5 words from my Grampy that will improve your business and marriage.

Marriage is one of life’s greatest adventures. You can never be too prepared for it. Half of marriages end in I don’t. A healthy percentage of the other half aren’t any healthier. So on my wedding day I wanted to cram in one last bit of preparation. I scheduled breakfast with my three marriage mentors, my dad and my two grandfathers (who would all laugh me off the family tree for calling them my marriage mentors). At the time my parents had been married 32 years. My grandparents had been hitched 61 and 63 years.

After we sat down at Emma Krumbies in Wausau, Wisconsin and worked through some Northwoods pancakes and sausage I decided it was time for the knowledge share. I asked The Paternity, ‘What is the key to making a marriage great?’  With 156 years of experience at the table I felt like I just lit the fuse on a 4th of July fireworks grand finale. This was going to be an amazing show. So I sat back to take it all in.

Then my maternal grandfather, Kenny Sprau, crossed his arms, leaned back in his chair and said,

‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’

Um… WTF Grampy?  61 years of trial and error, nine kids and a World War, and that’s all you’ve got?  I wanted to give him a mulligan and see if he could hit it past the women’s tee this time. But he went on. ‘You have to keep doing the things that got you to this point.’

Over time I’ve come to understand what Grampy was saying.  When we are dating we are at our best. The unfortunate tendency is to drop the hard work, the energy, the attention, and charm we put into the relationship after the contract is signed.

This advice holds true in business as well as marriage.  Treat your potential partners well. Act as if you would like nothing more than spending the rest of your time together. Listen. Make them laugh. Show them you are interesting, kind and thoughtful. Get the contract signed.  And then keep doing what you’ve been doing.

If you are a creative it is easy to get precious about the work you do.  It’s easy to throw hissy fits (although the best place to grab the hissy to throw it is hard to determine). It’s easy to be combative. Oh, and it’s easy to go out of business. The statistics aren’t good.

But in business, as in marriage, listening and collaborating are valuable approaches to your growth strategy. Clients and spouses alike really like that stuff. Crazy right?  When you respond favorably to a client’s request they generate something called ‘good feelings’ about you.  And these ‘good feelings’ make them want to see you more and work with you more. And the result is business growth.

The opposite is also true.  If you are the all-time best seller at The Jerk Store no one wants to be around you. This is true of both the individual and the organization.

If you recognize complacency, apathy or combativeness between your organization and your clients stamp that out like a flaming bag of dog poo on your front porch. The behavior may feel justified today. But you’ll regret the justice leveled tomorrow when you’re trading the offspring in the McDonald’s parking lot.

At the Perfect Agency Project our goal is to treat our current business like new business. We never want to take them for granted.  We are trying to re-win them every day. Even after we put a ring on it. Thanks for the wise advice Grampy. Me and Grammy miss you.

 

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Who should go to the pitch?

Whoever does most of the talking at the initial meeting needs to work with us the whole time.  -Elise Demboski

When the going gets tough read this.

My career goal is to create the perfect advertising agency. Simple right? Or maybe not. Because attaining perfection is hard. And elusive. And a Milton Bradley board game that makes you feel like MacGyver racing the timer on a bomb in your rec room. But creating the perfect agency is my goal because it’s hard. And because achieving it would help make everyone involved (including my clients, my teammates and our families) happy, sought after and prosperous.

If you are undertaking something hard, and I hope you are, it will test you, repeatedly.  Like a diabetic tests their glucose. Your mission is like a boxing match. You step between the ropes and square off with whatever or whoever is standing between you and your goals. And you start throwing all you have at each other. Only one of you will win. The one who wants it more.

Today I read a great quote that I want you to put in your pocket. As you fight for your dreams, your goals and your right to party  pull it out between rounds and use the quote as your smelling salts to help shake off the cobwebs and the fatigue.

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other thing -Abraham Lincoln

My friends, Abe Lincoln knew what he was talking about. Though he faced immense opposition, his personal resolution lead to the single most important victory in American history, both for our nation and for us as humans. He also used his unwavering resolve to achieve his other lofty life goals of getting his face on the penny, creating a popular log-based toy, and building a car company with Matthew McConaughey.

