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Friends and Foes

It sounds crazy, but your toughest competitor can be your greatest ally when you're vying for a sale.

This story appears in the March 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

If you're tempted to view your closest competitors as "the enemy," take a second look. In today's highly competitive marketing environment, quality competitors can be an asset to your company. They are the businesses that stand behind their products and services, charge a fair price and enhance the reputation of your industry. Yes, they can help you reduce marketing costs, spur innovation and lead to new marketing opportunities. Here's how your company can get a leg up:

Reduce Marketing Costs

The best thing about having active competitors is that they can lower your marketing costs by shortening the learning curve for your prospects. When an innovative product or service is introduced-say, the first fax machine-customers go through an information-gathering period before making a purchase. By the time a second company markets a similar device, customers have passed through the educational period, shortening the sales cycle and reducing marketing costs, putting you in a better position to win them over by offering additional value.

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