War is hell on the home front, too. God only knows what a single branch dental business entrepreneur across the street from an industrial park goes through.
The Internet has made it so much harder to be heard over the competition. Oftentimes, you have to compete with similar merchants all over the danged world–especially if you’re in digital retail. But, what if your competition is your neighbor? What if you have to maintain relationships with your competitors? Can it get too personal?
While it may be usual or seem unnecessary, it is possible to get into a battle of reputations with close neighbors, friends, or competition with whom you really ought to cooperate.
Here’s how to survive the branding wars.
Understand, It’s Just Business
Here’s a worst case scenario. You’re a barber, and your cousin has set up a barbershop across the street from you. Wait, it gets worse. As it turns out, your value propositions are so evenly matched that the only way you can make ends meet is by hard selling yourself as the superior choice. “He stinks, we’re great. Ditch the dork and come in here.” That kind of thing.
Sure it sounds unlikely, but it happens. If you should find yourself in a scenario like this, make a point to talk about it with your new familial competitor. The two of you may agree that there’s more value to be had in varying your services and splitting the available clientèle. This will require cooperation and communication, which means you have a job ahead of you.
Take Regular Meetings With Them
You might need to develop a public position and a private position. By this we mean, maintain a veneer of fierce competitiveness on the public stage, but behind closed doors, develop a close working relationship with your competitor. Get to know them, and commit to regular cooperative talks. Make a tradition out of it so that there’s no question everyone will attend your monthly peace talks.
Don’t Dehumanize Them
Whatever you say behind or in front of closed doors, keep it venom-free. Certainly, you might feel the need to use rhetoric that is challenging or even provocative. Just keep it within the bounds of reason.
Don’t insult them. If you do, you’re also insulting their customers–who might have become your customers–if you hadn’t said that awful thing you said.
Keep the Conflict Light Hearted
In local businesses in competition with each other in the same community, using some light-hearted competitive messaging can be entertaining. Depending on the nature of your business, some light-hearted jabbing can be a great way to spark interest.
Local businesses in a common industry can drum up a lot of brand visibility by creating a sports league and having competitive games. This opens up all kinds of opportunity for friendly competition, and it all but guarantees that there will be interest in your respective brands. Also, think of the sponsors.
Alliances are Stronger Than Parties
Cooperating with and showing goodwill to competitors in your industry can enable you to endure stormy weather when hard times befall your organization. You want your competition to look at you as a friend, rather than an enemy. If your relationship with your local peers is poor, they may see your hardship as an opportunity to nudge you off the playing field.
Teaching & Sharing is More Powerful Than Corporate Espionage
In war, nations do their damnedest to hide weapons and strategic innovations from each other. But business competitors don’t have to be like that. In war, the object is to destroy the enemy without being destroyed. But in business, if you strike upon some innovation and share it with your competitive neighbor- not only do you both become stronger- but they will be likely to do the same for you. The alternative is to remain siloed and isolated. And that’s not as fun.
The most important thing is to be worthy of the competition you’re trying to survive. By developing new ideas, products, services, and methods, you will remain a valuable asset as an ally. So, build your business up, strive to be a thought leader, and display goodwill. If your competitor agrees that this is the best way to go forward, it will benefit you both. If not, then you may have to rely on your superiority to carry the day.
DL M has 21 years of professional writing for print and online media and has 10+ years experience as a freelance fiction editor. He’s a content creator for major corporations covering all topics for a wide range of industries, specializing in white papers, research, news content. His specialty subjects include: current events, marketing, analytics, personal development, leveraging social media, SEO, business development, cloud computing, language, and politics.