Beginner

The Anti-Resume Every Marketer Should Make Immediately

Recently, as part of Zayo’s Coffee Club program, I met with a marketing professional named Karen Sutherland.  While meeting we discussed her marketing background and traded stories.  She then handed me a document I’ve been fawning over every since.

Below is Karen’s “Strategic Plan”, the quintessential “anti-resume” and it’s a project every marketer should take on immediately.  In it she summarizes all her experience, differentiators and objectives in an easy-to-consume and compelling format.  I’m blown away and can’t wait to make my own.

Strategic Plan

I’m sure this is meant to be a way to help plan your career with a more targeted and strategic approach.  In my opinion this is also the perfect way to introduce yourself on paper.  Resumes are detailed, bulleted and sometimes overwhelming.  You’re including dates and awards and metrics and publications and on and on.  This document drills down to everything a hiring manager or recruiter actually wants to know.

  • What do you want to do?
  • What do you know how to do?
  • Where do you want to do it?

Once the conversation has started your resume can fill in any timeline or metric gaps.

How to format your personal strategic plan:

  1. Name, contact info, URL at the top – just like a resume.

Don’t slouch on this section.  It doesn’t need to be professionally designed, but this is literally your first impression.  Make it count.  Maybe include a headshot or a special logo.  Maybe just play with the formatting or layout.  Use this to disclose your talent or personal brand without saying it outright.

  1. Professional Objective

I like what Karen did here.  Get to the point and tell the reader exactly what you’re looking for.  Don’t write a complete sentence, but make it skim-worthy.

  1. Positioning Statement

Now you can write in complete sentences.  Write a paragraph on what makes you different, skilled or the best choice – just like if you were describing a product.  Maybe play with the title by doing something fun like “The Pitch” or “In a Nutshell” – if you’re feeling adventurous.

  1. Competencies

I love that Karen broke this into three sections – skills she has, marketing specializations, and who she is.

  1. Target

I really like that she’s broken this down so well.  If you were marketing a product, you would clearly state what your target market looks like.  Why not do that for yourself?

Answer the following questions:

  • Where do you want to work geographically?
  • What type of industries do you prefer?
  • What size company do you prefer?
  • What is your ideal culture?

You may worry that this limits your ability to find work, but we all know the key to proper marketing is segmentation and targeting.  Don’t be afraid to be niche.

Now, do your research.  Which companies fit these parameters?  Which companies complement these parameters?  Now, go hunting.

In summary, stop what you’re doing and make your own strategic plan.  It may be a little tough at first, but zeroing in on your target market and treating yourself like the amazing product you are is the best free thing you can do to market yourself right now.

How to do market research with no time or budget

Image result for market researchMarketers get asked to do a ton – branding, sales enablement, event planning, content creation, lead generation – it never seems to end.  It’s even worse when you have to do it all by yourself.  Here’s one more skill any marketing manager worth their salt needs to master – market research.  Dun DUN DUN!

Here’s the thing.  You don’t have to be a big data or industry analyst to do it.  You already have all the skills you need to do basic market research.  You don’t even need a budget.  Just the willpower to try.

Here is my step-by-step guide so that you look like a marketing rock star at your office:

Image result for audience1) Determine your audience

Who will consume the information?  When I produce reports I direct them towards two groups – sales leadership and product leadership.  You may need to provide useful information to your executive team or business development.  Figure out who you’re writing for and it will direct every decision from there out.

2) Create a report template

Image result for reportI find it’s 12x easier to do almost anything when I have a framework to work inside.  Here is the framework I use for my reports – feel free to copy or edit it for your purposes.

Header – States title and date

Industry News – I use this section to focus on news that is relevant for the entire industry.  This could include shifts in the market, new technology, or any other trends that may be happening at a macro level.

Competitor News – This section breaks down each of our competitors and what they’re up to publicly.  This could include product announcements, executive changes, public filings, important customer announcements – anything I think my audience would find valuable.

Word on the Street – Finally I have a section dedicated to the rumor mill.  Nothing is substantiated and nothing is verified – it’s just a few people’s opinions on a particular topic.  This is by far the most popular section month after month.  This is the stuff you’ll never read on a Google alert and is the hardest to capture.

3) Sign up for everything

Image result for sign upThere is a smorgasbord of information out there.  It’s your job to compile it.  Sign up for daily or weekly email updates from the following sources.  They get delivered to your inbox regularly and you won’t have to spend whole days doing research.  But it will look like you did.

  • Google Alerts – I recommend starting with 3-5 keywords that are most often used in your industry.  Then setup a Google Alert for each one of them.  Also set one up for each of your top competitors.  Every day you’ll get a few emails automatically from Google and you can file them away until you’re ready to read through them.
  • Business Publications – Whether it’s the Wall Street Journal or your local downtown newsletter, these things are packed with the best and most useful information you can find.  Most are free and are more than happy to send you a daily synopsis email.  Sign up for publications that cover your industry or geography or however you breakdown your business.
  • Industry Rags – Every industry has super niche publications.  Do a quick Google search and find them.  “_____ industry news” ought to do the trick.  I used to do marketing for the B2B drug testing industry.  My team tested workers’ comp patients for opioid abuse and marketed to risk managers.  You don’t get any more niche than that.  There were actually 3 websites I used that discussed little more than just this topic.  Trust me.  There are resources out there for whatever you sell.

4) Set a reminder to plug and play

Image result for copy and pasteNow set two 1-hour meetings on your calendar a month; one in the first half of the month, one at the end.  Open up that folder holding all your automatic emails and skim through them.  Click the links that interest you and copy/paste the best content into your report.

