Why Spredfast Acquired Shoutlet: Interview with Jim Rudden, Spredfast CMO
Social media management vendor Spredfast acquired another SMMS product, Shoutlet, last month. Both products offer a similar set of capabilities, and serve a mix of SMBs and enterprise customers in industries such as retail, CPG, and financial services. Shoutlet has 100 employees and is based in Madison, WI. Spredfast is based in Austin, TX, and prior to the acquisition, had about 400 employees.
Acquisitions are prevalent in the SMMS space: Spredfast merged with Mass Relevance in 2014, and Sprinklr has made 7 acquisitions in 18 months, including NewBrand, Get Satisfaction and Pluck this year.
According to Spredfast, though they are both social media management platforms, Spredfast and Shoutlet have complementary feature sets.
TrustRadius summarized the strengths and areas for improvement of each product in our Buyer’s Guide to Enterprise Social Media Management Software, published January 2015. End-users who have written reviews of Shoutlet on TrustRadius like the product’s publishing features, its contests and landing pages features, and customer support. Users would like to see better channel coverage, better workflow and collaboration features, and better social CRM features.
Spredfast users like the product’s workflows, analytics, innovation and customer support, but also mentioned performance issues, usability issues and a learning curve. Spredfast is most compared to Sprinklr by those doing research on TrustRadius.com, and Shoutlet is most compared to Hootsuite Enterprise.
We spoke with Spredfast CMO Jim Rudden about the strategy behind the acquisition, and plans for Shoutlet customers.
Can you give us some context for the acquisition?
This acquisition meant three big wins for us – people, customers, and technology. As a combined company, we have grown to almost 600 employees and 1,400+ brands under our umbrella. In addition, we’ve grown our footprint we’ve added Madison as our second US development center and increased our presence in London. This adds to our offices in New York, Sydney, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Chicago.
One of the most exciting things about this acquisition is our combined open philosophy and our “social first” focus. This adds momentum in both of those areas. Both of us are 100% dedicated to a complete commitment to social and social innovation.
From an open platform perspective, one of the things we really liked about their technology is the campaign functionality they have; their ability to build out profiles. We also like the work they’ve done around social CRM. That expands on our strategy of being an open platform that stays focused in social, and making things smarter in social.
From a community perspective, this adds to our roster of customers, it adds to our market share. It’s a great set of customers that we’re looking forward to having down here at our summit in October.
Functionally, Rod will remain the CEO of Spredfast. Aaron Everson, the co-founder and president of Shoutlet, will be the GM here at Spredfast. Our headquarters will stay in Austin, but we’re investing in Madison as our next big U.S.A. development center. As a combined company, this gives us the biggest dedicated social engineering team in the market today.
It’s interesting that you talk about the social CRM capabilities of Shoutlet—in our SMMS Buyer’s Guide, we found that one of the big strengths that came across in Shoutlet reviews was the social Canvas (the contests and apps capabilities), and CRM was an area for improvement. What did Spredfast see as a strength in that area?
They have developed interesting integrations with the IBM Marketing Cloud, including connecting social data into Silverpop and Unica. They’ve done integrations with some mixed modeling packages as well. Our perspective is that they were looking at this as a complex problem. A lot of folks in the industry are doing the basics, like updating a contact record in Salesforce.com. That’s not very interesting. Shoutlet has figured out how to get profile data and customer data collected through their sophisticated campaign builder, Canvas, integrated into a mixed modeling environment – which powers deep consumer insights. That’s game-changing and the market loves that.
There is a lot of hand waving about CRM integration in this market, and we think Shoutlet has worked on it more than others in this space.
We think the Canvas product is great. We’ll continue to aggressively take that to market. It is a great solution for people who want to run campaigns that connect social back into loyalty, CRM, and email databases. As you noted, Canvas is a particular strength of Shoutlet in the market, and we are excited to have that in our product portfolio. But we view that product as helping build out customer data, profile information. It’s important to us to think about how to integrate that with other data.
What are your plans for the Shoutlet product and its customers? How will it be integrated with Spredfast?
