The idea of “marketing yourself” is challenging for some, but most of us recognise that the way others see us has a major impact on our professional life and that it is vital to give attention to the way we present ourselves to others such as colleagues, clients, potential business partners and prospective employers. Like it or not, you are always selling yourself, whether you are looking for a new job, negotiating a deal or pursuing a business opportunity.
Whatever you are selling – cars, perfume or your own skills and talents – to an employer or customer, the principles of sales and marketing are the same. It won’t do any good to be strong, confident and skilled if you keep it a secret. You must know your strengths and focus on them and at the same time know your weaknesses and minimise them. To be successful, you are going to have to let the rest of the world know about yourself. This checklist applies the principles of sales and marketing at an individual level in order to help you present yourself to the best advantage.
Successfully marketing yourself involves:
- taking a positive attitude
- knowing what you want
- self-confidence: believing in yourself
- increasing your visibility
- reviewing your image
- being enthusiastic and passionate about your work
- seeking professional help and advice where necessary
- networking as much as possible
- making the most of opportunities
- capitalising on your strengths and making them work for you
- using online media tools including social media.
Marketing theory focuses the organisation’s or individual’s attention on the perceived needs and wants of the marketplace. Philip Kotler has defined marketing as a human activity directed at satisfying needs and wants through exchange processes.
For the purposes of this checklist the exchange processes comprise skills, techniques, abilities, competence and image, and they take place between (potential) employer and employee, or between customer and supplier.
Familiarise yourself with the product
Marketing yourself starts with knowing yourself.
You need to know:
- what the product is
- what its strengths and weaknesses are
- what opportunities and threats there are around
- what image the package is projecting
- who the product is directed at
- who is going to buy it
- what is changing around you, and how to react to this innovation.
Look at yourself objectively to identify your skills and qualities. Try to see yourself as if you were an external observer. Watch yourself entering a room; think of the impression you make and what you would want to change.
Be aware of the product’s inherent strengths and weaknesses
Bear in mind that there are three ‘Yous’: who you really are, what you want to be, and what people think you are. Make sure you know all of three!
- how well you can motivate and negotiate
- how well you manage time and keep your promises to others
- how well you cope under pressure
- how often you put off difficult tasks
- how effective you are working on your own or as part of a team
- how flexible and adaptable you are to new challenges and what kind of reaction you will have to forthcoming changes
- how you learn best, and least well – do you like to get on with things, try them and learn as you go, or do you prefer to hold back, reflect and think things through before getting involved?
- whether you are at the peak, trough or in the middle of a learning curve, whether you know what you want to tackle next, or whether you are plateaued – albeit temporarily
- how authentic you appear – be yourself as others will soon realise if you are playing a part.
You may find it helpful at this point to undertake some form of personal assessment, such as the Myers-Brigg indicator.
List product features and benefits
People often describe themselves solely in terms of what they are. Talking in terms of benefits means focusing on how your characteristics will benefit the customer/employer. For example, a willingness to take on responsibility (feature) implies capability to accept more delegated tasks (benefit to employer):
- Punctual, reliable Consistency
- Delivers on time Trustworthiness
- Diligent, productive Cost-effectiveness
- Ambitious Drive and energy
Be aware of product stereotypes
Some jobs are characterised by high turnover (retail, publishing), others as universally ‘solid’ (accounting, teaching), some as exciting and attractive (media, travel), others as intellectual and ‘clever’ (lecturing, journalism). However wrong the stereotype in reality, bear in mind that people’s traditional perceptions will influence their perception of you. Make sure that, if necessary, you act in such a way as to challenge that stereotype so that people know who you really are.
Ensure the quality of the product
To improve product quality, you must learn from your mistakes. Learning to do this is an important part of quality and marketing processes. It helps you to build confidence in yourself and, in turn, others will have confidence in you. Self-confidence is a necessary prerequisite to self-marketing, although excessive confidence can be a turn-off. The contrary is also true: when you don’t believe in yourself, you are only selling yourself short.
