Have you ever thought about how you look when you make a phone call? It is easy to think that your appearance doesn’t matter. After all, the person on the other end of the call doesn’t see you. Unless you are a Close Caller. Which is like a Close Talker, only you use your phone, because you can. Which is weird.
But your appearance on a phone call does matter. Because how you look influences how you feel. Even if you are thousands of miles away, the person on the other end of the conversation will pick up on how you feel. And it will influence what they send back to you.
You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile.
When I make or take a phone call, I always put a smile on my face before I start talking. It magically brightens my mood. Because smiling is the ultimate human happiness hack. You don’t have to be happy to smile. You can smile to be happy.
In fact, many a scientific study have proven that your responses to questions are significantly more positive when you hold a pencil between your teeth the broad way. Holding a pencil this way forces you to smile. And the forced smile has the same effect as the real thing. And while Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell would have you believe there ain’t nothing like the real thing (baby), Guy Smiley and Happy Gilmore would disagree.
When you put a smile on your face before a phone call it makes good things happen. It influences what you say, how you say it, and how you respond to your telephonic partner. It makes the call more enjoyable for the other person. It helps you overcome anxiousness when making an important call. And if the call goes poorly, well, it’s easy to laugh it off if you are already in a smiling position.
Next time you pick up the phone, first pick up the corners of your mouth. Wearing a smile will positively impact everything about the call. It will make you sound warmer and more likable. It will influence the words you choose. It will leave a lasting impression on the person on the other end. It can even make them look forward to talking to you again.
If you want to try it now, put on a smile and call my number at 614-256-2850. If I don’t answer, leave a message and let me know you’re practicing your Smile Call. When I call you back you can bet I’ll be smiling too.
Business is hard. Unlike the natural world of plants, animals, water and minerals, business is not visible. Business is an abstract concept. Sure, a business is officially formed when you file articles of incorporation. But those are just documents. You don’t invite clients to come and look at your filings. You can’t recruit great talent by showing them your government forms. Except maybe the lawyers. God help the lawyers.
Building, focusing and polishing a great business is a conceptual task. It requires things like missions and visions. It requires strategy, positioning and branding. You can’t just throw these items in your cart at Office Depot. You have to create them. You have to pull them out of the ether (or out of your butt), and breathe life into them to make them real.
Whose job is that?
I work with clients on challenges like this every week. I don’t expect our clients to have all the answers. Quite the opposite. I expect them to have a problem that needs to be solved. I expect them to have questions. I expect them to be a little lost and confused. You know, the way you felt on the first day of high school.
Making the invisible visible.
The greatest value my business offers is our ability to see the unseen. We paint pictures and draw maps so that others can see too. We build structure, we articulate thoughts and create unifying stories. The more answers we find the more valuable we become. But the kind of answers we are looking for can’t be googled. We have to create them ourselves.
Many would-be-collaborators want their clients to clearly articulate what they are looking for. The problem is, clients don’t often know what they are looking for. In fact, that’s why they need to hire outside help in the first place.
Professionals often loathe IWKIWISI clients. Those are the people who say I Will Know It When I See It. They can’t tell you exactly what they want. They can’t offer you a great brief. They can’t narrow the options down to 1 or 2. They need someone else to find the perfect option for them.
I love these types. They need the most help. Like a Sudoku puzzle with very few initial clues, they offer the greatest challenge. But when you solve those most difficult of puzzles, you experience the most satisfying rewards.
Think of young Helen Keller, who couldn’t see or hear. Then along came Anne Sullivan, who developed a system to teach the blind and deaf to learn language and communicate. She unlocked and unleashed the infinite power in Helen Keller’s mind. Who enjoyed the greatest reward as a result, Helen or Anne?
If you have the kind of skills to make the invisible visible or to make the intangible tangible, you can help transform organizations, people and places. If you need those type of people, take comfort in knowing they are out there. And someone knows where you should look to find them.
I love talking to college students. Throughout my career I have guest-lectured, judged class projects, and spoken on numerous panels. I enjoy these opportunities to encourage students. It’s fun to see how your personal career path can provide a map for future professionals. It is fascinating to see the world through the students’ eyes again. But best of all, I like telling students that the need for internships is a myth created by kids who have internships.
The past three semesters I have guest-lectured for an advertising campaigns class at Marquette University. In this class, the students spend a semester creating a campaign for a real client. At the end of the semester, they then present to that client. I come in for a class or two to teach the students what I can about the creative process.
