Q&A with Irshad Raihan, Director- Product Marketing at Red Hat

Media 7 | February 3, 2021

Irshad Raihan, Director of Product Marketing at Red Hat, comes with an experience of more than 20 years. Previously, he has been associated with companies like IBM and Hewlett Packard for Big Data and Data Management products.

I see the role of the marketer centered on three functions - Inspire, Inform, and Initiate.



MEDIA 7: Congratulations on being listed as one of the ‘Top 100 Product Marketing Influencers 2020���! What inspired you to get into marketing?
IRSHAD RAIHAN:
Thank you very much. It is an honor to be mentioned alongside giants from our industry, some of whom have been my mentors, and inspired me to seek a career in marketing. The role of marketing has evolved considerably since the time I shifted gears from a software development career trajectory to one in marketing.

Marketing has become central to business strategy and, at the same time, advances in reporting and analytics have made it possible to measure revenue contribution from marketing at a much more granular level. In a sense, marketers have the best view of the business - from customers and competitors to engineering and sales. It’s the best seat in the house!

M7: Given your target audience, what channels do you consider best for technology marketing at Red Hat?
IR:
Like most enterprise technology companies, we run omnichannel campaigns. While it’s important to get the balance just right between multiple channels, it’s easy to get overly focused on channels rather than customers. At Red Hat, we take a persona-based approach to messaging and sales conversations. The channel mix is a downstream decision determined by the needs of the persona. It’s not unlike a DJ that mixes music to suit the vibe of the audience.


Despite all the technological changes, the fundamentals of telling compelling stories and being maniacal about understanding customers remain at the heart of great marketing.



M7: Could you please throw some light on the impact of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning on marketing today?
IR:
Like every facet of our lives, AI/ML has fundamentally altered our decision-making framework, and in some cases, can make real-time decisions for us. This goes back to my inspiration for becoming a marketer in the first place. I see myself as part of a broader trend of engineers and scientifically minded people moving into the marketing discipline.

Yes, marketing has become more data-driven but it’s more than that. There is a tectonic shift in the mindset we apply to measure marketing success, and more importantly, to making course corrections along the way. AI/ML can certainly help add automation to the marketing mix to help marketers quickly respond to competitive threats, global events, and regulatory changes.

Another area where AI/ML has marketing implications is around predictive analytics. For instance, a number of marketing technology (or MarTech, for short) tools include propensity models to determine the likelihood of customer conversion.

M7: What marketing strategies are you are looking forward to implementing in 2021 and why?
IR:
I see the role of the marketer centered on three functions - Inspire, Inform, and Initiate. We look to inspire great ideas, and help our customers reach for the impossible. Once we have buy-in into the “why”, we arm customers with the most relevant data points to help them make a purchasing decision around product and vendor. And finally, we look to initiate action as a trusted advisor along the customer journey.

Customer lifetime value is a core metric that drives our strategies and actions. It’s not enough to offer a point solution that fits the needs of customers today. Given the pace of change, customers not only want to trust a brand that can serve them in the long term, but also aligns with their values.


We look to inspire great ideas, and help our customers reach for the impossible. Once we have buy-in into the “why”, we arm customers with the most relevant data points to help them make a purchasing decision around product and vendor.



M7: What marketing-related challenges do you face every day at Red Hat? Which technology tools do you bank on for overcoming these?
IR:
MarTech is a considerable investment at Red Hat. We have tools to deliver insights, diminish barriers to collaboration, and create scalable workflows for globally dispersed teams. However, it can sometimes be tempting to think our work as marketers is complete when we simply invest in tools.

The biggest challenge that most CMOs face is to build a data-driven culture that creates shared accountability not just between marketing stakeholders, but also between marketing and sales teams.
Modern marketers are working with a number of variables in a constantly changing landscape. The traditional marketing funnel has disappeared. Buyer journeys are shorter yet vastly more complex than before. New “crossover” personas are constantly emerging. The subscription economy is permanently disrupting the way customers research and purchase. The only way to address this volatility is to create a common mindset across the organization to act, measure, and adjust iteratively.

M7: Your advice to marketing enthusiasts?
IR:
While it may seem like the pandemic has brought traditional, face-to-face marketing activities to a halt, it has given rise to many creative digital marketing tactics. Digital marketing has leveled the playing field in so many ways, enabling smart marketers to apply a data-driven mindset to optimize spend without breaking the bank.

Despite all the technological changes, the fundamentals of telling compelling stories and being maniacal about understanding customers remain at the heart of great marketing.

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