Who’s Going to Run This Town? The Continuing War For Marketing Automation Dominance

Ahh, marketing automation, thank you for coming along. Not just because marketers need you, but the technology market needs you. We don’t have as many dirty, bare-knuckled technology wars as we used to or at least any new ones. Especially for a guy like me who loves a good battle. Whenever I’m out with the marketing automation guys, I tell them: “I love standing on the sidelines watching you go at it.” I love it.

That being said, there’s been some recent amazingness in the blogosphere with marketing-automation-exec-on-marketing-automation-exec violence. We can derive some important lessons from it.

So, first, with joy, I present to you the last couple weeks in the war for marketing automation dominance:

  1. Lead Sloth’s Genius.com article: This was a fairly innocuous article, with Jep getting the scoop from Scott Mersy at Genius and writing about the two freemium offerings in the marketing automation market. Innocent, right? Check out the war that broke out — particularly between David Thompson, CEO of Genius, and Phil Fernandez, CEO of Marketo — in the comments.
  2. The Eloqua Blog “callout” of Marketo VP of Sales Bill Binch: Bill sent a LinkedIn message to some Eloqua sales reps. Alex Shootman, SVP of Sales at Eloqua, in a brilliant chess counter-move, then posted the message on his blog and, in his tone and message, took the high road. Many will debate whether posting the message on the blog in the first place really constitutes taking the “high road,” but who cares? This is war! How about Bill’s comment: “Old school or not, it got me 6 interviews.”  CLASSIC.

My perspective:

  1. “A party isn’t a party without a good fight” — A really mean guy in high school who got in fights every weekend used this as his graduation quote. I’ll never forget being horrified by it, but now I get to use it. The key here, as I mentioned above, is that there is nothing better for a market than a good all-out fight. SAP v. ORCL, ORCL v. MSFT, MSFT v. GOOG. Bring on the trash-talk, lawsuits, gamesmanship, and — sorry Alex — recruiting, which is a big part of this.
  2. “Its not a battle unless you are recruiting each others soldiers” —  Sorry, again, Alex, but it’s true. You should be excited that Marketo is going after your guys. Eloqua is the market leader, the king of the hill, so expect your competitors to pull out all the stops and try to beat you in deals, take your clients, and recruit your guys. Sending in recruiters to steal your people is fair game, and you need to fight back with a strong employee retention strategy. That’s war, guys. Embrace it, dig your heals in, and fight.
  3. “Everyone needs an enemy” — Lightspeed Venture Partners’ John Luongo was an adviser on our board, and one of his first tips was to declare an enemy. This great tip gives your team focus, direction, motivation, and a common enemy.  The marketing automation war is a perfect example of how enemies only make you better. Lets face it, the current marketing automation market was built around everyone declaring Eloqua the enemy. Now, more and more, people are adding Marketo to this list. But the point is, the winner of the competition will be end users as (hopefully) companies work to make themselves better.
  4. “The battlefield has changed, and it’s kinda fun” — Let’s go over what happened here again: EXECUTIVES from these companies went to war in the blog comment fields. I love the age of new media. Instigating your rival can be done in seconds in today’s world. Imagine what that would have taken 10 years ago.
  5. “Predicting that a market with 36 companies in it will consolidate is not really a prediction” — With the Market2Lead-Oracle “deal” and IBM’s recent purchase of Unica, bloggers have been “predicting” that the marketing automation market will consolidate. Dude, come on. Even I know that. I can’t even think of an analogy, but of course there is no room for all these marketing automation companies. Thanks for that really insightful comment.

So, there and I didn’t even use “All’s fair in love and war.” Fight on marketing automation people, fight on.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

  • Craig, great summary of the “Marketing Automation war” and thanks for linking to my post.

    Of course, everyone likes to hear juicy industry gossip, but I think there’s also a lot of ‘quiet’ competition going on with vendors trying to match each other on features, quality of support, and so on.

    Creative guerrilla tactics may help, but ultimately Marketing Automation vendors need to deliver value to their customers every day, otherwise they’re out (thanks to the SaaS model with monthly or annual contracts).

    The real war may be about making customers successful. All vendors say their software is easy (which is probably true). But increasing marketing’s impact on revenue by implementing solid lead management processes can be pretty challenging. That requires expertise that few marketing organizations have available in-house.

  • It’s definitely fun to see the passion in this market! Although I agree that consolidation in most software markets is inevitable, I think we’re still a little ways away from it in the marketing automation space. The market leader(s) still aren’t near an IPO and the other players are probably still to small to make interesting acquisitions for bigger companies. I could be totally wrong though. It will certainly be interesting as the market is accelerating quickly.

  • As LoopFuse was part of the dust-up on Jep’s blog…

    In my view, Eloqua’s reaction to the two freemium vendors and the Bill Binch move was classy and showed a high level of integrity in the company culture. Eloqua 1, Marketo -1.

    I’m a bit confused on how to take the negative posts on Jep’s blog with regards to LoopFuse and Genius having freemium offerings, and simply dismissed many of them as FUD attacks used to confuse the market.

