Photo Credit: Bobcatnorth on Flickr
We live in a business world where rivalries exist and the competition is to be frowned upon, but there are billions of people in the world. There’s plenty of business to go around for everybody! What about forging alliances with “the competition” to create something even better? In this guest post, Erin Schwartz shares the steps to take to make this happen…
They say there are two ways to see the world: as though everyone you meet is an enemy or as though everyone you meet is a friend. When you’re a business owner, it’s easy to feel a sense of rivalry with other businesses in your field. But what if you could turn that negative energy into something positive for your business? What if you could turn that business into an ally instead of seeing the other guy as a threat?
Today’s economy demands creative thinking and problem-solving strategies. With the recent abundance of entrepreneurs, it’s helpful for small business owners to work together for the benefit of all. Here are some suggestions.
Before Addressing the Competition
Carve out your company’s niche.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but you should be able to explain to a competing business exactly what you do, and the more specific you are, the better. Simply put, decide on your company’s goals before sharing them with someone outside the company.
Decide who the competition is.
Take the time to narrow down which companies would be most beneficial to work with. Sure, you have a number of competitors, but not all of them are worth the extra effort of forming an alliance.
Addressing the Competition
Gather all the information that you can.
You might mistakenly think that gathering literature and tidbits from your competition comes across as sneaky. But it won’t if you’re open about the fact that you are doing it. Your competitors can then decide whether they want to share information with you or zip up, so to speak. Their response to your research of other businesses in the area should tell you whether to go further in building an alliance. Either they’re open to creative collaboration or you should choose another firm to work with!
Chat at networking functions.
It’s a good idea to establish friendly terms before you go any further with trying to build an alliance. If the owner of the competing company has met you before in the information-gathering phase, try bonding some more at a networking session. Events tailored for businesses are the perfect place to ask questions such as:
- What trends have you noticed in the market?
- How long have you been in the field?
- What other events like this one have you attended?
Address challenges together.
If your business is facing certain challenges, there is a chance your competition faces those same issues. By humbling yourself to other firms and discussing these issues, you will have a better chance of getting business owners to open up about their own trends and challenges.
Decide to collaborate.
Once you’ve gotten friendly with other companies, you can agree to join forces. Note that this may take a bit of time – you might have to repeat the steps of chatting at events and talking about challenges and how to solve them before anything happens. But when your competition realizes that your purpose in joining forces is for both companies – yours and theirs – to benefit and make more money in the long run, you’ll have their attention.
Collaborating With the Competition
One possible way to share costs and work together that does not deal with your consumers is to consider that you and your competing business are consumers as well. If you use similar vendors, consider how you might share costs.
Work together on advertising.
It’s no secret that it’s expensive to promote and advertise your products and services. If you collaborate with another business, you may be able to share advertising costs. For example, it’s much more expensive for each of you to run a separate ad in the Sunday newspaper than for the two of you to share the cost of a single ad. Remember, getting the word out about both your businesses works better than not getting the word out about either business.
Focus on promoting each other’s specialties.
If Grocery Store A specializes in fresh seafood and Grocery Store B has the best produce in town, why not shop at both and have the perfect dinner menu? As you get to know the company you are working with, you’ll realize the strengths of each business and how to use those strengths to each business’ advantage.
Learning to work with your competition is tougher to accept in theory than in practice. Once you acknowledge that your competition has something to offer your company – and that you have something to offer theirs – you will both reap the benefits and grow a larger client base. And that’s good news for everybody.
Erin Schwartz organizes social media and marketing programs for www.123print.com. She also produces the small business spotlight on the 123print blog.