About Katie Martell

Katie Martell is an “unapologetic marketing truth-teller.”

She is currently writing and producing “Woke-Washed,” a documentary and book exploring the collision of marketing and social movements. As marketing evolves in a digital age, she partners with brands to amplify stories of transformation and trends in customer experience.

Named “one of the most interesting people in B2B marketing” and a top marketing voice on LinkedIn 3X, Katie has been a startup CMO, SaaS entrepreneur, communications consultant and startup “Director of Buzz.” She served as Executive Director of Boston Content, New England’s largest community of content professionals.

With a distinct opinion and independent perspective, Katie is a frequent speaker and emcee at conferences in the US and internationally. She bats cleanup and plays third base on her modified softball team.

“In the consumer world, we look at video as people tuning into Netflix. The same principles apply to B2B.”

– Katie Martell, Professional Business Speaker & Marketing Expert



Socialive: Tell us about yourself.

Katie Martell: Well, I was born at a very young age. I’m a marketing consultant. I’ve been a marketer my whole life. These days I am a host and emcee for brands who are in spaces like customer experience and digital transformation. I get to host, create and produce shows with top technology companies. It’s a really fun age of creating live and on-demand content. The role I often play is interviewing customers, partners, and even some celebrities. I live in between the world of marketing and Oprah.

SL: What is a key takeaway you learned from brands producing video content in 2020?

KM: Everyone and their mom produced video, right? This was the year everyone scrambled to figure it out if they weren’t already producing video content or virtual events. Because of that, competition became really incredibly strong.

The question for me as a marketer is always, what do we do to differentiate and stand out in the content we’re producing? I like to look at content as a product. Is it going to stand out against all the other options out there? Will it stand out against all the other ways consumers have to get this information or be entertained?

This was a year when you realize how strong stories are. I know that’s kind of like a cliche, but I think the most powerful content I saw this year was with a strong, emotional, compelling journey at the center of it. That’s universal, and will be the trend in 2021, 2022, 2023. Call me in 2030. It’ll be the exact same answer.

SL: What do you consider the top video trend businesses should know about in 2021?

KM: I think trends are difficult because they come and go. But if we did have to look at something that spiked in 2021, it was TikTok. Let’s not ignore that big, weird elephant in the room. It’s a very strange place. A lot of my friends are addicted to it and I have yet to install the app.

With the rise of users and how addictive it is, it showed us two things. First, TikTok showed us that short, entertaining, pithy and very relatable content is addictive.  Businesses have got to learn what makes TikTok so addictive.

Second, a TikTok that works is based on how relevant it is. You go to TikTok and every video is tailored to you. I have a really good friend who is really into cats and “The Real Housewives.” Her entire feed is all cats and “The Real Housewives” somehow spliced together in a series of TikToks. It speaks to what works right now — short, pithy, and entertaining content that is relatable and makes you feel like “OK, somebody made this for me and that’s creepy, but it works.”

SL: When a business is trying to sell a product, should they create personalized videos?

KM: In terms of marketing, sales and customer support, there are great uses of video in terms of how personalized it can be. I love sales people who have adopted video as part of their pitching or follow ups. The same applies to customer success, and things like training. It’s really hard to ignore when there’s an actual human on the other end of a pitch.

However, in B2B we can’t create individual videos for each buyer. Personalization becomes more about the industry, vertical, or space that the client is in. You can’t overdo it or you’ll be creating millions of videos and not seeing a great return. But a little bit can go a long way. Tailoring videos, for example, for your top three industries, is a great way to get a sense of personalization in without having to create too much.

We also have platforms like Facebook Ads that allow you to target so precisely. You can target down to the minutia, and that’s what’s expected. If you haven’t been personalizing video or creating more relevant video, unfortunately you’re a little bit behind the trends. The tech and the appetite is there.

SL: What do you consider the top challenge for businesses looking to produce video content in 2021?

KM: What to produce and what content works, period. It’s the number one issue.

I think B2B brands are very good at knowing what they want to say. We know when the product launches are and what the product does. We know the problems it sells. How do you hook someone in the right way and make them feel like they aren’t being sold to? You want to make them feel grateful for whatever it is you’ve produced.

