The Zero Sum Game Has No Place in Business

Creativity is a beautiful thing

Zero Sum

zero-sum adjective

Definition from Merriam Webster: :  of, relating to, or being a situation (as a game or relationship) in which a gain for one side entails a corresponding loss for the other side

Creativity is not zero sum. Neither, ultimately, is business.

This is a lesson that most new writers, artists and other creative types learn in their first few years of working. Your great idea doesn’t take away from someone else’s creativity.

When you get a broad view of the business of creativity, you’ll notice that isn’t zero-sum either. There is plenty of work to go around. You just need to go out and get it.

Businesses can learn a thing or two from that. Your competition’s success does not automatically equal your failure – and it can be an opportunity to differentiate yourself or look for customers in a different place.

So your competitor just had a smash hit. What can you learn from that? How can you use the same concept in your own unique way?

Comparison Can Be Educational

I admit I compare myself to other writers. Not out of professional jealousy (though that does strike me from time to time), but out of continual fascination for this line of business. I love what I do. I live and breathe copywriting and online marketing.

One of the popular copywriters I pay attention to is Ash Ambirge – and she is my polar opposite. Where I have a fondness for formality, Ash curses like a sailor. Where I am inspired by facts, her gut leads the way. Not to say she’s never formal and I’m never gutsy – but we are obviously cut from different cloth.

The other day I listened to an interview Jessica Kupferman of did with Ash. In it, Ash talked about how she started out doing “traditional copywriting” for big business, and how she wrote a lot of white papers – and she hated it. I smiled when I listened to this. I love writing for B2B, technology and more “traditional” businesses. I love writing white papers.

We are both copywriters, but we couldn’t be more different. It’s beautiful.

Be a Flying Fish

Jump out of that little pond where you and three other big fish are competing for resources. There’s a whole blue ocean out there where there are plenty of resources to be had.

If you are feeling the pinch from your competitors, it may be time to think about broadening your reach. Hyper-local businesses can create training programs which, thanks to the power of the Internet, can be sold globally as online courses. Experts can write books or give speeches. You can start a podcast about your topic that attracts ad revenue. There are a hundred ways to knock down the sides of the box you have found yourself in.

If you’re an SMB (small or medium business), don’t worry too much about your competition. Focus on what you love and what you’re really good at. There are plenty of ideas to go around. When you’re feeling the pinch, think about broadening your audience. There are plenty of people willing to spend money on what you are really good at.

– Jessica Mehring


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