Chapter 25 Elements of the “Marketing Mix” for Brand YOU! (media, packaging, price, promotion etc…)
The great Dr. Philip Kotler in his seminal works on the business of marketing created the 4 Ps that every marketer in the world is aware of. They stand for Packaging, Promotion, Place and Price. Since then, these Ps have multiplied and become more and more narrowly defined.
The crux of it though is simple. There are certain levers that you get to pull, certain buttons you get to push, when you are trying to build any brand, and many of them are applicable to Building Brand YOU.
To keep things simple, I’m going to try to list some of them for you, but this list is by no means exhaustive. If you can think of things to add here, please let me know and I will make sure they are incorporated in future editions (hopefully there will be more than one edition ☺).
1. Packaging: How do you dress? How do you look? Our parents used to tell us that we have to “look the part”, that when we go for a job interview, it’s important to be ‘suited up’, with shoes shined and shirt crisply ironed. You know what? They were right. The sad truth is that first impressions are created in the first 5-6 seconds of meeting someone. After that, we are just trying to justify them to ourselves. In today’s casual era, the art of dressing up for an interview seems to be vanishing. I’ve seen candidates show up for an interview wearing jeans. While that may be acceptable and even required in some industries (software design, creative anything etc.), for the majority of office-based roles it is simply unacceptable. Evaluate yourself critically. Look at everything – body art, piercings, hair (colour, shape, size etc.) and figure out if what you see is actually right for you. If the answer is YES I love my hair and NO I’ve never seen a Finance Manager for a Fortune 500 company with blue hair, then you need to either change your hair or change your job ambition. For the ultra liberal readers out there, who will say that how a person looks should have no bearing on their ability to do a job, I say – I agree, in an ideal world. But if you live in a world where a person with extensive body piercings is instantly judged by clients and colleagues alike, and that impacts his or her ability to perform effectively in their role, then I would suggest its time to grow up and move forward.
2. Communication: What’s your story? How do you present yourself?
a. Let’s start with your handshake. Firm, dry and brief while still meaningful are useful criteria. An ex-boss of mine had a handshake like a wet fish – shaking hands with him used to leave me surreptitiously wiping my hand on the seat of my pants. Others prefer the kung fu death grip, the silky caress of a seductress and so on. Feel free to add your own descriptors here… Remember, the purpose of shaking hands is to establish trust (hence the empty hand without a weapon!).
b. How about eye contact? Many people say that it’s difficult to trust someone, or engage with them, if they can’t look you in the eyes. Do you find it difficult to make eye contact with people? Worse of all, are you one of those unfortunate people who’s eyes always seem to be in an inappropriate place – let’s say 12 inches south of where they ought to be? I can’t tell you how disturbing that can be, and if you are not sure about where your eyes are going (albeit inadvertently), ask a close friend for feedback.
c. What about body language? Are you aware of the signals your body language is sending? Body language is a science, and one worthy of study. Once you realize what a simple hand gesture can mean, or the relevance the most seemingly irrelevant movements can take on, a great deal more nuance and texture will appear in front of you. If you understand that up to 90% of all communication is in fact non-verbal (things your body says and does, not the words that come out of your mouth), and then you actual learn to “speak” that language, its like a light being switched on an a hitherto darkened room. I kid you not. Invest some time in this – it will pay you back in spades.
d. How are your language skills? Excellent, you say? I doubt that. No offense, but unless you are the exception that proves the rule, the odds are that you are a terrible communicator, in the written (think e-mail) as well as verbal form (think phone conferences, speaking to groups of people etc.). If you are the author of one of the hundreds of mails I receive daily, you use way too many acronyms, you misspell common words and use them interchangeably and inappropriately, your grammar is absolutely atrocious, and you have no idea what a proper sentence looks like. Do I sound ANAL? I know I do. But you have to realize that most people who are scanning through a 100+ resumes are looking for reasons to whittle down the list – and any of the errors mentioned above will likely help you get off that list quite quickly. “That’s not fair!” I can see you protesting. “They haven’t gotten to know me!” That’s right – and why should they? In the 5-6 second battle for the heart and mind, you have lost. The good news is – it’s just a battle, not the war. You need to fix your language skills – again, an investment that is worth making.
