If You Were a Product, How Would You Sell Yourself?

Before you sell yourself to others, you have to sell yourself.

Someone wrote asking me about a term I used in one of my posts. “I love Product as hero,” the person said. “Where does it come from?” I responded that it’s been around a long time, although it’s frequently forgotten or abused.

I told him I used the term in my novel, since the main character, Sam Bennett, is an ad man. I wanted to show what would happen if he stopped selling products and started selling himself (not an easy thing to do in your late fifties).

Product as hero is simply what makes you special,” I explained. “For instance, if you were selling yourself, what would be the Primary Reason for Purchase?”

“You mean, why would someone buy me?” he asked.

“Exactly,” I said. “I’ll throw another term at you. In advertising, we have what’s known as Why Buys? This is a list of product benefits. When we’re writing advertising, we look at which Why Buys promote the product best. In other words, which ones make the product a hero.”

“So what were Sam Bennett’s Why Buys?” he asked.

“He discovered he was a good painter.”


“House painter.”

“So you figure we’re all missing our true calling?” he asked.

“Not necessarily,” I said. “Some people are exactly where they should be. But that’s why you should make a list of your Why Buys? Maybe you’re in the right profession, maybe not. Try selling yourself and see.”

I don’t know if he followed my suggestion. Too often, we say we want to change, but then we fall back on routine. If we’re doing well at our jobs — or our life in general — why question our destiny? What’s so wrong with where we are now? Aren’t we doing the same as everyone else?

As one woman said to me in a comment: “We marry, have kids, do our jobs, provide food, education. Job done.”

We never imagine our paths being anything else. Yet I read a disturbing article where attendants in an old age home described dying patients having the same regret: “I wish I’d done more with my life.”

My favorite quote is “My only regret is that I don’t have more to regret.” I wish I did have more to regret. I wish I had made more missteps, failed, found myself questioning this whole idea of my direction. Even when I was writing my first novel about destiny, I wasn’t sure I’d found my own.

Was I even a novelist?

So often, we worry about failure, forgetting that the most successful people failed many times (even at their true calling). Steve Jobs failed (he was fired from his own company at the tender age of thirty-four). What makes someone continue doing something they failed at?

I don’t know the answer in Jobs’ case, other than he traveled for a while. He sat on a mountaintop in Nepal. Maybe that’s where he made a list of his own Why Buys? What made him saleable? He created something that was important to the whole world. He was a good communicator. He saw things other people didn’t see. Was he in the right profession? Based on his Why Buys?, I’d say so. He was at the start of a revolution. Revolutionaries see the future.

For the rest of us, though, it might not be as easily defined. By writing down our Why Buys?, at least we understand our own self worth. I don’t mean what we own. I mean what we offer as valuable. Are we valuable to others outside of being employees, partners and parents?

The next step is determining the Reason to Purchase. I know I’m making it sound like we’re all commodities, but it’s worth thinking about. If we want to avoid saying on our deathbeds, “I wish I had done more with my life,” then we have to know our human assets.

For instance, say your list of Why Buys? has more hobbies than professional attributes. Does that mean you aren’t fulfilled in your job?

There’s nothing wrong with outside interests, except for the obvious. Your energies are divided. You’re serving two masters, which might appear as though you’re not focused. Then again, maybe you’re too focused. Maybe your hobbies give you clarity, something your job doesn’t offer.

In either case, it helps to know who you are. If you were to summarize your strengths, for instance, do they align with where you are now? And is what you offer attractive to an outside audience? Would people buy you?

In advertising, we try to put that in a headline, using as few words as possible. It’s not for the sake of brevity (although it helps). We essentially want to get to the main reason for purchase. What is the most salient point?

If you were to write a headline about yourself, what would it be? Once you’ve done that, list your Why Buys? Can you make a persuasive argument in under a hundred words? If you’re a big believer in content marketing, go for two hundred words. Write a whole chapter.

The length isn’t important. This isn’t a resume. It’s strictly for your own use. Maybe it will be a resume one day but, for now, it’s you who has to be sold, not some future employer.

Remember at the beginning when I said that Product as hero is often forgotten or abused? Think of all the advertising you see. How often does the name get lost in the production? So much of advertising today forgets that they’re selling something.

I see this as a reflection of ourselves. We’re so busy with the production of our lives, we forget we’re the product. That’s exactly when opportunities pass, and we end up wondering why we didn’t do more with our lives.

What do you think? Should we be doing more? Or should we be satisfied with what we have (and are)? Let me know at: rcormack@rogers.com

Robert Cormack is a freelance copywriter, blogger and novelist. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details (you can also buy from them).

I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.

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