MarTech Interview with Paul Heald, CEO and Co-Founder at BrightTALK

MarTech Interview with Paul Heald, CEO and Co-Founder at BrightTALK
MarTech Interview with Paul Heald, CEO and Co-Founder at BrightTALK

“As Customer Experience and Automation technologies have matured, we’ve seen more of our customers valuing personal and authentic connections with people and businesses achieved with live talks.”

Tell us about your role and journey into Marketing Technology. What inspired you to launch BrightTALK?

When the Internet took off in the late 1990s, we began to see a new knowledge economy emerge, one in which professionals trade their skills and expertise, freely supported by the free flow of information and know-how available online. Nearly 20 years later, my co-founder, Dorian Logan, and I, with the help of the incredible team here at BrightTALK, continue to connect professionals with knowledge that is freely available from experts in businesses via live webinar and video technologies. With millions of professionals actively engaging in live and recorded talks on BrightTALK, we have created the perfect environment for content marketers with a story to tell, as well as demand marketers with a target professional persona to reach. Our work with so many amazing marketers over the years has resulted in a content and demand marketing platform with a ready-made professional audience.

How does BrightTALK fit into a modern Marketing Technology stack?

What’s unique about the BrightTALK platform is that it fulfills two functions for marketers. It is both a destination for marketers to host and distribute their webinar, video and online talks content and a powerful demand generation tool where marketers can find and attract quality industry leads to their content marketing campaigns. We currently have more than 8 million professional users on the platform, and the audience appeal to marketers is very significant.

How does your online webinar and events platform benefit marketing teams?

In today’s environment of Content Explosion and Media Fragmentation, it has become increasingly challenging for marketers to drive audiences to their campaigns, let alone to figure out how to educate and nurture these audience groups into qualified leads for the sales teams. This is where BrightTALK comes in. Our powerful AI knowledge assistant, named Ada, makes content recommendations to users based on their previous viewing and engagement with our webinars and online videos. That allows us to ensure that only relevant audiences are sent to our marketing clients’ content portals, and their viewers already have an established interest in consuming the content.

Our client Craig Chappell, global head of digital at FireEye, explained it best in a recent press release: “BrightTALK allows us to expand our reach into already formed communities that are actively looking for industry information, and to build up our own communities within those. Whenever we create a piece of content, there’s already an audience that’s ready to consume it. Quarter after quarter, BrightTALK consistently sits in the top three demand generation activities and delivers significant ROI.”

What are the core technologies driving your product roadmap?

To build our marketplace for content creators and professional audiences, we have to be a leader in both live video and audience data. Our live streaming video technologies have evolved from Windows Media to Flash to HTML5 and HLS streaming standards, and we are now moving rapidly into real-time communication standards (WebRTC) with cloud computing. For audience data, we are building a professional network powered by Big Data technologies and AI data capabilities to help us learn about our audience and content creators so we can accurately recommend what professionals on learning journeys should watch next.

What is the current state of on-demand interactive videos? How much of this state has evolved with a maturity of Customer Experience and Automation technologies?

BrightTALK’s annual Benchmarks Report, which measures engagement across the BrightTALK network, shows that the appetite for on-demand content is growing every year. As Customer Experience and Automation technologies have matured, we’ve seen more of our customers valuing personal and authentic connections with people – and businesses – achieved with live talks. Although on-demand B2B content has value for those wanting to discover and learn instantly, it does have as much appeal as live content.

The appeal of live online talks is that the audience can experience a unique connection with experts. They can pose questions that accelerate solutions to complex business challenges. On average, last year live talks created 32 minutes of viewing time combined with audience engagement through questions, votes, downloading attachments, and providing feedback. This is five to six times longer than the time and attention marketers can expect from on-demand content. While on-demand is growing each year, professionals and businesses still value the state of live content – which is why online talks using webinars and videos will continue to be a top-performing marketing tactic through the next decade.

Tell us about your go-to strategies to support rapid growth, lessons learned through periods of massive shift and transition in the Marketing Technology industry?

We are fortunate to be in a business that provides go-to-market strategies that support rapid growth. In turn, we’ve always found success by being our own first customer. Our marketing function leverages our full suite of best-in-class content and demand products and shares their learnings with marketers all over the world. Our sales development team connects with prospective customers who are learning and growing on the network. Our community, sales, success, and support teams are equally involved in leveraging the platform to reach their own goals. The majority of our people are both users and customers of our business. As a result, they have experienced and can relate to the business challenges our customers face. The product and technology teams are surrounded by end-users for what they build. This creates a rapid feedback loop that tells us the precise ways we need to innovate, often well before our customers experience the same challenges. This helps us take a proactive approach to product development, which is critical to achieving our own and our customers’ growth objectives.

