An easy way to make a memorable impression in the next hour.

 

I’m starting a new series called, “What are you doing with your blank?” I will pick a different blank for each post. You’re probably wondering, ‘What the blank is a blank?’ Blanks are the thousands of things in our lives that we could each make more interesting and distinct with a tiny bit of effort. Just ask athletes Ocho Cinco and Metta World Peace.

Today’s blank is: voicemail message. (So the question is ‘What are you doing with your voicemail message?’) Your voicemail message impacts your personal brand or your business (and probably both) whether you make an effort or not. Yet most people completely ignore these valuable messages. If you have chosen the default setting on your phone, you are hanging up on the opportunity to make a strong, favorable brand impression.

I’ve been having fun with my voicemail messages since they were called answering machine messages. Maybe too much fun. When I was in college, my roommates and I were recording an enthusiastic voicemail message at 4:00am, when Police Officer Buzzkill banged on our door to tell us they had received noise complaints ‘down at the Cop Shop.’

At The Perfect Agency Project we believe there is great value in unique, memorable or funny voicemail messages. Partially because they are so surprising. Our voicemail expectation are so low that it is easier to jump over the voicemail message bar than to limbo under it.

Last night I got a text from Monica Baer, a former coworker of mine from Cramer Krasselt.  The text read:

Hey, I’m going to call your vm so my kids can hear it :). Don’t pick up.

Does that happen to you?  Probably not. Could it?  Absolutely. Offer a message that will put a smile on your caller’s face. Make them feel important, give them a great quote, a piece of trivia or useful information. If you do, they’ll be happy they called.  Maybe they will even be a little disappointed when they get you instead of your interesting recording.

A memorable voicemail message is also free. It costs no more to create a great, value-adding, entertaining message than to leave no message at all. You can also update messages to match the weather, holidays or major events. You can tout business awards and successes. You could even use your voicemail message to tell callers about an interesting blog post you read about voicemail messages.

I often offer a voicemail promotion, offering a faster call back if the caller performers a specific request, like yodeling. I’ve asked callers to sing their voicemail messages. Think,  The Voice: Voicemail Edition.

Don’t be afraid to try. The great thing about unique voicemail messages is that they can be changed at any point. So try different messages and learn what works well for you and your brand. Just keep it relatively brief.

If you would like to hear my voicemail message give me a call. You can always text me first to tell me you want to hear my VM, so I know not to pick up. My number is 614-256-2850. Don’t be afraid to say hi. I look forward to your message.

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Do you have a Think Well?

The most valuable asset on the planet is a new idea. The surprising new solutions to old problems. The reinventions that change our lives and disrupt the way business is done. Ideas make money. And save money. They create competitive advantages, differentiation and wide motes out of model-thin air.

So why is it that a small handful of organizations seem to have a monopoly on great ideas? Nike, Google, Apple and Facebook all seem to pump out new ideas like Kardashians pump out selfies. While other organizations are simply one-hit-wonders, too busy dancing the Macarena with Rico Suave and Mickey to have another 99 Red ideas.

At The Perfect Agency Project we think the problem is simple. To generate great ideas you need two things.

  1. Time to think.
  2. A place to think.

I won’t get into the time issue here. Time is the most precious and most wasted commodity on Earth. Wait, I just got into the time issue.  Backing out now. Beep. Beep. Beep.

To make sure you are creating the best ideas possible you need to have a great place to think. I call this a Think Well, because:

  1. You think well in that space.
  2. When you find your place, ideas flow like water from a well.
  3. It sounds like Inkwell.
  4. I like a good triple entendre.

Does your office have a space people can escape to, that is quiet and relaxing?  Where people can think uninterrupted for a long stretch? Sure, senior executives usually have offices where they can close the door, put their feet up and imagine things like John Lennon did.  But what about the rest of the team?  Maybe you have a Think Well at home. If so, work there more often.

The downside to the open concept work environment, which eliminate offices, is that you decimate the natural thinking habitat. Which threatens the thinking population. Despite their popularity and low-cost per square foot, cubicle farms are not good at growing ideas.

