Thursday, 17 November 2016

Looking for the edge

Would you like to win more?

That’s one of those rhetorical questions, isn’t it?

A more literal question is: how much harder do I need to work to improve my win rate?

I was pondering this just recently so conducted a quick poll on Facebook to see how many comps folks enter every week, and how well they do.

Lest I offend any statisticians out there, when I say ‘quick poll’, I mean a small convenience sample that totally fails to represent the wider comping community, and likewise fails to use mathematically consistent units (after all, it’s possible to complete a whole bunch of entry forms in the time it takes to finish a tie-break or tap out a droll anecdote). In short, the kind of survey that obtains data good enough for naught but spurious hypotheses and quack statistickery. But since such data works so well for the Great British press, it’ll be perfectly sufficient for our present needs.

Indeed, for the purposes of this post, all we need to know is that the best result was a reported win rate of 1.6 per cent; the worst, 0.03 per cent. Well, a couple of folks did report a win rate of nil, but I’m assuming this was for dramatic effect. In any case, the mean win rate was under 1 per cent.

So what does that mean?

On the one hand, I can take solace that my win rate isn’t so bad. It doesn’t top 1%, but it could be much worse. On the other hand, if I want to average an extra prize a week, elementary maths suggests I’ll have to comp at least 100% harder. 

Or will I? The other interesting thing I observed was that those compers who entered the most competitions tended to have the lowest win rate.

While this observation absolutely doesn’t reflect win value, it is an advert for focusing your game. Indeed, the person with the best win rate reported entering about 30 comps a day, but winning 15–20 prizes a month. How did she do it? By focusing on two things: creative comps and wishlist comps.

Now, as the person who conducts your annual review will tell you, no one has weaknesses - just scope for improvement. So, if someone more successful than I kindly shares the source of their force, I figure they’re pretty much spoon-feeding me opportunities for development.

Identifying the areas for improvement is one thing. Making objectives specific, meaningful, attainable, realistic and trackable is quite another (I can’t believe I’m actually talking about SMART targets of my own volition - I can only apologise!).

Take creative comps, for example. I was pretty sure there wasn’t much more I could do: I’m a member of a Facebook group for creative/effort comps and must check Loquax and PrizeFinder for creative comps every other day. I may not have the wit or skill to enter everything I find, but I certainly enter what I can. I must have scratched my head for a good half hour before it came to me - those three little words that everyone longs to hear: “comment to win”. That search string has so been added to my daily routine!

As for wishlist comps - this area has never been my strong point. For starters, most of my wishlist is too vague - I might as well type “win nice stuff” into Google. Secondly, I just don’t try hard enough to win these things! True, any basic giveaway listed on the main prize sites is going to have thousands of entries, but the bottom line is simple (if clichéd): you have to be in it to win it. So my pre-new year’s resolution is simple, if a little bleedin’ obvious: take time out to define my targets and then actually work towards them.

To this end, I’ve started by working on my wishlist bookmarks - searches for everything from spa breaks and Macbooks to wellies and razors. Last year, I found a competition for an electric toothbrush that - besides me - had just the one entrant, so I’m hopeful lightning can strike twice.

In closing then, it bears repeating that throwing more hours at this game isn’t necessarily the answer. There’s always something we can improve. At the same time, however, don’t try to change everything at once: no power lifter bench-presses 400 pounds on their first visit to the gym - improvements come in increments!

How many competitions do you enter in an average week? What’s your win rate like? What are your tips for improving comping success?

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