How a Country Music Singer Woke Up a Traditional Marketer

Posted by Bill Edwards

December 27, 2012 at 12:00 AM

After 30 years in marketing, it took a country song to help wake me up to inbound marketing and building community. To be exact, it was country music star Mark Chesnutt and what he was doing to extend his career after charting 14 No. 1 hits, 23 top ten singles, four platinum albums, and five gold records. Maybe you remember Bubba Shot the Jukebox, and Goin’ Through the Big D.

Country MusicI got to know Mark in 1997 while working with his video director, Richard Murray, on a shoot in Nashville for Mark’s new release, Thank God for Believers. I also spent two afternoons with singer/songwriter/actor Ed Bruce, who was in the video, and who penned the ‘75 hit song, Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys. This has nothing to do with this story, but it was cool!

Believers peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Country Singles chart. Glad it did. I had contracted with DeKalb Seeds to secure logo placement in a hit country video. I told them I was confident I could find the right artist, song, and video that would earn high rotation on CMT and GAC. Having deep contacts in “Music City USA” helped. However, picking a song and video you hope will chart is truly a gamble. Bottom line, it worked.

Little did I know that another old Mark Chesnutt hit would trigger a career change 14 years later.

For years, I was fortunate to work with some great people and brands. I was known as a bit of a gambler, willing to take calculated risks. I also thought I had a handle on marketing. In addition to traditional outbound, I had experience with websites, email and PPC. I was delving into mobile marketing. I had joined LinkedIn just months after it launched in 2003. Facebook and Twitter as well. But I was fooling myself.

By 2010, I had overstayed my welcome at mid-to-small private and family-owned companies. When the economy decided to dance to a different tune and the banks turned chilly, it was clear I had to move on. Besides, the idea of marrying into a family business didn’t sit well with my wife or my daughters .

So, I started a marketing firm and went to work. But in the back of my mind, I knew I didn’t have the inbound knowledge I would need. And inbound had gained a foothold…outbound dollars were creeping across enemy lines. I had a choice: Join the Inbound ranks or continue to underperform for clients.

Playing my guitar in the basement one evening--I’m not allowed to play in public--I ran across Mr. Chesnutt’s song, It’s a Little Too Late.

Oh…I should’ve done this and I should’ve done that; I should’ve been there, then she’d a never left

Should’ve been hangin’ on every word, she ever had to say…

But it’s a little too late, she’s a little too gone; She's a little too right, I'm a little too wrong

Now would be a good time to change, but it's a little too late

So, was I too late? "Hell no," I reasoned (Jack Daniels was my witness). Ironically, I had been following Mark on Twitter and Facebook and never made the connection. Mark was building a community of fans to keep his career alive. He had to. The music business as we once knew it was dead--and so was my career, if I didn’t wake up and get in the game.

So in 2011, I started on a journey to learn about inbound marketing and community. I studied or met with some dynamic industry leaders like Jeremy Dearringer, Chris Baggott, Jay Baer, Kevin Bailey, Troy Burk, Tim Kopp, Jon DiGregory, and Rand Fishkin. I learned about driving organic traffic, the power of great content, conversion, digital PR, blogging, lead nurturing and more. The door was opening slowly but surely.

In early 2012, I began talks with one of Slingshot SEO’s (thank you, LinkedIn) founders, Jeremy Dearringer. I met with several talented consultants. After a few months, I had an offer work for this exciting company. You might say I got lucky. I wouldn’t disagree. But more importantly, IT WASN’T TOO LATE.

Thanks Mark Chesnutt. And Thank God for Believers.


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