Be sure to include a link that reads “Full story” in case your readers want a deeper dive, but catch the high lights in your report.  Don’t include more than 2 paragraphs for any listing.  I actually prefer 3 sentences or fewer.  My audience is mostly made of VPs or higher so they don’t have time to read everything.  Get to the point and give them a means to learn more if they want to.

PRO TIP: No email to an executive should ever take longer than 30 seconds to digest.  Why do you think people created “executive summaries”.

5) Do some custom research

I mentioned my final, and most popular, section is called “Word on the Street”.  It never takes me longer than 2 hours to complete and it’s the most fun.Image result for research meme

  1. Identify a topic
    -Competitor pricing in a certain market
    -How a certain vertical uses your product
    -A new technology that your readers need to know
  2. Identify an expert
    If you’re looking at how competitors are behaving in a certain market, call the local rep that handles that territory and interview them.  What feedback is he/she hearing from local customers?  Where is your pricing being undercut?  What product/solution/competitor do folks love and hate?

    If you’re looking at a particular vertical, go for academics.  Professors love to talk – it is what they do for a living.  Let them tell you what a vertical needs.  Here’s an example.  I was doing a piece on the video gaming industry one month.  I found that Carnegie Mellon has an entire school dedicated to video game design.  I went to the website, emailed everyone listed and requested a 30 minute interview about the topic I was researching.  Within 2 hours I got 2 replies.  One of them, I later found out, also ran her own video game design company.  She was a wealth of information, was happy to let me pick her expert brain and didn’t charge me a dime.

  3. Write it all down.
    Take everything you just wrote notes on and translate it into something useful for your audience.  Stick it in your report.  Done.

6) Format and Distribute

You’ve collected all this information and interviewed experts.  Now you just have to put in a form that’s pretty and distribute it to your audience in a way they want to receive it.


After a year, what you’ll find is that you actually become the expert on your industry and people will start asking you for your opinion.  That’s when you know you’ve created something valuable.

Image result for expert meme

Pretend You’re Good At It: Wise Words From a Stranger

I am obsessed with two authors right now, Amor Towles and Jenny Lawson.  This post was inspired by Jenny Lawson and has absolutely nothing to do with Amor Towles – but you should read his books.  They’re incredible.

Image result for furiously happyIn Jenny Lawson’s 2nd book, Furiously Happy, she dedicates a chapter to the story of narrating the audio version of her 1st book.  In it, she talks about being scared by her inexperience as a vocal actor and that she might miss the opportunity to narrate her own story.  Then a friend sent her a simple text message.

“Pretend you’re good at it.”

She went on to do an incredible job.  I know this because I’ve listened to the audio book and she nailed it.  As I listened to the story I couldn’t help but remember my first years in marketing and how I attempted to do just that.

I started my career in marketing as a drive through teller – a bad one.  I have trouble sitting still and doing the same thing over-and-over-and-over… which is basically the whole job.  I was so bad at it they moved me to the slowest branch in town, where I worked the drive through.  I was sent to training after a few months, where I learned about what the bank called “referrals”.  95% of a customers’ interactions with a bank are with tellers, so we could “refer” business into the bank by nurturing that relationship.  Strangely enough, I had never actually witnessed someone do this.

So I gave it a shot.

Image result for drive through teller

Just a dramatization.  My desk has never been this clean.

I would peer into people’s cars and ask questions.  If they had a car seat in the back, I would ask “Have you started saving for college yet?”  If they had way too much money sitting in their checking account, “Did you know that you qualify for our wealth management program?”  Then I’d fill out a piece of paper and hand it to the people who actually had offices.  I’m still not totally sure what it is they did.

In a month I brought in a quarter million dollars for my bank.  I thought to myself, “I wonder if someone would pay me money to do only this?”

Eventually I learned “referrals” are actually called “leads” and yes, some companies will pay you to do it.

The next few years were a blur.  I taught myself HTML so I could build crappy websites – which I took great pride in.  That got me a job at a digital marketing firm – where I had to learn what SEO Research meant and then teach it to others.

Eventually I left North Carolina to help run digital marketing for a small agency outside
Washington, DC.  This is where I hit a wall.  I was completely out of my depths.  In two years I’d gone from miscounting cash to giving marketing plan presentations to clients.

Image result for i have no idea what i'm doingTo say I was bad in the beginning would be an understatement. I was not a strong speller –
and writing is about 50% of my job.  I wasn’t confident in my knowledge when people questioned me.  I had never even run an email campaign before.

But now I had clients so I had no choice but to pretend I was good at marketing.

Many times I drove home in tears, unsure if I would ever make it as a professional marketer.  Then I’d sleep and the next morning I’d walk into the office with a smile on my face determined to land the jump today.

With time, I got better.  I no longer spelled Executive Summary with an -ery.  Eventually I learned that letting other people proofread my writing made me more professional, not less.  Eventually I learned how to harness the power of data to differentiate myself and operate at a higher level.

Eventually I got it.

It took years before I didn’t feel like a fraud anymore.  Experts call this “impostor syndrome.”

Image result for gumptionBut as I look back over my career I notice a trend.  People kept giving me responsibilities I wasn’t necessarily prepared for.  I ran digital marketing for an agency 2 years in.  Then I ran my own marketing department only 3 years in.  At my last company, I actually ran their corporate rebrand!  I wasn’t technically ready for any of these, but people saw gumption in me and they gave me a chance.

What I’ve discovered in 10 years is that if you give people a chance, they will often rise to the occasion. We all “pretend we’re good at it” for a while.  Eventually, if you stick with it, you will be.

Don’t give up on yourself, because “potential” eventually turns into “expertise”.

That goes for you too Jenny.  Can’t wait to listen to book #3.

Image result for imposter syndrome meme