Tag Archives: marketing

Need a job? Get creative.

15 Dec

Scott Rocketship just lost his job, joining 13.3 million other Americans in the world of unemployment. That sucks. But instead of sending Debbie Downer tweets about his new situation, he is harnessing social media to find work. Scott has the right idea—and other job seekers would be wise to take a page from his (virtual) book.

I’m just old enough to remember when job searching meant reading the Sunday newspaper (and I mean the PRINTED edition) and then sending resumes and cover letters (and I mean via SNAIL MAIL) and hoping someone would call you back for an interview (and I mean on a LAND LINE). Then came the Internet. By the time I graduated college, job searching meant searching online classifieds, emailing a resume, and waiting for a return call via cell. And that’s the method many people are still using nearly two decades later.

Emailing a generic resume to every Monster.com listing just doesn’t work. Not when unemployment is 8.6 percent, and definitely not if your skill set is outside high-demand fields like nursing and IT. In a crowded unemployment market, you have to get creative to stand out.

Back to Scott. In just a few hours, he created an interactive online resume on Storify, a web service originally designed for curating news stories from social media sources. It includes an Instagram photo of him, tweets from people who recommend him (and some from himself about his skills), and links to his writing projects. The site is simple yet dynamic, which is important when you are one of hundreds or thousands competing for one job opening. It’s only been a few days since Scott lost his job but I’ll be interested to learn how well his creative approach works.

I’m always on the lookout for cool freelance writing and project management work and, as such, I’m always interested in cool ideas for marketing oneself. A quick online search uncovered a few creative ideas for modern-day job searching:

• Creating a video resume, posting it on YouTube, and then linking to it on Twitter and other social media.
• Adding QR codes to resumes to link to online portfolios or other supplementary information.
Stalking hiring managers like prey on LinkedIn. It doesn’t have to be creepy.
• Advertising yourself like a business on Facebook, Google, and more. This 28-year-old got his dream job for $6.

I’m sure there are many more amazing ways one can get creative in their job hunt. If you’ve done something unusual or know someone who has, please share your stories with me (just leave a comment here). If you are searching for a job, maybe you will be inspired by what others are doing and try a new approach.

There IS such a thing as a stupid question—and that’s a good thing

16 Nov

Whoever said “there are no stupid questions, just stupid people” was stupid. There are many, many stupid questions…and you better be asking them if you want your business to succeed.

I’ve learned a lot about the value of stupid questions in the last month in my role as City Manager at StartupCity Des Moines because I’m usually the one asking them. As a non-techie working in an über techie world, I almost always feel stupid. I don’t understand much of what I hear around me. Back-end utility? Gooey (um, I mean GUI?)? SEM? It’s all Greek to me. I know I’m ignorant and, as such, I’m not afraid to ask the questions that others who are supposed to know this stuff may not have the guts to ask.

Last week, I asked one of our startups why a button on his mobile app was green. Stupid question but it helped identify a problem that other ordinary, non-techie users might have. Yesterday, an applicant stopped by the offices to pitch his startup. I didn’t understand the technology behind the idea but I asked some stupid questions about why his target market (women) would want to use the site, and he left needing to rethink his approach.

Stupid questions can uncover some really important information. The people using your product or service don’t share your encyclopedic knowledge about it, nor do they have the same IQ as you. But their experiences are as valuable—actually, they are more valuable—than yours. If they don’t understand and love what you have to offer, then you have nothing to sell.

To uncover the stupid questions—and then make needed changes to address them—you need to look outside of yourself. Get in front of as many people as possible, even those you don’t consider a target market. Sometimes the stupidest (and best) questions come from the unlikeliest sources. Let everyone play with your product, if you have one, or describe what you are doing and how. Then give them permission to ask you anything.

