Articles Tagged with: 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.

10295362_314580242027967_5191070852162126597_o

 

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 comparing your trade show stand or display is dumber than a Kardashian.
To kick things off, let me just say I had no real opinion of the Kardashian Klan until one of them strayed into my much-loved music pantheon with this very ill-judged cameo is Kanye’s latest video.  I mean, COME ON!  The music is bad enough but the soft focus, cheese overload of bike straddling, hair flicking and photoshop trickery is just 37 flavours of fucked up. Yeah, I said it.  If you want to see the car crash go here but for the love of all things sparkly, wash your brain out immediately afterwards with a full viewing of Hole’s “Miss World” immediately afterwards.
Now back to the subject of comparison-itis.  My clients can sometimes ask me in the early stages of a new project “Did you see the XXX trade show stand / sales office fit out?”.  And usually, no, I haven’t.  This might indicate a certain level of laziness of my behalf (partially true) but it is based on a recent realisation that me seeking out “inspiration” and “checking out the competition” was a major time suckhole and dulled my awesome.

The realisation that I was wasting precious time worrying about the competition and what other displays looked like (Were they better? Are they done by better designers than me? Did their clients love them more than mine did of my work?) was delivered through my demonic personal trainer Nathan.  Prepping me for the NSW Masters rowing event earlier this year, Nathan totally changed how I competed by giving me a warm up program that focussed on waking up by body and spiking the heart rate but delivered a side benefit of keeping me so focussed on my warm up, I had no space to indulge my normal schtick of scanning the program, furiously analysing the draw to decide who I had a chance against and who I thought would beat me for sure.

This year was a game changer.

I got up early and started my warm up program for 45 minutes before I even left home and then once at the venue, I spent another 30 minutes on the warm up focussing on heart rates spikes and stretching out the areas that felt tight in the initial phase.  Timing it just right, the end of the warm up coincided with jumping in the boat and rowing to the start.  Because I had kept my brain busy with the warm up there was no self defeating thoughts of “I can’t do this / I have no chance / Who am I thinking that I can row…I’m not even meant to be GOOD at sport!”  To this day, I can’t tell you what crews I lined up against on the start. As soon as I hopped in that boat, I was all business and my only job was to row like I stole it.  Three minutes and 46 seconds later that state silver medal was mine and a whole new world of non compare-itis spread out before me.

state-masters-2013

The comparison-it is can also show up through “I am just going to go research what other stand designers are doing” and “I going to spend a quick 5 mins looking for new design inspiration on the web”.  Look, you can sell it to yourself anyway you want but the cold, hard, loveless truth is that you are stepping into a time and creative vortex.  It is just another excuse for avoiding creating something new and innovative of your own making.  The fear shows up when you stretch yourself, when you try or create something new that has never been done before.  I’m being honest with you here, there are no guarantees that the new stuff will work or will be embraced or even understood by your audience so the fear of backlash and failure is totally justified.  However, the rewards are on offer though for those that seek a new way, a different path and for those that ask ”I wonder if I just did this differently…” And while I love my car, my steel capped heels and my surge protected curling iron to provide me with a sense of safety and predictability, I would never want my art to slip into that same mode.

While I steer clear of looking at competitor stands and displays to tap “inspiration”, I totally drink at the well of other sources.  My standard go-to’s include listening to my much loved music collection, seeing live music (can’t wait for 2014, I have a killer line up with Pearl Jam, Brooce Springsteen, Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age and Artic Monkeys) walking about outdoors and letting my mind wander, going to a new place in the city and just meandering, hanging out with friends and family that have no ties to my industry and reading a damn good book.  I also get flashes of awesome through baking, yoga, early morning rowing sessions and painting. Happily, these forms of inspiration don’t devolve into crippling bouts of comparison-itis and the download of new ideas and fresh inspiration for creative projects just happens without all the angst and time suckage.

So for anyone that is comparing their trade show stand or display with others, cure yourself for good of comparison-it is.  Create your own category. Strike out with something bold. Intrigue your customer or intended audience with the unexpected. And just do – or commission – awesome work.

array-sales-office-1

I’d love to hear where you get your inspiration for creative projects from in the comments section below or you can email me at fiona@diavworks.com.au

Speaking of awesome, I will circle back to the opening Kardashian slap down with the link through to the humorous homage to “Bound 2” by Seth Rogen and James Franco. If there is more attractive couple on this planet than this pair, I am yet to see it!

