Competition & Complacency

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As you’ve probably seen, competition is one market force that can bring a business to its knees. It’s unfortunate when that happens because of complacency.


Here’s a simple illustration.

0ur newspaper boy is supposed to drop off three newspapers, every morning. When I did a check on short supplies, I found that I don’t get all three papers, at least three times in a week. That’s 12 times in the month; around 40 % on my inefficiency index. 

What can you do with a newspaper boy who thinks it’s not a problem, as long as I have at least one paper to read, every morning? I’m on the last lap of the paper route, so there’s probably a mix up somewhere.

How did I tackle the problem?

I noticed two other vendors doing the paper route on my road - which is competition of sorts. So I pulled out two newspapers from my current vendor and gave the other two some reason to smile.

While it narrowed the noose on my current chap, it gave the other two an opportunity to consolidate on my basket of three newspapers. Learning One: Divide the pie, to keep your service providers on their toes.

Is this relevant to the advertising business I’m in? Yes, it is and I’ll explain how.

Some of the clients we work with are large advertisers, who already have one or two of the bigger agencies on their panel. Our small, five-man army gets called in to do jobs that the larger agencies are not interested in, or dragging their feet on.  

By default, we become the third agency on the list. In any case, with media buying becoming isolated and agency independent, what we’re pitching against is the armory of the other agency’s creative. And maybe speed of response.

Being the third agency doesn’t mean you’re always passed on dead end jobs. Sometimes, you could work on a project that’s fun, interesting and rewarding. The list includes internal communications, retail promotions, multi-media presentations, exhibit design, and more. Whatever the job, it sure does ring the cash register.

We’re lean, mean and carry a fair punch on deliverables, so we’re always strong contenders. This may not worry the big guys all the time, but does give them something to think about when a fair chunk of the billing suddenly disappears from the radar. Learning Two : Competition can get a leg up from people who don’t even figure on your suspicion list. Your clients.

# Sharath Bhat is a freelance advertising writer in Bangalore.