Julie Hopkins

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Julie Hopkins
Research Director
1 years at Gartner
15 years IT Industry

Julie Hopkins analyzes digital marketing strategy, trends and practices. She studies social marketing, digital marketing programs and emerging digital marketing trends. Read Full Bio

What Graduates and Marketers Know

by Julie Hopkins  |  June 27, 2014  |  Comments Off

Based on the number of red solo cups that are littering the streets of my town these days, it’s clearly graduation party season. Graduation parties are big in the Midwest. BIG. We only have a few months of nice weather, so when we have something to celebrate during one of those months, we go all out. My neighbor hosted such a party for her son last year….for which she started prepping 12 months in advance (because if you’re going to re-landscape your  acre for the party, you want to get a full year’s growth on your plantings :-) )

On grad party days, dozens of cars line the streets, making navigating the streets challenging, and day-after clean up a necessity. Because, unfortunately, graduates (and their friends) are notoriously bad at making sure their red solo cups find their way to a trash can.

The prepwork is heroic and the cups are plentiful because everyone wants to be at these parties. They are the see-and-be-seen of the season. Just being at the right party, it seems, can change entire social futures. You magically get identified with just the right host…fill the right receptacle…and presto…game changer.

It’s not entirely different for marketers. I was recently interviewed about a brand campaign that fell into the category of “first-ever”. You can read the article here, but when the reporter asked what I thought of this move, I told her I didn’t necessarily think it would sell more product, but I bet it would impact the brand’s image (aligning it with a different demographic). I also suspected it would get a lot of press (which it definitely did), just because it existed (even if the campaign did nothing at all, “being there” made the brand look forward-thinking and cutting edge).

I generally recommend that marketers be thoughtful and somewhat deliberate about where they place their campaign bets. I skew toward known or proven approaches – and am less often in the “let’s be the first to try it” camp. But when it comes to multichannel marketing strategies, sometimes it makes sense to extend a portion of investment to the channel or placement where “just being there” has an impact. Maybe it changes how others think about your brand. Maybe it changes how YOU think about your brand. Maybe it reveals new connections that you might not otherwise have identified. But showing up….getting a cup….and trying on the new scene for size can bring new perspective you might not otherwise have.

Here’s the good news. In the digital marketing world, it’s party season. Go back to our digital marketing transit map. What channels, strategies, tools, or tactics have you not yet explored? Stretch your multichannel strategies a little wider – where are the near neighbors that might warrant a visit?

 This upcoming week, Gartner for Marketing Leaders features our research on multichannel marketing strategies and tools, and highlights noteworthy and interesting multichannel campaigns that brands are implementing (content available to clients).

 But client or not, this week, look ahead at your plans and programs, and where you can, pull up and explore a new destination. Go ahead and grab a cup. See what happens when you show up at a new party.  Just please, please, don’t ditch your cup on my lawn when you’re done.

 (My apologies for anyone who has had Toby Keith’s song “Red Solo Cup” in their head since the first paragraph…but come on, country lover or not, it IS catchy…)

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Category: digital marketing Uncategorized     Tags:

Why Leaked College Emails Should Matter

by Julie Hopkins  |  June 4, 2014  |  Comments Off

By now, most of us who hover around the world of social media have had the chance to read and digest the emails that were sent by Evan Spiegel, Snapchat founder, to his fraternity brothers when he was a Freshman and Sophomore at Stanford. I raise them not because I want to launch a gender war discussion, or examine the culture of Silicon Valley startups, or address any one of the other threads that have fallen out of this event. Others have taken up those agendas; let’s put them aside for now.

I raise them because I want these emails to matter. I can’t say whether they’ll have any impact on downstream investments in Snapchat, but I’d like them to have impact on those of us who put messaging (personal or professional) out into the market.

