What’s The Best Form of Self Marketing?

Viva Voce (WOM)

I’ve worked in digital marketing for over 15 years. First, it was for small online businesses I launched from home. Then I got into corporate marketing for several retailers. Now, it’s primarily freelance for one person … me as a writer.

During my corporate marketing years, I learned about the different effects between ‘push’ and ‘pull’ marketing approaches. In simple terms, writer Tanya Robertson describes the difference in this way: “From a business perspective, pull marketing attempts to create brand loyalty and keep customers coming back, whereas push marketing is more concerned with short-term sales.”

Most of my time at corporate was spent pushing. Trying to be at the right place, at the right time with the right offer. The Internet made that so much easier and Google was our best friend. Not only did their products — AdWords, Product Ads, and once upon a time, Google Affiliate Network — give us the best return on our investment, our Google friends always came to visit us and treat us like royalty. I had every reason to keep pushing.

Interesting. Google is great at pull marketing.

For me, the biggest challenge with the push approach is that you become insatiable. You always want more. Always looking for something to increase year-over-year marketing revenue while maintaining efficient advertising spend. It’s exhausting.

Obviously, pushing for growth is important. We all want to keep growing. It feels great to make big strides. And in business, it helps keep the doors open and the lights on.

That said, in retrospect, I wish I spent more time on pull marketing. Effective pulling still requires a lot of effort. What I like about it is that it’s focused on the long game. It focuses on developing relationships more than one-and done transactions.

What about personally?

Whether you’re looking for that next promotion or interviewing for a new job, you have to market yourself at some point. There are countless ways to push market yourself. Perhaps you have an online portfolio or blog that you share. Maybe you’re active on LinkedIn with a well-crafted profile. Some use their social channels to push messages to their followers and friends. I’ve been spending a lot of time on many of those things. Not so much to get a new job, but to develop as a writer.

It can be frustrating.

Like when I was deep in e-commerce, I still spend a lot of time with the analytics and other reports. Constantly refreshing data dashboards to see if the needle is moving in the right direction. Though now — instead of traffic, conversions, and revenue — I’m looking at views, likes/recommends, shares and follows. I get encouraged when there’s a spike in activity. When the trend is down week-over-week or month-over-month, I feel like I’m doing something wrong.

That’s not the only reason I’m frustrated though.

I’m also frustrated because I feel I’ve lost focus on what’s really important. Rather than just practicing for the sake of continuous improvement, I’m putting too much weight on the immediate metrics at the expense of the higher-level goal. I find myself choosing topics, or adjusting my writing, to see if I can generate more green hearts. It’s beginning to feel like I’m slowly losing myself in the process. As much as I preach the value of being yourself and being comfortable in your own skin, I still succumb to doing not-really-me things for the attention. For the immediate gratification of external validation. To improve my marketability.

I keep pushing. And I’m tired. There’s got to be a better way.

Word of Mouth (WOM) About You = Your Reputation

This morning, as all of these thoughts were dominating my free association time, I remembered that the best form of marketing is a kind of pull marketing — word of mouth, sometimes referred to as viva voce. In marketing, the acronym is WOM, or in the digital realms, eWoM (Electronic Word of Mouth).

From a marketing perspective, the beauty of WOM is that you can pretty much consider it free, and other people are doing the work for you. People spread the word because they want to, not because you’re paying them. Most likely because they had such a great experience, they can’t help but share it with a friend. If the experience was really share-worthy, they’ll be telling the story to many friends. And because the story is not directly coming from you, it doesn’t come across as bragging. Marketing doesn’t get much better than that.

I’m shifting my marketing approach to pull, working in a way that encourages others to share. I’ll still push occasionally, just not to the point of obsession.

If enough people start talking, maybe I’ll start developing a reputation. Hopefully it’s a good one.

Developing a Good Reputation

I’ve had my share of bad reputations growing up. In college, apparently I was considered a “player” with the ladies. During my career as a department manager, I was known for being “fluffy” with my management style.

Word gets around and eventually it gets back to you. Regarding your reputation, this is your feedback loop for something that’s difficult to measure. I use this feedback to focus on what I need to improve.

I find that the best way to improve and develop a good reputation is to choose to do the right things all the time especially when you think nobody is looking. This approach assures me that I’m coming from the right place … a place of personal integrity. Not just to impress or please others, but to be good and to do good because that’s the person I want to be.

I love reading articles from writers that do that.

I’m impressed with the likes of Coco Shackleton. During the course of June, she set a goal of writing 30 articles in 30 days. As I followed her, I noticed she didn’t submit anything to publications, even though I’m sure many would have gladly accepted her articles. She wrote from the heart and it was refreshing. I could sense that she was writing more for herself. She wasn’t stroking her own ego. She doesn’t even use her real name. (Coco Shackleton is her pseudonym.) I’m drawn to Coco because of how she represents herself. She exudes authenticity.

