Oracle beefs up marketing applications savvy with $871M buy of Eloqua

Lest we forget that Oracle(s orcl) remains primarily a software company, it announced plans to buy Eloqua, a maker of marketing management software for $871 million or $23.50 per share. The buy comes two years after the database giant bought Eloqua competitor Market2Lead and 7 months after it acquired Vitrue for social marketing expertise. (Check out Eloqua’s blog on the Market2Lead acquisition for an interesting read.)

The deal will mean more competition with Oracle rival crm) which bought Buddy Media for $689 million in June and is adding more marketing expertise to its portfolio as well as help Oracle compete against other companies like Marketo and Hubspot, which recently snagged $35 million in new venture backing. There are differences: Hubspot focuses on inbound marketing — culling likely prospects from  Facebook(s fb), Twitter etc. and targeting them. Eloqua’s specialties lie more in lead management and reporting and analysis of marketing programs. Another factor is that many researchers predict that Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) will get have big budgets for IT acquisitions that help them do their jobs better.

And, as is often the case  in Oracle acquisitions, the real end game may be customer acquisition. More customers equals more maintenance and support revenue, and for Oracle, maintenance and support revenue remain crucial. Eloqua claims 1,200 customers including Dow Jones, Aon, Schroders, and SBLI use its software to find and cultivate qualified leads and to target marketing to those potential customers.

In a letter to Eloqua’s customers  Oracle SVP Thomas Kurian said:

Eloqua delivers marketing automation and revenue performance management software that ensures every component of marketing works harder and more efficiently to drive revenue. More than 1,200 organizations across a wide range of industries rely on Eloqua’s modern marketing cloud to automate complex marketing processes across multiple channels, to target and nurture prospects, and to deliver highly qualified leads at a lower cost to sales teams. Customers are better able to track, capture and analyze a potential buyer’s Digital Body Language, including their preferences, behavior and decision-making processes, to more accurately score and qualify leads and identify high quality prospects. Eloqua will become the centerpiece of the Oracle Marketing Cloud.

Oracle’s acquisitions over the past month or so show how eclectic its interests are: It bought DataRaker for its energy analytics expertise last week; invested Engine Yard, the PaaS company earlier in the month, and bought Instantis for its portfolio management just before that.

What’s next? Your guess is as good as mine.