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The Best Marketing Book I've Ever Read (You'll Be Surprised)

Copyright (c) 2007-2018

From time to time someone asks me to recommend marketing books. Here's one of my favorite marketing books that always surprises people.

Curious? Read on.

A TRUE STORY

When I graduated in 1983 with a major in business administration and marketing, I couldn't find a job. The only jobs available for marketing majors back then were in sales. If you were willing to go door-to-door selling copy machines or if you were willing to do telemarketing, there was a job for you. Otherwise, you were waiting tables, working as a receptionist, or working in the mail room.

One thing I knew for sure was that I didn't want a job in sales. No way. I'm an introvert and even back then I knew that a job where I was in constant contact with people (who often didn't want to be in contact with me) would quickly fry me to a crisp.

Nope. The only marketing job that interested me was marketing research. I wasn't even sure what exactly marketing research was. I just knew I wanted to learn why people bought (or didn't buy) things because to me, understanding customers was the logical starting point in sales and marketing. In some ways I was lucky to be so focused. On the other hand, I didn't have the first clue about how to get a job in this field.

Fortunately, the career center at the University of Illinois offered a suggested reading list for job seekers and one of the books was Richard Nelson Bolles' wonderful book: What Color is Your Parachute.

Parachute has been around since 1972 and is updated annually to account for new trends and technologies. What's really interesting, however, is that the book's primary message and job hunting strategy has changed very little in 35 years. In a nutshell Parachute's prescription is:

1.) Most jobs, particularly higher paying ones, are rarely advertised. Therefore, the best and fastest way to find a well-paying job in your field is through your network

2.) The more unique and sophisticated your skills, the higher a salary you can command.

3.) All companies have problems and they hire people to make those problems go away.

Using What Color is Your Parachute helped me land a job with a top Chicago advertising agency. I never, NEVER, would have gotten that job by answering a newspaper ad or by sending my resume to the HR department. It was through a connection that I learned about the job and got an interview with the person who had the authority to hire me.

A JOB SEARCH IS A VERY SPECIALIZED FORM OF MARKETING

When you're looking for a job you are basically marketing yourself in a specific context, as someone whose skills, experience, and knowledge will help an employer solve problems and get things done.

Your marketing materials are things like cover letters, resumes, business cards, and in some cases work portfolios.

Statistically, the very best way to find a job, where the odds are most in your favor, is by asking people you know about job openings at the place where they work. In fact 89% of job seekers who use this method find a job. This beats the heck out of the Internet (1%), mailing resumes (7%), and answering newspaper ads (5-24% where the higher the salary the less likely newspaper ads work).

THAT'S NICE BUT I'M NOT LOOKING FOR A JOB, I'M LOOKING FOR PAYING CUSTOMERS

So what does all this have to do with helping you, the small business owner, attract more business?

Lesson #1 Know What Works and Do It

I realize this may sound to you like a blinding glimpse of the obvious. Yet, most business owners are unsure about the best way to get the word out about their products and services. I often observe business owners doing what "everyone else" is doing: making cold calls, using direct mail (like postcards), using brochures, and brochure-style websites (basically what's on your brochure but online). This is the equivalent of the job seeker using the most ineffective techniques: sending resumes, answering ads, and posting their resume of Monster.com.

The most effective way to get great clients and customers is by word of mouth and referral. Period. It's not the comfortable way because it means you have to ask people for help. But in my experience it is what works.

People often assume you need to stand in line to get in the front door and then pass muster with the gatekeepers. They forget that by knowing someone inside, they can also get in through the back door, side door, or windows. It takes some asking and ingenuity but it sure beats standing in line hoping to get in the door.

Lesson #2 Don't be a commodity

When employers advertise for jobs they usually post at least part of the job description. Most job descriptions are not much more than glorified check lists. For example, a job description for an administrative assistant might include:

  • Proficiency with spreadsheet and word processing software
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Using online travel services to make travel arrangements
  • Attention to detail and follow through skills
  • and so on...

    How many people do you think can claim these skills? Quite a few. Companies that advertise for persons with these skills are usually deluged with thousands of resumes.

    Although no human being is a commodity, the way we describe ourselves can create that perception in a potential employer. In our desire to fit a job description, we tend to reduce our skills to the lowest common denominator thinking that if the employer can check 9 out of 10 boxes we'll get the interview.

    The problem is that there's still a lot of competition. There are a lot of people who can check those boxes and many may be willing to do it for a lower salary than you.

    The only way to command a higher salary and be seen as a desirable, scarce resource is to claim the highest level of skill you legitimately can. Lots of people can answer the phone. Very few people can speak to an irate customer in a way that not only calms them but has them feeling good about doing business with the company. Now THAT is a high level of skill.

    When you can claim mastery of one or more high-level skills, you automatically move out of the commodity zone because very few people can claim the exact same "cluster" of high-level skills. When you look for work from this position, you have very few competitors. And, although, there may be no known job listed for your unique skill set, it's not unusual for employers to create positions that are tailored to someone's particular skill set.

    The same applies to marketing. Your marketing message needs to go beyond "We know how to put ink on paper" or "we do workshops and training seminars." Messages like these say exactly nothing about why your prospects should choose you from the hundreds of businesses saying the same thing.

    You need to tell your prospects what you do in a way that immediately communicates what makes your product or service special. What makes you uniquely qualified to be their best choice.

    Lesson #3 Talk about the problems you solve

    Another enlightening idea for me has been the idea that employers don't hire "bakers" or "marketing directors" or "landscape architects." Yes, I know--that's what the job postings in the classifieds say. That's the first or second sentence in their job description.

    But really, they are hiring someone with the right combination of skills, experience, knowledge, and attitude who will help them with their problems. And this, more than anything else, will help you find a really good job. Why? Because employers pay to make problems go away. They will pay quite a bit. And they'll especially pay, if, by solving problems, you enlarge their bottom line.

    Same goes for marketing your small business. When you introduce yourself do you say something like, "Hi, I'm Jerry, I'm a real estate agent," or "Hi, I'm Ann, I'm a Six Sigma consultant." This tells the other person very little about what they really want to know, especially in business networking situations, what you can do for them.

    Instead, tell people right away what you can do for them. For example, a real estate agent might say, "Hi, I'm Jerry, I help first time home buyers find a starter home that's perfect for them." The process improvement consultant might say, "Hi, I'm Ann I help small manufacturing companies reduce their rework costs by 25%."

    Doing this requires you to select a more specific niche market and to be clear about the results you produce but it also enables you to stand out in a very positive way from a sea of competitors. Not only that, but it creates an immediate opening for a continuing conversation.

    FINAL WORD

    Although it will rarely appear on a recommended reading list for marketers, "What Color is Your Parachute," remains one of the best books I've read to date on what it takes to be a successful small business marketer.


    About The Author: Shop Amazon - Top Gift Ideas
    Judy Murdoch helps small business owners create low-cost, effective marketing campaigns using word-of-mouth referrals, guerrilla marketing activities, and selected strategic alliances. To download a free copy of the workbook, "Where Does it Hurt? Marketing Solutions to the problems that Drive Your Customers Crazy!" go to http://www.judymurdoch.com/workbook.htm
    You can contact Judy at 303-475-2015 or judy@judymurdoch.com

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