You Want a Bigger Impact? Show Up in the Rain.
I’m a sissy when it comes to suffering. I don’t like being wet, cold or sore.
Which is why I would never survive as a contestant on the Discovery Channel’s show “Naked and Afraid.” Two crazy (yes, they are insane) survivalists (one male, one female) are dropped in an inhospitable environment — a jungle, desert, swamp — and left to survive for 21 days: naked. Literally, naked.
No shoes. No underwear. No hats. Nothing.
While allowed to bring one tool (usually a fire starter, a pan in which to boil water, or a knife), the contestants must put imagination and grit to work to build shelter, get and keep a fire going, scavenge for food, and protect themselves from predators large (leopards, hippos) and small (fire ants and mosquitos).
Many contestants tap out far before their 21 days are up. A spill on a slippery rock causes a bone to break. A deadly bacteria causes the body to shut down. A poke in the eye by a branch causes sight loss. These are the exceptional cases.
Most contestants who tap out do so because their emotions tell them they can’t do it.
In one of my favorite episodes, the male contestant taps out after 48 hours, leaving the female contestant to survive alone for the remaining 19 days. By day seven — with no food, no fire, and a shoddy shelter - she reminds herself, I want to be here. I chose this. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
It’s Tough. Get Over It
I found myself saying the same thing at my last antique sale at Randolph Street Market in downtown Chicago, where I sold under my jobby name, Megillicutti.
The weekend of the show, torrential rain (record-breaking, actually) hit the Chicagoland area. Setting up an antique booth in the best of circumstances is tough. Hauling heavy furniture from storage to Uhaul to booth back to Uhaul and finally back to storage is back-breaking work.
When it’s raining, you are faced with the added dread of merchandise getting ruined and shoppers not showing up. Even worse, there’s a looming possibility you won’t recover the costs of renting a Uhaul and a space at the event. After Day 1, I wanted to tap out. Sales were abysmal and the weather for Day 2 looked just as bad as if not worse than Day 1. It was hard to stay positive. (I told you I’m a sissy.)
I want to be here. I chose this. I knew it was going to be hard, I reminded myself.
It Takes Only One
While I didn’t have record-breaking sales that weekend, I did make an important connection with the CEO of a boutique hotel chain, who has a design team that decorates all of their properties with vintage art, furniture and accessories.
In 15 minutes, he bought over $1k of merchandise — not haggling once. But it got better. He handed me his business card and said, “I love your eye. I want to introduce you to our style director, so you can buy merchandise for us on an ongoing basis.”
This is what dealers dream of: customers who value your eye and pay you top dollar for your work.
It took showing up in the rain to make that connection.
Staying When You Want to Tap Out
Marketing is often about “showing up in the rain.”
Recently, a client set out to become an expert on a topic, presenting her ideas at local libraries, bookstores and churches. Her first engagement was attended by five people.
Some people might say, “Only five people? Not worth my time.”
But if you ask her about the turnout, she’ll tell you a different story. Two participants asked her to present the same topic again at their churches—where she’ll be introduced to a wider audience to which she previously did not have. Another inquired about her services related to the topic.
Showing up had a ripple effect. And that’s worth a person’s time. That’s success.
Maybe you feel the same way about writing a regular blog post or posting to social media: “Who will read it? Is it really worth my time?”
Maybe you feel that way about hosting a webinar: “What if only three people register? Is it worth my time?” Maybe you feel that way about a marketing campaign: “What if we don’t get hundreds of responses? Is it really worth our time — and money?”
Seth Godin, the world's best marketer ever, talks about the “minimum viable audience”: the smallest possible audience you can target who will engage what you are offering. You don’t need auditoriums full of people to hear and respond to what you’re selling. You don’t’ need tens of thousands of followers on social media to connect with a person who needs what only you can provide.
You need a few. Maybe even just one, as in my case. But not hundreds.
It’s tough work — much like setting up and selling in the rain. You have to prepare and show up. But you just need those few to make the showing up worth it. And a few more the next time.
Because there’s always a next time, when you’ll remind yourself again, “I want this. I chose this. I knew it was going to be hard.”