A Content Marketing Love Letter

A Content Marketing Love Letter 946 521 C-Suite Network
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Almost eight years ago to the day was one of the worst days of my life.

The business I had started 2.5 years earlier was on its last leg. It wasn’t just that we weren’t making money, but we were losing enough money that I started to question whether our family would have enough to pay certain bills.

The downtrend was apparent, but on this day … nail met coffin.

This was the day that one of our biggest clients, the one we delivered our best results to and was the most revered of all our case studies, decided not to renew our service (we provided qualified leads for content agencies).

I called the client, received the “official” word, and hung up the phone. In a daze, I walked out of my home office, and then wandered outside and into the yard.

I can’t remember how long I was back there … it could have been five minutes or five hours. I could hear my two boys (then 8 and 6) laughing from inside the house. I think they had just come home from school.

What would I do? What would we do?

It’s a strange feeling when you feel deeply sorry for yourself. Maybe you’ve felt it before … failure that rolls onto you like the ocean waves. Slowly, it overtakes you.

Looking back on it now, it all seems so silly. I mean, this is the definition of a first-world problem. Sure, it wasn’t nice, but it wasn’t the end of the world … except that’s exactly what it felt like.

I guessed I’d just go back and get a “real” job, which was fine except for the fact that I was unmanageable. I left an executive position 2.5 years earlier, put the shingle out, and vowed I’d never do it again. And here I was, considering going back to the corporate world.

A few days went by. I promised myself I wouldn’t make any decisions while in an emotional state.

That week I received an email from one of our blog subscribers. She worked at a fairly large B2B company. She said she absolutely loved the blog and felt like she found her calling around content marketing. She’d been doing content marketing for years but called it something else. She was glad there was a name for it now. Regardless, she wanted to implement a strategy and process in her company, and wanted to know if I could help.

“That’s nice,” I thought … a consulting gig would help.

Then, for whatever reason, I started going through all the emails I’d received from subscribers over the years. The content marketing blog I started in April 2007 was really taking off, and the audience was anything but shy.

And there it was … email after email, the audience telling me what they would buy. While I was so busy trying to perfect a failing product, the answers were right in front of me.

“Joe, our marketing department needs ongoing content marketing training. Does anyone do that?”

“Joe, why isn’t there a content marketing conference? I’d like to meet people who are going through the same challenges that I am.”

“Joe, is there any benchmark research on how marketers are using and succeeding with content marketing? I need to get buy-in from my boss.”

“I like AdAge and B2B magazine, but they never talk about content creation and distribution issues. Are there any media companies that focus on this? If so, I’d like to subscribe my team.”

The proverbial lightbulb had been switched to the “on” position.

Birth of Content Marketing Institute

Next to my computer was a cocktail napkin (I still can’t recall why). On that napkin, I wrote something to the effect of this:

In three years, we will run the leading online destination for content marketing, the leading content marketing magazine, and the largest content marketing event on the planet.

Just over six months later, in May 2010, Content Marketing Institute was born. The concept took off immediately. People came to the site. Social sharing was off the hook. It was hard to believe it was working.

Michele Linn bought into the vision and took over editorial. Robert Rose, always open to a disruptive idea, assisted with the vision and agreed to run consulting and training. Pam Kozelka, my wife and co-founder of CMI, took over all the operations so I could sell, speak, scale, and write. Joseph Kalinowski brought his design chops.

Chief Content Officer (CCO) magazine launched in January 2011. Clare McDermott, who for whatever reason agreed to edit the magazine, took charge of the brand with Angela Vannucci who became the project director.

I called Kelley Whetsell, event director extraordinaire, and explained to her the vision for Content Marketing…