• Colt CMO Yasutaka Mizutani
  • Colt CMO Yasutaka Mizutani

    New Colt CMO answers the Tech Marketers Q&A

    Yasutaka Mizutani
 describes his motivations in his fairly new role as CMO at telecoms and cloud services provider Colt 

    Which company do you work for? 

    I work for Colt Technology Services, which is a B2B technology company which strives to transform the way the world works through the power of connectivity. 

    What is your role? 

    I am the Chief Marketing Officer for Colt, which sees me being responsible for defining and executing Colt's marketing strategy, which is underpinned by the organisation's goal of being the most customer-oriented business in the industry.  

    Where are you based? 

    Colt House, Colt's Headquarters in London.

    Where were you born and raised and where do you live now? 

    I currently live in UK, but originally was born and raised in Japan in a beautiful small town several hours from Tokyo, and spent my formative years in Austria, Japan and the UK.  Returning back to the UK with Colt in 2017 felt like I was coming back to my second home.

    How did you enter the technology sector? 

    I started my career in Microsoft's license operation centre, then joined the Colt team working in the Network Operation Centre. My progression from the software industry and into the data centre and cloud computing environment ultimately led me to realize just how powerful the network is - it's a critical foundation that links our customers across industries and geographies - enabling their businesses.

    How did you begin a career in marketing? 

    Call it fortuitous chance - even though I had a limited background in marketing prior to my first role within the organisation - an opportunity opened up for me to move from Service Operations to the Marketing department.  I was intrigued and excited by the prospect and happy to take on this new role. I enjoyed the role and challenge so much that I decided to pursue an MBA in Marketing at the Edinburgh Business School while working full-time as a marketing executive. 

    What aspect of marketing doesn't get enough attention?

    I firmly believe that marketing is not just about directing customer focus, but developing creative ways to guide market attention to our ideas - shining a light on our services if you will. It's also fundamentally understanding the underlying needs of our customers and developing a strategy of how we approach each and every client, giving them clear use cases for our services and demonstrating the value we will provide to them. Making it critical for me as a marketing leader to be able to identify intrinsic needs within enterprises and link those elements to the wider scope of an organisation's processes. I think that when we look at a company we need to see how it approaches Product Management, Data and Market analysis, and its sales processes (including Customer Service). These are critical elements that deserve extra attention - and make the difference between a good marketing approach and an industry leading one.

    What would you say is your greatest strength? 

    Fostering an environment where the team, as well as the extended organisation, can maximize their highest potential is critical. The role of marketing has evolved significantly over the past few years, and there are huge interdependencies and complexities within such a constantly evolving system that need to be balanced and optimised. A true marketing visionary's strength lies in being able to grasp and analyse this entire mosaic of moving parts, and then optimise their strengths and priorities into the targeted internal and external functions that will best support the message and strategy.

    What would you say is your biggest weakness?

    Yasutaka Mizutani
, Colt CMO

    I am a strong proponent of a people-centric approach. People are the engine and heart of all we create and manage. Often I will push my team and colleagues to pursue deeper knowledge and a more detailed understanding of the market than they might think necessary for the task in the short term, but I firmly believe it develops more passionate leaders in the longer term. 

    Which marketing technology or other tools do you rely on in your job? 

    I am particularly excited by the potential we have recently seen in some of the AI tools we are developing in-house. One example of that is our Smart-Leads program, where we are developing a tool that allows us to capture over time a customer's buying or intent signals for our services. Think of ABM, improved targeting as well as prioritisation in various marketing and sales activities, all elements maximising sales effectiveness.

    Which words or phrases do you use or overuse? 

    I would have to say "believe". At Colt, we ‘believe' that what kind of company we want Colt to be in three-five year's timeframe is really up to us, and that has led to us becoming a market leader in high bandwidth connectivity in 51 metro cities across the world. We also ‘believe' that by utilising smart data and applying new technologies such as AI, blockchain and SDN to our strategic network vision will allow us to maximise the value that we can bring to our customers and the market.

    Are there words and phrases you hear used too much?

    I hear the word "innovation" from a large number of B2B firms that claim to have it embedded as part of their strategy. The problem is, I still don't know what they mean by it.  At Colt, innovation is not something new to us or something we decided to do today. We came into existence via innovation - by supporting customers in London's financial district and their businesses with fibre over 25 years ago - and we continued to innovate and support customers on this foundation, globally. So for us, it's really part of our DNA. 

    Is it hard to balance work and your personal life? 

    No - thanks to our global organisation, we have empowered colleagues across the world and encourage them to make decisions with a high degree of autonomy. Your personal life is where inspiration and a fresh mind-set comes in, so it's important to prioritise it in order to refresh your thinking. 

    What is the most frustrating aspect of working in marketing in the tech sector?

