Are you really playing catch or are you just throwing?

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.

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?’

 

 

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Magnus always wants me to go long.

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: 

  1. Know who you are throwing to.
  2. Understand how they like to catch.
  3. Account for the distance.
  4. Throw something catchable.
  5. Observe what happens when you throw your message, and recalibrate accordingly.
  6. 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.

 

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The quick and easy new way to sell your things online.

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.

Craigslist

IMG_6713The 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.

Facebook Marketplace.

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.

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This doll house that also moonlights as a bookshelf was snatched off the Facebook Marketplace in minutes for $30.
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This classic end table was snatched up on the Facebook Marketplace on day one.
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These oak bar stools came with our house.  We had previously listed them on Craigslist twice.

 

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I bought this sweet green chair at a garage sale 13 years ago for $15. I sold on The Facebook Marketplace for $25.

The conclusion

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.

A word that has no place in the marketplace.

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.’?

Marketing Speak

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.

What is your St. Louis Arch?

I recently spent a long weekend in St. Louis with my family. It’s a great city with history, excellent food, interesting architecture and such. They have some of the best such in America. The city has a special place in my heart because 17 years ago I proposed to my wife, Dawn, under the St. Louis Arch.  Why would I choose The Arch as my proposal stage?

Top 5 reasons I proposed under the St. Louis Arch.

  1. I could afford to.
  2. It’s the Eiffel Tower of Missouri.
  3. It was April and the weather in St. Louis was way better than Wisconsin.
  4. It seemed better than the monkey house at the St. Louis Zoo.
  5. I heard that Lewis and Clark, one of the great American couples, started their adventure under the St. Louis Arch.

Back to the story.

My family and I enjoyed many of the great attractions of St. Louis: The afore-mentioned Zoo, Grant’s Farm, a great restaurant on The Hill, The City Museum (which is one of the most interesting, mind-opening places I’ve ever seen), historic St. Charles and, of course, The Arch.

The thing that stood out about St. Louis, above all else, was The Arch. It simply makes the city look different than any other city. It is the thing that makes the St. Louis brand memorable.  There are a lot of great cities in America, and the midwest is packed full of them. But it is hard to come up with the distinguishing feature of Detroit, Cincinnati, or Minneapolis. Other than the sitcoms that took place there.

Since proposing under the arch I have noticed just how much it is used as an American icon. Every time a commercial, TV show or movie wants to tell the ‘Sea-to-Shining-Sea’ story they include the following:

Icons that represent America

  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • The St. Louis Arch
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • A lighthouse in Maine

Not only does the Arch represent St. Louis, for most coasters, it represents the entire Flyover Region of America. (I’ve always thought that ‘The Flyover Region’ sounded funny. Mostly because I imagine people working at Levis discussing the ‘Flyover Region’.  As in ‘We should put a fly over that region’.)

In the city itself, The Arch (aka the Gateway Arch and the Jefferson Expansion Memorial) is the symbol that represents the city. Which makes me wonder, why don’t more places create their own version of The Arch?

And if it works for cities, certainly it works for brands.  Far too few brands take the time to figure out the one thing that will set their brand apart. Of course there are brands that have their thang: A catchy jingle (Nationwide Insurance) Free returns for life (L.L. Bean), Ducks (The Peabody Hotel) Swedish Meatballs (Ikea).

I have spent my advertising career helping clients find the things that will help them stand out from the crowd.  But the same holds true for your personal brand. (And we all have a personal brand).  Do you have something that stands apart?  Do you do something, say something, wear something different?  Do you refuse to eat chocolate? Is one of your eyebrows actually a tattoo of a caterpillar? Do you have a memorable sign-off to your conversations?  If you don’t have anything I encourage you to spend some time thinking about it. Or better yet, try something. See if you like it. See if it sticks.

Today we have an abundance of options for everything. When travelers are looking for their next destination, The Arch helps St. Louis stand out from other great neighbors like Kansas City, Omaha, Memphis and Indianapolis.  Having your own Arch-like differentiator will help your business or personal brand stand out in the same way. If you’d like help finding your Arch, shoot me a note. If you’d like a great place for a weekend getaway, head to St. Louis.

What makes these siblings freakishly unique.

Do you know what makes you unique? As an advertising professional I am always looking for the things that make brands and people stand out. In marketing, we call this a Unique Selling Proposition. A USP helps a brand, product or service stand apart from the competition in a meaningfully way. At The Weaponry, we help our clients discover and amplify their USP. Sometimes it is obvious. Other times we have to dig. Sometimes we dig to China.

I love discovering the USP in humans too. Everyone is special in his or her own way.  I remember being told this many times in my preschool and elementary school days. I believed it. While other kids may have had to do some soul-searching or head scratching to discover what made them special, I knew.