So keep doing that hard thing. Keep fighting for your ultimate success. Keep your eyes on the prize. And keep Lincoln’s quote close at hand. Because as he can attest, you never know when you might take an unexpected hit. (What? Too soon?)

The secret ingredient to increase your creativity.

Everyone wishes they were more creative.  Even really creative people.  Because there is a magical power that comes with great creative abilities. You can see things others don’t. You find opportunities in business that others miss. You can create art, music, stories, products and services that people have never seen before.

Much has been written on the subject of increasing your creativity. There is brainstorming and mindstorming and Hannah Storming activities you can do. Some people try drugs or alcohol to unlock their creativity.  Which can lead to really creative ways to ruin your life.  But there is one key ingredient that is guaranteed to help you, your coworkers and your family and friends think more creatively. And that’s confidence.

Creativity is about taking chances. And the more we believe in ourselves the more and bigger chances we are willing to take. The opposite is also true.  When we don’t have great confidence in a particular area of our lives we play it safe. That’s why I look for confidence when I hire creative talent. (I also look to see if they are dry and secure, and if they will raise their hand…)

I saw a great example of confidence-enhanced creativity recently in my 10 year old daughter, Ava.  She is a great writer if I do say so myself. And I do say it often because I want to amplify this strength. Recently her school held a writing competition. Each class would have two finalists whose writings would be judged against the best writers from the other classes to see who was the best in the entire grade.

Ava came home one day and couldn’t wait to tell me what happened in class. She said, ‘Dad, today in school the kids started talking about who they thought were going to be the two winners from my class. And everyone thought that I was going to be one of them!’   She felt like she had already won. That’s because everyone believed in her. So what happened next? A couple weeks later I ran into her handsome and talented teacher, Mr. Paul DeVigne, at a school play. He said, ‘Adam, I’ve been looking for you! (I get this a lot.) We have had a writing competition at school and Ava won for her entire grade!  Now I need your permission to allow her to enter her poem in the county-wide competition.’ Boom goes the dynamite!

I am sure Ava would have written a nice piece no matter what. But the fact that her class believed in her gave her added confidence to take greater chances.  And when you read the poem she wrote she clearly pushed her creativity and took bigger chances than she might have had no one considered her a viable champ.

So look for opportunities to increase confidence in yourself and others.  Create easy wins, celebrate them and grow. Reward the wild ideas, the big dreams, and you’ll get bigger and wilder yet.  The mind is a complicated place. But if you fill it with high octane confidence there’s no telling what great ideas will come out.  Good luck.  Think big. I know you will. Because you are good enough. You are smart enough. And gosh darn it, people like you.

The most freakishly surprising sentence in the English language.

The primary roll of The Perfect Agency Project is to stimulate your thinking.  And stimulation comes in various forms. It could come from a contrarian point of view. Or a new technology and its resulting possibilities. Or it could come from a humorous video, like ‘Football To The Groin’.

Today the creative and intellectual stimulation comes in the form of a freakish sentence that is shocking in its grammatical correctness. So where did I find such an oddity? The Grammar Circus, next to the bearded sentence and the phrase with the serpent tongue?  No. I found it at Hanover High School in Hanover, New Hampshire. Where minds are blown everyday by chemistry experiments gone crisply wrong, moose on the field hockey field and the fact that I got sent to the principals office on the first day of freshman year. But I digress.

Back to the sideshow sentence that has stuck in my processor for decades.

With only a little further ado…

I present to you…

Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.

You’re probably thinking, “What The What!?!”  That’s not a sentence! But I assure you it is. And I will slowly reveal its meaning one element at a time.

First, it is not a chant you hear at a Bills game. Okay. So it actually is a chant you might hear at a Bills game. But that wouldn’t be a real sentence. It’s not a log entry from the American Bison Census from a household of four. And it’s not the top four answers to the Family Feud Question: Name Ted Turners four favorite animals.

The sentence breaks down like this: (scroll slowly to see if you can figure out the rest on your own).

The first Buffalo refers to the city in New York.

Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.

