Last time, I wrote about collaboration between businesses that are very different. Such collaboration seems safe but the benefits are likely minimal. It’s always worth exploring collaboration with businesses that deliver something a long way from your offer; it’s always possible you’ll stumble on something viable. But your competitors, those with offers uncomfortably close to yours, may offer greater opportunities for collaboration.
One big untruth about business is, businesses have competitors. This belief leads to competition and divides businesses that otherwise benefit from collaboration.
If two businesses have similar aims, there are more opportunities for collaboration. Successful businesses collaborate. There are stories of cutthroat competition but mostly successful business owners see opportunities for collaboration with close competitors.
I’ll explore this in more detail in future posts in this sequence. But at this stage, understand there are opportunities at every stage in your sales funnel, from raising awareness of the problem you both address through to joint ventures.
Positioning is key to understanding collaboration between similar businesses. Say you’re a business coach. You have common interest with other coaches in increasing awareness of the advantages of business coaching generally. Indeed, if you cannot find any competition, what evidence do you have that you have a market? Opportunities for collaboration correlate with market size.
Look at it this way. If you want to increase public confidence in business coaching generally, then you need to make sure you match prospects with the best coach to meet their needs. A poor match might discredit the coach and also the principle of business coaching. The better you know your competitors, the more likely you’ll guide prospects to the best match for them.
The challenge is to find ways to help prospects decide between you and your competitors. Everyone benefits if they make good decisions.
How to Position Your Business
- Geography. You offer exactly the same services as someone based in another city. It may be convenient to serve people who live locally. If you network locally, you’re likely to find local prospects. You won’t reject customers from outside your area but they’re not your target market. As your business grows, you may find your reach goes further but you may equally find people seek you because you are local.
- The problem you solve. You may be an all-round business coach but chances are you specialise in solving some specific problem. This may be the easiest criterion for collaborators to understand. Prospects seek you for your reputation in some specialist area, even though you are a good all-round business coach.
- How you solve the problem, using some technique or approach, separates you from competitors. Customers express a preference for the approach you use.
- Demographics are mostly your choice. Quite a few coaches market to women only. They’re not necessarily saying they never work with men. There may be legal constraints to how you market to specific groups, so seek advice if you are unsure.
- Your worldview may be relevant. You need not target customers who share your worldview, the fact that people know about it may cause them to self-select.
Of these, the problem you solve is most likely common ground. Competitors understand the problem in different ways or use different solutions. I explore this in detail next week.