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How do you solve a problem like... new business competition?

How do you tackle new competition for business in your sector?

Each week, we ask agency experts for their advice on real problems facing today’s marketing practitioners. This week we ask how agencies should react when new competition shows up on their patch.

This week, Snap announced the launch of its own global creative studio, Arcadia. That might be a worry if you run an business that works around AR and its associated technologies, and wanted a chance with the kind of clients Arcadia has launched with, which include P&G and Verizon.

Putting Snap’s new venture aside, coping with competition is a perennial issue for any business. How do you react when a newcomer shows up on your patch, competing for your clients and talent? Do you change tack – cut prices, up salaries, work harder for clients? Or stick to your guns, trust in the plan and hope the track record will see you through?

How do you solve a problem like... new business competition?

Nicole Souza, chief marketing officer, Deutsch NY

Today’s industry is more saturated than ever with those competing for a share of what formerly was the advertising agency space. Deutsch NY focuses on marketers, rather than the industry noise. We listen to marketers’ perspectives, bringing bold strategies that address the high-stakes moments many of them are currently facing.

While new competition can certainly be a catalyst for evolving, as we have done over 50 years, Deutsch NY finds successfully competing means staying true to what we do best – taking big brands at big inflection points, and using our expertise to drive innovation and big impact for their business.

James Howitt, client development director, Smyle

We first ask questions: who is this newcomer? What’s their angle? If they’re saying, “We’re cheaper!” we don’t reduce prices necessarily, but make damned sure we can justify our value for clients. If they’re saying, “We’re more creative!” then we need to assess, and ensure our products and ideas are relevant, on brief and undeniably bold (which we already do). So essentially, when newcomers arise it’s worth paying attention to, but not necessarily a driver of massive change for us. We welcome healthy competition to keep us striving for better work and stronger client relationships.

Cathy Chan Butler, chief executive officer, Organic

Stay the course. There will always be entrants into the market that compete against your established expertise, offering or engagement. It’s a good reason to be focused on what matters – the employee experience. Employees are what will always differentiate your company in a competitive market, so investing in skills training, DE&I and wellness will see you through any potential turbulence.

Gretchen Walsh, chief client officer, McKinney

We double down and execute our plan relentlessly. You can’t just keep chasing the next thing with inflated salaries and price cuts. At best that solves a single problem on a single day. And the math doesn’t work to do both of those at the same time. Our plan is to discover and unleash the untapped potential in our world. It is why people hire us and why people come to work with us. As the market continues to evolve, we will continue to unleash potential and demonstrate value for our clients with groundbreaking ideas born from simple human insights.

Alex Sturtevant, director of brand, Stink Studios

With new technologies and platforms constantly emerging, it is a strong sales advantage to be first. Being able to do something that not many people can do can win business alone. Over time, as the consumer adoption rate of something increases, so does competition. The only way to prepare for, and weather, this inevitability is to take a holistic view of new technologies from the start. Innovations should help supercharge an idea – they can’t be the idea alone. How can we leverage AR to support the overall goals of a campaign? It is the complete creative and strategic vision that sets any business in our industry apart.

Scott Harkey, founder and chief executive officer, OH Partners

There is always going to be competition. What’s crucial is to continue focusing on what you’re great at, and staying nimble. We make sure to bid for commodity-driven marketing tactics and specializations that bring a sophisticated strategy to our offering. The goal is to make sure you’re differentiated by your value-add, and how you drive business outcomes. That said, sticking to our guns is not our strategy. It’s important to constantly evolve with emerging technology, provide a value proposition and evaluate your services compared to others in the market. Flexibility is key.

Ben Ingersoll, partner, Minds + Assembly

We evolve. In 2015, we were the exception: a small independent agency on a mission to be different. Our voice and visuals, our whole approach, set us apart. Alas, since then, our mark, our colours, even our cheeky, human tone of voice have been ’adopted’ by others. We will always believe in beautiful design and authentic connections. That won’t change. But everything else might. We aren’t afraid to let go of the past. Only then will we be able to grab the future.

Want to join the debate? Email sam.bradley@thedrum.com to join next week’s conversation.

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