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Nov 10, 2008
Blog Post

SherpaBlog: So Long and Thanks for All the Case Studies

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, Founder

I woke with a start at four in the morning in a hotel room in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I was conducting research at a marketing trade show in October 1999.

Back then, as now, marketing, PR and advertising professionals were nearly deafened by a deluge of media "serving" them. Magazines, events, newsletters, etc., etc. But, as a 20-year veteran, I felt that huge amount of content hadn't been terribly useful in the everyday business of running a real-world marketing department.

Did others share my view? Was there a burning need for a new kind of practical information service for marketers?

That August, I'd left my CMO job, cashed in my 401k, and begged a press pass from an old pal in the business media, to set out on a lengthy research tour across America, asking marketers from hundreds of companies to describe their unmet information needs.

Then, at 4 a.m. that morning, it came to me, all at once in a flash. I fumbled in the dark for a pen and paper and began scribbling, too excited to even turn the light on. As dawn began to fill my hotel room with light, the plan for MarketingSherpa became visible before my eyes. That piece of paper was pinned to my office wall for years, until the ink began to fade too badly for legibility, and I tucked it away.

Inspired by ideas from marketers (I'd particularly like to thank the guys at Dell for their insistence on "lots of Case Studies"), MarketingSherpa sprung from and depends on the needs and assistance of the entire marketing community. Without you, we'd be nothing.

Today, on my very last morning as a formal company employee, I'd like to take a moment to thank some of the many people who helped make Sherpa a reality. This was always a group effort. They include:

o Alan Brody of iBreakfast, who invited me to pitch for angel investors, and David James of Bethesda List, who stepped up out of the audience that day to write a check.

o Kim MacPherson, Andy Bourland, Tom Phillips, Cliff Kurtzman, Ralph Wilson, Bruce Hadley, and yes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for providing inspiration in the earliest days.

o Craig Sherman, formerly of, who ran across a trade show floor to hug me in the darkest days of 2001, saying: "Thank goodness Sherpa hasn't gone under like everyone else has!" That display of reader emotion when the economy was tanking made all the difference in the world.

o Monique Harris, Andrew Latzman, Anthony Muller, Andrew Mackie and Marcia Yudkin, who helped develop MarketingSherpa product lines, including Summits, Benchmark Guides, Instructional Handbooks and Case Studies.

o The editors of The Economist's Intelligence Unit and Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge site, who gave Sherpa our first big-name press mentions.

o Customer Service team leaders Donna Pfledderer and Sharon Hamner, who kept Sherpa's standards to "L.L .Bean quality" so customers really understood how much we valued them.

o Sherpa's editorial team, including past members Jennifer Nastu, Mark Brownlow, Alexis Gutzman, Diana Huff, and Tad Clarke, who made our nearly crushing 10-times-a-week exclusive story deadlines possible.

o Stefan Tornquist, who built our research department into a thing of glory while maintaining a heavy speaking schedule.

o Holly Hicks in Oregon and Zlatko Papic in Serbia who worked extreme hours, far outside of 9-5 in their local time zones, to prove virtual staffers can be as fully present as people in the cube next door.

o Sherpa's in-house marketers, especially employee #2 Aimee Kessler Evans and Carol Meinhart, who said on her job application that she liked “spreadsheeting more than chocolate.”

o Everyone who's ever tackled the unending problem of making Sherpa's massive content-heavy website more usable, including Matrix Group International, Dan Miller, Christian Vanek and Hope Hopkins.

o Ron Perry, who banged on my office door every night at 7 p.m. to remind me that there is a life outside of MarketingSherpa and to tell me to go home already.

No matter how hard everyone at Sherpa works, nothing would have been possible without the ceaseless and ongoing contributions of hundreds of thousands of marketers around the world.

