Why you should give it away, give it away now.

A year and a half ago I was in a fender bender. I was hit by a woman who was hit by a distracted driver, who didn’t realize that everyone else on the road stopped at a railroad crossing. I wrote about the experience in the post, Could You Pass The Fender Bender Test. While waiting for the authorities to show up, Laura ‘The Bumper Thumper’ and I began talking. We quickly struck up a friendship. It turns out that Laura has her own marketing business too.

Chapter Two

A couple of months after the incident I got a call from a potential client about a new marketing challenge they were facing. We agreed to meet face to face, and I invited Laura to bring her face to the meeting too.

The client was dealing with a new law that was dramatically changing the way they could market their service. More bluntly, their primary way of finding customers was now illegal. (So tawdry, I know!) The change posed a monumental threat to their very existence. They needed to quickly replace their old marketing approach with a new one, or there would be no business. (dun, dun, dun)

Laura and I met with two of the partners for two hours. We discussed numerous potential solutions to the problem. As I had imagined, Laura was a valuable asset. She asked a lot of smart questions. She had a very good understanding of the industry, and the major players in the market. Best of all, she didn’t hit anyone with a car.

When we left the potential client’s office, Laura said,

‘You really give a way a lot of ideas for free.’

She’s right. I do.

Here’s why I give ideas away for free.

I love free samples at the grocery store. Nothing sells me on your southern ham, spicy cheese, mango salsa or Fruity Barky Bites like tasting it myself. That tiny plastic cup worth of your product gives me everything I need to know to purchase more.

My business does not make Fruity Barky Bites. At least not yet. We produce ideas. So when I meet with people about their marketing challenges, I dig in. I start thinking through solutions with them. I offer up initial ideas worth considering. I get excited about solving the problem. They get excited about having the problem solved.

People don’t like to be sold to. They want to be in a position to buy. So rather than sell a client on why they should work with The Weaponry,  I like to offer people a sample of what they would get if they work with us. If they like it, they will want to buy. If they don’t like what they hear, they will pass. And both sides win.

Key Takeaway

I believe you should always add value before you try to extract value. Prove your worth. Make new clients and customers feel as if they have received more value than they have paid for. Give them a test drive so they can imagine the future. Once they decide to buy, don’t slow down. Keep over delivering. Always make them feel like they are getting more than they are paying for. Even when they are paying a lot.

*If you found value in this post, and would like more free samples, consider subscribing to this blog.

Advertisements

Life lesson in London.

The Dinner

A few years ago my wife and I went to London. We went without our three kids, which made it feel like we were playing hooky on a global scale. On the second night of our trip we had a world-class dinner experience at The Ritz.

Afterwards we strolled down Piccadilly, hand in hand. It was a wonderful July night. We were excited to be in one of the world’s greatest cities. We were adventurously far from home. And we had just finished a meal that we would talk about for the rest of our days.  Life was good.

The Show

Then something even more interesting happened. There, in that date-night glow, we witnessed a show that no one in the world saw except us. It was a one-man, one-act play.  The script had 5 words.

The stage was on the landing in front of a shop on Piccadilly. A homeless man was making his bed for the night. He was just steps off of the very busy street, outside, exposed to the world, and the elements, with no privacy. Like a zoo animal on display.

As he went about his routine of preparing his bed for the night he said:

Life is hard. No complaints.

I will never forget that. In those five words this man summed up a simple truth about life. And how he chose to respond. He clearly understood that life is a challenging game. He accepted the challenge. Even on the days when it seemed as if he was losing.

Inspiration comes in many forms.  That night I was inspired by a homeless man who faced a reality more challenging than most of us will ever face, without complaint.

On this Monday, as you head back to work, back to school and back to your own challenges, I remind you that, yes, life can be hard. But how you choose to respond to it is entirely up to you. And it is your response that makes all the difference.

Why lying is so good for you.

