You see a competitor doing something newsworthy, or getting kudos for something you do at least as well, if not better…. and your belly clenches – right?
Believe me, my own love-hate relationship with business competitors has had to mature over the years! I graduated to where I now believe cooperative competition is one of the secrets of small business success. And no, you don’t actually have to hug : )
Yesterday I reached out to a nearby competitor. He could have given me a chilly reception, but he didn’t, and in our 15 minute chat, we found that not only do our target markets differ somewhat, but the services we offer only overlap to a limited extent. This means we can each refer the work we’re not geared for, to one another. YAY!
WHY YOU SHOULD REACH OUT TO COMPETITORS:
1 ~ IT’S TRIBAL
For starters, you share a host of challenges, which makes you part of a tribe of sorts. You may be able to share stories, solutions, techniques, even resources (e.g. imagine several hospitality concerns clubbing in to share the cost of a central booking agency).
2 ~ AUDIENCE DIVERGENCE
Even if you operate in the same area, you are likely to have somewhat different target audiences. NOTE: If you are arguing that you have exactly the same audience as your competitor, you have not done your Unique Selling Points exercise correctly and your business will suffer! Seek help from a marketing consultant to get the basics right.
Audience divergence means that you can refer business that does not suit you, to one another (e.g. in hospitality, you may not want 1-night stays in your off-the-beaten-track lodge and your competitor may not want families with kids in their boutique hotel).
3 ~ THAW THE ICE-OLATION
Entrepreneurship can be a long, lonely road. It helps to occasionally connect with someone who really understands the unique challenges. After all, they climb the same hills and often stumble over the same rocks as you. Isolation will numb you both.
4 ~ SERVICE DIVERGENCE
Your respective service menus will have areas of overlap and, SURPRISE!, areas where they DON’T overlap! This means you can refer work that you are unable or unwilling to do yourself at the present time, to one another (e.g. I can now refer at least some graphic design, hardware and custom-interface enquiries to my competitor and I am willing to do the small, quick html websites and social media marketing that he finds disruptive when he’s concentrating on complicated firmware programming).
5 ~ QUALITY SERVICE
Some benefits of co-optition can be as simple as being able to help a client with a referral when you are fully booked yourself – thereby helping someone find a solution to a problem, and someone else with getting more business. NOTE: be sure you can back your referral though, as it can reflect on you if something should go wrong.
6 ~ NETWORKING
Belonging to a networking group, accreditation body, or industry society often brings negotiated discounts from suppliers that serve your industry (e.g. mattress companies offering a discount to all B&B’s affiliated with the grading council). Such forums also allow for ongoing learning and some social interaction.
7 ~ CAVEAT!
Some competitors you must avoid like a beehive on a hot day. They are the ones who blatantly copy everything you pioneer on the web, or who will badmouth you to potential clients, or who are just of the plain nasty variety. Use your discretion.
If your business has become a little tedious and your prospects a little stale, meeting up with a competitor may just liven things up for you both.
For decades now, I have enjoyed more benefits by working with key competitors than drawbacks. I have even made some lasting friendships, and in one instance, a 10-minute discussion with a competitor helped me increase my income by 30% almost overnight!
Open up to doing something you may never have considered before! And you may reap rewards you may never have thought possible.
There is place for us all. There is more than enough business to go around if our marketing is effective.
A rising tide raises all ships!
STAY AHEAD OF YOUR COMPETITION!
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Author: Ronel Pieterse
Ronel has spent 24 years in the corporate world (finance, banking, mining, manufacturing and agriculture) and has also started 5 small businesses herself over the past 20 years. Four of these are still operational today in one form or another. Ronel's passion is to use her considerable skills in spheres of business and IT to help other small business owners and entrepreneurs to grow their businesses to the next level and to attain sustainable competitive advantage in the process. View all posts by Ronel Pieterse