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Turn [Perceived] Competitors into Allies

turn competitors into allies

The black hat SEO tactics, brand name targeting on Google ads, bad-mouthing to potential clients… Oh my! Nasty competitors can add a negative tinge to your entire workday. 

Wouldn’t a life free of negative competition and full of mutual support be amazing? It almost sounds too good to be true. 

We suppose that, in some situations, it is. If you have a truly toxic competitor, sometimes the best course of action is to steer clear. Give up on an opportunity for communication and just focus on how to offer a better product or service.

However, for indirect or even direct competitors with no bad blood, collaboration can create opportunities. By Extending an olive branch, gain an ally, develop a new resource for information, and create a strengthened community bond.  

Understand the types of perceived competitors

different types of competitors you come across as a business

Direct competitor: businesses that are selling similar products or services to the same audience. 

This type of competitor is historically the most difficult to create a strong relationship with. Due to this total target market overlap, the environment may be too aggressive

Indirect competitor: vendors whose products or services are not identical but satisfy the same consumer need.

The indirect competitor is an easier win and empowers a stronger partnership through differing products. Working with indirect competitors offers great opportunities for local recommendation content or ‘insider tips’ to share with both of your audiences.

Replacement competitor: Businesses that sell different products or services than your company, but the result of the product is similar.

Replacement competitors are similar to an indirect competitor, but it can be even easier to foster potential partnerships. There may be enough differentiation between your products to offer partnership discounts, post-purchase recommendations or product integration possibilities.

Distant Competitor: businesses selling similar products or services to different location demographics.

Connecting with distant competitors is a great idea as there is no direct local competition involved. Through that lack of competition, a network of business professionals can truly take advantage of sharing the tricks of the trade.

How to create an ally out of distant competitors 

Create a support system 

You’re all trying to crack the code for your industry – you may as well do it together. Reach out to relevant companies outside of your direct market. This could be a group on social media or direct outreach. Find related companies with perceived success and reach out with a specific question. Chances are that they will be flattered you noticed their hard work and happy to give some insider tips.

We’ve seen niche industries with companies that span the country create Facebook chats for easy communication and advice-sharing. It is a great way to hear about any potential industry issues affecting other companies that may head in your direction, and give you time to prepare!

Share your successes for repetition across locations 

If you are open about your business successes, others will follow in suit with their best successes. This holds for troubleshooting failed strategies. If you grow your network large enough, there will be a business out there that has run into your issue and created a solution.

Due to this open line of advice and communication, you can experience improved marketing for entire industries and improved overall reputations for all involved businesses. Talk about a win-win!

How to create an ally out of local competitors 

Big Dipper shows how to make an ally out of an indirect competitor with a dessert collab
Big Dipper, the iconic local Missoula ice cream shop, partnered with Posh Chocolate, the local brownie shop to create one of the ice cream shop’s most popular dessert – a brownie sundae. Talk about taking an indirect local competitor and creating a sweet, sweet partnership.

Open up for an honest line of communication 

Have you ever tried reaching out? Or do you just stalk their social media and website from the shadows? When you’re ready to step out of the bushes and announce your presence, in-person is best. For the initial outreach, it is important to remind them you are just another human. Introduce yourself (or reintroduce yourself) and offer a direct line of communication. 

If there was a lack of fireworks during the initial outreach, then you may not foresee chance at a blooming relationship. Even if the outreach fell flat, this practice empowers your local competitors to go straight to you if any grievances arise, instead of handling it in the public sphere. 

Send overflow customers to your competitor 

Of course, it is important to first discuss with your team if this strategy makes sense. If you are already just scraping by for customers, this isn’t the best tactic – it’s best to let capitalism take the wheel. On the other hand, if your customer base is booming and your real issue is keeping up, it can be beneficial to be a referral source for other local companies in your community.  

The effect will be a strengthened relationship with your competitors, and an improved brand rep. You will seem confident, honest, and as if you value the customer over your bottom line. Who knows? Maybe that competitor will become a great referral source for you as well. 

Share industry and community knowledge 

Join together to further understand your target market. Share failures, successes and potential ideas. Improving your shared industry knowledge is improving your separate businesses long term. 

This can look like sharing promotion opportunities for events, sharing successful verticals, and holding a strong front as it comes to any local bureaucratic issues.

Create repeat customers on a two-way street 

If you establish a true partnership with an indirect customer, these communication opportunities grow both of your businesses and create an improved experience for all customers.

For a temporary campaign, offer a ‘thank you’ discount to partner companies, and have your partner do the same for you. For local indirect competitors, it can be very beneficial to create a ‘things to do in’ page for your website and highlight your local partners. As a result, you can foster a partnership while simultaneously taking advantage of a great local SEO tactic.

Run a joint promotion 

Let’s say you took all of our advice so far and created a true supporter out of your competitor. First of all, congrats! Not many companies have done it. Use this partnership to both of your advantage! Create joint promotions. Repeat industry customers from shared discounts, joint-produced products or events… The options are endless. The goal is to stimulate interest in your shared industry and create an awesome experience for your audience.  

In conclusion, turning competition into a healthy relationship is never easy. However, a bit of effort and patience the result will be a new company and hopefully person in your corner. 

Ready to set up a strategic affiliate marketing strategy? Reach out to our team to discuss!

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