Rivals duel for search marketing supremacy

Rival hosted application providers NetSuite Inc. and Salesforce.com Inc. compete tooth and nail, so it’s no surprise that both of them have announced tools to track and manage search engine marketing campaigns almost simultaneously.

As more and more companies are advertising their products on search engine providers’ Web sites, they’re seeking greater transparency into which keywords and search terms are generating customer leads and revenue and which words and phrases are duds.

Salesforce.com unwrapped an offering to allow companies to manage Google Inc.’s AdWords marketing campaigns directly from its Salesforce CRM (customer relationship management) software late Monday in Boston. Known as Salesforce for Google AdWords, the service is available from the company’s AppExchange site where customers can try out and buy applications from Salesforce.com and its partners.

Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com chairman and chief executive officer, called the service “a real production mash-up,” during a Tuesday conference in New York. He said a customer described the tight integration between the CRM software and Google AdWords as “like having our parents become friends with our in-laws so we only have one dinner to go to for Thanksgiving.”

Not to be outdone, NetSuite debuted its Keyword Marketing Module Tuesday supporting both Google AdWords and Yahoo Inc.’s Sponsored Search. While Salesforce.com focuses on on-demand CRM and its AppExchange platform, NetSuite provides an integrated suite of hosted ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM and electronic commerce applications.

The two software-as-a-service (SAAS) providers took different approaches to coming up with their new products.

NetSuite developed its module inhouse, while Salesforce.com acquired four-person San Francisco startup Kieden Corp. to create Salesforce for Google AdWords. The startup launched its offering on AppExchange in January and released a public beta in May.

Kieden is Salesforce.com’s second acquisition. The company made its first-ever purchase in April picking up wireless technology developer Sendia for US$15 million in cash and using the functionality it bought to extend AppExchange so it could be accessed by users of mobile devices.

NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson wrote in an e-mail exchange that Salesforce.com is playing “catch-up” to his company which announced earlier versions of the search engine ad campaign management technology last year. He added that the NetSuite offering includes integration with order management functionality while Salesforce.com’s product lacks that capability.

Salesforce for Google AdWords is in its initial pilot phase, with the product due to become generally available in early October at the company’s Dreamforce user conference in San Francisco, according to Benioff. Salesforce.com customers can try the service out for free over the next 30 days. Once the offering become generally available, Salesforce will charge US$300 per customer per month, he said.

By contrast, NetSuite isn’t charging existing customers extra for Keyword Marketing Module which is available Tuesday in its NetSuite and NetSuite CRM+ hosted software, Nelson wrote.

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