This story took place in the summer of 2012. Not knowing what I should write my bachelor thesis about, I ended up reading “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” by David Meerman Scott, a book my dad gave me. It was about this new strategy called Inbound Marketing, which (no surprise) did not have a single entry at my university’s data base. So I did some more research about this new topic and stumbled across the name David Meerman Scott several times. I figured I was not going to find any academic writings about Inbound Marketing, but maybe this mister Scott could help me out.
The tweet that sent me to Sofia
I had just set up my twitter account back then and simply sent him this tweet: “David I read your book. I’m writing a paper about #inboundmarketing. Maybe you can help me out!?”. Surprisingly enough, he wrote right back, basically telling me about his tight scedule which does not allow any interviews. But he will be speaking at an marketing event in Sofia (Bulgaria) this November. We could talk there if there is time! I clicked the link to the event and scrolled down all the way to the important part of the conference: the costs. For a student not affordable! Luckily though, my father covered the costs and the next thing I knew, I was on a plane to Sofia.
Meeting Mr. Inbound
It was early afternoon when I checked in at my hotel. I had to go back to the reception again, because the TV was not working. I was about to complain to the lady, when I heard an American accent right behind me. “I know this face”, I thought to myself. David Meerman Scott! We chatted for a while. Then he had to leave to check the stage for his talk and organize some stuff. I for my part had all the time in the world and even though I did not want to stay out late, I wanted to explore the city a bit. I was lucky: Every day at 6pm there is a Free Sofia Tour. A unbelievably cheap yellow cab brought me to the meeting point. (Yes. They do have yellow cabs in Sofia!)
Since the weather was bad, the group joining the tour was really small. Just before we left a man joined us. David Meerman Scott! “What are you doing here?” – “Just taking the tour.” So there Í was, walking through the old town of Sofia. Me, a hand full of tourists, a young local student and the Inbound Marketing Guru himself. Even though it was raining heavily, all of us seemed to enjoy the tour through the old communist buildings, incredible temples and excavations. I was soaking wet and looking forward to a hot shower and some bread just before David asked me to join him for dinner. “Sure, why not?”.
Dining like a king
A cab took us to what will later turn out to the best restaurant I’ve ever been. It was Bulgarian traditional food at its very best. Little did I know that all of the event organizers would be there. David introduced me: “This is my friend Sam from Austria.” I felt especially honored and overwhelmed. We had a pleasant evening, drinking rakia and other delights. The food was plenty and tasted out of this world! “Can I ask you a favour?”, David asked me. “Tomorrow at my talk I would like you to ask the first question. You see usually people don’t like to ask questions right away and I don’t want to have this awkward silence.” – “Absolutely!”, I told him not knowing what I had gotten myself into. We took a taxi back to the hotel (since we were staying at the same one) and got ourself some sleep.
The big event
The next morning I went to the venue quite early. I got my name tag and entered the hall. “Quite a big stage for just one guy” – I thought to myself. Big screens, a brand new sports car, stands reaching up to the cealing. Where was I? The first couple of rows were reserved for the press people so I sat down right behind. Soon the place was crowded and David started his talk on inbound marketing. “Are there any questions?”, he asked just before the first coffee break. Silence. David looked at me: “Great! Sam, you have a question!” I grabbed the mic and to be honest I didn’t remember what I asked him. I was super nervous. But what I do remember was what happend next.
Becoming an inbound marketing expert
As the people were gathering around David to get their books signed and take photos with him, people also started to walk up to me. “You are the friend of Mr. Scott, correct?” – “I guess so, how can I help you?” I was asked about how I would implement inbound marketing to an existing marketing strategy. Soon a hand full of CEO’s and marketing leaders across Europe were asking me questions about this new marketing method. Surprisingly enough I could actually help them or at least tell them about what I read in David’s book.
We exchanged business cards. I got a marketing boss-Nestle-Europe-card in exchange for a chewing gum paper with my name on it. It was simply hilarious! I had a blast with the people there and was amazed by their interest and curiosity. I made several friends before the plane took my back to Vienna. When I got home David send me a tweet, telling me I should organize a similar event in Vienna. I’ve been looking for possible sponsors ever since.
My take away from this unbelievable story is probably that you should not be afraid to address famous people directly, even if you are a young student. Another thing I’ve realized is that if you are good and convincing at something you don’t have to have a certain title or position. I hope this story motivates more students to go out there and meet the people they want to interview, instead of copying old books over and over.
FYI: You can download my bachelor thesis under the “free stuff” section on my website!