“What am I really selling?…”
I dropped out of the workforce for one solid year to make a go with my spouse-partner as an internet retail marketer. The bonfire of our failure was brilliant, but I want to pull some of the valuable lessons I learned out of the embers for you. We are going to continue to discuss the SWOT analysis, but before we do, let us build a reference point.
At the very beginning of a career marketing campaign, one question needs to be asked and solidly answered: “what am I really selling?’ The clearer the picture of what the real item on the market is, the clearer and more powerful a job seeker’s “unique selling value statement” or “selling value proposition”will be. Again, the career guidance field dips into the retail sales well for its language.
Here is the doggy bag I took away from a not-so-delicious feast at the e-commerce dinner: Fashion catalogs do not sell clothing, but a solution to a customer’s need. For example, there was one formal length gown with faux goldfish strewn on its skirt I carried on the e-commerce site just before availability of bids for the Presidential inaugural ball became public. I did not just tell customers it was a full-skirted, sea-green gown. Through its description I led them into a fantasy of appearing at the President’s inaugural ball wearing it. I was selling to a well-heeled, fashionable power-sized woman who wanted to be seen and remembered at that party. Queen Boadicea was going to be the belle of the ball.
Central to marketing a package of talents and skills is knowing what need the product will fulfill in what specific niche. There are customers for certain products of the same kind up and down in the price range. A customer who wants outdoor furniture could shop at Home Depot or at Front Gate, but the two shoppers may come from different demographics. Dishes: shop for them at Target or shop for them at Tiffany & Co. Similar product/different niches, each marketed appropriately. Now, this drives the next set of questions:
- Who am I selling to?
- What is my niche?–am I Dollar House or am I Bloomingdale’s?
- What do my customers/potential employers need?
- What/which product do I deliver to satisfy that need?
- Why should a customer/employer choose my product over somebody else’s? (Unique Selling Value)
This is it: people buy “value”, not just goods. So, when someone answers, “I’m an administrative assistant” (product name) at a networking meeting, what is she really selling? She is really selling order, stability, ability to handle different circumstances, professionalism, dependability, integrity, discretion, good crisis management, judgement, high level problem solving, project management ability, clear thinking, wise advice and the occasional cup of tea. These are needs that must be fulfilled by a manager’s assistant though the usual job description yaks on and on about “must blah blah MS Office products”.
What a job seeker is really selling should be in that “Value Proposition Statement” in some form somewhere near the top of a resume. Selling value proposition statements seem to also have an honest, pure, naturally high density of key words in them. Almost sounds like a health drink for careers.