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I Have No Competition

hands-up.jpgI know that sounds arrogant. I don’t mean it that way. Whenever anyone mentioned competition at a company I worked at, I scoffed. I always have. Someone told me once that it’s impossible to look behind you and still race forward at top speed. I believe fear paralyzes companies.

I believe in co-opetition.

I’m not advocating ignoring your competition… every company should understand the advantages that they bring to the table. More important than your competitive advantages, though, is whether or not there’s a match between those advantages and the actual needs of the customer. I’m growing my business from scratch right now and in the first days I took on every job I could just to ensure I could stay afloat. In hindsight, that was not a good decision… I could have referred many of those projects and the clients would have been just as happy, maybe happier.

My focus now is creating partnerships with large agencies, public relations firms, and continuing to increase the relationships I have with very large clients. This week, I’ve referred two good prospects to my competition. It was the right thing to do. I can’t provide these relationships with the attention they deserve and I don’t have the resources to ensure their success… so why would I risk my reputation on it?

Here in Indianapolis, there are a great group of talented people that can provide similar services that I provide. Companies like ExactTarget, Right On Interactive, Compendium, and a number of web design and development agencies have products and services that I could provide… but I won’t. They have investment, infrastructure, customer support and resources that I don’t have. That’s better for the customer.

On the Social Media side, there are quite a few of us in town… all of whom I believe are my friends. As we approach some of the large corporations in town, each of us will bring our own perspective to the table. I’m not concerned about competing with them on this level. Again, I’m more concerned that the company gets the right resource. If I refer them and it’s a success, we all win. I look great for referring them, my competition gets business, and I’ll get the first call on the next opportunity, too.

Recently, a (huge) local company gave me the runaround to pressure me into providing some free services to them. I simply referred them to a colleague who first checked with me. When that back-fired, they came back to me and I let them know I wasn’t interested.

On the other side, there are a few agencies in town that now proudly wear the monikers of search engine optimization or social media expertise. Although they added no one to their staff with that expertise, nor have they had any results with clients in those arenas, they continue to prey on companies looking for those services. They’re opportunists, providing every service that anyone cares to ask about. I don’t like what they’re doing and I speak out against them as often as possible.

If you’re looking for a search engine optimization provider, do some searches and you’ll find who is winning search. It’s that easy. If you’re looking for a social media expert, attend some regional events, check out who started the successful regional networks, and observe who has the large followings. It will become very clear who has the expertise and who doesn’t. The opportunists leave a trail of tears.

I don’t believe I have competition. My job is to see if I’m a fit for the pain that the company has. If I’m not a fit, I’m moving on. That’s why my engagements are growing, I’m getting more time to work on things I enjoy, my clients are seeing the results they want, and I’m happy… and still broke ;).

What do you think? Do you really have any competition?

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About Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of The Marketing Technology Blog and recognized MarTech expert. Doug is a Keynote and Marketing Public Speaker. He's the CEO of DK New Media, an agency specializing in assisting marketing technology companies with their inbound marketing - leveraging social media, blogging, search engine optimization, pay per click and public relations. He's assisted SaaS companies like Angie's List, GoDaddy, Salesforce, Webtrends, and SmartFOCUS with their digital marketing and product strategies. Douglas is also the author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies.

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12 comments

  1. Well you job is to make sure that the companies that want to do business with you share your goals and values to work together. But it is nice to know that you are done rolling over and doing whatever each client asks you to do simply because they asked.

  2. "Someone told me once that it’s impossible to look behind you and still race forward at top speed."

    I completely agree! Recently we have had two companies that offer similar services call and pretend to be interested in using our services. They were fairly elaborate, even going so far as to give us the name of someone that referred them. So while they were filling out forms on our website, calling and leaving voicemail messages, and emailing us for more information we were out talking to prospective customers. They would have spent their time better talking to prospects and providing great customer service.

    As for the rest, I also agree. Know your abilities. capabilities and resources. Forge mutually beneficial relationships with those around you. Everyone wins then.

  3. Fabulous post, Doug. I agree wholeheartedly.

    It's interesting to note the original Latin translation of competition is, "To strive together for the betterment of all." The notion of winners and losers was introduced by the French in the 16th Century. Leave it the Frogs, eh?

  4. I totally agree with you that a lot of people hiring providers with their SEO goals are trying to get free services. Thanks for the heads up.

  5. I can't agree with this more. I think way too much time is spent focusing on and worrying about competitors. Especially in markets as dynamic as social media and SEO, which are growing so fast, there's lots of room for competition, and you're far more likely to die because you don't align well with customers than because your competitors are eating your lunch.

  6. Doug – as ever, I like your approach. I have always been of the mind that when it comes to referrals vs. doing the business yourself, as long as the customer ends up happy, they will remember that YOU had them happy, even if it's just with a referral. A walk's as good as a hit, right?

    Plus, most companies tend to value the whole integrity side of knowing that they are asking for something that you can't or shouldn't try to provide and being honest about it. If the company doesn't value that and is just concerned about saving a buck, then you don't want them for a customer anyway, right? Easy to say and tough to follow through with in the current economic landscape, but still words to live by…or at least words to delivery by.

  7. Doug, I do believe when you spend your precious time worrying about what the competition is doing you are either: (1) bored and unfocused, or (2) you have no idea of what your path should be. Being progressive and not reactive to your surroundings is the essence of success.

  8. Doug – Great post! I remember early in my career the use of military terms by many in the company: war, battle, strategy, tactics, and so on. We were so worried about what the other companies were doing. With my company, I can't worry about the other guys. We have to focus on delivering the best products and services we can for our clients. Sometimes we've walked away from "opportunities"; other times we've passed them along to someone else. There's plenty to go around, in my opinion, as long as we focus on the value that we bring to the table.

  9. I like your philosophy of putting the customers’ needs
    first as I am a big fan of providing exceptional customer service. I am curious
    if the companies that you are sending customers to are returning the favor if
    they find a customer they don’t fit with. Do you get many referrals from them
    or do you just believe in the good karma of truly helping the customer?

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