Perhaps I would not have felt as strongly about them if they weren’t so close in the rearview mirror.  Or perhaps I wouldn’t have felt as strongly about them if they hadn’t been written by someone who believes so firmly in the wonder of disposable communications, that a company was inspired by the concept. But Snapchat is the marquis logo of the erasable web, and the emails that could have benefited from Snapchat features are younger than my kindergartener. And so, they got me thinking.

I want all of us, vicariously through these emails, to remember the degree to which our communications are artifacts. Snapchat is anti-artifact, which is tough to swallow, because whether messages can be technologically traced, tracked, or stored, they have an impact on the receiver, for which we as the sender hold responsibility. We as marketers know this. Otherwise, why would the Cheerios brand team expand the range of families they portray in their campaigns?  Most of us recognize that we are not marketing for a single disposable moment. We want to create a moment’s action, but a lifetime’s memories, even if all we’re selling is cereal…or shampoo…or a pair of jeans. But sometimes, when our tweets trail off the news feed, or our Facebook posts stop generating attention, we forget how that which we have created and invited others to directly (or indirectly) experience lives on, not only digitally, but in the hearts, minds and consciousness of the recipient.

Where now? It’s hard to think of the action item that comes out of this blog. How do you sum it up? “Write responsible communications?” “Develop thoughtful digital tools?”

I figure I’ll close with an anecdote, which when it occurred in the same timeframe as the Spiegel email leak, made me cringe a little about the influence of digital communications on our lives. A good friend of mine has a 16 year old daughter. Social media and mobile screen time are grounds for daily battles. His comment to me: “these days, I feel like the only thing she wants to talk about – or that prompts her to even want to engage with me – is to show me the latest vine video she’s found.” As her life becomes increasingly wound around the latest text she’s received, the metrics her most recent tweet has generated, or the capture of a new celeb follower, she becomes increasingly disconnected from the connections that will sustain her beyond her phone’s battery life.

Introducing and then leaving my friend’s situation – like attempting a light touch on the aforementioned emails – is virtually impossible. I realize I raise sociological and relational concepts that this blog is wholly unprepared to tackle. But both situations made me think about the individuals on the other end of the content that is being produced and consumed. We all have a little bit of responsibility for that which we feed to the beast. And while Jimmy Kimmel can call certain individual content producers to the carpet with his “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets” segment (there are 7 segments, and they’re awesome), far more is created and shared that should probably be gut checked than currently is.  

So don’t let this topic drop without 5 minutes of extra noodling. Process the tentacles of this issue for a minute longer, and the recognition that what you’ve created and shared, regardless of application used, lives on.  Then think about your own digital artifacts. What are you creating that has reach beyond that which you can measure or monitor?

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Category: digital marketing     Tags:

The 2014 Digital Marketing Spend Survey: You’ve Got the Data. What to Do (and Not Do) With It.

by Julie Hopkins  |  May 27, 2014  |  Comments Off

A few months ago, the Gartner for Marketing Leaders team (check us out here – aren’t we adorable?) published our second annual Digital Marketing Spend Survey. The 2014 survey offers you a look at how CMOs are allocating budgets and prioritizing resources and investments, related not only to their overall marketing programs, but with a focus on where they’re investing with respect to digital marketing resources and programs.

I always find these surveys interesting. Inevitably, they become the foundational pieces for a lot of our other research. We use the data here to ground our audience in a common understanding, often before taking a deep dive into individual subject areas.  For example, anyone who is on my calendar to talk about the role of social marketing in today’s digital marketing programs can plan on hearing how social marketing budgets are, versus other disciplines, seeing some of the biggest budget increases based on our 2014 survey. This kind of stat gives us a  jumping off point to discuss the factors driving increased social investment…th edemand for resources, cost to develop content, technology investments to support expanding engagement options and networks, a push for better reporting and insight, and depending on how you bucket your ad spend, investment in paid social to support your organic strategy. We can use this data as a wonderful canvas to help our clients to understand where the market is headed, and how they can prepare, as well as get ahead of it.

