I walked to the mailbox today and there was a nice-looking card envelope mixed in with the junk mail. I opened it and to my surprise, I found a handwritten note from a competitor of mine. Well, that isn’t entirely true, but it is… Let me explain. A little over a year ago, I attended a Chamber of Commerce after-hours event, called Business After Hours. One of my friends looked across the room and said, “Oh, look, that’s the Hometown Values rep.” I turned and there was a tall woman surrounded by friends. You see, Hometown Values is one of my main competitors. I will tell that story in a minute, but just know they’re the 800 lb. gorilla in Utah. They have been around for nearly 30 years, and they publish over 500,000 magazines every month.
To be honest, I initially felt some irritation and intimidation because it's hard to see your competition working the same room you are, if you know what I mean. Especially one who’s apparently popular and garnering lots of attention.
However, one of the philosophies I try to live by is to make friends with those who intimidate me. I also try to be competitive and not cutthroat in my work. I took those feelings I was having and released them and made the decision to be brave and go meet her. I watched for a break and introduced myself. She gave me a look that meant she knew who I was and was feeling some of the same feelings. However, we visited and had a simple conversation. I had tackled my demon and made friends with the “enemy.” Mission accomplished.
Starting Something New
Seven years ago, Melissa and I started Connection Publishing, a local magazine publishing company. Our first magazine was small and hyper-local to North Ogden. We went to 12,000 homes, which is almost nothing in the grand scheme of direct mail publications. We did good work and had a unique niche that other cities soon found out about. Many asked us to come help them with similar products. We quickly grew to 5 publications. Over the years, I have met several people from Hometown Values, and other competitors. One of the hardest things we faced as a new business was the main Hometown Values salesperson in our area decided to launch a competing magazine with one of her best advertisers the exact month we started ours and in the exact same city. That made things extra hard to start, but what's a good story without some ups and downs to overcome?
Eventually, we survived, and the other new magazine didn’t. Even though I had felt those same feelings of resentment towards those competitors, I actually became friends with them in the end. It isn’t always easy to be friendly towards someone you feel threatened by, but when you do, you will feel very empowered. You will also realize that you have way more in common with your competitors than you realize, and often, you’ll be able to help one another. The previous Hometown rep has since referred several people to us after she got out of the business. I consider that a big win for us, as she could have referred them anywhere, but she chose us even after several years of tough competition.
I was still intimidated by the largest and most successful magazine company in the State of Utah. So, to become friends with their area representative was a big step for me. We later met again at other chamber events, and we served together on a committee. We became better friends.
If you have followed along with my writing, you know that I also decided to buy a business with my son. We purchased a Roof Maxx dealership that he runs. Our territory is large. Probably 150,000 or more homes, and we, Connection Publishing, mail to about a third of them. We advertise in our own magazines, because, well, I know a guy, and we do very well with those ads. Because of the success we have had in our magazines, I made the decision to advertise in Hometown Values, our competitor, in the areas we don’t cover with our magazines. I called Jade and she was happy, but surprised, that I wanted to advertise. In fact, at first, she told me she might put the advertising order in my son’s name just to keep it somewhat anonymous. I told her, no problem. It didn’t matter to me. I knew that Hometown Values is a successful magazine and that many of its advertisers have gotten good results from the magazines for years. So, I felt it would be good for our business, and it has been. Yes, I will admit it, our competitor has a good product. We are uniquely different, but that isn’t the point of this article.
Today, this card showed up and its details are being shared with permission. In it, Jade, the Hometown representative, was very kind. She thanked me for advertising and also told me it caused some surprise at her agency when they found out it was their competitor who was buying advertising from them. This made me smile. Even though it is for a different business, it is probably an odd occurrence. I like being surprising sometimes, so it felt good to be this kind of surprising. She also thanked me for my friendship and mentorship, saying she has learned from me. I am glad to help.
R Marketing Dept. is another competitor. I went to a networking event 6 years ago and met a man who owned a marketing company. He was very successful. He had huge success as the VP of Marketing for a huge international company operating locally. He retired from that company to start his own marketing firm, and he’s extremely well-known. Everyone I talked to wanted me to meet Steve. They all talked about how he’s the best marketer they knew. They were right, he is incredible. Steve has been a huge supporter of me and our company from the very beginning. He loves our magazines and has not only advertised himself in them, he’s also referred business to us. Thank you, Steve!
As the market changed and printing costs increased 68% in 2022, we had to introduce new products, which meant moving into more of a competitor's role with R-Marketing, Steve’s company. I worried about this, not wanting to lose my friendship with Steve. Not only has he been a friend to me, he is also a mentor. I have learned so much from him. I would never do anything to hurt him or his business, so this was a bit of an uncomfortable position.
Not only has Steve been extremely supportive of the changes I have made, but he also invited me to be part of a Mastermind group with some of his best clients and friends. This exclusive group gets together 2x per month and we discuss our businesses and how to best grow and succeed. Steve not only didn’t get angry that our businesses crossed over more than before, but he invited me in even closer. He is an educator and uses courses to teach his clients and potential clients to market more effectively. These classes are excellent and I have attended them 2x. Highly recommended! Here is the link if you are curious: https://rmarketingdept.com/business-growth-blitz/
I have always loved teaching, and I’ve known that someday, I would create a course and teach classes similar to how Steve teaches. I knew before I ever met Steve. When I knew it was time for me to take on the role of course instructor, I approached Steve and asked him if he would be OK if I started teaching classes as well. We have different styles and different content although much of it overlaps. I will tell you though, if you really want to be an expert marketer, you should attend both of our courses. I was nervous Steve would be frustrated with me for starting my own course, but surprisingly, he wasn’t. He expressed to me directly that he was OK with it, and wanted to support me. That was classy! I was so grateful because I knew this was how I needed to grow my business, but I did not want to affect my friendship with Steve. I’ve always felt people are more important than money.
What Jade did in sending that note was classy. I have to be honest, I went to school on it. I will definitely be using the personal card approach going forward, (Thanks for the great idea, Jade!). What Steve did is also classy. It’s stepping beyond the arena, beyond competition, and into friendship. You don’t always have to be friends with your competitors, and you don’t need to view them as the enemy. It’s classy when you can show respect for your competitors.
In fact, you might learn something from them. I think it is important to pay attention to your competitors. When they do something good, you can do something similar. Don’t ever copy them blatantly, but use their example as inspiration to come up with something to stay competitive. You can also learn from them when they mess up. Learn from their mistakes, and do better. When we first started, some of our competition would do what I felt were strange things, things that weren't customer-centric. I learned from that, and now we handle things differently.
For example, some companies wouldn’t share their advertising designs with their customers to prevent them from using them elsewhere. I made the decision we would share ads we made freely. It’s cool because we often go into advertiser’s businesses, and they have the ad we made for them printed out and hanging in their offices. And yes, sometimes they use them elsewhere. It’s better for the client, so it’s better for us.
Those are my thoughts this week. Be competitive, not cutthroat. Support your competition when you can. Be inspired and motivated by your competition. Business Competitiveness does not mean you have to tear down your competition.
As I mentioned earlier, my course is coming up. You will find the link below. This is the culmination of my life's work and study, becoming an expert at marketing companies and selling products. In this 10-week course, I plan to change the lives of those attending. It not only features lessons that will teach and inspire better marketing and business practices, it will provide you with hands-on, applicable tools you can use in your business.
Many business owners tell me marketing is one of the most challenging pieces of running their business. In my course, we will unlock the secrets of effective marketing. We will make things easier, clearer, and more powerful, so you can take your business to the next level. Don’t miss the early-bird pricing, which ends next week. Let’s make things take off for your business.