Today, Oracle announced that it will acquire Eloqua, a marketing automation firm. Oracle positions the deal as a comprehensive customer experience cloud that enables business to create an integrated, end-to-end process of marketing, sales, service, and support. I look forward to insight from my colleague Lori Wizdo on what the Oracle-Eloqua deal means for a marketing and sales alignment.

I think the deal has larger ramifications for the future of all customer relationship marketers and marketing vendors. Here’s my take on the deal:

  • For marketers: comprehensive, real-time relationship marketing is the new black. Avoid the temptation is to see this deal as validation of only B2B marketing automation. Beyond industry verticals or business models, the larger import is the future evolution of all marketing towards more campaign automation, more engagement, and more algorithmically-driven customer dialogue. In essence, expect a future convergence between the techniques of B2B and the scale of B2C. Call it programmatic marketing or customer decision management. Indeed Oracle does not define the deal narrowly as B2B. It sees growth potential in a diversity of industry verticals and business models, such as entertainment, financial services, and consumer manufacturing. The deal doesn’t get Oracle all the way there, but it does give them a scalable, SaaS-based automation platform that will be critical for addressing customers in an era of lengthening paths to purchase, ubiquitous connectivity, and intense post-purchase engagement.
  • For Oracle and Eloqua: nice work if you can get it. The $871 million deal is eye-popping, given Eloqua’s $90 million in annual revenue, but at Oracle’s level, the cost hardly matters. Eloqua’s puts more muscle behind Oracle’s vision to become a force in SaaS. As important, it gives the company a do-over, i.e., an opportunity to pivot from past marketing tech offerings – like the primarily on-premise and left-to-seed Siebel. Marketers actively chose Eloqua for its capabilities as much as for the freedom it offers from IT. Let’s hope that Oracle doesn’t bury Eloqua under an IT-focused sales strategy or position it only against Indeed, let’s hope that Oracle seizes the possibilities inherent in digital disruption and uses it to cannibalize Siebel Marketing. This deal could make Oracle a real force in modern marketing by enabling its customers to deliver better relationship marketing programs faster than the old technology could.
  • For Eloqua’s customers and prospects: Prepare for a fork in the road. Eloqua customers will obviously worry about continued support for integration – Oracle’s protestations aside – but just as much, they should worry about native enhancements. Oracle will move to strengthen Eloqua’s offering through cross-selling its portfolio, in areas like social marketing, business intelligence, and content management. But a portfolio strategy likely comes at increased cost and complexity for current customers and prospects, many of whom would prefer a single, unified application suite.
  • For competitors: Go big or go home. This deal makes Microsoft’s recent acquisition of the relatively unknown MarketingPilot look shortsighted and stingy. With raised stakes, will it make another acquisition to avoid marketing tech obscurity? And what of IBM, which has no real SaaS-based automation offering, or Adobe, a company that has steadfastly resisted CRM offerings? Expect to see these tech titans get hungry for providers like Marketo or Silverpop or more B2C-focused options like Responsys, ExactTarget and Neolane. Infor and Pega have attractive marketing assets, but would be expensive, have on-premise delivery models, and come with non-marketing-tech baggage.