From the first handful of readers who forwarded their newsletters to friends, driving up Sherpa's opt-in list to more than 100,000 in just a year; to every Sherpa Summit speaker, 100% volunteers talking about their real-life experiences; to the thousands of marketers, each of whom has spent an hour or more being grilled by Sherpa's Case Study reporters; and to the tens of thousands of you who participate in Sherpa's research surveys every year, so that we could bring you updated benchmark data: you are the reason I got up every morning full of drive and desire to serve.

After nearly a decade in the making, MarketingSherpa finally matches almost every aspect of the vision I scribbled down in the dawn hours of that Scottsdale morning. The blueprint's been executed to plan. Now it's time for me, as Founder, to take a nice long break.

If you look for me, I'll be in my garden.

In the meantime, the Sherpa team will continue bringing you the practical information you desire and deserve. They've got lots of improvements and expansions planned for 2009 and beyond – all inspired by customer feedback and directions, naturally! You can send in your ideas and input to them at Service(at)MarketingSherpa(dot)com. Yes, a real human team answers that email, not a robot.

One final note: In a MarketingSherpa Members teleconference two weeks ago, one of you asked me half-jokingly, I'm sure, “Anne, got any stock tips?” My answer to that question is to look for companies that are built directly according to customer desires – especially those that routinely survey you and then actually implement suggestions. Also, keep an eye out for brands that maintain a steady level of brand advertising (not just more easily measureable direct response and sales offers) in the media over the coming years.

Companies that bakein customer focus and keep paying for brand advertising, even in tough times, will emerge from this storm way ahead of the competition.

I know. I've been there.

Thanks again and best wishes.

See Also:

Comments about this Blog Entry

Nov 10, 2008 - Paul Bruemmer of Red Door Interactive says:
Thank You Anne, I was there in 1999 and I can say with great pride; you are a huge asset to the entire Internet Marketing community. Thank you for all your dedication, insight and sharing. Best regards! Paul

Nov 10, 2008 - Dianna Huff of DH Communications says:
Anne, I loved working for you and learned quite a bit doing so. Thank you! I also miss your caustic wit and the fact that you were the first in the marketing press to use words like "adore." Enjoy your garden.

Nov 10, 2008 - Ellen Reid Smith of e-Loyalty Resource says:
Anne You are the only marketing blog/email I've read steadily since 1999 and the only case studies I forward to clients. You really know how to deliver substance and indepth advice on topics your competitors can't even define. Great writing, great topics, great humor...I'm going to miss you!!

Nov 10, 2008 - Marcia Yudkin of says:
Anne, Congratulations on all you have achieved and for serving as a success model for so many of us in the marketing world. You were a pleasure to collaborate with. And best wishes as you spend time cultivating your garden. - Marcia Yudkin

Nov 10, 2008 - Matt Cardwell of Quicken Loans says:
Anne, on behalf of the entire Interactive Marketing Team here at Quicken Loans, I wanted to wish you the best. I personally have been learning from Sherpa since those early days you talk about, and our team here has come to rely on those case studies for inspiration over the years. Sherpa has always been one of the best sources of practical online marketing advice on the Web. We wish you the best! Matt

Nov 10, 2008 - Edward Barrett of Care Rehab says:
Anne, thank you for creating a fantastic company who has helped so many of us marketers keep pace with the chaos. Good luck with your roses and daisies and enjoy life in the slow lane. You've earned it!

Nov 10, 2008 - Allan Hoving of F+W Media says:
Congrats, Anne, and see you at Horticulture's !

Nov 10, 2008 - Jeanniey Mullen of Email Experience Council says:
Anne, Cheers! To one of the most inspirational women in the business. Thanks for your tireless dedication to motivate us all, and keep us focused on reaching our goals. As you spend all of that time in your garden, smile knowing that many of us still left in the biz will continue to reference what you have created as a jumping off point from which to build future successes.

Nov 10, 2008 - Margaret Lawlor of e-media bloc says:
Gotta love it when a remarkable vision comes to fruition. Well done! Your work and that of your team has helped me help my clients see the light many, many times. Thank you!

