Sometime after college, when I finally decided it was time to get serious about this whole career thing, I took a job working for a company that designed, sold, and installed office communications systems. Such systems typically included computer data projectors, electric projection screens, and video conferencing and audio technologies.

It was the mid 90s, a point in time when we were in the midst of modern history’s most disruptive business-world shift: the rise of the Internet as a ubiquitous communications pipeline and virtual shopping mall.

As an outside sales rep, my timing was fortunate, initially. Many of my customers were emerging players in the online arena; either nascent Internet startups or technology developers whose products and/or services were integral to the successful implementation of e-commerce business plans.

Those were the early days of the dot-com bubble, and because so many of my customers were flush with cash and believed that by outfitting their conference rooms with the latest technologies they would portray themselves as truly bleeding-edge, much of my job was accomplished before the initial cold call.

In many instances simply demonstrating a product during a sales presentation was like bringing fire to the natives. Because the technologies I sold were so new, and so impressive to my prospects, I left many sales calls with a purchase order in hand.

The irony is that while the majority of my customers were using the Internet to help revolutionize commerce, my employer didn’t have its own website. And once the products I sold became widely available online, I was nothing more than a pawn to be manipulated by potential clients, using my onsite demonstrations as their opportunity to “kick the tires” on the latest technologies, only to then burn rubber straight to the web to find the lowest price.

What’s the point of sharing such an anecdote? Because in my tenure as a career professional, that experience marks the obvious point at which the methods that defined traditional marketers were becoming overrun by the changes that gave rise to what we now call the modern marketer.

Today, most businesses simply cannot stay afloat if they insist on adhering to the traditional marketer’s modus operandi of conducting outbound sales campaigns characterized by advertising and cold-calling prospects. That’s not to say those activities can’t or shouldn’t be components of an integrated marketing strategy; just that those same activities will almost always prove fruitless if they stand on their own.

Not so long ago it was the traditional marketer whose role was to provide the information that influenced buying behaviors, whereas today’s consumers have already sourced much of the pertinent information needed to make a purchase decision. So it is that most companies simply cannot succeed unless they recognize that today’s customers are savvier than ever.

My career path has led to where I once again find myself working for a company that sells stuff. And the “marketing” part of my title implies that I’m still in the business of helping sell our products and services.

But by typing this blog post is what I’m doing truly supportive of our ultimate goal in terms of measurable, bottom-line results? According to the tenets of the modern marketer, it absolutely is.

That’s because one of characteristics of a business that has successfully transformed itself into a modern marketer is the ability to deliver content potential customers find entertaining, insightful or helpful—or better yet, all of the above—regardless of whether the subject matter is in any way related to whatever it is your company’s selling.

Such content—be it a blog, a tweet or a Facebook post—is part of what’s known today as content marketing, which is integral to successfully positioning your company as an easily discovered thought leader. And thought leadership is key, because when the modern consumer searches for a product or service, it’s the thought leaders who are most likely to secure a sale because they provide the content that helps inform the purchase decision well before the customer actually buys anything.

It’s true for almost any product or service, with one obvious exception being commodity items bought from whoever offers the lowest price.

While the prototypical modern marketer encompasses many more facets than a well-executed content marketing strategy, it’s important to understand the critical role content plays in any successful company’s approach toward capturing and holding a potential customer’s attention.

In future blog posts I’ll discuss a few of the other key areas of understanding for aspiring modern marketers, some of which were touched upon in this article:

– Using technology to track marketing ROI;

– Integrating a well-conceived social media strategy;

– Recognizing the shift of power from the brand to the consumer;

– Demand generation and lead nurturing;

– The emergence of mobile marketing;

– Media fragmentation; and

– Advancements in data cleansing.

As always, thanks for reading.