If you’re an ethical, empathetic small business owner, it can be surprising when a competitor actively tries to cut you down. Maybe it’s a marketing campaign that singled out your product or services as subpar. Maybe a competing brand is undercutting you on price, and it may start to feel personal.
A competitor can come after you in various ways, but you can sustain your cool and keep your company moving.
1. Engage cautiously.
You can analyze the situation quickly, and then decide how to react, if at all.
“Free markets are by their nature competitive, but some companies compete harder than others," says Robert Bird, a professor business law and ethics at the University of Connecticut who has been studying competition between businesses, along with related topics, for 20 years. "If the rival is competing legally, then the response will be essentially a business question."
According to Bird, the company can first assess the level of risk of the competitor’s actions. For example, they can see if the competitor is introducing a similar product or making a major price cut.
2. Remain professional.
It can be important to stay professional and maintain your composure.
Rana Salman, founder of Salman Consulting, LLC., who works with global organizations to elevate their sales strategies and execution, says companies can aim to preserve their reputations.
“Focus on portraying your brand as a professional, customer-focused entity that prioritizes delivering value rather than engaging in petty conflicts,” Salman says.
She also urges business owners to remain ethical behind the scenes as well.
“When professionalism is compromised, it raises doubts and concerns in the minds of potential buyers," she says. "They may start to question the credibility of the seller."
“Focus on portraying your brand as a professional, customer-focused entity that prioritizes delivering value rather than engaging in petty conflicts." - Rana Salman, founder of Salman Consulting, LLC
3. Stay focused and react quickly.
If a competitor is coming after you, this could be a good time to really look at your product or service and business overall and find ways to improve it.
Erin Lackore, founder of LaCkore Couture, an online jewelry boutique based in Flat Rock, North Carolina, says the instinct can be to fight back, but being reflective can yield better results. When a competitor made an ad that jabbed at the company's jewelry designs, she focused on improving her own company's marketing.
“Instead of retaliating, I decided to delve deeper into the heart of our brand,” Lackore says. “I amplified stories about our devoted craftsmen, the rich legacy behind our intricate designs, and the countless hours we invest to ensure every piece is right. Authenticity, in my experience, has the unique ability to overshadow negativity."
4. Don't take it personally.
Running a business can be stressful, with natural competition as part of the process. Josh York, founder and CEO of GYMGUYZ, an in-home and on-site personal training franchise headquartered in Melville, New York says competition doesn't need to drag your business down.
"Don't pay any attention to your competitors," York says. "Focus on providing the best services, obsess over your customers' experience, and keep your employees happy. Run your business while they run their mouths."
York says he pays attention to what his competitors are doing and keeps it on his radar, "but that's as far as I let it go." He tries to turn it into fuel to keep building his brand.
Some healthy competition can help fuel your brand, rather than set it back. By using competitive tactics to drive your business forward, you can reframe the competitors' intention to help your business learn and thrive.
A version of this article was originally published on August 06, 2014.
Photo: Getty Images