You can easily get caught in the trap of worrying about your competitors. You might spend hours in meetings to develop a strategy to address “the enemy.” Instead, what if you spent that time thinking about how your customers might benefit from your collaboration with those you consider, at some level, the competition? I’m not suggesting collusion, price fixing, or devious alliances. My recommendation is to consider where you add value to your customers through cooperation with potential competition. Let’s call it coopetition.
Coopetition in Action
Kristina Bouweiri is the CEO of Northern Virgnia’s Reston Limousine. In 2001, their business was not growing as she would have liked. Kristina had an idea that required coopetition. Reston Limousine had buses sitting idle over the weekends when not working on government projects. Kristina teamed with local wineries, other transportation companies, as well as catering and hotel vendors to produce a thriving wine-tour business. This innovative approach now drives millions of dollars each year for a variety of local businesses while delivering a great customer experience.
Where Do You Start?
You know your areas of strength. Do you sometimes stray a little beyond your strongest areas? Are there others who can do that piece better than you? Let’s say your clients would rate your best capabilities from 0-10 at a 9. But, when you stray beyond your sweet spot, you start performing tasks at a 6. Buyers tend to average down when evaluating vendor capabilities. You are often measured by your weakest link in the chain. You are better to partner with a potential competitor than to engage in areas that are not your strength.
How to Define Your Coopetition
To define your coopetition consider what pieces of your client’s overall solution come before or after your piece of the pie. For example, in my business many organizations come to me seeking advice on their sales messaging and strategy. Sometimes addressing sales is only a piece of the overall solution my client needs to accomplish their business goals. Before applying sales messaging and strategy, my client needs a visible brand with engaging content that will attract their ideal prospects. Then, after applying sales strategy and successfully converting prospects to customers, my client is well served to have a customer experience that turns clients into raving fans who become a great source of repeat and referral business. While I can certainly cover topics related to content marketing and customer experience, they are not my strongest area of expertise. I know other industry leading speakers/authors who specialize in those areas.
In my case, I recognize that Marcus Sheridan offers tremendous expertise on inbound content marketing, and Joey Coleman works with legendary companies on developing their brand and customer experience. Even though each of us is a professional speaker, we came together to provide more value than any one of us could deliver on our own. Though some could consider us competitors, most will appreciate getting multiple perspectives. In order to effectively have coopetition, you need to establish some ground rules.
- The most important is that each participant must understand their strength and the strength of the respective other players.
- Second, everyone needs to know how the others add value to the overall solution for the client.
- Finally, there needs to be a feeling of mutual respect. If you think that someone is just along for the ride and not contributing, then they should not be part of the team.
We launched The Remarkable Growth Experience less than a week ago. The event combines the three of us into a two day experience in January. We sold 1/3 of the capacity in the first four days. We expect the event to sell out. Most importantly, we all look forward to learning from each other. Combining with those who might be considered competition requires a leap of faith. It requires confidence, but doing so will open opportunities and add value for everyone involved.
It’s Your Turn
Where have you teamed with a potential competitor for coopetition?