Job seekers seem to be taking a spray and pray approach, stuck in the bad old days of marketing. What should they do differently? Adopt account-based marketing (ABM). In this part of our series, we’ll look at the framework for finding the right job with ABM.
ABM is built on the basics of marketing, like the 4Ps. If it’s been a while and you haven’t read Marketing White Belt, this is a quick refresher:
Let’s examine the second P: pricing. When we are job hunting, we are the product for sale, and our asking salary is our price. Many pricing strategies exist, but most don’t apply to job seekers because we are a product with an inventory of one. Once we’re hired, no more product exists, so pricing strategies which rely on volume aren’t applicable.
Most job seekers use one pricing strategy: competitive. The competitive pricing strategy for a standard business involves determining what other businesses are charging for the same product and then offering a similar price. Competitive pricing strategy has led to the creation of an entire cottage industry of salary comparison sites such as this:
However, competitive pricing strategy has one gaping flaw.
Competitive pricing strategy neglects to account for the cost of manufacturing. Whether or not a competition charges $1 less than us is irrelevant if we’re losing money on every product made at the same price point. We’ll go out of business.
The same is true for us as job seekers. If we neglect our cost of living and our financial targets as individuals, using the competitive pricing method for what to price our talents at will lead us to financial ruin. We should absolutely know what the pricing ranges in our market support. However, we must not make the mistake of relying solely on this information.
Cost-Plus: A Better Pricing Strategy
The Cost Plus pricing strategy takes into account manufacturing and distribution costs; for us job seekers, it accounts for what we need to achieve financially. What is your cost of living? To determine this, we must work out our monthly and annual budget. Take the time to do this right! Services like Mint and other financial planning software can analyze our bank accounts over the past year and explain what we’ve spent our money on.
Once we know what our cost of living is, we can go to market with the cost plus strategy. We know what we need to survive on. What could we price at to thrive, to put aside some money for a rainy day or save for retirement? This is the essence of cost-plus – we price in what would let us grow as people.
Cost-plus sets the floor, the basement, the bottom of the market for our purposes. We know what we cannot accept less than.
Skimming: Finding Your Top of Market
The most powerful pricing strategy blends the information we’ve gathered from both competitive and cost-plus. Skimming, in regular product-based marketing, is the process of going to market at the top end of the price range at the outset, then discounting over time to identify new niches and segments of the market we can sell to. Skimming is the strategy behind selling a movie at full price to ardent fans as soon as it’s released; we’ll find the same movie in the bargain bin a year later.
The catch with a skimming pricing strategy is volume. When we are using ABM, we are cherry picking a handful of companies we know we want to work for, not spamming the broad marketplace. If we go into an interview with a ludicrously high offer, we risk not being taken seriously. Go in at cost-plus and we risk short-changing ourselves.
If we look at the chart above from Salary.com, we see the median salary plus a few intervals. The interval we’re most interested in is the interquartile range. Let’s simplify the chart by highlighting the quartile boundaries – the 25%, 50%, and 75%:
Where does your cost-plus line fit in? Are you in the first quartile, second quartile, third quartile, etc.? I would argue if your cost-plus line is on the extremes, meaning it’s in the first or fourth quartile, you’re looking at the wrong job listing. If your cost-plus target is in the first quartile (meaning you are severely underpaid), you may need to climb up to the next rung in your industry’s career ladder (unless you’re incompetent). If you’re in the fourth quartile (meaning you are vastly overpaid), you are either exceptional talent or you’re also in the wrong place.
If your cost-plus is below the median, find your way to the median. Don’t open any salary negotiation below the median unless the opportunity is too good to pass up or there are other financial modifiers (such as the ability to work remotely/fewer days/paid education/significantly flexible hours).
If you’re above the median, find your way to the 75% line. That’s where I’d start skimming. Remember that you can always negotiate downward, but it’s difficult to negotiate upward. If you’re pitching your dream company, and you’d like to stay there a long while, entering at the next quartile above your cost-plus line will give you comfort and the ability to stay there and grow over time.
We’ve now established product value and pricing. In the next post, we’ll tackle placement from the perspective of ABM and your job search.
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