For the past decade on LinkedIn, one of the biggest questions I get asked when training my Advertising & Digital sales and new business teams is, “Should I connect with my competitors?”
My typical response is, do you agree with the old SUN TZU adage ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ and ‘are you leveraging LinkedIn better than they are?’ If you answer YES, to either, connecting with your competitors may give you another ‘unfair advantage’ and increase your authority and influence! I firmly believe assessing a competitors strengths and weaknesses helps you identify gaps!
Importantly, connecting with your competitors is a great way to gain greater understanding of your target market. In fact, I have found over years on LinkedIn and on other social media platforms – some of your competitor’s connections will be clients, some will be prospects, and some will provide no value whatsoever!
The top and most consistent ‘push back’ I hear is that their competitors will steal or even poach their connections. BUT, my usual response is typically – if they can lose a brand or client because someone knows who they are connected to on LinkedIn, than we have a much bigger issue to work on and address.
While this is ultimately a personal decision, here are some of the core reasons it is advantageous to connect with your competitors, but remember it is a two-way street:
- I even will be bold enough to say, you will most-likely have visibility into their connections. Simply click on their 500+ on their profile or scroll down to their connections section. If they have their connections open, you will have access to all of their connections, your shared connections and their new connections.
- Use all knowledge to make better informed strategies and decisions. Importantly, it allows you to identify opportunities to serve newly acquired and prospective customers.
- I also love to monitor all social media channels to see which posts are getting the most ReTweets, Likes, Replies, Comments and the content formats that get the best engagement too. E.g. Text, images or video!
- Look at the companies they are following to get an idea of who is currently on their radar. This will give you a great insight into their strategic plans and goals too.
- Read their LinkedIn recommendations to get a clear idea of who their clients are and what they say about them. These insights give you a good grasp on who they work with and the way they conduct business.
- Take a look at “People also viewed”. You’ll also get great insights as well as a good look at who else your prospects are looking up and maybe even considering. Although we typically use this section from identifying prospects similar to our clients, it is quite valuable way to identify other competitors that you may not be aware of.
- Read new publications and activities that offer you competitive insights into their strategy.
- View and even engage with the folks that are “LIKING”, sharing and commenting on their posts and updates.
- Embrace your competitor’s mistakes. By paying close and ongoing attention to their value proposition, or lack there of, it is an ideal way to use what they share against them when pitching a client.
For example, if they list product features and they are missing important features that you offer, when you know you are up against them, this knowledge makes it is easy to position yourself as the better choice.
- Collaborative opportunities come up on occasion and it is important to be open to others bringing you in, as well as well-informed on who you might bring in when the moment arises.
- Importantly, as you and your brand or company grow, recruiting the best and the brightest will become more and more vital to scaling in a stable way, already having knowledge and even the respect of viable candidates makes this process much smoother.
- Most companies and their management, contemplate an exit or growth strategy entailing selling to or purchasing a competitor. Although it isn’t the fate for every business, having relationships with your competitors gives you an edge when it is time to make a move. It’ just a smart thing to do too!
Go ahead and connect with your competitors today – they can see everything you’re doing on LinkedIn anyway. In addition, being part of a competitor’s LinkedIn network means now all of his or her clients and customers are one step closer (as 2nd level connections) to getting to know you and your team!
If you like this article and think your company, brand, clients or friends can benefit, please share this with them. Finally, I would love your feedback, comments and your opinion on this article as it sure means a lot to me. If you have any additional thoughts on this, I’d love to hear from you.
MORE ABOUT GEOFF DE WEAVER:
Super strategist who directs Fortune 500 clients to define their vision, create a strategy, and harness their internal innovation to grow their business or reinvent their products. My key skills are decades of data-powered tools including: CRM, Mobile, Social Media, PR and Digital.
Expert at building and transforming brands, businesses, and digital and physical customer experiences at scale. Adept at telling a cohesive and integrated global story across multiple audiences.
History of success developing and executing cross-channel global marketing campaigns to drive brand positioning, equity, and awareness while increasing engagement and sales and loyalty.
Innovative entrepreneur, author, speaker, and advertising executive with vast expertise driving business growth, reinventing brands, and implementing global marketing campaigns.
Feel free to connect with Geoff today!
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