February 3, 2010
A friend of mine, Mark Whitaker, is an experienced market research professional. His official title is Strategic Research Consultant at The Kansas City Star.
That’s an impressive title, but what does it mean? What does he really do? What impact does he actually make?
In seven words on LinkedIn, Mark summarizes his job as “helping you find the information you need.”
I really like that “job description” for three reasons:
- It’s simple. I can understand it without having to translate industry jargon.
- It’s differentiating. It really describes what he does, not what his company or co-workers do.
- It’s outwardly focused. He describes what he does for others. He focuses on the benefits he provides, not the process involved. Read the rest of this entry »
October 13, 2009
Business success requires effective marketing. People have spent considerable energy trying to define marketing, but just for fun I’ve listed 10 things marketing is not.
- A silver bullet. Some people unrealistically expect a single marketing tactic to be extremely effective or to easily cure a major prevailing problem.
- Pixie dust. Although marketing can produce magical results, there’s no magic potion or formula that can produce instant results.
- Icing on the cake. Marketing must always be an essential ingredient, not something that’s added later to make the product or service look prettier or taste sweeter.
- Communications. Too often, especially in nonprofit organizations, communications is used synonymously with marketing. They are not the same thing. One is a subset of the other.
- A black hole. Rarely does an investment in marketing disappear into the cosmic void. Marketing does, however, require a minimum investment of resources for it to yield the desired return.
- Rocket science. There’s an art to marketing, but it is not an esoteric science. Brain surgery—yes. Rocket science—no.
- Snake oil. Rightly done, marketing has no gimmicks, fakery or fraud. Neither is it a panacea that cures all.
- Hocus pocus. Marketing is not “putting a spell” on people to manipulate them into doing something against their will.
- Quick fix. The law of the harvest tells us that you’ve got to plant the seed and nurture the crop before you can expect to reap a bountiful harvest.
- Cotton candy. Although cotton candy is colorful, sweet and attractive, it lacks substance and nutritive value. Effective marketing is both attractive and substantive.
Marketing is sometimes hampered by unrealistic expectations so occasionally it’s helpful to look at what marketing is not.
September 17, 2009
—Standing out during a job search
Not long ago I was hiring for an open position on my marketing team. I was bombarded with 200 applications—and that was before the economy went sour.
I personally looked at every single application. Very quickly, though, my eyes glazed over. Everyone looked alike. They all seemed to be saying the same thing. They even used the same words to describe themselves. Every cover letter, it seemed, had at least one of these sentences embedded in it:
I am an excellent communicator.
I’m very organized.
I’m a problem solver.
I am very results oriented.
I want to make a difference.
I am an experienced project manager.
I’m a great team player.
(Insert your own cliche here)
Sorry. I don’t mean to be jaded. I assume each applicant was sincerely speaking from the heart, but here’s my point: When everyone said the same thing, I felt like I’d walked into a Baskin-Robbins store where the only flavor was vanilla. Everyone, it seemed, had bought the same book on writing cover letters and they even selected the same buzz phrases to use.
From the pool of applicants, some names drifted towards the top. I finally selected eight qualified candidates who looked different and intriguing. These were individuals who sounded as though they could engage with me in a worthwhile conversation. They also shared the following traits:
- They were unique. They did something to stand out from the rest of the pack. FYI, their ability to stand out was not by submitting a resume printed on neon orange paper. They differentiated themselves by a) what they said and b) how they said it.
- They were interesting. Several told me a story in their cover letter. (And yes, they were able to tell a story in a paragraph or less.) Their ability to tell interesting stories continued into the interview. That turned the interview into an interesting, interactive conversation rather than a one-way interrogation.
- They were themselves. That trait alone—being oneself—is often differentiating. As I looked for the right person, I was not looking for someone trying to fit a particular cookie-cutter mold. I wanted someone who was authentic, genuine and “comfortable in his/her own skin.”
My advice to any job seeker is: Be different. Be unique. Or, as Simon Cowell used to tell American Idol contestants—”Be memorable!”