Nov 10, 2008 - rahshia sawyer of SMBLive says:
Congratulations, and thank you! MarketingSherpa and you have always been and inspiration to what is possible for bringing an idea to life!

Nov 10, 2008 - Kathy Hrach of Write On Results says:
Anne - What a thoughtful farewell message. I've been following Marketing Sherpa since the beginning. You've made a big impact on the modern marketing world. I'm proud to be a reader. Good luck! Kathy

Nov 11, 2008 - Chris Olson of Microsoft says:
Thanks Anne, You've been a great advocate and mentor for the marketing community. We appreciate the dedication, focus, and insight you brought to the profession.

Nov 11, 2008 - Mark Brownlow of Email Marketing Reports says:
Wanted to add a public thanks for all your efforts Anne. Both as a consumer of the information and as a past member of the editorial team. You taught me the difference between useful content, content, and marketing blah blah. And you sent me flowers when I had wobbly legs, which was extraordinarily gracious. A toast to you, and you know you are always welcome if you pass through Vienna...

Nov 11, 2008 - Kristin Zhivago of Zhivago Management Partners, Inc. says:
What an amazing feat you accomplished, and in so short a time, in business years. Many have tried to imitate, but no one has matched, what you built. Congratulations, and may the coming years be just as filfilling and exciting. We wouldn't expect anything less. - Kristin

Nov 11, 2008 - Nettie Hartsock of The Hartsock Agency says:
Anne Congratulations on starting this new path (in your garden and your life.) For myself having started as a journalist on the Net in 1995 and watching all that you accomplished, one of the most remarkable things is how you've never wavered in providing the best possible content for your readership. I applaud all that you accomplished and how much care you took in all that you did. MarketingSherpa is the best of the best!

Nov 11, 2008 - Abby Mildbrand of InTouch says:
Here's wishing you 2 green thumbs and lots of quality garden time... Brian Carroll has always spoken very highly of you and although we've never met, you have captured my respect as a person and a successful business woman. Thanks for all you've contributed!

Nov 11, 2008 - Rose Kleidon of Kleidon & Associates says:
We've never met, Anne, but as a faithful reader of Marketing Sherpa, I wanted to let you know how valuable it has been to me -- and to all the others I have turned on to Sherpa. Congratulations!

Nov 11, 2008 - Meg Meyer of National Association of Home Builders says:
Anne - I feel like I know you personally and feel sad that I won't be hearing your voice any more. May your garden grow as wonderfully as your little sherpa did!

Nov 12, 2008 - Mel Goodfeld of says:
I have to say, that I really just enjoyed this posting all together. I think it's fantastic that you followed your dreams!

Nov 13, 2008 - Joe Rizzo of iNeoMarketing says:
It doesn't get any better than what you've accomplished, Anne. Best to you.

Nov 13, 2008 - Tom Funk of Timberline Interactive says:
Congratulations on what you built with Sherpa, Anne, and best wishes for the next chapter in your life! As an online marketer I always enjoy the real-life, in-the-trenches data that comes into my inbox each time your newsletter hits. We live in a world of fluff, bluster, and unsubstantiated opinions. MarketingSherpa always rises to the challenge: Show me the data!

Nov 14, 2008 - Oritseyemi of says:
Hey Anne, For a very long time I have been a raving fan of yours. I have enjoyed your articles and I am sure you will be greatly missed! God Speed!

Nov 17, 2008 - Shannon Kavanaugh of Go-To-Market Strategies says:
Best to you! It has been a pleasure partnering with you and MarketingSherpa for the last 4-5 years. We will miss you and envy your time in the garden :~)...

Nov 18, 2008 - John Verba of NTGR8 says:
Anne. Wow. Doesn't it seem like yesterday that we were meeting with Rossi at BOSSTemps and you were thinking through what needs to meet and problems to solve in your years ahead? And now they're the years behind and you've helped guide SO many people to do what works. That old "cause and effect" thing. Providing vision. Supplying tools. You nailed it. And I can't help thinking your garden will only hold you so long. John

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