e. What about presentation skills? Are you comfortable presenting in front of a small group of co-workers? How about a large group? The more senior you get, the more you will need to demonstrate an expertise in this area. I once knew someone who became semi-paralyzed at the idea of addressing an audience. He was – and probably still is – the most functionally competent person I know. His people skills are outstanding. But this area of his life left him shaken and stirred. Are you like this? If you are, you need to get over this fear some how. I would suggest joining a group like Toastmasters, that teaches public speaking and encourages the overcoming of this most primal of fears. BABAGOI. Build A Bridge And Get Over it.
3. Promotion: How’s your networking? Do you make an effort to meet new people? A fair measure of your networking skills is how many contacts you have on LinkedIn (if you are a working professional) or on Facebook (for everyone else). If you are a professional and or not on LinkedIn, for goodness’ sake, get over whatever is holding you back, and create a profile on LinkedIn today. I don’t work for the company nor do I have any sort of relationship to them not have I received any form of compensation for what I’m about to explain to you. But if you are hesitant to get on LinkedIn because you don’t know what to do, here is some advice on how to start:
a. When you sign up for LinkedIn, make sure you provide a summary statement that truly encapsulates who you are. You can use a slightly expanded version of your Brand Capsule for this.
b. Fill out your profile to the maximum level possible. Add all your jobs, along with what you accomplished at those jobs, to your profile. Add projects, interests and anything else that can give a viewer a more holistic view of who YOU are and what your brand stands for. LinkedIn shows a little graphic that allows you to track your profile completeness and makes useful suggestions to improve the strength of your profile further.
c. Once your profile has been saved and is viewable, start adding connections. Once again, LinkedIn has a great algorithm that suggests People You Might Know. Start by reaching out to those people whom you actually know – perhaps they are current co-workers, or past co-workers. Try not to send the standard message that LinkedIn provides by default. Using that message simply says that you can’t be bothered to build your connections in a meaningful way. Instead, try to tailor that message in a way that allows you to build sustainable relationships. BTW, as soon as your profile is complete, you will start receiving invitations from people who know you, or want to connect with you.
d. Build your network with some sort of strategy in mind. If you work in Sales & Marketing, connect with professionals in your field. Connect with HR managers. Connect with recruiters. Connect with C-suite members inside and outside your organization, industry and geography. Once you start networking with purpose, it will be difficult to stop even if you wanted to.
e. A general rule of thumb is that if you have over 500 connections on LinkedIn, you are serious about networking. Do keep in mind that there are people with thousands of connections, so get cracking. You may have some serious catching up to do.
f. Please remember that you should proactively network when you don’t NEED to. If you are looking for a job and start networking aggressively, people expect it and see through your efforts. Half of your contacts will start avoiding you, and the other half will be sympathetic but not really motivated to help. A few – a very few – might forward your CV to HR or to a recruiter. Now, if you have been proactively and empathetically networking, perhaps offering to help people with things that they don’t really expect, what do you think will happen when they know you might need a little help yourself? This is a very basic philosophy in life – what goes around, comes around. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Karma. Call it what you will. I’m not saying that everyone you know will suddenly rush to your aid – but you will certainly get a different response when your connections find out that you are looking for a new role. This is especially true if you have successfully put in to practice the principles described in this book, and have created a BRAND that people are drawn to (BRAND PULL). Then you won’t have to do as much running around as you would otherwise. It will still take effort – finding a job is still a full-time job – but you will certainly be in a better place if people know what your brand stands for, the benefits your brand offers, and what you have accomplished.
g. If you, like hundreds of millions of people around the world, are addicted to Facebook, please be aware of the following:
i. If you post inappropriate pictures or comments on Facebook, you have to know that HR managers and recruitment consultants will discover those pictures and comments. Trust me. The Internet is full of stories about people who have lost jobs, and potential jobs, because of exactly this. Be aware. Act smart.
ii. Facebook is a PERSONAL networking tool. It helps you stay in touch with family and friends, so remember that when you start posting work-related stuff on there.
