Being a nice neighbor in ad agency new business

Yours truly just read a piece in Ad Age about how we as an industry can be nicer to each other. A fine idea. And while there’s plenty of goodwill out there, no one loses anything by thinking a bit more about it. Particularly as it relates to cross-town rivals. Here are some quick thoughts that define what nice can mean in new business, as well as point out some benefits of this occasionally overlooked practice.

So, what can it mean to… be a nice neighbor in new business? For starters:

  • Meet a competitor for a drink. Do you even know these guys? Do you have the kind of relationship where you can pick up the phone for a friendly chat? Building a relationship now can pay huge dividends down the road for both parties.
  • Suggest your cross-town competition in a pitch you decline. Here in Chicago, this used to happen  whole lot more than it does now. Business is still fairly tight and qualifying guidelines are, unfortunately, getting looser and lower. But this practice demonstrates a professionalism that prospective clients appreciate and remember. And you never know, someone just might return the favor.
  • Avoid bad mouthing. While going negative works in political campaigns, it rarely is successful in new business pitching. And truth be told, I think most of us avoid this kind of thing. Prospects hearing this kind of thing also begin to question the ethics and standing of the person spreading the information.
  • Accept that friendly phone call. This last bullet captures the kind of requests a friendly rival might be making – be it a employee reference, a key piece of insight, a back-office practice… whatever little bit of help they might request that doesn’t directly threaten your business (clients, staff, culture, etc.)

Yes, our business is competitive. But the way we treat each other as professionals can impact our enjoyment of the ride. Cheers.