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Everybody’s talking about the competition. “Find out what the competition’s doing.” “Don’t let the competition elbow you out.” Exactly who is this invisible enemy and how can you wipe said foe off the selling map as everyone would suggest you do?
In the topsy-turvy world of internet marketing, are your friends your enemies, and your enemies your friends? It would seem so. Perhaps we should refer to such people as our “frenemies.”
Let’s talk about the word competition. The American Heritage Dictionary defines competition in several ways, two relevent ones being:
1. n. A business relation in which two parties compete to gain customers.
2. n. Rivalry between two or more businesses striving for the same customer or market.
The first definition depicts competition as an event, and the second one portrays it as a state of being. Either way, in both cases the two parties are working against each other, dipping from the same bucket. The proverbial bucket is really your target customer pool.
So: how to figure out if a colleague is your ally or competition? The easiest way to do this is to define your target customer, and then define theirs. Define it in the way that all the true-blue old-school marketers would; isolate the key demographics and psychographics.
Fears and emotional needs
Do you share the same identical audience AND same product offering as someone who you’re worried might be a competitor? Or is there a subtle shade of difference between what each of you is peddling?
Think about that web surfer. If he visits “the other guy” at his website, and then visits yours, can he make a distinction between what each of you sells? If he can’t, then you’re looking square into the Eyes of the Enemy. Okay, maybe “enemy” is a bit harsh. We’re all friends in this big, happy marketing world, right? Well… not always.
The truth is, you may find it difficult to forge any sort of relationship with someone whose product offering mirrors yours. Yes, instead of getting all palsy-walsy with said person, you may find yourself skulking about his website, gleaning coveted tricks and then fleeing in the hopes that he doesn’t collect IP addresses. Which he probably does, if he’s anyone important.
An example of clear-cut competition: GoDaddy.com and Earthlink.net. Nope, there’s no way those two arch enemies are forming an alliance anytime soon… unless someone puts some money up and one gets bought out, from whence they become one and the same to the outside world.
But what about when you and the other person are pandering to the same audience but selling two different things? What if they offer a product, and you offer a service?
Suppose you’re a dietician offering services and consultations, and JackandtheBeanSprout.com is not a dietician, but they offer health-related books and products on their website. So: are they your competitor, or no?
This dilemma requires a case-by-case comparison. In the case of the broadheading of your two businesses, no you’re not *exactly* competition. But there may come a time when the two of you are pushing books about exercise equipment to the same gosh darned target audience for more or less the same price.
In that instance, you may temporarily take opposing sides of the same marketing coin and become competitors… but that’s just in one instance. In another instance, JackandtheBeanSprout.com may choose to chase the population of old geezers with offers for exercise equipment. Meanwhile, you’re pitching a new service to health practitioners. Suddenly, you’re friends again.
Is there a way to capitalize on your relations with a businessperson who shares your general niche? Why, sure there is. Form an alliance. Become their affiliate. If the new exercise equipment the other guy is selling to seniors works nicely as a side dish to your own crop of offerings, why not cut a deal with old Jack? There, now everyone gets a slice of the pie. Not bad for a couple of rivals, huh.
At times you may keep your tongue firmly planted in the side of your face as you spout off glorious words on your marketing rival/friend’s behalf to your own audience, but it’s all part of the Opportunist Game. If you want to run with the big marketing dogs, you must learn the rules. And you must keep a cool head!
There is no *real* loyalty in the selling world. Business associates are fair-weather friends, at least in the business context… and there is a price tag attached to what they can do for you. So if they officially become your competition on Sunday, just ride it out for however long the fever takes to die down over what they’re offering… and in the interim, plot your next move.
Your next move in the market will of course depend on the outcome of the buzz that they created. In what direction is the audience headed? Is technology remolding the average consumer mindset and making your product or service obsolete? If so, then you must move with the times. Move, grow, evolve, acquire, change, merge, switch directions, switch tactics. Remember that you’re not leading your audience; they’re really leading YOU.
If you stop thinking of your business competition in black and white terms and start thinking categorically and multi-directionally, you may find yourself traveling side roads to riches that you never thought possible. So, is that other guy your competitor? Yes… and… no.
Copyright 2005 Dina Giolitto. All rights reserved.
Dina Giolitto is a copywriting consultant and ghostwriter with 10 years of experience writing corporate print materials and web content. Trust her with your next e-book, article series or web project, and make a lasting impression on your audience of information-hungry prospects. Visit http://www.wordfeeder.com for more information.