There is a simple way to discover if your office has Think Wells: ask your employees. ( I thought of that in my Think Well). If they say they have such a place, encourage them to spend more time there.  If they don’t have one, send them on a mission to find one. If they can’t find a Think Well, you need to create one.

I’m a big fan of the quiet section of the library.  I’ve always gotten a lot of work done there. The no-talking mandate simply means I start talking to myself, in my head. Which is exactly what thinking is. That’s why every organization should have a quiet, comfortable space where you can go to let your mind jog. Innovative thinking requires pumping the thoughts and ideas from deep in your mind, into your conscious brain, where you can process them, and translate them into physical form.

As Napoleon Hill wrote in Think and Grow Rich:

“More gold had been mined from the mind of men than the earth itself”

So find your personal Think Well. Create a space for others. Then enjoy the ideas and the value they produce. Oh, if you know anyone from Baha Men, please forward them this post. I’m dying to finally know who let the dogs out, and if they ever came back.

 

To have more great ideas stop thinking about it.

I love ideas. New ideas tingle and jump in my head like pop rocks. If that is how crack makes you feel I would like crack. A lot. Ideas are the seeds that grow every kind of human-induced improvement on this planet. Yet many of us don’t spend much, if any time ideating.

I love the entire ideation process. I love loading my brain with information by reading and researching. Great ideas come from rearranging the ingredients in your head in new and novel ways. The more ingredients the more possibilities.

But after you top off your brain with input about the problem to be solved comes the most valuable part of the process: Stepping away from the problem completely. And doing nothing. That’s right. Just let the elements do what they want to do. Not what you want them to do. Yet, deep inside your mind, the ideas are growing. And fermenting. Brewing and bubbling. Forming and frothing. Without any additional effort from you.

This part of the process is like making cheese. Or wine. Or a baby. Well not making a baby. Just the baby-growing part. To the naked eye it looks like you are being lazy. The fun distractions at advertising agencies and other creative environments are great at getting team members away from the active thinking and into incubation. That way you don’t get in the way of the natural process. Think of it like baking a cake. Opening the oven door and jabbing toothpicks doesn’t help transform the batter into cake. Time and heat do the work.

The incubation period is the most valuable step in developing unique and differentiating ideas. Yet it is absolutely free. At The Perfect Agency Project we don’t charge for the time when we’re not actively thinking about challenges. During this phase of the process you can multitask. Or sleep. Or make cheese. Or compost. Or babies. The longer the incubation period the more you compound the interesting.

Unfortunately, for the professional creative, the incubation period is an endangered part of the process. Over the course of my career this valuable time has been disappearing like the Brazilian rainforest. And record stores. A lack of planning on the part of the requester hacks at this time. So does a lack of patience. But creatives thinkers have not done enough to promote the ROI clients earn on this free time. I hope sharing this post is a first step in re-establishing the importance of this step.

To make sure you get the most value out of the incubation period start early, build in time for nothing and let the team sleep on it. I often wake up and find myself perched on a great idea like a hen sitting on a warm egg. Resist the temptation to see work ASAP. You will often get the best results if you see the work ALAP.

So spend less money. Offer more time. Let your team know the outline of the challenge early. And watch the great ideas emerge like popcorn. And wine. And babies.

How to make your dreams come true in 3 easy steps.

Do you have dreams?  I do. I dream all the time. You could say I’m dreamy. And I wish more people did. But I also know how to bring my dreams to life. I don’t just blow out birthday candles or wish upon stars or listen to Hall & Oates. While all of those activities may help, I use a simple technique that has proven effective thousands of times.

You may ask yourself why a guy who works in Advertising! would know how to make dreams come true. Well, my job as a creative is to dream of new things and then bring them to life. My proven Adam Albrecht Approach To Creating Things (I just made that up) follows a simple 3 step process. And this process applies to anything you want to create. A commercial. A home. A business. An invention. A baby. Or even a commercial about a home business that invents babies.

