Marketing your differentiator

I spent this morning at Emerson College participating on a panel as part of the School of Communication’s “Communication Week”. The Chair of the Emerson Marketing Communications department, John Davis, is passionate about hybriding the strategic and communication aspects of marketing and is building an experienced team of faculty, alumni and outside peers and influencers to enhance the program. I must admit, I didn’t know much about Emerson’s Marketing program and was very impressed by the faculty and students, along with Cathy Waters, Emerson Graduate Marketing Director.

The topic was around the role of marketing in today’s globalized world. I had the pleasure of meeting fellow panelist,  Joan Schneider, president of Schneider Associates. It’s amazing that our paths haven’t crossed until today as she is also a passionate marketer and creative brand thinker – and we tend to agree on alot of points, which is nice when you’re sitting next to someone for almost 2 hours. The conversation kicked-off around launching new products, something Joan and her firm know alot about. Being in start-up land at Currensee, launches usually happen over-night, or so it seems. Joan talked about launch planning and how she helps her clients get ready. Her advice? Start the launch planing while ideas are still ideating. Waiting until the widget comes off the assembly line is often too late to plan all the details and line up the pieces for a successful launch. I spent time talking about launching a social network and how to gain sign-up momentum. The key? Identifying your influencers – the people who are willing to try your product early and tell other people about it. Joan and I both agreed that influencers are everyone from mommy bloggers, to WSJ press to the average consumer. It’s all about figuring out who they are, how to connect with them and what helps them engage with your brand.

We talked alot about social media and how we are using Twitter, Facebook and other social channels to engage customers and how we measure the success of social media. It was a topic that picked up on the themes from last week’s Espresso lunch with friend and colleague, Marta Kagan, where we talked about how social media is creating new channels and new challenges for us as marketers. Before, customers wrote an email or called us to complain. Now we manage the trials and tribulations of upset customers who can do more to damage to a brand in 140 characters than we ever thought possible. Measurement of social engagement, awareness, lead gen and membership is blurring the lines of ROI and marketers often don’t have the time or budget for big measurement products and, quite frankly, they’re not always the answer to the measurement question.

After a great discussion that’s far too detailed to transcribe here, we opened the session to the audience, mostly comprised of students. There were some great questions:

– What do you do when you have a bad press launch? How do you measure that and communicate that to your clients/management team?

– How do you decide what level of writing is appropriate for an audience mixed with newbies and experts?

– How do you find the influencers who can help launch your brand?

– What advice do you have for finding an internship or full-time job?

The last question really stood out to me because it takes marketing full-circle. Marketing is all about identifying the differentiator – the value prop that makes your idea, brand, product or service unique from the other guy’s down the street. Then, once you figure out what that is, you write it down and convey it in everything you do – consistently and emphatically. You talk about it, you Tweet it, you find people to talk about it. The it is the differentiator and the differentiator is the marketing. When it comes to getting a job, the same rules apply. You send me a resume. I look at it. The marketer in me does a few things immediately – 1) Assess the design. Did you just use a Word doc template or did you actually get creative and create a logo or unique format? 2) Check for typos and grammar. I know, it’s so anal but I can’t stand typos in a resume. You want me to hire you but you don’t have the attention to detail to actually proof your resume before you send it to me? Trash can.  3) Scan to figure out what’s different about you. Oh, you know Word, Excel and PowerPoint…yawn. Oh, you were the captain of your lacross team? Hm, team player, competitive, interesting. Oh, you were a sugar plum fairy in the Nutcracker Ballet? Discipline, focus, practice, cool. You started a mentoring program for inner-city kids? Initiative, compassion, giving back. Love it. You did an intership for the summer? Gave up the beach for the office. That’s dedication.

In my book, you have about 30 seconds for your resume to either get my attention or not. I apologize that I have the attention span of a gnat when it comes to stuff like this but I know I am not alone. People are busy. You need to cut through the clutter and create your difference. Whether you’re marketing yourself or a product someone’s going to buy, you’ve got 30 seconds to get your differentiator across, get them to understand it and make them feel like they need it (or you) right now.

And, now, over to you. Are you marketing your differentiator?


5 Responses

  1. Lori Baronian

    March 23, 2010 10:50 pm,

    Great piece. I agree with all your points on the resume, although 10 seconds may actually be a more accurate estimate of how long a resume holds my attention.

  2. Michelle Heath

    March 23, 2010 10:51 pm,

    Hey Lori – yes, you are probably right…10 seconds is more gnat-like than 30:) Thanks for reading!

  3. Michelle Heath

    March 24, 2010 12:13 pm,

    Thanks for making the connection, Amy. It was a great session! Would love to do any other AMA stuff you have coming up. Thanks for thinking of me.

  4. Fango Lin

    March 24, 2010 12:51 pm,

    Hi Michelle, i’m the short-hair Chinese student who really enjoyed your panel yesterday. and so surprised to learn more from your blog.
    Good suggestions about resume and personal branding. Share with you the similar advice from Alexandra Levit ( A career writer). “I do not say, ‘I’m a career writer’, instead, I reply: ‘ I help people find meaningful jobs quickly and easily.’ “

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