roman_arena

What To Do If You Hate Competition — Part Two

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Marketing // Writing Advice

roman_arena

Last week I wrote a bit about how much I hate competition. Since then I’ve received a few responses and emails about this topic and I can tell it hit home with some people. The richness of responses prompted me to think about it a lot more deeply.

Looking back on my life, I have had a few successes that have won me some of the prizes we are all after, that is: love, money, good feelings and great relationships.

In every case where I had achieved success, I did so because during the process of achieving these things, I attracted people and things to my life because I was being me. Most of these incidents felt like accidents. One day, an opportunity dropped on my lap. Another time, I met a key person. But thinking of the circumstances behind such events, there is a clear correlation: I was in the act of being “the most of myself I could be” when they all happened.

Conversely, when I have pretended to be something other than my true self, it has ended only in disaster. The recipe goes like this: I want something, I exercise those mirror neurons and copy whatever I need to copy in order to attract it, then I get it, then I am in misery, or I disappoint, or I fail, or I ruin it. I fail because I simply can’t keep up with the charade any longer. It’s too painful, it’s too inauthentic. It isn’t ultimately what I want.

You can’t pretend to be something other than you are for very long.

This happens in the early stages of romantic relationships a lot. Ever noticed how many people put “I like hiking” on their dating profiles? These people don’t like hiking. They don’t go hiking. They simply hike once to get the date, to seem adventurous, then it’s Netflix on the couch with popcorn like everybody else.

It’s super scary to be ourselves. That’s because “ourselves” are pretty ordinary, kinda pathetic sometimes and a little weird. We definitely aren’t as interesting as the people on television, or as funny or as good. We are human.

We don’t want anyone to find out.

What does this really have to do with your distaste of competition?

Tim Ferris recently did a great post about some powerful questions he asks himself. One of them is: “What’s the least crowded channel?”

In any endeavor, there are tried and true channels. To get something published you need to get an agent. That’s a super crowded channel. One agent I talked to got 1,000+ queries per month. Another reported it was more like 2,500.

When you are in a crowded channel, you must compete. No question. You must write the best and brightest query, have a hot idea, get the right personalities to look it over, etc. etc. You are doing this and so is everyone else. You are in the arena, gutting your competition with a spear.

And you hate it, don’t you?

That’s because you secretly don’t feel like it’s right. You are a peaceful soul. You don’t feel like you should fight. You should be immediately recognized as a champion because you know you are. You put in the time, the money. You have your ten thousand hours. You’ve read the books. Now you have to fight too?

I can hear the chorus say, “Yes! You have to fight! There is no way around it!”

I’m the pipsqueaky mouse under the stands shouting “Ahem, not really.”

When I started a store in an uncrowded market, I got sales immediately. I grew fast. I had almost no trouble.

When I started a store in a crowded channel, I had to fight to get seen, to get sales. The fight was expensive in advertising dollars and personal time and sanity. I still didn’t get the spoils.

In the first store, I was being me. In the second store, I was being someone else.

You are the most uncrowded channel!

Joseph Campbell calls this “Following your bliss.” If you have something you love, even if it’s embarrassing, weird, mock-worthy or even stupid, you must consider running after it with more speed and vigor than before. This is your little crack, your way.

If what you love is traditionally a crowded channel (like writing, sports supplements, as seen on TV gadgetry) then you have to figure out what your weird little spin on it is then spin, spin away!

You have to create a territory. A comfy little nest for yourself.

If you find yourself persuing something that gives you almost no pleasure and mostly lots of pain, it might be because you are trying to compete in an overcrowded arena or trying to be one of your heroes.

Go make your own arena, go be your own hero.

 

 

December 15th, 2016

furries

THE MAGIC OF CHATTER

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Marketing

furries

After talking to thousands of people at Comic Con earlier this month I realized many people do something completely crazy.

Over and over again, people would come up to my booth, behold the vintage toys, tell me an extended narrative about their life and then  . . . drift away.

Sometimes people would spend a good ten to fifteen minutes telling me stories about their experiences in the Military, the personality quirks of their children, strange childhood memories and their employment history. It would seem like we were connecting in some small way, then they would be off to something else and I would never see them again.

I would not have noticed or contemplated the utter strangeness of this behavior if it hadn’t happened more than a hundred times over three days. I had been doing things like this my whole life, chatting and running off, but I never stopped to ask, “Why do people do this? Isn’t it a profound waste of time?”

I mean, if I am never going to see you again why would you waste time telling me about your cocker spaniels and morning walk around the international peace gardens? Why not move on and save your chatter energy for someone else?

Two theories.

1. People chatter because they have a difficult time rejecting the sale. The other day I was at the mall and spotted a green dress in the window. I wanted to find out how much it was. I entered the small store and saw that it was three times what I would be willing to pay. No big deal, I could just walk out, right?

Nope! The girl who worked there had said hello to me and I felt it would be rude to just spin around and leave. I didn’t want her to think I was a cheapskate (I am!). I didn’t want her to get offended. So I ended up chatting with her for much longer than I wanted to before (blessedly) another customer had a question and I was able to duck out.

In essence, the chatter says, “I will make conversation with you, be nice and kindly. I will give you stories and smiles. I won’t, however, buy anything from you. In this way, I have given you something and I am not rude.”