I’m not sure what happened to Coco. She hasn’t posted anything in a while. I miss her.

But you see that? I’m talking about her. And I do so gladly. Because reading her words during those 30 days was a great experience for me.

If I can write more like Coco and stop worrying so much about the stats, I think the frustration will subside.


This post still feels a bit forced. Heck, I’m thinking about what publication to submit this to, so I can extend my reach. I won’t, but it’s tempting. Well, then again, maybe I’ll include it in one of my own publications. (Not really push marketing since I have zero followers.) I also promise not to share on Facebook or tweet this time.

I guess I’m still recovering and getting to know myself again.

What’s different is that I don’t feel like I’m trying so hard this time. I don’t care so much about what you may think about my writing ability. Yes, I hope this might connect with another person going through something similar, but I’m letting the words spill out as they may. This is how I write without a whole lot of editing. Incomplete sentences and all. At least I’m feeling more like myself.

Whatever kind of reputation I might develop as a writer, I’m fine with it as long as it develops long-term relationships and I don’t sell out while I’m at it.

As Coco would say. “Keep going…”

Feedback on Your LinkedIn Profile

[Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse]

This was first written in response to the flood of requests for individual profile reviews. Henrik Kjærulff started what became a very popular group discussion titled “What do you like about the profile above you.” I participated by reviewing a few profiles in the comments section. The idea was to review the profile of the person who left the last comment, and in turn, the next person would review and comment on yours. Great idea, and as I write this, there are currently 953 comments.

There were no expectations regarding expertise from those who provided feedback. (I certainly do not have any.) It was enough to get some objective feedback on both the good and not-so-good. Most people were very constructive with any suggestions they provided.

As I reviewed earlier comments, I noticed the trend of people getting skipped. Not intentionally, but the flow would sometimes get sidetracked when someone used the comments section to thank the person who gave a review. There were also a few folks who may have missed the detail about first reviewing someone else before expecting one in return. Oh well, it happens. I tried to help out by taking time to review anyone who may have been inadvertently missed. I no longer expected mine to be looked at. It just felt good to help someone out.

So here I am trying to “work smarter.” As much as I’d like to comment individually, this post will hopefully summarize the feedback I found myself giving again and again. While this post is meant for a more general audience, I hope readers will still find a few things applicable to their individual profiles.

Profile Photo: At The Very Least, Have One.

There are plenty of resources and tips out there regarding the LinkedIn profile photo. I stumbled upon one the other day written by Rachel Zoe – “5 Tips For Looking Better In Your LinkedIn Photo“. Great tips so I’ll just emphasize what I think is the most important one.

Within the group discussion, one of my recurring observations was that several of the profiles had no photo at all. (If you’re waiting for the perfect photo before you upload one, you may be missing out in the meantime.) Rachel Zoe cites this stat in her post, “…having one makes your profile 14 times more likely to be viewed by employers.” Personally I would love to update my profile photo with one taken by a professional photographer. Alas, I’m being frugal and just asked my wife to take a shot. Not ideal, but I’ll circle back to that eventually.

Avoid Copying Your Résumé Verbatim: Tell a Story

There was a point when my profile was pretty much the LinkedIn version of my curriculum vitae. This wasn’t necessarily ineffective, but when recruiters would reach out and ask for my résumé, I didn’t have any more information to give them other than what was already detailed in my profile.

I decided to follow the lead of some of my mentors and tell my story instead of just making bullet lists of my past responsibilities and accomplishments. I went against my own reservations about being too personal, and injected more of my personality. Now it feels more genuine and less scripted. I figure that if this turns off potential partners/employers, I probably wouldn’t want to work with them anyway.

This may be the wrong direction. I’m still not sure. You’ll know what’s best for your particular case.

Endorsements and Recommendations: Sometimes It Helps to Ask

When LinkedIn first rolled out the endorsements feature, I enthusiastically added it, perhaps too much so. I went overboard with the number of skills I listed. I’ve been fortunate to receive many endorsements from my peers and colleagues. Of course, I make sure to also give honest endorsements  for everyone I’ve gotten to know during my career. I’ve never asked for endorsements and I still prefer not to.

On the other hand, when it comes to recommendations, it’s a little different. Writing a recommendation for someone, at least a good one, takes thought. Everyone’s busy. So having someone write you a recommendation just because they like you so much, probably won’t happen. For the longest time, I only wanted to receive recommendations that weren’t solicited. I actually got a few. (Many thanks to…you know who you are.)

