Advertising Your World View

This is something very personal and as unique to each person as their DNA.  People are attracted to many different kinds of people.  So how do we throw ourselves out there?

The first no -negotiable rule:  Your brand MUST BE the number one company in the minds of the advertiser.  Gut-check time:  How many people at any level have been hired in the last 10 years because they put your brand FIRST in their lives and believe in EVERYTHING your company stands for?  If you say 100%, you’re delusional.  Too many industries still hire based on traditional production competencies.  They use your brand as the vehicle to their success, but most models say they could do it anywhere.   

The reason individuals aren’t allowed to make up their own advertising is because brands are afraid of what lengths they would go to get business when left to their own devices.  Continuing down that path instead of initiating change will have a  potentially catastrophic impact within the next 10 years.

Which Comes First, Loyalty or Trust?

You can be loyal to brands (and it’s greatly appreciated when you are), but trust consists of a more human element.  How did you get onto the brand in the first place?  Likely a recommendation from someone you know, like, and yes, trust.  If you stay engaged with that brand solely based on marketing and advertising, exactly how superficial is that product you use compared to your needs?  The more important the need, the deeper the relationship being sought with a provider.  

Trust is a belief that a desired or anticipated outcome will result, regardless of the number of times an activity is performed.  Loyalty occurs after outcomes are produced by someone or something over time.  If the outcome was positive and anticipated, negative and resolved, or on some occasions positive and unanticipated (meaning it was a good surprise to the subject), loyalty is built.  If the outcome was negative, unanticipated, and unresolved, loyalty is destroyed.  

Brands can destroy loyalty the same way people can lose trust.  The difference is, loss of brand loyalty breaks down a company. Trust breaks down a relationship.

What Matters Most?

What would you do if you had more time?  What about if you had more money?  How about both?

Have you ever REALLY evaluated your family’s expenses?  How much do you spend on your mortgage?  Car payments? Other debt payments (home equity loans and credit cards)?  Groceries?  Dining out?  Gas and electricity?  Insurance?  Clothing?  Entertainment?

That’s my family’s expense list from highest to lowest percentage of household income.  There are likely several people out there with similar ratios and several others with fewer obligations. Something I’d be interested in knowing, however, is exactly how household income (in dollars) would be impacted if families would save between 10 and 15 percent per month in ANY of those categories.  Which ones would you most likely be able to cut?  Which ones are wants?  Which are needs? Which are commodities to which you are indifferent as it relates to PRODUCT, not SERVICE, quality?.  

Your response has the power to change every business-to-customer (B-2-C) interaction from this moment forward.

If I Were A Graduate

If I were a graduate (or anyone seeking a career), I’d do everything history says to do:  Create a killer resume and cover letter and send it out on nice paper in a nice envelope to every employer that matches my desired career profile.  Three days later I’d call each human resources department to make sure they received it.  In the meantime, I’d be gathering as much information as possible about the organizations to which I’d applied by reviewing their website, their company profile, their mission and vision statements (if publicly accessible), and their customer service reputation.  

Aren’t those the traditional steps to landing the job or career of your dreams?  Those are the ones I used right out of college.  The hangup with this strategy is that even though you’ve done everything correctly, you’re still one of many striving for the same outcome, or should we say “income”?  In this market, whether you’re selling goods, services, or your own employment candidacy, you MUST significantly differentiate yourself, make personal and meaningful connections, and take the lead in regard to your unique brand/reputation.

History says when you do everything in the right order and at the highest quality, your wish for a prosperous life will be granted. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news:  Doing what history says isn’t enough.  You need to do all of those things PLUS:

  • Take decisive action to set yourself apart by creating a strong personal brand;
  • Build an internal network of advocates within your organization of choice;
  • Follow through genuinely and transparently with those individuals who hold the key to your future.

Prior to the last 5 years, these three steps would have been incredibly difficult to accomplish. Today they are remarkably simple.

Overcoming the Bell Curve

There are certainly exceptions to this next statement:  Let’s say the top 10% of students in a given field of study—the cream of the crop, so to speak.  This post applies to those who make up the bell of the curve:  Just because you have a degree from a prominent university doesn’t mean (for the vast majority) that you are entitled to a six-figure salary.  The quality of education certainly helps your prospects of achieving success, but the people out there who are willing to work a lot harder ( and a lot smarter) can do just as well.  In many cases, the work you find yourselves doing throughout your lifetime will bring as much (or more) satisfaction than the big payday right out of the gate.

What’s the relevance to this forum?  Stopping the interruptions also means being relevant and setting yourself apart from the rest of the pack.  Interruptions are unwelcome, irrelevant distractions.  Unfortunately, anyone who doesn’t bring anything interesting or unique to the table for an employer to sink their teeth into are also interruptions.

The opportunity to make an impact on the world has never been greater. Go make it happen by bringing value to the interaction.

Accessibility and Differentiation

In their most basic form, degrees are pieces of paper that get you through a door.  A hall pass is a piece of paper that gets you through a door.  A big-time discussion at the dinner table between some of my best academic friends pertained to the significant reduction in MBA enrollments across the country and the reasons for the dilution of their effectiveness in the marketplace.  A lot of theories can be thrown around, but I personally believe looking at corporate marketing practices could provide significant insight, as could motivations the average MBA student has for getting the advanced degree–It’s about differentiation of a brand or product.

