Smells, Bells, Monks & Marketing. My Marketing Journey
“If you don’t get these grades up, College won’t be an option.” If I had a nickel for everytime my parents, teachers, deans, pets, and nuns said this to me, I’d be rolling in that shiny, new Range Rover Discovery Sport I’ve been lusting over.
High school was not my thing. I was a nerd. I was not popular. I was not an athlete. I was, as the kids say today, Meh. My grades hovered around lukewarm depending on the day. I had no passion in school, until, I met Mrs. Groth. A 40 something English teacher, Mrs. Groth seemed to get me. She understood my angst. She found something in me that I didn’t know existed, a love of words. Being in her class senior year changed my life and gave me confidence in a skill that bubbled to the surface as the year went on.
I did manage to graduate Bishop Moore High School and I did manage to get accepted into a college. I’m not going to lie, there was a lot of fingernail biting, but I finally got that acceptance letter and I was off to the corn-fields of Southern Indiana to discern whether or not I was called to be a Catholic Priest. I’ll never forget my first trip to Saint Meinrad. The winding, hilly, fertilizer-infused air, the cows, the soybeans, the tractors and around that last bend of road arose this majestic monastery. Hand constructed out of sandstone by toiling Monks that looked like Jedi knights, this place was something different.
Upon my arrival, the bells tolled. A junior/novitiate monk scurried down the sidewalk with his freshly shaved corona. This college was like none other. It wasn’t a party school. It wasn’t a place to sow your wild oats. It was a place to discern, and for me, a place to write.
Learning about Blake, Milton, Aquinas, Aristotle, and Ralph Waldo Emerson started to awaken more and more within me. I gravitated toward philosophy and the classics. I would read Plato’s symposium and digest countless volumes in the cold, quiet, sandstone-lined library. I would walk up and down those aisles craving more and more brain food. I was in a writer’s paradise.
I discerned that the Catholic Priesthood was not for me. After a shit-ton of introspection, counsel and gut feeling, I graduated that fine school with a BA in English, Communications and a minor in Philosophy. Now what? What in the hell does one do with an English degree?
I scored my first gig with the Catholic Diocese of Orlando at a Retreat Center I had been working summers camps while home from school. They needed help with their marketing. I figured it out. I built a website. I figured out how to get that website found on Google, Hotbot, AskJeeves, Excite and many other archaic, now defunct search engines. Everything started to change.
People were searching for the ‘stuff’ that we were offering and finding us. I was using my words. I was creating content. I was adjusting words on that website and constantly tweaking it to pull more and more people to our little slice of retreat center heaven.
A few years later, after a few stints as a marketing director at various and sundry places, I built my own company. On Target came to life. What began as an SEO centric agency has now blossomed into a place of words. A place of storytelling. An agency obsessed with telling amazing stories.
An agency obsessed with doing it differently and helping clients stand out above all of the noise that floods the Internet daily. It’s so amazing how one person can inspire so much. I’ve been blessed by Mrs. Groth’s encouragement back in that cinder block, musty-smelling classroom at Bishop Moore. She lit the spark that has created so much. I’m so grateful that she was part of my story.
Tom Jelneck owns On Target Digital Marketing, an agency located in Orlando, Florida. He offers digital marketing consulting and services to Catholic & Independent Schools across the United States. Tom can be reached at 866-998-6886 xt. 100