I am one of four children of Robert and Jill (Sprau) Albrecht. My parents got married 4 days before the 1960’s expired. They had my older sister, Heather, 17 months after that. Two years later they had their next child. Their first and only son. Me. Now, when I say I was born two years later, I mean it. My older sister and I have the same birthday.

My parents then slowed their roll, and waited almost 3 years to have my younger sister, Alison. Two years after that, our family caboose arrived. We named my baby sister, Donielle. (note to SpellCheck, AutoCorrect and Starbucks baristas: it is Donielle, with an ‘o’)

To recap: my older sister, Heather, and I have the same birthday, 2 years apart.  My two younger sisters, Alison and Donielle, have the same birthday, 2 years apart. Heather and I were born May 25th. Alison and Donielle were born May 22nd.  Which means my parents had 4 kids, on two days, just 3 days apart.

That’s pretty unique.

When telling new friends about our birthdays my parents would always conclude the story with:

…So we always say, “No more vacations in August!”

This always generated a huge laugh from the adults in the room. I’m a quick study. So when I would meet a new friend and tell them my origin story, I would always end it just like my parents did. I remember being at a sleepover and telling my friend’s parents this story, with the standard Albrecht-Family punchline. But as a 7-year old, I didn’t get big laughter. I made parents’ jaws drop. I got a look that even a 7-year-old could read as, ‘That is NOT an appropriate things to say. You won’t be playing with our Johnny again.’

But I had no idea what I was saying.  In fact, it wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I ever bothered to count back the 9 months from May to get some insight on the baby-making. And there it was. August. My parents made me and my 3 sisters in August. Apparently, while on vacation. Which is gross. And TMI. That’s why it wasn’t a cool thing for a 7-year old to say. Suddenly, all those horrified reactions made sense.  They thought I knew something that clearly I did not.

My family’s unique birthday story has always made me feel special. I now recognize that there are a handful of other things that make me special too. I can make a loud popping sound with my jaw. I may have the flattest feet on earth. I can make a pun out of any word you throw my way. But my birthday story always makes me feel like I was special from day 1. If you are giving birth to a business, brand, product or service, be sure to create it to be special from the start.  Then you’ll have as much fun telling your story as I have telling mine.

Today kicks off the Albrecht Family Birthweek. The biggest week of the year in the Albrecht family. Happy birthday today to my sisters Alison and Donielle, who are both in Houston. Happy be-earlied birthday to my sister Heather in Saint Paul.  I love all 3 of you more than footy pajamas, ice cream in a can and roller coasters. You make me proud to be your only bro. And you make me thankful for vacations in August.

Applying Dr. King’s approach at work.

I love MLK Jr. Day. It is a holiday that makes me think. It makes me appreciate being an American. Like the 4th of July, MLK Jr. Day is a reminder of the American Dream. Which is dreaming of your ideal world. Then overcoming the forces that have prevented that ideal from becoming your reality. Finally, you have a great movie made about you that garners critical acclaim, even if you don’t win the big awards you deserve.

My dream is to be ridiculously happy. I’m a happy person naturally. I consider it fortunate wiring. But I want Maximum Happiness. To help chart my path to MaxHap I did what MLK Jr. did. I envisioned something better than anything I have seen. I wrote down my plan. I painted a picture of the dream in vivid detail.  Then I began to bring it to life. To spare you all the details, the rest of this post will focus on my happiness derived from work.

My dream was born in the last hours of my 39th year.  I contemplated what I wanted the next chapter of my career to look like. Then I started scripting a plan to make it happen.

We spend so much of our time at work that you have to get the work life right to get your whole life right.

It was clear to me that no one else was trying to create my ideal workplace. It was my responsibility. But after 20 years in the advertising industry I knew that if I could create the perfect agency I could help a lot of other people achieve their own happiness in the process.

So I started The Perfect Agency project. It was just a project at first. Then, as it gained shape I decided to create a blog about it. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Maybe you are reading it right now. Maybe there is no way that you are not reading it right now.

Then I named the agency The Weaponry and began to bring it to life in 2016.

I started by scripting philosophies and processes. But I have written down everything. I have written a list of clients I want to work with (you may be on that list).  I have created a list of teammates I want to work with (you may be on that list). I have detailed services, team sizes and office locations. I have a list of features for our physical space that will make others ask, “Why don’t we have that?’  I have created such a clear image in my head that the rest of the project is simply bringing the blueprint to life (as if that were a simple task).

Here are a few of the important points that will make The Weaponry my ideal place to work, contribtuing to my MaxHap.

