Keep your business partners close, but your competitors closer

Recently, I have talked to several people who are leary to get close to their competition or let their competition get close to them.  Here are some of the examples I have heard in the last couple of weeks:

  1. I'm not going to have a one-on-one with my competition - they are just trying to find out how I do business.
  2. I won't display my marketing materials at networking events where my competition is at, even though they display theirs.  I don't want them to get a hold of my marketing materials.

Is this a healthy business attitude?  No. 

There are many benefits to getting better acquainted with your competitors.

  1. Getting to know your competitors, lets you better define your different/better story.  What are their strengths and weaknesses in comparison to yours?
  2. It allows you to find out which competitors do a really good job, so that in the event you need to refer or sub-contract out some work, you have resources for your clients/customers.  It also allows your competitors to get comfortable with you in case they need to refer out or subcontract some work to you.  Also, when someone is not an ideal client and you turn them down, it is nice to be able to refer them to someone.
  3. Friendly competitors can share experiences that could help each other in their businesses.  What - help out a competitor?  Yes.  I have a great relationship with one of my competitors.  I think she does fantastic work and we actually meet monthly for lunch.  We know there is plenty of business to go around and we are not at all leary about sharing challenges and ideas with each other.  Turns out we have both offered referrals to one another.
  4. You won't miss out on opportunities to market to your target audience.  No matter how hard you try to hide your marketing materials from your competitors, they will still get their hands on it.  So, why lose out on an opportunity to get your company name out to your target market just because you know your competition will be at the same event (and by the way they'll be handing out their marketing materials). 

We welcome your comments and experiences on this.

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#1 Deb Condo on 8.13.2009 at 12:44 PM

Yesterday I had the wonderful priviledge of having a nearby "competitor" visit my shop. We shared ideas and pricing strategies for nearly 2 hours. Oddly enough, we met at a convention in Ohio, and hit it off right away. We both understand and agree that there is enough business for everyone to go around.

It is important that small business owners learn from each other on what works, and what doesn't. What works for one, may not work for another. I belong to several gift basket associations, blogs and chats, and these forums are wonderful places to share information, even with the competition.


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