Then I decided to actually ask, albeit selective whom I asked. I made sure to give everyone an easy out so they wouldn’t feel obligated. It’s true what they say – you often get what you ask for.

Publish a Post: Stop Hovering

For the past year, any time I was editing my profile, my mouse would hover over ‘Publish a post’ but I didn’t feel I had anything worthy to share.

Hmm…I was fairly successful as a digital marketer. Should I write about that? Nah, too many people out there much smarter and with more expertise. Plus it will take too much time and I’m busy. Forget it.

I would move on to editing some other section of my profile.

Then I started journal writing again in the early hours of the morning. It was my way to capture important details of daily life and to reflect on my scattered thoughts. Since I was only writing for myself, I didn’t care about grammar, coherency, structure…I just wrote. It was in returning to this daily practice that I found inspiration to publish my first post. I wasn’t expecting much. I was only hoping that it might help others who were going through a similar career experience. After that first one, the subsequent posts followed without a lot of hovering.

As this relates to your LinkedIn profile, what you publish is an extension of your personal brand. It helps others get to know the person behind the job history and skills. For some it demonstrates their mastery in a specific field. For me, it’s about the career journey and how all the seemingly disparate moments come together.

LinkedIn Pulse can be a powerful feature if words don’t get in the way. Find the connection between what you do and what you love. The story will come.

Do What You Can Then Let It Be…For a While

During my career break last year, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to overhaul my LI profile and give it a major makeover. I tested and applied many of the suggestions I noted above. Eventually, I needed to just walk away. I was forcing it – with the aim of perfection – well beyond the point of diminishing returns. I’ve accepted that it’s probably best to let it gradually improve over time. To let my number of connections, endorsements and recommendations grow organically. To only post articles when I’m inspired. To shift my focus on what I can give rather than what I can get. Today, I’m ok with my profile, imperfect as it may be. It will improve in the long run.

I’d like to experiment with this being a “living” post. My hope is that I can continue to edit/add/remove/refine content within this post based on your comments and my personal experience. The sections covered initially only include what I found were common oversights. With the robust features that LinkedIn provides, there will be a lot more to cover as this post evolves.

Please leave a comment if anything I’ve mentioned is totally off-base or irrelevant. If most of it seems like common sense to you, please leave some suggestions on anything unique that you’ve found to be effective. Thanks in advance.

-Donn

[Last Updated: 03/04/2016]


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Donn’s Blog: www.donndurante.com/category/career
Featured Image Copyright: inbj / 123RF Stock Photo

Testing LinkedIn Publishing

[Excerpt from private journal]

It’s been a few days since I’ve logged an entry into this journal. Time to catch up. I’ve got the day off today so my theme today is “back to balance.” This is why…

After Sofia’s birthday last Sunday, I had a spurt of LinkedIn/Blog writing. Mostly LinkedIn this past week. It started Sunday night and then I wanted to ride the wave while I had momentum. It helped that the first post about “Reflections on a Career Break” was received pretty well and got several likes, comments and private messages.

I wasn’t comfortable just having one post associated with my profile so I set a goal of 3 before taking a break from LinkedIn publishing. I met my goal of 3 by republishing/editing my blog post on “The Annual Performance Review” and then a couple of days ago, I wrote “Simply Effective Leadership” around the Don Draper quote.

All of this had an associated cost and trade-offs. I didn’t sleep as much as I would have liked. I didn’t spend time doing things like exercise, cooking, Duolingo or just chilling with the family. Any “free” time I had I spent writing and obsessing over the stats. I’ve attached a screenshot of the stats for the three posts after 6 days. My ego wanted reassurance that my writing was getting views and being liked. Comments were icing on the cake.

In the beginning, it was invigorating and I felt like the creative juices were flowing again — a renewed zest for life and ideas for the future. Towards the end of the week, though, I was sensing the stress levels elevate. It was similar to when I would be thinking about work all the time and wanting to keep plugging away at something. The problem before, and it seems to be happening again now, is that forcing it forward had diminishing returns and a greater cost with every push. It was getting extreme to the point where Caro and the kids would stop by the desk and mention how much time I was spending with the writing thing. Even one of my coworkers said, “Donn, you’re so active on LinkedIn! I keep getting alerts…” It was a little embarrassing and I took it as a sign to lay off the social channels for a while. If I can help myself, this might be the last post for a while. (I can hear your sighs of relief.)

So that’s why today’s theme is “back to balance”. I need to sharpen the saw. To focus on other areas such as physical, spiritual and emotional. The last week has been primarily mental exercise. There may be nothing wrong with the occasional deep dive into something, but it’s important to come up for air. Wouldn’t want to drown in my own excitement.

