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Customer Marketing Best Practices with Katie Martell

February 19, 2019 | Andrea Lechner-Becker | No Comments |

The Unapologetic Truth Teller, Kate Martell

If you don’t know Katie Martell, what are you doing with your life? A self-described on-demand marketer (which she says is just a fancy way to say “freelancer”), Katie is a badass. She co-founded a startup and ran marketing at another startup, but more important she is one of those rare people who really gets marketing, especially customer marketing. She’s also not afraid to question the industry, challenge what we’re all doing with it – and wonder (along with all of us) where we go from here. We hesitate to even use the word best practice with her. It doesn’t seem badass enough, but in this Q&A with our CEO, Justin Gray, we’ve isolated her wisdom on customer marketing best practices. 

The original intention of this interview was to record it for Marketing Evangelist Network, but alas, the audio and/or visual sucked. And so we re-recorded another one, which is available here. We’d say we hope you’ll enjoy it… but we already know you will.

Questions and Answers

Justin: What’s your background?

Katie: My whole world has been marketing to marketers. I’ve been in-house at marketing tech companies. My startup was a marketing tech platform. I’ve worked at marketing services firms and PR firms. I’ve even worked at a B2B analyst firm selling content to marketers, so I’ve seen a lot of angles on our space.


Justin: I want to get your take on the modern day buyer. Let’s just kind of lump society into a bucket, for the purposes of this conversation. Do you view the internet as the largest catalyst in today’s buying change, or is it something else?

Katie: I want to talk specifically about the B2B buyer, because that’s most people reading. I think when you look at the buyer today, the right question to be asking is, “What are we up against that we’re not all quite aware that we’re up against?”

Everyone knows that the buyer has more information in their control and is hit with a deluge of options. And I think it’s important to note that marketers right now are contributing to an environment of fake news, hyperbole. We publish something like two million blogs a day and absolutely gunk up the sales cycle with content. We are publishing powerhouses. I should be happy for that.

But the problem is that we’re contributing to noise in a world where buyers and humans and citizens are just more stressed out than ever. And buyers are more stressed out and uncertain than ever because they don’t quite know what to do next because there’s so much to choose from. It’s information overload.

So to break through, you have to think about the fact that buyers are overwhelmed and looking for guidance. That’s, to me, a great opportunity for every brand because we’re all selling to the same stressed-out buyer. You could be selling to an IT buyer, a finance guy, or you could be selling to a marketer who’s terrified of being irrelevant, right? What they all have in common is they’re looking for signals of leadership, and that to me is what a brand should be right now; something that is setting a very clear vision for the future that’s based in my reality today.


Justin: So what do you recommend companies and marketers do in order to provide that for these buyers?

Katie: So my big tip is to go figure out what it is in your specific customer base, your industry, your prospects, that everyone is thinking but nobody is saying. I call that the unspoken, the exceptional truth of an industry. Those are the things that people are going to gravitate toward. You might get really provocative when you do that. You might piss people off when you do that, but you know what? That’s what it takes right now.

Justin: With all these changes, what’s happening with the role of CMO from your perspective?

Katie: Well, if you think about it, CMOs and the actual job function are relatively new to the world of business.


Justin: And people are trying to kill it already, by the way. Now it’s not CMO; it’s CRO, right? Things are moving so quickly. It’s just so hard to get that skillset and that quality.

Katie: Well, people and companies need certain things, right? They need revenue, so they kind of rush to build a revenue officer to fix those problems. But, to me, the role of a CMO is so different based on the individual in that role and what the company needs, that we’re faced with this amalgamous job. And “head of marketing” has become so many things to so many people that CEOs don’t trust it because they don’t understand it. It’s not like finance. We know exactly, everyone knows exactly what a CFO should do.

With marketing, it unfortunately delves into things that are unmeasurable; sentience and emotion and future growth and risk and it’s just this thing that business by tradition doesn’t like. So, first and foremost companies need to think about what they need and what it is the company needs, and where they should plug in marketing. Where you go to learn it is just dependent on what you skills you have to fill.

That’s the first place to start if this is your day one as a new CMO. You don’t start with what tactics you did last year. You don’t start with what the CMO did before you (if there was one). You start with the business needs. “We’re looking to expand in APAC. We’re looking to grow customer lifetime value in this certain vertical.”

To me, it’s about survival, right? Marketing right now is about survival and proving value. There’s so many ways to do it that isn’t revenue. There’s ways to do it, but it has to align to what that board and C-Suite is dictating for the business, and then being able to roll up everything you do to those strategic objectives. That, to me, is the only way any marketer can keep their job, and they’re foolish to think otherwise.


Justin: So then, what are your thoughts about customer marketing? I hear the term “fanatical customer service” quite a bit, and it’s something that always makes me want to dive in to that actual customer experience. Does fanatical customer service mean that if I call up to cancel my contract, you’re just going to let me? You know? How far does that go? Saying the customer is always right, no matter what, is a really difficult standard to uphold.

Katie: Right. Especially in a commoditized industry. So if you’re in a space with 13 other vendors, they’re all looking and sounding the same, so the level of service becomes the differentiator. It’s about the experience at the end of the day, and to be honest, too, that’s just good for longer term gains, too, customer retention, lifetime value, right? So a lot of marketers end at the top, maybe the middle of the funnel, and then they go, “alright, job’s done.”

So now, more marketers are looking post-funnel, and that’s where we hear about the customer experience. I don’t actually, by the way, think that any marketer is ready to own the customer experience. They want to impact it. Some are starting to guide customer success teams, and I do like that shift a little bit, but we still can’t lose focus.

Justin: So do you think that marketing will ever be ready to own the customer journey, the customer success, the ownership of anti-churn, adoption and advocacy?

Katie: Oh that’s interesting. Anti-churn, adoption, and advocacy… we’re kind of umbrella-terming customer successes as anything post-funnel. I think that customer marketing, so compelling someone when it’s time for them to renew, or – when they’re in a contract – to upsell or to cross-sell. I think that’s still, and always has been, the realm of marketing. But I think that the actual service component of it is not a marketing play. It can’t be, because service is never driven by revenue. Service is driven by customer satisfaction.

Marketers are marketers. We are a sales function. We’re not part of the same world as service. Service is about ensuring the buyer got what we promised. That’s different than marketing. We group customer service in with marketing, we now threaten customer service and we give them the same illegitimacy that we’ve gotten in our career. So I say let’s leave customer service alone. Marketing should focus on retention, upselling and cross-selling, and let the success team do what the success team does.


Justin: Totally agree. Thanks, Katie. I appreciate you joining us here.

We hope you got as much out of Katie’s insights as we did! If you want to learn more about her, or her upcoming book, check out her website at katie-martell.com.

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