In today’s environment, entrepreneurs are being pounded by the social media, the news media and other small business owners to “cooperate” and deliver value to grow their niche within the “community.”
However, this poses a dilemma — does the entrepreneur risk losing to competition by sharing or cooperating for the sake of the community? or by providing value within the small business niche that may be “similar” to a “competitor”? (that is, another entrepreneur that delivers products or services that seem alike) or should the entrepreneur believe that an honor code prevails within the entrepreneurial community and succumb to the present theory of “co-optition”? or does an “abundance mentality” really exist for entrepreneurs?
These ideas are continuous within the minds, worries and uncertainties of entrepreneurs. However, the perspective of this theme arose when I listened to a podcast episode from an entrepreneur named Dave Jackson who believes that you have to proceed with your passion — providing products or services that you deliver –even though you may have “competition.” His episode is found at his venture called The School of Podcasting.
Why does he say this?
Because he cites his own personal account of feedback from a customer that described WHY this individual preferred Mr. Jackson to his “competitor” — even though the competition provided content along the same topic. In other words, Mr. Jackson may have lost potential customers, or prospects, if he had just assumed that the content topic was covered and did not deliver HIS OWN content about the similar subject (since he provides audio and video podcasts and podcasting services to his customers).
Thus, we take it a step further and explore the areas where an entrepreneur may have to choose among the alternatives of following a path of:
- selecting the “competition” as a friendly or hostile adversary and decide to remain a distance from the competitor by just offering services and products and only have formal and brief communication as needed (e.g., for “community” purposes like goodwill and PR);
- selecting the “community” as a priority and dealing with a competitor as a friendly community member, which entails greater communication and “sharing” for the sake of the “community”;
- selecting the “abundance mentality” as a direction by believing that there is enough business for ALL competitors in your niche, and that there should not be any relationship which can be adversarial;
- selecting “co-optition” as a direction by UNITING with a competitor and creating a relationship much like a formal venture, where you and the competition will share some value, but also receive some value from others in a limited business venture (IT firms do this in sharing patents and with formal technology trade agreements;
- selecting a path to “do battle” with the competition in a fight for customers or market share or thought leadership or public relations or marketing (e.g., such IT giants as Google(R), Microsoft(R), Apple(R), IBM(R), etc. are good examples where their culture models state that “all we want is our fair share of the market, which is 100 per cent”).
As you will hear in this podcast episode, there can be dangers where the entrepreneur may want to exercise more caution:
- because of the fierceness of global competition, which is usually not friendly;
- because of the “backstabbing” that goes on with some competitors, even though there is a formal agreement or contract in place (and this may harm or even destroy your firm);
- because of the self-serving attitude of your competition or those other entrepreneurs who provide similar value with their products or services;
- because of the possibility of their taking advantage of you (since some firms do not practice what you may consider “fair” dealings.
The recommendations that started with Mr. Jackson’s podcast episode focus on making your value, your firm, your brand and your assets UNIQUE to the customer:
- by not providing something that may seem to be a “commodity” where price is the only differential;
- by narrowing the niche and distancing yourself from the competition’s general niche;
- by providing added value to your customers so that they are not just satisfied, but DELIGHTED;
- by providing YOUR OWN PERSPECTIVE, if you have content that you deliver;
- by providing INCENTIVES to your customers
- by over-delivering on value and getting CUSTOMER REFERRALS from your customer service.
Whatever direction you take, perhaps you are on the right track when your customers and others say to you about what you deliver to them: “It’s worth much more.”
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