When did competitor become such a dirty word?  I have been reading a lot of blog posts and facebook comments where people say they are collaborators rather than competitors.  They talk about how there is room for everyone.  And I get that in the online world it is a very big market but I still think you need to be realistic.  There are competitors to you out there and I don’t think you should be ignoring that fact.  Plus there are some businesses where there isn’t enough room for everyone.

This is particularly so when you are based in a physical location with limited opportunities (or desires) to expand your market.  Sure your small town can support more than one coffee shop but there will be a tipping point when there are too many for everyone to stay open and make a reasonable profit.  And if you get huge then the market can only bear so many businesses of your size.

I think sometimes we shy away from words without really thinking what they mean to us.

There are benefits to acknowledging you have competitors and these are my top three reasons why I think you should get to know who they are:

1.  Learn what makes you unique. Unless you are selling something completely unique (and that is hard to do these days) then there are going to be other people offering what you are offering.  How many people are out there designing websites, or creating beautiful stationery or providing accounting services?  I have no idea but I imagine the number is quite large.

But everyone offers something slightly different.  Perhaps you are a web designer who specialises in working with a particular industry or you create stationery with a vintage vibe or you are an accountant who uses a particular software.  And of course you have your unique personality that you bring to the business.

Rather than being afraid of your competitors, have a poke around their business and think about how you are different to them.  Then use this to your advantage, as one of the key selling points in your business.   Word of caution though:  don’t get comparitanitis where you think everyone is so much better than you.  If you find yourself getting down about what you have to offer, step away from the computer and go hang out with your biggest supporter and get them to tell you how wonderful you are. Oh and a nice glass of wine may help.

2.  Keep up with trends. Here in the accounting world, over the past few years cloud accounting systems have become a big thing and you can see who got on board early and grew their business exponentially by getting ahead.  Keeping up with your industry is super important to understanding what is going to impact on your business.

That doesn’t mean you are going to follow every trend that pops up.  There are some accounting businesses out there, who are doing well because they cater to clients who are bit old-school and don’t want to go down the cloud route.  But you need to be the one in control and making the decisions about what is right for your business and your customers.  I mean who knows them as well as you?  Well hopefully it is you and if you haven’t done it in a while ask your customers how you are going.  If you want to get really crazy, then ask them what they think about the trends.

3.  Competitors can be collaborators. I am not sure where the idea came from that you could be collaborators or competitors but not both.  I have seen some lovely examples of where competitors can also be collaborators.  Those differences I talked about can also be your keys to collaboration and referrals.  Do you specialise in a certain type of software?  Does the client want to use something else?  Rather than diving into a project that you know is going to be a pain in the ass, refer them to your friend who specialises in that software.  And fingers crossed, they will do the same when they have a client who wants to use the software that you specialise in.

Or you could share the cost of marketing.  Say you specialise in squarespace for website design and you know someone else who uses wordpress, then you could do a joint webinar on the benefits of both and run one series of adverts rather than separate adverts on each option.  Of course if you are doing this make sure you have a clear understanding about how you are going to work together and ideally have it in writing.

Stop seeing competitor as a dirty word and work out how to use it to your advantage!

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