Your competitors are your enemy, you need to find out everything you can about them…..so you can one day crush them.
At least that's the way the thinking usually goes. Like in war, the competition is seen as the enemy, never to be trusted. That's BS,……your competitors can be a source of some of your best business, if you let it.
Even the fiercest of competitors understand this. Microsoft and Apple have the longest standing rivalry in tech, yet they routinely partner with each other on projects, despite being competitors. Did you know that Microsoft once saved Apple from the brink financial of collapse? Why would a competitor do that? Ever watch The Sons of Anarchy? If the Sons, Mayans and 9'ers can create partnerships amid shooting each other, why can't your business form partnerships with the competition?
It's all in the mindset
Don't look at your competition as the enemy, look at them as an opportunity. Take the Dale Carnegie approach to business. You share a common customer base with them, figure out ways you can create a win/win relationship where everyone's bottom line increases. While you will find that some business owners can't get out of the “your my enemy” mindset, you'll find plenty of willing competitors who would love to work together towards a common goal.
Here are 5 ways you can turn your competitors into willing partners
Seek a common goal (or enemy)
Has a new giant box store moved into the neighborhood, threatening to crush your small, independent business? Are new franchise chains springing up all around you? If you're nervous about these turn of events, your other competitors are too. Why not reach out to them and discuss a common strategy to ward off this new threat. When a big box home improvement store moved into my town a few years ago, the 2 independent hardware stores in my town (who rarely spoke to each other) banded together and started a “buy local” mini-media campaign in town. They combined forces to fight a common enemy with great success.
Refer each other
A client of mine owns a children's learning center. They specialize in working with children with disabilities. The owner of the business made a point of reaching out to the other children centers in her town when she opened and became friendly with them. She wanted them to know she didn't look at them as competitors, but as colleagues. 5 years in business and the other children's centers in town are her biggest source of referrals. She in turn refers business to the other centers if she thinks they will be a better fit for a child, or if her center can't accommodate them. The key to making this work? Send the other business referrals first, to show them you really do look at them as colleagues.
Create a Joint/Complimentary Product or Service
Every business is slightly different, even if on the surface, you offer the same things. Create a special product/service package that your competitor doesn't specialize in (or want to) and see if they can offer it to their customers. Let them do the same with your customer database. You can also combine both your services into a special package for customers, with each of you delivering a portion of the services. Maybe you can offer a commission to each other, maybe you don't, you can work out the details of how to make it a fair offering on both sides. I know of a contracting company that sub-contracts business to one of its competitors when it gets too busy, and the competitor in turn does the same. They both agree to work under the other company's brand when doing work for each other.
Conduct a Joint Promotion
Team up with your competitor to sponsor a town event or project. Maybe you can work together to promote the industry itself, rather than your individual business. A financial planner client of mine joined forces with several other financial planners in her town to run a campaign to promote college savings plans. They created an educational campaign to explain the advantages of starting early. They didn't promote any one business, but the idea of saving for college when the kids are still young. Win/Win.
Create an Event
Create an event for your industry. If you business is a cupcake shop, why not create an event? Gather all of the cupcake shops/pastry shops in your town and create the Lollapalooza of all things sweet. Joining forces with your competitors to promote your industry is a great way to create awareness within the community as well as build relationships with your competition. Most business owners would never take on such an undertaking, but the one that does can build some valuable connections by running such an event.
What do you think?
Here are 5 relatively easy ways you can start building relationships with your competitors. I know there are a lot more ways, feel free to add them in the comments or shout them out on Twitter.