IBM Buys Silverpop as Cloud-Based Acquisitions Pool Dries Up

Marketo still lingers as a big fish

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IBM has purchased Atlanta-based software provider Silverpop, and the arms race among tech giants is probably on its last legs when it comes to cloud-based marketing players. The Atlanta Business Journal reported two weeks ago that the companies were close to a deal worth $275 million, though the final price has not been confirmed.

In some respects, the Silverpop acquisition mirrors Oracle buying both Responsys for $1.5 billion in December and Eloqua at $871 million about a year ago. The development is also reminiscent of Salesforce reeling in ExactTarget for $2.5 billion last June. Silverpop, Responsys, Eloqua and ExactTarget all initially made their names with email marketing services before blending in other disciplines such as social media. Silverpop's reported price tag clearly suggests it is smaller than those firms, but it calls Santander, Texas Instruments, Mazda, Honda, Condé Nast and Carfax clients.

There are other small fish in this sector available, namely Hubspot and Act-on. But there's actually a big one left swimming out there should IBM, Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce or SAP make a bid: Marketo. Gartner has projected the software maker to be worth $22 billion by next year. Marketo went public last spring, and its stock price beat expectations early on and has hovered north of $30 a share in recent days.

If Marketo does join the consolidation movement, it will not come cheap.

Meanwhile, Craig Hayman, IBM's general manager of industry cloud solutions, offered the following statement about today's purchase: "The acquisition of Silverpop turbocharges IBM's ability to put the customer at the center of any organization. Now, nearly any marketing, commerce or customer service professional from any business will have the ability to deliver the kinds of personalized customer experiences that make a measurable impact on the brand experience and the bottom line."

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.