But how should you use the data? I can hazard a guess about the way many marketers will want to use the data. One of the things that is clear is that marketers universally are looking for some rules of thumb in their digital marketing strategy.  One vendor said recently, marketing has changed more in the last 5 years, than it did in the 100 years before that. So, not surprisingly, the number one question I get – regardless of digital marketing topic – is “who is doing this well,” and then, “how are they getting this level of performance?”. Or even the ever popular, “what are the benchmarks for this?,” which is another way of saying, “can you tell me what good looks like, and then I’ll know if I’m doing this right?” People have questions. Data like this feels like a possible answer. And so when it comes out, it prompts clients to do a line item and strategy comparison, and where deltas exist, the plans will start to form to close the gap. The data thus is used like a pre-scription, rather than the de-scription that it is.

To me, that’s like me reading that bomber jackets are one of 2014’s most wearable trends, and then buying one forgetting that they make me look ridiculous. Instead, here’s what I tell my clients who are seeking benchmarks,  market statistics, or thresholds that otherwise look like a guideline for, or barometer of success. I can give you a number, but that doesn’t mean that delivering against that number will create value for the business. Worse yet, if you align to that number, but still fail to deliver against organizational or program goals, then that benchmark I gave you was worthless.

In the case of our survey, dig in a level deeper and understand what is driving the investment, the resource allocation, or the trend shift. Yes, indeed, compare your numbers, but then ask, is there logic in the gap between my investment and theirs? Are we justifiably, and perhaps strategically, different? Or, perhaps, is there something that is reflected in the CMO numbers that is driven by a shift in consumer engagement patterns…or another force that, regardless of sector or business model, will in time come to impact us all?

Download the note that is available with the survey, look at the infographic, and instead of just digesting the numbers, digest the thinking. Get inside the head of our CMOs and figure out how what they’re seeing and doing will or should impact what you see and do. Just don’t stop at copy and paste.

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Category: digital marketing     Tags: ,

Facebook Mobile Saves Lives

by Julie Hopkins  |  January 30, 2014  |  Comments Off

It’s been an interesting 10 days in the world of social media. It began with the headlines spawned by a Princeton University study that predicted the death (or appreciable decline) of Facebook. The prediction that Facebook would lose 80% of its users by 2017 was based on a model of the spread of infectious diseases that was applied to an analysis of Google search trends for the word “Facebook.” Never mind the impact the meteoric rise of Facebook usage on mobile phones (thus through an app) might have on search volume, or the fact that, with more than a billion users, few need to use Google to find their way to “the Facebook.”  The study had a big (though imperfect) finding, and thus could lead with a big headline, and so people – the press, the blogosphere, and yes, even a few Gartner analysts – started talking.

Meanwhile, it’s winter.  And while many things go cold, dark, or quiet in winter, nature’s fury certainly does not. And so when Mother Nature turned her reign of terror to the southeast, chaos ensued. Cars hit roads covered by ice, and those racing to beat the storm to their destination – truckers, school bus drivers, daily commuters – soon found themselves stranded on the highway. But this wasn’t your ordinary traffic jam. In places like Atlanta, cars ran out of gas, cell phones died, and hours stranded could now be counted on two, then three hands. What initially felt like an inconvenience quickly became an emergency.

Who could help? 10 years ago, a solution would have been much harder to come by. But today’s technology is on our side, and the hero of the hour became a device, loaded with applications designed for location identification and broadscale sharing. Quickly, a group formed on Facebook called SnowedOutAtlanta, and as darkness literally (and figuratively) started to set in, individuals joined at a rate of 300 new members every 15 minutes. Photo sharing capabilities helped community members recognize motorists who couldn’t otherwise be found. Individuals could pin their last known location, and be married up with those who had food or water, or could provide nearby shelter. Demand became so great – the group now numbers more than 50,000 members – splinter pages had to be created to address the needs and communications of individual Atlanta neighborhoods.