First, there are just three key factors that will determine our success.

  1. Excellent creative ideas.
  2. Amazing customer service.
  3. A fun experience for everyone involved.

We will call our people team members, not employees.  They work with us. Not for us.

We must remain eternally optimistic. There is a beautiful solution to every problem. It is our job to find it.

We must be collaborative. We have to enable and create great ideas. But we also must recognize when the client (and, yes, even the client’s spouse) has a great idea that we should bring to life. Too may agencies think they have a monopoly on good ideas.  But there are two parts to the idea business that you have to master. 1. Coming up with great ideas. 2. Recognizing great ideas on arrival. Even if they didn’t hatch in your incubator.

The Perfect Agency is a place that values the experience and know-how of professionals who have been crushing it and accumulating knowledge for decades. But it also embraces the college student and even high schoolers who bring unbridled energy and fresh thinking to the table. Mixing the two together gives the ideal agency energy, stability and control.

The Perfect Agency uses feedback productively. As an organization we are still in our infancy.  We have unlimited potential. But we need to take in feedback from others to learn and grow. Which includes feedback from staff, clients, advisors and partners. The kind of feedback you get when your walk in front of a speaker with a live microphone is not necessary to our success.

The Perfect Agency plays well with our clients’ other agencies, vendors and consultants. We want to be the best partners we can be. That means that we don’t drop the ball. But just as importantly, we don’t try to steal the ball from others. If we do what our clients want we will earn more work. We don’t need to punch, kick and stab others to get ahead.  This isn’t prison.

The Perfect Agency allows you to live where you want and is flexible with your time. Happy people are better teammates. We want people who are living their ideal lives. Ideas come faster, and service is better from happy people.  That means being open-minded to remote and part-time work.

The Perfect agency doesn’t force clients to sign a long-term commitment.  We are not trying to marry our clients after the first date.  We want our clients to be the ones who propose marriage because they love us so much and can’t stand the idea of us ever being with another client in their field of expertise. Romantic, I know.

The Perfect Agency doesn’t have A-holes. We baked that right into our logo.  See the A in the The Weaponry?  No A-hole.

the-weaponry_logo_red_cmyk

I could go on and on. But my dream blog post never hits 1000 words. If you would like to find out more about The Weaponry and how it could contribute to your long-term happiness give us a shout. My email is in my bio link. If  you can’t find that try adam@theweaponry.com.

The reason to do something unreasonable.

I don’t think Scott Hauser, the pastor at my church, thinks much about advertising, branding and marketing.  But I do.  So he may be surprised to hear how I re-interpreted his sermon on Sunday morning (and now I’m watching the sky for lightening). He told a heartwarming story about two of his friends from Northwest Pennsylvania who drove 10 hours to Western (don’t call me West) Virginia to attend a 2-hour memorial service for his mother-in-law. Immediately after the service, the friends turned right around and drove 10 hours home so they could make it to work the next day. What they did was so far beyond the expected that it was totally unreasonable. He summarized with this simple statement:

Do something unreasonable. And people will never forget it.

In business, brand memorability is everything.  If you are not top-of-mind when someone is considering a purchase, or offering a recommendation, you have lost an opportunity.  And the best way to make sure you are top-of-mind is to do something that people will never forget (it’s a real plus if that thing is also positive and legal).

Too often we focus on the blocking and tackling. The fundamentals. The rational and reasonable. And we forget that one well-placed, well-intended bit of crazy may be more powerful than the rest of our carefully considered efforts. It doesn’t have to be Red Bull-ish either. I once ordered a t-shirt from Ames Bros, and when the package arrived it came with a free sweatshirt!  Not the other way around, which would have been reasonable.  And now look at me. I’m all blogging about Ames Bros (because I’ll never forget that surprise hoodie goodie).

But here’s the kicker. You have to act before you need the results. Do it soon. Do something today if you can. Remember the Ruth’s Chris Steak House promotion this fall?  They offered a discount equivalent to the point difference in the final score of the 2016 Michigan-Rutgers college football game. They didn’t expect Michigan to win by 78 points. But now they have a great, unreasonable story that sets them apart from other upscale steakhouse brands.

Stunts, promotions, customer service. They all have the ability to be highly memorable. As do charitable donations. My friend and fellow Fletch enthusiast, Jeff Hilimire, began a great event called  48 in 48, which helps build 48 websites for nonprofit organizations in 48 hours, for free!  That is totally unreasonable! And totally memorable.

If you haven’t yet considered anything unreasonable, start now. This type of activity should be the most fun part of your job. If you want help thinking of, planning or executing a great unreasonable idea shoot me a note or give me a call. It would be a great and very reasonable reason for us to talk.