The What, Why and How of This Blog

What

The intent is to focus on topics I already write about in my personal journal. Of course, there are details I will exclude for obvious reasons, but many of the topics cover passions and interests that I’m sure many people share. This is my way of sharing and contributing to those communities.

Why

  • To benefit others with similar interests, challenges or experiences by sharing insights and lessons learned. Or simply to entertain with personal stories.
  • I have the ambition to author and self-publish a book someday. It is my hope that this blog will exercise my writing and help me determine what topics would be worthy of a book.

How

  1. Generated ideas for content, context, structure and execution plan. This project started with one of my recent journal entries. (I keep a personal journal using Journey by Journal. This is one of my favorite apps and I’ll likely dedicate a post to it later). I jotted down several ideas a few days ago as part of a daily practice (see author James Altucher) and this was one of them. I must have been inspired that morning because the ideas kept flowing, came together and I got excited to start right away.
  2. I registered two domain names, donndurante.com and prodabbler.com, using my existing account with MyDomain.com. They each cost about $9/year and it was quick and easy because I’ve registered many domain names in the past. I’ve always been tempted to register my name as a dot com but never really had a good idea about what content it would house. Now I do. ProDabbler.com made sense to me since the overarching theme for this blog is my experience dabbling in several areas throughout my life. ProfessionalDabbler.com was already taken but I like that prodabbler is shorter and still easy to market if I ever decided to promote the blog. I’m actually surprised that prodabbler wasn’t already registered. There are enough self-proclaimed “professional dabblers” online, I’m curious why nobody thought about claiming the domain. Anyway, I’m glad it was available. For now, I’ve just set it up to redirect to donndurante.com
  3. Setting up server space was the next step. I already have an account with 1and1 which hosts several sites I still keep up and running. (Those sites have been on autopilot for many years but something tells me I shouldn’t give up on them just yet.) It was relatively quick and painless to configure the new domains registered with some dedicated space under my 1&1 Unlimited Contract. That package has plenty of available server space and allows me to run several domains under one account. 1&1 also has great features including an AppCenter that made setting up a hosted WordPress site very straightforward. Linking MyDomain registrations with 1&1 hosting can take up to 24 hours or so to propagate but in actuality, it only took a couple of hours.
  4. WordPress was the obvious platform choice for me. Not only is it well established and feature rich, it is already integrated with my hosting service and responsive to mobile devices. With earlier sites, I experimented with using CSS to manually create my own sites using responsive design…I found it took too much effort for something that is already included with WordPress themes and templates. Using the 1&1 utility wizard, it only took a few minutes to install WordPress and have it ready on the server space assigned to it.
  5. This step is where the creativity kicked in. After updating some of the general settings, I started customizing the site:
    • I searched for a theme that caught my eye. I wanted something simple yet stylish. Filtering the search results by newest first, I found a theme called “Curiosity Lite”. It had a layout that I thought would fit the concept I had in mind.
    • Once installed and activated, I began organizing the blog by adding pages, categories and placeholder content. I uploaded some media and played around with placement. My initial ideas for images and a logo didn’t display well with the theme so I undid them. I may come back to it later, but for now I’d like to keep it clean. Adding media just to have it feels forced and doesn’t seem to add value.
    • I wrote a short post titled “And so I begin” to replace the “Hello World” post that comes with the template.
    • I walked away from writing more even though I was tempted to keep pushing forward and adding as much starting content as time allowed. Like any other activity, it’s important to pause and reflect. I noticed I was getting tired and the writing wasn’t flowing as well. I had other things to attend to anyway so I decided to give it a rest and recharge.
    • I came back and restructured some of the categories by lumping some topics as sub-categories under more general parent categories (e.g. music and books were grouped under a new category I’m calling “media”). It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference when there isn’t much content, but as the substance of the site grows over time, content structure that is intuitive and well organized makes navigation and search friendlier in the long run. I also went back and started adding relevant tags to posts.
  6. I realized that the hosted version of WordPress doesn’t have built-in analytics. Coming from a digital marketing background, I feel blind when I can’t see the metrics of site activity. There won’t be much to look at until I actually have visitors and site engagement, but it’s one of those things that is good to have in place from the beginning. I search available plugins for “analytics” and chose Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress based on its rating and the total number of downloads. Simple to install and configure since I already have a Google Analytics account.
  7. Knowing that the site will change as it matures, I took a screenshot to capture how it looks today. I wonder how it will look 10 years from now.
  8. From this point, it will be about adding content on a regular basis. Some days I plan to just go back in time and fill in the backstory. Other days will have current experiences that tie into the theme of pro dabbler.