Category: Rowing
Screw the competition
You read that right. Screw the competition. It just doesn’t matter.

As marketers I know you are being encouraged to watch what your competitors are doing: you can set RSS feeds, notifications can pop up alerting you to news stories, you can get data on you competitors social media stats, insider gossip….and all for what? It will paint a vivid picture of what your competitors are doing, but question is, what service or product are you creating of value in the world? Every moment spent agonising over what the other mob is doing is time lost that could have been spent better marketing your own product or service.

Every business I know struggles with this. An event I sat in on recently for one of my large multinational clients addressed this very issue around competition and how you handle it. The CEO’s message was beautifully succinct: keep doing great work that matters in the world. Don’t get so distracted by what your competitors are doing that you abandon your ability to innovate or neglect talking with your customers to see what problems you can solve.

The competition….it just doesn’t matter.

two-finger-salute

Go give competition the two fingered salute!

I’ve got some examples about how I’ve given the competition the two-fingered salute in recent times.

First up, I was on stand at Ozwater 2014 waiting for my client at handover when another trade show provider sauntered up and thinking I was the client (top tip: check the logo of my shirt next time pal, you’ll save yourself some pain in looking like a arse hat) started banging on about whatever the stand cost, his firm could do it for half that amount. Notice a couple of things here.  There was no question to the “client” over what they are struggling with so they can gain a deeper understanding of how they could truly help, no offer of adding more value, no suggestions about how more leads could be achieved, no ideas about improving the post show follow-up ….the pitch was only about savagely cutting costs.  I smiled at the sock puppet, disclosed I was the stand builder and thanked them for being a dick.  Years ago I would have torn strips off them…and then hang around to then tear strips off their stand after hours.  But I got wise.  The competition…it just doesn’t matter.  My clients don’t come to me for the cheapest stand, it is because I offer shockingly awesome service and solid strategy backed up with amazing designs.  And I also believe that is plenty of work for all trade show providers.  Even sock puppets that can only compete on price.

I also stuck up my two fingers to the competition in the Rowing State Masters this past weekend. I got in my can’t-touch-this bubble a few days out from the event, fine tuning my warm up sequence with Nathan The Demonic Personal Trainer, not even looking at the event draw and who I was up against.  On race day I kept it tight, arriving well before my race to do a warm up and sauntering up to the boat just before we launched so I could not buy into the pre-race “What chance do we have in this race” speculation.  Rowing to the start, I kept my eyes in my own lane and I was so focussed on what I had to do in the race, I still can’t tell you how many crews I lined up against.  In the race itself, I was not aware of the other crews, just counting off sets of 20 strokes in my head and making sure each twenty was better than the last. When we crossed the line and I took a moment to pant….it hit me we had just won gold. Cue mass hysteria!  I can’t tell you how different this approach was to previous years of twisting myself into an anxious state scanning the start list trying to determine what crews I had a chance against and then in the race itself, swivelling my head around checking to see our position in the race.  Here’s my new plan: keep my eyes in my lane, focus on only what I can do that will make a difference to the outcome – that is, row like I stole it.

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Hands up who doesn’t give a stuff about the competition?

Here’s a kicky tune for another mob who could give a staff about the competition.  KISS.  Do you reckon they cared about the musical competition when they formed in the 70’s?  They totally created their own niche with face paint, platforms, a bass player with a tongue that may or may not have been an implant from a cow and some serious brain frying drug addictions.  But the competition?  It didn’t matter!

Want to get some seriously fab tips on creating an AMAZING display that won’t result in hair pulling….yours or someone else’s?  Go here to download your guide.

See you next week!

Why coxswains are the best marketers ever (and bye for now Alison)!
When I am not designing and managing exhibitions and displays, I can be often found wedged in a fibreglass hull either training or competing.  This rowing thing would have the be the most barking mad sport of all time.  You can’t see where you are going, the time you need to train to perfect the list of 6,467 things you need to excel at in order to just scratch competent level in competition is out of all proportion and did I mention that this bulk of this activity happens at dark o’clock when most reasonable people are tucked up in bed?!?  But there is one person in out crew of 9 who really stands out in terms of contribution and commitment and that is our coxswain, or cox as we lovingly know them as. And while I hack my way through the water (one of the 6,467 things I am trying to remedy), I have had cause to pause and reflect on why coxes are the best marketers ever:

1. They see opportunities others do not

Fair play, they are the only ones facing the right direction in a crew but they are constantly assessing wind and weather conditions, other crew’s positions throughout a race, the crew’s ability to lift through key stages, the actual course and what can wander into your path (Police boats!  Sydney Ferries! Spectator Craft!  SWANS!!!!!!) and they try to steer the sharpest  and most direct line to the finish line.  This, all done under a 4 minute time frame. Marketers, like my beloved coxes excel at seeing niches to position their brand and see new fertile ground for opportunities.