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!

What rowing has taught me about 3D marketing
I’m a week out from starting the 4 am giddy up for  the new rowing season. I often parrot the line “god, I don’t know” when asked why I continue to row, how I manage the early morning training sessions and then devote slabs of weekends to what is essentially a 4 minute or less race.  But the truth is, I do know what compels me to row.  I love it and the lessons delivered enhances my career as a designer and project manager in the area of 3D marketing.  Here’s what I have gleaned:

rowing-on-lane-cove

 1. It’s not about you, it’s about the crew.

Straight up, I am not a single scull rower and I don’t particularly love a double or a pair.  No, I am much more at ease in a 4, quad or 8 where more personalities are in play. I love the feeling when a crew is in sync, swinging along with blades cutting through the water simultaneously. This fluidity can only be achieved through the crew feeling what is happening in the boat and continuously making small adjustments to keep course and technique. It is not only about what you are doing in the boat, it is how you gel as a crew and tackle issues such as balance and leg push that get you vital headway in a race.  This is the same in the exhibition industry where as a solo operation, Diva Works would have limited achievements but when I bring in my suppliers and partners, the projects I can take on and deliver are so much greater. I am in the ridiculously lucky position of always having rowed with gals better than I and in the exhibition and display field, my good fortune with having the best partners and suppliers has also held.

 2. Little adjustments can have a big impact.

God love Koach Kim, my patient and endearing rowing coach these past 6 years.  Never to shy away from a challenge, he has worked with me to refine the dropping of my outside wrist, the rocketing into front chocks, leaning too far back, not lifting my hands at the catch…anyway, the list of stuff to fix is long and impressive. By trying correct this unwieldy long list of stuff, I am finding that rowing is becoming easier and I am not wasting precious energy in doing all the whacky stuff that were hallmarks of my rowing style.  I’ve also used this focus on small adjustments into how I encourage my clients to work on their trade show a presence.  By stripping away too much copy on a stand, reducing the amount of widgets on display and thinking about the numerous ways to engage a visitor and continuing that conversation post show, my clients are getting better results with their trade show presence.  Whatever is working well is kept and what is dated or not serving a greater purpose is turfed.

 3. There is no finish line.

Oh yah, with 2 silvers and a bronze in the 2012 NSW Masters I was riding high with my chest puffed out. Coming back from regatta with the sound system cranking Foster the People, I was happy in the knowledge there was not another moment I could have found in my stacked schedule to do more training. Then a thought occurred to me: could I have used what time I had more efficiently to achieve an even better result? Ah crap….yes.  So with a wonderful 3 day break from doing any training at all, I came face to face with Nathan, my new demonic personal trainer who has set a kick arse regime in place for the next season.  Just like rowing where crossing the finish line only means you need to carb load for your next race, trade show success only means that you have something further to build on and the next event is coming up fast.  Exceeded your ROI?  Congratulations, let’s step it up again next show. Have gathered record leads on the stand? You’re so brilliant, let’s actually follow all those priceless leads up. Celebrate you success for sure, but stay hungry and agile.

4. The brain is your built-in self limiter.

I get 400 meters from the finish and I hear that internal voice tell me I can’t make it. I have a god awful training session where nothing I do is right and I kick myself for ever thinking I could row. I look at a brief for a sales office and match it against the budget and think it can’t be done, that the task is impossible. Both on an off the water, the grey matter can work against you. But it is precisely at these moments that a spark within is lit and the internal resistance is galvanized. Yes I can make the last 400 meters, I will have a better training session next time and hell yes, there is a clever solution to this low-budget brief. Never give up and keep striving for the better result or solution.

Beyond these 3D marketing lessons that rowing had taught me, I was gifted something even greater: enduring friendship. I landed in both Melbourne and Sydney at different stages of my career knowing no one and I have had the good fortune to fall in with some of the best people I have ever met. Perhaps it is only being clad in lycra at 5.30am that strips away any ability to yourself seriously. Whatever, I look forward to more life and 3D marketing lessons delivered via a fiberglass hull and the tapping down of the outside wrist.

north-shore-rowing-club

Do you have a lesson leant about business, delivered from en entirely different source?  Please share in the comments below.  Now it’s time to relive the barnstorming glory of the Masters and Foster The People’s “Helena Beat”.