September 6, 2013 Last updated September 18th, 2018 1,888 Reads share

Why Your Biggest Competitor Might Be Your Biggest Ally

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We’ve been bred to consider others that offer similar products or services as competition. After all, if a customer doesn’t choose your company, he chooses the other one.

So why on earth am I trying to convince you to work with your competitors, rather than against them?

Expect the Unexpected

Here’s a story to get us started. It’s a true one, by the way.

Years ago, when my marketing firm was but a wee lass, I attended a networking event. I heard a woman speaking on stage, introducing herself as — yep, you guessed it — another marketing consultant.

Immediately the green dragon of jealousy came out. My natural instinct was to start peppering the room with business cards before she could.

I went home and told my husband about this formidable competitor, who’d been in the industry much longer than I had. Wise as he is, he simply posed a question to me:

“Rather than consider her competition, why don’t you see what you can learn from her?”

With some grumbling I reached out and scheduled a coffee date. A date that changed my career.

She was more than willing to give me advice and tell me a few secrets to her success (thinking back, I’d be flattered too). She then offered me a small project that she didn’t have time to take on. I took it.

Fast forward a few months later. Our relationship had grown, and she’d begun to trust me with more projects. She even started inviting me to attend monthly meetings with a roofing client. A client that, once she decided to pivot her focus, she handed over to me.

Had I considered her competition, I wouldn’t have landed the biggest client I’d had at that point.

How to Work with Competitors

My story illustrates what I’m trying to get across. You can’t always go on the defensive when you’re around competitors. In fact, they might even teach you a few things or send business your way.

Since that first lesson, I’ve connected with many other marketing firms who either have overflow work or would rather outsource what I specialize in. They’re now a bulk of my business, simply because I shifted my mindset.

Think about the big players in your industry. Follow them on social sites. Read their blogs. That may be enough to help you glean useful information and get ideas for your own business. Or you could go one (scary) step further and introduce yourself. Explain what you’re doing and what you’d like to accomplish. If they have also read this article (here’s hoping), they should welcome you with open arms.

Realize, however, that this relationship should be two-way. Don’t do all the taking. Instead, consider how you can create value for this person. Maybe you can introduce them to a lead that you didn’t want to take on. Or give them the inside scoop on where to get more affordable inventory.

Be useful, and you can bet the favor will be returned.

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Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

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