Vendor acquisitions are frequently lauded by analysts because they "validate" the importance a particular technology segment. Some recent acquisitions in the digital marketing space -- most recently ExactTarget acquiring Pardot -- would indeed seem to herald a trend. Digital marketing is becoming a big business and some smaller vendors will sell out to larger ones.
But what about for customers? Customers usually have a different perspective: acquisitions can be difficult and painful. I don't think this one will be much different.
As subscribers to our digital marketing technology evaluation research stream know, ExactTarget is a mid-range solution that got out of the gate quickly and is now flush with IPO cash. Pardot also grew quickly, by providing a lower-end system that afforded a much simpler user interface.
ExactTarget seems to imply that they will combine Pardot's simple interface and some B2B niceties with their own more complicated back-end. If so, I have my doubts. More likely, this is a straight customer acquisition effort (a.k.a., "roll up"). I'm a big fan of the SaaS model, but roll-ups seem to happen more in the SaaS world, and they rarely turn out well.
Existing customers of both platforms will want to monitor roadmaps and institutional turbulence very carefully. For prospective buyers, you'll want to make sure that with ExactTarget/Pardot you don't fall for individual demos touting the best parts of two different systems that aren't actually merged in real life.
We'll keep watching. In the meantime, if you are a customer of either platform, we welcome hearing from you...