Get used to the concept of co-existence
The progressive views about your marketing, your customers and your competition as espoused by Seth Godin are seldom things with which I find disagreement…. he walks a different path that started with his book Permission Marketing (summarised nicely here – and I highly recommend the book of the same name, not to mention all of the rest!).
Seth’s views on de-focusing from your competition – which to me only makes sense since you are unlikely to destroy them and so should get used to the concept of co-existence – and applying that attention instead on what you do, say and sell, (and who you do, say and sell it to) is spot-on… but I reckon it stops a little short. While he is far from incorrect I suggest that if you also extend your focus, wisely with research, planning and networking, you might find additional routes to explore.
In other words, pick which of your competitors merit your applying a different focus and perspective – and a different set of goals – to find and define opportunities to exploit for mutual benefit.
Now at this point it’s not unfair to think “mutual benefits, ok… which ones are mine, then?” when you are looking at splitting deals. Truth be told it is amazing how far a little quid pro quo can go and most change their views as this approach is applied. So, if you are open to such things (and don’t mind a few bullet points) then consider:
• Extended Propositions and aggregated references supporting the targeting of larger scale opportunities
• Agile delivery with access to a cross-organisation resource base (the ability to afford to win that big deal)
• Opportunities to share costs to engage and share world-class resources
• Scaled buying power reducing costs, increasing pre-sales support and accuracy
• Extended overall reach and raised profiles all ‘round
Now this isn’t a plug (unless of course you’d like to speak further on the subject, in which case feel free to consider it a plug) but I have use my own “Loop” business model which targets accelerated growth by a combination of co-operative competition and the right planning and preparation to “acquire to grow” or to be better positioned for acquisition… and it isn’t rocket science.
The origins of this type of model are simple and I don’t claim to have invented the approach: Top and middle tier Managed Service Providers continue to succeed and to grow largely by using “group credentials” of co-operative consortiums when going for those big opportunities. And, as markets tighten and opportunities diminish, recent trends are showing those big players extending their reach into the lower-margin and higher competition SME space in search of new business: and they can afford to invest in lower margin accounts especially in a space with an on-going need for cost reductions that makes MSP offerings worth another look.
One opportunity to not miss along the way is the small business distrust of Managed Services and even greater distrust of “big business” – so why not disrupt by aggregating, co-operatively, with your “competitors” (selected based on their capability and offerings; track record and size; attitude and goals; and in some cases geography).
Disrupt things with a Consortium model
Not only effective as a countermeasure, a consortium in this case is a natural disruptor which builds on existing structures and frameworks to deliver bigger and better. Collaboration – of resources, networks and partners / supply chain – will support your targeting larger scale opportunities within newly-aggregated current segments. And, as partners learn to trust and work together, it should enable reaching ‘up’ into the growth space to take back your market from those big players.
There is a Cloud Computing point to all of this: we know the Cloud computing playing field is complicated with platforms, delivery vehicles, orchestration, management and we know even better the complications in customer clarity of both requirements and everything they need to deliver to them. Wouldn’t a clever player crossing both of those complex spaces, in a constantly evolving environment (not to mention a rather challenging economic situation, overall) look to find and exploit opportunities from whatever angles might work (in just the same way as my colleagues, competitors, suppliers and customers worked to bring some joint clarity and awareness on this brilliant Tell me why I should use your Cloud? blog here at Compare the Cloud?)
While I often object to incorrect platitudes packaged as sage quotes, there are as always exceptions to the rule, so let me finish with Sun Tzu and "Know your enemy and know yourself and you will always be victorious" or, as translated by Don Vito to Michael Corleone as “Keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer.”
After all, isn’t that what networks are for?