So indulge the intentional hyperbole of this blog title, but acknowledge the leap isn’t any bigger than those made by the folks in Princeton. Ten days and one polar vortex surge after we found ourselves wondering if Facebook was cruising towards irrelevance, it plays spoiler to the headline. Certainly, over time, Facebook (the network, versus the company) will be impacted by shifts in demographic and communication preferences. But platforms aside, our new native behaviors are here to stay. We are SoLoMo-vers and shakers. We check in, we check out, we learn and we share. While many (rightfully so) report on how these actions can contribute to isolation, in this case it has also demonstrated how it can bring individuals with only circumstantial (but relevant) connections together.

Stay warm, stay charged, and stay connected, folks. Research doesn’t guarantee that doing so will save your life, but it might.

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Category: digital marketing     Tags:

All Oracle Wants For Christmas Is…a B2C Focused Campaign Management Platform

by Julie Hopkins  |  December 23, 2013  |  Comments Off

 In case you thought things were going to wind down, and the digital marketing world would exhale, ever so briefly, as it exited 2013, you were clearly wrong. Because, in the ultimate Groundhog Day move, Oracle snatched up B2C campaign management provider Responsys (NASDAQ: MKTG) on December 20th for $1.5 billion, exactly one year from the date when they purchased B2B Campaign Management provider Eloqua (anyone want to make bets for 12/20/14?). Bringing these two providers together as part of the Oracle Marketing Cloud underscores Oracle’s focus on the marketing organization as a source of growth, addresses a gap in their existing marketing cloud offering, and in their words,  demonstrates an effort  to bring together “best in class” capabilities for both B2B and B2C marketers.

“What now?” would be a fair question, as we look back on an active year in the digital marketing management space.  Billions of dollars have been spent in the last twelve months to bring Eloqua, Neolane, ExactTarget, and now Responsys under new ownership, and if winners were decided on acquired campaign management capabilities, an argument could be made that momentum was on the side of a handful of players. Those who remember this happening in the ERP space will likely tell you this feels familiar. But certainly, those of us who are knee deep with these providers will tell you there’s still ground to cover, and questions to be addressed. For instance, there are a lot of key functions – content marketing, ad tech, PPC bid management, web analytics and tag management – where providers bring inconsistent offerings to the table, and which, when executed effectively, can distinguish great from merely good digital marketers.

 Thus, not only do players like Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce.com have the responsibility of integrating all of the capabilities they’ve acquired in the last year, they’ve got additional functional gaps that must be closed. This is not just a game of yards – yards representing  the core campaign management capabilities that hook everything together – but also a game of inches, representing key functions that are the “secret sauce” of successful marketers.  

This being the season of lists and shopping, I give Oracle an “A” for checking items off that potential customers might be seeking under their marketing cloud tree. But as we all know, the best presents quickly become table decorations if not wrapped with the necessary batteries, components, or attachments. If you’re a parent, you know the anticlimactic defeat of that moment. Let’s hope that Oracle knows better than to leave these pieces on the table, sad and inanimate, full of squandered potential, as holiday music chirps in the background.

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Category: digital marketing     Tags:

Nuke LaLoosh On Digital Marketing

by Julie Hopkins  |  November 4, 2013  |  1 Comment

There’s a great line in the movie “Bull Durham” that came to mind this week. Used once in the film to ground the struggling Bulls in the basics of what they’re on the field to do, star pitcher Nuke LaLoosh extends the image later in the film to demonstrate his profound thinking on the sport of baseball. If you’ve seen the movie, you know the line.   

This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains. Think about that for a while.

Of course digital marketing isn’t a simple game. I’ve had a blog post building in my head for months loosely titled, “Maybe What We’re Doing Here is Really Rediculously Hard.” We’re processing massive amounts of information in order to connect with thousands of increasingly narrow segments with the hope that we can match the person with the perfect message, placed across the ideal channel, tuned to the precise device, delivered real-time at the moment of maximum impact, with all the tools necessary to enable social sharing. Oh, and ideally it’s all perfectly tagged to allow for measurement and tracking, and the data will flow through an attribution model that will tell us EXACTLY what’s working, in what proportions, and how to spend our money better next month.

