B2B Marketing Creative – Not the Job I Wanted 50 Years Ago

I don’’t remember much about being four years old, but back then I did have an ambitious career goal.

As far as I knew from television and movies, my vocational options were to be like my parents, or choose between being a cowboy or an Indian.

I wanted to be an Indian.

"I want to be an Indian," said little Billy Mitchell. Now the creative leader of MLT Creative, Billy Mitchell muses on his early job hopes.My grandmother was a seamstress and, once she heard my wish, she made me what I called my “Indian root.” (I couldn’’t pronounce my S’’s, so “suit” became “root”,– or so I was told.) Rather than actual leather, it was made from a material called Naugahyde that I think she had left over from a furniture upholstery job. But the clothes don’’t make the man, or the Native American tribal warrior. I wanted to be the real deal.

It was 1960, and we lived in Greenville, S.C. Two nearby tourist locations often advertised on television were the Rebel Railroad, in Gatlinburg; and Cherokee, N.C., home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. In Gatlinburg, every kid got a cap gun, and the chance to shoot at Yankees from the train. As fun as that sounded to me at the time, I wanted an authentic Cherokee Nation experience. To keep me off the warpath, my parents took me there to be with my tribe. I was expecting to get a glimpse of my glory job in action, but that didn’’t happen. There were no burning wagons or whooping warriors on horseback. All of the Native Americans I saw were working in souvenir stands, and the chief was standing beside what even I could tell was a metal teepee.

I was a bit disillusioned, and put away my Indian outfit. That’’s about the time I saw my first poster of a bullfighter, and changed my plans for a job in Mexico one day.

What does this childhood story have to do with b2b marketing?

It may be a stretch, but flash forward 50 years, and there are few things that may be more than mere coincidence. Maybe I did find my calling, after all.

Chiefs: CEOs and CMOs are some of the top people I target, along with VPs, directors and managers.

Tribes: A little book full of big ideas by author Seth Godin, Tribes opened my eyes to the personal and professional potential of Twitter and other social media. I found my tribe of B2B Marketing Braniacs & Maniacs, I’’m the curator of the top two Twitter lists for B2B and BtoB marketing professionals, and the proud leader of a “war party” of creatives here at MLT who charge the hill for our clients every single day.

Roots: I did finally learn how to pronounce my R’s, and that I had no true Native American roots or relatives. But I still wish I did.

Pow-Wows: In B2B marketing there are often way too many meetings, and I believe in making the most of each one to avoid the need to repeat it later. Show up smart and ready to engage, exchange ideas, debate and make decisions. Leave with clear next steps and make sure meaningful progress is made before the next meeting. Put your war paint on and get things done.

In fact-checking this article, I thought it made sense to compare notes with two eyewitnesses, so I shared a draft with my mom and my older sister Mary. Here’’s what they had to say:

Mom:  “You were the sweetest little kid, but after that trip to see the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, you were done with Indians and on to being a Mexican bullfighter.”

Mary: “I remember that day… I wanted a plastic Indian doll with a beaded dress, but the trip was all about you, LOL.”

If you’’re reading this, you probably share my interest in B2B marketing. But what interests from your childhood relate to what you do today?