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Personal Branding: Self-Marketing for the Modern Marketer

Marketing isn’t advertising.

It seems a simple proclamation, but most non-marketers I’ve met think of it as salesmanship on a broadcast scale, and nothing much else. I’m always happy to offer a different perspective.

Marketing is a set of activities and strategies that are deeply embedded in various parts of a business, both public-facing and behind-the-scenes. It’s the stuff you do to sell things, yes, but that involves making the right things in the first place, and finding out a lot about your customers.

To be clearer, marketing isn’t just advertising.

It’s not just blogging, tweeting, running TV ads, and throwing money at Facebook campaigns.

I am a marketing professional and student, and part of this entails defining all the different bits of what we do. The Chartered Institute of Marketing — with whom I’m studying for my diploma — define marketing as:

“… the management process for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

A little dry, but concise. You’ll notice it doesn’t really imply advertising.

When businesses want the world to know how amazing they are, they’ll often seek out a marketer. I wish they’d know it goes a little deeper than just attention-grabbing promotion.

Here’s another definition from the American Marketing Association:

“… the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organisational objectives.”

Boom! We’re getting closer.

I like that one. It’s comprehensive.

One last list. The famous Marketing Mix framework;

  • Product.
  • Price.
  • Promotion.
  • Place.
  • Process.
  • People.
  • Physical evidence.

Covering each of these is considered by many to be essential to the strategic marketing process.

The mix is a contentious point across the marketing world; some find it out-of-date and useless, others feel that it’s timeless and deserves a place in every marketer’s toolkit. Any effective marketer needs to be able to understand and contribute to multiple business areas and processes to effectively achieve the goals of the business — which often, when we really drill down to it, is about making more money.

In my eyes, marketing is the encouragement of positive change and growth for a business, by way of exchange. Oiling the cogs and clearing the icebergs. Without it, businesses would grind to a halt. Those that stop swimming generally don’t float. And there you have the mission.

Exchanges don’t happen without value for both parties. We create value and we communicate it.

Photo by Adam Fossier on Unsplash

The meta-issue in 2018 is that modern marketers now have to market themselves as well as they market a business — which, as you’ll be aware, is exactly what I’m doing now. This can be challenging for those that prefer to work behind the scenes, but introverts are able to write effective stories about themselves without having to get up on stage.

This represents the shifting of the CV from a printout in a filing cabinet to a matter of public record. The record of what I’ve done is now online, but so also are the things I’ve done. Show your work.

If we are the agents of change within business, we must be able to activate that change within our own careers too, lest we grind to a halt.

An interesting exercise: when thinking about one’s career as a marketer, can we apply the mix framework?

  • Product: Can I satisfy someone’s needs?
  • Price: Is my compensation fair for what I provide?
  • Place: Am I available to those who need me?
  • Promotion: How am I communicating my value?
  • Physical evidence: Are there tangible records of my achievements?
  • Process: In what ways am I delivering (and how am I performing?)
  • People: Can I be replaced by someone (or something) else?

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

This idea of personal branding, which many rightly shudder at, seems to be a critical one for the future of work.

This is explored in The Economist’s MegaTech book, in an essay by Lynda Gratton on Work and the Rise of the Machines. Gratton writes on ‘re-envisaging the employment relationship as a lifelong alliance,’ as follows:

Talented people will use technological platforms to create value for themselves. They may be prepared to work within a company, but then want to leave to start their own business, returning later as a client or employee. So the emphasis will be on forging long-lasting relationships that outlive the formal employment term.

In a world where employee loyalty is fading, portfolio careers are taking over, and the world of employment becomes ever-more competitive, utilising the full marketing process might be the most important form of marketing overall.

Can we keep our human freedom while packaging ourselves into consumable assets of employer value?