As marketers we usually help our clients stand out, but there’s actually a lot to be said for the herd mentality. Many of Mother Nature’s creatures have evolved to live in groups that provide support, protection, and a better chance at survival. We usually see our business as a single being pitted against a sea of ravening competitors, but we’d do well to open our eyes to the benefits of hanging with the herd.

“What?!?” you ask, “You want me to make nice with my competitors?”
It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

Birds and animals of all kinds do it because the benefits of being together outweigh the alternative. Though these creatures compete for the same food, shelter, and mates; they stay together because they understand the value of the herd:

Whether you’re part of an professional association, chamber of commerce, or mastermind group, it’s comforting to hang with people who speak the same language, face the same challenges, and laugh at the same jokes. Your herd also helps you stay in-the-know about current trends, new developments, and red flag issues. It serves as a sounding board for new ideas. Most of all, it helps you keep your sense of humor and perspective (aka: sanity).

From gazelles to meerkats, animals and birds of all kinds understand that there’s “safety in numbers.” A lone prey animal is easy pickings for the hungry predator, but a herd is a much tougher target. For instance, the gossip (I mean “business intelligence”) shared by your herd protects you from shady vendors and dead-end clients.

Sparrows are known for being spunky little fellas, but even the fiercest sparrow would never fly solo against a hawk. Get four or five sparrows together, however, and that hawk better watch out. Working together, the smaller birds drive off the much larger raptor without much trouble at all. The members of your herd may be smaller players in the marketplace, but pulling together can increase the respect you garner, from prospects and big players.

In some cases, members of a herd may enter into a closer, more formal partnership. Like wolves working together to bring down big prey, you might combine your resources and talents with a fellow herd-member to land a contract that would otherwise be out of reach.

With collaboration comes efficiency. No longer do you have to carry the whole load yourself, or know everything about everything. You share resources and information, saving labor, time, and money for both parties. Like a few members of a monkey troop collecting food that is shared by all, you take turns providing for the group cause. (No, I didn’t just call you a monkey.)

Though you may each work in the same industry, your fellow herd-members often have different specialties. This provides opportunities for easy referrals. One herd member’s cast off may be another herd member’s dream job.

But, what about competition?
“That all sounds great,” you say, “but I’m still not sure why I’d want to get too chummy with the competition.”

Like life in the wild, life in the business world can certainly be a dog-eat-dog place. You have to choose your herd carefully. Sometimes, a virtual herd reduces the chance of direct competition because of geographic distance. Sometimes, there might be just enough differentiation in service offerings. Sometimes, there’s enough work to keep you all busy.

For example …

  • Savvy B2B Marketing is a great example of a successful and beneficial professional “herd.” Six independent marketing professionals collaborate to write this blog. Though four of us are located within a small geographic region and all six of us offer similar services, we’ve never once had a competitive issue. On the contrary, we consistently provide each other with professional and personal support, have collaborated on marketing endeavors, pitched clients together, and referred work to each other.
  • Players in similar spaces are constantly forming joint ventures to offer training products and programs. The Third Tribe project, founded by Sonia Simone, Chris Brogan, Brian Clark, and Darren Rowse is a great example of this. Though each of these individuals is a heavy hitter on his (or her!) own, they saw the value of coming together to create something that offered superior value to their combined audience and increased profits to their bottom lines.

So, what opportunities are you overlooking because you’re so entrenched in the “lone wolf” myth?

Image Credit: GermanGirl on stock.xchng

This post is part of my “Marketing According to Mother Nature” series. From the birds and the bees to sharks and wildebeests, the natural world is full of metaphors that provide surprisingly relevant marketing insights. Take a walk on the wild side – you never know what might inspire you.