Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Marketing Yourself: Your Collateral

I have rebranded many companies during my career. And central to that process are two things - the website and the collateral that you develop. Those are often the primary means of communicating to customers. The web is a topic I'll address in a future post - but your personal collateral is today's topic.

For non marketers the question arises what is collateral? I think of collateral as any leave behind materials. For a business those include datasheets, brochures, case studies, product descriptions, diagrams, photography, presentations, videos, etc. They are a representation of what your company is and tell the story of your product when you are not physically present.

So what is your personal collateral? What represents you to a recruiter, a hiring manager, an HR person, an interviewer? There are several items that can be included - your resume, listings of your publications, your portfolio (though these should never be left behind unless you have copies of everything and are willing to lose it), and your references.

When you develop collateral you need to think about several things. The first is the overall look and feel of the piece - the colors, the fonts, the design style, the length. You should do this with a resume too. You will most likely do your resume submissions on line but you will also want to print out the resume too. It never hurts when you walk into an interview with multiple clean printed copies of the resume - preferably on a nice piece of stationary. It makes it stand out from all the copies mass printed on copier paper.

Make sure the resume is done in a nice readable font. Be sure to make the font size big enough to be seen. Make sure you have a nice balance of white space and dark print (do not put your print in anything but black - you want it to stand out on the page). And be sure that when you print out the resume that it all fits well on the page and that it doesn't look like a solid mass of print. You want to make it easy for people to scan quickly and find the key points. Do use bold - but sparingly - bold is to be used to highlight items. I personally do not like underlining on a page - I find it distracting.

The length for a business resume should be no more than two pages. Yes, yes, I know - but whoever is screening resumes is seldom going to read that third page. All the most important information should be on the first page.

And what is that important information? If you've ever read product literature it is all about features and benefits. What are features and benefits? Features are the things that remain unchanged about a product - it's functions, description (size, speed, capability). Benefits are what that product can do for the user.

Your resume is your product literature - you are the product. You can design your resume by thinking this way - you have a set of skills, experience and expertise, as well as your job history and academic background. This is what you are capable of doing. These must be in the resume. And while everyone wants to make sure you have all the features (see every job description - it is a list of the features they want in the person they hire), it is the benefits that make people select you.

How do you convey benefits in a resume? Those are the bulleted items under each job in your resume that shows how you took the features and made a positive impact on you. If you were buying a toothpaste you would look on that has fluoride - that's a feature. If the toothpaste says it has fluoride and use of the toothpaste has been shown to reduce cavities by 98% - that's the benefit. So people want features but they buy on benefits.

So let's take myself for example - I know how to create collateral, design web pages, develop and implement PR campaigns, and a host of other things. I put all of those at the top of my resume in my skills section - these are the things I know how to do. The check list. If I were a developer I'd write about all the types of systems and code I know how to work with. Then under each job - i.e. Director of Marketing, Anita Borg Institute - I show how I used those skills to positively impact my organization. For example

  • Implemented PR Campaign to support research study deployment; achieved media coverage in Wall Street Journal, Businessweek, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News and an additional 40 major publications.

The reader of the resume says hey I need someone who can do PR campaigns and I want to be in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Or say they want someone who can create a newsletter:

  • Edited and published two newsletters monthly and increased circulation of newsletter by 98% in first year.

So yes I met the checklist item with my yes I can do a newsletter but they're saying - wow she increased circulation. And I don't go into the weeds - I don't tell them how I did it - I save that info for the interview.

The same can be done for any job. Think about how your work impacts the product you are working on as well as the company.

Also, remember to highlight what you did on a resume. Women especially like to say we did this or the team did this. Be sure to highlight your individual contributions on your resume and note the impact overall.

Remember your resume is not a laundry list of everything you've ever done. Be sure to make sure you put your strongest results into the resume. And don't be afraid to tweak the resume before you send it in for a specific job. I always read the job description carefully and review my resume to make sure it meets most of the points the hiring firm is looking for. Just keep track of what version you send out.

If you have experience with a specific industry don't be afraid to namedrop. I once got an interview for a voice mail product marketing position. My experience was with voice mail systems and I listed all the manufacturers I had worked with. It turned out they were hiring for someone to deal with three of those manufacturers on my list. It would have been a great fit. And I would have gotten the job if I hadn't asked what had happened to my predecessor. The interviewer told me in graphic detail how she'd become so unhappy and overstressed in the job she'd killed herself. I was horrified and it showed. Especially since his next question was how well did I deal with stress. Ack!

Most importantly - never present something on your resume that you did not do. I can't tell you how many times I've heard interviewers say - great resume but it was clear they did not do the work themselves. As things have become more competitive and hiring restrictions grow tighter you have an increased chance of being interviewed by multiple people who will ask you about everything on your resume.

I'll be writing more about your personal collateral in the coming days. One final note - be sure to have someone proofread your resume who is very good at the language the resume is written in. If you have a friend who's an English major, English professor, super speller - have them read it. There are things spellcheck will not find for you and trust me someone will notice.

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