competitive advantage, differentiation, diversity, keeping up with trends, marketing consultant, staying current

The Value of Diverse Industry Experience to Both Employee and Employer

No clever, punchy headline today.  Instead, a statement about which I feel very strongly.  In the past several weeks, both I and friends who are in the marketing field and seeking contract or permanent employment, have had potential employers or people we network with make comments indicating that they didn’t think were appropriate for a particular job in a particular industry because we had no industry experience.  Or, we’ve had comments along the same vein made to us that the hiring company was likely to, or was going to, proceed with another candidate who had experience in that’s company’s industry.  And, we’ve been told, “well, I would have spoken with you about X,Y,Z opportunity, but I thought you were only interested in or able to do work in X,Y,Z industry”.

My whole career I’ve never forgotten a statement made by my then VP of Marketing and Sales.  He told his staff at a team-building event, “don’t just strive to be the best in our industry, strive to be the best in any industry.  Look at what world-class organizations are doing in other industries, and not just ours”.  I never forgot that.  At the time, I was employed at a health plan that had unfortunately allowed itself to become a bit of a dinosaur, relying on past achievements, and not keeping up with the times.  He encouraged us to look toward world-class organizations such as FedEx for inspiration and role models.  At that health plan, as part of a sales conference I helped plan, we had a speaker from a leading hotel chain that had received accolades for outstanding customer service, address our group.  The hotel representative talked a lot of about how to improve customer experience by thinking outside the box.

I digressed a little, but it was with a definite purpose.  The above reinforces, that quite often, both an employee and employer benefit when an employee has been able to work in and/or get exposure to different industries.  I’ve found this to be very true in my case.  At this point, between my permanent positions and my various contract and agency positions, I’ve served clients in or worked in the following industries:  healthcare (health plans and hospitals), financial services (both investments and banking), higher education, consumer goods (health and beauty, food, and more), manufacturing, hospitality, private investigation, non-profits serving vulnerable populations, real estate, and I’m sure there are more.

I believe without a doubt that employers and clients both have benefitted greatly from the fact that I am able to bring best practices and innovation from other industries to any work with which I am involved.  And, without a doubt, I’ve grown professionally, mentally, and emotionally from having exposure to so many distinct industries with their distinct challenges.  It’s kept my mind sharp, kept me learning, and kept me quite happy.

I’ll just close with this simple hope — that employers won’t shut out/dismiss potential contract or permanent employees because of lack of industry experience, particularly us marketing and communications folks.  My experience has proven that marketing and communications skills are extremely transferable across industries, and as long as a potential hire is intelligent, they can fairly readily learn the nuances, opportunities, and challenges of any industry.  And, they’ll likely bring an open mind to the situation and discover some opportunities that someone who’s worked in an industry for years might not bring.

differentiation, diversity, keeping up with trends, marketing consultant, online advertising, staying current, Understanding Your Environment

While You Wait, Educate

I’m keeping the “ate” rhymes going in my topic header that I started with my recent To Make Sure You Relate, Integrate post, but the topic of these two posts are quite different. If you’ve read some of my recent posts you know that it takes a lot of hard work and commitment to launch a new business, including a consultancy.  And, there are a lot of starts and stops along the way.  You get very excited about a prospective client meeting and spend hours preparing for it, so you are able to communicate what you know about your prospective client, their industry, their competition, and particularly their pain points. It’s particularly important that you be able to demonstrate what specific skills, experience, and activities you can bring that will help minimize or eliminate a client’s pain. Unfortunately, even when you are able to demonstrate your value proposition, prospective clients aren’t always ready or able to make the leap to engaging your services for a project or ongoing contract work.  They may already have relationships in place with organizations offering similar services, or they may need to obtain approvals from several levels higher up in their organization before they can start working with you, and/or they just may not have an immediate need for your services. Lastly, while you may be able to address one of their pain points, they may have greater pains that may need addressing first that aren’t in your area of expertise. You may be offering services to help them with a belly ache when they’ve got such sharp, shooting back pain that the belly ache, while troublesome, is not the area that they feel needs the most immediate attention.

As I advise friends who are seeking permanent, contract, or consulting work to do, I make every attempt to use any time where I am not doing client work and/or presenting to a prospective client/networking to educate myself on topics important to my industry and line of work. While I wait for my client work pipeline to grow, and when I feel I need a break from networking and selling myself and my skills, I attend webinars and phone discussions with/offered by experts in online/digital marketing.  I read blog and web site content about digital opportunities/marketing, and particularly, about improving SEO (search engine optimization) and optimizing pay-per-click/paid search advertising. If someone reaches out to me to attend a webinar — most are free — or asks to have a phone conversation about new digital marketing technology or any topic related to online presence, I’m almost always glad to listen in, have a conversation, etc.

I know keeping myself well-educated on all the ongoing changes and improvements in digital, traditional, and integrated marketing will make me a more valuable consultant to my clients.  Being well-informed just adds more and more tools I can add to my doctor’s kit, so that when faced with a client’s or prospective client’s pain point, I can share a variety of options with them that will help them minimize or eliminate their pain in an effective and efficient manner.

Continuously educating myself on topics related to my area of expertise and interest will mean that when a current or prospective client comes to me with a new pain point, I’m more likely to have the tools to address it.  In fact, the next time a client needs help with their back versus a toe, I may be able to help or have made a connection who can help (which will also create good will with any client). I don’t ever plan to stop growing and learning professionally, and I hope you won’t either.  It’s a great way to remain fully engaged in any industry or profession. You’ll remain enthusiastic and draw other enthusiasts toward you, including new customers who recognize you as being knowledgeable about their particular challenge.