Cave Paintings & Content Marketing

My friend David Brock nearly busted his gut laughing when I said, “Heck, we were doing content marketing thirty years ago. It was called print and direct mail.” He wasn’t laughing at me, he was laughing with me, because things have not changed as much as some people would have us believe. Then David said, “You need to write this post.”

Digital PDP 11In 1982, we had a sales and marketing automation system running on a Digital minicomputer. It sat in an air conditioned clean room. The hard drives were platters the size of big vinyl records that held a whopping 50MBs. This was not archaic; it was cutting edge, state of the art technology.

Everyone in our database was there because they wanted to be there. We only sent what the customer wanted. If they were looking for green boots, they received content related to green boots; not socks or blue sneakers. And when they no longer wanted our propaganda, we stopped sending it.

Today, it’s called Permission Marketing.

Our customers loved it. They received high quality, current information about products and the industry free of charge. Many of our customers created libraries of loose-leaf binders filled with our marketing collateral and white papers that conveniently displayed our logo, name, and contact information. Just like a web page!

Today, it’s called Content Marketing.

Early Social Marketing by PhoneFor lead generation, lead nurturing, feedback, and database updating, our staff of social PR experts used the state-of-the-art technology of the day – telephones. They called our contacts every 90 days, chatted politely, caught up on news, verified prime contact information, and reviewed the type of content they were receiving. It was very social and excellent marketing.  

Today, it’s called Social Marketing.

Networking took place at trade shows, association meetings, elevators, golf courses, squash courts, bridge clubs, watering holes, and any venue where business people congregated. It was as social as social gets.

Today, it’s called Social Networking.  

With the help of the content marketing, social marketing, and social networking mediums of the day, we became trusted experts and advisors long before our competition entered the hunt. We sold manufacturing equipment, but our product was information and relationships.

Gutenberg's PressI make no claim to the development of content marketing, many others used the same techniques, and still more long before us. Sears was a content marketer in the 1800s. I’m sure a merchant or two took advantage of Gutenberg’s printing press during the renaissance, and content marketing’s roots may be in cave paintings. Social Marketing and Social Networking were practiced in their most rudimentary forms in the first marketplaces.

When we made complex sales by telephone in 1982, our competition called it sacrilegious. Now it’s archaic. Today, the majority of marketing and networking occurs on the internet. Some people thought it blasphemous; now everyone is climbing aboard.

Some things change. Mediums have changed and they will continue to change. In the not too distant future, FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, the iPhone, and the internet, will lose popularity or go the way of the dodo.

Some things never change. As sales and marketing evolve, two things will remain the same; people and their behavior. Basic human behavior remains a constant. That is why networking was, and always will be social.  Because if it ain’t social then it truly ain’t networking.

As we adopt new technologies, they should be implemented as support for the core fundamentals that make sales and marketing successful.

Now that I’ve stirred the pot, I look forward to your reactions, responses, and rebukes.



  1. The more things change … the more they stay the same. We’ve found that by showing people that content marketing isn’t some newfangled thing they’re more comfortable with it. 

  2. Monique, knowing our clients and giving them what they want should be a sticky on every sales and marketing person's screen. “Tools are only as good as the person who uses them.” Thanks for the great additions! – Gary

  3. Susan, knowing our clients and giving them what they want should be a sticky on every sales and marketing person's screen. “Tools are only as good as the person who uses them.” Thanks for the great additions! – Gary

  4. Eric, your comment, along with some others, have inspired my follow-up to this post! Thank for the flattering, kind words Eric! Regards, Gary

  5. Not surprisingly, a brilliant post Gary!

    Every time people get caught up in the shiny new objects of marketing, sales, networking and relationships, they forget the fundamentals which still – and always will – apply. Thanks for bringing us back 🙂

  6. Gary,

    I think this is a fantastic post, and very true. You make great points that the theory behind marketing does not change too much, just the mediums and media used.

    When all is said and done, the mark of a truly good Marketer is not where s/he markets, but how well they know what their market wants to see / read / hear. Knowing your clients and giving them what THEY want is the true key to marketing, and always has been.

    Tools are only as good as the person who uses them.