I like to produce content that I called ‘infotainment.’ I want people to learn something when they watch something I produce. But I also want them to feel like they’ve enjoyed the last twenty, thirty minutes.

That’s a big challenge for brands. It’s never going to get easier. It only gets better with experimentation, and really getting to know your buyers. Let’s come up with some fun ideas. The worst that happens is we learn that it doesn’t work. The best thing that can happen is you discover the secret formula.

SL: Will virtual events and experiences be the norm once the pandemic has passed?

KM: I enjoy the accessibility of virtual. Let’s be honest, we can now reach audiences far beyond who can afford to come to our conferences or take a week off work to travel. I love that part of it.

What I miss is that in-person interaction that draws people to an event. I hope when the vaccines are out, we’ll get comfortable being in crowds again. I do hope we go back to a hybrid model where events are a place that you can go in person to get insights, or watch a speaker on stage. That speaker would also be live virtually to global audiences for people that couldn’t come or don’t feel safe coming. I think that’s going to be the future.

SL: How can businesses minimize digital fatigue?

KM: I love the idea of ‘Zoom fatigue.’ We’re so busy that the biggest first world problem of 2020 is ‘oh, not anymore virtual meetings!’ So let’s like privilege check the Zoom fatigue.

Anyways, I think we have to go back to the rules of marketing 101. Think of virtual events as a product. You’ve got to make the benefits clear before anyone is going to sign up. When attendees are there, you’ve really got to give them a reason to not hit that button and go watch TikTok. After the event, you’ve got to remind them why they showed up and what they were supposed to take away.

Many virtual events forget that we’re dealing with distracted and anxious people. Tell them what you’re going to get out of the event. Tell them what they are going to learn as they are there. Give them an easy way to get those insights. I love, for example, sharing 15 or 30 second clips of the interviews from events. That’s the best way to get reminders out to the world of what they saw or missed.

If they didn’t attend, why should they attend the next virtual event? We’ve got to market our events the same way that we market our products, and not treat it like an afterthought.

SL: How will virtual events impact B2B purchase decisions in 2021?

KM: I do think brands that continue to show up for buyers this year saw benefits. I mean, the worst thing you could have done during the pandemic was completely go silent.

I think in 2021, video and virtual events are always going to play a role in the B2B process, which is largely done with a self-discovering buyer. The buyer is out there researching and looking for insights on what’s true and what’s available.

Virtual events are a perfect way to get in there and share your brand perspective for the future. It is a beautiful platform to bring people together in a way that shows prospects what you’re about and what they can learn from you. It can be incredibly persuasive.

For me, the goal of any virtual event is to show the world what we believe, what we think, and help our buyers see the world the same way we do. Because once you do that, that’s it. You’re hooked. It’s like marketing nirvana to me.

SL: What consumer behaviors do we expect to see adopted in 2021?

KM: In the consumer world, we look at video as people tuning into HBO GO or Netflix. The same principles apply to B2B. It’s just a lot harder to materialize. B2B brands don’t approach products or market those products like a media company does. It does like a content creator.

But this is the beauty of being in content. You sit between a product and a brand and what an audience is actually going to spend thirty minutes watching. What catches your eye on social? What actually gets you to stop and pay attention to something? Stop thinking that you’re selling to anyone but people like you. We’ve got to create content that humans want to consume — educational, infotainment, short, pithy, actionable. Don’t waste my time. Don’t make me tune into something that I’m going to regret. It actually does worse for your brand than doing nothing at all.

So next year, if you’re thinking about video content and virtual content, be thoughtful about what it is that makes people tune in, what keeps them there and what you want them to do after. You want people to think that your brand is someone who understands them and can partner with them for the way forward.

SL: Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

KM: The only last thing I’ll say is, you don’t know if it works until you try it. Experimenting is a beautiful thing. There’s a lot of technology like Socialive (I’m a huge fan) and live social video that I’m experimenting with brands. We’re seeing some really fantastic results as folks move to consuming a lot of content through social media.

Experiment and try new things. Be a little bold because right now you can’t afford to be conservative. You’ve got to try and be risky. You might discover something that works and it might be great.