You might think it sounds crazy—networking with your competition is the opposite of what you should do, right? Actually, that’s wrong.
Think about it: if you see your competitor at multiple business networking events and they’ve been in business 20 years longer than you have, wouldn’t you want to ask them for advice? Or at least strike up a conversation?
Often, business owners are on the same page about a lot of things. Talking and sharing notes and trade secrets is something that is to be encouraged, not the other way around.
But how should you go about doing it? Luckily, we’re here to help. Read on to find out.
What Do You Admire About Them?
Often, if you can genuinely compliment someone, they’re going to be a lot more likely to talk to you.
To find something admirable, you have to remove yourself from the competition viewpoint. For a few minutes, you have to be a customer or curious inquisitor into their business.
In doing this, you take away the feeling of having something to lose or gain from your conversation. You’re just walking up to a business owner to let them know you admire something about their company.
Find Common Ground
If the first option isn’t working, your second option is to find common ground with your competitor. Before you strike up a conversation, take a look at the business that both of your companies do.
From there, you’re going to take the opposite route you did with finding something you admire. You’re actually going to benefit from taking a business approach to this conversation now.
By finding something your businesses both agree upon—or at least see eye-to-eye with—you’re finding a middle ground to build a relationship upon.
Once you find that common ground, you can pay it forward as a compliment, but then follow up with how you do things similarly. Ask if they’d want to discuss further, and then ask questions or just throw ideas between one another.
Plan Limited Collaborations
In that common ground, you’ll probably find a place to plan limited collaborations with one another.
These could be behind-the-scenes collaborations, like agreeing to work with the same vendor to get a cheaper price. They could also be marketing collaborations too, though.
Often, these collaborations aren’t even intentional. If a grocery store has one thing while another doesn’t, employees are likely to send customers to the other store to pick it up. The same can be done to pick up any slack that either business might have in their services.
If you notice this happening a lot, speak with your competitor about a collaborative marketing campaign. Or work with a different company entirely.
Often, you can reach completely new audiences by working with other brands and businesses.
Be Friendly, But Cautious
Remember that, in the midst of this relationship building, there are going to be things you’re simply not willing to talk about. Just like a journalist doesn’t walk into an interview with a politician with their questions laid out upon the table, you shouldn’t either.
Be cautious about sharing too much information. Things like your employee’s information and marketing plans are too sensitive for a friendly conversation. At some point, you’re going to risk that person stealing your idea and using it as their own.
Like a journalist, you have to think before you speak and try to stay 3 steps ahead. You’re not interviewing a shifty politician, but you should be able to sniff out a person trying to get too much information out of you.
Awareness for Your Solution
Once you’ve done all the networking you need, you’re going to know that you’ve now created awareness for not only your business but the solutions it provides for its customers.
This is especially great if you’ve invented something and are aiming for a market that doesn’t really exist yet. Having competitors in this field means that they’ve already done some of the hard work for you, and all you have to do is present your solution!
This is especially great if your product or service tends to the pain points that other companies haven’t quite solved yet.
Strength in Numbers
By networking with your competition, you also set yourself up for success in sales.
Think about it: those grocery stores that lose out on business because they don’t carry a certain item feel the loss at some point. Don’t you want to be the business that has the things that others don’t?
Vice versa, you’re also going to have to be OK with mentioning your competition from time-to-time.
Sometimes, customers and businesses just don’t mingle well together, and it can be helpful to have a reliable business to send them to instead. You never know when that lost customer is going to have friends asking for recommendations.
Talk to Your Competition at Business Networking Events
Networking with your competition at business networking events is a great way to build your business, contrary to what others might tell you. Not only does it let others know where you stand with them, but it also gives your business a greater chance at being noticed and recognized by others.
By exploring your competition’s strengths, you present yourselves with a greater opportunity for teamwork and collaboration, which is only going to make you both stronger in the end.
You can also use Introducing Me as a way to collaborate with others in your area. Once you’ve met and become acquainted online, it’s a lot easier to meet in person and discuss some of the things your businesses have in common.