A few years ago, the same kind of discussions revealed a problem common in today’s society that had been plaguing my friends in their own classrooms:  Entitlement.  Students were posing the question “What are you going to do for ME?” every day, as if it was their (or the institution’s) responsibility for setting them apart from the rest of the labor force so they could land the 6-figure job.  It seems as though a pretty sharp turn has been made since that discussion first took place.  Is it possible that this decline in perceived value of an advanced degree is really companies giving the middle finger to those self-centered students who place the burden of their own differentiation on the shoulders of the institutions those corporations have trusted relationships with?

The labor market is really no different than a consumer market:  Attention and time are finite resources that command premium prices.  Prospective employees can get their foot in the door, but they’re going to need three or more dimensions if they want to stay in the building.

In Versus On

A great mentor once told me:  “You have to spend as much time working ON the business as you do IN the business in order to be successful.”  It was a rule of his 30 years ago, but today it should be considered a law.

“In” the business is where most people, especially those running successful ones, tend to reside.  They go to the office day-in/day-out doing the same things because the systems they have mastered continue providing the desired results.  The down side of this behavior is comfort and satisfaction.  A false sense of security is a very dangerous state of mind.  Just because their world is moving forward doesn’t mean the rest of the world has stopped.  In fact, it’s the opposite:  The rest of the world is moving infinitely faster.  Unless they take a step back and look up from their systems, they may get swallowed up.  Working “on” the business is that step back.

Before the Information Age, “on” the business meant an annual off-site planning retreat with blackboards and notepads.  Now it means daily social media reviews, blog posts, Google searches, and competitor updates.  But even those activities aren’t enough.  Being successful today means being two steps ahead, not just running at the same pace. Unless you train your brain on some new and improved systems, this world will swallow you whole.

Wanted: A Peer Group

A group who shares the same world view likely engages in boisterous conversation and laughter.  If your world view is different, the social occasion doesn’t illicit the same response.  What’s interesting is that being the odd duck USED TO MEAN you had a lower self-image and less self-confidence than the rest of the flock.

Today the tide is changing:  The ones who stand alone aren’t doing so because they don’t LIKE the others…they just refuse to believe that the traditional world views are the path to a more prosperous future.  They don’t see a reason to engage in conversations about “what’s always worked”, so they hang out on the sidelines introspectively assessing the trends that have been systematically revealing what’s to come for the last decade.  What other group members don’t know is that the odd duck is actively engaged in listening to multiple conversations simultaneously, even from a distance.  

Unfortunately, the other group members see such behavior as “anti-social” and if inclusion is attempted, the odd duck’s ideas are so far-fetched that the conversation quickly reverts to topics more traditional and less controversial.  

A Recruiter’s Epiphany

Wearing neon makes a statement to the effect of “Look at ME!”  It’s so bright that it can be distracting.  Don’t believe it?  As how the Baylor men’s basketball opponents feel.  The problem with “Look at ME!” is that once you get the attention, you’d better have something substantial lined up to keep it.  You may be told by traditional recruiters that a nicely-formatted resume and a grammatically-correct cover letter on expensive paper sent in an equally-expensive envelope is sufficient.  If you believe that, then answer this:  If that envelope and its contents are all you are using to make an initial impression, how are you any different than any other author of any other cover letter in the world?

If your objective is to stand out in the crowd, you have to go bigger than just neon.  You need to keep your target focused directly on you in a way that makes everything else in the moment seem irrelevant, and I don’t believe two pages of expertly proofread personal documentary is enough to get the job <done>.  In today’s world, the hiring manager across the table needs to see their world in a way that they could have never conceived before meeting you.

Hire ME!!

Yesterday was the second time I’ve been a guest on the local university’s “What Employers Want” panel.  The first time was about 6 years ago.  As I was preparing for the questions the students had been prepped with in advance, it became apparent that even though their questions were going to be the same as always, there was no justice in giving them the same “canned” answers.  Their world (and mine) is exponentially different today than it was even last year.  How is it possible, then, to help students entering the work force in 1-3 years understand these changes?  By applying consumer marketing strategies to the graduate recruiting process.

First, content matters, so be interesting and unique off the paper as well as on it.  Like consumers, employers are faced with interruptions all day long.  Their tolerance for average or traditional cover letters and resumes is fading fast.  You’re going to need to stand out and not only get attention, but maintain it throughout the hiring process.

Second, you need to know yourself better than ever.  You need to know your strengths and weaknesses, and more importantly, be able to visualize yourself already in the organization with which you are applying.  You must communicate precisely what benefit there is to that person for hiring you.

Third, you need to know the prospective organization better than you even know yourself.  Sending out mass numbers of resumes (the marketing principle of “reach”) is going to become less effective, just as sending out mass mailings is becoming for products and services. Return on investment rates will continue declining as the volume of noise and interruption grows.

Finally, instead of “reach”, utilize the strategy of “frequency”.  Identify three or four companies you would absolutely LOVE to work with because of what you learn about their corporate culture, their leadership, their benefits, their promotional opportunities, etc., then begin connecting with people inside the organization at any level you can.  LinkedIn is a great resource for this.  Subscribing to the idea that people do business with people they know, like, and trust, it becomes more likely that a referral from a person inside the organization to a hiring manager would be more enticing than a cold resume submission.

There’s a lot more to come on this subject.  It’s too broad to cover in one post.