You have an image whether you like it or not, so you might as well make the best of it. Think of yourself as a brand, a product in the marketplace. As you go through a working day, remember that everything you do, say and write, adds value to – or takes value from – your own ‘brand’ image.
Recognise that the way you interact with people probably varies from individual to individual; ask yourself what leaves you and them satisfied or dissatisfied, confused or focused. Remember that too much self-deprecation can be as negative as too much self-importance. Focus on the positive – all of us do have weaknesses, but we can work to minimise them.
Review product packaging
Whenever you can, use good design to present to the world the image that will do the most for you. This does not mean turning yourself into a film star; rather, work at things that improve your image and come reasonably easily to you. It may be your notepaper, business card, the way you present a report, how you communicate to groups, the layout of your office, or even just the way you dress. Think about the norms in the market you wish to succeed in, whether they are formal and traditional or edgy and modern.
Before you leave for work tomorrow take a look in the mirror and ask yourself what your clothes tell other people about you. You can be sure that your clothes convey some kind of image, intended or not, so at least be aware of it. Decide if you want to do anything about it. Remember – more than half the image you create is in the way you look. First impressions are important, as it can be difficult to change what people think about you later on, no matter how inaccurate their initial impression may have been.
Your voice is as important as the way you look, and its tone, inflection and accent can inspire confidence – or the opposite – without your knowing or intending it. What mood does your voice convey? Are there things you want to change? It’s not so much what you say but the way that you say it that counts.
Watch your body language – how you walk, whether you constantly fidget with your hands, whether you frown a lot, whether you look directly at people when you talk to them. Learn to relax when the going gets tough – it gives the impression that you are on top of the situation.
Consult friends as to how you are coming across – the odds are that you will be surprised. Remember it is impossible for us to see ourselves as others see us. If your self-image is badly in conflict with the image others have of you, efforts to market yourself may end in disaster.
Create product awareness
Get yourself, your name and your face known. This can be achieved in many ways, for example, by:
- extending your contacts
- getting involved
- writing articles
- doing voluntary or charity work
- getting involved in professional bodies e.g. committees
- speaking up at meetings
- volunteering new ideas
- taking risks
- finding a mentor
- writing and commenting on blogs
- believing in yourself
- being memorable – as long as it is in a positive way.
Be aware too that it is possible to over-cook the goose – too much exposure is as dangerous as not enough.
Promote the product
Make a list of the people or categories of people who need to know about you in order for your skills to be further exploited, for the profitability of your business to increase or for you to make the next move in your career.
Accurate targeting is a vital ingredient of marketing and is more rewarding than the scattergun shot in the dark approach. Give yourself the best chances you can by identifying the profile of your best customer – this should help to identify the profile of your best prospect.
Be aware of the importance of influencing others in a positive way. In his book, Influence, Cialdini describes six principles of influence: authority, consistency, reciprocation, social proof (finding out what other people are doing), scarcity and liking. Think about the benefits of applying these principles – for example, if you are consistent, you are likely to be viewed by others as being both authentic and reliable.
Take advantage of opportunities to promote the product virtually
Nowadays, employers and other contacts are likely to look for information about you online. Try putting your name into an internet search engine and see what the top results are. You may or may not be happy with the results but by being proactive on the web you will be able to influence what people know about you and how they perceive you. However, there are risks involved with an online presence, so do consider:
- how to reflect your personality while still maintaining a professional image
- what information you wish to share
- how much time you wish to devote to virtual tools
- which channels to use e.g. a blog, Twitter or LinkedIn
- what messages you want to send out about yourself
- using privacy settings appropriately.
Whilst web networking has many benefits, remember that it will work best when supported by face-to-face networking and interactions.
Set product targets
Sometimes we can be reluctant to set challenging goals because they seem distant and unreachable. Break daunting processes down into small, achievable steps. Make them SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-scheduled. Don’t think of yourself as starting from Point A and magically arriving at Point Z; instead envisage yourself going through each step, concentrating on getting the detail right, learning from mistakes, and enjoying the fact that you are making progress. Always remind yourself what the objectives are and do not forget to celebrate the short-term wins.