Can you handle a little competition?

It is funny that the other day, three times actually, this particular topic came up – should you shun/block competition or embrace it and make it a positive experience – heard once in my personal life, and twice in my business life.

The personal life one is kind of fun and may be considered more interesting because it is NOT about business – as a passionate singer and performer, the question is “is competition good for you or should you try to avoid it”. Sometimes it is hard to follow the star of the show, but other times it also means that you will try to out perform them and usually means that you shine on the stage. It has happened to me a couple of times and the competition made for a more entertaining performance.

But the business one – that was a bit of a shocker. I cannot believe the lengths that some companies will go to, so that their competition is not seen or promoted. Block them from advertising in the same publication that they are in; not allowing their info to be linked on a website; can’t do onsite ads. Conspiracy theory I know, but believe it, it happens; and it often it is the bigger the player, the more they do it.

But the competition situation that always comes about, especially with a large industry conference like SHRM Annual 2011 upcoming in Las Vegas, is not wanting to be seen beside, close to, in the same vicinity, anywhere near their competitors on the exhibit floor.

So I posed a question on Twitter, “To all Vendors attending exhibition at #SHRM11 - what do you think about competition in your row? what about 3 booths away?” and though I did not get much response (crazy as I would have thought that many companies would have used the re-tweet to promote their offering at SHRM) I loved the response from Jason Morris of EmployeeScreenIQ “@EmployeeScreen doesn't mind competition in our isle. If you can't set yourself apart in the hall you shouldn't be there! “

Think about this for a second – Pretty bold statement, almost like it was called out from the playground – ‘if you can’t handle it, you shouldn’t be here!’ I mean you have to set yourself apart when you are “on the table” being considered with these competitors, so you are up against them there, so do it, differentiate yourself BEFORE being in that position, and make sure you set yourself apart. If you can’t defend, educate, justify, endorse, support, vindicate, make a case for your product and offering, while your competition is right beside you (hence those great ShootOuts that are often done at HRTechnology Conferences), then do you deserve to be there?

There are so many great ways to show the industry that yes indeed, you are a company that offers a valuable, strong, reliable offering through marketing, PR, media outreach, thought leadership even doing this new fangled thing – social media- so that when you are up against those competitors on the table OR on the exhibit floor, you deserve to be there.

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