We will continue to support Shoutlet far into the future. Nothing changes for Shoutlet customers—they continue to log into the product they like. Obviously, we will do a lot of education for them. There are a lot of elements in the Spredfast offering that can benefit them, such as our Intelligence and Experience products that are complementary to what they’re doing in Shoutlet.
Over time, will we rationalize capabilities between Shoutlet and Spredfast around publishing and calendaring into one? Of course. But for the foreseeable future we will continue to support and invest in the Shoutlet product.
Will Shoutlet customers now have access to Spredfast capabilities, and vice versa?
Yes, absolutely. One of the real benefits of this acquisition is that we have both been addressing similar markets, but we have slightly different takes on things. So we are getting cross-pollination and ideas from each of the platforms that ultimately we will rationalize together. In the short term, we’re looking quite specifically at what capabilities we can deliver from the Shoutlet platform into Spredfast and vice-versa.. We want to deliver net new capabilities for customers.
In our SMMS guide (published January 1015), workflow management came across as a big strength of Spredfast, but a weakness for Shoutlet—would this feature be of benefit to Shoutlet customers?
I think it would benefit a certain set of customers that have more complex social operations. We plan to sit down with them to discuss whether they want to migrate across to Spredfast, or wait for more workflow to integrate with Shoutlet. We’re in education mode, so we are not going to rush them to make any decisions.
We’re confident that both customer sets will really benefit from the overnight availability of each other’s major areas of market leadership.
Do you see the Shoutlet customer base as similar or different from the Spredfast customer base?
The biggest chunk of the Shoutlet customer base is very similar to ours. Some sets of customers are smaller than typical Spredfast customers; however, Spredfast wants to work with any company that prioritizes social. Every one of the 1400 companies that we work with now do just that.
Did you consider Shoutlet to be a major competitor, pre-acquisition?
They were a competitor, certainly. In many ways, Spredfast and Shoutlet started this industry. Eight years later, there are lots of different competitors in this space, from the clouds to some of the more socially focused players. They were certainly someone that came up in the competitive conversation, but they weren’t the only competitor. When we looked at them, we said, “They have a great, happy customer base, and people with great insights into this market, from their engineering to their go to market teams, and they have creative technology that fits perfectly into our overall roadmap.”
We’ve seen a lot of acquisitions in this space, both by Marketing Cloud vendors and SMMS pure play vendors. What is the role of acquisitions in this space, and how does that relate to your acquisition strategy?
From an acquisition strategy perspective, we have two guiding thoughts. First, we’re going to stay focused on social. We’re not going to go buy companies tangentially related to social. We’re here and we’re going deeper with smarter social. As you can see with the Shoutlet acquisition, we are buying into more social market share.
Second, we’re an open platform. We integrate with lots of other technologies, and we have an open mindset. We talk with customers about how they want to integrate social into their broader ecosystem. That open mentality sets us apart from the other competitors in the space. With Oracle or Salesforce or Adobe, you’re opting for a closed system; those systems don’t work well with other technologies. While they may be buying footprint, it’s certainly in a closed context. We wholeheartedly believe that an open system is the only way to effectively address the unique needs of every customer. With this acquisition, our customers can share even more content, data, and workflows across their existing business applications. We’re now the most powerful open platform on the market – and with this acquisition, we got even smarter.
We don’t see anybody else executing that strategy.
Does the Shoutlet acquisition affect your product roadmap?
It accelerates us in some areas, around social CRM and profiles, and Canvas is unique and differentiated in the market. So the acquisition accelerates and deepens our strategy and roadmap. We’re staying focused on social—we’re not getting distracted by other elements.
We have the biggest engineering team in the industry that’s staying focused every day on social. We think that will help us bring more products to market faster with better capabilities, and that’s really what we’re after.
Any final thoughts?
We’re excited. Our team of experts is bigger. We continue to focus on building the most open, powerful platform on the market. We’re making it smarter every day. We just added 600+ brands to the community. We are investing in building that team out. We’re winning this market.
Megan champions research at TrustRadius. Her mission is to ensure we gather the highest quality data from authenticated reviewers, and provide useful curated reports for prospective software buyers. Prior to joining TrustRadius, Megan was Director of Sales and Marketing at a media company. She holds MA degrees in Journalism and Latin American Studies from the University of Texas.