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Squirrel eating corn
Why helping your competitors is good for business

  Earlier this summer I set out a bird feeder at our new home. Peeking out the window, I watched with anticipation for the song birds to come. Instead, I got squirrels. Big. Fat. Hairy. Squirrels.

My blood pressure would rise every time I saw those little furry creatures on my feeder. Freeloaders! Party wreckers! “ARGH!!,” I’d yell. I’d bang on the window. I’d run outside to shoo them away.
Finally, I trekked out to Hugo Feed Mill  & Hardware and met a fella in flannel and suspenders who knows his birds, and better yet: squirrels. After filling our cart with bird seed and suet, I quizzed him about squirrel-proofing our feeders.

“Well, you can buy these fancy domes to keep them off, but I wouldn’t bother,” the squirrel sage replied. “Just buy a 50 lb bag of feed corn and scatter it around the yard. The squirrels love rooting around in the snow for it.

Feed the squirrels? Really? Reluctantly, I took his advice.
That afternoon, I filled the feeders and hung them from the oak tree out back, and scattered the corn around the base of the tree. To my delight, the birds came! All kinds of ‘em. Pretty soon I was watching a whole community of hungry little feathered guys and gals eating enthusiastically from the feeders.

Red Bellied Woodpecker
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.


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Mix Creative receives inaugural Destined to WIN Award!
Mix owner Katrina Hase has been selected for the first annual "Destined to WIN" award, to be presented at this year's Destined to WIN in 2010 Conference on January 28 at the Zuhrah Shrine Event Center in Minneapolis. Woo hoo!

According to conference representative Ann Nelson:

"The Destined to WIN Award recognizes a business woman for the intentional growth she has realized in a start up business or established business in the past year.
"She utilizes the education
and other resources available through WIN and other networks to make significant and positive changes for herself and her business.
The Destined to WIN Award recipient’s business and personal growth are an inspiration to all women in business."
Nominations were reviewed and voted upon by the WIN Awards Committee.
Celebrate with us!
As you can guess, we're in the mood to celebrate here at Mix Creative! We'd love for you—our friends and clients—to join us at the conference at the discounted member rate! For Mix Creative e-newsletter subscribers only, select the Member Advance Registration option and enter "Mix E-newsletter" in the box under other information on the registration page. 
Hope you can make it! 

Ditto & Co. naming, logo, and marketing collateral:
Mix Creative worked with this new Image, Style, & Etiquette-focused company to create a comprehensive brand, starting with our innovative naming process, then creating a logo and marketing collateral (including this hand-out with a tear-off coupon!). Stay tuned for the new website!

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