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Conflict Of Interests?


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#1 wiser3

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 07:50 AM

I did a website for a local dance lesson studio. Now that studio's main competitor has approached me for a website. Other then logo and colors they want the same design and features as their competitors website. Content, like descriptions and benefits of dance lessons would also be similar as they both do the same thing.

Is there anything unethical about working for a clients main competitor?

#2 tam

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 08:04 AM

Is the first one an on going client or were you just contracted to build the site an that's done? If it's an on going client then I yep, I think that's probably drifting on to slightly dodgy territory. If you built the site and aren't doing on going promotion then I think it's more okay as long as your careful. Whoever designs their site two competing businesses are going to have similar content headings etc..

I've had several people say they want a site exactly the same as one of done (had one that wanted to use the same content even :huh: ) I always explain that I can build sites in similar style but that I can't reproduce stuff for legal reasons and how much better something unique will be for them. Try getting a broader range of sites they like, look at their current publicity materials etc. I guess it's easy for a business to say, I like that, do that but you'll need to help them work out exactly what their business needs.

#3 EGOL

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 08:15 AM

When the original client sees that site she will be really mad!

#4 JVRudnick

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 08:37 AM

it all comes down to your own personal ethics as relates to your biz...

us? nope. one client per channel for our SEO practice...can't do it any other way....

too bad too...cause once you get "in" to a channel and learn it's feature set, via a client's online marketing campaign, it'd be easy-peasy to copy same and sell it throughout the channel...

but you can't....or rather, we can't do that....ymmv of course...but that's a real benchmark of "who" you are....and your value to your biz....

:-)

Jim

#5 wiser3

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 08:45 AM

The first client is an on-going deal. I'm providing hosting and some tech support as the site was built with Joomla so the client can update the content and calendar themselves.

With the competitor I'm thinking of taking an approach of insisting the site has a totally different design. It's harder to insist on different features and content since they both have the same requirements.

Even if they agree to a different design i don't feel comfortable taking on the project. On the other hand my family needs to eat. How do I balance being able to live with myself versus taking care of my family?

Edited by wiser3, 05 May 2011 - 08:47 AM.


#6 bwelford

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 09:40 AM

One way of crunching this decision is to consider whether you could ask your current client if they would have problems in your doing work for the competitor. You could indicate that nothing of their site intellectual property would be involved in the other website.

If you cannot figure out a reasonable conversation where they would continue to want to be your client, then that gives you your answer.

In some cases, I at least have indicated to my client that I've had a request and did not take it because of my policy. You may get browny points and in one case my client had no problem in my doing work since they were not head-to-head competitors.

#7 Guest_joedolson_*

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 09:47 AM

This has come up once or twice for me, and I've chosen not to pursue those projects. Even though I don't do SEO work, I don't like to put myself in the position where I'm in a conflict of interest -- and I feel that if I have two clients competing in the same niche, then I'm in a conflict where I am effectively trying to get two web sites into the same position; competing for the same clients. It's something I think best avoided.

Is it unethical? Not generally. If you're promising both clients #1 rankings for the same search terms, then yes - it's unethical: you're promising something that you truly can't possibly provide. Otherwise? Probably not. But it can cause unnecessary hard feelings or put you in an awkward position.

#8 jonbey

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 11:11 AM

My brother mentioned the other day that a few people have asked him who built his delivery driver website. He won't tell them!

#9 AbleReach

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Posted 05 May 2011 - 02:08 PM

I think it depends on exactly what they want. I wouldn't do the site for a competitor, but I would do graphic design that is not web-specific.

#10 TheManBehindTheCurtain

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 10:44 AM

I think it depends on exactly what they want. I wouldn't do the site for a competitor, but I would do graphic design that is not web-specific.

I think Liz has a good approach here. Basically, it depends. If your work involves what amounts to business consultation -- helping a business compete against other businesses via SEO, for example -- then you can't in good faith take on competitors. Even if you're helping them by editing or writing copy, if they're asking you to do that in a way that positions them against one of your clients, it's simply impossible for you to do an ethical job for one or the other clients.

If, on the other hand, you're simply performing services, such as coding a site to a design, or providing graphic design at their direction, that would seem possible to me.

