Salesforce.com and Intuit join forces

April 1, 2011: 1:01 PM ET

The "anti-software" company joins forces with one of the biggest small-business software makers out there, striking another blow on behalf of the cloud.

Image representing Salesforce as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Salesforce.com's (CRM) future depends on rapid expansion of its customer relationship management business and its ability to become the platform of choice for developers of cloud-based business applications.

But the company can't do it all alone. That's why this morning Salesforce.com announced a strategic partnership with Intuit, maker of QuickBooks. The popular accounting software is used by 4.5 million small businesses. Under the agreement, Intuit will resell Salesforce.com's CRM through its App Center. Customers will be able to synchronize customer data with QuickBooks and QuickBooks online, a web-based version of its software

The partnership is good news for Salesforce.com, which is hoping to penetrate Intuit's customer base of small businesses with CRM. But that's just the beginning.

"CRM is the Trojan horse," says Brad Zelnick, vice president and senior software analyst with Macquarie Group. "With CRM Salesforce is able to land and expand and go deeper into corporations."

Another recent announcement -- the $326 million acquisition of social media monitoring company Radian6 -- shows that Salesforce.com is expanding beyond its traditional CRM product and moving into the "marketing cloud." On a recent conference call to announce its latest acquisition, Salesforce.com said Radian6 customers aren't the salesforce or service organizations, but the marketing organizations.

"We like this acquisition because it immediately expands the addressable market for Salesforce.com to include social media monitoring and because it may mark the beginning of Salesforce.com's expansion into the marketing area -- an area it had previously left primarily to partners," Pat Walravens, senior software analyst and head of technology research at JMP Securities wrote in a recent note.

Salesforce.com has also made recent acquisitions on the platform front. Last December it bought Heroku, a cloud platform for Ruby-based applications, for $212 million.

So what's next for Salesforce.com?

Walravens says future acquisitions could be geared toward further building out its marketing cloud, and that other possible targets include companies like Eloqua, Marketo and Webtrends.

The QuickBooks integration and Radian6 acquisition have received praise from many analysts. But increasing the rate of penetration into corporate customers -- and upping profitability -- remain the biggest hurdles for Salesforce.com.

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Michal Lev-Ram
Michal Lev-Ram
Writer, Fortune

Based in Silicon Valley, Michal Lev-Ram covers enterprise and mobile technologies for FORTUNE. Prior to joining FORTUNE, she wrote for CNNMoney, Fast Company, Popular Science and other business and technology publications. She was also a staff writer at Business 2.0 and holds a B.A. in journalism from San Francisco State University.

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