  7. Susan, thank your adding to, and supporting the conversation. -Gary

  8. Oh how I agree! 'Experts' are trying to reinvent the (sales) wheel and put a spin on it that turns them into “gurus”.

    The bottom line is this: Social media is a tool and should be used to introduce your company and products to prospects, but you must still know how to sell! Particularly when dealing with a complex solution.

    Thanks for reaching out,


  9. Lisa, Great perspective:

    “Done correctly” = “Spending 5-minutes thinking about what matters to the people we pitch with our tools.” You made this easy to do.

    What road would you follow with this topic?

    Thanks for your 'thought-full' response.

  10. Gary – Great post. This is an important topic, and one that i think can take a few different roads. I tend to simplify this discussion by saying that we have an incredible foundation (within our respective disciplines), which innovation in technology solidifies and strengthens if done correctly. The done correctly piece is key and often extremely difficult to navigate for most people. At the end of the day, much like you said, things are simply about humans and their behavior. If we spend some time thinking (genuinely, not with ourselves in mind), and I don't mean a long time – just five minutes – about others and what matters to them, all of the mar comm/sales process becomes so much easier. People are lazy and selfish, and often don't want to do the work that's required. That isn't always the case at first, but corporate cultures or the harsh ways of the world can train people to be this way. That's why I believe that we all need to have a very strong moral compass and force that guide us – whatever that means – as it helps us in everything we do. Great topic and post.

  11. Steven,

    I like your definition of fundamentals: the principles that remain versus those that go obsolete with new technology and mediums. Fundamentals are the prevailing tide of this conversation and that is where my next post is going. Hope to see you there.

    Best Regards, Gary

  12. Jacques,

    You are correct, people buy what they want not what they need. “Consultative Selling” does not properly describe the type of sales we do. The approach is the same, but with the focus on discovering want, not need. Thanks for the comment and wonderful phone conversation.

    Regards, Gary

  13. The thing that interests me the most is what I call fundamental dynamics, in both marketing and sales. Fundamentals are those principles that don’t change from one technology or one media to another. If you think about it, it doesn’t take long to realize that the fundamentals often are the only things worth learning–because only they can be applied to new tools and practices as they emerge or passed on to others. What you learn about tools that go obsolete may become obsolete with them. Seen any great articles about MySpace or Second Life marketing practices lately? Your post offers a great overview of fundamentals applied via older methods at an earlier time. The shiny baubles of today will look just as antiquated in about 5 years. No longer does it take 30 years to become passe.

  14. The current sales paradigm was codified in the late 1800's by John H. Patterson of NCR, then Thomas Watson, Sr. of IBM in the early 1900s. In the 1920s, Dale Carnegie added his philosophy. And, it was all called “Needs Selling” until in the 1970’s when Mack Hanam gave it a name that stuck, “Consultative Selling.”

    Even though the world has changed immensely in the last thirty years, including every market and most of the people in those markets, most of the sales process in use today are still based on the concepts of “Needs Selling.”

    If that worked the average new sales manager’s tenure would be longer than two years.

  15. Joe, I'll save my reply for the follow-up and hope you'll chime in that conversation. Thanks for sticking with me on this conversation; your input is much appreciated. Best Regards, Gary

  16. Mike, the hypnotic effect of shiny new baubles that promise solutions plays on our human nature to live a better life. It's when someone promises more than 'it' can deliver that is the real concern that drives our posts like your “Bright Shiny Object, Right Corner Pocket.” Keep up the good work my friend! Thanks Mike.

  17. The $5 answer to your million dollar question is the one that provides the best service.

  18. Gary, Gary, Gary. Great post, my friend! That is absolutely classic, and so very true.

    We always seem to be thinking alike, and you'll see what I mean if you check out: I go in somewhat of a different direction, but you'll laugh at some of it when you see the similarities. New names. New technology. New bright shiny objects. Same old stuff. What worries me, in my post and in yours, is that the bright shiny newness always seems to distract and detract what from really matters.

    No rebukes from me, only head nods. Keep the good stuff coming.

