And then came the squirrels.
The first one wound his way down the trunk of the tree and stopped to glance at the feeders. I held my breath. “Here we go,” I thought. But then he continued down to the base of the tree, where he spotted the corn. He picked up a kernel, plopped back on his hind legs—poofy tail rising behind him like a feather boa—and proceeded to nibble at it with his tiny hands. It was actually…cute.
It’s been days and I still haven’t seen a squirrel on the feeders. The birds are happy. The squirrels are happy. I’m happy.
So this has got me thinking…Helping your competitors may be good for business! For example:
1) Write industry white papers, blog entries, or internet articles about your area of expertise. Sure, you'll be divulging information to your competitors that you've acquired through your own time, expense and sweat equity. BUT, you'll also be strengthening your credibility, establishing your company as an expert in the field, and—through blogging on your own domain—increasing your search engine optimization. All good!
2) Participate in or host a seminar on an industry topic. Collaborating with your competitors to give a talk or host an event shows that you're a team player, provides an opportunity for cost-sharing on advertising, and creates valuable publicity to reach new audiences.
3) Pass along referrals. Not every prospect that comes to your business is good fit. Instead of sending them away, why not refer them to a competitor who specializes in that market? Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated by prospect and competitor alike, and will likely lead to inward-bound referrals in the future.
4) Lend a hand. A couple of years ago, I joined a Google group of other Twin Cities creatives. Here's how it works: if someone has a question, they send an email to the group. Within a few hours, one or several members writes back with an answer. I've questioned the group quite often myself and received quality, timely answers that improved my work. In turn, I've answered members' questions when I could. The result? We're all stronger in our knowledge base, and better skilled to help our clients. Win-win.
So, help your competitors, and gain skills, credibility, and clients.
Or, feed the squirrels and keep your song birds.