2. They are the key drivers of moving a crew (or company) forward

How does a business get and remain successful? Hands down, it is generating sales and making profit, which is largely the function of the marketing team devising strategies to deliver sales.  Coxes are the same.  I am just some hack with a blade wishing I was on some lounge with a cheesecake balanced on my lap.  Until the cox fires me up and gets me and my fellow 7 rowers functioning as a crew, we are destined just to lope along with”OK” results and an empty medal display case.

3. Tactics, tactics, tactics.

Marketing mavens need to implement their marketing strategies using carefully placed tactics and so do coxes.  You can have all the sound marketing strategies you like but without the implementation of the tactics, well, you just have a lovely piece of paper.  My race tactics are pretty concise. Row like you stole it. Don’t freak out / fuck up.  The tactics employed by a cox are a little more elaborate “Right.  We do our start of 15 off on 38 and then after 15 strokes, settle down to 34 – 35 with no loss of power. I am going to call for pushes on the legs for 10, another 10 focussing on clean catches and then another 10 on finishes.  I will also call for pushes if I feel that the other crews are making a move.  Towards to end of the race, I will ask for a power push of 3, then holding for 7 and then stepping up in 10’s for the final 250 metres. At that point you EMPTY THE TANK”.  Christ, that took longer to write that it does to row…

I am reflecting on the marketing power of the cox as I am sad to say that I am loosing one of the best coxes I have had the insane thrill of rowing with.  Alison is returning to the UK to be with her family as they face a health issue and so the rowing gals and I are gathering to break bread (and crack open a champagne bottle of two) and see this lovely lady off in style.

In my first years of being coxed by Alison I was always bouncing around her like a frog in a sock.  Did we do OK?  How was the power in the boat?  Did we still get clearance when we upped the rating.  Truly, I was / am  / can be insufferable.  Rowing can be such a battle in your own mind, you need feedback like a crack addict to compare your own experience to. Over time, I have seen that Alison is like the zen master of coxswains.  She is super calm before and during the race and only gives you the feedback and instructions you need.  There is no yabbering on or streams of consciousness, she locks it down tight.  I have seen over time how this has helped me so much in the boat as my excitable foxy terrier ways have been smoothed out by her cocoon of calm and I am a better and a more controlled rower because of it. She has cheerfully carried our mascot Daisy the Donkey through training and races, steered us through the Sydney Harbour cauldron when whipped up through a strong southerly and has dispensed lip gloss, tissues, plaster, water bottles, hats through her amazing monochrome dream coat, all while crammed in a space that is the average size of a handbag.

Alison owns a fair proportion of all the medals I have won with the rest being shared with Koach Kim, the rest of the rowing squad, my demonic personal trainer Nathan and my friends and family for the ever strong support while I wail “I can’t DO this!”.  I am not sure how I am going to feel when I step in the boat again, lean over the side, look down the boat and not see her there. But I will have the memory of the last race I had with Alison coxing.  It was the recent State Masters and were in D8 amongst some pretty hot competition.  At the 500 metre mark I was aware that we had slid up along side the boat in the adjacent lane on my right.  Through each stroke, Alison encouraged us forward and we clawed our way along that nearby boat. I was level with 7 seat….I was now level with 5 seat….now with 3….and then final with 200 metres to go, our bow was clear of them!  You know that zen master Alison?  Forget that, she became a force of power! The nearby crew put on a surge but Alison got the jump on that and we found a new level.  Everything was hurting, but Alison called for one last push to ensure that they could not take our water and then…the sound of the finish hooter for first place…and THEN another hooter and OHMYFREAKIN’GOD, WE JUST PLACED SECOND!!!! We were just so, so happy and to perform and respond for Alison in her last race (for now) will stay with me forever.

On the podium for silver at the State Master 2013

On the podium for silver at the State Master 2013

There is a saying that God made coxswains because he can’t be there and in Alison’s case this is doubly true.  And there is no way he would have carried our mascot Daisy. Heartfelt thanks and much love Alison!

daisy

Our mascot, Daisy!

The tune this week comes from one of my favorite “gee-up” tracks when I need to get the rowing zone.  Push it!

See you next week!