This year my lesson consisted of 3 parts.
I shared the journey of my career, from college student at the University of Wisconsin, to launching my own advertising agency, The Weaponry.
I talked about creativity and the creative process.
I gave the students a creative assignment that they had one week to complete.
I wanted the students to have a significant creative problem to solve. So I chose retail traffic. As you have probably heard by now, an invention called the internet makes it easy for people to buy virtually anything from their computer or smart-thingy. In fact, smart-thingy is just shorthand for an electronic device that lets you shop from bed.
As a result, people are no longer reliant on physical stores for anything. This is a major problem for retailers who have significant physical spaces. Because those stores become unprofitable and unnecessary when people stop dropping by to drop off money.
How do you get young people to shop at physical store locations?
Here is the assignment I gave 35 Marquette students:
We need to get Marquette Students, who are entering the workforce, to visit a Kohl’s physical store location, by telling them it is the best place to find their new workforce wardrobe.
The universal knee-jerk reaction to this challenge from the students was:
‘Why would I have to visit a store? It is so much easier to shop online.’
‘This is the greatest challenge facing retailers today. Your mindset is a major problem for them. Since college students represent the next great hope or the nail in the coffin for brands with significant retail locations, you hold the key to this perplexing problem.’
The Thinking Began
We gave the seven groups of five students one week to come up with their solutions. They could advertise to the student population anywhere on, or around the Marquette campus. There were no media restrictions or requirements. The ideas the student shared were both surprising and somehow obvious at the same time.
4 key takeaways from college students for retailers.
Here are the buckets of ideas we heard from the seven groups
1. Offer Me Services.
There are a host of services that students are not getting right now that would offer real value.
Help me understand how to dress professionally appropriate for my career.
Help me find clothes that fit well.
Help me coordinate, accessorize and create multiple outfits to make my money go further.
2. Help Get Me There
The rising generation does not see transportation the way previous generations saw it. Car ownership will not be ubiquitous. It may not even be popular. To get younger shoppers to the stores you may need to actually give them a ride to the store, or help them foot the bill.
The students had ideas like receiving UberCredits from the store when they show their college IDs.
Retailers could advertise on the campus vans that offer students free rides around campus at night. During the day, Kohl’s could hire these vans to take student to shop at Kohl’s. Think Express route to Express
3. Find Me Where I am
If I should be thinking about you, meet me where I am. And that’s on SnapChat. Join the story.
Find me on campus. The students had multiple good ideas about Kohl’s showing up at places they are spending their time, like the student union, library and even bars and restaurants. To be top of mind, you may just have to show up and say hi.
Influence the influencers. The students talked about involving the professors, staff, other students and advisors. The Kardashians may not be the only people influencing these students.
4. Get Involved
The students had ideas for fashion shows on campus that Kohl’s could sponsor.
At Job Fairs retailers can offer advice on how to dress for interviews and the workplace.
There are great ways to get people to visit retail locations. Personalized services and unique experiences will be key. Think about services as much or more than you think about the products you sell. Remember to fish where the fish are. Not where the old fish used to swim. You may have to coordinate or compensate the travel. This may sound weird, but it is important. It’s no longer business as usual. And the new business may feel unusual. But that’s what keeps it interesting.
There are some business secrets they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School. Like the fact that every great business needs a great sticker. The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, now has a great sticker. It comes from Sticker Robot. Which I think is where The Jetsons and R2-D2 get their sticker supplies.
Sticker Robot makes the best silkscreened stickers in the business. But if you want some for your business you should order them the same day you establish your legal business entity. Because they take a loooong time to produce. We ordered ours back in November. They finally arrived on January 16th.
A video on how Sticker Robot make their world-famous stickers.
The Modern Branding Iron.
The whole concept of branding originated from ranchers who branded their livestock with a hot iron to identify their little dogies. Today I find very few people who will let me sear them with a red-hot iron. So we use these 2.5 inch X 2.5 inch vinyl stickers instead. I have already placed one on my computer, my Yeti tumbler, my car and all three of my children.
Check out that backside… (It’s stickerlicious!)
But what I really love about them is their backside. Sticker Robot allows you to print a message or design on the back of the sticker. So we added some of our philosophy. And some of our philosophy about our philosophy. And we added a call to confusion. Which is like a call to action, if the action actually leads to more confusion, like our website does. Visit theweaponry.com to see what I mean.
Then we also added a note about the importance of proofreading. See the *note below? I’ll wait while you review.
Did you find the typo? Did you look carefully?
