Back in October 2021, we posted a story on how to apply the 4 ps of marketing—product, position, price, and promotion—to your job search. Career marketing is such a powerful strategy for you that we want to revisit it again today from a different perspective. The concepts I’d encourage you to think about include:
- Market research,
- Identifying your ideal customer,
- Personalizing your marketing message, and
- If you cannot avoid it, feature it!
You’ll find that you are familiar with these ideas, even if you have never marketed or sold anything. We just call them different things in the job search world.
Much of what we do during our job search would be considered market research by marketing professionals. Marketers at companies want to gather information about their potential customers, such as the products and services they buy, the prices they are willing to pay, and a wide variety of demographic information.
During our job search we refer to our market research as job market research or company research. Our research goal may be to identify companies that hire people with our expertise, whether or not they are hiring now, and the salary or “price” these companies are willing to pay for the expertise they need.
Market researchers often conduct interviews or focus groups with potential customers to learn more about them. While we cannot organize focus groups of prospective employers, (unless we represent a student group or job club) we can search LinkedIn or our own address book for people that work in companies that interest us, and arrange to speak with them either in person or on Zoom. We can even tell them our purpose is to learn more about their business or industry, rather than telling them we are seeking employment so they are more open to speaking with us.
The most interesting part of job search to me was that it gave me the opportunity to speak with people in the industry or function it would ordinarily be inappropriate to contact. For example, it may not be possible to speak with a manager at a competing company and ask them questions about their department.
LinkedIn is a powerful job market research tool. You can search by job title and company to find a list of people in your network that are in the job and company that interests you. Their profiles will show you the level of experience they have, and their schooling. That means you will know the “real” requirements for your target job—not just the requirements HR has enumerated in the job announcement.
Identify Your “Ideal Customer.”
Sales trainers like to talk about identifying your ideal customer, or “avatar” before you try to sell a product or service. As job seekers, we identify our “ideal customer” when we specify the kind of company we want to work for. This usually means narrowing your search to include companies in a specific city, region, and industry. Often, we can name the department or function within the company, such as accounting or engineering that would be the customer for the service we offer. Our chances to find employment that matches our skills and experience improve as we become more specific about the company, location, and function.
It seemed counterintuitive to me at first when, years ago, I learned it was a good idea to narrow my target audience for job search correspondence. After all, wouldn’t I get a job faster if I simply apply to everyone, everywhere? There are job seekers that use mass marketing strategies such as this, but it’s inefficient. You might eventually reach the desired employer if you randomly reach out to thousands of employers, but it’s more likely you will miss the connection.
Personalize the Marketing Message.
You have probably noticed ads and other marketing messages online that seem to be targeted at you, personally. There are systems that identify the kinds of goods and services you are searching for, and then direct messages about these goods and services to you.
As job seekers, we should personalize our messages, too. This means creating specific letters, emails, and resumes for each job we apply for instead of sending everyone the same letter and resume.
An engineer I knew started his career in 1964 by using his school’s IBM 1620 computer and printer to generate original letters for dozens of aerospace companies. Each hiring manager felt special because they received an original, typed letter (they thought) instead of the standard letter they received with a photocopied resume from everyone else in the class of ’64. As a result, most of the companies interviewed Dick. He received several offers, and ultimately spent most of his career at the company that hired him where he made important advances in radar and microwave technology.
Today, nearly all of us have access to the hardware and software we need to generate personalized letters and resumes, so we should do it.
If You Can’t Avoid It, Feature It!
My favorite classic marketing strategy is to feature some aspect of your background you cannot avoid. Marketers do this all the time. For example, fruit sinks to the bottom of a yogurt cup, so the yogurt makers advertise “fruit on the bottom!”
Use this technique to feature your pandemic break, or your break to raise children. Chances are, you have not been binge-watching streaming TV all day. Feature your volunteer work, service to professional organizations, or even projects you did for friends and family. This is just a sampling of the marketing techniques you can use to advance your career. We’ll be writing about others in upcoming posts.