I would argue, though,  that there are contests on the marketing playing field that are not being lost in the complexities of multi-channel campaigns, but on the fundamentals. Who is your customer? Where do they hang out online and what do they do there?  When they’re there, do they want to talk to you? Are their engagement preferences dynamic, and how frequently are those preferences changing (e.g. will consumer attention move from Vine to Instagram before the end of your campaign)? What are your campaigns designed to do or achieve? Is your team and management structure aligned that this is the desired outcome? Are your customers really going to act in the way you’re asking (see my post from earlier this year on WWYCD?). Have we defined what success looks like? Will we know it when we see it?

 Marketers are optimists. This is why we’re so darn fun to be around. We like when things work….when they make a splash…when the level of the buzz rises, and the cash registers ring (or site is clicked).  It’s a lot easier to believe that what we do is uniquely hard – or that the platforms we have to work with are uniquely flawed – when our programs don’t deliver.  It’s certainly better than admitting you used the wrong platform…you shared the wrong content…you overextended your budget… or you made the wrong ask. As my colleague Jake Sorofman said in his post, Facebook is Not the Problem, “…blindly throwing pennies at Facebook and expecting it spit out quarters like a slot machine is little more than a fool’s errand.”

 The best digital marketing tool you possess is your mind. Ask the most of that platform, and your programs will improve.  Because, at its’ core, it’s a simple game. Think about that for a while.

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Category: digital marketing     Tags:

But Seriously….

by Julie Hopkins  |  September 20, 2013  |  Comments Off

At dinner the other night, my companions asked me what I liked best about my job. Truthfully, the list is long, but I led with how much I like talking to smart, interesting people about the cool things they do. It happens during vendor briefings. It happens during our weekly staff meetings (team members like Martin Kihn, who recently found a way to connect Jay-Z and Hadoop in a blog post, can always be counted on for a laugh). Other times, it takes place in larger venues (like the ExactTarget Connections User Conference, where I wrote this), when the person you’re listening to is someone like Jim Collins, author of the management best-seller, “Good to Great.”

In his presentation,  Collins highlighted several differentiating characteristics of great companies, including the discipline that leaders of those companies demonstrated. Fanatic discipline. Singular focus. Consistency of action. I loved the fact that he was discussing this in front of a room of digital marketers. Because sometimes we act like we think we can be successful – or at least be in the game – without having to play by similar rules. Yes, you want to manufacture pharamaceuticals? You should be fanatical. In fact, feel free to err on the side of being a zealot. But make a mistake on a 140 character tweet? Enh….suboptimal, but probably OK.

The Digital Marketing culture has always operated a little looser than other marketing disciplines, not to mention looser than the other departments within the org structure. This is partially due to the ease of experimentation. It’s much easier to launch a Facebook page than run a quarter page ad in The Wall Street Journal. Our ongoing casual approach of things is also rooted in the natural irreverence in the discipline (when early campaigns take the form of Burger King’s “Subservient Chicken,” it’s hard to be the serious guy in the room).

But as we approach what many are describing as “the transformative era of marketing,” many marketers are raising the level of their game. Some are still finding their way, recasting their identity through every new digital media channel they try…flirting with Vine…toe-dipping into Twitter…throwing hash tags around to see what sticks. But others have moved out of their digital adolescence, and now that they’re out on their own, are doing some pretty impressive things.

Great digital marketers will emerge when we start seeing the fanatic discipline applied to other parts of the organization now applied to digital marketing. It will require detailed planning. It will require measurement tracking that connects metrics with business objectives. It will require leadership that is willing to embrace the creativity that is core to digital, while imposing on it the consistency of delivery that is expected in other disciplines.

Recently, one client posed to me the following question: “My CEO just told me he ‘had a guy’ who could get our company on LinkedIn. He wants to just go ahead and let this guy do it….do you think this is a good idea?” My answer was pretty direct – it might be, depending on your strategy, your objectives,  who the guy is, what you’re going to have him do, and the cost. This CEO’s question came out of a casual treatment of the discipline. To him / her, LinkedIn was the digital marketing equivalent of a shiny object.