The second buffalo refers to the the animal, plural (a group of buffalo).

Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.

The third buffalo is the verb. It means to baffle. It could also mean to intimidate.

Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.

The fourth buffalo again refers to buffalo, plural (a group of buffalo).

Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.

Got it?  If not, here’s a little more help. Written in a less intriguing style this sentence would say:

Buffalo from the city of Buffalo baffle (or intimidate) other buffalo.

If you still don’t understand, please comment below and I’ll try my best to clarify. For the rest of you I hope this has been a fun and freaky look at language. Share it. Tweet it. Like it. Break it out at parties. It’s a crowd pleaser. Especially if you run with a librarian crowd. Although if you do, don’t run with them through the library at Hanover High on the first day of school.

 

 

 

Why Peyton Manning should be in the Marketing Hall of Fame.

 

Super Bowl 50 has come and gone. There were winners and at least one very sore loser. There was the expected halftime Pepsiganza and gonzo commercials. But what was particularly interesting to armchair marketingbacks  were the brands that scored extra points outside the 30 second commercial thanks to Denver Broncos quarterback, Peyton Manning.

After a historic career Peyton has an open invitation to the Pro Football Hall of fame. But as the clock counts down on his days playing football Peyton Manning will transition seamlessly into his next chapter. Because Peyton knows marketing. And endorsement. And business. Perhaps better than any other current athlete. My good friends at Nationwide will surely want him to share how their insurance and financial products will help him in retirement. Because those guys are on his side (and your side too). But I believe his actual retirement plan looks like this:

  1. Take a stake in a brand.
  2. Market brand at big moments.
  3. Cash checks.

We got a good look at his playbook during the Super Bowl. Just in case you missed it, here’s a breakdown of three of his scores.

The first came just before kickoff. Because it was Super Bowl 50 it created the perfect opportunity to honor the 49 past Super Bowl MVPs. The NFL invited them all to the game. And one by one they were announced to the crowd, emerged from the tunnel to much applause, and took their place in Canton’s West Coast Exhibit. There was, however, one notable exception. Peyton Manning. When they announced Manning’s name the collective NFL fan base wondered what would happen next. Was he really going to come out and join this elite group? Surely not. Didn’t he have someplace more important to be? I had flashbacks to when the Von Trapp Family Singer’s were announced as the winners of the Nazi talent show in The Sound of Music. So what happened next?

Suddenly the television coverage cuts to a profile shot of Peyton, sitting alone in the locker room. But wait! He was dressed to play, football!?! But he is 39 years old!?! How could he still be playing in the Super Bowl? Nobody this old has ever started at quarterback in the Super Bowl. But the answer was right there too. Because Peyton was seated in front of perfectly positioned pallets of performance-sustaining, career- sustaining, camera-shot-sustaining Gatorade. And if that wasn’t enough, the NFL’s ambassador to AARP was shown contemplatively sipping from his electrolyte-laden fountain of youth. Touchdown for Gatorade. Just another day at the office for this veteran spokesback.

Petyon drinking gatorade

The second marketing score was on a trick play. Just as the clock was ticking to zero and all eyes and cameras were on Peyton he started to jog onto the field. But then he stopped. He turned to his left and obviously saw someone worthy of his attention. So he paused before he ran on to the field to celebrate the biggest and perhaps final moment of his career. But who would warrant a delay at such a moment? Archie Manning? John Elway? Beyonce’? Nope. The next thing we saw on camera was a hearty embrace between Peyton and John ‘Papa John’ Schnatter, The Pizza King of Louisville. Peyton obviously plays starting endorserback for Papa Johns. And he own 21 franchises in Colorado. But I was certainly surprised to see that they were close enough and brand savvy enough to get their pepperoni rally  in front of a world stage.

Peyton and Papa

The final drive was for Budweiser. After Old Man Manning won the Super Bowl the world wanted to know, “Are you going to ride off into the sunset now on your Bronco, or Colt or Buick? We waited with bated breath. But Peyton really wanted to kiss his wife and kids before he got himself a little beer breath. Which is what he said next. But not with just any beer. He said this moment called for the King of Beers, Budweiser. Twice he mentioned that he wanted to drink a bunch of Budweiser. Once in his post game interview and again on stage accepting the Lombardi Trophy. Closer examination reveals that Peyton owns a swig of two Budweiser distributors in Louisiana. Which means Peyton was going to celebrate his win by taking care of a little more business.