    Frankly, if Free Marketing Automation were really a “bad move”, then competitors should rejoice, throw a party, and go back to sleep.

  • Craig,
    great summary of the happenings in the space. It has definitely been a fun time lately. I think that in many ways these conversations are driven also by the fact that there is a significant increase in sophistication of marketers compared to just a few years ago.

    No longer does the “pretty-demo-and-cheap-price” game win, marketers are growing much more sophisticated and are digging into what it will really take to achieve success and who their technology partner should be. This means digging into questions around the technology, services & support, email deliverability, and the vendor’s commitment to making each client successful. These are the right questions to be asking.

    This broadens the conversation and has led to a lot of the more animated discussions in the market – across such a wide variety of topics. Great for marketers buying marketing automation, and fun times for us as vendors of the products.


  • I’ve been following Jep’s blogpost since the beginning and it’s been great – there is genuine passion out there and to see the execs putting in their two cents tells us a lot is at stake. Maybe Marketing Automation isn’t mainstream yet, but it’s going to be very soon and the bloodsport will be interesting to watch.

    Gentlemen, start your engines…

  • Alex Shootman


    You are right, increased competition makes us work harder, listen to the market more carefully, dial up our product cycle times and train our field organization to win. This take-no-prisoners post has me fired up – thanks!

  • Aren’t we all losing sight of what really matters here? Do customers really care about any of this stuff? If you look at who’s commenting on this post, or Jep’s, or Alex’s, it looks like the answer is no (with the exception of vendor solicited comments of course).

    So I agree: competition is good and it helps us all raise our game. But wouldn’t customers be better off if vendors spent less time attacking each other on blogs and more time helping customers drive revenue?

  • Great post and perspective Craig.

    Re ‘Vendor-wars’, this generates coverage and ticks many aspects of a journo news mnemonic CHORTLE; conflict, human, emotional etc.

    Re consolidation, the parallel I see is with manufacturing systems vendors in the 1980s, but even after that there was a battle between ‘best of suite’ (ie. Oracle) and ‘best of breed’ (many niche solutions).

    Re focus on delivering customer value, a big part of that is in the implementation so either the authors professional services team or partners, who will want to know they are working with a market/niche winner.

    Re competitive advantage, I see this being redefined around agility; the ability to see, respond and execute very quickly. Relevant at many levels – with MA authors/vendors especially with the SaaS model, with implementation teams to road-map and achieve quick wins in parallel with marketing infrastructure changes, and with MA end customers ultimately being able to see needs of their prospects & customers, respond quickly with the right message etc. and have automated execution to deliver the message at the right time.

    Is this the real fight – or just the face-off before the action starts?


  • “Gentlemen, start your engines” What a great post, Craig. Sums up nicely the nasty wars between the vendors. And while I love your note, Jon Miller, the blasting of an email to all competitive salespeople was tacky at best. Kinda sleezy if you ask me. Frankly, i think it was a stupid move by Bill. The phone works, Bill.

    I’m really glad that I don’t work for any of them. As an independent business, I control my own destiny. And business is VERY good. thank you.

    Thanks for a wonderful and insightful post, Craig.

    Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor
    Find New Customers

  • Queensberry rules or survivor in the cage?

    Microsoft has become the underdog; they needed it. Competition bears fruit that monopolies or passive business do not.

    Great post!

  • I wish to retract my earlier note. I was unaware that all vendors are participating in the stealing of employees from other companies. Eloqua is just as guilty of it as Marketo. Sorry, Bill.

    I agree with Jon Miller. Customer don’t care about product or vendors. They only care about revenue and their own employees. So let’s forget about blame and move on – and focus on what really matter – customer results!

    Jeff Ogden, the Fearless Competitor
    Find New Customers “Lead Generation Made Simple”

  • This thread started with ‘who is going to win’ and it seems to have evolved to this: “Are we talking about things here … on Jep’s blog … on Focus … on the DemandGen Report … on any other industry sites/media … that really matters to customers?”

    I thought about this a bit over the weekend.

    I say yes. We are.

    While I take the point that there is a lot of industry carping going on over the last few weeks, I would substantiate that behind every war is a cultural divide. And what we are seeing playing out in the marketing automation marketplace over the last few weeks are battles over the fundamental model for demand generation.


    Does free software, alone, make you a successful demand generator? Does email deliverability matter to B2B marketers? How sophisticated should your marketing automation platform be? What’s the line between CRM and marketing automation?

    This stuff may seem like vendor rantings, but this stuff really does matter.

    Now … I agree that the evolution of the people and processes that B2B marketers need to be successful in leveraging marketing automation is also very important. (And you all know I’m a big advocate for education — which is where I focus most of my blogging — and that at Silverpop we’ve put our money where our mouth is — investing significant dollars into the B2B Marketing University series and related activities.)

    But I wouldn’t write off the vendor debate.

    As Scott Brinker wrote this past week, “Marketers: you are the software you use.”


    These seemingly semantic debates are in fact the stuff of redefining B2B marketing and demand generation strategy. And marketing automation vendors are shaking things up, getting marketers to think, and that’s worthwhile!

    Adam Needles
    B2B Marketing Evangelist