Shortly after I left High School, many years ago, I worked for Sonic Drive-in. This was before the company was as large as it is today and in the small town in which I grew up, there was not even a McDonald’s. So Sonic was a big deal there and then. I had a manager who told me something that stuck and I now understand why. He stated that he would love for McDonald’s to move into town…right next door! He welcomed competition! I thought he was nuts, but he explained.
He said that admitting that McD’s was the fast-food giant was not admitting defeat, only reality. In addition, that company generates considerable business through strong advertising campaigns…ads that Sonic at the time could not. If McDonald’s moved in next door, that would bring far more people to that side of town for fast food than were then coming and there would be overflow of customers (because of long lines or other issues) that would subsequently go to Sonic. His claim was that the competition would be a boom for his business. After explaining, I still thought he was nuts.
Nothing to Fear from Competition
I recently advised a client to strategically partner with other companies in his niche only to be met with wonderment and confusion. It has been over 25 years since I was first admonished about the benefits of working strategically alongside competitor’s vis-à-vis Sonic and McDonalds. Without realizing it, the principle has so become a part of me that I tend to believe that everyone knows it…to me, it is just common sense.
In fact, this principle appears all over the Internet if one simply looks closely.
So I was rather surprised when my client did not appreciate what I was suggesting and had to explain it. It then occurred to me that there are likely many who do not know this concept, so this blog was born.
On the Internet, strategic alliances are fairly common and normal. For instance, in SEO and SEM, there is considerable overlap among “competing” sites and often these sites share info, guest-blog (which is becoming a great way to build traffic and business for all involved), and share links with each other–even though all are in competition in the strictest sense of the word.
This is because most sites really have only 1 or 2 primary goals and everything else is pretty much extra for the sake of satisfying customer demands and needs.
To give an example: SEOMoz offers paid SEO services, but it would appear that they really do not want clients in this field, for they often carry competing sites and refer readers to these. It seems that the site is more positioned to be a site that draws revenue from selling software and that information is their core product.
My site is the same. I offer a number of services that people want and need for their websites such as writing content, web content editing, link-building, information, and consulting. I am told that I am a good writer and that may or may not be true. Regardless, my interest lay more in teaching…I love to teach. Thus, when I write, I write with a view to teaching whatever I am writing about. My core business, therefore, is not writing, but rather teaching.
What IS Competition? Determine Your Core Business First
So if I had to choose any two from the above list, they would be information and consulting—those make up my core offering. For this reason, I have no fear of referring clients to SEOMoz or any other website for that matter for my goal is for my readers to learn. As long as they learn something from me, they will return, even if I send them elsewhere from time to time to learn something else…something that perhaps some other site is better at teaching.
Of course, what I teach is primarily how to write content for websites along with how to edit content and properly match keywords to that content. I offer other services because my clients want them. For instance, I really hate link-building, but I have clients who want it done, so whenever possible, I refer them to others. If they still want us to do it, then we do, but that is not our core business here at Oakes Writing Consultants. Our core business is teaching web site owners how to write web site content that is appealing to both human and non-human (Seach engines) readers.
There is nothing wrong with this approach and I think that if more business owners saw things like this, competition would be far more beneficial to all. Indeed, my sending people over to SEOMoz or any other site for added learning is akin to Sonic getting the overflow from McDonalds…it is simply good for both. Sure, Mickey D’s loses some customers, but they can afford to and rather than anger the customers they have through slow service, most of these will return at some point anyway.
The point is this. Decide which single or two services are your core offerings. Anything outside that is ok to tie in with competitors and often, even if a competitor offers the same thing, there is nothing wrong with referring a customer over to them. This does 2 things for you.
1. It can result in added exposure through link and blog sharing with the other sites.
2. It shows your clients how strong you are (because you are comfortable working with your competition). Having no fear of competitors is sexy to clients for it denotes confidence that you are, as you say, the best and everyone wants to work with the best.
Of course, assuming you ARE the best at what you do, competition is no big deal. Does anyone think that McDonalds cares two bits about what Wendy’s and Sonic and Burger King do? Not at all. McD’s just does what they do. Period.
So, what 2 services make up your core offering?
Are there competitors with whom you can develop strategic offerings?
Remember…you have nothing to fear from competition…competition is good.
If you would like to learn more about how to develop the kind of web content that gets traffic, see Jeff Folks…C. Jeff Oakes, Oakes Writing Consultants, Lubbock, Texas.