Katie Martell Dishes the Truth on Thought Leadership in B2B Marketing

A Sophisticated Marketer’s Perspective

June 25, 2019

A Sophisticated Marketer’s Perspective: Katie Martell

Katie Martell is an “unapologetic marketing truth-teller” with a knack for engaging B2B buyers where they spend most of their time (ahem, LinkedIn). She has a keen understanding of how marketing and sales professionals use LinkedIn to share relevant, timely, and creative content that customers actually care about — and she was kind enough to share her perspectives with us as part of our Sophisticated Marketer’s Perspective interview series.

Read on to learn how Katie defines thought leadership, what makes for engaging and shareable content on social media, and why she has a special connection to The Sopranos.

Sophisticated Thought Leadership Insights from Katie Martell

1. What’s something interesting about you that’s not on your LinkedIn profile?

I was once a PA for a movie set. It was shot on a Christmas Tree farm and one of my responsibilities was to get scrambled eggs each morning for one of the actors, who was also a main character on The Sopranos. It was wild.

2. In your experience, what are the keys to creating content on LinkedIn that is engaging and share-worthy?

Buyers are using social media to get news, evaluate vendors, get recommendations from peers, and for confidence in their decisions. They’re seeking new ideas that will help them in their day-to-day life at work, and are looking to learn, discuss, and explore. (And, let’s be honest, to be entertained.)

I know, cue the “duh, we know this.” But think about it. If all your content does is sell, you’re not on the same wavelength as users who are on the platform for different reasons. Save that content (ROI calculators, analyst reports, etc.) for middle- or late-stage buying cycle activity.

Content on LinkedIn is likely early-stage, and should:

  • Demonstrate a clear point of view. To quote creative director Bill Bernbach, “If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you, and nobody for you.”

  • Satisfy a potential buyer’s curiosity about their world. Stimulate their imagination in a way that gives them new ideas they can act on, or a new way of seeing an existing topic.

  • Be written in plain English as much as possible. I know we work in tech, but lose the buzzwords unless it’s truly the best way to express an idea. Don’t make people work at work.

  • Offer real value. Answer a question or solve a problem. Entertainment is value as well.

  • Tell a story. Share the story of someone they can relate to, or may want to emulate.

“Lose the buzzwords unless it’s truly the best way to express an idea. Don’t make people work at work.” - Katie Martell, Marketing Consultant, On-Demand Marketing

3. In what ways does a strong organic strategy support and complement a successful paid strategy?

How content performs organically can indicate whether it should be boosted through additional paid efforts. For example, on LinkedIn, when content gets views from the timeline and is shared, that indicates that we’ve done a good job striking a balance of relevance, timeliness, and creativity.

This assumes you have a strong network on LinkedIn already, or a relevant group of followers. If not, you may want to refer to the content that performs best via email. Assets that perform well organically are prime targets to boost with a paid promotion to a wider audience, beyond the reach of your organic networks. It’s a mini-experiment to ensure you’re spending dollars against assets you know are on-topic and useful.

4. What is your top tip for grabbing someone’s attention with an InMail?

I advise sales teams to remember that potential buyers look at every InMail through the lens of this question: “Are you here to sell me, or help me?” Show that you’ve researched who you’re contacting, ask a question they can quickly respond to, offer something of real value (like a report, an article, ANYTHING beyond product info) and ask their permission to send it over.

“Potential buyers look at every InMail through the lens of this question: ‘Are you here to sell me, or help me?’ ” - Katie Martell, Marketing Consultant, On-Demand Marketing

5. How can B2B brands leverage social media to build trust and loyalty?

I think the biggest missed opportunity for many B2B brands today is not capitalizing on the impact of executive personal branding on social media. The new age of the traditional “company spokesperson” calls for business leaders to be active on relevant social channels, namely LinkedIn, representing their brands with long-form thought leadership content, participation on conversation threads in their feed, and sharing on a consistent basis.