  19. Great question DJ. Change Management is a huge topic and at the heart of selling. Most people prefer the status quo and as a result resist change, all at different levels. In the business world, there's a lot at stake – money and image. Mistakes can be costly and irreversible. But risk management can go too far by not testing the waters. I believe in sticking my toes in the pool and not letting a little cold water stop me. Thanks for your contribution! -Gary

  20. Great question DJ. Change Management is a huge topic and at the heart of selling. Most people prefer the status quo and as a result resist change, all at different levels. In the business world, there's a lot at stake – money and image. Mistakes can be costly and irreversible. But risk management can go too far by not testing the waters. I believe in sticking my toes in the pool and not letting a little cold water stop me. Thanks for your contribution – Thanks! -Gary

  21. Rob, although I agree with you, there are AI developers that believe tools can have conversations. Even if they could, do we really want Isaac Asimov's “I, Robot” world? Linguistics and semantics; another great conversation. Thanks Rob

  22. DJ Hasselbusch says:

    Gary – Thanks for the tweet, great post. Technology is there to make our lives better; we used the phone because it was quick, cheap and efficient; now we use social networks because its free and is always there whether its 3 pm or 3am, unlike the phone, where you need 2 people to be in the here and now.

    I really liked when you said that people thought it was blasphemous to use the internet for marketing; and now everyone is jumping on board. Its true, everyone is jumping on now. But I think its interesting why people didn't jump on right away. Is it because they don't like change or because they weren't sure if “social media” was for business purposes.


  23. Interesting how many people have the same thoughts all at the same time. Coversation pulls them all together. The tools cannot have the conversations but they create new platforms. @mitchjoel has a fantastic blog on this topic.…/
    The destination hasn't changed much, but there are so many new platforms. I guess its human to try and name them all uniquely. That's probably why Eskimos have over 20 words for snow.
    Remember, good questions drive great conversations. This has been a great conversation, thanks for letting me listen.

  24. Joe, I can agree with you that trusted relationships can built with digital media alone. Here's the million dollar question.

    Two sales reps compete for the same business, one uses phone and F2F, the other digital media only. Would you give the edge to either or neither?

    Thanks for having this conversation! -Gary

  25. Thanks for the follow up question. I believe that it can, it takes longer though. It really depends on the comfort level of you prospect/customer with the media being used, company reputation and most importantly YOUR FOLLOW UP. No matter what we sell face to face, online, etc. the most important piece of the sales puzzle is the follow up being on-time and accurate.

  26. Christian, this should be hung on every sales organization and developer's wall, “CRM is first a concept and a process which then can be supported by appropriate technology.” Thank you for an excellent contribution Christian! -Gary

  27. Lianne, this idea of old school – new school selling, regarding value driven verses aggressive styles, has been on my mind for a while. There's been a general consensus in the comments on this post about fundamentals, so that's where this thread is going. Thanks for sharing your take Lianne

  28. Gary,

    I could not agree more with you that technology should be used to support core fundamentals. It seems that when new technologies become available, people tend to forget these fundamentals, just to reinvented them with new nomenclature in the context of the new technology. If these fundamentals are not understood then new technology will not help. Just think of all the technology lead CRM disasters. CRM is first a concept and a process which then can be supported by appropriate technology and not the other way around. I expect we will see the same with the Marketing Automation hype and any other new technology on the horizon.

  29. I agree that the things you talk about have changed little, modern technology now even enables us to do all of these things better.

    So what we do hasn't changed but how we do it in a lot of cases has. People like ourselves have always been very value driven whereas lots of people now sell very aggressively and think this is acceptable.

    Also more companies than ever are now getting involved, more people are being proactive where in the past they would sit back and wait for business to come to them. Sectors that never did any marketing, often for regulative reasons, now are very active.

    Lianne Coates, The Cold Calling Club – Ethical Telemarketing


  1. […] in NY selling manufacturing automation. They had a sales and marketing automation system that strategically delivered content. They had a telemarketing team for lead development and list cleaning The economy was horrible. […]

  2. […] last thought. In my post, “Cave Paintings and Content Marketing,” I said, Twitter and Facebook will one day be things of the past. The game is afoot and Plus […]

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