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It happens every couple of months, or perhaps a little more frequently the last couple of years as the economy has struggled – I’ll receive an email from someone I’ve tried to contact in the past, who ignored those attempts, but now needs a job. The emails invariably start with something like: “I know we’ve never spoken, but I have always admired you and your company and thought it would be great if we could work together. I’ve recently left XYZ company and am looking for a new opportunity…

“If you expect your emails to be responded to, respond to those you are sent.”

These emails typically come from marketing people who were prospects of ours and had never responded to any of our efforts to contact them. My responses are always a polite “no, and each time I pause to wonder what kind of person expects to be hired by those whose phone calls and emails they’ve ignored. Simply put, if you can’t market yourself, why would I think you could market my company?

As marketing people, we get so caught up in marketing the brand, the product, the campaign, the sale, etc., that we sometimes forget to market the most important asset we have – ourselves. Beyond marketing, we forget simple common courtesies, such as returning phone calls, responding to emails and sending thank-you notes to those who have helped us along the way.

Perhaps the greatest marketing advice ever given is the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto yourself.” If you expect your emails to be responded to, respond to those you are sent. I have done extensive research into all known email programs (Mac, PC, mobile, laptop, desktop) and have discovered a constant that seems to have eluded some. Every one of them has a reply button. Even when I am not interested, it takes me perhaps seven seconds (and I’m a slow typist) to write, “I’m not interested, but thank you,” and hit the reply button.

The same goes for phone calls. Accept them or return them. I understand that very few people are excited about receiving a sales call – I both make them and receive them. However, here’s a little secret that allows you to handle them both quickly and professionally. For the calls you have no interest in, call after hours (thus avoiding long conversations) and leave a simple message like, “Thanks for your call, but I’m not interested in your product/service at this time.” It takes roughly 30 seconds per call, and you’ll have done the right thing.

I wonder about people who don’t treat others with professional courtesy. Are they simply rude? Do they only treat those perceived to be farther down the ladder that way, while treating those “above them” with more respect? Have they forgotten (or, selfishly, never learned) the lesson our mothers taught us, that most of us will travel both up and down that ladder over the course of our careers?

Even beyond common courtesy, it just makes good business sense to be professional. Last month’s irritating salesman could be next month’s boss. Wouldn’t you like to have a reputation, with everyone, as someone who treats people with respect? It’s a great way to build a positive reputation in your chosen profession and industry.

In the end, marketing yourself is easy – treat your vendors the way you treat your clients. Be professional and courteous with those who are trying to sell you something, as you would hope your sales staff would be treated by others. I have heard plenty of people say, “I wish you had told me,” even when it turns out to have been bad news. In my entire professional life, I have never heard someone say, “I wish you had never told me and rather kept me wondering and guessing for days or weeks.”

To put it in the simplest of all possible terms, treat people the way you hope to be treated. It’s simple, free and easy, and the marketing return on investment is huge.

Scott Harris is the owner of Mustang Marketing, a full-service marketing agency serving the San Fernando Valley for more than 20 years. You can reach Scott at [email protected] or visit Mustang’s website at www.MustangMktg.com.