Tell us about your role at OPTIZMO and how you got here. What inspired you to start the company?
I am the CEO and Co-Founder of OPTIZMO. I founded the company with my partner and CTO, Grant Fern, in early 2009, so we are celebrating 10 years of momentum this year. OPTIZMO was inspired by a need in our industry for Email Compliance, Suppression File and Data management platform that went above and beyond the utilitarian nature of compliance and information security. The industry needed a platform that would not only automate many of the compliance functions necessary to utilize email as a Commercial Marketing medium but also provided insights into email campaign performance and channel partner activity.
By creating a paradigm shift in how Email Compliance was managed under the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, OPTIZMO has successfully become the ‘best of breed’ Email Compliance solution available, serving over 400 of the most recognizable Brands, Ad Agencies, Performance Networks, and Affiliate Marketers.
Given the changing dynamics of the marketing technology landscape, where do you see OPTIZMO fitting in a CMO’s stack?
If a company actively engages in Email Marketing or is evaluating a Comprehensive Email Program, then OPTIZMO plays an integral role in both the infrastructure and brand protection needed to mitigate risk. OPTIZMO is a web-based SaaS application used by digital marketers to ensure that third-party Email Affiliates and Channel Partners are interacting with the Advertiser’s consumer data, existing customer base and consumers who have unsubscribed or opted-out, in a way that protects all parties involved.
Our platform ensures that the Brand Advertiser, the Consumer, and the Mailing Partner have a secure and centralized repository for data handling that provides the necessary automation, checks, and balances to ensure that brands and their partners do not expose themselves to potential liability with the Federal Trade Commission for non-compliant email activity.
What does your ‘Ideal Customer’ Profile look like?
OPTIZMO’s ideal customer is any company that sends commercial email and we service all customers from small or medium-sized brands to Fortune 500 companies in a variety of business verticals. Insurance Companies, Financial Companies, Full Service Advertising Agencies, Affiliate Networks, Lead Generation Companies, Consumer Products, Dating Websites, etc. are only a few of the verticals that we serve. OPTIZMO’s customer and user base consist of many globally recognized household name brands as well as products and services that are new-to-market.
What data-points do you work on to make OPTIZMO’s solutions more competitive for optimized enterprise-level results?
There are several data points we use in the context of Competitive Analysis for solutions, however, to list them all would probably be an article in and of itself. Ultimately, OPTIZMO strives to maintain our position as the fastest, most reliable, most secure service of its kind, which is also the most committed to Customer Service and the end-user experience within the Email Marketing and Ad Tech arena. We ensure that our pricing always remains competitive and that our technology is consistently pushing the boundaries of what is technologically possible and financially feasible concerning Data Management, Database Architecture, Infrastructure, and Data Transport facilities. We deliver security standards that meet or exceed even the most stringent security risk assessments for data handling. We manage both churn and scale to ensure that long-term customers retain the level of service that they have become accustomed to, while the company continues to bring on new customers and grow the overall customer base.
How is the global market for Email Compliance solutions shaping up with the evolution of global data privacy regulations?
Email Compliance and Suppression List Management are paramount in today’s global market. Regulatory compliance laws such as the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and the GDPR require that consumer opt-out requests are honored and companies that do business in the EU markets are required to honor a consumer’s right to be forgotten. The only way to efficiently do this is through a secure and reliable Suppression File Management solution. The caveat is that many third-party solution providers and in-house solution teams are unaware of how challenging these processes are and they are typically naive to the degree in which infrastructure and information security come into play. While we have seen many companies attempt to deliver solutions to service these needs, we have observed most of them vastly underestimate what a comprehensive Email Compliance solution entails from solution and development, all the way through to customer fulfillment. In short, there is a growing global demand, but a general lack of knowledge and experience relevant to this specific niche.
What is the outlook for Email Marketing in 2019 and beyond, as new digital channels continue to emerge?
It is my sincere belief that email will continue to grow, regardless of emerging digital channels. While these emerging technologies provide alternative mediums for marketing consumption, there is still one common denominator that they all share – Email. To simply sign up for these emerging platforms, they require an email address. To fulfill a transaction, an email address is required. That all said, it is an exciting time in the Marketing Automation and Technology space, with an abundance of forward-thinking solutions to help companies take advantage of and implement a well-rounded, comprehensive marketing strategy. Whether it is an overlay on social, a CRM add-on, or an ESP integration, email is still the most affordable, measurable, and reliable messaging medium to foster tangible results and Customer Engagement.
