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How to Best Use Your Competitors

August 1st, 2011 No comments

Knowledge Equals Profits

Instead of fearing your competitors, embrace and collaborate with them. What you learn will far outweigh what you offer.

Not sure how best to use your competitors to improve your business? Here are 10 easy-to-follow actions that will help you profit from collaboration.

1)    Have lunch: Take your competitor to lunch. Do not start the lunch by bombarding that person with questions. Instead, get to know her through casual conversation. Once your competitor is comfortable with you, the information will fly.

2)    Visit your competitors’ offices: By scheduling a trip to their offices, you can experience their unique business culture. This is something that cannot happen over the phone. You can sit in on their meetings, talk to their employees, watch how they handle day-to-day operations.  This simple step changed the course of my career when I was younger. Watching how more experienced leaders interacted with their team members helped me become the leader I am today.

3)    Form an association: This is a great excuse for getting together a few times a year to discuss the state of your industry. By collecting dues, you can bring in industry experts in everything from marketing to product development. This can be physical get-together, but it can also be virtual. If you hold a teleseminar, all your members can easily attend.

4)    Start a newsletter or magazine: By starting a newsletter and/or magazine (print or digital), you can get your competitors’ message out to your audience, which of course is a win for them. And, it gives you free content – a win for you.

5)    Become one another’s accountability partner: Use your competitors to keep yourself and your business on track. If you are in the same industry and are on the same level, whether you are CEOs or marketing directors, chances are good that you have had similar experiences and can help each other develop realistic timelines and project expectations.

6)    Form a joint venture partnership: By promoting each other’s products via email you are able to make money, get new customers and leads, and obtain valuable data for R&D. But most importantly, you are able to serve your customers better. Face it, creating good products takes a lot of resources and time. By promoting your competitor, you can give your customers something you are not supplying while adding to your bottom line.

7)    “Ride along” with your competitors’ products: Most of your competitors will have some sort of physical product they send to their customers. Often, the products do not contain any promotional materials. Offer to buy “space” where you pay a flat fee for a sales insert for one of your products to ride along with the delivery of their product. Or do a revenue share where you split any revenue generated by your promotional piece.

8)    Become your competitors’ customer: So many entrepreneurs make the mistake of asking for comps to subscriptions and products. You should actually buy products from your top three competitors. This gives you an inside look at EXACTLY how they treat their customers. Learn everything you can from this. If you think they do something great – emulate it. If you are offended by an action and you are doing the same thing, well, now you know you need to change or improve that action.

9)    Promote your competitors via social media: If you received a great newsletter issue from your competitor, put it on Facebook. If you received great customer service from a competitor, tweet about it. With your friends and followers, you’ll build a reputation as a person with integrity. With your competitors, you’ll build a reputation of fairness and cooperation.

10)    Invite your competitors to speak at your next conference: Some companies are afraid to put their best customers in front of their competitors. That’s a big mistake. In reality, by not giving your competitors access to your customers, you are doing your customers a disservice. Regardless of how knowledgeable you are and how good you are at what you do, you cannot be everything to everyone. And some of your competitors may resonate with your customers in a way that you do not. Don’t be afraid that your customers will jump ship. They won’t. What they will do is thank you for having the insight to invite that speaker… and continue to turn to you for great advice and service.

All of the above action items only work if you are willing to reciprocate. Don’t ask if you can visit a competitor’s office if you have no intention of letting him visit you. And, do not ask someone to contribute content to your newsletter if your answer to the same request would be “I just don’t have the time.”

If you constantly strive to give more than you get – you will come out the winner.

 

from Mary Ellen Tribby newsletter