learning from competitors

Competitors. Typically when you hear or see this word, the immediate connotation is ‘rivals’ or something similar. In business, though, your competitors are also peers in your industry. And rarely will you find the sort of cutthroat business rivalries like you might see in TV or movies (i.e. Mad Men or The Wolf of Wall Street) in your interactions with competitors.

There are occasionally real-world business rivalries, but these are the exception.


You Learn More By Talking

Why am I pushing communication with rival companies?

Because, at the end of the day, those companies are staffed by people who are just like you and your team. We’ve covered previously my stance on how your team should fit together, and how your goals must be aligned to succeed.

Well, you can’t help your team succeed if your growth is hindered by your own inexperience. Lack of experience leads to mistakes because you aren’t certain how to handle different situations. That leaves you two options:

  1. Gain experience over time, and just hope that nothing too big arises and knocks you and your team off of your collective metaphorical feet
  2. Or seek an alternative supplement to experience: knowledge of others’ experiences

Several years ago, I was working with a construction company. We were doing a bunch of digital marketing and web design and some web application work for them. During the project, I was asking them our usual questions:

  • How did you grow to be such a huge company?
  • How do you gain all of these customers?
  • How did you maintain your growth without backsliding?

Their response, honestly, shocked me.

They said, “We learn more by talking to our competitors than we do just doing stuff on our own and just learning day to day. We regularly get together with our competitors, with our peers, with all sorts of other groups in this industry, but more often than not our competitors, and we talk about how business is going. What’s going on? What’s happening?”

Of course, my immediate response was a “but” – a very dismayed “but”:

“These are the companies and people you’re competing against every day!” The natural concern, of course, is that your rivals get a leg up on you and use it to push you into the dirt. But this client just sort of shrugged and said it’s all fine.

“There’s More Than Enough Business To Go Around.”

And this point is really the crux of it. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I’ve since come to realize that it’s true.

Not only is there enough work out there for your team and my team to both grow and be survive, there’s enough work for your team and mine to grow and be powerhouse companies. And there will be enough work for multiple competitors within almost every niche of an industry.

So go and talk to your competitors. Your peers. There is no overstating how much you can learn from them.

In our industry, in particular: digital marketers and web developers — we have no secrets. We’re very open to sharing our processes, in fact, we post them online for everyone right here!

The Benefits Outweigh The Nonexistent Negatives

So, again, it’s not harmful to sit down and review how we do things with somebody step-by-step. It’s actually helpful for everybody who is participating in the conversation. And kind of fun, to boot, to just sit and talk shop with somebody else in the industry who really understands what you do every day and can relate to your professional challenges.

In the end, this sort of open communication serves as a rising tide for the industry – it raises up every business with it. And it helps each company, individually, in meeting (and exceeding) their clients’ expectations.

I highly recommend talking to your local ‘rivals’. Put together Facebook groups, send emails — heck! Get together and have dinner! Small steps like these will make a huge difference in your day-to-day operations, and help you to be prepared in meeting whatever challenges might come your way.