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November 27, 2013


12 Thought Leaders in Marketing that Permanently Changed My Life

by Tom De Baere
This is me in Torbole, Lake Garda, Italy

This is me in Torbole, Lake Garda, Italy

I have made a big decision in my life. Well, it’s a big decision for me at least. Already for a couple of years I have been dreaming of creating my own company, and I finally made that decision.

My wife is calling me crazy, but I’m going to do it anyway. As of January 2014 I won’t be working for an employer anymore.

It wasn’t an easy decision. I mean, I live extremely close to work, I have a decent pay, and lot’s of extra’s. But I’m going to do it.

Why am I doing this? Because I got really, really passionate about something.

What made me start my own company?

2 years ago, back in the summer of 2011, I was on holiday with my wife and 3 kids in Italy. I am a windsurfer, and I am not so bad at it if I may say so. When I can, I’ll go on holiday to a spot where there’s a lake or seashore. We where staying in a place called Torbole at the lake of Garda, know by windsurfers because of the lake being close to mountains. When it gets hot, the wind starts blowing from the mountains to the lake, which gives some nice windsurfing conditions.

When the wind wasn’t blowing, which sadly it didn’t it most of the time that year, I was playing with my 3 daughters in the hotel pool. I’ve got to tell you, every opportunity they had, they where in that pool!

In those days, everyone somewhat related to marketing or social media in Belgium was reading Steven Van Belleghem’s book “The Conversation Manager”. So I did read that book as well (social peer pressure!) at the poolside.

Although the book didn’t trigger that much, somehow I started reading more and more. I discovered some brilliant people that really inspired me.

They made me create my twitter account.
They made me start this blog.
They made me completely change my view on marketing.
They made me completely overhaul marketing at the company I work for.
They made me want to start my own business…

These 12 thought leaders have changed my life

I should be mentioning much more people, but if I need to pick a few, these are the ones:

  • Steven Van Belleghem (@stevenVBe) with his book The Conversation Manager: I guess he was the initial spark that started my search to learn more.
  • David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) with his book The New Rules of Marketing and PR: this book really sparked my passion and really kickstarted my appetite for everything related to digital, content and social media.
  • Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi (@robert_rose and @JoePulizzi) with their book Managing Content Marketing : this book made me discover content marketing, and gave me insight in how to build a content marketing strategy.
  • Ann Handley and CC Chapman, (@marketingprofs and @cc_chapman) in their book Content Rules  They gave me so much practical tips on how to work the intersection of digital, content and social, that I finally understood what needed to be changed in todays marketing. It made me subscribe to MarketingProfs and Hubspot, which pour out great help every single day.
  • The 7th person is Joseph Jaffe, (@jaffejuice) with his book Flip The Funnel. He made me realize how people buy, and that it is not only about selling, but about people that buy and become loyal to your brand.
  • Marcus Sheridan (@thesaleslion) is a self-made entrepreneur, author of Inbound and Content Marketing made easy and introduced me to the combination of content marketing and marketing automation. You should definitely check out his story. I read it on my Kindle, but he is giving away his book on his website. In return, follow him on his blog I would say.
  • Lee Odden (@leeodden). I met him for the first time at an event in Belgium called Fusion Marketing Experience. This was an amazing event. Lee introduced me to the field of SEO, while still being difficult domain for me, I am thankful for his book Optimize
  • Kristin Zhivago (@kristinzhivago), who was at the same event and who gave a brilliant talk, thought me how I can listen to customers, in her book Roadmap to Revenue.
  • John P. Kotter (@kotterintl), with his book Leading Change, gave me insight how I can change organizations.
  • Jeff Olson (@jeffolson_), with his book The Slight Edge which showed my that you can accomplish anything, by taking the jeffsmall steps in the right direction.

All these people have been brilliant to me, and I thank them with this blog post.

What I have done with their insight

I know many must have read these books, maybe even you. Some of these books already have become classics. But by merely reading these books, nothing happens. You have to do something with this insight.

All of these insights combined have given me the knowledge on how to create opportunities from digital, content and social, by changing the way companies look at customers. All of this knowledge gave me the power to evangelize, train and influence change within an organization. All of this knowledge made me create change management programs, training courses, new processes, new tools, new buyer insight models, etc.

And I’ve done just that at the company I work for, together with a fantastic team. A new company culture has been introduced around content, digital and social.

And we must have done something right:

  • Inbound traffic exploded,
  • Social following exploded,
  • Marketing efficiency exploded,
  • Costs have been reduced,
  • and Inbound Leads are generated every day. 

What I will be doing with their ideas

In the philosophy of what all of these thought leaders are evangelizing, I am sharing this personal story with you. Why? Because that’s the whole point of sharing. Sharing means you care for others. And by doing that you build a relationship of trust. And in the end, business is done between people that trust each other.

These 12 people made me achieve great results. And these results made me realize that I am damn good at this stuff. OK, probably not as good as they are, but still. And this made me want to create my own company that helps companies to successfully embrace digital, social and content.

So if you like this story, please share it. It just might help some other people to find their new passion in life. If you want to know more, just pop-over a comment in this blog or send me an email. Alternatively, subscribe to my mailing list, and I’ll keep you up-to-date on how I am doing ;-).

Warm regards, wish me luck!

Tom De Baere

P.S. I won’t be changing this blog into a company blog. This will remain a personal blog. And with that I will continue to give you more hopefully helpful insight on how to make your marketing and business better.