If you didn’t find the typo it is probably because there is no typo. We just thought it was a funny addition. And perhaps it would increase engagement. Who reads the back of a sticker two or three times? Well, if it’s a sticker from The Weaponry, and you feel challenged, maybe you will. Then, maybe you walk away with a story about how you spent 60 seconds looking for a typo that wasn’t really there.
This sticker sums up The Weaponry pretty well.
We believe in the power of a consistent brand look.
Red reflects our enthusiasm.
We believe the most powerful weapon on Earth is the human mind.
We believe that business is war.
We believe we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.
And we believe in finding fun ways to increase engagement.
If you would like a sticker just ask (I now carry them with me everywhere). Or leave a request in the comment section below. You can also stop by The Weaponry to pick one up (1661 N. Water Street In Milwaukee). If you are looking for a job, an internship, a chance to network or just a good excuse to come for a grand tour of The Weaponry’s World Headquarters, a sticker request is a good in. And we have a sticker with your name on it. Well, actually our name is on it. That was just a figure or speech.
*If you would like to stick around to learn more about The Weaponry and my entrepreneurial journey please subscribe to this blog. You may even find some real typos.
People regularly ask me if I am a full-time blogger. This always makes me laugh. I assume that would mean that I blog 24-hours a day. Which would make it really hard to shower. Or trim my fingernails. I actually have several other responsibilities. I am the Founder of the advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. And when I am not blogging or foundering I spend my time husbanding and fathering.
I got my fist job as a father in 2005. Since then I have tripled my responsibilities. My youngest son is a 7-year old viking named Magnus who inherited my love for football. In fact we toss a football around every morning while waiting for the school bus.
Yesterday Magnus must have eaten his Wheaties (which is a reference that you’ll only understand if you were born before 1980). Because every time Magnus tossed the ball he threw it way over my head. So I jogged to pick up the ball, and tossed it back. But after several of these Wheaties-fueled throws I stopped and asked Magnus,
‘Are we playing catch, or are you just playing throw?’
As I asked the question I recognized that Magnus’ approach was emblematic of a common problem that occurs every day in communications. Both personal and professional.
Tossing Marketing Messages
In the most basic form, marketing communications are a simple game of catch. The game starts with a marketer throwing a message to a prospective buyer. The prospective buyer catches the message and throws his or her message back. That message could be, I’m interested, I’m not interested, I’m confused, or Tell me more. As long as you are communicating there is an opportunity to get to a mutually beneficial transaction.
But far too often marketers throw their messages the way Magnus threw the football. Hard. Fast. High. Marketers are focused on their own perspective. In their eagerness to drive results (ROI) they shout what they think is important. They don’t think enough about the person at the other end of the message. Thus, their message sails way over the head of the intended recipient. And there is no reply at all.
Before you throw your next message:
Know who you are throwing to.
Understand how they like to catch.
Account for the distance.
Throw something catchable.
Observe what happens when you throw your message, and recalibrate accordingly.
Prepare to receive the message that gets tossed back to you.
Remember, communication is a two-way interaction. Account for your audience in everything you do. Make it an enjoyable experience for everyone involved. When you do you’ll be surprised how many people will happily play catch with you.
If you found anything I threw your way useful, or think I am off target, please share a comment or subsrcibe to this blog so we can keep playing catch.
Do you know how to sell things? You should. Because sooner or later, everyone needs to sell something. It might be as simple as Girl Scout cookies, that ugly couch from college that knows too much, your home or your car. Selling is an essential element of commerce. Businesses live or die based on their ability to sell.
But if you run a household or are an aspiring Minimalist, you need to be able to sell too. Because at some point you are going to find yourself in possession of things that you just can’t use. You probably have some tweener items squatting in your home right now that are too nice to throw away and too nice to give away.
I did. As a marketing professional I was very curious to find the best way to sell such things. So I performed my own experiment. I tested three different channels. I tried selling in-person and online. I also tested a new platform. The results were surprising. Like Macaulay Culkin-using-aftershave surprising.
The Garage Sale
We recently moved into a new home and had some things that didn’t work in our new space. It was nice stuff. But it was Bruce Jenner-ish in a Caitlyn Jenner world. The people we bought our house from also left a few unique items in the house that were more them than us. So they had to go too.
Our subdivision was having a whole-neighborhood garage sale. We were garage sale virgins. But we decided that the Westchester Lakes All-Neighborhood Garage Sale would be our first. However, our first time wasn’t the greatest. It rained, which hurt traffic (the rain didn’t actually hurt the people). We sold a lot of toys, clothes and decor. But we didn’t sell our bigger furniture items. Which was what we were most interested in offloading.