I used to think I was an honest person. I can only think of one promise that I’ve made and not kept, since 8th grade. On the night I graduated from high school I promised my friend Simon Phillips that I would sign his yearbook. And I still haven’t done it. A few years ago I reached out to Simon through Facebook to apologize and to try to complete my obligation. Apparently he forgot all about my unkept promise. I have not.

But smack dab in the middle of what I had considered to be a very honest life I realized two shocking truths:

1. I tell lies all the time.

2. I have no idea how smack and dab came to qualify the middle of something.

The lies I’m talking about are not little white lies. Not exaggerations of something mostly true. They are complete and utter falsifications and fabrications. Big league lies.

My string of outlandish lies goes back to high school. I can remember saying that I was the boys high school state record holder in the discus. I first told this lie when I was a scrawny freshman who had only thrown the discus in one meet. And in that one meet my best throw was 60 feet shy of the state record! I was a liar. Yes, I was a liar. And my pants were certainly on fire.

The lies continued in college. After a couple of rough semesters academically my GPA indicated that I was a terrible college student. But I lied and said that I was a great college student who got great grades and made the Dean’s list. All lies.

Once I started my career in advertising the lies just kept coming. Before I even landed a job I started telling outlandish lies about my accomplishments, accolades and income. I was a one man lie-athon.

But a funny thing happened after I told all those lies.

They started coming true.

Sure enough, in the last track meet of my senior year I broke the state high school discus record by 3 feet.

In college, I followed up a couple of terrible academic semesters with 7 straight semesters that included making the Dean’s List, being named an Academic All-Big Ten athlete, achieving a GPA of at least 3.5 every semester and graduating with a GPA of 3.88 within my psychology and journalism majors.

In my advertising career the lies keep coming true too. I lied when as a young writer I said I could help attract fun clients to the agency  where I worked. Then I helped the agency pick up Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Sea•Doo watercraft, Evinrude outboard motors, as well as CanAm ATVs and the Spyder Roadster

Building on that success I then joined a relatively unknown regional agency and lied about how we were going to work with some of the world’s best brands. And over the next few years we won business with Nike, Coke, UPS, Nationwide, Chick-fil-a and Wells Fargo.

The truth is, you need to lie to achieve great things. You have to believe the unbelievable to achieve the unachievable. (That’s some Jessie Jackson-worthy rhyming, right!?!)

Whether you call it lying or living into your dreams or positive thinking or envisioning or auto suggestion, this powerful tool is about lying to yourself so convincingly that you make the lie a reality. Which is exactly what I am doing on my quest to create the perfect agency. I believe it can be done. And I believe I’m the right person to do it. Which is a huge, and completely unsubstantiated lie.

I don’t know of any other way to make great things happen but to tell myself they will, even when there is no basis for it in reality. So I encourage you to try lying to yourself today. If you don’t feel great, say you do. If you haven’t achieved great things, say you have. Say it often. Every morning and every night, in the mirror. Lie to yourself.  Lie until you don’t even realize what the truth is anymore. And then make it all come true.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a yearbook to sign.

 

How to get more results from your reading.

I love to read.  Like most people I was born highly uneducated. Reading has become an instrumental part of my plan to overcome my early shortcomings. I love to learn and to become inspired. And if you are reading this I expect you do too.

I like reading classic literature because it makes me feel worldly. I liked reading the first three Harry Potter books because they made me feel magical. But then I realized my life is too short to read four more books about a fanciful wizard boy. Today I read a lot of books on self improvement, business, and biographies. I also read healthy portions of magazines like Fast Company  and Inc because I find them both creatively stimulating and educational (and I like the pictures).

Several years ago I read an interesting quote from Charlie “Tremendous” Jones that said, “You are the same today as you’ll be in five years except for two things: the books you read and the people you meet.” And this reading about reading encouraged Adam “Ordinary” Albrecht to read even more.

