I often meet other social media and online marketers. Much like realtors or personal trainers, online marketers are popping up all over the place. And they should be. Right now online marketing is huge and is only going to get bigger. Gone are the days of yellow book advertisements, bus stop benches with ads, and printed newsletters. Today, people are driving customers to their websites via social media, e-newsletters, online ads, and more. Online marketing takes time, persistence, and strategy. There is also enough business to go around. Which is why I often find it comical that some online marketers immediately turn and run the other way when they learn we are in the same business. Or, even worse, they act very territorial and snooty. As if they have no need or desire to continue the conversation. This is a big mistake.

I meet several small business owners every week. I speak with leaders, managers, and decision makers all of the time. Many, if not all, have a need for an online marketing person or team. But, much like friendships, not all of the potential clients I meet are a good fit for me. Nor am I a good fit for them. So, what is the first thing I do when I meet someone who needs help with their online marketing but clearly is not a good fit for me? I refer them to someone else.

Do not shy away from your competition. Learn from them. Get to know them. Chances are they are doing something just a little bit different than you are. Chance are they have a different clientele than you do. They probably have a different pricing structure. They may offer ala carte items where you don’t. They may only offer long-term services where you are willing to work for short 30 day bursts. You don’t know unless you ask. And the only way to ask is to get to know that person.

There is also the possibility that the two of you may be in the same field but excell in very different areas. I have a colleague who is excellent at design and coding. She offers social media services but does not excel at it. So, what did we do? We partnered! Now my clients have access to someone who does beautiful design work and her clients have access to a social media strategist who can help them get in front of their target market. It is a win-win situation.

I have learned so much about business, social media, and online marketing from those in my field. From those doing the very same thing that I am doing. And I have received business from them. I have also sent business back to them. It is a two way street and a mutually beneficial relationship when both parties are in it for the right reasons.

I am not saying you have to be BFF’s with every competitor in town. My point is that when you meet someone in your field, it’s ok to keep talking to them. It’s ok to get to know them. Have coffee if you really like each other. You will know within the first few minutes. What you won’t know is how much you might be able to learn from each other and help each other out. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable yet don’t give away all your secrets either. Take a chance and say hello. We are all human and in this together.