I’m a bit of a product lover. One of my favorite pastimes is roaming around CVS or Sephora and checking out all of the new products and packaging. My husband thinks I’m nuts and doesn’t understand my obsession. I think part of it is I’m a gullible consumer, even though I’m well versed in marketing tactics. There’s a thrill to finally finding that something that appeals to you. It’s almost like it’s calling your name, “Lexi, I’m exactly what you’re looking for. Buy me!” My current obsession: baby products.
Before I had my daughter, I knew nothing about babies. I wasn’t around them much. My ignorance convinced me to use “organic” diapers. I purchased a pack of those natural colored, good-for-the-earth diapers thinking how great it would be to take care of my baby’s needs, while taking care of the environment. When we arrived home from the hospital (bleary-eyed and still in shock they let us take home a helpless human being with no skill or background in caring for one), one of the first things our baby needed was a diaper change. I got this; I had my trusted organic diapers! My husband and I propped her up on the changing table, secured one on, looked at each other with our hands on our waists thinking, “hey, we’re getting the hang of this!” Fast forward a few hours when we had to change her diaper again. That organic piece of recycled whatever disintegrated in our hands and did nothing to keep our baby clean. In that moment, I realized a diaper has one job to do. Anything else it can do beyond that doesn’t matter to me. This organic diaper was marketed as having “premium absorbency.” Yeah right! Thank God for Amazon Prime. I had Pampers Swaddlers at my doorstep the next morning and never looked back.
I should have known better. I care most about quality. I prioritize absorbency and quality over natural materials. There are other parents and caregivers out there who may prioritize natural materials over absorbency, so they will always buy these organic diapers. Not for me.
This is a lesson on positioning, and believe it or not, it very much applies to how you market your company as a place to work. You can’t be everything to everyone. However, our audit of many career sites shows that a lot of companies are trying to be just that. My colleague, Susan, likes to say that most companies use “breathless” language - for example, “a great place to work” or “opportunity for growth.” These things may be true, but they won’t weed out the people who aren’t a great fit for your company. As a candidate, if you are reading the same features from every employer you apply to, how will you know if it’s the right place for you? This is where positioning comes in. What about your company is unique and where do you stand next to your competitors?
Not sure where to start? Think about all of the things that your company is as an employer AND all of the things that it is not. That second part is key – this is often forgotten. There may be obvious things that you are, but that your competitors have in common too, like a great place to work or growth opportunities. Where are you willing to hang your hat so that people will know, “we are exactly what you’re looking for”?
Here’s a simple way to think about it using my diaper example. All diapers exist to do the same thing – they all talk about absorbency and how soft they are on a baby’s skin. And some have special features that appeal to a certain type of person. Here’s a breakdown of four different diaper brands and (my opinion of) their position in the market:
- Up & Up: bargain parent
- Pampers: premium quality parent
- Luvs: second time, laid back parent
- Seventh Generation: organic, earth-loving, Whole Foods shopping parent
This is a simple way of showing these products all have the same baseline capabilities and offerings, but they appeal to a different type of parent based on how the brands positioned themselves in the market. A bargain shopper parent probably wouldn’t even take a second look at the Seventh Generation diapers. And same goes for an eco-friendly parent. He/she probably wouldn’t even consider the other brands. So what about your company makes you as desirable to the types of people you want to attract but deters those who would not be the right fit?
Stay tuned for my next post about delivering on the brand promise you make during recruitment (hint: if you say your diapers are absorbent and they are not, what does that do to brand loyalty?). Interested in learning more about marketing techniques to apply to your employer brand? We're hosting a class in Washington, DC June 11-12. Learn more here.
Lexi Gordon is a Lead Consultant for exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps organizations build their cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn more about how we can help you build a workforce that’s aligned with your company culture and develop an employer brand that will allow your business to scale the right way.