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Why warm weather is for the birds and how wren nest building reminds me of the agency new business process

June 2, 2017

A number of years ago I helped a client introduce a line of “squirrel-free” bird seed. For those not familiar with bird feeding – now the second most-popular hobby in the U.S. behind gardening – squirrels are wily little rascals that will outsmart just about anyone or anything that sets out to deny them access to a feeder.

While I have some doubts about the product’s effectiveness, the experience resulted in a love of “birding” for my wife, Jamie, and me.

Every spring we anxiously await the arrival of orioles, hummingbirds and grey catbirds from their winter homes in Central America and Mexico. The orioles arrived this year on May 6 and the first hummingbird and catbird were both spotted on May 11. Blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, goldfinches, nuthatches and woodpeckers are all among the frequent visitors to our feeders as well.

A few years ago we put up a wooden bird house in our backyard in hopes of attracting Eastern bluebirds. Instead, we get house wrens, cute but rather common little birds with a distinctive, bubbly song, especially this time of the year during mating season.

Watching the male at work – filling the nest box with one little twig after another, for hours on end, several days in a row – got me thinking about attracting new business. Sometimes the RFP process and the effort associated with gaining a new client can seem daunting, cobbling together the proposal section by section, leading up the due date and hopefully a presentation.

A male wren will often build multiple potential nesting sites, in hopes of attracting a female. After getting the attention of his potential mate, the male will take the female to each of the nesting sites he has begun building, in hopes of making a favorable impression.

That’s similar to competing with other firms for a prospective new client, hoping to submit a proposal, idea or concept that captures their attention and differentiates the agency from all others competing for their business.

The female eventually does her part, making a small depression in the twigs and lining the nest with pine needles, grass and other soft materials for egg laying. But, once the eggs are hatched, it’s the male who is primarily responsible for feeding the babies, just like it’s the agency’s responsibility for nurturing the new client relationship and bringing new ideas to the table.

And even after the male has been successful in pairing with his mate and helping raise their baby birds, he often has to fight off the advances of others to continue the relationship.

That sounds a lot like agency life, too, doesn’t it?

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