Interviews

Interview with Rohit Prabhakar, Head of Digital Marketing & Technology – McKesson

Rohit Prabhakar

Rohit Prabhakar

Head of Digital Marketing & Technology, McKesson

AI, for me, is still very premature. Even the best products in the market, most AI vendors are unable to answer my questions.

On Marketing Technology


MTS:
Tell us a little bit about your role and how you got here.

I started my career in IT as a software engineer, I’ve been a web developer, an architect, a team lead to program manager. I then moved to doing sales for a Fortune 500 firm for 2 years in the Bay area which I really enjoyed. I then moved to product management where I was introduced to marketing, and now I’ve been in to marketing for 7 years. That is how I was transitioned to marketing and today I work in corporate marketing for McKesson.

Originally I was hired as a program manager but I saw there was this huge opportunity of working in Digital Marketing, especially around marketing technologies. I started to work on my business case for Digital Transformation of Marketing three to four years ago which was approved two years ago. Taking this from concept to execution was how I got involved in this role – something that was non-existent as McKesson. Now my team and I are responsible for both digital marketing and technology which include customer experience at mckesson.com. We are very very obsessed with customer experience and we focus on it.

MTS: Given the massive proliferation of marketing technology, how do you see the martech market evolving over the next few years?

The market continues to evolve at a crazy pace, and I don’t see the number of vendors dropping but I expect to see some consolidation, organically or forced by market or economic conditions for sustainment of these companies. Scott Brinker should be releasing a new landscape in the martech conference soon and that should show how they’re evolving. Personally I feel they will evolve more, with more companies in the space, in categories we haven’t seen yet. It will reach a tipping point where some of these companies may not get a lot of funding because there’s a hard limit to the number of (customer) companies who can use their products or services.

Not every technology will mature to the level where it can give you all the benefits. The larger players like Adobe Oracle, Salesforce, IBM, Microsoft and Google are also building their own solutions or acquiring. Either the best solutions will be acquired or some solutions will have a niche market, many of them may not. I look forward to this S-curve moving further up for the next few years. Eventually the market will stabilize with a reduction in the number of total solutions in the marketing technology landscape. But only the fittest and the best will sustain.

MTS: What do you see as the single most important technology trend or development that’s going to impact us?

I wouldn’t say single, there are a couple of things that will make more and more of an impact. Economy of scale is a big challenge when we bring any solution. Cognition and artificial intelligence can really help marketers to up the game, in how we do things – faster and easier and less expensive. When my team started setting up personalization, you see there are lot of dependencies. There’s dependency on content, dependency on development, there’s dependencies on many other factors. But when I’m able to bring artificial intelligence into personalization, it allows us to scale up very economically.

Cognitive and artificial intelligence, we can use them interchangeably, those are the one’s I’m really feeling more bullish about. About the investment, about the time my team is spending. Outside of this I’d say data, good refined data. Data is the foundation of everything. All your marketing landscape is useful only if you have good data. Delivering good data is the most foundational thing and the game-changer.

MTS: What’s the biggest challenge that CMOs need to tackle to make marketing technology work?

I would say good clean data and change management. Good data decides if your marketing campaigns will have good RoI. Change management – this is something that is quite undervalued in the marketing technology community. Marketing technology has become such a famous word, it’s probably the most sexy thing in marketing. Pure marketers, good marketers who have a very good high level understanding of marketing but with a very limited amount of technology experience are buying all this software from big companies. They end up buying it and they don’t really understand how to really use it. Like what is practical use case for it.

Conversely, if there’s a technologist who has a very low understanding of marketing, would go for the best technical product in the market which doesn’t have a great use to enable marketing. Change management is very important, before you bring any new technologies in to your organization you need to ensure that your teams are ready to adopt new technologies and they understand why they are adopting that particular piece of technology. They need to have the ability, that they’re trained to use those technologies. They should already be at the stage when new technology comes, they can not only use it but increase productivity and get things done quickly.

Between these two I’d say change management is the biggest thing a CMO should ensure that your team’s are spending enough time on and you’re not just going and buying the latest marketing technology because it’s the sexiest thing.

MTS: Could you tell us about a standout digital campaign? (Who was your target audience and how did you measure success)

Product marketing is not done by my team, there’s a business unit at McKesson called BPS, an awesome team who we started working with almost two years ago. They saw a huge increase in overall traffic, they ran some serious campaigns and today almost 40% of new business is coming through marketing. In comparison, a few years ago almost 0% was coming through marketing campaigns. It stands out because the RoI were extremely high and really stands out to me.

MTS: How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a marketing leader?

We are already in the process of creating a palette. We are very ‘bullish’ when it comes to deploying AI anywhere, and not just in data or in personalization, but every other space we work with. AI, for me, is still very premature.
Even the best products in the market, most AI vendors are unable to answer my questions. Just 5 years back, there were no practical applications of using AI. But now, things have changed dramatically. It’s all about using AI to run marketing on great platforms. I see a lot of practical applications falling in place. We are trying to understand where is AI now, and will see how it shapes up as a matured technology.

 

This Is How I Work

 

MTS: One word that best describes how you work.

Leading by Example.

MTS: What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

I love working with Buffer, Pocket and Speedly, they all are so collaborative into each other. Another app I love is Mint, for financials. Alexa is great too… not just as an app but also a device, for my whole family. For productivity, I would suggest a VPN app that is helpful for global teams. Though, I am not a huge fan of any collaborative app, but we do use Yammer.

MTS: What are you currently reading? (What do you read, and how do you consume information?)

  1. How Champions Think: In Sports and In Life by Robert Rotella
  1. The Success Intersection: What Happens When Your Talent Meets Your Passion by James D. Denney and Pat Williams
  2. The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino
  3. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant
  4. Leading Change by John P. Kotter

MTS: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

One, Walk the Talk… Don’t talk the walk.

MTS: Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

Well, I don’t think I do better than others. But yes, I do learn from others. And success for me, It’s my persistence.

My background too has a huge influence on my vision—I had a sales start and then I moved to marketing…When I sit with both teams, I use my ethnic background to work with team more collaboratively—thanks to my Indian culture, I gel with almost everyone.

MTS: Tag the one person whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Rishi Dave, CMO – Dun & Bradstreet

MTS: Thank you Rohit! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Rohit is currently leading Digital Marketing Center of Excellence for McKesson Corporation. Digital CoE is responsible for McKesson.com, User Experience, SEO, Data & Analytics, Marketing Operations, Demand Generation and Digital Marketing Academy.

McKesson logoWe’re experiencing an era of unprecedented change in health care. New technology, new services and new ideas will be needed to deliver improved outcomes for businesses and patients. McKesson is at the forefront of that transformation.

We work with health care organizations of all types to strengthen the health of their business, helping them control costs, develop efficiencies and improve quality.

We build essential connections that make health care smarter, creating intelligent networks that expand access, reduce waste, and bring people and information closer together.

We supply the industry with the resources, support and technology it needs to create new standards and a world of better health.

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About the MarTech Interview Series

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.

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