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Over the years, I have always thought being friends with your competitors is a very grey area. It’s grey because there is a limit about what you can share with them about your business whether you are best friends or not.
For instance, you are highly unlikely to tell them that business isn’t so great, or that you have unhappy clients, or for that matter that your clients are over the moon happy with your service because you do xyz that others don’t do.

It’s like when you take a friend to an auction of a house and all of a sudden they start bidding and end up out bidding you. Is it your fault you shared information on the auction in the first place with them? Or should they just sit back and watch you bid for something they too could benefit from.

It’s a catch 22 situation and there is no right answer. You see, it depends on the people involved and how many experiences you have shared together.

Over the years I have had really good friends who have had similar (but different) businesses to me and no matter how good a friend they are, I have always felt like there is a limit. I have had them head hunt my staff (and still expect to remain friends), try and lure my clients (fortunately to no avail) and steal my ideas.

They have been nice people who I have had great fun with, but unfortunately when it comes to business, there seems to be little loyalty.

In marketing, there is enough work out there for everyone. The biggest issue that marketing companies face is educating clients in the value of marketing, branding and communications.

In Sydney, I have had  a handful of friends who are in marketing, advertising and public relations who I trust implicitly – even with my new and innovative ideas. We have tried and tested each other over and over again and realised that there is an underlying understanding amongst us that there is so much work out there, that there is no need to step on toes.

In Melbourne, I am a little newer to the market and have a few trustworthy friends who have ironically sent work my way and vice-versa. It takes time to build the same trust as I have in Sydney but in the end I am sure that it is something that I can see happening in the future.

I live by the rule that if I say anything to someone in life or in business, you have to be happy for it to be repeated, used or in some cases abused.

Sometimes when you are friends with people in your industry you can openly discuss trends, encourage them to use their networks to support your clients and vice-versa, and keep more up to date with what is going on in the industry and how things can be done better.

In some cases, you can share costs for technology, research or databases.

Best friends or foes – it’s a hard one to decide and I know other marketers that would sell their mothers for a deal or would do anything to beat, bad mouth or win against their competitors whether they pretended to be friends or not.

Your gut-instinct and trial and error seems to be the only answer.

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Mellissah Smith

Mellissah Smith is a marketing expert with more than 20 years experience. Having founded and built two successful marketing companies internationally, she is well recognized as a industry thought leader and innovator. Mellissah started her career working with technology and professional services firms, primarily in marketing, public relations and investor relations, positioning a number of successful companies to list on the various Stock Exchanges around the world. She is a writer, technology developer and entrepreneur who shares her thoughts and experiences through blogs and written articles published in various media outlets. Brag sheet: #2 marketer to follow on Twitter (2003), Top 150 Marketers to Follow (2015), Top 10 innovative marketers (2014), 60K+ followers on Twitter with 97% authentic.

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