Overcoming fear of exposure

Let’s face it, everyone faces fear of exposure. You want attention but you also don’t, not publicly. Being on display and subject to potential snarky pot shots isn’t something anyone welcomes. A common theme I see is designers who minimize commitments to their endeavors by undermining themselves. Simple things like failing to issue style numbers because they’re “too small” or don’t want to “get too corporate” are common. Another theme is due to the nebulousness of entry and lack of benchmarks. It’s not as though you get a certificate stating you are now an official designer at some point in your trajectory. I know designers who tell me they suspect they aren’t really designers because they haven’t hit X dollars in sales even though they’ve been producing and selling lines for ten years! And even if you get a degree in fashion design, there’s no one at the end of the dais who will shake your hand and welcome you as a full fledged member of the apparel industry or give you tomes of our best kept secrets.

Now it’s my turn on the hot seat. Last week, Problogger, a blog for bloggers posted a challenge. For a measly $250 fee, the thousands of visitors to that site will constructively critique a blog to be facilitated by Skellie. Naively, I responded and submitted Fashion-Incubator for the challenge. To my utter shock, Fashion-Incubator was selected.

Once I put aside my surprise (and dismay!) I put the shoe on the other foot. As someone who does a lot of product reviews, I knew that being selected meant the reviewers had most likely figured out a couple of things:

  • F-I isn’t hopeless. It has good bones. A reviewer doesn’t waste their time on a hopeless case.
  • I was serious about improving the site. A reviewer may decline if they think their suggestions will be ignored.
  • According to the Pareto Principle (rule of 80/20), it most likely meant they could suggest a few things (the 20%) that would have the greatest impact (the 80%). This meant the improvement process might be relatively painless.

As a reviewee, I also had to consider:

  • What if I didn’t agree with their assessments? Just as you know your market, I know my audience. Or worse, maybe I don’t know my audience? That could mean I wasn’t a very good blogger -maybe even a failure.
  • What if I minimized the summation of the assessment because I didn’t want to endure the pangs of change? What if it were too costly to implement? What if it forced me out of my comfort zone, forcing me to acquire new skills, moving into territories outside my range of competence?

All of these are pangs that must surely come to mind when you launch a product line too. So, we ask our friends what they think. The problem is, many of them won’t tell us what they really think. Or they may hedge their criticisms, limiting what they choose to share with us. This experience leaves me wondering whether I should pose my own $250 constructive critique project (in apparel, product reviews can run thousands of dollars). Is anyone game? I can promise I won’t let it get ugly.

Returning to F-I’s review and the comments that will surely be generated, I will strive to remember what a friend told me (he and his wife own a moderately successful company). He admitted that the very negative public comments he’s read on the web about his product line have hurt their feelings but says that the negativity has driven sales. People want to try his products to see what’s so bad about them. Customers become pleasantly surprised that the products aren’t as bad as reported and end up becoming regular customers. Let’s hope Fashion-Incubator can withstand the same scrutiny from our visiting reviewers. By the way, welcome Probloggers!

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