A couple of years ago, I took a position in corporate marketing. At first, I thought I made a mistake accepting—it had a nice salary bump, so I convinced myself that it was good for my career. But the more I pondered upon it, the more it appeared to me that I made a rather hasty decision, and the job was a bad fit for my personality—as an introvert, I don’t exactly have a penchant for being outspoken and bubbly all day long.
However, almost a year into it, I was grateful for the opportunity. More importantly, I trust that what I learned on the job has helped me tremendously in many ways. I was able to “go out of my shell” and become less shy; coworkers who often passed me by as if I was invisible suddenly greeted me by name; my boss was finally able to see “how my contribution to the job aligned with the corporate goals.” I was in a good place, it seemed.
Of course, it all came at a price. It took me a long time to mentally prime myself every morning; I made the washroom my favorite hideout place to seek solitude and peace; it felt wearing to talk to more than a couple of people during the day as I was used to. I was so drenched of mental energy every night, that all I can do after work was to cuddle on the couch with my son’s teddy bear for comfort.
But it seems like wisdom can come from the most unexpected sources (even if it’s painful at first).
What I learned from the world of marketing has been more than just how to become chattier and perhaps more socially adaptable. I learned how to enhance the brand, called “Me.” It’s an incessant exercise in self-feedback and self-improvement. It’s effortful—true—but the advantages are real.
Of course, marketing gurus have been preaching about the benefits of personal branding for a long time. And the ideas and approaches, I have discovered from my time on the job, are no different than in corporate advertising. Similar tricks and tips that can make a company climb up to stardom (backed up by a good product or service, naturally) can bump up our personal and professional stock.
So, what are some of the lessons I learned? Some are perhaps not revolutionary but, nevertheless, will be good reminders for many, I hope.
1. The Human Factor
Probably the easiest way to make others like us and bend to our decisions and opinions is to glorify them a bit and make them feel special in some way. People-reading skills are quite important here since everyone has different soft spots. For one, it may be the way they dress, for others- their cute kids, and for another – their achievements. Whatever the “igniting factor,” you have to try to find it and make a connection. The most effective marketing messages strike a personal note with a group of people. Thus, even the toughest boss can be won over once you appeal to their human side.
2. Make People Laugh
Clever or subtle humour always works in marketing. If done properly, people will remember it and the message that goes with it. Humour is not only the best medicine but also the best ice-breaker. It’s no secret that if a decision-maker or your boss likes your jokes, you can quickly become part of the “in-circle.” Everyone looks favourably on people that make them feel better. Don’t overdo it, though— remember that court jesters were not respected for their brains. The art of telling a smart joke lies in intelligence. Hence, read a lot, keep yourself updated and never miss a chance to accentuate your work-related skills after a good anecdote.
3. Social Chameleon-ism
Social chameleons don’t deserve all the bad publicity and criticism they receive. The term is not equal to a hypocrite. It simply means that, in order to succeed personally and professionally, we need to learn to adapt to other people. We don’t have to change who we are. Rather, just show different parts of our personality depending on the audience, so we can better relate to others.
For instance, you wouldn’t talk to your boss about pets if you know they don’t own one. Exactly as you would never target retired people for the latest iPhone, or advertise retirement homes in Costa Rica to teenagers. “One size fits all” never works well in marketing. Therefore, always know your end goal, your target audience and adjust accordingly.
4. Look the Look
The best marketing messages always have some memorable element—bright colours, something that stands out in the grey mass. We live in a very material world and that’s barely a secret to anyone. Life is busy, people’s attention spans are getting shorter, snap judgements are becoming more prevalent.
If you want to be remembered, make sure you have something to remember you for. Research shows that it takes few seconds for others to form an opinion of us, and it also comes from the way we dress and carry ourselves. It’s worth it to spare few extra minutes in the morning to make yourself look neat and composed. Never underestimate the influence looks can have on a materialistic mind.
5. Details, Details, Details
A small neglected detail or a typo will often ruin the whole effect of a carefully planned marketing endeavour. Details on all levels are very important. For instance, remembering specifics about co-workers and showing genuine interest in them on a personal level can go a long way. Don’t ignore people based on their importance in the corporate hierarchy. Lower-ranking employees give feedback to superiors too, and can influence negatively your reputation. Word-of-mouth is not a minor detail to overlook.
6. Plan in advance, if possible
Always have certain go-to words and phrases to use at work. Never say the first thing that comes to your mind. The more important the impact we want to make is, the greater the need to prepare. Even the best public speakers practice in advance. It will help you appear more confident and in control, and anticipate tough questions. Write your speech (or the main points) beforehand, consider any weak points in your arguments and think of ways to address them if asked. After all, success comes down to how well we can tell our story and sell our brand to the world. And this takes preparation.
7. Honesty and feedback
Criticism is often needed and should be welcomed but some people get offended when you tell them the whole truth straight-up. Be gentle and avoid being brutally honest, unless highly necessary. Remember that there are at least a hundred ways to communicate a message. Chose less hurtful words—for instance, in corporate marketing we will rarely say “we won’t extend our contract because you are a cheap client and we don’t like you,” but rather “we respect your business but we believe that another partner may be able to meet your needs in a more efficient way.” Makes all the difference.
In the end, I consider that knowing a thing or two about marketing tools (and using them) can advance us plenty in our careers. After all, we live in the heyday of (self) promotion. In fact, as some wise men tell us, today, marketing does rule the world.
What’s more—it all strikes a personal note with many, I believe. Without letting ourselves known to others—as many of us perhaps have grasped already— the chances of being discovered for the great person that we are, are, at best, slim.
It’s like shooting darts in the dark and hoping we will hit the bull’s eye by a stroke of luck. The better strategy, of course, is to be proactive and give our good fortune a hand.
And the best part? It’s really not that effortful as it all sounds, with the right motivation.
Or as Tom Peters tells us: “It’s this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else.”
Evelyn Marinoff is a Canadian, currently living in Dublin, Ireland. She is a blogger, a social introvert, an MBA, a passionate reader and a writer in the making. She spends her free time reading, writing and researching new and intriguing ideas in psychology, leadership, well-being and self-improvement. You can also find her on Twitter at @Evelyn_Marinoff, or read her blog at mind-chatters.com