But today I’m trying to read less. Because I have found that too much reading leads to too little doing. If I fill my time with learning and inspiration I leave no time for action.

When I began The Perfect Agency Project I created a simple rule of thumb that influences my reading today:

Read just enough to learn something new and become inspired. Then act on it.

Since I started following this rule I have accomplished more. I’ve wasted less time. And I’m more excited about my work.

I think of reading now like a pregame speech. One that I listen to just long enough to become properly motivated. And as soon as I am lathered up I jump to work, acting on the inspiration.

That’s when I start writing, planning, structuring, detailing, calling, creating, wizarding or potioning.  And what I’ve found is that when I have one hour available, instead of one hour of reading, I can do 10 or 15 minutes of reading. And then I can spend the rest of the hour implementing. And the return on that one hour is significantly higher.

I encourage you to try this for a week. Read enough each day to want to do something new and exciting. Then do it.  Then repeat the process.  And let me know how it works for you. I’ll read at least part of whatever you write me.

 

I’d like to hire the fly that landed in my ranch dressing.

Finding great people to improve your team is one of the greatest responsibilities of leadership. But how do we really know who to hire? I recently read that Jim Koch, Founder of Boston Beer (maker of Samuel Adams) said that each new hire must raise the overall average. But a resume only tells us part of the story. References come from people who say nice things (I always use my Grammy). And softball skills only add value between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

So you have to be prepared to recognize great talent wherever you see it. Recently I was having an excellent restaurant experience in Nashville. My family and I ate at one of our favorite restaurants near Vanderbilt (no, not Cracker Barrel). It was a nice day so we ate outside. The food and service were great. My kids behaved. But near the end of the meal a funny thing happened. A fly dive-bombed into my ranch dressing.  I was too surprised and amused to be mad at the little fella. But needless to say his appearance pulled the plug on all chicken dippin activities.

I quickly discovered that you can learn a lot about someone when they are up to their neck in dressing. The longer I watched him (I assumed he was a guy and named him Flynel Richie) the more I admired this little bugger. In fact, before I paid the bill I saw three of the most important attributes I see in great co-workers in little Flynel. So what do great teammates do that lesser teammates do not?

1. They go for what they want.

Flynel knew what he wanted. You must too. You need to know exactly what you want in your career. Write it down. Focus on it, dream about it. Whether it’s a better job, more money, or a nice crunchy crouton, set the image in your mind.  Then when you see the opportunity to make progress towards it you dive-bomb your goal like my little guy.

2. They keep on moving

Rodney Atkins had a hit country song in 2006 called, “If you’re going through Hell keep on going.” Since we were in Nashville I assume the fly had heard that song.  Because that little guy was motivated. He kept moving. Kept working. Kept pumping all six of his little multi-jointed legs. He never gave up.  And he kept making slow but steady progress.  Flynel was the kind of fly you’d want to share a foxhole with.

3. They build connections.

The thing that ultimately saved Flynel was his networking skills.  As I watched him work his way across the Great Ranch Lake he kept looking at me. Seriously. In that moment I was his only friend, his cheerleader and ultimately his lifeline.  He looked up at me as if to say, ‘Hey Sport, imagine if you were me.  Pretty rough, huh? Just a fly who saw some delicious ranch dressing he knew he wanted, went after it, and got in a little too deep. Yeah, I see you sitting there with your wife and kids. I’ve got a wife and kids. And I’d sure like to make it out of this dressing to see them again.’

So I lent him a hand. Actually, I lowered him a butter knife.  He walked on. I airlifted him out like the Ranch Dressing Coast Guard. I wiped him off.  And set him on the ground. The little guy Tebowed for a moment and then took off.

I took a moment to reflect.  I have a strong vision of what I want in my career.  I am careful not to lose my head in the dressing. And you’re not likely to find me giving up. But I sure hope I’m making personal connections strong enough to ensure that when I need help someone will lend me a butter knife.