In business, relationships form and dissolve faster than last week’s nuptials in Vegas. Companies do what’s best for them and their shareholders and that’s the way it is. But we don’t do business in only three dimensions. Reality has a fourth dimension that we frequently forget about, time. We live and work in time and at some point we fall out of time and that’s known as the big siesta, Dylan Thomas’s long good night. The fourth dimension isn’t simply a small house at the end of a long road, it is the road and how you get to that house.
I have been musing about time recently as I noticed that Marketo is no longer mentioned on the AppExchange though they were once a poster child. At the AppExchange you can search on Marketo and get a lot of marketing automation vendors but not that one. It is curious and conspicuous by its absence.
The disappearance reminds me of a coffee table book, “The Commissar Vanishes,” which is a collection of before and after photos of Soviet era officials. When someone fell out of like with Stalin, the party would crop or airbrush the individual from the photo in an effort to remove him from history.
Now to be fair, this is an invidious comparison. Salesforce is not like that and removing Marketo from the AppExchange is just what you do in business when partners become competitors. But the change of relationship is still one way if you accept what Phil Fernandez, CEO of Marketo, wrote after the Salesforce Exact Target acquisition. Here’s an extensive quote from his email to industry influencers:
“Importantly, for those of you that are also Salesforce.com customers, there will be no change in our strategy and support for our best in class integration with Salesforce.com’s CRM platform. As recently as this year, Salesforce.com customers have rated Marketo as the best marketing solution, continuing a five-year streak of similar affirmation from the Salesforce.com customer base. We see no reason that the recent news should change our leadership position among Salesforce.com customers or in the marketplace at large. Our integration is built using Salesforce.com’s public web-services API’s and open Force.com interfaces. Salesforce.com – as all modern cloud companies must be – is committed to maintaining an open platform, for us, for their AppExchange partners, and most importantly for you their end customers. Marketo is deeply committed to ongoing support and continued innovation of our products for Salesforce.com customers.
As a business decision, taking Marketo out of the AppExchange makes sense but only tactically for Salesforce’s CRM business. For its platform business, it makes no sense at all. If Marketo was the only example then it might not be such a big deal, but try finding Yammer on the AppExchange, as another example. You can Google Yammer and Salesforce or Marketo and Salesforce and see plenty of hits for the two together but not on the AppExchange.
To the extent that Salesforce wants to be the go-to platform for application development and social business process enablement it doesn’t make any sense that they would bar competitors to their marketing products on their platform’s marketing site.
Taking down Marketo or Yammer or any of the other products that compete with its own products is a warning sign that the platform side of the house is not agnostic. You might say that there are plenty of alternatives to Salesforce’s marketing solutions and they are still represented in the AppExchange but that only makes singling out Marketo seem more out of focus, not less. As Salesforce is still in the process of building up the utility computing market, this seems like an unnecessary and self-inflicted wound.
Perhaps the two companies are still friends but it doesn’t look like this divorce was mutual.