Interview with Bart Heilbron, CEO at BlueConic

Bart Heilbron
interviwes
Bart Heilbron
Bart Heilbron
CEO at BlueConic
BlueConic

On Marketing Technology


MTS: 
Tell us about your role at BlueConic and how you got here. ( what inspired you to join a martech company)

BlueConic is a customer data platform which works for B2B-B2C marketers to deliver equal benefits to our customers. Richer and more actionable customer data helps businesses grow customer loyalty, increase conversions, and drive revenues with data-based, real-time personalization.

Professionally, I have a background in web company management. My co-founder at BlueConic, Martijn van Berkum, and I previously founded a European company – GX Software in Nijmegen, Gelderland. We are originally from Netherlands, and in the course of growing that company, we got the idea of building BlueConic to help marketers capture customer data from different channels.

This idea behind BlueConic emerged from modern-day marketing requirements. Our primary goal, then, was to capture customer data and then segment the anonymous and known people on any attribute BlueConic has about them. Today, we deliver solutions for omni-channel data, building customer personalization solutions using the latest technologies, which includes machine learning and predictive analytics.

My role as a CEO is to build the company internationally and within America. We are seeing tremendous growth in all our product categories, delivering hyper-personalization for B2C industries such as publishing/media, retail, and travel/hospitality, as well as B2B companies. The growth is due to marketers’ increasing demand for built-for-them solutions that simplify and makes accessible the complexity of managing customer data.

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

In the last 10-15 years, I have seen distinct phases of martech evolution. The first generation of marketing technology evolution involves management and email marketing standards, primarily for direct marketing. Then came a swing of vendors five to-six years ago, that started building technologies for automation, advertising, recommendations and optimization standards–and for more channels. What we have seen in the last couple of years is that all these standards have been brought together in one larger, loosely homogenous category of “suites,” which also includes Marketing Clouds for enterprise marketers.

BlueConic is essentially the third-generation enabler in martech, as CDPs and other tools emerge to fill in critical gaps and focus on customer data integration.

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

The most important technology trend will be about how marketers work with customer data. The way modern marketers use and leverage customer data is still very raw, and the future trends will see a more refined approach.

BlueConic’s Recommendations Engine is one of the tools to collect and deliver relevant data using machine learning capabilities. Both startups and enterprise customers can equally leverage customer data using Recommendations Engine.

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

Marketing technology is as much a “people problem” as it is a technology problem: skillsets and organizing for getting the most out of the tech is a major challenge for CMOs. Then, the key is not just to select the most relevant technology, but also unify the data they collect and store in order to provide a “single view” to the marketing team.  Marketers who are used to buying best-of-breed solutions for very discrete challenges will need to add new requirements that prioritize integration.

MTS: What would be your advice to CMOs when they start planning to invest in Marketing Technologies?

This is really a two-part question because CMOs are both heavily invested in existing technologies in their stacks, as well as evaluating (or overseeing the P&L and decision process for) new technologies and it’s difficult to plan for both. My advice to CMOs is to identify business outcomes that are explicitly tied to technology goals; for example, “double the number of identifiable users we recognize on our digital channels by 2020” and then line up technologies that support that objective.

Start by understanding what your current tech stack has delivered and will likely be able to contribute to the goal, and then fill in the gaps with new solutions. Foundational requirements for new technology investments should be flexibility, interoperability, and extensibility. Vendors that are best-of-breed in those areas will multiply the impact tech has on your business goals by a wide margin.

MTS: What Start-ups are you watching/keen on right now?

I keep a very close eye on startups that belong to the same category as BlueConic; startups in this customer data segment are all taking somewhat diverse approaches to how they unify devices, mobile users and applications.

Outside of our own category, Drift is another Boston start-up that I’ve been watching.

MTS: What tools does your marketing stack consist of in 2017?

We are a B2B Marketing company ourselves. Therefore, we use martech to make our B2B processes faster and more effective. The pillars of our own stack are our own platform, email and marketing automation, and CRM. We also support sales tools like SalesLoft and prospecting tools like LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator.

For advertising, we use Google AdWords and do some advertising on social channels like LinkedIn and Twitter.

We rely heavily on Slack for internal collaboration and many of the plug-ins for more efficient use of our other tools.

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

One of the most outstanding digital campaigns we developed at BlueConic was based on a thought leadership paper on differentiating between Customer Data Platform and a Data Management platform. From running social campaigns around this, to measuring the number of customer-specific downloads—we got and continue to get a lot of traction from this particular thought leadership content.

We rely heavily on LinkedIn and Twitter to serve some of our content. Social media channels are our natural go-to destinations to target micro-audiences. We then use targeting platforms to focus on interested audiences, delivering them hyper-personalized experiences.

Each social media channel to serve unique content makes up the core of our each campaign. And then, we run analytics to measure the success.

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

BlueConic has machine learning built into the platform, which we’ll continue to advance. For our day to day marketing, though, AI is still a distant trend for us, given the behaviors and needs of our target market.

THIS IS HOW I WORK

MTS: One word that best describes how you work.

 Tirelessly. It is true of everyone involved with and working at BlueConic because we are all so ambitious.

MTS: What apps/software/tools/ Martech leaders you follow on a daily basis?

– Customer Experience Matrix
– Chief Marketer
– Customer Data Platform Institute

MTS: What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

Using our own marketing tools for lead generation to see how customers are actually working with us.

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

I am reading Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight.

I personally follow —

– James McCormick, Principal Analyst at Forrester
– Martin Kihn, Research V.P. at Gartner

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

The best advice I have received is to “Put people on your biggest opportunities, instead of your biggest problems.”

Pick your best people for opportunities than for problems.

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

“Staying modest while still being ambitious.”

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

Joe Coleman – CEO at Contently

Bart is the CEO and Founder of BlueConic and GX Software. He is currently based in Boston, Massachusetts.

BlueConic Logo

BlueConic is a customer data platform that harnesses the data required to power the recognition of an individual at each interaction, and then synchronizes their intent across the marketing ecosystem.

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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