Coopertition – Keeping Your Friends Close, But Your Rivals Closer

5 Aug

Dog eat dog may not be the way to go

Dog eat dog may not be the way to go

Business has traditionally been a competitive, zero-sum game. In other words, if you and I are in the same business, only one of us can get Customer Company’s business. If I get it, you lose, and if you get it, I lose. But get ready for a whole new way of doing business. It’s called “coopertition.”

The old way is so ingrained into our thinking that it is hard to even really understand what this means, so pay close attention. Coopertition means that in some situations, rival companies cooperate while in other situations, they compete. For example, different players in an industry may band together to fight proposed regulation or engage in customer education projects in order to change negative customer perceptions of the industry as a whole. This is common when companies join industry and professional associations. Yet, when it comes to making sales, it’s each company for itself.

Sometimes it is done on more of a one-on-one basis. When two companies each have a strength in a different area, they may do joint projects or bids with each company focusing on what it does best. Other times, it is an alliance born from necessity. When Ingalls, one of the top American shipbuilders, was running behind on fulfilling an order, it brought in BIW, the other top shipbuilder, to pick up the slack and deliver the ships on time.

Or it may make good economic sense for competing companies to pool their resources to pay for leads or advertising, and then fight it out to close the deal. In some cases, the coopertition may be more contrived. Sometimes a company that dominates an industry may create or fund a “competing” company to give customers the illusion of a choice.

The coopertition idea works better in a market that is not yet saturated, and even may be in an early stage where everyone could benefit from a massive education or advertising effort. If the product is a commodity, then there are few places other than price on which to compete and it is next to impossible to put the dog-eat-dog mentality back in its cage.

Certainly, the the blogosphere, coopertition is the normal way of doing business. Everyone within a niche is competing for the same eyeballs and dollars, but popular bloggers frequently will send traffic to an up and coming talent by inviting that person to write a guest post or posting a link to the newbie’s blog.

It really is an interesting mindset, and fosters the kind of cordiality and professionalism that we could all use more of, in my opinion. Think of how you can use this concept to create a win-win, non-zero sum outcome. Have you had any experience with coopertition in your business? If so, do tell by posting a comment here.


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