What seems to be happening now and what we believe will continue to happen, based on our observation, is that companies that were previously negative about Email Marketing due to ‘perceived risk’, are now adopting email as a preferred method of communication with prospects and existing customers. Department heads of Marketing, Legal, Compliance, and InfoSec within these organizations are now more savvy to both the risks and rewards of the email channel and therefore, continue to increase the marketing budget towards more compliance and automation-centric resources to manage these efforts.
What startups are you watching keenly right now?
MentionMe, BounceX, Influential, and Segment are some cool, innovative start-ups that I have been keeping an eye on, personally. With the rapid growth of Influencer Marketing channels, seeing a massive uptick last year (2018), and more Data Attribution sources than ever before, I believe we will see a growth trend in SaaS applications to facilitate the Data Segmentation and Attribution needs of influence marketers.
What Marketing and Sales automation tools and technologies do you use?
Like many growing companies, we leverage a variety of Marketing, Sales, and Operational tools and technology, to help us drive performance and efficiency. Just a few of the specific tools we use include Salesforce, Pardot, Slack, Confluence, Meltwater, Asana, and Weekdone.
How are you preparing for the post-GDPR disruptions?
OPTIZMO is GDPR compliant, however, we have seen little to no disruption, apart from the confusion and fear that any legislative change brings on for companies doing business on a global scale. We invested heavily with our legal teams to gain the best understanding that we could of the law and where we fall within its constraints. Honestly, I believe the dust will settle and the GDPR ‘disruptions’, so-to-speak, will work themselves out as lawmakers amend and revise the legislation to be more clear and concise in regards to what exactly they are trying to accomplish versus the alarmist, albeit unintentional and short-sighted, method in which this legislation was initially rolled-out. I do not envy the regulatory and governing bodies, that’s for sure!
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?
Intelligent Implementation, knowing that the words: Intelligent and Artificial, rarely belong in the same sentence. Do not use AI to replace what your customers expect from YOU. AI creates some significant opportunities for increased efficiency through automation, however, AI will never be better than a direct and personal; person-to-person, business-to-person, or business-to-business relationships. As a Business Leader, I believe that AI should be used in areas of your business that tangibly improve the customer experience. If a tangible improvement is not easily quantifiable for the customer, then I believe the use of AI for that specific application is short-sighted.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
By hiring intelligent and competent people who are already inspired by technology and the benefits that the technology provides. Technology, in and of itself, is inspiring. Every time we buy a new cell phone, laptop, or find a great media streaming service, we, as a society, get excited. It is hard-wired in us at this day and age. The best way I know to inspire my people to work with technology is by showing them what the technology can do for us as a team and to foster the creativity of ideas through our solutions and technological advancements.
One word that best describes how you work.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Google Mail, My Calendar, Facetime, and Redbull.
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Frequent, but short breaks keep me productive and remaining humble while delegating tasks helps me to spend my time, and that of my team, where it is most efficient, regardless of how unglamorous the task that I assign myself maybe. Many people get caught up in ‘doing what they WANT to be doing within the role and self-perception that they see themselves in’ instead of doing what NEEDS to be done, regardless of role, title, or self-perception.
What are you currently reading?
‘Think Big, Act Small’ by Jason Jennings. I tend to read a lot of self-help books and articles relative to relationship building, leadership, and management. I think the human psyche as it relates to business and crosses over into personal dynamics is fascinating. Through observation, I have watched others (and myself) evolve. Some for the better, some remain stagnant, some for the worse and I like to contextually understand why and what motivates or demoralizes certain individuals. Most of my reading is online, but I will usually be reading at least one or two paper books slowly, over time.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Never trade what you want the most for what you want right now and always treat others as you would like to be treated.
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
I try to take every action decisively and strategically. I try to work smarter, not harder. I surround myself with people whose strengths outweigh my weaknesses. I think, work, and read when most people sleep.
Thank you, Khris! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Khris has 15+ Years of Dynamic Leadership in both Entrepreneurial and Corporate Environments.
He is always interested in Start-Up Concepts, Critical Thinking, and Strategic Sales/Development Planning.
Specialties: Contract Negotiation, Sales Management, Sales Training, Team Building, Product Planning & Development, Branding, and overall process improvement.
OPTIZMO Technologies is an innovative software company that provides robust, enterprise class solutions in the Fortune 500 arena. With a talented research and development team as well as International Product Development and Deployment resources, OPTIZMO delivers state-of-the-art email compliance solutions for Advertisers, Networks, and Mailers.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.