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    Create Your Best Look

    Excerpted from
    Find a Husband After 35: Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School
    By Rachel Greenwald

    Packaging may be the most underappreciated marketing tactic. Surprisingly, packaging can be more important than the product itself. At the point of purchase, it is usually the external wrapping on a product that first attracts attention, not necessarily what's inside the package. Research has shown that grocery shoppers view and select a product within five seconds, on average. This fact makes packaging as important as any other element of product marketing. It implies that if you don't have enough money in your budget to invest in every marketing area, then you should prioritize investing in packaging. Given all the competitive products on the shelves, your package must stand out and be appealing enough to prompt a first-time purchase.

    What Is Packaging?

    Packaging is simply how you look on the outside: your "wrapping paper." I wish I could tell you that your inner self is what really counts-and later in a relationship it is what counts the most-but the truth is that how you look makes all the difference in getting noticed in the beginning. Now the good news: You don't have to be beautiful or have a perfect body to attract men, but you should look your personal best. You first need to capture a man's attention visually, and then let him get to know you. As you'll see later in this chapter, looking and acting feminine can also be a big part of the packaging equation. Remember, "You only get one chance to make a first impression." I wish the world wasn't so shallow, but we don't make the rules; we just have to play by them. Here are some of my proven strategies to help you evaluate and make changes to your current look.

    Market Research: Ask For
    Honest Feedback

    To create your best look, you first need to do some research and find out how your current appearance is perceived. And sorry, but you need the brutal truth. This is no time to worry about getting your feelings hurt. You are moving speedily toward your goal and need to be efficient. The last thing you want to do is waste time on a great marketing plan if the packaging stops the "sale" right at the beginning.

    Select six people (three women and three men) who are going to be your focus group and who will individually give you feedback on your appearance. Most people are too polite or too scared to tell you honestly what they think, so you'll need to figure out which folks are most likely to speak their minds. These are not necessarily close friends or relatives: They may be people who you barely know or who might even dislike you. You can ask your Mentor to be one of these six people. An ex-boyfriend will work. You might even include a personal shopper at a department store or a new hairstylist at a salon, since strangers might be more candid. With six different people, each polled individually, you are likely to get enough varied feedback to create your best look.

    Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you already know what you need to change in your appearance. This is a very common problem. Most women, when asked what improvements can be made to their appearance, will answer with issues that are usually their own hang-ups, and not what other people (especially men) actually see. For example, you might answer about yourself: "My thighs are too fat" or "I need to lose 10 pounds" or "My breasts are too small." This is often not what anyone else thinks. You need the objective feedback from outside sources to really understand how you are perceived.

    How to Ask For Honest Feedback

    To draw out the truth on this very sensitive subject of how you look, you first need to make people feel secure that you will not resent them for being honest, and that the truth is vitally important to you. You need to demonstrate an approachable demeanor that says you are open to hearing anything. No crossed arms, no shifting your feet, no looking nervous when you ask the questions. Then you need to follow these three simple rules for conducting valid market research:

    1. Do not combine two questions into one ("What do you think about my hair and make-up?"). Instead, ask about each one separately.

    2. Do not ask leading questions ("Do you agree that my hair is too short?"). Instead, ask open-ended questions ("What do you think about my hair?").

    3. Eliminate irrelevant questions ("Am I too tall?"). Instead, ask only about what you can change.

    Here is a sample script that may assist you when asking the first subject in your focus group for face-to-face feedback. Let's call him "Tim."

    YOU: Tim, I really value your opinion. You're someone whom I've noticed over time is very candid and insightful. I hope you won't mind if I ask you something personal? I have decided that this is the year I am going to find someone to spend my life with. Before I start, I want to make some changes to my appearance. This is really important to me and I need your sincere opinions. Can I ask you a couple of questions?

    TIM: Sure [maybe a little doubtful] ... I'll try to help. But I think you look fine.

    YOU: Now, please be extremely honest with me: I promise you won't hurt my feelings! If I have the ugliest clothes or the worst posture, you've got to tell me, okay? So my first question is about my hair. What do you think I could do to make my hair more appealing to men?

    [Note: Start with one small part of the picture, such as your hair, to get him "warmed up." Try to select what you consider to be your best feature, because if he can tell you something positive first, he will feel more comfortable later on telling you something negative. You also ask for concrete advice ("What could I do to make my hair more appealing?"), rather than baiting him for a compliment ("Do you like my hair?"). You use a third entity ("men") to allow him more comfort in giving an opinion that feels like it's not his own (it's the opinion of "men in general").!

    TIM: Well, your hair looks really good! Hmmm . . . maybe it could be a little longer.

    YOU: I think that's a great suggestion! I've been thinking about growing it longer, too. Can you show me how long you think I should let it grow?

    [Note: You are giving him positive feedback on his comment and making him feel insightful. You are also letting him know that you are not sensitive to criticism, therefore encouraging his continued honesty. And you should want honesty: This will give you something to change and improve upon.)

    YOU: Now, what about my clothes? I'm going shopping next weekend and I'm not sure what style looks best on me. What do you think?

    [Note: You are asking an open-ended question so that you don't bias his comments with leading questions such as, "Do you think I look good in short skirts?"]

    TIM: Hmmm, I don't know much about clothes. I'm just a guy!

    YOU: Oh, but you probably know what you like and don't like when you see a woman walk by. How about certain styles you might prefer on me? Or certain colors that look good on me? Or even something you remember that I've worn in the past that you especially liked? Or especially didn't like?

    [Note: Give him some open-ended prompts if he struggles to provide information.]

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