Heard it through the grapevine: Who will acquire Marketo next?

Stephanie King

Traditional marketing has transformed over the last two decades.

Gone are the days of publishing a newspaper ad or billboard assuming, “A lot of people could see this!” Marketing automation has completely streamlined marketing tasks, and allowed businesses to capture robust analytics. The result – deep insights into the full customer lifecycle.

First there was Eloqua. Then there was Hubspot. Not too longer after came Marketo and Pardot. These disruptive businesses came to market with a vision: Marketing ROI is a reality – see for yourself. And the large players certainly did.

Consider some of the most elite, profitable global software companies (think SAP, IBM, VMware, etc.). Incorporating marketing automation technologies into the suite of offerings is a strategic play when it comes to digital disruption.

Perhaps the most notable first marketing technology acquisition came about in 2012, when Oracle acquired Eloqua for $871M. Only one year later in 2013, Salesforce acquired Pardot (ExactTarget) for $2.5B cash.

The next logical marketing automation acquisition is Marketo.

Meet Marketo

Let’s take a look at Marketo. Founded in 2006 and headquartered in California, Marketo markets itself as a, “marketing automation platform focused on account-based marketing, including email, mobile, social, digital ads, web management and analytics.”

With over 1,000 global employees and approximately 5,000 customers, Marketo is a world-leading marketing automation technology. As a previous Marketo customer, I can attest to that. Myself and fellow marketers will often refer to Eloqua, Marketo and Pardot as The Big Three.

Although a slightly intimidating product at first, Marketo is truly an all-in-one solution. Beyond its fully capable and integrated technology, the Marketo customer support, thought leadership and future vision are compelling reasons to select the product over competitors.

Marketo has made a couple of acquisitions over the last five years to maintain a competitive advantage:

Holistically speaking Marketo went public in 2013, which was received well – shares surged over 50% from its offering price on day one. Three years later, private equity firm Vista Equity Partners bought Marketo for $1.79B (cash), ultimately taking the company private again.

Given Marketo now belongs to a PE firm – and it’s been two years since the acquisition – I’m wondering who will acquire Marketo next? A strategic? And when?

Rumored Buyers

There are a number of companies that could benefit from acquiring Marketo. Distilling grapevine rumors, here are four potential buyers that I think would be a good fit.

Google

Last summer, an alliance between Marketo and Google generated buzz. Marketo announced its software would be moving onto Google Cloud Platform, and the kicker, was part of a six-year partnership of tool integration between the two companies.

Why Google Cloud versus Amazon or Azure? Perhaps because of the two businesses’ inherent marketing focus – which builds on the case for acquisition.

Microsoft

Azure aside, Microsoft is a large and long standing customer of Marketo. With deep pockets, and a business that could benefit by expanding their marketing services to include stronger automation capabilities, Microsoft could be interested buyer.

SAP

SAP recently went to market with C/4HANA, a concept that brings together customer data, machine learning technology, and microservices to power real-time customer engagements. Suspected as a head-to-head play against Salesforce, Oracle and others, the suite includes sales, service, marketing, commerce and more. With the Salesforce-Pardot and Oracle-Eloqua alignments, could SAP’s marketing offering be strengthened by acquiring Marketo?

No One

Another idea: Marketo won’t sell. Perhaps Marketo will go head-to-head with the SAPs and Microsofts and Oracles of the world. After all, the Vista Equity Partners purchase came at a high price tag, and perhaps the firm is interested in funding Marketo’s growth and innovation so that they can compete directly against the big players.

Do you think a strategic will acquire Marketo, and if so who? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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