Companies that compete for the same customers normally hold their cards close to their vests; they view each other as adversaries. Each company delivers its own idea of what's good for the customer, and the customer is forced ino the predicament of trying to decide which of the products is the right one to buy. That's not exactly making life easy for the customer; that's not exactly "customer-friendly."
In an ideal world, the customer wouldn't be put in that pridicament; in the ideal world, the competitors would work together to make the decision process easier for the customer. Call me naive, but I think that's possible based on what I've experienced with microbrews.
This realization began last summer, when I went on a day-long tour of the major microbreweries in the Portland, Maine area. (OK, so perhaps "MAJOR MICRObreweries is an oxymoron, but the fact is, there are so many microbreweries cropping up, that that more established ones can be cosidered "major" while the less-established are "minor.")
During that tour, I more than one of the (competing) brewmasters spoke of their competitors like they were brothers and friends. That's not exactly the kind of conversation you'll hear between Delta and United, or Oracle and Microsoft, Time-Warner Cable and Dish Networks, or Chevy and Ford. Competitors in most industries talk down one another, and rarely work together for the benefit of the customer.
Earlier this week, I stopped in a local beer store to check out some Barley Wines. There were dozens to choose from, from different breweres around the country. I started falling into analysis parlysis when I spotted one particular bottle on a shelf:
Class of 88 Barleywine. A collaborative effort by three different microbrews within the same Pacific Nothwest Region: Rogue Brewery in Oregon, North Coast Brewing Company in California and Deschutes Brewery in Oregon.
Instead of having to decide between three different products from three different sellers, I could buy one product produced by those same three sellers. I bought it, I tried it, and I liked it. And I'll buy it again.
Competing companies normally treat the market as a zero-sum game. Collaborative sellers see it differently; they see an opportunity to improve the customer experience, and together share in the profits.
Could collaborative competition be a viable business model?
As a customer, I clearly see it as a viable buying model.
What do YOU think?