2. People have a desperate need to be heard.

On the whole, people want you to know about them. If you are ever stuck in conversation with someone new, all you have to do is ask endless streams of questions about themselves and they will have a great time conversing with you and will remember you fondly. This is one of the golden rules in Carnegie’s classic How To Win Friend And Influence People in section two titled “Become genuinely interested in other people.” This deep need to be known is so strong that others will make themselves known to complete strangers, even if there is no promise for future friendship.

The wonderful thing about this chatter exchange is that it is mutually beneficial. Even if they don’t drop a dime on your product, they are sharing a gold mine of information about numerous topics. You could learn about a great dive hidden downtown. You could learn about how F-16 engines work. You could learn (as I did) about the strange subculture phenomenon of Furries. Furthermore, you are learning more about your customer and that information begins to show up in patterns.

Chatter is a wonderful thing!

 

 

September 23rd, 2016

Testing Audience Reaction In Person Is Important.

Body Language Interpretation and Marketing At Trade Shows

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Marketing

Testing Audience Reaction In Person Is Important.

In my last two posts, I tried to make the case for getting out more. Get a booth at the trade show floor or get a spot in your local parade. This all came about after I ran a successful booth at the Salt Lake Comic Con early this month. I mentioned that your competition probably won’t be out there with you, they are more inclined to stay in their pajamas, securely separated from the world by a glowing rectangle of light.

By now I hope you are at least considering incorporating the booth life into your marketing. I believe it’s vital . . . but perhaps not for the reasons you think.

Many people get booths at trade shows in order to sell or advertise a product. While there is nothing wrong with this, selling a few grand of widgets isn’t the real value you get from the experience. The value is in customer response to the product.

Sitting behind our glowing rectangles of light, it’s really hard to interpret the luke-warm, edited or non-existent response to our product. Even if we ask friends and family to give honest feedback, their feedback (if they give it at all) will be heavily edited, biased, meant to sooth, or otherwise rubbish. This is because they like you, or hate you and those feelings color their response. They may be simply checking you off their list or trying to get something from you. At the very worst, they really don’t know enough about the market to help you.

But something magical happens when you catch someone in the moment of reacting to a visual stimuli in person. As a general rule, people can’t fake their first impression of any visual display. They may be horrified, curious, disinterested or intrigued and it will show, but only in the first few seconds.

Then, the person will realize you are there and change their reaction based on the social norms they have subscribed to. These norms usually include numerous false reactions that have to be waded through to find the true feelings of that person. But the initial reaction is very, very real.

By studying people’s initial reaction to your display, you can learn about how effective your display is. You can learn how interested someone is in your product. You can find out how they feel about it visually. Even if they lie to your face, praising your display and telling you how they plan to go straight home and visit your website, you can tell how they really feel based on their body language.

THE MAGIC OF BODY LANGUAGE

Yesterday I told a good friend I loved her. My body language indicated the love was purely platonic and friendly and my friend’s body language indicated how she felt about what I was saying. For a split second, she couldn’t meet my eyes. Then, after registering my tone she realized I wasn’t professing romantic love, but a mutual affection born from decades of camaraderie, then she looked me in the eyes and smiled.

From those small eye movements she made, I saw that she was uncomfortable with the phrase “I love you” and perhaps isn’t used to hearing it. She indicated an awkwardness that she wasn’t immediately sure how to soothe. Then, having figured out the proper response, she smiled. This all happened in a second’s time but I was paying close attention and was therefore able to sense her feelings.

You can do this type of body language reading too and you don’t need an FBI agent to fill you in on the details (though this book might help you out!). All you have to do is pay very close attention to their eye contact, their awkwardness, their tone. While you can’t mind read, if people are using overly-polite and guarded body language over and over again, you likely have a problem. If they get lost in your display and begin chattering, you may be on to something (more on chatter in Friday’s post).

EMOTION IS THE BULLSEYE

In any visual display, you want to grab someone by the emotional heartstrings. Two people burst into tears when they saw my booth. I wasn’t prepared for that. One, a girl who I called a kindred spirit, had lost all her old toys in a fire and seeing them again gave her deep feelings. Another nice fellow who cried when he saw my booth had lost some of his toys due to family drama. Both bought from me and expressed gratitude. I felt warmed by their kindness and openness toward me.

Some people, those who weren’t impressed, looked at my display as if it were slightly insane. Some people’s eyes lit up. Others moved past without noticing.

The beauty of the conference setting is that many people will walk past your booth and when the subject sample is high, you have a better ability to judge trends. If many people express emotion, especially strong emotion, you have a winner. It doesn’t exactly matter which emotion they display, only that they display any emotion.

Even if you get a standard reaction, you can hack bits of your display by tracking eye movements. By using this technique, I realized that the corner area of my display wasn’t viewable from the front of the table and I should place fast-selling items at the fore.

Showing no emotion, or weak emotion spells trouble too. If you stand at a busy conference and few people engage your table, something is wrong with your display and you need to work to make it better.

If many people stop and look at your display, but move quickly on without their face changing, you probably haven’t engaged their emotions. Before you change your booth, decide what kind of emotion you wish to illicit and work toward that end. Try something unexpected, large, shocking, bright, moving or strange.

Remember, it isn’t about selling widgets or even advertising your awesomeness, it’s about experimentation and customer reaction.

September 21st, 2016