Benefiting from your competition

Competition is great. It keeps you sharp; it keeps you efficient and gives you a framework from which you evaluate your own actions. Why do we need competition and why is that really good? For this question let’s go back to dynamic systems; if you haven’t read the post about dynamic systems, please read that post. It is the basis of what I’m going to talk about. Most people see competition as something bad. They regard the status of monopoly as the ultimate status for business. However, I don’t think that it’s true; let me tell you why.

Competition Keeps you Sharp!

Competition allows the need for efficiency to arrive. If you have high instances of monopoly, which means that no one else can offer the services and products you offer, you can ask pretty much any price you want and get paid because people don’t have a choice. If people have a choice and they make that choice, they usually choose the person or company that can offer the best service at the lowest price.

More competition means more dynamism, because you constantly contemplate and think of changing. Change is inevitable where you have more competitors. There is, somehow, a more flexible or chaotic structure that you have to deal with and that keeps you much more efficient than having to deal with rules that don’t change. Competitors push you towards being sharp, by letting you look at what’s happening in the field, and generating new ideas.

Competition Enables you to Generate New Ideas

Your competitors can actually help you generate new ideas by observing the sound business model that they are using. You can then base your own ideas from these models. Nothing is keeping you from doing this, as long as there is no patent involved. See what’s working for them and what’s not working for them, and make a judgment of what you would like to do with these strategies.

I think most people have a subjective view of their competitors. Competitor X is bad, competitor Y is good, etc. It’s a good idea to actually look objectively at competitors and see what you can learn from them. In some respect, they will have experiences that you don’t have. Just look at what is working for them. You can also look at how they try to brand themselves, what kind of ideas they come up with, or maybe try to fuse two or three ideas from different competitors on how they form a new product.

Your Competition can be your Partners

It’s also important what you regard your competitors to be. If you think that your competitors are entities that will take away share of your business, they will. If you think that competitors are bad for your business, they will be. However, try to approach the situation from a different perspective, and think of competitors as possible joint venture partners. Your competitors have the same goal as you do, which is to make customers happy in the specific field you are working on. For me, that field is SEO or search engine optimization, and there are quite some people who do that as well. Does it make sense for me to say, “Hey look, I can do SEO, so I don’t want you near that client!”? It doesn’t work that way.

I try to see people in SEO as partners. When I get a client that I know I won’t be able to make 100% happy, I might send that person to an SEO partner of mine. Basically, it seems like I’m giving away business. However, if my partner has a client they think they can’t make 100% happy, and they think that I can, they send them to be. That way, no business is lost, at least in the long run, because there’s a mutual relationship of sending leads. More importantly, we increase the total degree of happiness of the people we serve. In that regard, working together is much more efficient.

Choosing my Partners

Of course, this only works if everyone’s fair and tries to keep the shares fair. You can read in my other post that I did choose, at some point, only to work with people I’d like to hang out and would like to be friends with. With them, it is usually a way of give and take that doesn’t need a calculation of money. To them, it’s a feeling of trust and usefulness that probably doesn’t always correspond to what is exchanged financially.

I might send a client to a friend of mine, and they won’t send a client back. But then, they introduce me to a different person that has something really cool to offer. Thus, I’m actually against measuring friendships against money, although it’s okay to look at what you are getting.

Program your Brain to Look for Possibilities

You should look from the perspective of choosing your possible business partners, joint venture partners, and even friends. If you change your view from looking at dangers and problems, to looking for possibilities and similarities, this can lead to several benefits. For one, shifting your focus will add some dynamics to your relationship with the people in the same field. It will also add dynamics to your business activity. If you program your brain to look for possibilities, instead of problems or dangers, you will find them.

Risks of Connecting with your Competitors

It takes a certain risk to connect with your competitors, however, because it could be that those people you connect with are just suckers, and they just want to get a free ride. They might take 2 or 3 leads from you, and then dump you. It’s possible that some of these competitors are bad people and that just doesn’t work out. There are two kinds of people in this case; those who are free riders and those who work together well to serve their clients.

It is only natural that the more effective system is the one in which the people are working together in a dynamic group. You can even show mathematically that this system will effectively grow. Whereas the competing system, wherein everyone keeps their own finds and just serves that pool, is just not as effective, and in the long run that system will lose.

Tools for Benefiting from Competition

I’m recommending a few tools that you can use, and one of those tools is having your own blog. You can write articles about other people, say what you think about them and their qualities, and connect to them by saying something about them. This includes how you would like to work together with them, know their special abilities, know the kind of messages you should use to work together with them, how that will work out, and what kind of projects you can imagine doing with them.

Another important tool is LinkedIn. It is the social network of choice for business stuff. You can use LinkedIn in a great way, to keep track of what people are doing, how they are developing, what kind of network they have. If you connect with your competitors, you’ll get a lot of information about what they’re doing. If you read their RSS feeds, you know what they are busy doing, the different topics they are on, and what they read. If you connect with them through their Twitter you know what their rhythm of working is.

Using Twitter to know your Competition

Twitter is another great tool for using your competition. On LinkedIn and Facebook, you have to become friends with someone to see their stat messages and react to them. To share a message to someone requires that person to be on your network. Twitter, on the other hand, is so much more open. All you need to do is follow someone, and chances are you’ll see their feed. There aren’t so many people who protect their feeds anymore.

Furthermore, if you see the last tweet of a person, you can click on “Show me the conversation” or something like that, and you will see what tweets were written between the two people. It’s like the wall to wall feature on Facebook. Then, if I can, I always want to talk to those people personally through Skype after a while. This is my way of fusing online and offline networking. Using Skype pretty much feels offline but it’s online.

Just embrace your competitors. They can be your friends, possible business partners, or someone which can help you succeed. Make a switch around in your head. Start working together with them, reap the mutual benefits and they will become valuable partners.

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