The Digital Experiment
When the final bell sounded on our garage sale we still had a bedroom set, a formal chair, an end table, a large doll house and a set of bar stools that needed to go.
So we moved to Plan B.
I decided the best option was to post our things online. I have sold many random things on Craigslist. Including a car, a swing set and 5 counter tops. But I was curious about how significant some of the new Sell-Your-Stuff-Here platforms had become. So I decided to have a sell-off between Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. I called Pay-Per-View to see if they wanted to cover the rumble. They declined.
I started with the bedroom set. There was a white dresser with mirror, end table, headboard, footboard and side rails. I posted it with the same photos and same description on both sites.
The posting on Craigslist was good. I used their mobile app. It was quick, clear and easy. It didn’t take me long to get it posted. It generated three inquiries the first day. I had 12 people respond to the Craigslist posting over 3 days. I was very pleased. Craig and his list had lived up to my previous expectations.
This was my first time using The Marketplace. It walks you through a 4-step process that makes it moronically simple to list your items. My post was live in no time. But what came next was a total surprise.
Almost immediately the responses flooded in like Harvey in Houston. I had 48 responses in 48 hours. I responded to each inquiry quickly, and had to determine how to prioritize the request to see the items.
That was actually my biggest problem. Because the first person needed 24 hours before she could come see the bedroom set. Then she didn’t show. And neither did the second in line. The 3rd came but it wasn’t quite what she wanted for herself (it was really more of a kid’s bedroom set, and she was looking for a set for herself).
But the second person to come see the set snatched it up and we were done. I was able to declare the buyer on The Marketplace and signal that the item had been sold with just 2 clicks.
Following that Joey Chestnut-like feeding frenzy, I posted the doll house, chair and end table on the Facebook Marketplace too. All of them sold within 24-hours with serious interest across the board.
I had listed the bar stools twice on Craigslist over the past 12 months and they didn’t sell. I listed them for a significantly higher price on the Facebook Marketplace and sold all five for my asking price, with 2 backup buyers to spare.
The Facebook Marketplace is a force to be reckoned with for online selling. Both individuals and businesses should take notice. People are already spending a ton of time on Facebook. So sellers are fishing where the fish spend their leisure time. Whereas Craigslist is where the fish swim when they need an end table.
The Facebook Marketplace could be huge. It may be Facebook’s equivalent to QVC or The Home Shopping Network, or bigger. So the next time you have something to sell go where people are killing time and are happy to find a killer deal. You’ll be happy you did. As for me, I am just happy to have my garage back before the snow flies.
Words make me laugh. Double entendres are one of my favorite things on Earth. I love innuendo and the word play that Shakespeare thought was funny. I analyze the meaning of words like a lawyer. A really fun, 10-year-old lawyer. Last night my family and I watched a special on TV about the Voyager 1 & Voyager 2 spacecrafts. Every time they mentioned Uranus, me and my boys (10 & 7) giggled like elementary school kids. Come on, how do you keep it together when the narrator says, ‘Scientists from around the world were on the edge of their seats, waiting to get their first good look at Uranus.’?
Here on Earth, I work in the marketing universe. The language used in this space is hilarious. I am sensitive to all the silly words used every day in marketing that really make no sense. They simply give us a fancy way to talk that makes us sound crafty and inventitive.
Professional marketers talk about things like ‘solutions’. Which is a ridiculous marketing term. Because everything you pay money for is a solution to something. Food is a solution to hunger. A house is a solution to homelessness. A bathrobe is a solution to nakedness.
The word we don’t need.
But the funny word that makes me laugh today is ‘marketplace’. Sales and marketing people talk this up like it is a magical environment, like Alice’s Wonderland. Or Oz. Or Narnia. Or Vegas.
But the ‘marketplace’ is a fancy-sounding word that simply means reality.
‘We are performing well in the marketplace’ means ‘We are performing well.’
‘The product has not caught on in the marketplace’ means ‘The product has not caught on.’
‘I bought some fish in the marketplace’ means you bought some fish in the marketplace. Ok, this use is legit. But this is never what marketers mean.
I propose that we stop adding ‘in the marketplace’ to our language. It’s a verbositization that we could all do without. If you ever find a way to buy and sell things outside the marketplace (world of trade), let me know. Because you, my friend, have done the impossible.