In the Beginning, It Wasn’t Content Marketing
Back in 2001, I started selling content marketingservices as part of Penton Media’s custom media division. For the most part, we sold custom magazines and printed newsletters to large B2B organizations. We were just beginning to sell things like online white papers and webinars.
At that time, there was no such thing as the term/phrase content marketing. Custom publishing had always been the term for what is now the content marketing industry. In the late 90s, custom media started to replace custom publishing as the industry term in response to the digital content phenomenon.
We at Penton Custom Media, as a group, believed in the idea that marketing should be an asset and that delivering original, relevant information to customers was critical. Yes, there was a place for advertising, but we sold on the idea that when the advertising worked, buyers wanted more information. Without that critical information that would help buyers make decisions, the buyer may end up going elsewhere or relying on someone else for their informational needs. We also believed that customer retention was the most under-served part of the marketing goal set, and that consistent content to customers (ala a media company) was the answer to turn customers into evangelists for the brand.
That said, this was a new concept to most of our customers, even though the idea of brands telling stories have been around for centuries.
Content marketing was never an easy sell. 10 years ago, senior marketers were still enthralled with the banner, the button and the direct email. Content creation was literally the last thing on their mind.
But we persevered. When we used the phrase “custom publishing” marketers thought print or books.
Custom media, custom content? Can you be more specific?
Brand journalism…hey, we’re not publishers. Corporate content/media…is that for the employee magazine?
Customer media…that’s so European.
Brand storytelling…is this fiction?
It was truly a sales challenge because our industry went by dozens of names and it took so long to explain what the heck we were actually selling.