For the last decade, the MarTech industry has been in a state of a massive shift. In 2008, when we launched BrightTALK, there were around 100 MarTech companies. Fast forward to 2019, and there are expected to be around 6,000 MarTech companies in the space. That has created a lot of options for marketing investments, and we find that more businesses are spreading these investments across a wider range of vendors. While it can create additional effort for a business to manage two to three times more vendors than they did five years ago, it has also forced the MarTech industry to compete to build products and services that solve real growth challenges and deliver real value. If you’re MarTech company that is in that position, the massive shifts have been rewarding. If you’re a company that is still trying to find product-market fit, the industry can be crushing. B2B marketers want results quickly and they will not hesitate to abandon strategies that are not working.

Tell us more about your Revenue and Customer Acquisition growth for 2018.

While we can’t disclose our exact business revenue figures, I can tell you that Content Leads, BrightTALK’s flagship B2B lead generation product, has produced more than 50 percent growth in revenue during the last year. And growing numbers of clients are subscribing to our suite of demand generation products.

Which Marketing and Sales Automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

Within our partner ecosystem of tools and technologies, we work with Marketing Automation and CRM platforms including Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot, Salesforce, and Pardot, and we also extend into other systems with flexible form-post connectors. As a result, we’ve had to become experts at understanding how our clients use these tools and to provide guidance on best practices that allows them to derive the most value from the data we provide.

Our plans this year include increasing our reach within the MarTech landscape to bring our data, and our customers’ data, together in areas like content management/digital asset management, customer data platforms, and sales acceleration/messaging. Our goal is to help marketers improve content creation and audience targeting, as well as to measure the return on their investments.

Within our own marketing function, we have a traditional stack of marketing automation (Marketo), data enrichment (Clearbit / Datafox), CRM (Salesforce), Attribution and Analytics (Leandata and Marketo), Sales Acceleration (Salesloft), and a handful of other tools that enable our commercial teams to be efficient and effective in how we acquire and retain customers.

What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in video-based Content Curation and Distribution technology for 2019-2020?

Traditional slides and audio presentations are going to be increasingly replaced by highly engaging video presentations from computers. The incredible range of engaging presentation options available to presenters going forward means that webinars will be as rich and engaging as if they were in-person talks. To connect these rich live experiences to professional audiences will require an integrated technology platform and audience experience.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

We are excited to work with demand orchestration (Integrate) and customer data (Datafox) partners to ensure that the highly engaged leads created during live talks – and later from on-demand viewings – are quickly and appropriately followed up by marketing and sales teams. Buying decisions in business can happen very rapidly once the key people (or buying committee) in a company have learned enough to make a choice.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?

As a Business Leader, I will continue to encourage and train our team to become adept at using the latest automation technologies to increase productivity and efficiency at work. At the same time, I believe that our workforce should prepare for the new AI reality by embracing continuous learning, adapting to new technologies, and sharpening soft skills that are ‘uniquely human’, such as creativity, critical thinking, communication, and empathy.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

To be relevant you have to compete with the best and the brightest and your ideas become the technology of the future.

One word that best describes how you work.

Authentically.

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

Text and email.

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

Remember everything – it’s better than any app!

What are you currently reading?

I constantly read and listen to online information that gets used in business. For fun, I’m reading Conquering Backgammon! It’s a game that has been around for more than 5,000 years, and it requires an AI level of math processing to be successful. I’m not very good yet!

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

‘Marry her’! from my best friend about my wife.

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

I stick at it! Our vision grows and grows as more people get involved. Seventeen years after starting BrightTALK, I’m more excited about the future than ever before.

Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Jeremy Bloom, CEO of Integrate.

Thank you, Paul! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Paul Heald co-founded BrightTALK in 2002 to help organizations engage their customers through live, online events. As CEO, Heald has led BrightTALK to its current position as a leading provider of online events, with a rapidly growing community of business and industry professionals. Paul is based at BrightTALK’s U.S. headquarters in San Francisco, CA.

Before founding BrightTALK, Heald was the European Managing Director of Scient, a web technology development company. Prior to Scient, he ran Arthur D. Little’s e-business consulting group. Heald is an MBA graduate of Cranfield School of Management (U.K.).

brighttalk logo

BrightTALK Limited offers webcasting and web-portals services. The Company provides live and recorded webinars, presenter and audience experiences, videos, and content management tools. BrightTALK operates worldwide.

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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