    The amount of information that needs to be digested has increased exponentially. Macro market dynamics, new technologies, the competitive landscape, account based knowledge, pricing, partnership and alliances, marketing automation etc. It has become critical to identify and capture important trends to our business by applying the science of advanced analytics. This can, of course, get overwhelming and it can become hard to cut through what is noise and what is need to know information.

    What do you think CMOs do badly and need to improve on?

    Generally speaking, there are not many marketing decision makers who have an extensive experience with post sales operations. This needs to be much more front and centre - in our business our customers rely on our services to run mission-critical systems, so it seems natural for us to pay extra attention to our current customers' needs and not primarily focusing on new logos as a lot of marketing teams do.

    Is there an over-reliance on metrics and KPIs in the job today?

    Yes - I believe KPIs should work like simple and elegant traffic signals, letting us know when to take certain actions when the lights turns to amber. These indicators need to be clear and easy to understand - otherwise confusion and inaction are the result.

    What do you think of Gartner's notion that CMOs and CDOs are often outspending CIOs on IT?

    This really depends on where you are coming from - B2B or B2C, industry, what level of digital maturity, who are or if you have shareholders, what the corporate strategy is, and also a business's Go To Market Strategy is. 

    What is the most exciting aspect of the role?

    I have built my career in the IT industry over two decades, so I have a bit of perspective as a result. I have found it particularly interesting to be able to see how the world has changed and adapted to that change, and then trying my hand at predicting and even influencing our direction when it comes to adopting some of these new trends. The IT industry has evolved significantly over the last few decades, and we have supported a tremendous number of businesses across various industries through that change and transformation. I believe that being able to anticipate our customers' business challenges isn't just exciting, it gives us a preview of what will happen next, and guides us in making the most of our decisions.

    How has the job changed in your time?

    The role of marketing has shifted significantly - for me, it started with event management, branding and promotion, and now I support the strategy and sales teams on a daily basis in addition to that. My team is an integral part of each board presentation - supplying market analytics, ABM, segmentation, digital and content strategy. We seamlessly connect our strategy, sales teams, and products into an effective comms platform.

    And what still needs to change?

    We still need to leverage and be aware of the latest technologies and better manipulate and understand the massive data points in front of us and how to get smarter insights and not just more insights. Predictive analysis, embedding insight, influencing deals and generating targeted market demands are just a few of the items that are top of mind for me as we drive change within our organisation.

    How much time do you spend in your company's offices and where do you work when not there?

    It really depends on the day - whether I'm working from home, traveling, at a conference, off-site, or in the office - every day is different. 

    How do you occupy your time outside work?

    Walking in the park, cooking, traveling, meeting friends, cycling, museums… I love to spend quality time with my family. I am also enthusiastic about music - I believe I get this love of music from my parents who were both classically trained musicians.  I often enjoy going to a concert with my family as it gives me a chance to experience something completely different which complements the work environment.

    On average how many times a year do you travel outside of your own country?

    Once or twice a month on average, including both private and business.

    Are you mentoring other members of your organisation or community?

    Yes, I believe mentoring is very important, and it's great to be able to give back some of the knowledge I have learnt over my career. 

    Which companies do you admire for their marketing prowess?

    AI companies in particular - and their ability to create sophisticated algorithms that can predict the propensity to act or behaviour of markets.

    How do you stay in touch with both new ideas and experience?

    First, Learning from your customers both directly and indirectly through partners, data points and reading. Secondly, encouraging the team to question the way we do things today, and thirdly, taking some down-time to embrace and appreciate a completely different point of view this allows me to gain new insights.

    Why do you think the average tenure of CMOs in the tech sector so short?

    It completely depends on the environment- a lot of companies have competing internal stakeholders with completely different views of what success looks like, so it can be hard to deliver on these competing requirements while keeping everyone happy.  The CMO's tenure is very much tied to a strong vision and solid corporate strategy - without that, it's an uphill battle. 

    What should be the next career steps after the CMO role?

    It's a little early for me to be thinking about ‘next career steps' at this stage - the good news is that the career path at Colt is very unique - as you can see from my own experience. I started my career in service operations, moving to product management and marketing in various countries across the world.  Right now my focus is on taking our high performing team to the next level and taking this opportunity to learn from them and continue developing my leadership team to find the next CMO.

    Do you have aspirations to the CEO role?

    My aspirations are not tied to a specific role - my goal is to help our customers succeed by solving their business problems, and to also empower my team and hopefully enable the wider business to succeed. These goals are the same regardless of my role. But back to your original question, if needed, I would be proud to take on the responsibility of the CEO role.

    What is your favourite book?

    Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

    What is your favourite song?

    Everything in its Right Place by Radiohead.

    What is your favourite sports and sports team?

    I love to ski.

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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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