Today’s entrepreneurs tend to treat content marketing as though it were some new phenomenon, when in fact content marketing dates back to the penny post in England, the postal service in the United States, and the publication of newspapers and magazines worldwide.

Richard_SearsIn America, one of the early entrepreneurs of content marketing was Richard Sears, founder of Sears, Roebuck, and Co. Sears got his start as a railroad agent in a small town in Minnesota. It might seem like an unlikely place for a large business to begin, but as entrepreneurs know, we find opportunities everywhere.

Sears’ entrepreneurial spirit had so far found vent only in the sale and distribution of a few local and perishable goods supplied by the Native Americans in his community. He thought that his luck was changing when he obtained a shipment of pocket watches that were left at the station, refused by a local merchant.

But as all business owners, he quickly learned that selling to family and friends might turn a quick profit, but it wouldn’t scale. (And it doesn’t make you very popular.) So in 1886, Richard W. Sears, purveyor of pocket watches, mastered the art that so many of us only just beginning to learn:


He sent his letter to all the railroad agents up and down the line. And with his letter, he made enough money to quit his job as a railroad worker and start the R.W. Sears Watch Company.

Within 2 years, he took on Alva C. Roebuck as a watch-making partner, started using a mail order catalog to sell his watches, inserted illustrations of factory works as “social proof,” and went global by expanding his operations into Toronto, Canada.

In another 2 years, he sold the business and founded a few other enterprises before finally settling into the Sears, Roebuck Co with its catalogue advertising model in 1893. Stay tuned for another article about his content marketing techniques with that enterprise.

And in case you’re interested in how sales letters have evolved from 1886 to today, here are a few resources for how to write a great sales letter in today’s environment.

5 Reasons Why All Freelance Writers Should Learn To Write a Sales Letter by Sean Platt – Just in case you think you don’t NEED to write sales letters.

12-Step Foolproof Sales Letter Template by David Frey

Five Tips for Writing Sales Letters that Sell Online by Rebecca Matter

Sales Letters, Proposals, and Copywriting – THE ultimate library for sales-driven businesses (and isn’t that redundant?)

Write a Great Sales Letter: 6 tips for composing a sales letter that’ll hit the right note with your customers. by Kim T. Gordon

pocket watchP.S. How is content marketing like a pocket watch? Both are timely, and both sit right next to your wallet. Cheers!


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