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We humans are funny creatures. We love peace and wish for it, and yet we love a good action story with conflict and a clear protagonist winner defeating the antagonist loser.
But in our day-to-day lives, the real world is nothing like the plot of a story. Business is changing. Evolving. Especially online business.
I get that if you’re a paying Hulu Plus customer, you’re probably not also a paying Netflix customer, and vice-versa. Those two companies really are fighting over customers in a way that could be analogous to warfare. In other respects, brand loyalty isn’t what it used to be. A young person isn’t necessarily going to be a Ford person for life if she buys a Ford as her first car. Automakers are, in a real sense, fighting over your money and your loyalty. But as consumers, we’re more loyal to ourselves than to some brand.
In case you didn’t know, The Art of War (affiliate link for the edition which I personally own) teaches that the highest technique in warfare is deception. Pretend to be weak so you lull the enemy into overconfidence. When the enemy strikes you then surprise them with your true strength and overwhelm.
The Way of War is
A Way of Deception.
When deploying troops,
appear not to be;
Lure with bait,
strike with chaos.
We see shades of this when Apple operates in secret and then suddenly unleashes a new category-redefining product , throwing its competition into a mad scramble of disarray. If you own an iPhone, chances are you own no other form of portable device for anything the iPhone does (except perhaps an iPad… well done, Apple, well done).
But these are huge corporations we’re talking about. Not you and me and our tiny little one-person or small-team operations.
If you’re a freelance writer or web designer, you’re in competition with so many thousands of other writers or web designers that it’s not even competition at all: it’s noise, over which you struggle to be heard. There are thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of other people who do what you do. Many better than you, many worse. Or they may have more talent but horrible reliability. Their work might make you throw up in the back of your mouth, but their clients love them to no end.
The abundance of both web designers and people who need them is so great that there’s practically no reason anyone should work with someone they dislike.
If anything, cooperation is the watchword, not competition. Individually, several wedding specialists (catering, photography, planning, gowns, etc.) could band together and form a complete one-stop shop for engaged couples. Their physical places of business may be separate, but they can co-operate under a single website. They can market themselves under a powerful single brand.
Instead of deception, openness.
Instead of command, communication.
Instead of unquestioning loyalty, clear understanding.
The whole notion of I win, you lose is just absurd in this new world of business. That would be like me saying that, in order for me to “win” I would have to drive Denise Wakeman or Andrew Rondeau or Johnny B. Truant or Christian Russell out of business.
And I’m sorry, but that’s just fucking ridiculous.
There are so many people who need what we offer, and we all have our own very unique ways of operating, that everyone can be happy and be doing their thing.
Even in local markets, if you’re a real estate agent, you’re not ever going to be the only one. You can’t possibly be right for every customer. But if you and the other agents in the area see each other only as targets for destruction, you’re actually making success harder for yourselves, it seems to me. Referrals don’t just come only from customers, you know.
Think partnerships, collaborations, joint ventures, splitting the revenues.
Think associations and serving the greater community.
Think mutual affiliate programs (I’m in your affiliate program, you’re in mine, and we both offer each other’s stuff to our customers for the greater benefit of all).
Business in the interconnected internet age is the least like war it’s ever been for the great majority of business owners.
If they’re willing to wake up and see it that way, and let go of this Art of War bullshit.