But many executives simply don’t have time, or don’t understand the possible value. Marketers should partner with them in this effort, making it easy and providing shortcuts for execs to be successful. If you’re struggling to convince an exec why they need to be actively shaping their personal brand on social, consider that U.S. adults now use social media to get their news more than newspapers, for the first time in history.

With LinkedIn’s users now scrolling down their feeds like they do on Facebook, there’s a massive opportunity to get your ideas and personal brand noticed within that browsing. LinkedIn now has over 500 million members, 260 million of whom log in monthly, and 40% of whom use it daily — sometimes multiple times per day. What are you doing to capitalize on this audience and ensure your POV is what they see?

Be a source of industry news and knowledge. Be indispensable. Curate what’s happening in your industry and share it. Be present as a real human on the platform to foster a sense of connection and add some personality and humanity to your corporate brand (these are precursors to trust and loyalty).

Calvin Zito is a great example of this, acting as an evangelist for Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Cindy Gallop is another prime example of someone who is constantly sharing articles and content that aligns with her progressive worldview related to sexism and ageism in business.

6. Why does thought leadership matter for today’s B2B companies?

Thought leadership — which I define as original thought in service of your customers — represents the expertise your organization will bring to the table besides a great product or customer experience. It indicates to a B2B buyer that you’ll deliver more value beyond the goods and services they’re purchasing. That’s critical.

The business impact of thought leadership is well-documented, especially by analyst firms like Forrester Research. Thought leadership helps drive more inquiries and puts you on more short lists because you’re recognized as an expert. It creates faster sales cycles by aligning buyers to you philosophically. It allows you to charge a premium and increase your close rate due to differentiation. It provides greater reach at a lower price based on the organic word of mouth your ideas can foster. The value you provide to customers is greater, leading to a higher lifetime customer value, and the brand admiration thought leadership can help you retain and attract top talent.

But, in my opinion, the most important benefit of thought leadership today is the emotional connection and trust that it fosters. We are working in a time when 42% of buyers don’t know which organizations to trust, a CEO’s number one concern is that their company is trusted, and 95% of CMOs and brand managers stay up at night concerned about establishing trust between their brand and the consumer.

When we give our knowledge and ideas away in a transparent, honest, open manner, it demonstrates to buyers that they can in fact trust us. And, let’s be honest, we don’t do business with people or companies we don’t trust.

7. Where do you see LinkedIn in five years?

LinkedIn’s user base is only growing as more business professionals come to rely on it, often daily, for an escape from the daily grind (entertainment and information, or “infotainment”), to find new opportunities, and to engage in discussion with others in their industries.

Unfortunately, like any other channel, I also see more and more users (and sales and marketing pros) demonstrating bad behavior on the platform — cheesy or troll-like content meant to rile up debate for the sake of getting views, inappropriate content for a business platform like political views or selfies, and of course, good old irrelevant, product-centric content that ultimately gets ignored.

But, that’s the Catch 22 of social channels — they’re open to all, and that brings as much competition and challenges to overcome as it presents opportunities for expanding our reach.  

You Gotta Define Yourself

Trust is a crucial ingredient for building a lasting (and profitable) relationship with your B2B buyer — but before they buy from you, they want to get to know you. Or, as Christopher Moltisanti says in The Sopranos, “You gotta define yourself.” Platforms like LinkedIn give brands and individuals the opportunity to showcase their personality, values, and solutions in a way that doesn’t feel stuffy or inauthentic.

The first step toward engaging B2B buyers and showcasing your original thought leadership is posting relevant, engaging, and unapologetic content that not only connects with your customers, but also solves their problems. Be transparent and honest with your audience to gain their trust and become a valued, indispensable resource they turn to whenever a problem occurs.

Make sure to follow Katie on LinkedIn to find more of her enlightening and on-point thought leadership content. And to uncover plenty more LinkedIn marketing insights from forward-thinking experts like her, download the 5 Year Anniversary Edition of the Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide.