Pasha Irshad is a Senior Director of Digital Marketing with The Merritt Group, a marketing agency that blends marketing, PR and creative grounded in industry expertise. In this interview he shares his proudest moment as a Marketing Director. From the vantage point of also being a small business owner, he points out five B2B marketing trends he sees happening in 2020.
How did you get into the marketing profession?
My first internship out of college as a 28-year old was with a marketing and advertising agency. I was able to turn that into a permanent position. My first three years there taught me the ropes of marketing and advertising.
I learned branding and Adobe Creative Suite, which at that time was InDesign. Everything from branding with Pantone colors to print press reviews. All the old school stuff that isn’t done as much anymore.
I was able to get grounded as an Account Manager right around the time things were switching over to digital. So, our agency kind of morphed into web design and web development. And I got to launch around 20 websites and learned everything about technology.
What types of projects interest you most?
I love technology. I’m very intrigued by figuring out how to use technology to get results for clients. For example, what kind of technology pieces can we put in place to help their marketing infrastructure? And how can we streamline their marketing and sales process to drive leads?
I’ve taken that passion into my own startup where I’m CMO overseeing e-commerce. Technology has always been a big part of my life and I think that’s probably what I’m most passionate about it.
In my startup I’m working with a friend who’s a functional medical doctor. We’re bringing personalized supplementation to a larger audience. Healthcare is an issue in America, and we’re trying to give people the ability to test what they’re deficient in from a vitamin and micronutrient level.
The foods today aren’t the foods of 50 years ago. You don’t get the same nutrients. So, I think there’s an epidemic of deficiencies in vitamin B, vitamin D, magnesium, and iron. And there’s toxicity people don’t know about. We’ve created a solution that treats a lot of the underlying causes of disease and harmful effects of the Western diet.
How it works, is we test your urine. Then we set you up with a monthly plan to test against all those factors, and make you a healthier person. This is a big passion of mine. I’m using my marketing skills and passion for health to create this company, and it’s going live in the next two to three months.The role of a marketing technologist in 2020 will be to understand the technology and figure out how it can best serve their clients. The challenge is that it’s not one size fits all. Click To Tweet
Can you describe one of your favorite marketing campaigns and the challenge you faced?
One of my favorite campaigns was for a company called Valor Healthcare that provides healthcare to veterans. They improve veteran health care through the V.A. by opening and modernizing clinics.
The campaign was part of what they do to commemorate the opening of a clinic. We did a motorcycle ride with veterans from Dallas Texas all the way to Laguna Beach California for a clinic opening. It was a branding campaign meant to drive awareness that would get them through to the next year’s ride. This was the first one that they’d done.
We videotaped the 1,000 mile ride, created a compelling video and built some buzz around it. Logistically, it was probably one of the most challenging projects of my career. But it was also one of the most rewarding because I got to work with veterans.
It was a great cause. It was nice to get behind something where I could use my marketing chops to improve the world for the better. We won some awards for our work, too.
But it was a challenge riding with 10 guys on Harleys across the desert. A lot could’ve gone wrong.
At the end of the trip the CEO of Valor Healthcare spoke and gave us a challenge coin. This is something that’s given to people in the military bearing an organization’s insignia or emblem. Historically, they were presented by commanders in recognition of special achievements.
When he gave one to me and the video team, it meant a lot to me. It was an honor. After all, we’re just some marketing guys. I’ve worked for a lot of big companies like Booz Allen Hamilton, Verizon Retail and Deloitte. But this was a special moment.
How were results measured?
They had partnered with the Gary Sinise Foundation. The campaign raised the money it was supposed to, which was a big thing. They did a new ride this year that went well. We had partnered with Snowball Express, which is part of the Gary Sinise Foundation. It serves the children of fallen military heroes and they take care of them. So, we were actually raising money for that.
What B2B marketing trends do you see coming in 2020?
I think conversational marketing is going to keep growing and exploding. For example, The Merritt Group recently signed a partnership with Drift to be their provider of intelligent chatbots. This kind of technology will engage a prospective buyer quicker and with a more holistic customer experience.
Conversational marketing is going to start replacing landing pages. There will be a live face instead of entering your information into a form. Obviously, the tech market is crowded. I saw an infographic that just came out listing 7000 technologies.
I think the role of a marketing technologist in 2020 will be to understand the technology and figure out how it can best serve their clients. The challenge is that it’s not one size fits all. It’s about being able to bring that expertise and counsel clients. The word digital transformation has been thrown around for five years. It’s realy just about how you update your processes.
The ad industry as a whole is changing. We’ve got issues with data, and I think those are going to continue to evolve. GDPR is big thorn in the side of the industry. New laws are cropping up in California. I think as we get further down the line there’s going to be more issues with that.
Adapting to meet that challenge and being more privacy centric is something that needs to be accounted for. Companies like Apple are already doing that with IOS 13 to prevent new ways to spoof your email. These are things marketers need to be aware of.
More Competition and Better Customer Experience
Then fourth, in terms of the industry itself you’ve got a lot of new players. It’s not just the traditional big ad agencies. You’re competing with boutique agencies and in-house teams. Over the last two or three years we’ve seen this rise of the big consultancies getting into the agency space. Deloitte, Accenture and Booz Allen all have their own internal digital shops.
Finally, customer experience and user experience are going to keep evolving. This is the case in my own personal start up. Customer experience is everything from when the customer first interacts with the website to the packaging. And then to the feeling they get when they open that box, and how long they must wait to talk to somebody in support. It’s a completely holistic way of thinking about things.
I wouldn’t say it’s new. It’s a term that’s been around for a while and people specialize in it. But I think B2B companies really need to start paying attention to customer experience. Because right now, people see it more as traditional B2C. I think we’re moving past that. Everybody expects that Amazon and Apple experience. Any way we can bring that to customers is going to be something the industry needs to be aware of.
So, those are five things that are top of mind for me. Keep in mind, I’ve worked in B2C and now work primarily in B2B. But I’m also a small business owner who’s in charge of marketing for that small business. This has helped me think about things differently.