Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Market Yourself

I am not a particularly good looking man. My hairline has receded to the point that my friends say I’m balding, and a mysterious bulge has begun to emerge around my mid section. I’m no more intelligent than the next guy, and while I have a flare for the creative, Steve Jobs I’m not. By appearance alone, I am the average, invisible co-worker many of you work with every day.

Appearances can be deceiving. In fact, appearances are deceiving. I have chosen not to be invisible. I have chosen to control other people’s perception of me. And it has worked. I golf with my boss and get invited by the HR girls to karaoke night every week. When big projects come a-knocking, I’m the first person my manager looks at for project leader. I have carefully cultivated my co-workers perceptions of me, using a technique that is so natural, it truly surprises me that very few people do it consciously.

Have you ever thought “I wish I was more like Mark the copywriter”? You know Mark. 45 year old assistants giggle when he winks at them and knock-knock jokes have had a surprising resurgence under his careful tutelage.

The truth is Mark is no better than you. He has merely developed an understanding of how to market himself favorably in a variety of scenarios. In marketing, knowing the demographics and psychographics of your target is the key to success. Where do they eat? Shop? Do they go to church? What kind of movies do they like? The better you know the answers to these and a host of other questions, the more you can tailor your product, service or advertisement to them. Marketers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars buying this information, but you can get it for free at your workplace by simply listening to your co-workers.

Back to Mark. By listening, he discovered that Nancy, the boss’s assistant was divorced four years ago, when she was 41. She enjoys the attention she receives when Mark playfully winks at her, and giggles accordingly. Nobody likes knock-knock jokes. Nobody except the guys in the I.T. department, who Mark overheard previously laughing hysterically at a knock-knock joke of their own. To the outside observer Mark is one suave guy. But in reality, he is just a normal guy who pays close attention the likes and dislikes of his friends and coworkers, and uses this information to build connections with them.

It may be necessary to do plenty of secondary research as you begin to change people’s perception of you. You want to be known as sporty? Well research and play sports. You want people to look to you for answers? Well start reading more. Read the news, fiction, non-fiction books, magazines of all sorts, and read them voraciously. You get the point. To be seen in a specific way, you have to become that perception, even if it is outside of your comfort zone.

Seem disingenuous? It isn’t. Generally speaking, people reserve this type of behavior for their spouses and very close friends. You learn everything you can about them so that you can build a closer relationship, using the things you learn to create the commonalities behind successful partnerships.

Quite simply, knowledge is power. The more you know about those around you, the better you are able to control how they perceive you.

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