I’ve Been Thinking about . . .
. . . about a conversation in college.
“Susie B., ” I said. “I envy you.”
“Oh, really? Why?”
“You’re the kind of person who knows exactly where you’re going. You move through the alphabet from A to B to C and so on. Me? I have to go from A all the way to Z and then I land on B just like you. Then I’m off again to Z before I can find my way back to C again.”
. . . about the interview question.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?”
The right answer is NOT “It depends.”
. . . about a recent comment from a friend.
“I’ve never seen you do anything in a straight line. You’ll always be such fun to watch.”
On good days, I think of it as creative, flexible, and original. On not so good ones, I think of it as chaotic, undisciplined, and unrefined. I’ve learned you go with what you got — manage to your strengths and shore up your weaknesses.
For me that means, stopping often to figure out what I’m doing wrong.
This time it’s serious. I’ve been doing Reverse-Wrong Zig-Zag Marketing.
No wonder folks don’t understand.
If you’re having a problem defining your brand, turn the page and read on.
Undo Reverse-Wrong Zig-Zag Marketing in 5 Easy Steps
Reverse-Wrong Zig-Zag Marketing is something that freelancers seem to do a lot. It’s a tricky aphrodisiac of business in that it can seem that we’re exactly on the right path, planning our goals and working the plan. The problem with Reverse-Wrong Zig-Zag Marketing is that it involves defining ourselves by what we’re NOT — rather than by what we are.
I left a big job in educational publishing and turned another one down because I was a product person there. I didn’t want that anymore.
The world of work is like the world of movies. It’s easy to get typecast, and I was. I had turned around companies, strategied futures, built and launched complete marketing efforts, but my title said, VP Publisher, Educational Print and Online Products and every CEO I talked to told me that’s what I was, that’s what I would be.
That wasn’t what I wanted. I’d already been that. It was fun. Now it was someone else’s turn.
So my response was to do exactly everything that I should not.
I discounted all I knew. I put my hard-earned experience away so that no one could see it. I started fresh with only the unrelated skills I had. Two things happen as a result.
- Much of the work I get paid for is still related to my old work, because that’s where my expertise is most-widely known and valued. I have credibility and contacts there.
- When new people ask me what I do, they get a sketchy version of the story. I’ve worked at making sure people don’t see me as that Product VP, but I’ve not stopped to draw a clear picture of what I am.
I haven’t really left the old job. And here’s the Reverse-Wrong Zig-Zag Marketing tactic really at work . . .
I’ve kept my most powerful skill sets a secret because of the job I didn’t want.
Why would anyone do that?
How I Found Out the Mistake I Made
I was meeting with a possible partner about a potential client. He asked what I would be discussing with the client-to-be. I told him that there were things I thought the man needed to know. I listed a few.facts along that line. My friend asked the key question then. “Why would he need to know these things about you?”
That’s when I realized what was wrong. “Because he knows of a lifetime of talent, a hint of a past, and two years experience. If he’s looking to use me to my fullest potential, he needs to know what I’m really good at.”
He needed a COMPLETE definition of my skills, my unique value, my brand.
How to Undo Reverse-Wrong Zig-Zag Marketing in 5 Easy Steps
Here’s what I did, and you can do, to undo the problem of Reverse-Wrong Zig-Zag Marketing in 5 easy steps.
1. Get to know and list your intangibles. All you know and all you are has value. Everything that comes naturally to you is valuable too. Take days to do this. Ask friends to help you. Friends often see what we discount.
Phil says that I’m a Relationship Geek. Peg says I’m the most curious person she knows. Lucas says that he’s never met anyone who has less guile or cares more about doing things right and being fair.
I bet your friends say things like that about you too. You should know those things folks value.
2. Give every bit of your life a job title with a tagline that folks can hold onto. Write a job description if you need one so that you know exactly what you mean.
I’m a Print/Literacy Specialist. I know how folks interact with print. I’ve taught first-graders, 13-year-olds and adults who couldn’t read, I’ve written books for the folks who teach them. I know how the brain functions in doing that.
I’m a Product Strategist and Innovator. I plant seeds that grow companies. I review product lines for validity, structure, and offer innovative ideas that steal market share. I’ve written plans that have turned around companies.
I’m a Saloonkeeper’s daughter. I build communities where folks feel at home.
4. Use those job titles to make a short list of the services you have to offer.
Product Innovation Strategist
Writer/Blogger and Blogging Consultant
5. Write one page that explains what you do. Put that page on your blog and on paper. Have it with you whenever you’ll be where business might happen.
I’m in the world of Straightforward Marketing again. This world is so much easier. I can talk about what I do without confusing anyone. I can see my value without having to think about who I’m talking to or saying what it is I DON”T want to do.
I’ve been through the whole alphabet and made back here.
Who knows where I’ll be in 5 years? I’ll still be blogging in a not so straight path, but I’ll keep checking that I can still articulate my unique value. Unique is nothing, if you can’t explain what it does.
So what do you do? Really.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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