Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff was apparently doing more than lobbying the European Union to block Microsoft's pending acquisition of LinkedIn last week. It seems he was busy shopping, too.

In documents filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission today, Salesforce announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to buy Krux, a San Francisco-based data management platform (DMP) provider, for cash and stock totaling between $680 million and $683.5 million.

Salesforce will pay approximately $340 million in cash and, in addition, 3.4 million to 6 million shares of its common stock. The number of shares will depend on the share price at the time the deal closes, provided the stock is not less than $57.25 nor more than $100.18.

The deal was announced on the eve of Dreamforce, Salesforce's mega-conference that kicks off tomorrow in San Francisco.

A More Intelligent Marketing Cloud

In a blog post, Krux founder and CEO Tom Chavez noted enthusiastically his company was "trading gas for rocket fuel," explaining:

  • Being part of Salesforce gives us the opportunity to pursue our mission of driving more relevant and valuable consumer experiences by putting people data to work, with greater reach and impact than ever before. We will continue to deliver world-class enterprise data infrastructure and breakthrough business results for our clients. We’ll now be able to do so faster by leveraging the global reach and resources of Salesforce.
Some 150 companies, including ConAgra Foods, Meredith Publications and the BBC use Krux's Intelligent Marketing Hub to capture, control and connect consumer data across screens and sources.

The acquisition will bring the Intelligent Marketing Hub together with Salesforce’s customer relationship management platform, extending its audience segmentation and targeting capabilities. Krux will also supply Salesforce’s AI technology Einstein with "billions of new signals," thereby improving Salesforce's artificial intelligence capabilities to inform audience segments for targeted marketing and advertising, Chavez added.

What the Analysts Say

"Salesforce had a gap in its MarTech, AdTech stack," Forrester analyst Susan Bidel told CMSWire, adding that the Krux acquisition fills it in. 

She likened it to Oracle's acquisition of Blue Kai in 2014, which it integrated into Eloqua's marketing automation tools later that year. Adobe also bought into the DMP arena with its 2011 acquisition of Demdex, a Krux competitor.

Does this make Salesforce a follower? 

None of the analysts CMSWire spoke to wanted to touch that question, though Bidel was willing to call Adobe a "thought leader" that began the DMP acquisition trend among the three vendors.

Learning Opportunities

Constellation Research analyst R."Ray" Wang told CMSWire that Salesforce's selection of Krux over competitors probably was not too difficult a choice. "This is about the last good DMP," he said.

The big winners from the acquisition might be Salesforce Marketing Cloud customers in the consumer packaged goods space, according to Bidel, explaining that they'll now have access to first party data.

More About Krux

Late last year, Forrester named Krux a leader in its Wave for Data Management Platforms. It nearly tied with Adobe for the top spot. Forrester analysts said Krux is extremely customizable based on client needs, making it a good choice for clients that don’t want a DMP as part of an integrated stack option.

Salesforce has been working with Krux, one of its partners, for about six years. As Chavez explained, "We’ve had the opportunity to work closely with the Salesforce team to create integrations that make our customers even more successful."

Krux has also partnered with companies other than Salesforce, and it expects to keep those partnerships intact, "supporting our thriving partner ecosystem and integrating with a wide variety of platforms. Both companies share a long-standing commitment to interoperability and broad, diverse partner networks," Chavez wrote.

Before founding Krux, Chavez was general manager for the Online Publisher Business Group in Microsoft's Advertiser and Publisher Solutions group. Microsoft unveiled its own powerful AI capabilities at its user conference, Ignite, last week.