Salesforce is a large, sweeping organization that aggressively uses M&A as a tactic to ensure it continues to head in the right direction. They have invested materially in marketing and advertising technology, slowly building a stack that has put it in contention with the marketing technology leaders like Adobe and Oracle.
Some noteworthy acquisitions include:
- ExactTarget - an email marketing platform for $2.5B
- BuddyMedia - a social marketing platform for around $750M
- DemandBase - an account-based marketing tool for $2.8B
- Krux - a DMP for $700M
- Radian6 - a social analytics tool for $325M
Those acquisitions alone are around $7B in investment to build a marketing cloud.
Salesforce's main revenue and growth engine is its CRM stack. This provides a way for sellers to organize, track and optimize their workflows and to align them more directly with company targets. Some acquisitions - like ExactTarget and DemandBase - are logical extensions of the CRM tool. These allow companies to market directly to prospects with optimized messaging, context and frequency.
But Salesforce may have a more subtle play. They have invested heavily in AI, recently releasing their new "Einstein" product, which aims to create a pervasive layer of artificial intelligence throughout their various products. When combined with tools like ExactTarget and DemandBase - AI is a natural fit to optimize and improve the output of sales teams while creating deeper hooks into the Salesforce platform. Krux is an additional arrow in the Salesforce marketing quiver. Krux's extensive relationship with hundreds of top publishers gives Salesforce access to huge amounts of data that - in addition to tools like Radian6 - it can use to add additional signal to marketing optimization efforts (there are other syngeries to the Krux deal, but that's besides the point).
This may explain why Salesforce has frequently been mentioned as a potential suitor for Twitter. Comparing their direct lines of business - CRM and public messaging - there is no obvious benefit to either. Yet with Twitter, Salesforce gets a stream of data that it could theoretically use to power sales intelligence - as well as log-in data that could tie account-based targets across various devices (perhaps linking ExactTarget and DemandBase more directly).
In the context of Salesforce's marketing cloud, there are a few additional pieces, including possibly creative tools, a DSP, a commerce analytics company, and an advertiser-side data piece that could create a particularly formidable marketing company. They have many focuses as a company, and have recently come under fire for possibly being too aggressive with their acquisitions. So it remains to be seen what they do in the foreseeable future, but it's evident that Salesforce is consolidating data and customer connection tools and will continue to grow in the space.