Putting Up the Gloves: Competition in the Service Industry

I received a note from another digital agency recently about their perception of competitive threat were they to relocate their business to the SoHo/Roundhouse district in London. They would join rtractionATMOS MarketingArcane & Honey DesignDrive Creative Group (formerly Creative Donkeys and Seed Creative), and Red Rhino, who have all relocated to this area of London.

In my response, I suggested that they do consider moving to the neighbourhood — I believe the more selection and variety a potential client has, the better and more informed their choice of an agency.

Crafting my response led me to reflect on competition in the services industry and how I believe that having strong competition ultimately helps our agency and the clients we serve.

When a client selects an agency, they are not simply selecting a group of people to do a defined task. It may sound like that’s what they are asking for in an RFP or a quote request, but I believe, based on years of experience, that they are requesting something different: They are asking for an extension of their team to do a specific task or group of tasks that they do not have the qualification or resources in-house to complete.

I believe knowing what or how to do something is separate from the execution — the actual ability to do it. Therefore, knowledge is one piece of the puzzle; however, the more critical step is the skill to be able to take those pieces and apply your craft to create something that is unique and valuable to the client.

As such, the agency that is going do the best work from them is not necessarily the group with the best designers, best developers, best account managers, etc. The agency that is going to do the best job for that client is the one that becomes a natural extension of their team.

At rtraction, our best projects are those where we feel completely aligned with the client and are working together towards a common goal using shared values. Our most challenging projects are those where the goal is not understood by one or both of the stakeholders, or there is a conflict in values.

Therefore, it stands to me to reason that the greater the selection of qualified agencies a particular client has — to assess whether that agency meets their needs, can execute on their goals, and matches their values the better the results for both the clients and the agencies that serve them.

As such, in a paradox of the concept of competition, I hope the agencies in this region do extremely well and force the clients to choose between strong companies that could meet their needs.

That’s not to say that we won’t compete hard against another agency to win a particular piece of business — that’s just part of the game.

I am willing to have a conversation with any other agencies about what we’ve done that went right, what we’ve done that’s gone wrong (there are lots of both!), and to exchange information that would be mutually beneficial to both companies because I want you to grow and succeed as both competitors and possible future collaborators. I would invite you to meet with me and we can discuss how we both do things and our processes, procedures, etc. I believe that even if you tried to do things exactly the way rtraction does, you would still get completely different outcomes. Similarly, our company would not be able to do the things the same way you do — but by sharing, both organizations could become stronger. The reason for this is that each agency has its own values, culture, expertise and unique people working for it.

I believe that by respecting each other and understanding the value that our competitors bring, we can create a better result for our craft, our clients, our community and ultimately ourselves.

- David Billson, President and CEO

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