Today, the Perfect Agency Project hopes to make the world a better place and help make more of your dreams come true by sharing our process. So without further ado, here is how you can create anything you want through Adam Albrecht’s 3 Steps of Non-Religious Creation (I just rebranded it).

Step 1.  Envision The Dream.  

This is as simple as it sounds. This step is about letting your brain run and play. It is about building castles in your head. It is dreaming up the perfect cookie or car wash or app. Picture your ideal fill-in-the-blank. Create a clear image in your head first. Get it in HD if it is available in your area. The more detail the better. This should be fun. And remember not to dream too small.

Step 2.  Write it down.

This too is about as simple as it sounds. However, 99.9969% of dreams/ideas/visions never happen because they don’t make it to this step. They never get written down. They never get described. The never take any form in the physical world.

Simply talking about your dream doesn’t cut it. Talking is like dreaming aloud. So that still falls under Step 1. To make your dreams come true they have to make it to paper or pixels (this will now be known as The Paper or Pixel Principle). Writing the idea down creates the recipe, the blueprint, the formula, the instructions, the map. You get it.

I have notebooks throughout my home that are filled with dreams. I am certain that these notebooks are the most valuable items I own. Because in them are the descriptions, plans and sketches of great things just waiting for step 3!

But before we move on it is important to note that the more time your spend acting in step 2  the easier the final step is. In step 2 you can start small with a few notes and descriptions. But come back early and often to flesh out your idea (please don’t flush it out).

For example, if you’re making a recipe write down the ingredients and the place you plan to go shopping. If you’re building your dream home, sketch out a crude representation (not in oil). Write down the specialist you’ll need to help you. Write down the materials. And the resources you need to find in order to fill in the gaps in your knowledge or abilities. If you need help financing your dream this step is critical. Because it makes the dream real enough for others to see. This is the plan that others can support too.  Which is what makes KickStarter work.

Step 3.  Make it real.

Despite what you may think, this step is also easy when you follow the process. That is because your dream has already been created, twice.  First, in your head when you created your vision. Then when you wrote it down and created the recipe. Now you simply start cooking. Or moving. Or building. You should see the steps and functions required to make progress from step 2.  If not, bounce back to step 2 for a moment to write it out.

Keep moving. Dreams are like sharks: if they stop moving humans will make up sayings about them both. As long as you are working on one of the 3 steps you are making progress. Although the goal must always be to move forward to the next step in order to complete the process.

So there you have it.  Whether your dream is to build a great BLT, create a hilarious video or put a human on Mars the steps are the same. See it. Write it down. Make it for realsies. So get started today. Keep Moving. Create something great. And then send me a note to tell me all about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

When Plan A, B, C & D Fail.

I love meeting new people. And I love helping people solve problems. And I got to do both of those things this morning before most people were alarmed by their clocks.

I arrived at Hartsfield Jackson International airport in Atlanta just before 6:30am for a flight to New York City. As I write this I’m flying to meet with a celebrity on the set of her TV show about some upcoming work we will be doing together. But as I stepped out of my car in the parking garage a panicked woman approached me saying, 

“I’m so sorry to bother you. But I just locked myself out of my car. My phone, purse, laptop and suitcase are all locked inside. I don’t know what to do.”

Talk about an exciting start to your day! She said she was flying to St. Louis on an 8:00am flight. So we started going through our options. And yes, I said OUR options. Becuase as a professional problem solver when someone brings me a problem it becomes my problem too. Except for maybe hair loss. With hair loss you’re on your own.

So like a couple of resourceful first world problem solvers we sprang into action. I pulled out my trusty smartphone and we called the airport to see if they had an unlocking service. They didn’t. Boo. But they did offer us the phone number of a locksmith partner that may be able to help. Yay! 

So we called the locksmith. And yes, they could send someone to help. Yay! But not until  9:00am. Boo.

So we looked at other options. 

Me: Do you have a AAA membership?

Kelly: No.

Me: Do you have emergency services through your car manufacturer?

Kelly: No.

Me: Hmmm. Do you have any sevens?

Kelly: No. Go Fish.

Me: What time is your meeting in St. Louis?

