Friending The Competition: Why Collaboration Is Better Than Competition

By Kadia Francis | September 29, 2019 | Conversations | 5 Min Read

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At my recently concluded Digital Brand Strategy Development Workshop, I spent a healthy amount of time identifying and discussing the foundations of a comprehensive digital strategy. In session two (2) I walked the participants through a core area of focus for any digital strategy, the competition.

Specifically, competition scouting, knowing who your competitors are, what they are doing online and how well they are doing it.  The goal of this exercise is to find ways to compete or better yet outcompete.

However, I wanted to offer the participants an alternative way of thinking about the competition. Rather than seeing other brands or businesses in your niche or industry as competitors, I wanted them to start thinking of these entities as opportunities.

The saying goes when companies compete the consumer wins, and sure there are benefits but as far as I’m concerned benefit doesn’t necessarily equal value, neither to the brand nor their customers. 

An Alternative Way of Thinking

Sometimes, competition though not a bad thing, is not necessarily or always the right approach. Especially, if you’re a smaller entity going up against a business or brand that is either bigger or more established and making all the right moves online. 

As a new company with no social proofing and only a few or no clients you’re going to find it hard to effectively compete. In such an instance, you are not a significant enough threat to warrant any resistance or even acknowledgement from these other entities.

It may even be the case that a brand you’ve identified as a competitor, may not be. Being in the same industry, making seemingly similar products and or operating in the same market doesn’t mean they are properly your competitor.

As a smaller entity it makes more sense for you to form partnerships and collaborations with other businesses and brands in your niche or industry. This is what I call competition friending and for small entities, especially those in the digital space, this is a practical way to ride out those early teething pains.

The power of community is one of Jamaica’s best kept secrets. There’s an old adage that says if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together. Once we accept that infinite abundance exists then the need to compete will be replaced by the power of collaboration

Daniel Edwards, Creator & Executive Producer, Long Story Short

The  Benefits of Collaborations

Jamaican creatives are already leading the charge with several collaborative efforts popping up, most resulting in a livelier more arts and culture centric entertainment scene. The latest effort is the Long Story Short live event, think of it as an eclectic fusion of spoken word poetry/storytelling and live band jam sessions. The platform is immersive, allowing anyone, including  audience members to participate in both the musical and story telling elements of the show.

These kinds of cultural engagements is only one way we all benefit from collaborations. There are also financial and developmental ways specifically personal brands and small businesses can also benefit from forming partnerships.

Creating Even More Value

When I say more value what I mean is,  two minds coming together to produce something better than that which either could have done singularly. It reminds me of that proverb by mid century English writer John Heywood, who said ‘two heads are better than one’. Two brands working together can create more value for themselves and for the people they serve.

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This sentiment is what directly led to the formation of Connek Ja, an amazingly bold brand collaboration between four ‘young queer entrepreneurs with big dreams to make change in Jamaica’. With that vision in mind they got together to create a travel platform as a way for LGBTQ+ Jamaicans to connect with international members of that community and vice versa.

This is such a novel idea locally, the  significance of which is what it offers, a more inclusive, safe and fun space for what has long since been a marginalized group. 

Bigger Reach

Producing together means reaching a wider audience too. Whether you’re both brands or businesses with your own established customer base or a new brand working with a bigger entity that has a considered customer base it’s all the same you reach more people period.

In episode 10 of the Digital Jamaica Podcast I spoke with Christopher Gayle owner of a local software development outfit, Gizzada Ltd., that is in the process of developing an Amazon like platform for the Jamaican Market.

The project is a partnership between several big local entities, AIS, NCB’s Quisk, Tara Couriers and Jamaica Packaging. This is a massive win for Chris and his team, their participation in such a large scale collaborative effort and their proximity to these established entities is a massive brand boost and with that will come more visibility.

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Earning More Together

There’s a bible verse that goes a step further than Heywood to say “therefore two heads are better than one because they have a good return for their labour. – Ecclesiastes 4:9

If you’re creating a more valuable product or service and you’re reaching a wider customer base, then it stands to reason that you’ll earn more.  As well, customers will appreciate both your efforts to try to bring to the market a better product or service and who doesn’t appreciate a good twofer or a better deal? 

Setting Standards

Particularly as it regards niche or emerging industries, new to the market. For example the bartenders in Jamaica coming together to form an association the focus of which is to set and implement best practices for their members and for the businesses and individuals they work with.

Their coming together signals a growing solidarity and that they are starting to take themselves seriously.

“We have two main goals at the moment, the first is to set an international marketability standard for talented Jamaican bartenders. Secondly, we are working on implementing industry standards for persons seeking to employ the services of said bartenders so that neither feels at a disadvantage when working together.”

Sheldon Spencer, Chairman Jamaican Union of Bartenders & Mixologists  (JUBAM)

Authenticity & Alignment

There is a right way and a wrong way to engage a brand or business in talks about partnerships or collaborations. If going into the conversation the question at the top of your mind is ‘what can I get out of this’? And not ‘how can we get together to create magic’? then you’re going about it all wrong.

There are two things that matters the most when it comes to these types of engagements, authenticity and alignment. 

Authenticity

If both or either party is not being genuine, or  authentic in their representation about who they are, what they’re after and not being clear about what the intended outcomes are then that is bad faith acting.  The onus is on both entities to do their due diligence, making sure the party you’re working with is being upfront and honest.

Alignment

You should also be very careful to ensure that there is brand and message alignment with the brand or business you’ve identified as a good partner. What that brand or business represents is extremely important, remember at all times you should be on brand and everythig you produce should be delivering your message. Again due diligence is needed to make sure that what may be a good match up doesn’t turn out to be a threat to your brand image.

We Don’t Have the Luxury of Time

In 2019 and going forward we (Jamaicans) should be focusing on getting ourselves established on the biggest market place, the internet and collaborating with each other, so we can all win.

We are already twenty years behind the reality of a digital economy but if more of us come together to share our talents, creating products and services that will satisfy or create a demand then we stand a better chance of being successful in what is fast becoming (if not already) an ultra competitive digital space.  

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Kadia Francis

I am a blogger, podcaster, digital content creator and brand development strategist keen on telling the story of  Jamaica and Jamaicans in the tech and digital space.

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