• CMO Profile: Carl Tsukahara, CMO of Optimizely
  • CMO Profile: Carl Tsukahara, CMO of Optimizely

    CMO for marketing leaders tech provider on piecing together a conversation

    "If people are considering new technology, what they really want, is to hear from their peers," says Carl Tsukahara, CMO of Optimizely. Tsukahara has been with the Silicon Valley firm since 2017, leading the market expansion of the digital campaigns and product management service provider. 

    Tsukahara describes Optimizely as a "digital experience optimisation" provider. "We use data to deploy experiences to the webn and to predict how much that experience will win more revenue or time on the site, that means the client can take the guesswork out." 

    "In the digital economy the experience has to be for the entire customer lifecycle," he says; citing how Optimizely works with European broadcaster Sky TV. 

    "We think of our role as working with brands to help them do the best possible job and growing brand awareness, customer acquisition as well as renewals and customer retention. Which means our remit is to make that customer journey effective," he says.  Optimizely works in the retail, technology, leisure and media sectors, all of which have been on a makor digital transformation journey. 

    "We run experiments on ourselves and it has worked, we have lowered our costs per lead by 50%,"  Tsukahara says. 

    Digital markets 

    "As a CMO you own a lot of digital properties, so you are part of a team to deliver a grand promise," he says of how important experience is. "The experience has to be seamless and work with other parts of the business." 

    As with a number of technology marketing leaders,  Tsukahara sees quality content as one of the most important tools available to peers. 

    "When I worked for Oracle I spent some time with a CIO from Credit Suisse, this CIO had thousands of suppliers and Oracle was just one. So the trick to messaging is how do you say something interesting and quickly? 

    "I call it the grandmother test, make a message instantly understandable. You have to get a strong message and tone,"  Tsukahara says. 

    Alongside many of his peers Tsukahara believes artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will have a major impact on marketing. Optimizely has quickly developed and deployed AI and ML into its product set. "This is a case of man plus machine and machine learning can have phenomenal value. 

    "I don't think the black box works every time, so the analytical skills of people are essential. So it is a blend of the human element, which is vital, you need to have that human piece." 

    "There is still a lot of work to do. Content marketing is very valuable, so the key is to get some insight into how people value your organisation. The challenge is how do we get down the funnel and get to a real lead and what are the other attributes around that lead," he says of building a picture that can help an organisation turn a lead into a sale. 

    "GDPR makes marketing more complex Consumer privacy has flipped over to benefit the consumer, for logical reasons and that means CMOs need to be more creative. But I am about value, the customer must see the outreach as valuable," he says of how European regulations place challenges in front of CMOs. 

    "There is a phenomenal amount of spam that comes in," he says of being a member of the C-suite himself and therefore targeted with communications, much of it poor. "There is a lot of marketing pollution." The sadness is that both marketing leaders and potential customers are missing out. 

    "If you are a client or a potential client, you want to listen and learn. So the focus has to be how does our marketing message provide value?" 

    "Understanding the buyer is getting better all the time and this has not really hit the business-to-business side of the technology sector yet," Tsukahara says. The CMO says some of the best practices from the business-to-consumer side of the technology industry are now entering the business-to-business market. 

    Teams and budgets 

    "We have a strong team in marketing. Where we find there is an opportunity cost is further downstream, but it is not a lot," the CMO says with honesty. "I am extremely proud of my team here in the US and in Europe. 

    "I like people with an analytical mindset," he says of team building. "We have a set of cultural values and and we look for people that can leverage other team members," he says of the importance of cross functional teams in technology marketing. As a Silicon Valley headquartered business Tsukahara says Optimizely faces "competition" for talent. 

    "If you have a culture that work is important, but also having some fun and you should be engaged with the mission. We make sure that team member's goals fit with the key objectives That is important for the culture of the business," he says. Tsukahara says a focus on objectives and results keeps the marketing team in "alignment". 

    "The technology industry is busy and there is always a but more to do than there is time to do it." 

    Tsukahara reports to the CEO and says the reporting line is "where it belongs". "Every business has to be more responsive to the customer journey," he says of why CMOs need a strong relationship and access to the CEO. Unsurprisingly, he believes CMOs are good candidates to become CEOs. 

    Tsukahara entered technology marketing in 1990 with Unix service provider Ingres and has held marketing roles at major technology organisations such as Oracle, Monitise and prior to joining Optimizely Birst. 

    "I started out in engineering and field sales and I wanted to piece those two together to see how you create a conversation." 


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    About Mark Chillingworth

    Mark Chillingworth is Contributing Editor to Tech Marketers and one of Europe's leading CIO Editors


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