The time has come to do better than this folks. Be smart. Be consistent.  Be fanatics. Hold your digital programs to higher standards. And be Great.

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The Subject Line that Launched 1000 Purchases

by Julie Hopkins  |  August 16, 2013  |  1 Comment

Earlier this morning, I got an update in my email on a trio of dresses I ordered. Good news, they’ll arrive soon! (I know you were all wondering) And then I saw this new little feature on the far right side of the subject line space.

Email inbox capture

Announced in May, but rolled out a few weeks later, Gmail Quick Actions allow the user to take action on a message from the subject line without even opening it. So whether you’re checking a flight status, RSVPing to an invitation, viewing status of an order, or submitting a review on a recently purchase product, you can jump directly from the brand email to the interaction, without interruption. One button, straight from the inbox, to your end destination. So efficient – LOVE!

Why highlight this twist in email, especially this week, as our GML team conversation turns to commerce? Is it because I’ve got fashion on the brain? Maybe. More likely, this feature highlights something we all logically know, but that is becoming increasingly important – that the commerce experience is far reaching, and it encompasses more than just the steps we take en route to buying.

Reference all that’s been written on the Zero Moment of Truth, and consider all of the points at which a consumer can become aware of your product, or the inputs that drive them to select and then buy your product (or buy from you again). Stealing Chuck Martin’s line from the HBR’s The Mobile Shopping Life Cycle, “Consumers no longer go shopping, they always are shopping.” As such, no portion of the commerce experience should go under-considered in terms of its ability to connect closer to the shopper, including post-purchase.

If you’re actively trying to sell something – online or otherwise – be very deliberate and thoughtful about how all of the interactions you support build upon one another to create a richer relationship. Take nothing for granted. One of the most interesting pieces of data I saw recently spoke to the fact that emails sent late at night had higher open rates, transaction rates, and revenue than those sent during the day, and that revenue per email spikes on Saturday. Ask anyone who ran an email marketing program 5 years ago if they would believe those statistics, and they’ll describe the testing they went through to determine if Tuesday sends were better than Thursday. The point? Everything is up for grabs when it comes to moving the consumer to buy, and bringing them back for more.

Today’s consumer is different. The purchase process is different. More voices are involved. And if you want to sell something, you need to start thinking creatively about how to make your voice heard, and all of the “little touches” you can leverage to help get a consumer just one tiny step closer to purchase, repurchase, or a loyal relationship with you. In an inbox filled with 1700 unread messages, one button caught my eye, and made my buying journey richer.

How will you stand out?

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Mind the Gap: You’re Taking a Ride on the Social Marketing Line

by Julie Hopkins  |  July 16, 2013  |  Comments Off

By now, if you’re in the digital marketing space, the Digital Marketing Transit Map has made its way into your sphere of consciousness. Perhaps you listened in on our webinar.  Maybe you read similar posts from my colleagues Jake Sorofman, or Andrew Frank. If you have, you’ve had a couple good “aha” or “YES!” moments. I personally like that the Emerging Trends line in the one that’s the most “out there” on the map. I also like that the UX line is right at the center, putting the customer right where they should be in digital marketing discussions. In fact, the only change I might make is to add a couple of caution signs or “helpful hints” to travelers on the social marketing line. Here’s why.

Social Line_Transit Map

If you’re a social marketing manager, your travels through the digital marketing landscape rarely feel uneventful. On the upside, the social marketing line gets a lot of traffic, by a lot of diverse people, many of whom are doing some really fun and  compelling things. It’s an intense and exciting ride, available at all hours of the day and night. But this route is also unfortunately often under construction. The rules of the line can change at a moment’s notice. The temperament of the crowds in the terminals can range from loving and effusive to entitled and angry. Mistakes in executing your plans can leave you feeling very exposed. Connections feel overly close, and as a result, are often missed. Even the best marketers can feel like the line moves too quickly – or too chaotically – for them to execute very well.

