By Chuck Sink
In business, it pays to make friends with your competition. Now I don’t subscribe to the saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” That’s corruption.
What’s really nice about ethical business practice is that competition is not necessarily adversarial. Your business competitors aren’t enemies; they’re colleagues and possibly clients, suppliers or both. Keep in mind the word, ethical. You may have some unethical or corrupt competitors and if so, ignore and avoid them. What about the ethical rest? It might be a good idea to know their birthdays and learn their kids’ names. One of them might help you meet a deadline someday when your staff is short or your equipment isn’t working.
There is a tremendous reluctance on the part of some executives to go public with case studies or breakthrough achievements with their clients, lest the competition see it and react to take advantage of the information. Naturally, you don’t go broadcasting the details of your trade secrets or proprietary methodologies. What you do is focus on the good news of positive results, higher efficiency and growth as a result of the achievement. Some competitors may see it and be envious but most will probably say “good for them” and be inspired to come up with their own breakthrough, which could help you and the entire industry in the future.
When I was in the printing business, the competition was cutthroat on pricing. We constantly tried to kill each other off to land the project that would pay the interest on the printing press loan for that day. However, when our press broke down, we could always find a “cutthroat” competitor willing to print the job at cost for us, and we would do the same for them.
In the marketing services business there is a ton of competition everywhere, even in very small markets. Most of us practitioners handle websites, social media, online, collateral, print and broadcast advertising as well as consulting. Most of us have learned to play well together, thank God!
Long Knives Sheathed
This may be unique to my market, but we marketers network together and might beseen having 3-way conversations with mutually desired clients. We hire each other for specialized services all the time. We might even subcontract large portions of work to a direct competitor, depending on in-house bandwidth, because we trust them to do a good job. We know they’ll respect our client-agency relationship.
Several of my “competitors” – firms who offer the same services as I, are my clients because they need a good writer or an accomplished brand strategist. Several of them are also vendors (I prefer the terms supplier and strategic partner). I contract their services on behalf of my clients because they can do something better than I, and we all want the best client results.