An important part of any marketing strategy is identifying your competitors, in order to see how your business can be uniquely positioned in the market, as well as how you can improve your products and services. In our capitalistic world, many profit-driven businesses have developed strategies to beat the competition out of fear. The "Cola Wars" between Coke and Pepsi is a classic example of how fear can play out. In this article, you will learn why collaboration over competition leads to a more sustainable and sane way of running your business.
The advantage of competitors
When working in the corporate world, I never understood the negative talk about our competitors, because competition is not evil, nor something to avoid, or beat. Competition is healthy and something to embrace and learn from.
If you’re the first on the market and can establish a valuable growing customer base, congratulations! This is, however, rarely the case and misleading. Even companies with no direct competition, have indirect competition and will hopefully figure this out if they are discerning when creating their marketing strategy.
For instance, let’s look at an app that provides unique information, but still has a common goal of many other apps. This is often seen in the wellness/wellbeing sector. Some apps only offer meditations, while others may offer affirmations and exercises as well as meditations.
Developers of this new app may say, "Wonderful, I have no competition!" - but customers still have to decide which apps they want to download and actively use. After all, they don't have unlimited time, leisure or storage space. All these other related apps are your indirect competition.
Direct or indirect - competition is a good thing
Especially if you’re thinking about starting a new business because you want to know people will be interested in your products or services. Where there is competition, there is a market, so informing yourself about your competition before investing time and money in your idea will help you validate your offer.
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What to learn from your competition
Running a successful business requires that you regularly review and optimize your marketing strategy. As a business owner, you want to always have an advantage, so learning about your competition will help you improve your offer and define and optimize your USP (Unique Selling Proposition), which will most likely change over time because your competition and customers are constantly changing.
Knowing your competitors' keywords will also help you to improve your own SEO strategy. Because you don't want to use the same keywords as your competitors, which have a higher domain authority.
While it’s important to learn as much as you can about your competition, it’s even more important to concentrate on your own customers, not someone else’s. There are plenty of customers to go around and in many cases, customers are not loyal to only one brand. You’ll never see a person wearing only one fashion brand. Or using only one cosmetic and body care brand, unless they get a huge discount because they work there.
People like variety and want to mix and match as well as experiment and try new things. Which is why collaboration is so important. Especially if you’re a social entrepreneur who wants to create much-needed change in your industry.
Cooperation instead of competition
Even in the non-profit sector where the goals are the same, there is fierce competition. Since every organization has their own agenda, I sometimes feel we will never reach our goals.
What I’d personally like to see more of in this world is unity. There’s too much division which leads to many conflicts. Not only for the organizations themselves, but for people who want to support a cause because there are too many choices. Research alone is time-consuming and frustrating.
One of the main things I’ve learned about being a business owner on a mission to protect animals and our environment is that I can’t do this alone. And I don’t have to. I can work with others to make more of a positive impact.
I work together with my direct competition on various campaigns and projects. I have even hired a fellow copywriter because I wanted her to edit/proofread my article before publishing. She hired me to proofread one of her articles, too. I also co-created a video series about strengthening your marketing mindset with my fellow ethical marketing strategist colleague and friend. I’m a part of herCommunity Ethical Hour and have also presented a workshop on converting sales ethically for her audience.
She could have easily presented this topic herself. But often people want to hear other perspectives - especially when it comes to marketing. Although we are similar in many ways and agree on non-manipulative marketing practices, we have different ideas. We complement each other, which also brings many people inspiration for their own businesses.
When you work together, you make your jobs easier, and your campaigns more effective.
With both colleagues, who are my direct competitors, we know each other’s strengths. We trust each other and share similar goals, so it only makes sense that we invest in each other, thereby indirectly investing in animal and environmental protection.
We’re not only doing this to help our clients and benefit our own businesses, but also to promote a collaborative environment. Climate action does not only affect one nation, nor does a deadly zoonotic pandemic, or an aggressive alien attack.
In such events, it doesn’t matter what age, gender, race or nationality you are, what religious beliefs, political opinions or sexual preferences you have, or which Stranger Things character you like best. None of that matters. The only thing that matters is that we, the people, unite!
How to work together
If you're looking for inspiration, here are a few examples of how you can work together:
- Organize and promote an event, i.e. fundraiser for your shared cause.
- Host an online seminar, in-person conference, workshop, etc.
- Cobrand, organize and promote a course that involves both skill sets.
- Become a guest speaker on various podcasts, events, panel discussions, etc. and offer to interview the other person on your channel.
- Organize a fashion show bringing in a few fashion, makeup, shoe, accessory, etc. brands and get creative with mixing and matching.
- Involve your competitors and partners in your fundraising strategy.
- Promote a campaign around a fitting national/international day that supports your business and clients. For example, the International Data Center Day on March 23, 2023 would be suitable for Raidboxes\.
- Offer a resource, paid or free, that will benefit customers of both parties.
- Write a book together, or a short series of articles, about how you’re working together to reach your common goals, because your cause is more important than your competitive differences.
- Offer discounts to each other’s customers. This works well when they’re indirect competitors and your products and services compliment each other. There may be some parallels, so in that case, promote how your customers can benefit with your partnership.
- Run a contest/competition, in which the prizes come from both businesses, reducing everyone’s cost while simultaneously making the contest more attractive.
Collaborating with others, including your competition, expands your customer base and increases brand recognition which can further position you as a thought-leader, and ultimately, increase revenue. It’s a genuine win-win.
When contacting people about a potential collaboration for the first time, it’s highly effective to provide an example of how you could work together while also stating your flexibility on accepting their suggestions.
After reviewing their work via websites, articles, events, etc. and finding the right contact person, you’ll have a better idea of how they work and who they work with, so that you can roughly draft a proposal about a fitting, yet unique, collaboration idea. There are no rules on the how-to's, so be creative.