And you may ask yourself: "How did I get here?"

Recently, a bunch of people have asked me how and why I ventured out on my own. Several of these people have a habit of sneaking song lyrics into email subject lines to see if I notice, so as I was thinking of a title for this post, I followed the lead of Bradley and Len. Recognize it? (Read to the bottom if you don't).

I didn't plan on becoming a thought leadership strategist and online marketing expert. I came upon it accidentally.

At the height of the dot-com boom, I was vice president of marketing at NewsEdge Corporation, a NASDAQ-traded online news distributor with $70 million in revenue. My multi-million dollar marketing budget included tens of thousands of dollars a month for a public relations agency, hundreds of thousands a year for print advertising and glossy collateral materials, and expensive participation at a dozen trade shows a year. My team put these things on our marketing to-do list, worked like hell to execute, and paid the big bucks because, well, that’s what one did as marketing and PR people. These efforts made us feel good because we were doing something but the programs were not producing significant, measurable results.

At the same time, drawing on publishing experience I had gained in my prior position as Asia marketing director for the online division of Knight-Ridder, at the time one of the largest newspaper companies in the world, I quietly created content-based, "thought leadership" marketing and PR programs on the Web.

Against the advice of the PR agency professionals we had on retainer (who insisted that news releases were only for journalists), we wrote and sent dozens of releases ourselves. Each time we sent a release, it appeared on dozens of online services such as Yahoo!, resulting in hundreds of sales leads. "Cool!" we'd say.

Even though our advertising agency told us not to put valuable information "somewhere where competitors could steal it," we created a monthly thought leadership newsletter called TheEdge, with articles about the exploding world of digital news. We made it freely available on the home page of our Web site because it generated interest from qualified buyers.

Way back in the 1990s when Web marketing and PR was in its infancy, I ignored the old rules, drawing instead on my experience working at publishing companies, and created thought leadership strategies to reach buyers directly on the Web.

Guess what? The homegrown, do-it-yourself programs we created at virtually no cost consistently generated more interest from qualified buyers than the big bucks programs that the "professionals" were running for us—and resulted in millions of dollars in sales. People we never heard of were finding us through search engines.

Wow. I had stumbled on a better way to reach buyers.

In 2002, after NewsEdge was sold to The Thomson Corporation, I had a choice. Instead of taking another corporate job, I took the advice of Seth Godin and started my own business to refine my ideas, work with select clients, and teach others through writing, speaking at conferences, and conducting seminars for corporate groups. The subject of all this work: Reaching your buyers directly and driving more revenue using online thought leadership.

Since then, many new forms of online media for delivering thought leadership have burst onto the scene, including blogs, podcasts, video, and virtual communities. But what’s the same about all the new Web tools and techniques is that together they are the best way to communicate directly with your marketplace.

The lyrics are from Once in a Lifetime by the Talking Heads who remain one of my favorite bands. Of the 200 or so concerts I've seen (including classics like Bob Marley, Muddy Waters, The Ramones, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, and The Clash) the August 1982 Talking Heads show at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in NY was one of the best.

Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...same as it ever was...

David Meerman Scott

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