put behind the acquisition, but I do think it will elevate the awareness of personalization in the B2B ecosystem.”

Marketing Automation Visionary

Brooke Campbell, marketing manager for Elcom Technology, which last month announced elcomCMS 9 and its marketing automation integration with Marketo, said Marketo’s acquisition of Insightera “sets it apart” from all other marketing automation players.

“This acquisition broadens and complements their current offering,” Campbell told CMSWire. “Ultimately Marketo is about helping marketers to deliver behavior-based, relevant messages in an automated and timely way.”

The acquisition, she said, means Marketo is now able to focus on websites as a channel — not just for tracking behavior with automated email response, but by also enabling real time delivery of relevant content.

“This behavior-based website content marketing is exactly why Elcom created the connector between the elcomCMS and Marketo,” she added.

Right Message, Right Content

Derek Slayton, chief marketing officer for NetProspex, a Boston-based B2B marketing solutions provider that works with Marketo's automation, said Marketo is broadening its tool set as a full-service platform for marketing professionals.

“InsightEra is another one of those tools that deliver even more value when they are more tightly integrated into the marketing automation platform,” Slayton said. “Marketing organizations that centralize content display with a complete view of customer/prospect behavior and activity will increasingly be able to serve up the right message/content to the right person at the right time and drive better engagement with their target audience -- across all marketing/communication channels.”

Slayton cited Eloqua’s addition of Compendium earlier this fall, along with a host of other acquisitions in the marketing and sales technology ecosystem, as other industry examples.

"Companies that want to get the most out of their analytics and more sophisticated tools like Insightera," he added, "need to ensure they have a process to maintain and improve the richness of their marketing databases.”

Learning Opportunities

More Acquisitions to Come?

So will Marketo set a trend here? Evergage’s Wirth said it’s a little early in the real time web personalization space.

However, he added, “The need is huge. The market is huge. And there will be a variety of approaches to the market. Think about the email marketing and marketing automation market itself. There were some earlier acquisitions like e-Dialog to GSI, but many companies were built to stand alone for another five years.”

Only recently, Wirth added, has there been significant consolidation, and it’s come from a variety of places. He cited marketing automation companies being bought by CRM vendors: Salesforce and ExactTarget/Pardot; by web analytics players: Adobe/Omniture with Neolane; by the large tech suites: Oracle with Eloqua; and standalone: Marketo.

“Real time web personalization has affinities with marketing tech suites and with content management and e-commerce platforms,” Wirth said. “This is a huge space with plenty of opportunity for acquisition and for standalone vendors.”

Demandbase’s Golec said he hasn’t seen other acquisitions like Marketo-Insightera. Other marketing technology acquisitions by Oracle, Salesforce and Adobe have been more sustainable in terms of size and scope of functionality, he added.

“I believe we will see more acquisitions by the likes of HP, IBM and SAP to make their marketing platforms more robust,” Golec predicted.

The move doesn’t shake up the market, he said, but “gives Marketo some added functionality to move beyond its core marketing automation tools. As an independent marketing platform competing with the likes of Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle, it is going to be critical for Marketo to fill out its portfolio if it plans to stay independent long term.”

Will Marketo extend its capability through acquisitions of point solutions such as CMS, analytics or even a data management platform that would enable them to better compete with the industry's marketing clouds from Adobe, Salesforce, HP, IBM and Oracle, each Demandbase customers?

Golec said it will be interesting to see what unfolds.

Direct Competition?

As for competitors here, Marketo CEO Phil Fernandez, in a conference call with investors last week, said Demandbase is “probably the clearest initial competition in this space.”

“And then,” he added, “there’s actually a reasonably long list of other startups that are pursuing this kind of activity. ... I think it’s a set of companies that are coming to this capability rather than anything in the mature competition that we face.”