Our research tells us that this is true. The social marketing line is taking brands to amazing places, but few are riding it with peak efficiency or effectiveness. Our research over the last few months has highlighted some of the difficulties marketers face in making this ride “work” for them. What, then, can you do to buffer against some of the natural volatility in this line, and help you navigate better?

-          Look upstream: What upstream resources or opportunities have you ignored by jumping on midway? For example, backtrack and look more seriously at your software tools – are they offering the support you need for a stable ride?

-          Explore the neighborhood: The commerce track runs adjacent to the social marketing track for a reason. How closely can you connect the content you create and share, or the technologies you leverage, to the activities that drive revenue into the organization?

-          Consider connections: What impact comes from the connections that lie ahead? Consider where emerging technologies intersect with the social marketing line – are there reasons to jump off and explore, or does your strategy dictate that you stay on course?

As with any good map, you benefit most when you use the Transit Map to not only navigate a singular path, but to explore and exploit the opportunities around you. Smart consideration of your options can help you to identify where trouble on the line can slow you down, or which routes will lead you to social marketing gold. Navigate well!

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Salesforce.com Acquires ExactTarget

by Julie Hopkins  |  June 4, 2013  |  1 Comment

You’ll see a lot of things today in the news…in your social feed…as you move around town…as you attempt to understand your children…that will fundamentally not make sense to you. The headline today announcing Salesforce.com’s acquisition of ExactTarget should not fall into that category. You may work hard to fully comprehend a sum of money like $2.5billion in cash, but if you spend about two minutes thinking through the reasoning of this move, you should get yourself quickly to a head-nod, and be able to move about your day. Here’s why.

Begin with fact that the technology needs of today’s marketing executives are increasing rapidly. Our recent survey of marketing executives indicates that 10.4% of revenue is budgeted for marketing, and is expected to grow 6% in 2013.  With projected technology investments a major part of marketing budget growth, Salesforce.com has been building out the “big rock” components of their marketing cloud since the acquisition of Radian6 in March 2011. The cloud got more crowded when BuddyMedia was acquired last year. With today’s announcement, Salesforce.com rounds out the components of their marketing story.

Is email a $2.5B part of the engagement story? Sure it is. Email communications remain a critical part of how organizations engage their audiences. Whether communications are transactional or marketing in nature, they reach consumers semi-seamlessly across devices, can leverage the big data companies are increasingly collecting and harnessing, link actions taken tightly back into the consumer record (feeding the grand insight loop), and meaningfully drive to other components of online and offline programs. Regardless of company size, audience, or industry, email is a hard-working vehicle that many companies are still working to perfect. In short, getting closer to a leading email company makes sense if you’re a company built on helping your customers engage their customers better.

Why ExactTarget?  With a marquis customer list, and the ability to support robust email marketing programs, they offer Salesforce.com and their customers the capabilities needed to build out the marketing cloud. In fact, when existing Salesforce.com customers were seeking support for complex email requirements, the folks in San Francisco would point customers east to the folks in Indianapolis…often enough that integration via the Salesforce.com APIs already exists.

It appears that the distance will shrink between the two companies, though there are still a lot of details to be worked out. There is overlapping functionality that must be reckoned with. There are ExactTarget customers who work with Salesforce.com’s competitors who are certainly pondering the impact on their current setup. There are two brands, rich with equity, that will live alongside one another…for now. All of this will need to be dealt with. BUT, there are also CMOs who are feeling increasing pressure to drive value into the organization, who are saddled with increasing influence over the business, and who are working hard to make sense out of the providers and solutions that support their digital marketing initiatives.  We at Gartner are watching this scene play out from the front row, and have even launched a new offering to help digital marketers navigate this new landscape. But this announcement will give them some additional food for thought. More will certainly come, along with our official position on the announcement. At the highest level, though, knowing the players involved and the market being served, this move is far from a head-scratcher.

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