I first came across Cloudwords back in 2011, not that long after the firm was set up. It's one of those 'Children of Salesforce.com' companies that are sprouting up. (Just as Oracle begat Salesforce.com, so now Salesforce.com begats its own next generation and the cycle begins again.)
Most such providers are built on Salesforce.com's platform, but Cloudwords is not, although was set up by Salesforce.com veterans and has some personal funding behind it from Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff. It's also a prime example of a firm that's built around a very simple, but very urgent business problem: localization of content and collateral.
The official pitch is that the firm's Marketing Globalization Platform:
accelerates content localization and translation on a global scale, speeding time to market, creating new opportunities for international revenue, protecting global brain and consistency, and cutting translation costs.
Customers include McDonalds, Coupa, Marketo and Honeywell among others.
With the outbreak of the marketing cloud wars, Cloudwords co-founder Michael Meinhardt has seen a significant uptick in interest in how the firm can assist in marketing localization programs:
We are just seeing masses of interest in the marketing cloud, as well as all things marketing, globally, a real flurry of activity over the past nine months.
This has been particularly true in the European region where awareness of the need for multiple language marketing is high. Meinhardt says he's spending a lot of time on trans-atlantic flights at the moment:
Europe is the next frontier. Being something of an Anglophile, Europe is an easier path to hit instantly. There are fewer niche marketing players in Europe, so what US companies see is a massive opportunity with huge multi-nationals.
What you do see is that if you look at Germany, Germans like to buy from Germans. So you see Salesforce.com and Marketo and others having presences in Germany. The likes of Siemens and Schneider are huge Eloqua and Marketo customers.
While Cloudwords recently became fully integrated with Oracle Marketing Cloud, the company does not ally itself exclusively with any one of the multiple marketing cloud contenders that have sprung up of late. Meinhardt is happy with the status quo, for now at least:
It's interesting for us to sit on the sidelines and watch them all battle it out. We want to be the global backbone for marketing clouds. Because it is so early in the marketing cloud wars, we can be agnostic.
From those sidelines, Meinhardt has come to a few speculative conclusions about how the marketing cloud wars will play out:
But it's still early days and there are some unusual bedfellows. As Meinhardt notes:
I was talking about this to Kevin Akeroyd who heads up marketing cloud for Oracle and he pointed out that the marketing cloud wars are where CRM was 10 years ago. It's pretty immature still, there's lots of chest-pounding going on, but you can see some lines being drawn in the sand and where people are heading.
What I think will happen is that there be the classic situation of there being 3 or 4 marketing clouds that the Deloittes and the Accentures will build practices around.
Oracle's in there. Every deal we do there is always talk of Adobe from the marketers. Then there's Microsoft and IBM and Salesforce.com. SAP is the other one. They could be dangerous if they get their act together. Where we see Marketo we see Drupal and where we see Eloqua we see Adobe.
SAP actually runs Marketo. But then Salesforce.com runs Eloqua. It's all very incestuous at the moment.
But the question inevitably presents itself: if 2015 is to see a ramping-up of marketing cloud activity, then how long can Cloudwords expect to be 'Switzerland' in a marketing world war? Meinhardt takes this question on the chin, admitting:
We have maybe another 24-36 months of being able to be agnostic but then we will probably have to make some decisions.
The enterprise space is where Cloudwords sees itself sitting most comfortably and as such that probably offers some idea of the type of alliances the firm may end up forging over time. Meinhardt says:
Where we are positioned is towards the larger enterprises. Who plays in that space? Well we can take some guesses.
He does add that Oracle has been "extremely gracious" and understands Cloudwords agnostic positioning. He also makes an interesting observation about how Oracle has approached its marketing cloud efforts, built on Eloqua and Responsys:
[Oracle co-CEO] Mark Hurd hired in [Kevin] Akeroyd. He's not an Oracle guy. He worked at Salesforce.com, then moved to Badgeville and then to Oracle.
What's interesting is that you don't have the traditional 20 year veterans thing inside the Oracle marketing cloud team. You still have the culture of Eloqua and that start-up feel.
How that plays out as the marketing cloud battles toughen up remains to be seen.
Cloudwords addresses a very clear and enduring need in the marketing world and as such it's got a lot of potential, both as a standalone agnostic company or as part of someone's wider marketing cloud program (or product line-up).
Definitely a company to keep an eye on.
Disclosure: at time of writing, Oracle, Salesforce.com and SAP are premier partners of diginomica, while Marketo is a partner.