Back in 2000-2001, I was working for a company that unfortunately found itself at the tail end of the first dot-com bubble and couldn’t quite grab that tail and keep going. I was manager of financial planning and analysis at the company and worked through a lot of various scenarios with the executives to try and forecast our future. It was bleak, and when the last-chance funding did not arrive the writing was clearly on the wall.
I remember sitting in my corner office (it was only my office because the executive who had worked there before me was let go, and I moved in… there was a lot of space available) working with these twerpy, high-powered investment bankers from San Francisco until late into the night. Around 8:30pm, I had a startling moment of clarity… it made no difference what I did, the company was going under. I needed to look for something else. This was also a revelatory moment on corporate America and some of it’s shortcomings, but that’s another story.
I had long desired to be an entrepreneur, and this seemed like a great time to explore that avenue. My most recent ideas had been around international trade; I desired to be an import/export broker or something. I liked the idea of scouring the world for exciting new products and finding US buyers for them, and vice versa. This was early in the internet days and I was fortunate to come across a website that focused on selling Asian-created products in bulk. Around the same time, I read an article in the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News about pedometers, and how they were becoming popular.
So an idea was born. I bought a box of 100 pedometers from Taiwan. One model. Three colors. Now, I just needed to sell them to a sporting goods store for a profit and I could start counting my money. Whoa! Not so fast! I had no idea how to go about that. So again, the internet came to my rescue. I was using Yahoo! Mail at the time (still do, actually) and they sent me an offer to check out Yahoo! Stores, their upcoming e-commerce platform. The initial signup fee had just been cut in half, from $100 to $50, and that was all it took for me. I created an online store selling this one pedometer.
To my great astonishment, people started buying my pedometers. I soon bought more, expanded into different models, and added new products like watches and heart-rate monitors. Things were moving along.
The internet continued to be a great source of information for me on running my company and marketing my products. Not long after starting, I was exposed to “article marketing” which involved writing relevant articles and posting them in article directories and other websites. This was my introduction into content marketing, a primary factor in inbound marketing.
Over the years I ran RYP Sports, I relied on various forms of content marketing to draw visitors to my website(s). Those methods included articles as a primary focus, social media messaging, videos, press releases, e-books, curriculum, brochures, testimonials, newsletters, manuals, RSS feeds, blog posts, mini-sites, user guides and more.
At that time, I was also doing some affiliate marketing, so I had dozens of sites that were promoting paid products, both physical and downloadable. I used content marketing to drive traffic to all of them, learning in the process how to target an audience and touch them with content that was interesting to them and relevant to their problems or needs.
After closing RYP Sports, I took the experience and knowledge of content marketing and successfully applied it to a B2B environment. The principles are exactly the same: identify your audience and their needs, create compelling content, deliver it when they need it. This creates awareness, establishes expertise and creates happy customers.