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In the marketing automation arms race of the last few years, IBM has been somewhat under-gunned. While its rivals waded in — Oracle snapped up Eloqua, Salesforce bought Pardot, and Adobe snatched Neolane — IBM stood pat.

Until now.

Today IBM confirmed rumors that it plans to purchase the Atlanta-based Silverpop. Terms of the deal were not released, but the whisper numbers suggest a $250-300 million acquisition. According to IBM, it’s all about enabling its clients to put customers first — a vision that is remarkably like Salesforce1.

silverpop clients“The acquisition of Silverpop turbocharges IBM’s ability to put the customer at the center of any organization,” IBM’s cloud services general manager Craig Hayman said in a statement.

“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.” 

Silverpop, which made VentureBeat’s marketing automation index at #10, brings B2B marketing automation capabilities to higher-volume B2C marketing campaigns. Half of the company’s clients are small businesses — under $25 million — but a significant chunk, over 30 percent, are $100 million annual revenue enterprises.

The company did not rank well in VentureBeat’s marketing automation report for overall product performance, showing significantly lower than leaders Salesforce, Hubspot, and Marketo — and even IBM’s existing B2B marketing offerings. But it did show good maturity of its software, with plenty of features, had exceptional reporting capabilities, and took top honors for CRM integration and email marketing capabilities.

marketing automation rankings

Silverpop CEO Bill Nussey says the companies are well-aligned in vision and culture:

“We share a deep passion for technology and its ability to change how people live and work. Our cultures and values are amazingly well aligned. And we share a remarkably similar vision around the future of marketing — we both believe in the power of understanding customers as individuals and using it to deliver amazing customer experiences.”

Silverpop also has a thriving automotive niche that is likely interesting for IBM. Its clients include Mazda, Honda, Acura, and Yamaha, as well as non-automotive companies such as AMD, Carfax, and

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