In these days of LinkedIn, where your resume is there for everyone to see, it can be more difficult for consultants. In general, way back when ... oh, early 90s ... except where references were required, I would in general never even give a client list to another client, let alone discuss details of other jobs. Entirely confidential. Nowadays I imagine it's much harder, but in general I would be very clear with clients that the details of previous jobs are confidential, and you would no more discuss what you did for a competitor, than you would discuss their details with someone else.

Also beware of the clients who have no real intention of hiring you, but only want to pump you for details on what you did for a competitor in the guise of an interview. (I hope dance studios aren't that cutthroat!)

#11 wiser3

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 02:05 PM

Also beware of the clients who have no real intention of hiring you, but only want to pump you for details on what you did for a competitor in the guise of an interview. (I hope dance studios aren't that cutthroat!)


I hadn't thought of this possibility. These two dance studios definitely have a rivalry going.

#12 EGOL

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 08:26 PM

Also beware of the clients who have no real intention of hiring you, but only want to pump you for details on what you did for a competitor in the guise of an interview. (I hope dance studios aren't that cutthroat!)

lol... I've never seen a weasel in a tutu!

#13 AbleReach

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 10:39 PM

I've never seen a weasel in a tutu!

Though I imagine there are some stage mammas who would stand on their head to get a foot in the door.
:emo10:

#14 tommr

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 06:04 PM

When we were in the sign business we would do signs for many competing businesses.
There is no reason to not do you best for each client and let the chips fall where they may.
Just do your best for each.

#15 A.N.Onym

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 01:54 AM

Well, there's more element of a competition in the SEO direction, since you are competing for the same keyphrases and rankings. In this case, it leads to both of them spending more and more for competing for the same amount of clients.

I'd recommend someone else (probably, not as advanced as I am ;) ) to the competitor and tell the current client that I've just rejected the offer ;)

Though, it'd be possible to:
- identify, whether the clients are really competitors
- agree with both customers that you'll work for both of them and that they might/should work in cooperation (otherwise, don't proceed)
- define who focuses on which direction/target audience
- deliver the best service to both of the customers.

But, obviously, that wasn't the case of the thread starter ;)

Edited by A.N.Onym, 27 January 2012 - 01:57 AM.


#16 iamlost

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 09:29 AM

This is a topic that shows up every now and then - obviously a concern on both sides. My position is that this is an IP (Intellectual Property) issue, i.e. you as developer know things that could be used against your prior client by a competitor. And that means that it should be addressed in your contract:
* there is some time period, i.e. 6-months, a year, after completion before working for a competitor.
* there is differentiation of work, i.e. design work permitted, content and marketing not, during above period.
Note: naturally any such constraint is billable :) as you are potentially being deprived of work.
* there is no restraint on who or when or how you work with in future.

Without a contract requirement/specification there is only your sense of personal and business ethics - and concern for consequences.

#17 A.N.Onym

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 02:21 PM

Yup, it seems reasonable. And gives more reasons for the current client to renew their contract with you ;)

#18 Feydakin

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 02:53 PM

This topic always interests me. How can you become a specialist in a niche if you will only take one client for that niche? Would a newspaper refuse full page ads from multiple competing car dealers? Does the TV or Radio station refuse to run commercials for Ford because they run them for Chevy? Phone book anyone? Or as Tommr says, would a sign company refuse to make signs for competitors?

Our industry is no different. I wouldn't copy/paste websites, although there are companies that make a small fortune doing this in all sorts of niches. Look at all those vertical site builders that build generic sites for dentists, doctors, chiropractors, etc etc. All you can do is your very best for each client according to their own budget and partiticpation. I have many clients all in the same niche. And they are all aware of each other. When one out performs the other I point out to the rest just how involved that client is with their website, social media, etc etc etc. I've even done work for multiple docotrs in the same medical complex. Just walked next door and said hey, we are doing the work for the guys next door, aren't we great? Hire me!

Take the job, make a new "unique" site with new content. Features can be similar, they almost have to be, but as long as you aren't going to copy/paste the new site, I see no issues at all.

#19 bwelford

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Posted 27 January 2012 - 09:32 PM

Very well said, Feydakin.

Indeed the only way you shouldn't take a competitor to one of your clients is if the client has paid you for an exclusive arrangement. Accepting a restriction on your freedoms is worth something and the client who wishes that special relationship should pay whatever they think it is worth.



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