1. Could you tell me a little about your background and how you came to be the SVP, Head of Digital at Healthgrades?
It’s been an interesting journey full of mistakes, lessons learned and several twists & turns. I started off as a pure technologist right after completing my Masters in Computer Science in India. It included wearing many hats from being a Unix, C++, Java/J2EE developer to being an Oracle DBA, Sys Admin and eventually a Tech Architect designing and building Online Education & Certification Portals, eCommerce Platforms, CMS Platforms, Automating HRMS & Knowledge Management Systems and others. Sometime in 2005, I got an opportunity to be a technology leader within the advertising and marketing vertical. I became the chief architect and product leader for a multi-channel integrated campaign management, delivery & measurement platform and that started the evolution as a Marketing Technologist at the deepest level. It eventually lead to my last role as the Chief Marketing Technologist at a Fortune 500 CPG organization which laid the foundation for my current role at Healthgrades to head up the Digital Business which of course still includes Marketing Technologies along with other elements of the business. I was just fortunate enough to organically land at the intersection of marketing, technology and storytelling early on in my career and it has been one step at a time since then.
2. What most excites you about the MarTech Conference?
The fact that it is about “Marketing Technology” and there is no confusion around it. It reflects a conscious effort from Scott and rest of the planning team to address the nuances of growing business, driving behavioral change and understanding the challenges of operationalizing a lot of high level ideas at the intersection of the marketing and technology worlds.
The content is relevant to a Fortune 100 as well as a start up. I have met CMOs, CTOs & CIOs who have tremendously benefited as well as anyone from a Marketing Manager, Brand Strategist to an IT Director or VP. It is truly addressing the need to converge across these traditionally isolated worlds. The line-up this year is a perfect example of that.
3. Could you give our readers a preview on the topic of your presentation?
Being a big Formula 1 fan, I will use that analogy. I see our evolution as an industry similar to the Art & Science of winning a Formula 1 race. It all started way back with the need for an ultimate machine that had every single part working with the other in unison. And once you had the machine, the car you then needed the perfect “Engineering” to tune it to perfection for the road, the temperature, the humidity and all our factors and finally blend the perfect engineering with the “Art of Driving” on a race track that gave you the shot at winning the race.
For me, all the different Marketing Technologies are like the different parts of the car that need to be connected and assembled together as the first biggest challenge. This has started to become more and more table stakes especially with some of the consolidation and convergence that has happened.
However, the bigger challenge for all of us is the “Engineering” and the “Art of Driving”, in other words the “application” of these marketing technologies to ultimately change human behavior, inspire participation and resolve business challenges.
For instance, how would you use data, predictive modeling, content and communication to drive patient compliance for better health outcome, or use data science and analytics to enable people find the right doctor, right hospital and right care at a time and location of their own choice. I call that “Experience Planning” broadly and that is the focus of what I will attempt to share.
4. What is your take on the massive explosion of MarTech companies across so many categories? How do you weigh in on the whole “build vs buy” choice that marketers have?
The explosion is inevitable and will not accelerate further. The bar to penetrate the market with new technologies and new ideas is almost diminished with an incredible infrastructure and support system that inspires innovation.
The challenge though is that while Marketing Technologies are growing exponentially, we as brands or marketers can only respond algorithmically.
That’s where we need to shift towards an open standard framework aka an iOS model; think about a loosely coupled architecture that is stitched through an extensible Services Layer within organizations that enables the “data flow” from one system to the other. The opportunity is not in the number of marketing technologies you have within your ecosystem but how well connected they are with the human/consumer at the center.
From a build vs buy or even rent for that matter – there is no silver bullet here or one size fits all response. However as long as you stay true to your “core competency” and “business model” as an organization, you will be fine. For instance, if you are in the retail business, would you really invest your strategic head count and Capex in developing the next Marketing Automation platform yourself? But if you are a Marketing Technology and you have a business model around Marketing Automation, then perhaps you would.
5. What would you put forward as the key considerations that marketers need to keep in mind as they go about building their tech stacks?
I believe we need a mindset shift from building technology stacks to enabling human experiences that matter. Experiences that drive behavioral change and inspire participation and engagement as well as drive business growth and address gaps like market penetration, share of wallet, lifetime value management and more. This is only possible when we focus more on the “application” of our technology stacks along with data science and communication strategies across all channels and touch points to get the consumer what she needs at a moment, location and touch-point of her choice. If we can apply that thinking to every single aspect of the business and experiences we drive, adopting and evolving technologies will make a lot more sense. Otherwise, we will only drive random acts of digital and will have great technologies that don’t necessarily move the needle.