As you contemplate your next marketing move consider teaming up with someone who can help your brand move further faster. It doesn’t have to be a household name. Because in the social age important influencers are everywhere. They are key employees, consumers, bloggers, tweeters and YouTube celebrities. They can all be important advocates for your brands, dropping natural endorsements for you at important moments.  And the value you receive from your relationship may far exceed the investment. After all, my best performing blog post was the one Vanilla Ice retweeted. But just imagine if I could get Peyton to mention my blog …

 

 

 

3 things every business can learn from Super Bowl commercials.

The greatest sporting event in America is this Sunday. Maybe the greatest sporting event in the world. I know there are arguments that the FIFA World Cup is bigger than our football game. And that the Olympics have more flames, more luge and more cowbell. But neither of those is the Super Bowl. Our Super Bowl is the Super Bowl of all Super Bowls. Which I admit is a super dumb thing to say.

In 2015 more than 114 million Americans tuned in to the big game. And for good reason. Actually there are three good reasons to tune into this spectacle. First, for the football. The game is usually exciting. And this year we again have two great teams and a compelling matchup featuring Peyton “Old Man” Manning vs Cam “New Kid” Newton. (see what I did there?)

Second, the Super Bowl is a cultural phenomenon. It’s what everyone in the office will be talking about around the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine on Monday morning. If your office still has a water cooler the talk probably won’t be about the Super Bowl. It will be about why you still don’t have a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine.

And the third reason to watch is the commercials. The Super Bowl commercials are a fascinating study. Because we look forward to the commercials as much as we look forward to the game itself. Even though the commercials slow down the game and make the whole night last longer than a Wagner opera. But why?

The magic of the Super Bowl is that for at least one night a year we all recognize that the commercials themselves add value to our lives. They are entertaining. And on Sunday night, we as a nation will be in the mood to be entertained. The commercials are usually humorous. Some are big funny. Some are small funny. Some are produced like mini-blockbusters packed with action and drama. Some are touching and cute, usually with an animal tugging at your heartstrings. Which is particularly impressive when you consider that most cardiologists can’t even find your heartstrings.

As a whole the commercials are interesting and engaging. But even the lesser spots enable us to play commercial critic. And as we learned from American Idol, a few train wrecks amongst the stars makes for oddly enjoyable TV.

As you prepare for Super Sunday here are three things every business can learn from the Super Bowl commercials.

Meet people where they are.  As a business you need to put the audience you want to reach first. Understand their wants and needs. Understand their habits and how you can fit into them. If people want to party, like they do during the Super Bowl, party with them. If they want serious information to solve a serious problem, get serious with them. But don’t cross streams. Trust me on this one.

Offer a consistently enjoyable experience. A major reason we look forward to the Super Bowl commercials is that we enjoyed them last year. And the year before. And like Pavlov’s dogs, when we hear talk of the Super Bowl, we start salivating for Doritos, Budweiser and Coca-Cola commercials. So deliver a great experience every time. Because when you do, whether you’re a carpet cleaner, a dentist, a software company or a mortician, your customers will look forward to interacting with you again. Wait, scratch mortician.

Make great things.  Americans love greatness. We have a deep appreciation for things like a well crafted Super Bowl commercial, or say, a well written blog post. Great things get elevated in our culture.  Yeti coolers, iPhones and American Giant sweatshirts are all great products from great companies that generate a lot of love. In turn they help build great brands that command love, respect and a premium price. So focus your business efforts on making things great. And the profits will follow.

I hope you enjoy the game. I hope you enjoy the commercials.  And I hope you enjoy the conversations about the game and the commercials on Monday. But most of all I hope that by this time next year your business is competing in the Super Bowl of your industry. And that you have a long line of customers lining up outside your door.  Unless, of course, you’re a mortician.