Introducing the Millennial CMO: Katie Martell, Co-Founder of Cintell

This post was written by Mary Austin Williams, an associate editor at Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC). Follow her, @mawill8.

  Image of Martell provided

Image of Martell provided

Katie Martell, co-founder and CMO of customer intelligence startup Cintell, got her start in the marketing world at B2B data service provider NetProspex. The Emerson College graduate subsequently served in content and communications roles at PR agency Version 2.0 Communications and research firm Aberdeen Group. A Massachusetts native, accomplished speaker and self-proclaimed “scotch enthusiast and ska aficionado,” Martell shares the story of her journey of growing her customer-centric company here in the Hub.

Mary Austin Williams: What motivated you to start Cintell?

Katie Martell: My co-founder, Apparao Karri, and I have worked in B2B sales and marketing technology for the majority of our careers.

We started Cintell because we saw a chance to tackle an enormous problem: Companies don’t understand their buyers and, because of it, waste a lot of time and money on irrelevant decisions in product, sales and marketing.

The company has a pretty lofty mission: To create a customer-centric world. We want to be the driving force behind what allows an organization to keep its buyers front and center. I imagine a future where Cintell is the go-to source for every executive, as our tool consistently answers the questions, Who are our buyers? What do they need? And how can we best engage them?

What exactly do you mean by “customer-centric?” Why is that so important?

Companies exist to push product.

I know, that’s not what most of their mission statements will have you believe, but it’s true. And that reality has driven how they formulate strategy and communicate with their buyers.

To be "customer-centric" is to put the customer at the core of your organization; decisions are driven by what’s best for the buyer. It’s the opposite of being product-driven. It’s how to be relevant in a constantly changing world.

Imagine your typical workday: After the coffee and commute, you sit down at your desk and start on that giant to-do list. Maybe you’re working on a product roadmap, or next quarter’s marketing campaigns.

Now imagine, at this very moment, you know everything about your customers:

What they need. How they think. How they research and buy products. What motivates them at work. What are they tasked with solving every day as part of their job. What kept them up late last night. How long they have been in their careers. Where they go every day for news. Who they trust for advice. Their top challenges and pressures. How they make decisions. Their personality. Their influence over the purchase decision of your solution. Even their personal heroes.

Now imagine everyone in your company starting each day with the same intelligence, and using it to make decisions.

How much better, more effective would you be? This is the reality of a customer-centric organization, with customer intelligence fostering a huge competitive advantage. And it’s possible today with the advent of marketing technology, cloud computing and the plethora of information available about buyers.

What are the most crucial elements of any buyer persona?

Buyer personas can serve as a fantastic strategy tool to help focus a company’s efforts and improve customer-centricity. Why? These archetypes of a particular audience segment actually serve to humanize a buyer and create empathy in the minds of your employees. If your team can relate to the buyer, they’re going to be more relevant — and thereby more effective.

But, a demographic profile with some made-up attributes does not a persona make.

There are many schools of thought on what exactly constitutes a “good” buyer persona, but marketers should seek to use whatever formula works for them, by including attributes that guide the tactics being used at their organization. 

Cintell adviser Ardath Albee suggests nine key components of a buyer persona to make them actionable tools:

  1. Objectives
  2. Problems
  3. Obstacles
  4. Questions
  5. Orientation
  6. Keywords & Phrases
  7. Engagement Scenarios
  8. First Person Scenarios
  9. Destinations

For a full explanation, download a free e-book from Cintell and Ardath Albee called, "The Intelligent Guide to Buyer Personas."

Where’s Cintell headed within the next year? What about the next three years?

Well, 2015 is only the beginning. We believe Cintell has the potential to positively affect thousands of buyers and B2B companies over the coming years, by fundamentally changing the way businesses create strategies from "product-oriented" to "customer-centric."

We just announced our seed funding and moved to a coworking space in downtown Boston. We are continuing to expand our team, mostly in engineering to execute on a pretty aggressive roadmap, including working with IBM’s Global Entrepreneur Program for Cloud Startups to leverage the power of Watson to aid in better buyer understanding. In addition, we have launched the beta version of the Cintell platform, which enables digital buyer personas (rather than static PDF documents), and hundreds of B2B organizations have already signed up to give it a try.

The future is exciting. We are building integrations with systems, such as marketing automation and CRM tools. We are leveraging the power of big data (a buzzword I know, but there is a ton of information about B2B buyers available online) to better equip marketers with insights that can guide their strategy. We are also working with the industry’s foremost experts to help companies get it right by offering training and services.

What inspires you?

I am very fortunate to know a lot of badass women who have built and sold businesses, raised beautiful families and changed the world for the better. They are mentors, friends and role models. This year, for International Women’s Day, I was able to ask 14 of them what advice they would have given their younger selves. Read what they had to say, and you can see why I keep them all a phone call or email away.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s ever given you?

“Accept no one’s definition of your life. Define yourself.”

Be sure to keep up with Martell's next adventures in the B2B marketing world by following her on Twitter and LinkedIn.