Kelly: 11:00am.

Me: So a later flight won’t work?

Kelly: No. And my company is counting on me to be there. We have built a technology product for this client and they are refusing to close the deal becuase they don’t understand it. I need to walk them through how the product works and solves their problem or the multimillion dollar deal will fall apart! (Dun-Dun-Dun!)

Me: Do you have your drivers liscence? 

Kelly: No.

Me: Why don’t we go see how we can get you through security without ID. (Heck, I got into bars in college all the time without an ID. How hard could it be?)

Kelly: (reluctantly) Let me check my car one more time just to make sure I’m not losing my mind.

At this point she walked back to her Ford Edge for another check. And I began searching on my phone for a Ford dealership that may be able to help.

A moment later she returned, slumped her shoulders and said, “You should go and catch your flight. And you can tell everyone on Facebook and Twitter that you met the dumbest woman in America. Becuase I have a Ford Edge. And the Edge has a keypad on the driver door.”

Me: Do you know the code?

Kelly: Yes.

Me: So you’re all set! 

 Kelly Yes!
At this point Kelly and I, strangers only moments ago, hugged, laughed and cheered on the top of the parking deck at the airport in the pre-dawn darkness. We celebrated our victory like we had just won the Showcase Showdown on The Price Is Right.
So I made a new friend this morning before 6:45am. Kelly made her flight. I got a test run on a valuable problem solving scenario. The Ford Edge got serious credit for a great problem solving, flight catching and potentially deal saving feature. And as Kelly said, I got to tell all of my friends on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn about her morning. Have a great day Kelly! I hope you close that deal. But don’t close your car door until you have your key in hand.

 

The most valuable lottery you’ve never heard of.

By now you all know that you didn’t win last week’s Powerball lottery jackpot of nearly $1.6 billion dollars. Sorry. And if you were like most Americans you were probably off by 5 or 6 numbers. I know how you feel. Because when I was 18 I had a lottery experience that forever shaped my perspective on this get-rich-instantly game.

It happened at my high school graduation. My classmates and I received our Hanover High School diplomas from our principal, the late, super-great Uwe Bagnato. As he handed us our diplomas we each handed him a lottery ticket. It was an exciting experiment. We all wondered how much he might win with 143 chances. (Don’t laugh. We scoured ten towns from two states to come up with 143 educatable kids).  Anyway, we imagined Uwe would become mega-rich, and we would be the last class to graduate under his principality. But when we discovered that he only won a couple of bucks, and would be back at work again after Labor Day, the lottery was forever dead to me.

Since graduation I’ve been betting on myself.  I have made my career as an advertising creative.  And we make our money through an ideation lottery, where ideas bounce around in our head like lottery balls, randomized for fairness.  And when our mental machinery cues those idea-balls to drop into our consciousness we either have winning ideas or losing ideas.

I love the odds in this game.  I stack them in my favor by absorbing the world around me through interesting experiences, reading,  human interactions and sweet tea.  What I like even better is that you can play the idea lottery non-stop. And I do.  For some it is nerve-racking to make your living in this manner.  That’s why so many creative thinkers burn out or switch professions.  But the ones that stick with it are often well rewarded.

The value of the creative lottery is summed up beautifully in one of my favorite quotes:

“More gold had been mined from the mind of men than the earth itself.”  -Napoleon Hill from Think and Grow Rich.

Napoleon, that is some powerful stuff.  But it’s a strange reality. Because I really don’t know where the ideas come from. Sure, sometimes the thoughts are mashups of two things I’ve considered recently.  And sometimes there is a strong logic chain the leads me to an idea.  But a healthy percentage of the time God just drops gold nuggets in between my ears, and for all I know I had nothing to do with it. I’m just smart enough to watch for them, recognize them when I see them and polish them enough to enable others  to recognize their value.

So the next time you watch those lottery balls mixing, think of all the great creative ideas formed in the minds of men and women that have turned them into millionaires and billionaires. I hope it encourages you to bet on your own ideas. And take it from me and Uwe, the chances of winning the lottery are far better in your head.