I know that sounds arrogant. I don't mean it that way. Whenever anyone mentioned competition at a company I worked at, I scoffed. I always have. Someone told me once that it's impossible to look behind you and still race forward at top speed. I believe fear paralyzes companies.
I believe in co-opetition.
I'm not advocating ignoring your competition… every company should understand the advantages that they bring to the table. More important than your competitive advantages, though, is whether or not there's a match between those advantages and the actual needs of the customer. I'm growing my business from scratch right now and in the first days I took on every job I could just to ensure I could stay afloat. In hindsight, that was not a good decision… I could have referred many of those projects and the clients would have been just as happy, maybe happier.
My focus now is creating partnerships with large agencies, public relations firms, and continuing to increase the relationships I have with very large clients. This week, I've referred two good prospects to my competition. It was the right thing to do. I can't provide these relationships with the attention they deserve and I don't have the resources to ensure their success… so why would I risk my reputation on it?
Here in Indianapolis, there are a great group of talented people that can provide similar services that I provide. Companies like ExactTarget, Right On Interactive, Compendium, and a number of web design and development agencies have products and services that I could provide… but I won't. They have investment, infrastructure, customer support and resources that I don't have. That's better for the customer.
On the Social Media side, there are quite a few of us in town… all of whom I believe are my friends. As we approach some of the large corporations in town, each of us will bring our own perspective to the table. I'm not concerned about competing with them on this level. Again, I'm more concerned that the company gets the right resource. If I refer them and it's a success, we all win. I look great for referring them, my competition gets business, and I'll get the first call on the next opportunity, too.
Recently, a (huge) local company gave me the runaround to pressure me into providing some free services to them. I simply referred them to a colleague who first checked with me. When that back-fired, they came back to me and I let them know I wasn't interested.
On the other side, there are a few agencies in town that now proudly wear the monikers of search engine optimization or social media expertise. Although they added no one to their staff with that expertise, nor have they had any results with clients in those arenas, they continue to prey on companies looking for those services. They're opportunists, providing every service that anyone cares to ask about. I don't like what they're doing and I speak out against them as often as possible.
If you're looking for a search engine optimization provider, do some searches and you'll find who is winning search. It's that easy. If you're looking for a social media expert, attend some regional events, check out who started the successful regional networks, and observe who has the large followings. It will become very clear who has the expertise and who doesn't. The opportunists leave a trail of tears.
I don't believe I have competition. My job is to see if I'm a fit for the pain that the company has. If I'm not a fit, I'm moving on. That's why my engagements are growing, I'm getting more time to work on things I enjoy, my clients are seeing the results they want, and I'm happy… and still broke ;).
What do you think? Do you really have any competition?