This is a republication of an article that I wrote in 2004 (Willamette Galley, Society of Technical Communication).
Don’t Fear Your Competitor, Collaborate With Them
What if you viewed your competitors as referral partners? By that I mean someone to whom you refer work and clients that aren’t ideal for you but are better suited to them. Imagine those colleagues reciprocating in kind so that you all have more ideal clients.
Real World Examples
Before going forward with the concepts of abundance and niche-making, I’d like to share two true work stories:
The Hard Worker
As a government worker, I worked closely with a colleague who despite her heavy workload refused to share her duties with the group. This was a long time civil servant of excellent caliber who had no chance of losing her job.
The Nasty Networker
After just starting my sole proprietorship, I hit the networking circuit that included a chamber of commerce event. After having difficulty finding the venue and being soaked by the rain, I had the misfortune to meet the Nasty Networker. She had something negative to say about my profession and exclaimed how she was already doing in large scale what I was endeavoring to offer as one of my many services. I was summarily dismissed and put in my place.
What do these people have in common? Fear. They thought that I would take work away and that I was a threat. In both cases, I was no threat. With “The Hard Worker,” her feelings of fear were self-induced. “The Nasty Networker,” while desiring to fend off the competition is actually repelling a potential referral partner. If she believed that there was enough work for her and for me, maybe she would not be so off-putting. That brings us to the concept of abundance.
In my virtual assistance training, we were taught the concept of abundance, that there is enough work out there for everyone, and that you need to make yourself attractive (in the business sense) so that your ideal client will be attracted to you. I’ve come to believe this concept and actually embrace it.
I gladly refer potential clients to others in my profession or a complementary business once I realize there isn’t a match. Happily, those to whom I refer business are grateful and they send me business as well.
It doesn’t do any good if there is enough work available if you aren’t attracting it. Ask yourself if your message is attracting your ideal client. Your ideal client is the person with whom you most like to work doing the work that you most enjoy. Make sure that your marketing collateral materials target that ideal client as well.
You’ve been to those networking events in which everyone introduces themself and speaks briefly about their profession. Even though you’re in a ubiquitous profession, don’t be the networker who says, “I do what Bob does.” Instead, stress your uniqueness.
Which technical communicator specializing in Web development most fits your needs?
|Joe:||“I design Web sites.”|
|Grant:||“See me about getting your small business Web site up in a week using my low cost template system.”|
|Gena:||“I specialize in getting to know my corporate clients’ businesses and ensure that their Web site matches their branding image.”|
Although the above example may be an exaggeration, see how Grant and Gena can become referral partners for each other since they are going after different clients? See how no one is really attracted to Joe as a generic provider because it is unclear what he can do? Make sure that your marketing message addresses your unique niche as well as who your ideal customer is.
Wouldn’t it be great if your competitor became your referral partner? Embrace the concept of abundance and refer business to your colleagues when there isn’t a good match of the client or the work for you. Make sure that you know who your ideal client is and convey that message in your marketing collateral materials and when you network. Then don’t be surprised when your ideal client contacts you.
Don’t Fear Your Competitor, Collaborate With Them. © 2004 Kristy Schnabel. All rights reserved.