It’s not that I’m not competitive — believe me, I am. I have ambitious goals for my company and the drive to make them happen.
But I spend very little time worrying about what my competitors are doing. I’m aware of it, but I don’t stress because that mindset will only get you so far as an entrepreneur. If you want to successfully build an organization from scratch, you have to go beyond simply beating other people’s (often mediocre) benchmarks.
Instead, I’ve taken a more pragmatic, cooperative approach toward our competition, one that has helped support our vision for long-term growth. Here’s how.
Make High-Value Referrals
We’re a specialty agency. We create editorial content for B2B brands, mainly enterprise tech companies and financial services firms. So if someone comes to me looking for a consumer marketing plan, I’d steer them towards one of the trusted agencies I know do that sort of work well, even though they’re technically my competition.
Yes, it’s revenue I ‘lost,’ but I can live with that. I know what we’re great at — and what we’re not. And I’d much rather be remembered as the person who gave someone great directions than the one who personally drove them to a dead end because I was too arrogant to admit I was lost.
I also make good referrals when the potential client is a direct competitor of one of our retainer clients. We avoid a conflict of interest, and the company gets its marketing needs competently addressed. Later on, when situations change (and they always do in my line of work), they’ll remember the exchange positively.
Knowing your own value proposition makes this easy. You’re not going to be the best at everything, and you shouldn’t try. Find people whose approaches are different from yours, even if their offerings seem at first the same. You’re not going to be the best solution for everyone.
Mary Ellen Slayter is CEO of Reputation Capital. Before launching a content marketing firm in her home state of Louisiana, she spent more than 10 years working as a traditional journalist, primarily at The Washington Post, where she authored the Career Track column, worked as an editor in the business news department and worked at email newsletter publisher SmartBrief.
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