Have you noticed that more and more business owners are creating a ‘living’ online?  

And even if all the work you do is off line and in person then online it still a great place to meet potential new clients.

One of the best things you can do to grow your business online and in general is to collaborate with your competition.

This might sound slightly odd at first but often when you create a good relationship with someone who is providing services or products in your niche then establishing a good working relationship with them can be hugely beneficial – if they’re willing to pass on work or recommend you that is.

Solicitors do this a lot especially when they get so busy they can’t take on any more work and they would much rather pass on that business to someone they have created a good relationship with than to simply turn it away.

Start By Figuring Out What You Can Do For Them 

There’s nothing worse than getting an email from someone you don’t know who is trying to sell to you. I get lots of emails from people I’ve never heard of trying to get me to employ their services to do my SEO or rebrand my website. I don’t like getting these emails and I would imagine you don’t like getting those types of emails either unless it relates very precisely to your business or something you are interested in.

And of course this is not how you make friends in the online business space. Instead, what you should aim to do is to look at some of the people in your niche who you would like to connect with and figure out what you can do for them.

It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or that you don’t have a big reach yet, we all have to start somewhere and you could be the person providing just the piece of information or insight that your competitor has been looking for.

Start by following your target collaborators on social media and sharing the best of the content they post. Take the time to write a meaningful comment on their blog post or in response to a Facebook post. Be genuinely helpful and it will be noticed.

Cultivating Mutually Beneficial Relationships 

Once you’re on the person’s radar, it’s time to start cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship. This can take a lot of different forms. You may guest blog post on each other’s websites, become a podcast guest, contribute a chapter to their latest book or even create a product together.

Or maybe you’ll just have fun public social media conversations that help both of you reach a larger audience. And of course becoming affiliates of your respective products and doing some mailings is always a popular option.

It doesn’t really matter what you do exactly as long as it benefits both of you but it’s good for you to have a plan of action so that you have some options to discuss.

HOT TIP: If your list is significantly smaller than the other person’s, offer to do more of the leg work. Make sure the other person walks away feeling good about the collaboration.

Grow Your Reach and Make More Friends 

As you start to make friends, your reach will grow. But it doesn’t end there. The people you’re meeting can help introduce you to other business owners in the market. And of course you shouldn’t stop seeking people out on your own either. Combine both approaches and you will continue to make more friends, grow your reach and grow your business.

Last but not least, it’s a lot more fun to work on your online business when you have friends who not only “get” what you do for a living, but are there to talk shop, encourage and exchange ideas. You’ll learn a lot and have a blast all while growing your business and your bottom line.

Some of your competitors will remain just that and you’ll be battling it out to attract the same customers or clients before they do but it’s important not to overlook the collaboration potential that’s out there too as a small business operator. You never know what amazing opportunities might open up or what challenges you might find yourselves taking on together.

I would love to hear your comments about working with your competitors, please leave a comment below.

And if you are inspired by this post then please share the inspiration with your business contacts on  FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.

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