If a competitor asked you for advice, would you give it? Probably not. Yet take this Altimeter research report on how to get more from Facebook landing pages — sharp stuff. Posted for free. Where their consulting competitors can see it and repurpose it. What gives?
Sharing seems risky, especially among business warriors used to hiding secrets and skewering competitors. This morning, we had coffee with an executive from a competing ad agency to discuss forming a debate panel series, perhaps inviting other agencies from the region, and upon our return to the office met with some skepticism. What? Share ideas?
Now reframe the thought from you vs. them to you in the center of a vast network. You want to reach other nodes of value, potentially future clients, but you can’t find them now. There are threads leading to them, connections through other people, and to reach them you need your message to flow along the paths inbetween. Sharing information means you’ll connect with new nodes (people, organizations) who discover you, and if your transmission has value, they will pass it along. You are increasing via randomness the odds that you will connect with value in the network. It’s akin to a single person, moving into a strange town, deciding to walk downtown to meet new people rather than sit home on the couch. The more random connections, the greater likelihood of a real relationship emerging.
Sharing information didn’t matter much in business when networks were locked away behind hard corporate walls, when sales meant cold calling and door knocking. But today, you can connect with almost anyone. Things can flow anywhere. Your current client base is likely people who almost randomly found you, because they had a need and were searching in their own networks. We suggest you increase such randomness; take your next big idea and give it away.
Are you about to meet with an agency team? Advergirl, aka Leigh Householder, advises you to size up ad agency personae by the types of socks they wear. Brilliant! For example, here is how she suggests you judge an agency sort who wears black socks.
Chances are you’re talking to the new biz guy. Used to spending his day traveling from one cliché corporate headquarters to another, he’s mastered the skill of the chameleon – blending in to his environs as if he had been there all along. Save the snazzy socks for those arty guys.
But, there’s a chance, too, that you’re dealing with the most treacherous kind of ad guy: the irrelevant middle manager who doesn’t yet know he’s irrelevant. This guy had a good year. An incredible year. A year that has made the agency loyal to him. Sadly, that year was over a decade ago. And since then, things have been … well, slow and sometimes, frankly, embarrassing. But, like the aging athlete who once won the big game in high school, this guy still believes he’s in the glory years. Align with him and take on all his gossipy baggage as your very own.
To tell the difference between these basic blacks, check the shoes. The new biz guy’s will be plain and shiny. The irrelevant middle manager, genuinely bad. Possibly even striking a jarring and unpleasant contrast to his pants.
We’re pleased to see our horizontal stripes make us the closer and strategist. Or, perhaps just a narcissist with funny-looking feet.
(Photo: Twenty Questions)
We’ve been thinking about business development lately, having won a few and lost a few. People who haven’t worked at agencies may not realize the amount of effort that goes into business proposals. On one hand, “selling” seems trivial, like the empty promises of a guy with greasy palms at a used car dealership … but in business sales, a team studies the client organization, maps out economic levers, makes calls to resources, sketches ideas, and begins developing the entire solution ahead of time … to try to convince the client that we’re worth paying.
It’s fascinating work that keeps the mind nimble, euphoric when it succeeds, and disappointing when it fails. It’s probably one of the greatest competitive forces in the new economy, as knowledge workers have to compete with each other to get the next contract or project. If you can’t really figure out how to deliver value and move the levers that generate results, you lose and the other guy wins.
Maybe all organizations should move to agency models, even inside their walls. Instead of having secure jobs, employees would have to pitch their bosses every day if they wanted to be paid. Employees would drive in on their commutes racking their brains for new solutions, instead of zoning out to the radio. And employers would be inundated with fresh visions every day.
A model of productivity for the new century: Business development.