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BY Lisa Durante

What Is Marketing — And How Can You Use It To Advance Your Career?

By Lisa Durante

woman devising marketing plan

Photo credit: © sepy / Adobe Stock

What is marketing? If you’ve been in the workforce for at least a year or two, you’ve likely come across various terms and job titles associated with marketing — among them marketing strategy, content marketing, marketing management, digital marketing, business-to-business marketing, email marketing, and marketing communication.

With so many different roles and function, it's a big question that may best be served by understanding what marketing is not. Whether or not you’re applying for a marketing job, it’s important to understand the process and people behind marketing, because any company or business — whether it’s obvious or not — has some sort of marketing strategy.

The marketing concept may be related to sales, but marketing isn't selling. Sure, making a sale is one of the outcomes of successful marketing communication, but it's far from the whole picture.

Marketing also isn't telling, granted there is a lot of communicating when you’re marketing. And, marketers create brochures, webpages and other social media assets and materials to list out a company’s services or describe its products. But, this one activity doesn’t encompass all that marketing is or does.

So, what is marketing, then? In my biased opinion (based on more than 15 years in the industry), marketing is teaching. Marketers, or anyone with a marketing job, are teaching, explaining, educating consumers why they should buy a product, invest in a service or trust a brand.  

And, it’s the very thing we all need to do more of when it comes to our careers.

If you want a new job, a promotion, a pay raise, a more flexible schedule, the option to telecommute from work, or perhaps you want to shift careers into a new industry or you want to prove you’re still in the game after becoming a mama - the principles of marketing can help strategically direct your career.

Here’s how:

Start with a marketing plan.

No marketing effort - at least a successful one - has ever begun without a plan. It starts with asking a few key questions: Where have I been? Where am I now? Where do I want to go? How do I get where I want to go? What skills or opportunities do I need? What barriers are standing in my way? And the list goes on. The aim of asking questions is to uncover your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as they stand within the context of your current situation.

Understand your audience.

Like with sales, you can’t succeed in marketing without really understanding your target market. Just as companies work to understand their consumers, you, too, need to really get to know your target audience. Be they a current manager or a potential one, or any other individual who has influence over your career path, you want to be sure to understand the qualities they appreciate, their likes, dislikes, their expectations of new employees, promoted employees or whatever it is you’re aiming to become to them. It’s also important for you to understand the ideas or biases that have shaped their thinking to this point and what you may need to do to support or counter those ideas.  

Determine your positioning.

Once you truly know and understand your target markets, you next step is to figure out how to best position or differentiate your product - in this case you. This requires thinking through your attributes to identify those most relevant, telling and enticing to your target market. Are you the most capable, bring the most unique experiences, perhaps you have the most drive, or the strongest client relationships. What is it that you have that sets you apart from the competition that your target market needs or wants.

Create a strong marketing mix.

Your marketing mix, or as the industry has coined it the “Four P’s”, is your strategy. Begin with your product or content. This is you, but it’s you as whatever it is that you want to become to the individuals you are targeting. So, you have to brand yourself. It could be you as a new employee, you as a team leader, you as a committed working mother.  

Next, the focus is on place - the channels and people who’ll connect you to your target market and promote your product. If you’re looking for a new job, for example, you could use a headhunter to share your resume or perhaps you can leverage your social media network to make the necessary introductions. With all the options available today, be sure to select a good mix of channels that will be available and readily accessible to your target market.  

The third P is all about price. If you’re looking for a new job or a promotion, this could mean negotiating a specific salary expectation, or other forms of compensation like additional holidays. But, price also means value - the value your product offers your intended buyer. Here’s a tip: you don’t necessarily have to be the cheapest product, so be sure to present a value proposition that will woo your target market to invest in you.

Finally, there’s promotion. This will require creatively considering how you’ll promote your product to ensure your potential customer will buy it. You could try selling it with a concise elevator pitch or telling them about some key features, but it’s likely you won’t get very far. To promote your product effectively, you’ll want to explain, demonstrate, exemplify - in essence, teach - your intended buyer why investing in you is the best option for them.

As with any marketing plan, time is required. Sure, we see more and more companies trying to get into the “viral” game with digital marketing and online marketing - but with little science backing what actually works, there are more misses than hits. To be effective, then, you’ll want to consider what you can do today that will build awareness and trust in you and your product that could get you closer to your goals.

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Lisa Durante is a working mama who believes in the power of AND. She offers strategies, resources and programs that empower mothers to return to their careers. Get new tips and free resources every week at LisaDurante.com.

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