Business is personal. The same strategies businesses apply to marketing also work for new graduates looking for jobs. That’s why passion and curiosity, uniquely individual traits, constitute key components of a business plan as well as a job hunt.
At an organizational level, a marketing plan should identify the key benefits to buying your service or product as well as the ideal customer, someone who’ll most gain from those benefits and a relationship with your business. If you’ve invented an aftershave whose aroma causes your preferred gender to suddenly see users as physically attractive, then the ideal customer is probably single, overweight, with asymmetrical features and a poor sense of fashion. The product isn’t going to make a difference to Ashton Kutcher or Orlando Bloom. You might find a few more takers at a comic book convention, however.
Your target customer also has to constitute a good fit for your business. They should make enough money to afford to become a repeat customer. This doesn’t rule out Comic-Con attendees, but you’ll need to filter them. Prospective customers should interact during the purchase process pleasantly and efficiently. If they’re an influencer among their friends, even better.
Once you’ve identified your target customers, explore which channels allow you to find them and establish relationships. Do they transact online? In person?
Finally, what’s the most effective messaging strategy to grab their attention? Unfortunately, trial and error is about the only way to refine your marketing strategy. The most common advice I hear in this area is to measure and test rigorously.
Today’s graduates are in a similar position. They should take a hard look at what they’ve learned and experienced to realistically know what job skills they bring to the table. What benefits would an employer enjoy by hiring them? Next, graduates need to look for the subset of employers that will most benefit from these job skills.
At the same time, graduates want to find employers with desirable attributes to them. Is the employer growing fast, creating additional opportunities? Is the owner willing to act as a mentor? That can be more important than a big starting salary. When you study successful people in business, many of them got a boost from an active mentor and a willingness to learn. Is the industry profitable? Is the non-profit financially stable?
Once target employers are identified, graduates should explore which channels allow them to find them and establish relationships. Are they small business owners active in service clubs? Are they physicians who volunteer at a local clinic? Are they family centered and take their kids to Powderhorn every weekend for the ski program?
Once you’ve identified what you have to offer and how your target employer will benefit from hiring you, figure out what you’re going to say when you meet them. First impressions count, so don’t try to wing it. That “elevator pitch” you practiced in business school? Use that experience to prepare your own introduction.
After landing a job, these same marketing skills come into play. Learn about your company’s key benefits and target customers. Hopefully the business has some existing channels for you to enter. But hopefully during the hiring process you thought about your passions and experience in relation to your company to consider new channels. If your role involves business-to-business relationship selling, get out and meet people.
As you meet new people, don’t forget who’s paying your salary. Craft a new elevator pitch that explains why you love working for a company whose mission is XYZ. Your company’s aftershave helps customers overcome prejudices against people who know more about fantasy heroes than how to find clothes that match so they can be introduced to the vital world of personal relationships. What’s more important than that, right?
Be excited. Be exciting. Be genuine in your efforts to match buyers and sellers. There’s a world of problems that need solved, but nothing happens until two parties agree to transact business. Plan to help as many people as you can.