4. Public Relations: What do people say about you? Here again, LinkedIn is a brilliant tool. It has several feedback mechanisms that are built right in to the basic structure of your profile.
a. Recommendations are a great way to know how people are viewing you professionally. Generally speaking, a profile with 20 recommendations is seen as stronger than one with 2. However, the quality of the reco is just as important. The words used, the length of the reco, and especially whom the reco is from. Some advice – if you want a reco from someone, don’t just up and ask them for a reco unless you are dead certain they will right you a good one. Recommend them, and they will probably return the favour. If they don’t, that should tell you something.
b. Endorsements: Set up a bunch of skills that people can endorse you for. You might think that you are known for demonstrating certain skills, but in reality people value your work in another area. Someone I recently worked with switched careers from computing to HR, but people kept endorsing her work in IT because of a general lack of awareness in her professional circle that she had changed streams.
c. Updates: When you post an update on LinkedIn, which you should try to do once a week, how many people like and or respond to the update? Remember, your update goes to your entire list of connections, and their first-degree connections as well, so it can potentially be seen by a million or more people… so make each update a great one.
5. Place: The channels through which your Brand is “sold” or “bought”. To put it briefly, if you have tried everything you can to get ahead in your current role or company, and are simply unable to move ahead, then it may be time to move on. Change the game. Find a new role within your existing company, or get out there and start networking for your next job. Find one that makes your heart sing, and that is in line with the brand that you are trying to build – and don’t compromise unless you are starving and about to end up on the street. For those people who are heading in to the job market right now, please remember that your chances of getting hired go up exponentially if people know what your Brand stands for, and they can see how you would be a good fit for the organization that you are applying at. And if there is no fit, then there is nothing to worry about. Get out there and hustle. Network. Connect with people. Pound the pavement. Press the flesh. Be insistent. Be awesome.
6. Price: How much you are valued – your paycheck – depends on what you are perceived to bring to the table. The key word is PERCEIVED. Remember the Brand Equity Cause & Effect ladder that I introduced you to in the earlier chapters of this book? Your main job as the CEO of Brand YOU! is to create the right perception for your brand. Once the hiring manager sitting across the table from you is convinced that you and only you can add the maximum value to the role that you are discussing, he or she will start to sell you on the company and why you should join them. When things move to the next level, and you receive an offer from them, take your time before you say yes. It’s perfectly OK to go back for clarifications, and sometimes, it’s even better to say NO if you feel that the offer is too low, or can be made stronger. The power of this word – NO – cannot be under-estimated. But play this card carefully if at all – it can turn around and bite you.
And so on. Remember, every action you take is either a DEPOSIT into, or a WITHDRAWAL from, the Bank of your Brand Equity.
Build your brand with purpose and understand that everything you do impacts that.
This means everything, and I mean everything.
Chapter 26 Summary of the Plan for Brand YOU! (A game changer – taking control of YOUR personal & professional destiny)
So that’s it. You are now ready to put the rubber to the road, the pedal to the metal, the plan in to action. So what have we learned?
We’ve learned that in order to build our own brands, we must know who our target audience is, and we must start with understanding their needs (consumer insight).
When we have understood them well enough to know what they NEED from you, we can figure out how to fulfill those needs. We also understand that we cannot possibly fulfill everyone’s needs – so we need to make CHOICES. This involves us saying NO sometimes, but that is not a hurdle necessarily. It frees us up to say YES to things that are really important.
The next step is to craft a unique and powerful Brand Identity for Brand YOU. A document that truly encapsulates who you are, your strengths, your areas of opportunity, the things you want to build on and leverage as you move forward. This is your Perception Plan – how you want to be seen and acknowledged.
But that plan, if not brought to life in a compelling way, is just a document, a thought. It needs to come alive in YOU. Bring it to life in a way that is unmistakably YOU…
When you start to bring it to life, remember that every action you take, EVERY LITTLE THING you do (or don’t do!) is either building your brand equity, or hurting it.
Armed with this knowledge, and the confidence that you now possess tools that have been used by millions of BRAND MANAGERS all over the world to build brands, go out there and JUST DO IT.
That’s all there is. If I can help you in any way, please let me know.
All the best, and God Speed.