Listening without judgment is key here. Remember, these are probably going to sound like stupid questions to you but there is something to be learned if only you curb your instinct to explain, justify, rationalize, and roll your eyes. Take notes on everything you hear, even if it seems totally silly to you, and watch for trends. If more than one person asks the same stupid question, it’s probably not so stupid after all.

By now you are probably thinking, “she’s just describing a focus group.” That’s true, it just happens to be a more organic, valuable, and cheaper DIY version. Long before you can afford to hire a big marketing firm to organize a formal roundtable of targeted users, you can empower yourself to improve your product using useful data from real-world users.

So the next time you find yourself saying, “that’s a stupid question,” stop and explore whether it might actually be an opportunity to improve.

Geekpreneurs: Can you tell your story or is it time to get help?

7 Nov

In the last year, I’ve been introduced to a lot of amazing startups and I’ve discovered two distinct types of tech entrepreneurs. The first is the Non-Geek Visionary, who has an amazing idea but doesn’t have the technical skills to make it happen. The second is the Geekpreneur, who not only has the idea but also has the ability to build it.

What I’ve noticed about these groups is that the latter often has a hard time recognizing weaknesses and bringing others on board to handle those areas. It makes sense. Their product is truly their baby—they spent countless hours taking it from dream to reality—and handing even a piece of it off to someone else can be scary.

Geekpreneurs frequently drop the ball when it comes to marketing. An encyclopedic knowledge can make it difficult to devise a clear, concise, and clever way to communicate the product to others. “I understand what I’m doing, why don’t you?” Building something amazing is meaningless, however, if no one knows about it, understands it, or cares about it.

Creating a great “elevator pitch” isn’t difficult, but it requires stepping outside of yourself to think objectively about your product. Unfortunately, that’s not something most of us can do. The most successful business people are masters at delegation and Geekpreneurs (as well as Non-Geek Visionaries who struggle with marketing) would be well served to ask for help when it comes to writing a bio, one sheet, web verbiage, and other marketing materials.

(Shameless plug: I love using my journalism background to help entrepreneurs tell their stories. If you need help, contact me.)

QR codes are useless

27 Oct

Should I care about QR codes? I posited the question on Twitter today…and it seems I shouldn’t care. I’m glad to know I’m not alone.

QR codes (or quick-response codes) are like barcodes that can be scanned by a mobile device’s camera and read with an app. As I understand it (and I don’t understand much about these types of things), the cool-looking black squares can be encoded to include any kind of data. They can be used to direct someone to a website, contact information or a map, product details, a coupon, a Facebook fan page and more.

The first time I saw a QR code was about a year ago on a business card for a tech startup. I didn’t and still don’t have a QR code reader on my smartphone so I never bothered to scan that card to see where it took me, but I’d put money on it being a direct link to the guy’s website. Big whoop. That saves me maybe 2 seconds of entering the address into my web browser.

Marketers are now putting these pesky buggers everywhere. They show up frequently on magazine pages, but who reads printed media anymore? I can just touch a link to the same content on my iPad newsstand magazine. I’ve noticed them on the windows of restaurants and retail shops, but then I’m on the move and can’t be bothered to stop and scan with the hopes it yields something worthwhile. I even hear they have a giant one on top of a barn targeted to airplane passengers. I won’t even touch that silliness.

Until today, I thought I was just a non-geek who didn’t get QR codes. Perhaps these ugly black boxes are really cool and I’m missing out on something awesome. Researching for this blog, however, I found out I’m not alone. Even some tech-savvy marketing folks agree with me. From memeburn: “QR codes are not the Next Big Thing (at least, not yet).” Even better, from iMediaConnection: “From the relative lack of public understanding of what they even are, to the dearth of creativity in their usage, the QR code is destined to become just the little box that geek built.”

My sentiments exactly. Can’t we just agree to stop already with QR codes? Yes, they are nifty and new but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are helpful or worthwhile. Until someone can show me value in stopping to scan that little black box when I’m reading a flyer, walking down the street, or flying in an airplane, I’m not downloading a damn QR reader.